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Spirit of benevolence undermined

There’s a review of 50 Great Myths About Atheism at the MIT newspaper The Tech. The author, Roberto Perez-Franco, is oddly unsympathetic to the whole idea – or maybe I’m the one who’s odd. I like the enterprise of collecting misconceptions and then saying what’s wrong with them, but Perez-Franco seems not to.

The authors deserve recognition for their exhaustive efforts of documentation. Personally, I feel for them. They dug through piles of writings and utterances from the likes of Dinesh D’Souza, acting as if such nonsense was worthy of a serious response, and then went point by point through the material to provide a thoughtful and rational response. This undertaking must have been masochistic, but it was necessary. Blackford and Schüklenk were compelled to catalog and refute these claims in order to “encourage more fairness to atheists,” which, as they report, “constitute the most disliked among marginalized groups” in the U.S.

Just in the US? They surely didn’t restrict themselves to the US; Udo is in Canada (and from Germany) while Russell is in Australia. Anyway I doubt that the undertaking was masochistic. It can be interesting digging through piles of nonsense.

But then he goes right off the rails.

I do think, however, that the spirit of benevolence toward atheists that the book presumably pursues is undermined by the unfortunate inclusion in the book of a series of comics from “Jesus & Mo” peppered throughout the text. These cartoons depict the founding figures of Abrahamic religions having tongue-in-cheek philosophical and religious conversations in what I only care to describe as less than kosher settings, and with not necessarily pious intentions. Regardless of whether the cartoons are funny or clever, a book that seeks to combat prejudices against atheists should, in my opinion, be more careful in its choice of tone, lest they undo some of their hard work for the sake of cheap laughs.

I have been an atheist for a long time, and criticizing a particular choice of a particular book does not make me a closet deist While I praise the authors’ efforts to bring greater understanding to the general public about what atheism is and is not, I regret they lacked the good judgment to do so through a book that showed to others the same respect and benevolence they are hoping to inspire in the general public’s perception of atheists.

Oh, please. What on earth is wrong with depicting the founding figures of Abrahamic religions having tongue-in-cheek philosophical and religious conversations? How is that not just a good, interesting, and amusing idea? How is it not just a descendant of Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion? How is it contrary to respect and benevolence?

It’s respect-creep, that’s what it is.

 

Comments

  1. Anthony K says

    in what I only care to describe as less than kosher settings, and with not necessarily pious intentions

    Imagine that. Atheists, not keeping kosher, not pious.

    I have been an atheist for a long time

    A kosher and pious one?

  2. chrislawson says

    Perez-Franco would have a point if (i) Jesus and Mo was uninformed, prejudicial, or hateful in its satire, or (ii) if Russell and Udo wanted to respect for atheism to include protection from satire. Since none of that is true, Perez-Franco is essentially demanding that if we expect bare-minimum reasonable respect for atheism, we need to be obsequious towards all religion, even the unreasonable religious beliefs satirised in J+M.

  3. Robert B. says

    “Less than kosher settings” should here be read as “In bed.” (Maybe also “in a bar.”) Leaving aside the fact that Dick van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore used to get into separate beds much more sexily than Jesus and Mo get into the same one, what’s the deal with the mealy-mouthed circumlocution? Where did an atheist get this pious reluctance to describe what he’s trying to talk about? He’d have made his point much better (not that I agree with his point) by saying straight out that Jesus and Mo have philosophical and religious conversations while in bed together.

  4. Anthony K says

    what’s the deal with the mealy-mouthed circumlocution

    Not sure, but I’m pretty sure Leviticus rules eating mealworms is not kosher. How can Perez-Franco be so disrespectfully impious?

  5. Omar Puhleez says

    “I have been an atheist for a long time, and criticizing a particular choice of a particular book does not make me a closet deist ”

    Then again, perhaps it does.

    Perhaps again: perhaps the Congregation for the Propagation of the Nonfaith ought to hold a special meeting to discuss this, and if necessary, refer Perez-Franco’s case to the Unholy Inquisition
    .

    He opens his little diatribe with the following: “….but first I have a huge [huge!] bone to pick with the cover someone designed for this book. Why the radioactive violet background? Do you really need seven colors to spell the word “atheism”? Now on to the important stuff!”
    .

    A window into his mind. Or should that be ‘his mentality’?

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