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Bryan Fischer Award Nominee: Bill Donohue

I was listening to Rant in E Minor, one of Bill Hicks’ classic CDs, the other day. At one point he says, “That’s what fundamentalism breeds, no irony.” Or at least no sense of irony, no awareness of when one is psychologically projecting, as Bill Donohue does in this quote about the American Atheists billboard in Times Square:

“This year Silverman wanted to make a big splash, so he decided to draw blood. It shows what he is made of. He and his supporters do not want to be left alone – they want to inflame the passions of those with whom they disagree. Unlike Christians who do not provoke, harass or otherwise mock atheists, Silverman and his ilk want nothing more than to stick it to Christians at Christmastime. It’s who they are.”

Christians don’t provoke or harass atheists? Let me introduce you to Jessica Ahlquist, who had to be escorted to school by armed police officers because of the torrent of death threats she received after winning her lawsuit. And to Joann Bell, who received her own obituary in the mail, was assaulted on school property, got constant death threats and had her house burned down. Or to any of the other people whose stories will be in my book.

Comments

  1. Johnny Vector says

    Yeah sure, some people harass atheists, but he said “Christians”. I can guarantee you not one of those harassers eats haggis.

  2. frankb says

    I remember a young guy in Florida who was freely given a wafer and privately did with it as he pleased. Billy Boy harassed and provoked. The young fella’ wasn’t even an atheist. Bill makes a living harassing and provoking.

  3. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    Christians don’t provoke or harass atheists? Let me introduce you to Jessica Ahlquist, who had to be escorted to school by armed police officers because of the torrent of death threats she received after winning her lawsuit. And to Joann Bell, who received her own obituary in the mail, was assaulted on school property, got constant death threats and had her house burned down. Or to any of the other people whose stories will be in my book.

    Atheists As “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society, Penny Edgell et al. [PDF]got a lot of attention when it was first published several years ago. It reveals the level of distrust against atheists and the demographics who hold this position relative to their distrust of other hated groups, like Muslims and homosexuals (using the parlance of the article’s authors).

    While the authors note that increased ecumenicalism doesn’t necessarily translate to tolerance for atheists, Figure 1 shows progress was being made through 1999. I looked up the Gallup poll to get more recent findings where the share who would vote for an atheist president dropped from just under 50% in 1999 to 43% this year.

  4. jnorris says

    Is this the billboard showing the Crucifixion? Is Roman Catholic lap puppy Donahue really getting upset that someone dared display the Crucifixion in public? What next, the whole fourteen Stations of the Cross?

  5. dingojack says

    Would billy-boy be happy if they added a little sign above the cross saying:
    “I AM SPARTACUS!!” ?
    Dingo

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Michael Heath @ # 3 – that last link does not go to anything from the Gallup organization.

    I hope there was a missing “not” in your final sentence…

  7. Michael Heath says

    Pierce R. Butler writes to me:

    that last link does not go to anything from the Gallup organization.

    Oops, that’s the page where I retrieve the html tags which I copy into a comment post where I embed a link. Here’s the cited 2012 Gallup page:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/155285/atheists-muslims-bias-presidential-candidates.aspx

    Me earlier based on the two Gallup polls:

    While the authors [Edgel et al.] note that increased ecumenicalism doesn’t necessarily translate to tolerance for atheists, Figure 1 shows progress was being made through 1999. I looked up the Gallup poll to get more recent findings where the share who would vote for an atheist president dropped from just under 50% in 1999 to 43% this year.

    Pierce Butler’s skeptical:

    I hope there was a missing “not” in your final sentence…

    I blew that; thanks for catching. Our country has made progress since 1999, from just under 50% of the population who claim they would vote for an atheist in 1999 to 54% claiming the same this past summer. Sorry for the confusion.

  8. Jordan Genso says

    A little off topic, but an example I just experienced:

    I host bar trivia two nights a week as a side job, and this past Wednesday, two of the teams had a tied score at the end of the round (one person playing by himself, and a team with 5 members). Now I have a couple of go-to tie-breaker questions. I like questions that have a numerical answer as a tie-breaker, so that even if all the teams get it wrong, I can give the win to the closest to.

    The first question I did was my standard “How many U.S. Presidents were generals prior to being elected President?” As usual, neither team knew, and they both guessed way low (4)*. But since they both guessed the same number, I had to do another tie-breaker.

    The second tie-breaker question I then did was “How many books are in the New Testament?” The player who was by himself jokingly exclaimed “Oh that’s great, I’m an Atheist!” At which point, a lady sitting at a table behind me said with all seriousness “You should be ashamed”. With him sitting on the other side of the room, I don’t know if the player heard the comment, but I definitely did. And while I didn’t respond to the lady, I now sort of wish that I had. I’m still not sure what I would’ve said to her, but I shouldn’t have let the comment go unchallenged.

    To conclude the story, the atheist guessed 23, while the team of five knew the correct answer (27). I let the atheist know that I’m an atheist too, and his guess of 23 would’ve won on any other night that I’ve used that tie-breaker, as I’ve had guesses before from 6 to 39.

    Any suggestions as to how I should’ve handled the comment? The way it was said without anyone else seeming to mind, I sort of felt like it was a racist comment said in the 1950’s South that everyone just accepted.

    *for those playing along at home, the correct answer is 12.

  9. sytec says

    Speaking of the book, Ed, do you have a time frame for release? I would assume the medical stuff affects how much your working on it.

  10. Michael Heath says

    Jordan Genso writes:

    The second tie-breaker question I then did was “How many books are in the New Testament?” The player who was by himself jokingly exclaimed “Oh that’s great, I’m an Atheist!” At which point, a lady sitting at a table behind me said with all seriousness “You should be ashamed”.

    I took it completely different than you did though after continuing to read your post I realize my immediate reaction was wrong. That reaction was that the lady was holding the atheist to a higher standard where he let her down, that we presume atheists in general are more knowledgeable than Christians in general, especially regarding the Bible.

  11. tfkreference says

    Ed, when your book is published, I suggest you set up a fund to buy and ship a copy to Donohue, Fischer, and others of their ilk. I’d chip in a couple bucks.

  12. Jordan Genso says

    @10 Michael Heath

    Yeah, I may have misquoted her slightly, but the intention of her statement was clearly that he was wrong to be an atheist. Or at least that he was wrong to be so open about being an atheist.

    I too had the thought like you had, that his atheism shouldn’t be a handicap in knowing the answer to that question. When I’ve asked the question on other nights, I’ve had many people who told me they went to Catholic School or go to church every week but admit they have no idea what the answer is. That’s why I wanted the atheist to understand that his guess was much better than most guesses from Christians, so he shouldn’t feel like the question was stacked against him. I don’t expect an atheist to be more likely to get it right, but I don’t expect them to be more likely to get it wrong.

    One of the other tie-breakers I ask is “How many pairs of chromosomes do most humans have?”, and I don’t want to think that such a question is stacked against a player/team that happens to be religious.

    It just coincidently turned out that the team of five was a more knowledgable team on the New Testament.

  13. Sastra says

    Jordan Genso #8 wrote:

    The player who was by himself jokingly exclaimed “Oh that’s great, I’m an Atheist!” At which point, a lady sitting at a table behind me said with all seriousness “You should be ashamed”… Any suggestions as to how I should’ve handled the comment?

    The simplest and easiest response would have been to gently turn it back on her: “No, you should be ashamed.” And move on as if covering for the fact that she has embarrassed herself. Which she has.

    Such a comment was gratuitous, rude, out of place, and just as bad as any similar disparagement of someone’s beliefs (“You’re a Papist? You should be ashamed.”) If the woman is foolish enough to demand clarification, that’s what you’d say — quietly, and in the tone of someone reminding an adult of basic courtesy. Many people are atheist, probably even in the room. This is not a religious discussion period.

    I agree with you. It’s the little, thoughtless, smug assumptions (and jokes) which eventually add up and establish a cultural atmosphere of in-group vs. out. When the ‘out’ group really is being placed on the outside (and it’s not just a harmless remnant of the past, like humor about Norwegians, say) , then it matters that we protest.

  14. ehmm says

    Given the numerous idiotic and insensitive comments from Donahue, particularly in the wake of the Ryan report, why should anyone give a shit what he finds inflammatory or provocative?

  15. Quantum Mechanic says

    Jordan Genso:

    The player who was by himself jokingly exclaimed “Oh that’s great, I’m an Atheist!” At which point, a lady sitting at a table behind me said with all seriousness “You should be ashamed”… Any suggestions as to how I should’ve handled the comment?

    If one were to play it for laughs, I would guess:
    “Ashamed? He said ‘atheist’, not ‘Catholic’!
    However, that response has its own problems.

  16. says

    Garrison Keillor saw fit to address the subject of the billboard on his show from NYC last saturday. He made a comment along the lines of the atheists who wanted to drop the “myth” from Christmas but keep the “merry” were missing the fact that “Santa” came from… I’m not sure if he intended his comment to be ironic but it made for some dead air, after a moment of which he quickly segeued to a cheap shot at “his” people.

    “Any suggestions as to how I should’ve handled the comment? The way it was said without anyone else seeming to mind, I sort of felt like it was a racist comment said in the 1950′s South that everyone just accepted.”

    “Well, at least he’s not muslim, black or gay!” (unless he’s a gay, black muslim)

    or,

    “1 Timothy, 2:12!”.

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