Sigh. Another day, another dumbass bashing the Gnus:
It’s accommodationism day in the neighborhood…I guess it’s a Christmas thing. Baby Jesus is born, Tim Minchin got his (requested) song dropped from a tv show, Julian tries to square a circle, and to make it all complete, Chris Stedman writes yet another “mean atheists are doing it wrong and I am doing it right” article for the Huffington Post. I had been ignoring Stedman for months, but he does make it difficult.
Chris Stedman has a distressing habit of mistaking outspoken criticism for cruelty, it seems. And a terrible blind spot.
However: effective criticism of religious dogmatism accounts for the diverse spectrum of religious expression. It is balanced, it is rooted in compassion, and it responds to what people actually believe and practice, not just the most extreme forms of religious thought.
Um, Chris? Those “extreme forms of religious thought” are wildly fucking popular amongst religious believers. We’re not talking a tiny minority. We’re talking about enough people to make the Middle East a hell on earth for women. Is it an inconsequential minority of believers who murder gays and people accused of witchcraft in Africa? What about the bible-believing Christians in this country who have enough political power now to launch a full-out assault on women’s reproductive rights? I could go on. I shouldn’t have to.
And for as much as you whine about people who don’t understand what you’ve supposedly actually said, you show a remarkable lack of reading comprehension yourself.
What Stedman cites as objectionable are (except for Stefanelli’s, which is in the middle of a post that cites relevant passages from the Koran, making it rather bizarre that Stedman would level that particular criticism at it) offhand remarks in blog posts about things like threatening the lives of cartoonists who have depicted Mohammed or condoning forced child marriage and rape. The actions being condemned are, in fact, spurred by specific beliefs with their basis in the Koran, even if the bloggers don’t stop to cite chapter and verse.
Stedman has read the blog posts he cites, right? He knows that people are dying, that others are in hiding or pretending to be someone they’re not so they don’t die, that children are being mutilated and raped, that they’re being groomed for martyrdom instead of educated and employed–and that the authority conferred by Islam plays a huge part in making these intractable problems? He knows that most if not all of those things, plus a few special others, happen in places where Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism plays the role of the heavy instead?
Ophelia and Stephanie paddled the man thoroughly (I thought I’d noticed the Smack-o-Matic missing from my wall earlier), and I haven’t got much to add. It’s just that Stedman and his ilk have a remarkable habit of ignoring reality in favor of their own kumbaya fantasy. It annoys.
Yes, there are liberal believers out there. There are lots of religious folks who are moderate. And we can even work together, without compromising our principles, when the situation calls for it. Religious folk who don’t want creationism taught in schools, or the frothing fundies to have control over every uterus in the land, won’t back down from the good fight just because they find themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with those icky Gnus.
Moderate religious believers are even smart. Much smarter than Stedman gives them credit for. Most of the moderates I know accept that we Gnu atheists are going to say things they dislike intensely about their beliefs. They also know what we’re aiming at when we launch a broadside. Those quotes that gave Stedman the vapors are understood as being targeted at a particular, unfortunately large, subset of religious belief that troubles them, too. And aside from a few fainting violets, they don’t seem to need coddling. They don’t require us to pause during every post excoriating the latest fundamentalist outrage, pat them on the head, and say, “But not you, pookie-kins. I know you’d never throw acid in a schoolgirl’s face just because she’s getting an education and you think your god disapproves.”
They get that we have a different view of religion. They understand that atheists are going to criticize religious belief – all religious belief, not just the super-nasty stuff. But they also understand that we see them as human beings, and while we may think their religious beliefs are silly, we quite like them as people. And it’s a two-way street. Believers think we’re pretty silly for not believing. Fair enough.
Chris Stedman, for all his “outreach,” can’t seem to credit believers with having a functioning brain and the ability to handle a vigorous critique. How is infantalizing them supposed to help us all get along?