Defending the Blasphemy Challenge: A Reply


Blasphemy_challengeOkay. First: Laura, I get that you’re upset and hurt and angry about this, and I want you to know that I don’t want that. So I’m going to try to say what I have to say, as best as possible, in a way that doesn’t exacerbate it.

How can I do this?

DemocratLet me start by making a comparison. You’re a grassroots progressive Democrat, and a pretty ardent, practicing one. You probably see and hear people making fun of Democrats and progressives on a daily basis, calling you (among other things) stupid and crazy, and worse. And I’m sure you get ticked off at this sometimes, especially when you think the jokes are inaccurate or mean-spirited.

John_kerry_frenchBut you don’t get angry at the very idea that people would make fun of Democrats and call them stupid or crazy or other bad names. Not this angry, anyway. (At least, I assume you don’t. We’ve talked about politics many times, and I’ve never heard you get as angry or as hurt as you seem to be about the Blasphemy Challenge.) You accept that that’s part of the public conversation about politics.

I’d like to ask you to look at religion in the same way.

Religious_symbolsReligions are (most of them, anyway) an idea about the world: a theory about how the world works, and a philosophy about how the world should work. And as such, it should be part of the public discourse, part of the marketplace of ideas — no different than any other ideas about the world, and treated with the same level of respect and/or irreverence.

ArgumentRight now, this country is having a public conversation about religion, in a way that, as far as I’m aware, it never really has. And part of that conversation is going to involve people making mean, snarky jokes, both about the ideas and about the people who hold them. I personally wish more atheists would be more careful about aiming their jibes at Christianity rather than Christians
 but you know, I’m not always careful about making fun of Republicanism rather than Republicans, and I don’t think it’s the crime of the century.

And I don’t think it’s fair to be more angry at people who are childish and insulting about your religion than you would be about people who are childish and insulting about your politics.

JonstewartOr, for that matter, people who are childish and insulting about the politics you oppose. Speaking for myself, some of my favorite pieces of social commentary are sometimes childish and insulting. South Park, Beavis and Butt-Head — very often childish and insulting. The Simpsons, Monty Python — not infrequently childish and insulting. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report — yeah, sometimes. I think if we’re going to accept this type of social commentary when it works in our favor, we have to accept it when it’s aimed at us.

Lenny_bruceYou’re upset because many of the Blasphemy Challenge people treat Christianity as a joke, make fun of it — sometimes disrespectful, mean-spirited, not very nice fun. I’m not sure how to say this in a nice way
 but this is kind of what I’m talking about when I talk about religion getting a free ride in the marketplace of ideas. Making fun of people is a respected, time-honored form of public discourse in this country. Making fun of big, powerful institutions — of which Christianity is most assuredly one — is an even more respected, even more time-honored tradition. I’m sure Republicans and other folks get upset when Jon Stewart makes fun of them and calls them stupid and crazy. Tough beans. That’s life in the big city.

And I really think we need to start looking at religious ideas the same way.

So that’s the big issue. Now a couple of somewhat smaller, more specific points.

*****

If you want me to say that some of the “Blasphemy Challenge” videos are childish and insulting
 sure. Yes. Absolutely. Some of the “Blasphemy Challenge” videos are childish and insulting.

But not all of them are. I was just now looking at a bunch of them, trying to find a specific one I’d seen before
 and I came across these, just in the first few minutes of my YouTube search. Some of them make me want to stand up and cheer
 and some just break my heart, make me want to cry and scream and then go throw rocks at things.

Am I proud and happy to stand up with these people? You’re darned well right I am. (The last one especially. If you only watch one of these videos, watch hers.)

BrokenheartAnd you know what? I’m proud and happy to stand up with the angry, pissy, juvenile ones, too. I see them, and my heart just breaks. I know that when you hear someone say something like “The Holy Spirit rapes children,” what you hear is a terrible thing being said about your faith. But what I hear (although to be fair, I haven’t seen that particular video and am just going on your description of it) is someone who, I’m betting, had an appalling religious upbringing, one in which they were taught cruel, traumatic, bigoted, and flat-out untrue things, and told that to even question them would send them to be burned and tortured in Hell
 and who’s only now coming to realize just how fucked up that was, and just how full of rage they are about it. (Or if they didn’t go through that themselves, they know and love someone who did.) You see the insult — I see the anger, the frustration, the trauma, the feeling of helplessness. And while I wish those people would express their rage in a better way than namecalling and insults, and while I hope they can move on from that eventually, my heart goes out to them. I get that this is where they need to be right now, and I want to stand with them and tell them that they’re not alone.

Act_upNow, maybe that’s not fair. Maybe it’s not fair to be sympathetic with atheists who are angry about religion, and yet expect religious believers to get over their anger about atheists. But I feel the same way about women’s anger towards men versus men’s anger towards women; queer folks’ anger towards straight people versus straight peoples’ anger towards queers. The difference is in which group has the power. And in this case, it’s not atheists.

MoveonIn any case, let me ask you this: Are there stupid, childish, insulting people in MoveOn, or Democracy for America, or whatever organizations you’re working with right now? And are you still willing to stand up with them, to fight alongside them, to work with them in the movement
 or, at the very least, to put up with them so you can work with the people who aren’t like that? That’s how I feel about the atheist movement in general, and the Blasphemy Challenge in particular. If I weren’t willing to make common cause with atheists who are seriously angry and don’t always express that anger well, I’d be in pretty thin company in this movement. Yes, some of the Challengers are juvenile and insulting. But many of them I just love to pieces. And I think the basic idea of the Blasphemy Challenge is sound and worthwhile.

Which brings me to


*****

You asked what the point of the Blasphemy Challenge was, other than to piss people off. I can’t speak for the organizers — if you want to ask them why they’re doing this, you’d have to ask them.

But I can tell you what I think the point is.

FuckthedraftOne: Visibility. I wish this weren’t the case, but calm, nuanced philosophy isn’t always the best way to get the world to pay attention — especially in the early days of a movement. Sometimes you need to stand in the street and scream, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” (Or throw rocks at cops. I can’t remember who it was now, but some very respectable gay politician was once asked what would be an appropriate memorial statue for the Stonewall riots, and he answered, “A drag queen with a brick in his hand.”)

Community_centerTwo: Community. Knowing that you’re not alone, that there are others who are as pissed and upset as you are.

VentingThree: Venting. Emotionally important. Helps you get past your anger and move on.

I think the extra-high level of venting in some of these videos is there for two reasons – both related to the whole “respect for religion means never questioning it or saying that you disagree with it” thing. I think a lot of the anger in these videos is an explosion that’s coming after years of silence and suppressed rage. And I think it’s an attempt to counterbalance the polite silence with a rude scream. Is that juvenile? Insulting? Sometimes. So were punk rock, underground comix, Lenny Bruce, Queer Nation, etc. etc. etc. All wonderful, overwhelmingly positive forces, in my opinion.

StonewallFour: Motivation. Shared anger can be a powerful motivating force, especially in the early days of a social/political movement. When you’re facing injustice, the opposite of anger isn’t serenity — it’s apathy.

FenceFive: Getting people who are on the fence — or people who have never seriously considered the question — to know that that they have options. I agree that hard-core fundamentalists are unlikely to be convinced by the Blasphemy Challenge
 but I think it can and does let less-hard-core people know that they have a choice. I wish I could find it now (one of the problems with the Blasphemy Challenge is that there are hundreds of videos, which makes it awfully damn hard to find the specific really cool one you saw a couple of days ago), but there’s one B.C. video featuring a young man who said that he had gone to the Blasphemy Challenge website to argue with it
 and now, six months later, he had been convinced, and was making his own B.C. video.

BibleSix: Getting people to pay attention to what the Bible actually says. The amount of ignorance about the Bible’s actual teachings — even and especially among Christians — is astonishing. Getting people to think about, not what their preachers or teachers or parents told them the Bible says, but what the Bible actually says, is crucial in getting people to think seriously about the larger issue of Christianity in public life.

Pat_robertsonSeven: Making a point about fundamentalism, and the patent absurdity of trying to take every word of the Bible as literal truth. I don’t think this is only important for fundies to see. I think it’s important for the rest of the country to see as well — to see what kind of thinking, or lack thereof, is driving the people who have become so powerful.

ChristianityEight: Making a point about Christianity in general — not just fundamentalism. Many non-fundie, moderate or progressive Christians say things like, “I don’t take every word of the Bible literally, I’m inspired by Jesus’s message of love and forgiveness.” I think it’s important to point out that Jesus’s message, as quoted in the Gospels, is not universally one of love and forgiveness — that you don’t have to go to the Old Testament, or Paul, or Revelations, to find some fairly fucked-up stuff. I think it’s reasonable to ask moderate and progressive Christians to think about that — to think about how it does or doesn’t fit into their beliefs, to think about why it’s so much more upsetting to hear someone say “Fuck the Holy Spirit” than “Fuck Bill Clinton,” to think about what it means to be a Christian when you disagree with the words of Christ himself. That sort of thing.

Which brings me to


*****

Hellfire1As to the Blasphemy Challenge website misrepresenting the passage in question by saying it refers to hell and damnation
 I’m really not sure how else to interpret “never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Maybe that’s not the only possible interpretation, but it’s hardly an unreasonable one.

But much more to the point: It simply is not the case that the Bible — or even the Gospels — never mentions hell and damnation. Here are just a few examples:

Hellfire2Matthew 3:7, John the Baptist: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

Hellfire3Matthew 3:12, again J the B: “His (Jesus’s) winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Hellfire4Matthew 5:22, Jesus now:: “But I say to you that every one who is angry with the brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.”

Hellfire5Matthew 5:30, Jesus again: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go to hell.”

Hellfire6Matthew 10:28, again Jesus: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Hellfire7Matthew 11:22, Jesus: “But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you (Chorasin and Bethsaida).”

There’s more.. And I’m not even trying that hard. I’m flipping fairly casually, and I’m not even halfway through the first book of the four Gospels
 and I’ve already found six separate references — four of them in Jesus’s own words — to wrath, the hell of fire, the destruction of hell, and judgment day.

HellNow, I think it’s fair for Christians to say, “I’m going to be inspired by the parts of the Bible that inspire me, and I feel free to disagree with the parts I disagree with.” (I do have some questions about this approach, but I sure think it’s healthier than strict fundamentalism.) If you think hell doesn’t exist, I’m certainly not going to try to convince you that it does.

BiblefireBut whatever else you may say about the Blasphemy Challenge, it really is 100% unfair to accuse them of making up the idea of hellfire and damnation. It’s right there — not in the brutal Old Testament, not in tight-assed Paul, not in whacked-out Revelations, but in Jesus’s words, as quoted in the Gospels.

I understand that fire and damnation aren’t how you practice Christianity. And good for you. I think that’s exactly as it should be. But people who do believe in that kind of Christianity aren’t “twisting it into something it isn’t.” Hellfire and damnation are all over the Bible, including the Gospels.

Bible2See, here’s the thing. I don’t understand why Mark 3:28-29 is an “obscure passage” (the same concept appears in Matthew 12:31-32, btw)
 unless by “obscure” you mean “not cited very often,” which of course it isn’t, what with it contradicting the central message of the religion and all. I don’t understand why this passage doesn’t count. It’s not some irrelevant law from Leviticus about where to plant your barley. It’s in the Gospels, the words of Jesus. If you have a red-letter Bible, it’ll be in red letters. We were talking about this today with Ingrid’s dad, who was brought up fundamentalist
 and he immediately knew exactly which passage we were talking about.

LovejoyNow, I think it’d be fair for a Christian to say they don’t agree with it. I think it’d be fair for a Christian to say they think Jesus said it, but he was mistaken. I think it’d even be fair for a Christian to say, as Jane did, that Jesus said it because he was having a bad day and he got pissy. But I don’t think it’s fair to do as Reverend Lovejoy did, when Lisa asked if the Bible didn’t say, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” and he replied, “I think it may be somewhere towards the back.” The passage says what it says. And it’s Jesus who said it. Defend it, explain it, disagree with it, put it into historical context. But I do think it’s kind of unfair to criticize people for taking it seriously and responding to it.

Blasphemy_challenge_2I get that these videos upset you a lot. If that’s so, maybe you shouldn’t watch any more of them. But your argument seems to be “these videos upset me, therefore they have no value; they don’t convince me, therefore they won’t convince anybody; they make me angry, therefore they have no power to change the world for good.” And for all the reasons I’ve gone into here, I just don’t agree with that.

Comments

  1. Laura Deal says

    I have to go to work so I can’t write a full reply right now. But I want to clear up a couple of points right now.
    First, I’m not upset because someone is making jokes about my faith. People make fun of my faith all the time: my friends do it, TV and movies shows do it, people who share my faith do it, heck I sometimes even do it and if they are funny I laugh, if they are not, whatever…I don’t take it personally, it’s a joke, and I get the need to poke at those in power especially when a lot of them need poking…I totally get that . So I can take a joke, and please don’t tell my why I am upset because frankly, that upsets me. I know you are not trying to piss me off and I’m not mad at you (Ok, a little now about the telling me why I’m upset part and getting it wrong, but I’ll probably be over that by the time I walk to bart..unless I miss my train because I’m typing this…but eventually I’ll have to own that it may be my own fault if I miss my train)….I’m angry at this situation and I think you are wrong on some points here, but I know you are trying to be thoughtful and I respect and appreciate that.
    Secondly I understand that in any movement there are some assholes and some people trying to be rational and helpful. But the people who are running this seem to me to be assholes and if Wes and Joan from Move On had a similar agenda and attitudes towards Republicans that these folks do towards Christians I would not have joined MoveOn.
    I’ll go into this in more detail later but I needed to clear those things up before they festered all day.

  2. Steve_C says

    I think you fail to see, Laura, that it’s an attitude towards religion and Christianity and not towards Christians themselves.

  3. valhar2000 says

    “[…]But the people who are running this seem to me to be assholes[…]”
    YES! YES! YES! AT LAST I SEE THE LIGHT! THE BLASPHEMY CHALLENGE IS EVIL!
    Laura, people who are easy to offend deserve to be offended.

  4. says

    The Blasphemy Challenge is useful in that it shows that young people have found reason to doubt and even deny their religious teachings.
    Some people don’t make that leap ever, and some don’t do it so early.
    It is great to get others to at least ask questions. How else could they understand the Simpsons couch scene from last night for example.

  5. says

    “It picks out some obscure passage and says ‘This is stupid and I mock it’ which comes across as “‘If you are a Christian, you are stupid and I mock you.'”
    (I realize you wrote this in response to the last post, but the conversation seems to have moved here.)
    I can understand why you’d feel that way. But those really and truly are not the same thing. You know how I said in this post that I wished more atheists would be more careful about aiming their jibes at Christianity rather than Christians? By the same token, I wish more believers would listen more carefully when atheists *do* make that distinction. Saying “I think your idea is stupid” is not the same as saying “I think you are stupid.” Plenty of smart people have had some stupid ideas. I’m one of them.
    And I’m sorry that I misunderstood you about being angry because people were making snarky jokes about your faith. It seemed to me like that was part of what you were saying. My bad.

  6. Tefnut says

    Here via Pharyngula.
    Beautiful, well-reasoned, -argued, and -explained.
    If Laura posts a response, I would love to read it too (the two paragraphs she posted above don’t count as a proper response, since they don’t address anything), as you’ve explained a lot of what I believe in (heheheh, she said “believe”….), and I have yet to hear a substantive response from a deist on many of your points.
    Again, great post, and I will definitely stop by in the future to read some more!
    – Tefnut

  7. says

    There is little else in the bible that has the potential to resonate so intensly with both unbeleivers and beleivers.
    I recall reading this verse as a 14 year old, and being terrified for months. I had never read it before, never heard it preached on and never dreamed that something so at odds with the “Jesus forgives you everything” message even existed.
    I got over it, and continued as a Christian. Now nearly 30 years later, I realise it had the potential to shock me out of my stupor, but it didn’t. Was that nature or nurture? Almost certainly both, but the environment has changed radically since then. Maybe others will have better luck, I think so, I hope so.
    From my perspective as a deconverted ex-fundamentalist, this is an optimal verse because it highlights to the general public the lunacy that lurks at the heart of Christianity, while simultaneously skewering a massive inconsistency in the new testament message which even the most crippled, inured, slavish sheep will be momentarily adrenalised by. I know, because I was one:-)

  8. MTran says

    I’m another one from the Pharyngula link.
    Thanks for saying so clearly what needs to be said — and repeated as often as necessary.
    The comment from Laura sounds as if she doesn’t deal very well with those who don’t accept religion. I’ll stop by tomorrow to see if she posts anything of substance.

  9. says

    “The comment from Laura sounds as if she doesn’t deal very well with those who don’t accept religion. I’ll stop by tomorrow to see if she posts anything of substance.”
    Actually, Laura deals very well with people who don’t accept religion. If you look at this blog’s archives and its comments, you’ll see that.
    In fact, one of the reasons I was so willing to spend so much time crafting a careful response to her complaints about the Blasphemy Challenge is that she (a) doesn’t have a problem with atheists and atheism in general, (b) is willing to carefully think about these questions and argue about them respectfully, and (c) is nearly as pissed at the religious right as I am. (Possibly more so in some ways, because they make her religion look so bad.) If that hadn’t been true, I wouldn’t have bothered.
    I’m not quite sure myself why this particular issue has gotten under her skin so much — in reading over her comment that sparked my response, it’s still not clear to me what exactly makes the Blasphemy Challenge such a problem for her. (I do hope she’ll clarify that at some point; but if she wants to take her time about it and make sure that she says exactly what she wants to say, then good for her.)
    But since the Pharyngula link has brought a lot of newcomers to this blog who haven’t seen all the conversations we’ve been having on this topic over the last several months (welcome y’all, btw!), I should be very clear: I disagree with Laura about religion, but she is not an unthinking Christ-bot. She is one of the good guys.
    (She’s also a good friend of mine. Just so y’all know.)

  10. says

    You’re right. That video of that young woman was beautiful. However, I must admit, I think she’s a bit hasty (not in her denial of the Holy Spirit, but in her completely rejecting faith).
    You put above:
    “Five: Getting people who are on the fence — or people who have never seriously considered the question — to know that that they have options.”
    It sounds to me like she doesn’t realize that she has the option to be a non-fundamentalist Christian, or to be some other faith, or to pick and choose her own religion and/or spiritual beliefs. I wish someone would come to her and say, “Hey, take a look at Unitarian Universalism!” or “Hey, take a look at Buddhism” or “Hey, you know you can make your own mind up on what you want to believe spirituality… you can have whatever type of faith or lack thereof you want. It’s not an either/or thing where you’re either Fundamentalist Christian or an Atheist”. If she looks around at all of her options and still decides on Atheism (yes, I’ll agree, I am jumping to a conclusion here that she’s an atheist and not just denying the Holy Spirit, but I think there’s reason to believe that), then, great! Good for her! I support her wholeheartedly. I’m just worried that she’s jumping from the frying pan into the fire (or whatever metaphor you want to use) w/o realizing the multitude of options she has. Options are important.

  11. Jane Shaffer says

    I don’t think you can mock someone’s beliefs without mocking the person, at least with regard to those particular beliefs. A coworker once said to me, “You know I like you, but I think that homosexuality is a mortal sin.” People just can’t be tidily separated from their beliefs, sexuality, or other things that make them who they are.
    I’m not opposed to the mocking – I get that. I’m a big fan of Lenny Bruce and, more recently, Carlos Mencia. I just don’t think you can attack Christianity while neatly leaving Christians out of it. I don’t think I could say something like, “S&M is a disturbing and demented practice” while expecting practitioners not to be offended because I didn’t direct my comment at them specifically. (Of course I don’t actually believe that there’s anything wrong with S&M – it was just the first thing that came to mind as an example).
    I know you like and respect both Laura and I, as we do you, but I think you should own that you are saying, “Your spiritual beliefs are dumb” and that that is an inflammatory statement and not an invitation to a reasonable debate.

  12. says

    “I don’t think you can mock someone’s beliefs without mocking the person, at least with regard to those particular beliefs.”
    Why?
    I’m serious. What makes these beliefs different from all other beliefs?
    I see your comparison with homosexuality or S/M — but I don’t think that’s a good analogy. Homosexuality or S/M is a private way of living your own life that doesn’t really affect anyone except yourself and the people you’re having sex with. Religion is — how did I put it? — “an idea about the world: a theory about how the world works, and a philosophy about how the world should work.” It’s a hypothesis about how the larger world that we all live in works; comparable to a scientific theory or a political philosophy.
    And in my opinion, that makes it subject to public debate — including the mockery that is often part and parcel of public debate.
    I understand that many religious believers think religion is different somehow. But… well, that’s kind of my entire point. I don’t see why it should be different. If you want to make a case that it should be different, then make that case. I’d be interested to see it. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to just say, “These particular beliefs about the world are different from other beliefs about the world, and they have to be treated differently,” without explaining why.
    (BTW, there’s another reason I don’t think the analogy to homosexuality or S/M is apt… which is the question of who has the power. I really think that atheist-friendly Christians in this country need to recognize that, as friendly as they are, they are on the dominant-culture side of this question, in the same way that gay-friendly straight people are. Take a look at the old “I Hate Straights” essay that Rebecca linked to earlier, to get an idea of why exactly I think that’s relevant. http://www.jessanderson.org/doc/qnation.html )
    And BTW, I am not saying that your spiritual beliefs are dumb. I’m saying that I think they’re mistaken. I *am* defending other people’s right to mock your beliefs, but I would ask you to please recognize that I have not myself done so.

  13. says

    “You’re right. That video of that young woman was beautiful. However, I must admit, I think she’s a bit hasty (not in her denial of the Holy Spirit, but in her completely rejecting faith)…I wish someone would come to her and say, “Hey, take a look at Unitarian Universalism!” or “Hey, take a look at Buddhism” or ‘Hey, you know you can make your own mind up on what you want to believe spirituality… you can have whatever type of faith or lack thereof you want. It’s not an either/or thing where you’re either Fundamentalist Christian or an Atheist.'”
    I think that’s an interesting point, c4bl3fl4m3. But I also think it’s possible — even likely — that she’ll get there at some point. Or someplace similar.
    Remember: It’s really only Mark 3:28-29 (and almost certainly some similar passages in other texts in other religions) that says denying the Holy Spirit is an irrevocable, one-way, no refunds ticket to hell. If you don’t agree with that passage, then there’s nothing irrevocable about what she’s done, and she has her entire life ahead of her to keep changing her mind. This is just where she is right now.

  14. Jane Shaffer says

    I guess I wasn’t clear. I am not separating religious beliefs from other beliefs/personality aspects.
    I was saying that, if you say my beliefs are mistaken, then you are saying that I am mistaken, at least about those beliefs. These could be spiritual, political, or artistic beliefs. Either way, you can’t take the personal out of the argument.
    I did mention in my first comment to your first post on this subject that I recognized that you were actually attacking people who abuse religious power. However, if you are aligning yourself with Rational Response, then you must agree with their whole premise, which seems to be that Christianity must go. Not really a pro-atheist idea, but more anti-Christian. Christians will see that as a personal attack, whether or not you say, “Oh, I don’t mean that you are wrong, just your ideas.” I’m not saying that you shouldn’t say it, just that you can’t have it both ways.
    I completely understand the Blasphemy Challenge – as I said in my last post. I also understand about the anger of the oppressed as a woman and a lesbian. I did not say that religious ideas should be treated differently from other ideas.

  15. says

    Okay. Now I understand (I think) what you’re getting at. But while I agree that saying “I think your beliefs are mistaken” is roughly the same as saying “I think you’re mistaken,” I still think there’s a non-trivial difference between saying “I think your idea is stupid and crazy” and “I think you’re stupid and crazy.” Mostly because the former isn’t a personal value judgment, and the latter is.
    More to the point:
    “However, if you are aligning yourself with Rational Response, then you must agree with their whole premise, which seems to be that Christianity must go.”
    I don’t agree with this statement AT ALL. I *don’t* have to agree with the entire premise of the Rational Response Squad to find some value in what they’re doing, and to want to participate in it. As someone on Pharyngula pointed out, you don’t have to agree with everything Martin Luther said to be a Protestant. You can go to an anti-war march even if the organizers take positions on important issues that you don’t agree with. You can join ACT-UP and still think Larry Kramer is a douchebag. (Yes, I know, Larry Kramer didn’t really found ACT-UP… but for the sake of argument.)
    And you obviously don’t have to agree with every word of Christ in order to identify as a Christian.
    I made a comparison in my post to organizations like MoveOn. But in fact, I think the Blasphemy Challenge isn’t so much an organization as it is a social movement — one that, as is often the case with social movements, has long since gotten WAY out of the hands of the people who instigated it. (Especially since the people who instigated it are basically “a couple of people who started a Website”…) And I don’t have to agree with everything the original instigators said in order to participate in this movement. I can participate in what it’s become, not what it started out as.

  16. Jane Shaffer says

    Sorry, I realize I was very unclear that time. I didn’t mean their whole premise (thought I had corrected that phrasing) – I meant their apparent goal. Of course you can join a movement without believing everything the founders believe, but you are sharing a similar goal. If you are saying that you align yourself with the larger movement, rather than the goal of the founders, then I understand now.
    I do still think that saying, “I think your idea is stupid and crazy” is not cleanly separable from “I think you are stupid and crazy.” However, we may have to agree to disagree on that point.

  17. Jaye says

    “However, if you are aligning yourself with Rational Response, then you must agree with their whole premise, which seems to be that Christianity must go.”
    That’s not their whole premise. The video from the RR guy, the second one down specificaly stated that he doesn’t believe any religion must go.
    The point is not to get rid of religion, but to take away its protected status when it comes to talking about how society will function.

  18. Jaye says

    Meant to say more, but got distracted and hit post.
    Say for example, I think tchockes are talking to me and telling me how things should be. Now you may say, “That’s ridiculous! Tchockes can’t talk to people!” Some more generous souls may say, “You may think they’re talking to you, but surely that’s just a metaphor.”
    Now, do I get deeply offendend that you think I may be slightly insane for thinking a brass monkey is saying, “I love you!” or do I shrug it off, listen to the chicken and go destroy Gretchen Speck.

  19. says

    Thank you, Greta; that was a beautiful and passionately argued post. I think this was the most eloquent explanation of the rationale behind the Blasphemy Challenge I’ve ever seen.
    And the young lady in that last video… I wanted to reach through my screen and give her a hug. More than anything, I think the most beneficial effect of this challenge is that it can encourage people to be comfortable in their own skin, to accept who they are, and to know that they’re not alone. If that was the only thing it accomplished, even for a few, I’d consider it more than worthwhile.

  20. Laura Deal says

    I should probably just shut up and let Jane continue this discussion because she’s making my points better than I am but I said I would post more, and so I will and probably more that I should but whatever.
    OK, here’s the thing. I don’t get angry at the very idea that people make fun of Christianity. I get angry when someone (namely Brian Sapient) suggests that my beliefs are a mental illness and that I should be locked up in a mental institution and then one of my best friends holds this person’s organization up as a great beacon of hope in promoting the great dialogue on religion and atheism. And no, he is not joking at least he claims not to be joking, so either he’s serious or he’s lying and so yes, I think he’s an asshole and if some of your readers think that makes me easily offended they are free to think that and I defend their right to say so.
    And for the record, when anyone I’m having a political conversation with says something that hateful about all Republicans I get angry too. Because we are living in times of great anger and fear and also a time of great opportunity and the people who say things like that are in my opinion making things worse and frankly I think things are bad enough. I work my ass off to get people like George Bush (I failed) and Richard Pombo (won that one) out of office, but I think saying something like “Republicanism is a mental illness and they should all be locked up” is not only hateful but counter productive. The think is I have convinced Republicans to vote for Democrats (there’s no way Pombo would have lost if some of them didn’t join with us) and I don’t think I could have done that if I came to them with that attitude.
    And we are at a crossroads. Many in the evangelical community are starting to question what the leaders of the political religious right are telling them because they are starting to face the fact that Bush is not a good steward of the earth or a peacemaker or caring for the poor. And frankly a big reason it has taken them so long to face this is that the Religious Right has told them that the atheistic left despises them and thinks they are fools. And now the “Rational Response Squad” has given them audio visual aids for their presentation.
    I get the anger. I get the need to gather together and sing the anti-kumbaya. I get the need to say “you hurt me and you had no right to hurt me” I think it’s fine to ask why condemn people with this passage and then ignore this passage that says don’t condemn people. I support all of that, but I think this thing is doing more harm than good. It’s not that I want to shut down dialogue, it’s that I think that they way this is happening will get in the way of dialogue and that makes me sad.
    I just reserve the right to be upset when one of my best friends wants me to accept someone saying I’m mentally ill and that I should be locked up. Because if anyone said that she should be locked up or was mentally ill because she is an atheist, I would not join hands with them and “proudly” stand beside them. I would tell them that no matter how many things I agreed with them on, I could not work with anyone who felt that way about anyone. So please do not call me unfair I may be angrier that you are comfortable with, but I am not holding anyone to any standard to which I would not hold myself.
    And the hell thing. I was mistaken about Hell not being mentioned in the bible. I checked the passage in question and went on something I remember being discussed years ago in one of my bible study classes. I’ve been incredibly busy and I didn’t fact check as well as I should have. I concede that point. However I never said that the RRS “made up hell” I know that other people have talked about it before. They just made up the fact that Jesus mentioned hell in this passage so bad for both sides on that one.
    So I just wish that you would be satisfied with standing up for your right to be an atheist and not applaud those who want to tell me I’m insane for my beliefs. Because my beliefs are a part of me and I don’t mind when people question them or disagree with them, but I don’t like it when I am attacked for them.

  21. Jaye says

    “OK, here’s the thing. I don’t get angry at the very idea that people make fun of Christianity. I get angry when someone (namely Brian Sapient) suggests that my beliefs are a mental illness and that I should be locked up in a mental institution and then one of my best friends holds this person’s organization up as a great beacon of hope in promoting the great dialogue on religion and atheism. And no, he is not joking at least he claims not to be joking, so either he’s serious or he’s lying and so yes, I think he’s an asshole and if some of your readers think that makes me easily offended they are free to think that and I defend their right to say so.”
    Can’t both be true? I mean, I don’t think anyone should be locked up for a belief that doesn’t harm anyone else, but can’t the guy be an asshole, but the outlet still provide a usefull purpose?

  22. GrantB says

    “I don’t think you can mock someone’s beliefs without mocking the person, at least with regard to those particular beliefs.”
    It’s subtle, like “hate the sin but love the sinner,” but there is a difference. Yes, if I mock beliefs, then I am mocking the part of you that holds those beliefs, but the distinction is that I am not saying that you don’t have other redeeming parts.
    Of course, you are free to say that you are completely defined by those beliefs, and have no other self-image, in which case, yes I do think you’re a total write-off.
    But that’s a logical consequence of the situation, not me trying to define your identity for you. For me to say that because part of you is X, all of you is bad, is unwarranted. That’s the origin of all manner of hate crimes and bigotry. (Particularly where X is jewish, negro, nazi, communist, or moslem.)
    Christianity has brought us some great art. And, through the agent of Rev. Brent Hawkes, gay marriage throughout Canada. Great stuff, even if I think the dogma (indeed, the entire *concept* of dogma) is dog poo.

  23. JohnS says

    Laura, how would you feel if I told you it makes me sad to think that you are indulging in wishful thinking and that people who study their religion are trying to deceive their intellect in order to hold onto the emotionally warm and fuzzy parts?
    From my point of view, what other conclusion is possible except that you have been deceived and are self deceived? I see why you would want to hold onto belief without evidence, but it is irrational to do so. Miracles, prayer and a creator god are all outside of reality.
    I don’t expect you to agree with the above, but perhaps you can see it is a valid conclusion for an atheist to reach.
    Some people who are irrational, self deceived and out of touch with reality are indeed mentally unbalanced. Unshakeable belief that one is Napoleon or Mary or Jesus usually gets you committed. (Well, unless you are Rev. Moon, that is.)
    Do I think you should be labeled as insane or crazy?
    No, but somewhere out there are very high profile Christians who are lying in order to push their beliefs into public schools and damaging science education or threatening people with hurricanes. All this to fulfil Jesus’ Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16). Anger is not an unreasonable reaction to their efforts and I could empathise with anyone who felt that broad brush insults might be appropriate.
    Religion does not deserve to be held immune to criticism. Those who respond to criticism of Christianity by playing the martyr card should earn no respect. Mind you, it’s not clear to me that you have done so, yet.

  24. says

    “I get angry when someone (namely Brian Sapient) suggests that my beliefs are a mental illness and that I should be locked up in a mental institution…”
    Laura, can you tell me where it is that he says that?
    I’m serious. I can’t find it. I’m not saying you’re making it up or that there’s nothing like that there… but I really can’t find it. (If it’s in one of the videos… well, YouTube has removed a whole bunch of the Blasphemy Challenge/Rational Response Squad videos, and the RRS YouTube membership has apparently been revoked. There’s a whole complicated thing about it that I don’t completely understand; some of it has to do with copyright issues, but it’s not like there isn’t copyright violation all over YouTube, and it’s also apparently not the first time this has happened to atheist videos on YouTube.)
    Anyway… without that, it’s very hard to respond to your comment. I can’t say *what* I think of what Brian Sapient said until I can see it. Did he literally and seriously mean that all Christians should be committed to mental institutions — that roughly 80% of the population should be locked up by the other 20%? Was he using it as a rhetorical device — along the lines of, “If I had this kind of belief about anything other than God, people would put me away”? Was it in a satirical way, like Richard Pryor or Chris Rock saying something like, “Man, those white people are some crazy motherfuckers, sometimes I think we should just put a big fence around them with a sign over it that says ‘Loony Bin'”? (I don’t know if Richard Pryor or Chris Rock ever said anything like that, btw — it just seems like the kind of thing they might say, and that we might think was funny.) Was it in an “exaggerating to make a point” way? I literally have no idea. Unless I can see it and see what I think the intent and the tone were, I can’t respond to it. You seem to be reacting largely to this one quote by this one person — so if you can point me to the exact quote you’re so upset by, I’d appreciate it.
    I should also say, though, that while the exact quote and its intent/context does matter to me, it doesn’t matter as much as you probably think it should. It doesn’t because of what I said to Jane earlier, about social movements that quickly outstrip their original instigators. So I’ll again make the analogy of Larry Kramer and ACT-UP.
    Larry Kramer, while not The Founder of ACT-UP that he’s claimed to be, was certainly one of the most important founders of ACT-UP, and almost certainly the most visible and vocal. And he said some MONUMENTALLY fucked-up shit about straight people (and, Ingrid points out, about gay people as well). Way more fucked-up than Brian Sapient. Ingrid says they were constantly being embarrassed by him in ACT-UP. Does that mean that Ingrid, and all the other people you know who used to be in ACT-UP, shouldn’t have joined? Should they not have participated in this movement, and stood up proudly with it, because one of its most central and vocal founders was a huge asshole? I sure don’t think so. I assume you don’t, either. ACT-UP was a movement that took on a life of its own, largely independent of its founders. And I think the same is true of the Blasphemy Challenge.
    And speaking of ACT-UP…
    I have an enormous amount of admiration for your diplomatic, “I understand your point of view,” common-ground way of doing politics. But that’s not the only valid way of doing politics. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of any important social movement in this country’s history that hasn’t been driven, at least in part, by anger, including some not very nice expressions of that anger.
    And *every single time* that I’m aware of, the people who were saying and doing angry, undiplomatic things were told that they were hurting the movement. (Typically by people outside that movement, although sometimes by people inside it as well.) In the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the labor movement, the queer movement, the AIDS activist movement… the rude, angry, undiplomatic, in-your-face people have always been told that their methods were just making enemies and giving ammunition to the opposition.
    And in my opinion, it’s almost never been a good argument. For all the reasons I listed in my post — visibility, venting, motivation, mobilization, getting people to sit up and pay attention, etc. — I think anger — the “I’m sick of worrying what my oppressors think of me, I’m bloody well going to say what I think and I don’t care who I piss off” kind of anger — can be an enormously powerful tool for social change. It sometimes makes things harder in the short run, but in the medium and long run it is just about indispensable.
    And when it comes to the current atheist movement, I would argue that, overwhelmingly, the reason this subject is getting so much attention right now is because of people like Richard Dawkins et. al. being willing to say rude, harsh, extreme, hard-core, undiplomatic things about religion, without worrying about whose feelings are going to be hurt. That’s often what’s needed just to get the conversation started; just to get people to realize that there is, in fact, a serious problem. And I think it often works in a sort of “good-cop, bad-cop” way — ACT-UP stands in the streets and screams, “The drug companies are murderers!” and the more diplomatic activists say, “Well, yes, we understand that you’re not murderers… but they do have a point about how expensive these drugs are…”
    Besides, the opposition will always find ammunition. Do you think ACT-UP shouldn’t have screamed and raged and poured fake blood in the streets, just because it gave video footage to the right wing that they could show their followers, knowing they’d be horrified by the raging queers in leather jackets? There were people at the time who made that exact argument. I don’t think history has borne these people out.
    And maybe most importantly — did you watch the videos I posted? Can you look at them and sincerely tell me that there is no value to them — or to the movement that inspired them and gave them courage to speak?
    These are the people I’m standing up with. I thought I made that clear earlier, but if not, I’ll make it clear now: The people I am proudly standing up with are not the instigators of the Blasphemy Challenge. It’s the hundreds and hundreds of people who took the idea and ran with it.
    Just one more point:
    “They just made up the fact that Jesus mentioned hell in this passage…”
    I really and truly do not get what you’re trying to say here. I mean, yes, Mark 3:28-29 doesn’t use the word “hell” — but I honestly don’t understand how else we’re supposed to interpret “never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Especially in the context of all the other hellfire and damnation and judgment stuff that’s right there in the Gospels alongside it.
    I mean, no, the passage doesn’t use the word “hell” — but that’s like saying the First Amendment doesn’t say anything about separation of Church and State because it doesn’t use the phrase “separation of Church and State.” The exact words may not be there, but the intention seems to me to be awfully clear. There may be another interpretation of “never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” other than “is going to hell” — but if there is, I’m not seeing it.
    I get that you’re upset about this. Will it help if I say that I don’t think you should be committed to an insane asylum for being a Christian? I don’t. Will it help if I say that I think anyone who seriously, literally believes all Christians should be committed to an insane asylum is a crazy asshole? I do.
    But… well, I’m not sure how to finish that sentence, except to say that I’m upset, too. And if I try to explain exactly how upset I am and exactly why at two in the morning, I’ll probably regret it. So I’ll just say that I’m upset too, and leave it at that for now.

  25. Laura Deal says

    Here’s one of his quotes
    “If I could get a mental health clinic (I couldn’t) to admit someone for fervent belief with no evidence specifically Christianity, and I could get my mother to go (I couldn’t), I’d take her, pay for it, support her, be there for her, whatever.” [paranthesis his; source: http://www.infidelguy.com/board-topic-41-days0-orderasc-120.html
    and when questioned about it he said he felt Martin Luther King had a mental disorder because he was Christian so it’s not just his mommy he has issues with
    If you go to Frank’s page there is more. I don’t really have the time and energy to redo his research.
    http://blasphemychallenge.blogspot.com/
    if you go to the table of contents on the right hand column you can find most of the stuff on this topic at 11 &, 12
    I’ll have this discussion with you later. Please don’t make me the subject of another blog post in the mean time. I know you are trying to have a respectful conversation with me but somehow that’s turning into a discussion of my lack of sense of humor the fact that I am unfair and that I’m not open to anything that dares question any part of my faith and I know that’s not what you meant to say about me but it’s kind of what you said about me and while I appreciate you standing up and saying it’s not true when people jump to that conclusion, you sort of led them there.
    The hell thing…. I’ve admitted I was wrong there…. it’s semantics at this point I was wrong about it not being in the bible which makes it much less of a bad on their part than I felt it was. I still think the way they state it is an attempt to make this an unglier debate that I think it should be but we obviously differ on how much anger is helpful in working for change.
    I’m not denying that some good has and will come out of this. I just think that same good could have taken place without attacking people based on their beliefs. So whatever. Do what you feel you need to do, but you have said you proudly stand with the people who have said ugly things as well as the more thoughtful people you uploaded here and while it helps that you admit they may be assholes, it doesn’t make me enjoy your pride in standing with them or feel that this is going to help more that it hurts the situation.. I’m sorry that upsets you, but that’s how I feel.
    I could go into why I disagree with other things you’ve written here, but I”m not up for a debate right here and now. I don’t have the time or the emotional energy. Feel free to think I’m completely wrong….but please don’t write anymore about me here because I’m going to have o bail on this blog for awhile. It’s preventing me from sleeping and my health can’t really afford that right now. If that makes me a closed minded coward whatever, I just need to sleep and deal with other shit.
    Greta, I’ll talk with you privately about this sometime soon but it sort of feels like there’s too much mud in the water here for this to be the forum where we work this out.

  26. Donna Gore says

    I have a couple of thoughts. But first, a disclaimer: I was raised in a loving Christian home and church where the message of love and tolerance was practiced. I believe that which bible passages a person chooses to focus on -“Love Thy Neighbor” or “Death to the fags” – is more a reflection of that individual than anything else.
    I would also like to say that most of my friends and family are Christians and they are very reasonable people with whom I get along quite well.
    Now. Everything offends somebody. That’s the price we pay for free speech. For centuries, religion has been exempt from criticism, beyond reproach. This attitude has led to abuse and corruption. It has led to things like the burning of heretics, the stoning of rape victims, and the molestation of children by priests (and the coverup of same).
    Maybe what’s happening now is, the free pass has expired. People are holding churches and their leaders accountable for their actions.
    And also their claims. When you think about some of the claims which are made by religions – well, to use the words of Carl Sagan – “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
    Shouldn’t religious claims be held up to the same scrutiny as any other claims? They’re asking me to commit my life, my money, and my “eternal soul” (which nobody can prove exists) to their god (which nobody can prove exists).
    Say you went into Best Buy and bought a wide screen TV, and they said “Okay, we’ll deliver it to your house after you’re dead.” You’d say HUH? Yet, churches collect tithes from parishioners for most of their lives, based on the claim that if you believe their religion you will go to some kind of afterlife. Eternal life is the main tenet of most religions – be it heaven, or paradise, or reincarnation.
    So you pay now, but they don’t have to deliver their part of the bargain, and you don’t get to collect, until after you’re dead.
    I’m sorry, but if an organization wants 10% of my income they need to come up with something better than that.
    I have met people who live their entire life obssessing about whether or not they are going to get into heaven. I just find that so sad. I believe THIS is the only life I have, and it is up to me to make the best of it NOW.

  27. says

    Greta … I don’t have my copy of the Jesus Seminar translation of the Gospel of Mark handy so I’ll have to check on it later.
    I do want to point out that it’s entirely possible that “red letter” words attributed to Jesus in Mark 3:28-29 may not be a historical quote from Jesus.
    They could be a creation of the author of Mark or the Christian community that the author of Mark belonged to.
    You have to remember that the Gospel of Mark was written in the late 60’s CE or the early 70’s CE (nearly forty years after Jesus died). Mark is not eyewitness history. It’s a theological document with a point of view.
    Much of the Jesus material in Mark was the creation of the author. And the authors of Matthew and Luke used much of Mark in creating their gospels.
    These gospels are all stories with a theological point of view. The difficult thing to do here is to discern where theology ends and history begins. Most Christians would be shocked to know that there is very little historical content in the Gospels.

  28. says

    That’s a really good point, Steve. It’s kind of one of the points I was making. Or rather… it isn’t, but it should have been. :-)
    Oh, BTW everybody: Steve wrote a really nice, really perceptive defense of my defense of the Blasphemy Challenge on his blog, Liberal Faith Development. It’s at
    http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/2007/03/viewing-anti-christian-anger-through.html
    I recommend it to anyone who’s been following this discussion. It made me feel a lot better about a lot of things. Thanks, Steve!

  29. says

    “And I think it often works in a sort of ‘good-cop, bad-cop’ way — ACT-UP stands in the streets and screams, “The drug companies are murderers!” and the more diplomatic activists say, ‘Well, yes, we understand that you’re not murderers… but they do have a point about how expensive these drugs are…'”
    I think there is a false dichotomy here. The implication is that the radical groups grab attention, while the “good cops” play the quieter, conciliatory role. What about someone like Martin Luther King? In his own way he was conciliatory, but he was assertive as well and brought a lot of turmoil to the surface, to the point that someone killed him for it. He didn’t need the Black Panthers to act as a foil or “bad cop”, since he was plenty disruptive as is–but no one need be ashamed of acting like him.

  30. says

    “Martin Luther King… didn’t need the Black Panthers to act as a foil or “bad cop”, since he was plenty disruptive as is”
    Actually he made precisely this sort of point (about the Nation of Islam, not the Panthers) in his most famous essay, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. King wrote:
    “You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”
    I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do-nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. ”

  31. James says

    Firstly, Christians seem to actually have little real *faith* in their own beliefs, since they are defensive about criticism. Secondly, this is a religion based on a worldview that predates the Dark Ages and, yet, has incorporated the reactionary irrationalism of the world from a very dark time in human history. A time when little was known about the human psyche, human behavior, and the nature of social systems. So, any Christian that uses their own scriptures to justify bigotry or to assert the superiority of their religion is using a document that is suspect in origin, written by a committee of *men* with an agenda, and that leaves out any consideration for either the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, or any of the emergent knowledge that continues to pour forth from humanity. If the Christian God exists at all, I believe that deity would want the followers of Christ to have an open heart and an open mind, since we are born with both. Face it – Christianity’s day has come and gone – thank goodness! It is time for a world where love, goodness, and kindess are our religion and where all people are accepted as valid and important, not just those who are deemed “special”, like the Christians always think they are…

  32. says

    Don’t know where else to post this. Here is a gorgeous/horrifying video by “Rational Redneck” set to the song, “God Isn’t Real” by Robbie Fulks:

  33. the_lyniezian says

    “You have to remember that the Gospel of Mark was written in the late 60’s CE or the early 70’s CE (nearly forty years after Jesus died). Mark is not eyewitness history. It’s a theological document with a point of view.”
    Using a dating process which denies the existence of the supernatural, I dare say- for example that the fall of Jerusalem was post-dicted rather than predicted. If this is indeed the case it is typical of the assumptions built in to critical school of Biblical study, and other fields.
    Mark possibly was not an eyewitness regarding the woole account, I agree- though some identify him with the young man who ran away naked in the gospel account of that name.
    And of course it has a theological viewpoint- but perhaps this is merely in its argument, not relating to the facts.
    “Most Christians would be shocked to know that there is very little historical content in the Gospels.”
    How do you justify that statement? There are many claims that some of the apparent facts quoted are inaccurate (I am aware of a few), but history is a very subjective thing, which seems to change as soon as some new piece of evidence comes to light.

  34. says

    This is not one of the blasphemy challenge series, but is a very good clear statement.

    “Atheism Week Day 7: I am an Atheist” by a rather young person.

  35. Bruce Gorton says

    Laura Deal
    First of all: We atheists are used as insults against other people.
    You don’t get languages inventing swearwords to describe the religious, there is no religious equivelant to the word Kaffir (Which in my home country is used as a particularly offensive racial slur, the equivelant to calling someone sub-human.)
    So that Brian says that people with strong Christian religious convictions founded on zero faith are mentally ill, I am not terribly impressed with religious people who whine about how insulted they feel. Welcome to our world.
    Second, the quote you supplied looks to me to be arguing against fervent, extremist belief. The sort of belief that has people disowning their kids for believing differently. To me the inclusion of the word “fervent” is an important distinction.
    From an atheist point of view religion is a mental affliction. The religious believe in something without evidence for it, despite evidence to the contrary of it, and they seem to try very hard to force everybody else into it.
    There is no value to this and it is indeed harmful because of what I refer to as the “Good-Grab”, where what is currently good is considered to be religious virtue.
    You see this in liberal religion when you get arguments about how morality is rooted in religion (It isn’t, what happened is that somebody came along, took note of what was moral in a given society and said that God says to be that. So not killing, a moral code pre the big ten, became a Jewish commandment for example)
    You see it in arguments about what constitutes “Christian” values and mores.
    There is a whole field dedicated to twisting holy texts and the words attributed to religious figures to maintain this good grab – theology.
    That is the sum total of what theology is all about, taking what is currently a morally repugnant God and making him paletable – it isn’t about whether or not that God actually exists.
    Now the effect of this is possibly unforseen, particularly by the religious left – when you proclaim something a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Jewish value, you imply that those who do not share your particular religious views, don’t hold that value.
    This makes it a lot easier to demonise other groups, it emphasises the idea that outsiders are a threat and aren’t really “like us” while at the same time playing up that very human value as a demonstration of us being “better than them.”
    You see this in politics with how the rightwing has demonised the left, by proclaiming certain values as being “conservative” and implying that liberals want to enforce the opposite. Capitalist and communist fascists use this to stir up genocides.
    With atheism there is no central value one can proclaim to being “atheist.” There are values held high by a lot of atheists, honesty being one of them, but this isn’t a function of atheists being morally superior – its a function of atheism being kind of unpopular. An atheist isn’t going to be sitting in the Oval Office any time soon.

  36. Bruce Gorton says

    the_lyniezian
    “History is subjective” is a blatantly dishonest argument – much like trying to argue that science is “subjective” and the truth is “subjective.”
    Whether or not a linebacker is running at you at full speed isn’t subjective, whether you know about it or not.
    When facts come to light that demonstrate that what we knew was incomplete or incorrect, that doesn’t make history subjective, that just means we objectively made a mistake.
    We correct it because we made a mistake – we don’t shrug our shoulders and pretend that this is all subjective and dependant on your point of view.
    Whoever said it first was quite right with this “You are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts” and the study of history is based on fact.

  37. Mizz M says

    the point is that Jon Stewart may make fun of republicans, but he doesn’t want to lock them all up in mental institutions and say they are all mentally ill. RRS has said this about anyone who is not an atheist (they’ve even said it about some atheists who dare question their tactics, they also threaten to sue everyone who disagrees with them). One of them even said he’d like to lock up his own mother for being a fundamentalist xtian, and “make” her be rational. Yeah, real rational. They are a hate organization, and it’s time people like you realized that, and stopped supporting them. They are no better than people like Jerry Falwell. To say that an entire group of people needs to be locked up is insane. They only make us look bad and finally more of the skeptic community is seeing them for what they are-a bunch of angry kids with serious personal problems. Skeptic though I am, if they ever tried to “lock up” any of the non atheists in my family, they’d have to go through me-and they wouldn’t make it.

  38. Mizz M says

    “So that Brian says that people with strong Christian religious convictions founded on zero faith are mentally ill, I am not terribly impressed with religious people who whine about how insulted they feel. Welcome to our world.” Right, because basically you are behaving no better than the religious. If you’re going to wish this kind of thing on people, then you have no right to complain when they do it back. You are behaving no better than them and you have descended to their level. You both suck.

  39. Bruce Gorton says

    Mizz M
    If the religious think nothing of offending me, why should I care that they get offended by someone else? I make no claim to being better than them, and why should I?
    As I said, there is nothing inherently moral about being an atheist, there is no such thing as an “Atheist” value, all you get are “Human” values so why should I claim to be inherently better than the religious?
    Besides, “You are as bad as each other” and similar whines are used by pundits to move arguments away from the subject.
    It is someone saying that torture opponents are rude in order to try and move away from the fact that they are opposing torture.
    It is not used by people engaging in honest arguments.
    So on the whole your argument falls just a wee bit flat given your flawed basic premise.

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