I don’t think so. I reject his apology.
The guy wrote to me to personally apologize. How nice. I don’t care.
I have never met you, but from what I understand you are passionate about the way you feel and I may have offended you. So, I wanted to personally reach out to you and apologize for my behavior. I hope this statement explains (not excuses) the reason I did what I did. I have posted my statement here: http://redd.it/mkw6h
This is what I wrote back.
Apology not accepted. What I see in you is a person who hates me for not believing in the nonsense of your religion; while you may now be in a panic because your actions were unethical and illegal, and you were caught out, and face economic consequences for them, I don’t see any sign that your attitudes have changed in the slightest.
You’ll just have to live with the fact that I won’t be buying your ice cream on the rare occasions I visit your town, while I have to live with the fact that I live in a country where my rejection of your religion makes me a pariah. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to make up for that.
There is an asymmetry here. GelatoGuy lives in one of the most religious countries on earth, in a particularly intensely religious part of that country, and in a moment of smug self-righteousness, felt he could openly discriminate against people who do not respect his beliefs. And now he thinks he can walk away, forgiven, and return to his blithe happy Christian pocket universe, just by saying a few words. And we, of course, will turn around and think he’s a nice , sincere, classy guy.
Meanwhile, we will still be regarded as the least trustworthy minority in the country; we still have to deal with the fact that we are excluded from the political discourse; we still have to walk into courtrooms with the ten commandments on display; we have to watch these nice, sincere, classy people elect gay hating bigots, anti-science know-nothings, and flaming misogynists to high office…but hey, they’ll apologize to our faces when they risk losing our business. And then go back to church to listen to their priests fulminate against the godless, go into the voting booth and vote against civil rights, go to their school board and piously try to ram their faith into our children’s faces.
I don’t give a good goddamn what they say, I care about what they do. And until 150 million Christians rise up and show some respect for common humanity and reason, and apologize to me and every godless citizen in this country, I will not be magnanimous. I do not call for a vendetta, and I’m not demanding that he be punished — it’s a guy selling ice cream — but I do not forgive. I do not forget. I set him aside, I ignore him, but I do not call him ‘friend’ or ‘brother’, I do not call him sincere or classy.
There’s another matter here that has arisen, and that makes me angry. GelatoGuy has explained what incident provoked him to criminal fury: it was Brother Sam Singleton (him, I’ll call brother), who put on a fantastic show, mocking revivalism and making an excellent point: his show was about gratitude, and how the Bible warps it and redirects it and has people shouting praise and thank you to an imaginary tyrant, at the expense of simple human decency to one another. He did it with far more flair and showmanship than most of us atheists can manage, but it was a message reflective of actual atheist attitudes. That’s who we are: we reject gods and faith and magical thinking, and increasingly, we say it out loud.
The response from some members of the atheist community? It must have been Sam Singleton’s fault.
Poor guy made an honest mistake. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. I mean, to be fair, he walked in AT THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME.
Because, of course, the worst possible time to see an atheist and skeptic is when they’re acting all atheistical and skeptical. Poor guy, it’s not his fault, he witnessed someone expressing atheist sentiments, and as we all know, we’ve all unconsciously absorbed as fact the idea that those are bad. Next up, let’s excuse sexual assault, because Lord knows, those women do dress provocatively. Maybe, at his next appearance, we should ask Brother Sam to tone it down a couple of notches, and praise religion a bit, just in case any other believers wander by.
Then there are the appallingly conciliatory suggestions.
I hope some of us take him a Skepticon 5 schedule and an invite next year come listen and to give US another chance as our community seems to be giving HIM another chance now.
It would be good for him to experience some of our speakers whom he would not find so quite so objectionable.
Perhaps, on the schedule, we could print little chili peppers next to the titles of the talks? No peppers means it will praise Jesus, five peppers means the content will send any Christian listeners straight to hell?
I find this whole idea far more offensive than what GelatoGuy did — it is atheists and skeptics rushing to self-censor themselves, to mark some of their ideas as publicly shameful, and to acquiesce to ignorant public opinion. I’m not going to support that kind of behavior at all: sure, welcome the public, including delicate Christians like GelatoGuy, to the event, but don’t coddle them. This is who we are. Be proud.
Also consider the unintended consequences. I gave a pure science talk at Skepticon, not mentioning gods or religions at all, and at worst ripping into creationism (it was a one pepper talk). If I were told that I was being advertised as one of the ‘safe’ ones for Christians to attend, if I had been informed that I was going to be used as a showpiece for accommodating believers, I would have felt compelled to drop my planned talk and pull up one that rages against the idiocy of faith, instead. Do not do that to me. I will not be the dancing bear trotted out to appease sappy ignorant believers, and I will stand in solidarity with Sam Singleton (and Dave Silverman and Greta Christina, who also gave ferociously godless talks that would have given GelatoGuy the vapors), and I will cheerfully blister the ears of any faithhead in range.
Then there is this fellow, who thinks atheists ought not to be uncompromisingly critical of religion.
To see that sort of hateful bigoted mockery of his core beliefs would surely cause him to react in an equally hateful and bigoted way. You say that this person wasn’t criticized – just his religion. That’s a little like saying that you weren’t mocking the transvestite – just the idea of gender switching. When we mock another group’s choices, we are guilty of bigotry. The anger and persecution you feel? It’s the exact unwelcoming feeling he felt when he encountered an atheist revivalist at a convention that (if it had lived up to it’s name) should have been promoting science and critical thinking. Hypocrisy!
Right, because whenever I hear Pat Robertson or Michele Bachmann, I run out and punch a Christian in the face. Sam Singleton exercising free speech and saying what he thinks is exactly like a Christian businessman refusing to serve customers who don’t love Jesus. How dare those atheists reject and mock a belief — excuse me, choice — that is antithetical to science and reason? Choosing to believe in a magic sky fairy, choosing to believe in evidence…they’re all perfectly equivalent, after all.
Which brings me to the third point that makes me rage. Skepticon did promote science and critical thinking. The hypocrisy lies in thinking that religion must somehow be exempt from that kind of examination, and I truly, deeply despise the idea that religion must be a walled garden that may not receive the same criticism as any other wacky idea. Dave Silverman summarized my opinion when he said, “You can be a theist, and you can be a skeptic. But if you’re both, you’re not very good at one of them.”
But let us consider this opinion from Jason Loxton, who apparently represents the tired old antique skeptics who strained fervently to formulate their skepticism to avoid tangling with religion. You see, GelatoGuy wasn’t at fault: he walked into Skepticon thinking he’d get a talk about UFOs, and instead got a bunch of people regarding his personal bug-a-boos skeptically. Oh no!
The root of the problem was precisely the brand confusion that those of us who have been long active in empirical skepticism, i.e., the classic CSICOP/Skeptics Society side of sketicism, dreaded when Skepticon adopted the term ‘skeptic’ for what is predominately an atheist convention. He thought Skepticon was about what it’s name implied.
I went to my first atheist convention in 1999. I go to plenty of skeptics conventions too. I wish Skepticon luck (as a conference; I really do hate the name), but on behalf of myself, religious skeptics, and confused individuals like this poor gelato guy, I’d like to remind people again that there’s a decades old tradition in North America of using the term ‘skeptic’ for UFO-busting and other testable claims.
Clear definitions, like fences, are good for neighbourliness. :)
And fuck your stupid smiley face too, Jason!
I am so fed up with skeptics who look down on atheists because they apply critical thinking to religion.
I don’t give a damn about your tradition. I call it institutionalized intellectual cowardice. This rationale was a roundabout excuse to tiptoe around the hulking monster of gullibility and foolishness that has dominated the US for so long, to nibble at the margins and pick off targets only supported by a minority. It was safe. It maximized the potential membership of the movement. It actually dealt with real issues in critical thinking and the evaluation of the evidence, I will give it that, and I still regard this limited ‘empirical skepticism’ as a valuable part of the movement, but somehow the old guard has gotten it in their heads that they are the gatekeepers of skepticism, and they get to dictate what may be criticized.
I’m quite sure they did dread Skepticon. It was an honest skeptical conference that wasn’t afraid to address big issues that matter, didn’t compromise on religion, and didn’t shy away from the elephant dancing in the room.
But oh, no, a real skeptic conference is supposed to limit itself to UFOs, and chupacabras, and bigfoot, and ESP. As if we have a gigantic problem with a Republican government diverting vast resources into the search for cryptids and mind-reading, as if our educational system is overwhelmed with demand to teach the controversy about little green men, as if religion is somehow on a completely different plane from beliefs about alternative medicine or quantum vibrations.
And just maybe Loxton should think about the implications of what he said, that “Skepticon was about what it’s name implied” — because he is admitting that he thinks the public should regard skepticism as something safe and toothless and unchallenging. That does deep harm to the skeptical movement — it makes it trivial.