How Could Anyone Disagree?

I have grown quite accustomed
To freethinking sorts
So I’m used to the things that we say
The atheist angle
On latest reports
Or our spin on the news of the day;
A breadth of opinion
(It’s quite a broad mix)
And a thorough review of the laws
With proper attention
To article six
And of course, the establishment clause
When political figures
(The folks we’ve elected)
Are shown to be pandering fools
And it’s clear they don’t care
That all rights are protected
When Christian majority rules
…And I think to myself,
“It’s so blatant; so clear;
How could any clear mind disagree?”
But a couple of clicks
And reality’s here:
It’s depressing and grim. Look and see.

So, yeah. You’ve likely seen coverage of the struggle for atheist chaplains around the atheist blogosphere. I’ve written about it a number of times, as have others on FtB and Patheos, and on unaffiliated atheist and legal blogs. It has also been covered, a bit less well, by the major media outlets–the comments there are fascinating, because they are so broad; you see people who argue with their hearts or their tribes first, those who don’t care what the law is, but what is right (this goes for people on both sides of the issue), and people who really know their constitutional law (and a small minority who know their right-wing talking points version of constitutional law; these are easily identified by their cries of “separation of church and state is not found in the constitution!” and “it’s freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion!”).

Even the Blaze, clearly opposed to atheist chaplains, has a handful of commenters who doggedly argue that true patriots and constitutional conservatives must accept that the government has no right to side with religion on this issue, that the constitution is clear–no religious test, and no establishment of religion.

My reading habits kept me in this bubble–I guess I thought that, maybe, Fox News or the Blaze were as concentrated populations of social conservatives as you might get. I was wrong. This is why I use an aggregator–to expose me to stuff I would not seek out on my own. Whereas the atheist blogosphere was admiring the courage of the young man who confronted Representative Burgess at an event in Texas, the good people at The Right Scoop title their story “GOP Rep. smacks down atheist college student who thinks the Army should have secular chaplains“. Ok, it’s not actually a story, but just the video you have probably already seen. These folks got it via the Blaze. But the story is not the important part–the comments are. I don’t know whether these people delete comments that disagree… but there aren’t any. It takes a lot to make the Blaze look reasonable, but these folks do it.

I know how easy it is to fall into the echo chamber trap–to read and watch only the sources that you agree with, and that support your views. Thing is, if you don’t subject your views to scrutiny, how do you know how they hold up against the real world? It is, at least in theory, every bit as easy for me to hear only what I want to, as it is for the Right Scoop commenters to stay in their echo chamber (the sites linked in their sidebar are a further demonstration). But it’s not good for your thinking.

There are arguments claims in their comments that are quite simply counterfactual, flimsy straw-people that would disintegrate in the slightest breeze… so that community invests quite a bit of effort in hermetically sealing their views. (And yes, I have seen similarly poor arguments on our side–but as a general rule, we also have people who really seem to enjoy tearing apart fallacies and skewering straw-men, even when they agree with the writers.)

Anyway, sorry for rambling–as Pascal said, I lacked the time to make it short. Classes start soon, and I must prioritize other things than this blog. Your take-away? Don’t just read the stuff you already agree with… or you’ll end up as ignorant as The Right Scoop.


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