I never get to feel smug about atheism anymore


The Southern Baptists had a big fight among themselves at their conference. What triggered it, among all the mundane minutia, was a proposal to repudiate the alt-right and reject racism.

…[a lot of “whereas”s citing the Bible deleted]

WHEREAS, there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing; and

WHEREAS, this toxic menace, self-identified among some of its chief proponents as “White Nationalism” and the “Alt-Right,” must be opposed for the totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples; and

WHEREAS, the roots of White Supremacy within a “Christian context” is based on the so-called “curse of Ham” theory once prominently taught by the SBC in the early years—echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos—which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation. The SBC officially renounces the “curse of Ham” theory in this Resolution; now be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, AZ, June 13-14, 2017, denounces every form of “nationalism” that violates the biblical teachings with respect to race, justice, and ordered liberty; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called “Alt-Right” that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system; and be finally

RESOLVED, that we earnestly pray, both for those who lead and advocate this movement and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of their perverse nationalism, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people and tongue.

It was initially rejected, and they refused to bring it to a vote, which led to outrage and fury, especially among the black pastors, as you might guess. I’m reading a summary of the conference where all this battling went down, and feeling kind of smug and superior for an ephemeral moment, since we atheists would never have such a conflict. How can Southern Baptists be so obtuse and bigoted?

And then I remembered…you all must remember a few years ago when the big schism that split the atheist community was a simple statement that guys should maybe not hit on attendees at atheist conferences. Remember how people blew up at the very idea that there ought to be anti-sexual harassment policies at our conferences? Remember how some jerk atheist was made a pariah because he dared to publish an account of the rape of a young woman by a prominent speaker at those conferences? Or how about the long roster of loud atheist youtubers who are mouthpieces for misogyny and racism and the alt-right?

I’m also noticing that we atheists also do not have an organization that has formally denounced racism, sexism, and the alt-right as firmly as the goddamned primitive ‘stupid’ Bible-wallopers of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC has done better than atheists on this one, and there’s very little likelihood that we’ll improve, since the official policy everywhere seems to be that atheism will not take a stand on issues of moral significance. There is the Copenhagen Declaration, which is brief and general and takes a step in the right direction, but could use some greater specificity and should be updated to reflect current issues, and definitely should be at least as strong as the SBC statement.

By the way, despite the wrangling, the Southern Baptists eventually accepted a revised version of the proposal; the major change seems to be a deletion of the repudiation of the “curse of Ham” nonsense, which is unfortunate, since that was a major argument that led to the Civil War, among other ongoing atrocities.

It’s also not perfect. It still has a line about opposing “racism…and vice“, which is code for continuing discrimination against different sexual orientations. But at least they took a stand against Nazis, which is something atheists should do, too.

And probably won’t. Too many alt-right, Nazi, libertarian crapsacks in our ranks.

Comments

  1. rpjohnston says

    The quoted part is the kind of thing I want to hear from the Right repudiating their anti-civilization element (if there’s anything I’m missing, let the more knowledgeable commenters correct me).

    Sad to hear about the revisions though. Not sure I can come down as approvingly for that. And time will tell if this actually means anything, if it’s an actual leadership of their people away from the radical Right, but I’m…cautiously optimistic.

    We’ll have to see how the Right and our society evolves in response to the SBC leadership and the leadership of other churches and rightwing organizations. If they move away from the apocalyptic antihuman movement that I’ve been seeing, I’ll will be pleased to be wrong.

    The leadership of the atheist movement needs to get its ass in gear. There is an opportunity here to get a strong, positive message out in opposition to rightwing tyranny, but the leadership seems intent on standing for nothing because they didn’t go through the trouble of being born white, cishet and upper middle class to put any effort into society.

  2. says

    I’m also noticing that we atheists also do not have an organization that has formally denounced racism, sexism, and the alt-right as firmly as the goddamned primitive ‘stupid’ Bible-wallopers of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    As far as I know, the SBC has never denounced sexism, formally or otherwise.

  3. robro says

    Curse of Ham!? What about the “curse of Cain”? Or rather, “the mark of Cain.” I believe I was about 10, so late 50s, when an aunt first told me that malarky. While lots of people had the belief, I don’t recall ever hearing a Southern Baptist preacher use either of these curses as justification for racism from the pulpit. Not to say they didn’t believe that blacks were cursed for one or the other, or perhaps even both, but they didn’t promote it in sermons that I heard. Perhaps I missed that Sunday.

    Iris Vander Pluym @ #4 — “As far as I know, the SBC has never denounced sexism, formally or otherwise.” I think that would be correct…per RaionalWiki: “From the early 1970s, they have asserted the primacy of “traditional gender roles”.[13] In 1998 they amended their statement on marriage to assert male headship, and in 2000 they asserted male-only pastors.” It’s one of the reasons Jimmy Carter split with the SBC.

  4. Owlmirror says

    echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos

    The wording of that has some questionable word choices. The descendants ordained to be subservient were of Canaan (or Ham, Canaan’s father), who were inferred to be Africans. And “Anglos” is a really off word choice for Japheth and his offspring, who were inferred to be encompassing all Europeans (and later expanded to including all Asians).

  5. says

    The whole “mark of Caine” think never made sense to me. Wasn’t Caine’s entire line wiped out in the flood with everyone else? At least Ham was post-flood/massacre.

  6. Owlmirror says

    @Abe Drayton #7:

    The whole “mark of Caine” think never made sense to me. Wasn’t Caine’s entire line wiped out in the flood with everyone else?

    (“Cain”, the name of the biblical character, is usually spelled without a final “e”)

    You’d think that would end the matter, but people can make up all kinds of ad-hoc fan-fiction to support their notions, even when those notions are poisonously racist.

    Per WikiP:

    One interpretation of this passage states that Ham married a descendant of Cain, who was black, so that the descendants of Canaan were both marked with black skin and cursed to be servants of servants. While there is no indication in the Bible of Ham’s wife descending from Cain, this interpretation was used to justify slavery and it was particularly popular in America during the Atlantic slave trade.

    Or in other words, the Curse of Ham and Mark of Cain were conflated.

  7. unclefrogy says

    it is a nice effort I hope they succeed in dragging their flocks forward out of their ignorance and fear.
    uncle frogy

  8. oynaz says

    “that guys should maybe not hit on attendees at atheist conferences.”

    “anti-sexual harassment policies at our conferences”

    “an account of the rape of a young woman”

    I am not American, so this might be due to a cultural misunderstanding, but I find this exceedingly odd. Hitting on attendees is not sexual haressment, and it is definitely not rape. While I can definitely agree that sexual haressment has no place at conferences, or anywhere else for that matter, it is not anyone else’s business which women, and where, I decide to hit on. I can see why people would balk at making such a statement.

    And what does “hitting on attendees” even mean anyway? Would a smile be too much? Eye contact? Touching while gesturing?

    There might be something in American culture which I am missing, so I am prepared to be enlightened, but as I see it, a ban on hitting would be like abstinence education. People flirt all the time, whether you tell them to stop it or not.

  9. Ichthyic says

    Hitting on attendees is not sexual haressment, and it is definitely not rape.

    one, it entirely depends on context (of which you apparently are unaware), and two, nobody said it was rape, you are conflating things.

    There might be something in American culture which I am missing

    where to start? judging from your comment, you probably should start with what you DO know instead.

    when someone continues to “flirt” with you after you tell them to stop? that’s pretty clearly harassment, there, chief, and that’s hardly an “American cultural thing”

  10. Holms says

    I’m reading a summary of the conference where all this battling went down, and feeling kind of smug and superior for an ephemeral moment, since we atheists would never have such a conflict.

    Why on earth would that be the case? Atheism, unlike any religion, does not inherently* have an authority structure of deity > intermediaries (e.g. priests) > everyone else; instead it just has people. Being fractious and disunited is to be expected.

    *I’ll grant you though that some people sure love the idea of a hierarchy, with the vaunted ‘thought leaders’ at the top, but it is still just people all the way down.

  11. rietpluim says

    Oh no, please not that worn-out cliche “who decides what is harassment anyway” excuse again…

    Re: atheism. One reason that the atheist community dos not distance itself from racism, sexism, and other bigotry, is that there is no atheist community. I’m afraid that the dictionary atheists are right about this: the only thing we have in common is a lack of faith. And lack of faith is not enough to unite us.

  12. oynaz says

    “one, it entirely depends on context”
    No shit. But the context here is a convention, where I would definitely deem flirting appropriate.

    “(of which you apparently are unaware), ”
    “where to start? judging from your comment, you probably should start with what you DO know instead.”
    Going for the man, not the ball. Shame on you.

    “when someone continues to “flirt” with you after you tell them to stop?”
    No shit, but the “tell them to stop” part is entirely made up on your part. The original quote was ““that guys should maybe not hit on attendees at atheist conferences.” You will notice that “tell them to stop” is in no way part of that sentence.

  13. Ichthyic says

    Going for the man, not the ball. Shame on you.

    right. I can see where this is going, so I’ll just jump to the inevitable conclusion.

    go fuck yourself.

  14. Ichthyic says

    FFS do we really have to go over Elevatorgate again?

    no. this is very clearly a Troll.

    I highly suggest either ignoring it, or reporting it. It is not honest.

  15. Holms says

    Going for the man, not the ball. Shame on you.

    right. I can see where this is going, so I’ll just jump to the inevitable conclusion.

    go fuck yourself.

    Actually, it looks rather like oynaz was commenting on your two earlier comments, which were snide right from the outset. And since you followed up with “go fuck yourself” and referring to oynaz as “it” I must agree: your attitude is poison.

  16. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    where I would definitely deem flirting appropriate.

    Your unwanted flirting is her being harassed. You won’t get that, due to freeze peaches. You can say anything you want, anywhere, to anybody, in any context, and you can never be wrong or criticized for it.

    The original quote was ““that guys should maybe not hit on attendees at atheist conferences.”

    Yep, they shouldn’t be. That is called behaving appropriately. Freeze Peaches getting the way of your understanding again?

  17. rietpluim says

    Oh for the love of Gawd, we’ve had this conversation about a gazillion times before. Guy is going to whine about how reasonable his questions are and how rude our answers are. We all know where this is leading to. All Ichthyic did is taking a shortcut to an inevitable finale.

    So I’m gonna make it short to oynaz: if the girl thinks you smiling at her is harassment, then it is harassment, okay?

    You’re sealioning at best and trolling at worst.

  18. joel says

    I’m actually enjoying the performance-art aspect of this. PZ writes that we atheists have plenty of Neanderthals in our midst and shouldn’t feel smug about the SBC; and then Ichthyic shows up and provides a demonstration.

    Well played.

  19. says

    Sigh, I should have commented on this before it became a thing

    @11, Ichthyic

    Hitting on attendees is not sexual harassment, and it is definitely not rape.

    one, it entirely depends on context (of which you apparently are unaware)

    Yes, unaware, because PZ entirely failed to properly communicate it, or even mention it (which I noticed immediately, to my annoyance, and should have pointed out before the inevitable happened, to my frustration). Even pushing a baby in a stroller is only moral depending on context (it’s bad if you are pushing it into traffic).

    @10, oynaz

    “that guys should maybe not hit on attendees at atheist conferences.”

    “anti-sexual harassment policies at our conferences”

    “an account of the rape of a young woman”

    I am not American, so this might be due to a cultural misunderstanding, but I find this exceedingly odd. Hitting on attendees is not sexual haressment, and it is definitely not rape. […]

    And what does “hitting on attendees” even mean anyway? Would a smile be too much? Eye contact? Touching while gesturing?

    The account of rape was different and unrelated to the “guys don’t do that” incident. You seem to think they are talking about the same occurrence, but they weren’t.

  20. consciousness razor says

    A summary from the less savory parts that PZ neglected:

    1. “God made every nation of mankind” (N.B., not of humanity), “having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.”
    2. A prophet said God “would judge between the nations and render decisions.” It’ll be like the show Survivor, but the winner gets an apocalypse. Or maybe not: God could just tell everyone he likes our flag the most. The prophet wasn’t too specific.
    3. A poet said God rules over everyone. No idea why, but apparently non-believers are supposed to care about all of this horseshit. If we’re not, none of what they’re saying is going to do us any good.
    4. There will be pie in the sky when you die “for God’s people,” which must mean either all people or not all people. But they’re not going to tell you which one it is, because it was decided in committee that a kaleidoscope of contradictory interpretations would be more useful politically.
    5. A claim that “the supreme need of the world is the acceptance of God’s teachings in all the affairs of men and nations.” This looks like the most direct and the most expansive expression of their thoroughly shitty views. Not a ringing endorsement of secularism, obviously; but what some people miss is that this puts all moral questions on the back-burner. First and foremost, we all need to do what Jebus commands. Utterly horrifying.
    6. And I guess just to underline it yet again: “all Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society.” Why would we need to do what God wants, not what any human being wants, if God is so powerful? If he has a will, like I do, why doesn’t he just use it, like I do? If any of the talk about freedom and liberty and consent to legitimate government and justice is going to mean anything at all, then what the fuck does God’s will have to do with it?

    Mostly sounds like dominionist garbage, with maybe a few paradoxical hints of Christian anarchism to keep everyone guessing. I think nobody’s too sure how exactly their theocracy is supposed to work … maybe if they pray hard enough, they think God will just do it for them or something.

  21. says

    @Oynaz,
    By talking about flirting, harrassment, and rape, PZ is referring to three separate controversies, each of which are well-known among long-time members. You’re missing a lot of context, and nobody is really willing to explain what has already been discussed to death.

  22. says

    oynaz: As noted above, you’re missing a whole friggin’ lot of context and past history, and most (if not all) of the veterans hereabouts are unlikely to want to walk anyone through the details right now.

    Fortunately, Pharyngula has an associated wiki, with plentiful links to explanatory text. On the presumption that you genuinely are interested in learning more about the context & past history, you could do worse than start with the “Misogyny Wars” page of said wiki. Suggest that you read said page, follow and read the various links on said page.

  23. call me mark says

    I concur with Ichthyic; oynaz isn’t raising these objections in good faith.

  24. Matrim says

    When I first acknowledged to myself that I was an atheist, for several years after it was a defining trait, it was one of the primary things I identified myself as. Now, it’s probably the trait I’m least interested in anymore. It’s there, it’s not going to change, but the lack of reflection of what passes for the community, the tolerance of terrible people, and the same old prejudices I saw in Christians stripped me of any enthusiasm I might have for atheism. Now it’s just a fact about me, like being right handed or having blue eyes. I have to say, it’s disappointing.

  25. David Marjanović says

    I have to say, it’s disappointing.

    What did you expect? Honest question, not a rhetorical one. I’ve never quite understood this “I identify as” thing.

  26. Dark Jaguar says

    Speaking of not being able to feel smug, that evil fool that went and shot up a baseball game. I’m sure we’re all in agreement that this sort of violent “solution” to the GOP problem can’t be tolerated. Ugh, the whole thing just makes me sick…

  27. Matrim says

    @32

    I expected that people’s atheism would inform their perspectives on social issues. I was one of those people (still am) that feels that, since this is the only life we get, it behooves us to try and make it as good as we can for everyone we can. I assumed that, without the possibility of divine reprieve, it fell upon us to not fuck ourselves up too badly. I didn’t understand how much the objectivist “fuck it, got mine” attitude was entrenched in atheism. Naive, I know, but it’s still disappointing.

  28. Chaos Engineer says

    it is not anyone else’s business which women, and where, I decide to hit on.

    Surely the women should have a say in the matter as well?

    I’ve found that it helps to think about this the same way that you’d think about unexpected job offers. If you’ve been talking to someone in a bar for half an hour and trading stories about work, he might say, “My company is looking to hire someone with your specific skill set. If you send in a resume, I can promise that you’ll at least get an interview.” Assuming it’s a good job at a competitive salary, you’ll probably be flattered, even if you decide to turn him down.

    But if you find out that he doesn’t care about your skill set, and he’s just looking for warm bodies for his MLM pyramid scam, and he’s asking everyone who looks young enough or gullible enough to fall for it, then you’ll probably feel less flattered.

    After this has happened maybe ten times, your attitude will be less, “No, but thank you” and more “Get lost, creep!” After twenty times, you might start saying, “Is there anything that we-as-a-community can do to stop these MLM creeps from pestering people?”

    And while that’s going on, the MLM creeps will be yowling, “If I want to offer somebody an Exciting New Career Opportunity, that’s nobody’s business but mine! This is a complete violation of my Right To Freedom Of Association!” Hopefully no one will listen to them. But some organizations have MLM creeps at the highest levels of power, and that can cause problems for everyone else. Don’t you agree?

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