Clenched fist salute to Eric Sprankle of Minnesota State University


We Minnesota professors have to stand together in solidarity, and Dr Sprankle spoke truth in a way that got attention.

He wrote: “The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen. There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario. Happy Holidays.”

He later added: “The biblical god regularly punished disobedience. The power difference (deity vs mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’ To put someone in this position is an unethical abuse of power at best and grossly predatory at worst.”

Yes! The gods are abusers!

Best of all, he roused the ire of that popular dimbulb, Tucker Carlson, who thought this was a statement significant enough to require repudiation. How shallow of him, said the king of shallowness, and used it as an excuse to berate the dire state of the academy (I thought it was a good insight. Yes, we should think about how our culture has glorified the misuse of power, especially at the expense of women, and consider that this kind of story is the foundation of a lot of patriarchal attitudes). The only sense in which it is shallow is that it is trivially and obviously true. Then it gets weird.

The host interjected that religious critics never target the owners of technology companies.

It’s not even brave, Carlson responded. They never criticize Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. Or Apple. Tim Cook. Or Google. They suck up to people in power and then beat up on evangelicals and call themselves, you know, countercultural. I mean, it is pathetic.

Wait, what? He thinks lefty atheists don’t criticize billionaires?

If I had the power, I would strip Bezos of most of his wealth and use it for more worthy causes. Apple has obscene amounts of money sequestered away in tax havens. There are libertarian atheists who might think excessive wealth is a sign of virtue, but a great many of us disagree and will happily criticize all of those people and organizations.

But then, Carlson has consistently demonstrated that he’s the dumbest man on Fox News, and I’m comparing him even to those morning pundits that Trump adores.

Comments

  1. Snarki, child of Loki says

    A good and just deity would use her Divine Ovipositor to implant into Tucker The Egg of ‘Splody Progeny.

    But, alas, there are no such deities. I haz a sad.

  2. hemidactylus says

    In the words of Chuck D and Public Enemy “fight the power”. As we speak CBS is kid gloving Elon Musk on 60 Minutes. Journalism cried. Power wins. Largest shareholder gets what he wants. Done. Larger than life entrepreneur with cult following.

    https://youtu.be/Kj9SeMZE_Yw

    Fuck that shit yo!!!

  3. says

    <

    blockquote> It’s not even brave, Carlson responded. They never criticize Jeff Bezos, […]

    <

    blockquote>

    What? By your own believes he just criticized the most powerful being in the universe. One who famously murders and tortures people because of that. If god was real, this would be an act of unspeakable bravery.

    These horrible inconsistencies in their worldview are nearly as bad as their world view in general -.-

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Fucker Carlson, it is quite easy to find mockery of Jeff Bezos, let me google it for you:

  5. nomdeplume says

    “he’s the dumbest man on Fox News”, and the people on Fox News are the dumbest people on the planet.

  6. asoricaho says

    The first chapter of Luke describes a visit by the angel Gabriel to Mary, in which he tells her what is going to happen, and she consents. It’s sheer ignorance to criticize part of a myth when another part refutes that criticism.

    There is also common iconography that shows Mary in apposition to Eve with Mary’s foot crushing the head of a serpent, symbolizing the idea that Eve brought sin and death into the world through her free choice of eating the fruit of the tree, and Mary then brought redemption and everlasting life to the world through her own free will in choosing to bear Jesus.

    It’s not as if people have been ignorant of complex moral and ethical issues raised by religious stories until some supernally wise atheist happened to raise them. Religious stories are false in that they did not actually happen, but people use them as Rorschach inkblots to work out theories of how to live and why.

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I think we [raised Catholic] always ass-umed that the “event” was a miracle: that suddenly Mary was spontaneously pregnant, that normal sxxxual congress was not necessary, so “rape” was never considered. Given rape was only the physical act of violence, and never included the psychological consequences of dominance of one over another. The tried to make it acceptable by having her married, at least, never mind the convention of the time of marrying women at the age of menses, before any approach to adulthood. [excuse the convoluted vocabulary, I think you know what I mean].
    bottom line: about time this interpretation gets a bigger voice. Maybe the mockery will get it more coverage. You know that is why we avoid so called debates.
    thank you for reading

  8. says

    @asoricaho #7, I suggest you read the article again. Your point is clearly adressed in it:

    The power difference (deity vs mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’

  9. chrislawson says

    asoricaho@7–

    You are referring to this Luke 1:30-38 passage, I presume:

    The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

    This is the New American Standard Bible, translated with literal accuracy in mind. So for instance, where Mary calls herself God’s “bondslave”, this is because in the oldest versions we have of Luke, the word is δούλη, which is ancient Greek for “female slave.”

    So the most powerful entity in the Christian universe sends a messenger to tell (not ask) Mary that she will soon be impregnated by his overshadowing power, and she replies “I am your slave; I shall accept whatever you want.”

    This would not count as consent even if Gabriel had asked Mary’s permission. And as Dr Sprankle points out, we do not accept this defence from, say, people convicted of engaging in sex with children.

  10. rq says

    And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

    I’m struggling to find the part in that text where god or Gabriel are asking for Mary’s consent. Those all sound like declarative statements to me, lots of “you will”s followed by lovely texts about how Awesome! this baby will be. Nary a mention of the crucifixion, of course – but then, that sweet song Mary Did You Know? never mentions it, either. It seems like the kind of thing that should be explained, given that ol’Gabe is perfectly willing to get into all the Glory Allelujah bits, but the part where he goes ‘oh hey look over there, your friend is pregnant, too!’ makes him sound a bit skeevy. And that last line about how ‘nothing is impossible with god’ – well. In any case, yes, I sense a distinct lack of informed consent.

    asoricaho @7

    he tells her what is going to happen, and she consents

    (Emphasis mine.) I don’t think that’s quite how consent works, especially when confronted with the divine. See previous comments about power imbalance.

  11. gijoel says

    Next on Fox, (ominous music) This single mother is demanding to be let into our country to give birth to her love child. Liberals are demanding that she be let in to fulfill her cult’s sinister prophecy.

  12. says

    But…but the BVM did give consent! Ecce sum humillima Ancilla Domini; Secundum verbum tuum, Fiat mihi.

    …”Course she had just been shown the photos from Lot’s last family outing….

  13. mathymathymathy says

    The tried to make it acceptable by having her married, at least, never mind the convention of the time of marrying women at the age of menses, before any approach to adulthood.

    And as Dr Sprankle points out, we do not accept this defence from, say, people convicted of engaging in sex with children.

    This makes the biblical god even worse. He’s not just an abuser; he’s a child abuser. Again, this would be true even if Mary had been asked rather than just told.

    I wonder how many Christians have actually thought about the implications of this.

  14. zetopan says

    “I wonder how many Christians have actually thought about the implications of this.”

    The depth of their thinking goes like this: “gawd did it so it was moral”. If you read the comments at the link that PZ provided you will see no end of apologists claiming that everything was actually OK.
    Somehow I suspect that if they had a 13 year old daughter (the marriageable age in those ancient times) who claimed to still be virginal while pregnant their response would differ. But since it is written in a collection of flat earth books pretending to be “revealed” by an ultimate magician it must be true.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    …And in the quran and associated hadith we find stuff that is even worse. I considered adding excerpts, but they are so distasteful that a mere trigger warning would be inadequate.
    It is as if the great religions were created by people playing “let’s top this”.
    By contrast Athena being born out of the skull of Zeus seems a benign birth story.

  16. microraptor says

    There’s one thing that completely destroys any argument that it could have been consensual, regardless of Mary’s age: she knew the stories about what God did to people that didn’t do what he said.

  17. asoricaho says

    You’re all missing the point. This isn’t a #MeToo situation. It’s a myth. The events never happened, and there was no real-life Virgin Mary to give or withhold consent. In the myth as understood by its adherents, Mary consented of her own free will. It is ridiculous to go around telling believers that this never happened and by the way, in this thing that never happened, you’re believing the wrong thing about what happened even though it didn’t happen.

  18. Brain Hertz says

    shorter pretty much verbatim Tucker Carlson:

    “It’s so cowardly to criticize Yahweh, almighty and omnipotent creator of the entire universe, rather than having the courage to go after somebody really powerful, like Tim Cook or Jeff Bezos”

  19. says

    @asoricaho, we know it never happened. What is being told here is that the way the story is told, it could not be consesual by definition. It is just pointing out one more glaring contradiction in what many christians believe. And thus it points out that people should NOT “use them as Rorschach inkblots to work out theories of how to live and why” because of said inconsistencies, illogicalities and internal contradictions.
    Because without being told how to interpret the Bible stories, the only conclusion one can arrive at on reading them and thinking about them for themselves is that the God of the Bible is an abusive asshole.

  20. consciousness razor says

    asoricaho:
    Believers think it’s acceptable, praiseworthy even.

    Is the thing I just wrote above about a Mythical-Event-That-Didn’t-Happen? No. It’s what real believers in the real world really think. For real. That’s the point you’re missing.

    I have nothing to say to a book of myths. It wouldn’t be an interesting or useful conversation. I do have a few choice words reserved for people who think that kind of shit is acceptable.

  21. Dunc says

    It is ridiculous to go around telling believers that this never happened and by the way, in this thing that never happened, you’re believing the wrong thing about what happened even though it didn’t happen.

    Well, that certainly short-circuits a lot of questions in literary criticism… Just wait ’til the fandoms hear about this! We can finally stop arguing about anything relating to fiction!

    Stories matter, regardless of whether they’re true or not.

  22. Owlmirror says

    It is ridiculous to go around telling believers that this never happened and by the way, in this thing that never happened, you’re believing the wrong thing about what happened even though it didn’t happen.

    A story can be analyzed for its moral premises and conclusions, even if it didn’t happen. Heck, moral or ethical dilemmas are stories, where the ethical dimension is the whole point. No one has ever had their hand on a lever to divert a trolley away from five people and towards one person, but people can still consider the setup and question whether it is morally right to pull the lever or not.

    The stories in the bible are presented as being moral; the god of the bible is claimed to be morally perfect. But even though the bible stories are false; there was never a global flood, or an exodus with the killing of the firstborn, or massacres of Canaanites, and so on, we can highlight the fact that the deaths that take place in the stories are genocidal and cruel, and the one that performs or orders them is not morally good.

    And the same goes for the story of Mary and her “consent”.

  23. says

    @asoricaho
    I feel like it goes the other way. It’s not us who have a problem, it’s the Christians. It’s their story, yet they consistently ignore what it says. They can’t have it both ways. If they want to beleive that this is what happened, they should also own up to what the conclusion from that is: God is an asshole.

  24. asoricaho says

    “ignore what it says”

    Except that atheists also criticize believers for literalism. Religious belief includes interpretation and exegesis of foundational documents (e.g., the talmud with respect to the bible), and religious doctrine is up to the believers to determine, not outsiders. If Christians believe that Mary consented to bear Jesus, then that’s what Christians believe. You don’t get to come along and say “but the story says this, so you don’t really believe that.” You can tell people that their beliefs are false, but you can’t tell them that they don’t believe what they say they believe.

    When people come here to say that atheism is just another religion that atheists are using to find the meaning and purpose of life, we get pretty annoyed. We should pay attention and notice when we’re doing the same thing to other people.

  25. Akira MacKenzie says

    …and religious doctrine is up to the believers to determine, not outsiders.

    How convenient.

  26. Curious Digressions says

    Is TC saying, “You’re a coward to pick on someone as wimpy as God. If you want to be brave, pick on Jeff Bezos”? Xtian apologists are now saying billionaire humans > god?

    According to xtian doctrine, ANYTHING that God does is – by definition – good. You can’t argue that God’s actions are immoral because God defines morality. Abrahamic religions are – by definition – amoral. They don’t behave according to a set of beliefs for the greater good. They only “behave” because God will punish them if they don’t.

  27. says

    Except that atheists also criticize believers for literalism

    I think you’re confusing two different points. If a Christian is willing to put their own faith and intuition above what the bible says, that’s fine with me (as far as it goes). However, if they’re saying the bible is the word of god, I expect them to follow through on that.

    You don’t get to come along and say “but the story says this, so you don’t really believe that.”

    If they’ve just told me that they believe the story is literally true, I abso-fucking-lutely get to say that.

    The problem with many believers is that they want it both ways. They want to claim the bible as the word of god, but they also want to use it as a sock puppet, to say whatever is convenient at the moment.
    Basically, I just want them to make up their fucking minds about what it is they supposedly believe before they try to convince me of it.

  28. Akira MacKenzie says

    You don’t get to come along and say “but the story says this, so you don’t really believe that.”

    <

    blockquote>

    But we do get to point out to them that they religion didn’t always believe that, especially when you’ve got the commentary of believers throughout the centuries to back you up. You may say that the believers get to make the interpretations, but why should I take those new “revelations” seriously after centuries of literalism? When did their god send them the update memo? It’s pretty clear that Christianity grew out of a patriarchal, authoritarian culture were women were property and slavery was the norm. All the attempts to ret-conn modernity into the cannon doesn’t change that fact.

    No matter what Lucas did in the Special Editions to make Star Wars look kinder and gentler to his grandkids, Han shot first.

  29. rietpluim says

    He thinks lefty atheists don’t criticize billionaires?

    That, and he thinks evangelicals aren’t rich and powerful.

    asoricaho
    We know it’s a myth, thank you. God isn’t real. The misogyny is.

  30. vucodlak says

    @ asoricaho, #21

    In the myth as understood by its adherents, Mary consented of her own free will.

    Not even close. Some believers may believe that she chose, but nowhere near all believers do. That Mary chose certainly isn’t what I was taught in the church I was raised in, and we were by no means outliers. I was taught that she was chosen, and I was taught that horrific things are done to those who don’t obey without hesitation or question. “God’s will is absolute, and we must obey without question” is a common belief in Christian sects.

    It’s irrelevant to the discussion whether this actually happened or not; they believe it happened, and it’s the morality of the belief that’s at issue here, not the factuality.

  31. Owlmirror says

    Religious belief includes interpretation and exegesis of foundational documents (e.g., the talmud with respect to the bible), and religious doctrine is up to the believers to determine, not outsiders.

    Outsiders can, and do, point out contradictions that exist in doctrine, or between doctrinal beliefs and (presumably held) non-doctrinal, secular beliefs.

    If Christians believe that Mary consented to bear Jesus, then that’s what Christians believe. You don’t get to come along and say “but the story says this, so you don’t really believe that.”

    We could phrase the story in secular terms, first — “See, there’s this girl, really just a kid, and someone comes along and says that she’s gonna have the boss’s baby. And she knows that the boss has killed people for not doing exactly what he says, and in fact, this guy she’s talking to has just punished someone pretty harshly in the boss’s name, not for disagreeing, but just for expressing a little doubt. Does it actually mean anything for her to consent to having the boss’s baby, when she knows there’s a knife aimed at the vitals waiting for anyone who says no?”

    And see if they agree that no, her consent isn’t meaningful.

    Then point out that it’s the story of Mary in Luke (Zechariah is punished with muteness).

    So “consent under implied duress is meaningful”, as a religious doctrine, is in contradiction to “consent under implied duress is not meaningful”, as a secular belief.

    Which one do they really believe? I don’t think you could get a straight answer to the question; cognitive dissonance leads to diversion tactics.

    You can tell people that their beliefs are false, but you can’t tell them that they don’t believe what they say they believe.

    I am strongly confident that for at least some things that people say that they believe, they cannot be telling the truth, not necessarily because they are being knowingly dishonest, but because they don’t know their own minds well enough to see the contradictions in different sets of premises they use in different contexts.

  32. Owlmirror says

    You can tell people that their beliefs are false, but you can’t tell them that they don’t believe what they say they believe.

    I am strongly confident that for at least some things that people say that they believe, they cannot be telling the truth, not necessarily because they are being knowingly dishonest, but because they don’t know their own minds well enough to see the contradictions in different sets of premises they use in different contexts.

    Just to follow up on this — another example that I have in mind is the hoary old circular belief in the bible: “We believe that the bible is true because it is the word of God, and it states in the bible that God cannot lie.”

    I don’t care if believers say that that’s why they believe in the bible. It cannot be true, because they would not accept any other book or writing just because it claimed to be written by someone who cannot lie. They are leaving out the entire process of religious indoctrination of beliefs about God, and the bible, and what to say about why God and the bible should be believed (and leaving out the process of religious indoctrination is implicitly part of the religious indoctrination)

  33. says

    …because they don’t know their own minds well enough to see the contradictions in different sets of premises they use in different contexts.

    That’s something I left out, because I couldn’t figure out how to say it right. Thanks.

  34. rietpluim says

    but you can’t tell them that they don’t believe what they say they believe

    Oh yes we can. The mind is a strange thing and people are very well capable of believing things they don’t believe and vice versa. The signpost on the road to non-believing says “freedom from cognitive dissonance — this way”.

  35. DanDare says

    Asoricaho @7 in Luke1 Gabriel told Mary what was going to happen and she complied in the face of power. She was not given an opportunity to consent. She was too young to consent.

  36. DanDare says

    Further, what people believe determines their behaviour and what they expect of others and will do as a group.
    If believers accept the story then they are likely to be apologetic about abuse of power and even paedophilia.
    That’s why the criticism is important.

Leave a Reply