Offending religious people

I think that the easiest job in the world is one that involves offending religious people. If such a job opens up, I will apply for it in a flash.

Recall the recent event in which some high school students at a journalism conference walked out on Dan Savage when he pointed out that the Bible was a major source of anti-gay sentiment. Savage later apologized for some of his language and for denigrating the students who walked out but not for the ideas expressed.

But religious people seem to be willing to walk out for the flimsiest of reasons. Another episode occurred in Waco, Texas when the audience booed and walked out on Bill Nye, of all people, known to many as ‘The Science Guy’, the genial host of a children’s television show who is nowhere close to being an in-your-face anti-religious speaker. I mean, he wears a bow tie, for crying out loud, which signals that you are about as square as can be.

What was Nye’s awful crime?

Nye was in town to participate in McLennan Community College’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He gave two lectures on such unfunny and adult topics as global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption.

But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.

At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled “We believe in God!” and left with three children, thus ensuring that people across America would read about the incident and conclude that Waco is as nutty as they’d always suspected.

I wonder about the future of that woman’s three children. They are going to have a tough time in school if even that basic level of science is seen as heretical. They are going to be left far behind by advancing modernity.

Interestingly, the Nye incident occurred in 2006 but interest was rekindled recently because the local paper that ran the story mysteriously pulled it from its website and only when some atheists pointed out this action did it mysteriously reappear. Now it seems to have disappeared again.

Maybe the paper was trying to spare its local citizens the embarrassment of being seen as crazy people.


  1. bubba707 says

    While these individual incidents can be pointed out I’m not optimistic about the future of the US. The general level of real education is in decline and the population is terribly divided along sectarian and idealogic lines. The future I see coming is the US becoming a third world backwater ruled by corporate tyrants and a completely ignorant population barely scraping out an existance, much like North Korea today.

  2. says

    bubba, I am very much afraid that was exactly the plan. It is not for nothing that the religious right and the corporate right formed an unholy alliance 30 years ago.

  3. Skip White says

    Who knew that stating why the moon appears to shine would be so controversial in 2006? Would a full-scale riot have broken out if he pointed out that the Earth orbits the sun? As an aside, whenever I see Bill Nye, I think of high school physics, where the teacher showed a clip with Mr. Nye saying, “if we had trucks shaped like fish, then we’d really have something!”

  4. stonyground says

    The existence of the internet makes me feel more optimistic. Religious kids often visit atheist blogs to argue, I think that it may be impossible to do so without learning something.

    That the moon is a reflector is self evident, any kids that were curious could easily research the matter on the internet and right there is a seed of doubt. The other great light isn’t great either, it is a very small and insignificant little yellow star. Rigel, now that is a great light, doesn’t look like it from here ’cause it’s a long way off but you would think that God would know.

    Also, for a long time I have thought that atheists should start a campaign to encourage Christians to read the Bible. We could call it the ‘Read the whole Bible Challenge’. Can you imagine the desperate scrabbling around for a strategy to oppose such a campaign? Atheists think that reading the Bible cover to cover will make you an atheist, so don’t you dare even try!

  5. 'Tis Himself says

    People objecting to being told the Moon isn’t a light source? I am speechless.

  6. thewhollynone says

    And that moronic woman had three children! Let’s do hope that due to regression to the mean the children will be smarter than she is. Of course, she is probably homeschooling them. Sometimes I think our country is doomed.

  7. Nathan & the Cynic says

    The ‘Read the whole Bible Challenge’ is a brilliant idea. Bravo.

  8. Arthur says

    Nice, Offending as an occupation. I guess that anyone who doesn’t agree with us should just be an object or our derision. I cant’ see how you don’t already hold this position. As a tenured professor you have the bully pulpit to offend at will. Happy insulting.

  9. kim says

    Yes, because apparently some people get offened when they are informed about how the universe actually works and how we figured out how it does. How horribly offensive. We should spare them the details.

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