My wife always tells me, “Don’t post angry. You’ll say things you regret.”
But, some days, something touches a little bit of ire.
Once again (in a clip on Crooks and Liars in a post "Hitchens vs. Hannity on Religion and God,") I have heard some theist offer the argument, “Look at the good that religion has done!” Hitchens was given little time for a reply, but the reply he gave was far from what Hannity deserved.
Hannity: Religion also has provided food and water and medicine and supplies and housing and there has been in the name of religion much good that has been done both in this country and around the world.
Hitchens: But if you reduce religion to social work then so does USAID do all that at, actually a secular organization, actually rather more convincingly. Most of the great philanthropists in the United States have been atheists. That does not prove that atheism is correct.
Technically, this answer is correct. However, it completely ignores the stench at the core of Hannity’s remark.
I have offered a response to this claim in a couple of posts, but I want to bring it front-and-center and shine a spotlight on it.
[Note: No interviewer would sit still and allow you to recite everything I have written below. So, think of the first paragraph as the actual response. The paragraphs that follow are talking points that can be added to any follow-up comments.]
Do you realize how amazingly bigoted that remark is? When you say, ‘Look at the good that religion does,’ as an argument for religion, you are saying, ‘look at the good that atheists would not do,’ which is the same as saying that atheists are inherently selfish and lack compassion.
Think about this: Would you dare sit there and tell a Jewish guest that Christian charity is proof that Jesus is the son of God – because of all the good done in the name of Jesus? If you even tried that, you would be out of a job by the end of the week. You know this. You are so instantly aware of the bigotry inherent in such a claim that the words would not leave your lips. Claiming that Christian charity is proof that Jews are mistaken about Christ would imply that Jews are not charitable. The roar that would result from such blatant bigotry would be deafening and end only in your resignation or termination.
But you say such things against atheists – even though you do not have a shred of evidence to back it up – without the slightest hint that you appreciate the appalling bigotry in your assumptions.
You probably won’t be fired for this – and will probably be rewarded – for the same reason that Don Imus would have perhaps been rewarded if he had delivered the same remark against blacks in the 1920s. Anti-atheist bigotry is so pervasive in this society that you can’t even notice it. It’s a stench that you have gotten used to because you spend your life in it. It is just as easy to today to divide the country between a 'we' who 'trust in God' and a 'they' who do not as it once was to divide restaurants and restroms among ‘white’ and ‘colored’.
You see nothing wrong in the sickening stereotype of atheists as cowards unwilling to risk their lives for others with the cliché “There are no atheists in foxholes” when there are atheist soldiers, police officers, firemen, and other heroes buried from one end of this country to another and in several foreign countries as well.
You do not see the bigotry inherent in having the government tell its school age children every day, ‘Good Americans are 'under God'. If you are not under God, then you are no different than those who are against a nation that is with liberty and justice for all.’
I say that it is not religion that causes people to do good deeds, but innate human kindness. Some of that human kindness finds its expression through church. However, it will find expression through whatever institutions are available.
I know many atheists who show their charity through a church because helping those in need is far more important than petty disputes about the existence of God. The only qualms that atheists have about making contributions through a church is they want to be sure that the money goes to food, clothing, and medicine, on building hospitals and promoting sanitation, on things that have real-world value, and not wasted on churches and Bibles.
Do you want to know why there are no atheist hospitals or charities? It’s because atheists do not drool over other people’s suffering as an opportunity to coerce them into joining one’s club. We are not going to force starving people to attend Darwin lectures in exchange for a bowl of soup. Nor are we going to require that they profess unbelief before we inoculate them against disease. Nor are we going to use their natural gratitude to coerce them into joining our meetings and buying membership into our clubs because they owe us.
We don’t paint religious symbols on our good deeds when we hand them out. We simply hand them out. Because our good deeds bear no mark, because they are unconditional, bigots like you think that you can ignore them – pretend they do not exist – and smugly tell your viewers/listeners, ‘Look at the good deeds that atheists would not do.’ You will not recognize the good that we do because you do not know what charity without strings looks like.
The fact is, the vast majority of atheists are too busy bringing good to the world to worry about who believes in God and who does not. You are alive today, almost certainly, because of the good that atheists do. Atheist scientists provide most of the medical breakthroughs that keep you alive – much of it using this theory of evolution that you love to denigrate. Atheist earth scientists have discovered ways to warn you of tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. They have also taught you how to build structures that can withstand earthquakes, predict your weather. Atheist science, using this curse you love to spit at called ‘evolution’, make sure that you have enough food – clean, healthy food - to eat, clean water to drink, and clean air to breathe.
If all of the religious people were to disappear out of the scientific community, science would barely notice the loss. But if the atheist scientists were to suddenly disappear – as you seem to want them to do – most people in this world would quickly end up dead, and the prospects for future generations would look no better.
‘Look at the good that religion does; look at the good that atheists would not do,’ you say.
Find some good that atheists would not do, and I will be pleased to examine it with you. However, I assert that the good that atheists would not do – this denigrating bigotry you express towards atheists – exists only in your very narrow mind.
The point of this being – I express again – to make clear the fact that, “Look at the good that religion does,” stated in this kind of context means nothing other than, “Look at the good that atheists would not do.” It is a denigrating, mean-spirited, bigoted statement that would never cross the lips of any fair and just human being.