Once again we see evidence of two different cultures pursuing two different options with respect to how to handle conflicting view.
Culture 1, when it encounters somebody presenting an alternative idea, says, “Go ahead. Present your case. We will then explain why you are wrong.”
Culture 2, when it encounters somebody presenting an alternative idea, says, “We must silence this competing view before others hear of it.”
Part of the reason that Culture 2 has adopted this particular methodology is precisely because there is nothing that they can offer in the sense of a reason to reject the alternative idea. Culture 2 defends their positions by appeal to face. At best, they completely lack evidence for their view and, more often than not, the available evidence completely contradicts their view (as where the scientific data shows that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old).
Where people cannot offer reason in defense of their position, they can only offer force. So, their culture says to bring force (at least economic force) against any who would provide an outlet for this contrary view.
Earlier, I discussed this dynamic in the context of two movies; “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Golden Compass”. In the case of The Chronicles of Narnia, the members of Culture 1 said, “Present your view, and then we will present our criticism.” In the case of “The Golden Compass”, the members of Culture 2 said, “We must have a boycott. We must cause so much economic harm to any who would threaten to present an idea contrary to our own so as to make sure that nobody again will threaten to do such a thing. We must not allow these alternatives views to appear in public.”
Now, it is showing up in the case of billboard wars.
I do not recall ever hearing a demand that a theist billboard be removed. (An exception to this is where signs are put up at taxpayer expense, in which case the issue is not that of silencing a competing view, but that of being forced to pay for some church’s advertising.)
Yet, atheists either cannot get a billboard put up or, once up, it is immediately removed under the weight of protests from the members of Culture 2 – from the members of the culture that demands the silencing, rather than the considered rejection of, a contrary view.
One story along these lines concerns an attempt from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to pay for billboards that say, “Beware of Dogma”. CBS Outdoor Advertising in Grand Rapids simply refuses to accept their business, and offers as their reason the fact that Culture 2 will launch a vocal protest for the purpose of getting the signs removed. This, of course, is in keeping with Culture 2’s values of prohibiting the presentation of any view contrary to their own.
In the second story, as described in Hateful Response to ‘Imagine No Religion’, the Freedom From Religion Foundation put up a “Beware of Dogma” billboard in Chambersberg, PA. Shortly thereafter, the company from which FFRF had leased the sign, Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising, put up its own sign that said, “In God We Trust: The previous sign posted at this location does not reflect the values or morals of our company"!
At the same time, another group, “In God We Trust” answered the FFRF sign by putting up billboards of its own that say, “Why Do Atheists Hate America”.
Apparently, the second sign is in keeping with the morals of Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising. Apparently, their morals do not contain a provision against malicious hate-mongering.
At this point I need to clarify an issue. In an earlier posting called “Connecticut Valley Atheists: Imagine” , I protested against the use of a sign in Connecticut which the phrase, “Imagine No Religion” was used on a picture of the World Trade Center. In that case I protested that the sign was designed to manufacture hatred against theists by making the maliciously false claim that any and all religion is equally responsible for the 9/11 attacks. I said that maliciously false claims such as this are bigoted hate-mongering and, thus, not the type of sign that a person with good desires could endorse.
The FFRF sign, however, does not make the malicious attempt to link all religion to 9/11. The backdrop for its message is neutral – it shows the letters in an image that has the appearance of a stain-glass window. As such, it does not contain any maliciously false interpretations and, as such, it is not subject to the same criticism that I gave to the Connecticut sign last December.
However, the “Why Do Atheists Hate America” sign contains exactly the elements that I condemned the Connecticut sign for. Once again we have an example of malicious hate-mongering.
The organization that paid for the “Atheists Hate America” sign, ingodwetrustusa.org, tried to defend their actions by claiming that the sign really says, “Why do atheists act as if they hate America.” However, first, that is not what the sign says. If somebody were to ask, “Why is the sky blue?” this question is the same as saying, “The sky is blue. Why?” Similarly, if a person were to ask, “Why do atheists hate America,” this is the same as saying, “Atheists hate America. Why?” The organization is making a maliciously false claim about all atheists that atheists hate America, qualifying their statement as hate-mongering.
However, even if they were to put a sign up that says, “Why do atheists act like they hate America,” they are still making a maliciously false statement that every atheist acts like they hate America. They are making a bigoted assertion about all members of a group by attributing to all of them a trait that only some of them share. It is not the case that all atheists are responsible for the “Imagine No Religion” sign – only a subset of them are. However, ingodwetrustusa.org, in its lust to promote unreasoned and unfounded hatred of others, has decided not to worry about such minor issues as fairness and justice.
They also tried to defend their claims by saying that the FFRF sign made the same sort of statement. They asserted that "Imagine No Religion" has to imply, "Imagine No Christians." It does so in the same way that the American Cancer Society wants us to imagine a world without cancer victims. It does so in exactly the same way that Christians want us to imagine a world without Muslims, and Muslims want us to imagine a world without Christians. It is an end that is to be accomplished, not by force of arms, but simply by convincing people to give up false beliefs.
Of course, since these people are agents of hatred and bigotry, they much prefer to give a hate-mongering, bigoted interpretation of what was said.
In other words, it is still the case that malicious hate-mongering bigotry apparently does reflect the values and the morals of Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising – because they are not showing any signs of protesting this campaign.
In fact, we should take Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising and ingodwetrust.org at their word. Hate-mongering bigotry is, in fact, in keeping with the morals of both of these organizations. These are the values. When we are told how religion gives these people special access to moral truth and a special incentive to be moral, we can see this at work in their enthusiastic embrace of type of unjust, unfounded, hate-mongering bigotry depicted in these signs.
In fact, this is in keeping with the values of these organizations that, instead of allowing different people to express their views and explain what is wrong with them, they adopt a policy of silencing competing views and threatening those who express them.
That's the difference we see between Culture 1 and Culture 2