Note: The contents of these recent posts are closely related to an earlier post I had written on The Culpability of the Moderates, which examines Martin Luther King's protest of the moderates of his age who also thought that inaction was better than action.
The problem is that they are books. You see, Christians use books. They fill their books with all sorts of myths and superstitions – and in some cases outright lies. We certainly do not want it to appear that we are like Christians. So, clearly, it is objectionable for atheists to present their ideas using this medium known as ‘books’. It would be unseemly. We want people to think of us as being above books.
Books are tools used in communication. Books themselves are not to be judged by whether or not there are people who have filled them with lies and propaganda, with sloppy thinking, or with hate-motivated bigotry. Each book is to be judged on its own merits – on what ideas the author was trying to communicate, and on how well they were communicated.
I bring this up because some people have written in protest of atheists protesting the abuses that they have been subject to in this country. By this I refer to abuses such as a Pledge that says that those who do not support ‘one nation under God’ are, in the eyes of this government, equivalent to those who do not support a nation ‘with liberty and justice for all’. I am speaking about a President stating that no atheist is qualified to be President, and a sitting legislator asserting that atheism is a philosophy of destruction and ‘it is dangerous for children to even know that your philosophy exists’. I am talking about signs on the money and going up in public buildings and classrooms across the country that say, “If you do not trust in God, then do not think of yourself as one of us.”
I have suggested that atheists have not only a right but a duty to protest these abuses, because failure to do so means giving consent to teaching the next generation that atheism is something to be ashamed of – that atheists are not and cannot be good people. To give our consent to the teaching of this bigotry (and silence does imply consent) is itself a contemptible act.
In response, some have protested that atheists should not engage in protests because this is what the Christians do.
The solution isn't to get whiny. That's the tool of our enemies.
We shouldn’t write books. Books are the tool of our enemies.
Well, there is a distinction between ‘get whiny’ and ‘write books’ in that ‘get whiny’ is a derogatory and demeaning term whereas ‘write books’ is morally neutral. Certainly, one cannot find a quote in my blog posting where I advocated ‘get whiny’. I would not advocate such a thing.
So, how about responding to what I did, in fact, advocate, which was to state – in a loud and confident voice – that a President has no moral right to exclude atheists from the post of judgeship because he does not believe that our rights come from God. What I advocated was to emphatically deny that schools have any right to teach children – children who are atheists, children who will become atheists, children who are the classmates of atheists, and children who will become co-workers, neighbors, bosses, and voters, that an atheist is no better than a person who opposes liberty and justice for all, and that a person who fails to trust in God is not good enough to be counted one of us.
If you fight fire with fire, you end up with a bigger fire. We shouldn't fight ignorant shouters with shouts, we should fight them with quiet words.
We should not fight lying or superstitious books with books. We should used whispered words instead. No?
A protest, like a book, is a tool for communication. The content of a protest, like the content of a book, is not to be judged simply by the fact that it is a protest (or a book). It is to be judged by its actual content – by the truth of what the speakers actually say. What distinguishes the type of shouting that I have in mind from ‘ignorant shouting’ is the fact that what I advocate shouting is not ignorant.
No President has the right to exclude atheists from the job of federal judge. If this is shouted, clearly, from the courthouse steps, it is not an ignorant shout. It is a true claim.
Words alone are not the only parts of communication that carry meaning. We also communicate meaning through tone, inflection, and body language. Smile, as your spouse walks through the door, and, handing her a flower, smile and say, “You are late.” Compare this to, for example, standing there with fists clenched and shouting, “You are late!” Identical words, in these cases, have entirely different meanings, because we do not use words alone to communicate meaning.
In fact, if you were furious at your spouse for being late, yet you greeted your spouse with a smile and a gift while playfully saying, 'You are late', you would be guilty of lying - because you are communicating something that is manifestly untrue
Similarly, the silence we hear when a President says that no atheist is fit to be a judge, or when a seated legislature says that atheism is a philosophy of destruction and "it is dangerous for children to even know that your philosophy exists" is a lie. Because the moral truth of the matter requires outrage.
Telling a person, “What you are doing is wrong,” while engaged in light-hearted banter carries a different meaning than shouting, “What you are doing is wrong!” from a megaphone on a court-house steps. And it is the latter meaning, in the types of cases that I have described, is closer to the truth. Telling people that they ought not to shout their objections to this behavior is the same as saying that there are certain truths that should not be spoken. The truth that should not be spoken is the truth that you find in, “What you are doing is wrong!” shouted forcefully from the courthouse steps.
We *can't* be the extremists. We have to be the normal, rational, calm, sensible ones.
We should not portray ourselves as extremists. We should portray ourselves as the moderates we are. The people looking out for *everyone*.
Any claim that I have anywhere advocated “portraying ourselves as extremists” is an outright lie. Nowhere have I advocated extremism, and to interpret my remarks as a defense of extremism is a form of lying – of ‘bearing false witness’ against what I said in fact. It is, unfortunately, a very common tactic – if you can’t refute what a person says, then accuse them of saying something that you can refute.
What is ‘extreme’ in saying that an atheist can be perfectly well qualified to be a judge and in condemning a President (or a party) that insists that no atheist is qualified to fill that role? Indeed, there are those who would like to see this as an extremist position – but those are the very people who want to limit the people who can be judges to those who believe that our rights come from God.
Because the point is this: the existence of *one* normal, nice, ethical atheist destroys the basis of *every* religion, makes *all* priests and witch doctors liars.
Sure. In the same way that the existence of *one* normal, nice, ethical Jew can prevent the Holocaust from happening, and the existence of *one* normal, nice, ethical African makes slavery impossible, and the existence of *one* intelligent, ethical woman guarantees that women everywhere and everywhen will always have the right to vote.
Try to get the Christian majority to grant us "equal rights" and we would accept their eternal power to give and take such rights.
Certainly, in the same way that women insisting on a right to vote helped men to maintain a monopoly on political power so that women were forever subject to their political rights on the whim of men, and the way that the civil rights movement actually made blacks more subservient to and dependent on the good grace of whites.
Rather than shout at Davis, atheists need to get better at cataloguing and blogging these sort of things. It's more than a full time job.
In a sense, this is what I advocate. My argument for removing Davis from her position was never an argument that it was necessary in order to teach her to change her mind. My argument that this is necessary to teach the country that the view that atheism is a ‘philosophy of destruction’ and ‘it is dangerous for children to even know that your philosophy even exists’ is a view held by contemptible people who deserve our condemnation, not our praise. It was because of a concern about what will happen when other politicians learn that Davis is actually more secure in her position, not less secure. It had to do with what children hear when they hear that Davis said this, and they heard that it came with no adverse consequences (as if it must be a perfectly legitimate thing for a person to say).
We can catalogue and blog about these things and talk about them amongst each other all we want – that will do no good. What we need to do is to present them to people who do not look at our catalogues or read our blogs – we must get these claims out where people can actually hear them. Otherwise, when a President says that no atheist is qualified to be judge, and nobody even hints that this might be a bad idea (except the group mumbling to itself in the corner – and they are the most hated group in America anyway) – then we should not be surprised to discover that more and more people have come to actually think that no atheist is qualified to be a judge.
And for those who think that reason will always triumph over truth and that people are not prone to accept false statements that saturate the community in which they live . . .
. . . look around you. Just look at the numbers of people who accept absurdities even when they do hear from those who disagree, and explain how it is sufficient to respond to absurdities by mumbling among ourselves about how absurd they are.