Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Anti-Atheist Bigotry of Congressman Diaz-Balart (R-

In my previous post I presented ten examples of anti-atheist bigotry in 2008

(See: Anti-Atheist Bigotry in 2008)

It is not too early to start the list for 2009.

From Friendly Atheist Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart Bashes Atheism:

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Congressperson from Florida, saw the “Divine Performing Arts” show the other night and couldn’t stop raving about it.

“I was very moved by the song that talked about the damage that atheism has caused and is causing. It was very moving, but all of the performances were moving, uplifting; they teach us about the eternal nature of mankind and of how we have to be humble.

My discussion this week has been in the context of doing moral work. I have been presenting the idea that morality involves picking up the tools of praise, condemnation, reward, and punishment and applying them to promoting good desires and inhibiting bad desires.

I have argued that, while reason tells us how to use these tools and whether they are being used to good ends, reason alone cannot do any moral work. The moral work gets done by those who pick up these tools of praise and condemnation and apply them to specific cases.

It means making public statements, since their objective is to mold the desires of any who hear the praise and condemnation - particularly children.

Diaz-Balart is doing moral work with his statement. It is a statement of very high praise for that which takes a stand against atheism - that which condemns atheism for all of the trouble atheists are causing in the world. It says that of all of the values that were captured in this concert, the highest value of all - the one most worthy of being promoted - was the value of anti-atheist bigotry.

Diaz-Balart has picked up the moral tools of praise and condemnation and applied them to promote an aversion to atheists.

My question now is whether there are any people willing to pick up the same moral tools and apply them to actually making the world a better place, rather than applying them to promote unjustified hatred and bigotry.

Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart is a Republican representative of Florida's 21st District. He can be contacted through his congressional office web site. This district is a suburb of Miami and, thus, its members can be best reached by letters and comments to media that serve the Miama market.

A list of Miami media can be found at ABYZ News Links for Miami and includes, among other media, The Miami Herald

One also has the option of contacting any organization that one belongs to that has reason to stand in opposition to bigtroy (not limited to atheist or humanist organizations) and getting them to offer official condemnation. The more condemnation that one can muster, the more moral work that gets done.


Justus Hommes said...

I understand the want by Atheists to remove God from money and pledge, and as a believer in church/state separation, I have no problem with supporting these efforts. On the other hand, people should have freedom to practice their faith, be they in the public or private sphere. A politician should have the same right to freedom of speech, religion, and association as anyone else.

As long as a politician would not seek to silence voices of dissent or disagreement, I would not seek to silence them.

You may say that politicians hold a special responsibility, but that is a slippery slope. Next come teachers, then day care workers, then doctors. and don't forget about the media, kids may be exposed to television, radio, newspapers, internet, so any references to God by leaders or celebrities in these mediums. Then there are peer groups and families.

PersonalFailure said...

Justus, I agree that people should have the freedom to practice their faith. I agree that politicans should be allowed to have faith as well. That is not the issue here. Read again what Diaz-Balart said:

I was very moved by the song that talked about the damage that atheism has caused and is causing. It was very moving, but all of the performances were moving, uplifting; they teach us about the eternal nature of mankind and of how we have to be humble.

That is bigotry, pure and simple. What damage? How am I harming you at all? Diaz-Balart holds a position of public trust that makes his statements all the more important.

Beyond that, around 10% of USians are atheists. Ergo, around 10% of Diaz-Balart's constituents (yeah, i know, they aren't spread out evenly like that, but you get my point) are atheists. How can he possibly be serving them as well as the theists if this is how he feels?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Nothing I wrote denies anybody any right to freedom of speech. Diaz-Balart has a right to say whatever he wants, and I have a right to condemn him when he expresses bigotry.

Consider what the proper attitude would be if Diaz-Balart had said, "I was very moved by the song that talked about the damage that Islam or Judaism has caused and is causing."

Is it not fair to expect that not only Muslims and Jews in these cases . . . but anybody who favors equal respect for all law-abiding Americans regardless of faith - have reason to condemn him for it?

Once again, condemnation is an expression of freedom of speech, not a violation of it.

Justus Hommes said...

Alonzo, PF,

I note your points.

Alonzo, if Diaz-Balart had substituted Islam, Judaism, or even Christianity, I would think he had a valid point. I think you would agree that harm has indeed been done in this world in the name of Allah, Christ, and God. The danger and violence brought about by extremists in Christianity, Islam, and atheism are all very real. Are the philosophies or the individuals to blame? That is another question. Is it bigotry? Not necessarily. And even if it is, should it be censored? Not in my opinion.

PF, regardless of his personal convictions and statements thereto, I don't get how they translate into public policy. Bigoted as he may be, he should not support any policies that would single out or exclude any segment of his constituency because of their beliefs. If he acts in such a way, I would be on your side and call for immediate action action him.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Justus Hommes

Actually, one of the things that I protest consistently in this blog - on both sides of the isle - is the invalid (and bigted) infrerence from what is true of a religion or (for example) a black person to claims about 'religion' or 'black people'.

This is just another application of the general principles I have employed throughout this blog.

However, defining "criticism" as "censorship" is a misuse of a term. It is a nice rhetorical trick to pull when somebody has done something worthy of criticism but does not want to be criticized. He simply accuses his critics of "censorship" and demands that he is employing his "right to freedom of speech" - when criticism itself is also protected by the same right to freedom of speech.

Speech is acting. When Diaz-Balart said the words "the damage that atheism has caused and is causing" he performed an action - and it is an action that makes life a little harder for decent people by promoting the attitude that innocent people are to be blamed for harms that they have not, in fact, committed and would not condone.

This is fear-mongering and hate-mongering. And though he has a right to freedom of speech (meaning it would not be appropriate to respond with violence), he has no right to freedom from criticism.

Nobody has such a right.

Justus Hommes said...


You are correct on the censorship vs. criticism point. My bad.

You certainly have the right to criticize Diaz-Balart or anyone else for saying something stupid.

There are those that would like to see hate speech banned, or fairness doctrines imposed, which was more my point concerning censorship. Whatever -mongering someone does, it is their right to say stupid and even hurtful things, until they speak of violence or act violently. Should they be criticized and hopefully ostracized? Certainly.

We make the same point about individuals be held accountable instead of their philosophy or skin color. I agree. Still, people are identified by their association and beliefs, especially if they assume the role of spokesperson for said group.

Justus Hommes said...

(sorry for the grammatical errors in my last comment)

Mig22 said...

While Diaz-Balart is misguided and can be criticized for that, I have a hard time claiming bigotry or hatred in this case. The congressman, remarking on a work of art, said that it does a good job of making a statement about atheism and it's effects. If that same congressman saw a movie or read a book about the dangers of radical Islam or fundamental Mormonism and made the same remark, it would not be viewed as bigotry. I don't AGREE with the Representative but can't go much beyond that. Regards,

Alonzo Fyfe said...


I have offered specific definitions of "bigotry" and "hate-mongering" throughout this blog.

A bigot is somebody who makes an unwarranted inference from some wrong committed by an individual in a group (often imagined wrong) to the group as a whole. It is anybody who, instead of saying what some specific atheist or black person or blonde has done, makes unjustified derogatory statements about "atheists", "blacks", "blondes" (and, yes, "theists").

Diaz-Balart's statements about "atheism" in general, rather than speaking about specific atheists, clearly qualifies.

As for hate-mongering, my argument is that when a person believes and passes on derogatory information that has no foundation in evidence - that goes against the presumption of innocence - we have reason to ask what motivates the decision to accept the unfounded derogatory accusation.

If it is not motivated by evidence, what it is motivated by?

Diaz-Balart's statement shows that he is motivated to believe any derogatory and demeaning thing he might encounter regarding atheism, to promote those unfounded derogatory claims, and to generalize those unfounded derogatory claims among all atheists.

Thus, he is guilty of hate-mongering and bigotry.

Anonymous said...

Us against them is sadly what keeps this out dated politician in power. Only in Miami which is actually a Hispanic/Cuban "christian" cinservative type area will a politician like this stay in power.
Its to bad the rest of USA is moving forward while Florida as a whole moves backwards.