Monday, April 30, 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The blogosphere was on fire over the weekend with a video and reports about Dan Savage's talk at a high school journalism convention.  Dan Savage is the co-founder of the "It Gets Better" anti-bullying campaign and he was at the conference to speak on the subject. There has been a fierce pushback from conservatives against anti-bullying campaigns, with particular viciousness reserved, as usual, for anti-bullying of LGBT people.

It is impossible to have an honest discussion about bullying without mentioning the Bible. The Bible has been cited by Christians as the authority upon which they base their rejection of homosexuality, and thanks to the extreme privilege of religion in society, this Biblical authority is accepted all too often in society as a defense for "understandable" Christian outrage toward unbiblical "choices".

Incredibly, when Christians persecute their gay peers, the power of religious privilege is so total that society is inclined to regard the Christian bullies as the victims. In fact, as I mentioned in another post earlier today, attempts have been made to grant Bible-based religious bullying specific legal protection in at least one state, formalizing and codifying what has long been the de facto position in virtually every state, anyway.

The moment Dan mentioned the word "bible", a student popped up out of her seat and walked out of the room, followed by a thin stream of smiling, smirking students who were obviously planted in the room to perform this bit of political theatre. One wonders if these student "journalists" heard any of the talks at the conference that did not confirm what they already "know", or were they simply sent there with virtual antennae raised until the dog whistle they were waiting for had sounded, triggering their patently insincere march of Christian persecution.

Several atheist bloggers have posted about this, and the subsequent twisting of the incident in the conservative media. Most were supportive of Dan and proud of the way he reacted by continuing his talk while acknowledging the rudeness of the walkout with the restrained scorn that such a premeditated and clearly orchestrated display deserved.

Behind the scenes, however, it appears that Dan received something far less than enthusiastic support. Although we can only speculate, it appears that forces with the power to destroy Dan's career made it clear that "one simply cannot call anyone’s religion “bullshit” in today’s America". Soon after the incident went viral, Dan Savage bowed to pressure to apologize to Christians for his remarks.

Some bloggers have reacted with emotions ranging from sadness and disappointment to defiance and outrage. Jen McCreight and Daniel Fincke are two bloggers whose approaches are slightly different (Jen is a science grad student; Daniel is a philosopher) but who make the same point:  it is time to stand up and say that religion should not be given unearned "respect" and deference.

From Camels With Hammers:

"Such demands make it clear to me that it is absolutely incumbent on those of us who think religions are bullshit to start saying so more frequently and to fight to stop this trend of insidious undue deference to baseless believing. It is the result of decades’ worth of concentrated effort by the Religious Right to make politics bow the knee to fundamentalist religion combined with the Left’s confused understanding of the value and limits of multiculturalism. No one deserves to be made into a second class citizen on account of their beliefs. But American freedom of speech has to not only politically but morally and intellectually guarantee that all beliefs are open to rational scrutiny by public figures and intellectuals without fear of career reprisals.
Religions do not deserve the support of the rules of politeness when it comes to their truth and falsity. The public sphere should not revere indiscriminately everything that tries to halo itself with the name of religion. The secular public sphere should feel no such shyness about sacrilege, blasphemy and treating religion rudely less it implicitly be in the political thrall of the religious sphere. To so refrain from unqualified, scrupulously rational, public criticism of religion is to favor and support it implicitly. This is intolerable. Forcing atheists to honor the excessive reverences of religious feelings is coercing atheists to treat as sacrosanct that which their own consciences do not judge to be genuinely sacrosanct. This goes beyond normal social politeness and deference to other cultures’ traditions to the point of atheists having to de facto accept religious restrictions in their own right, on account of their being religious. That’s intolerable to my atheistic conscience and should be to other atheists’ consciences as well, as it cuts to our very right to live thoroughly independent of deference to all religious authorities which we don’t believe in." Daniel Fincke, "Follow up on Dan Savage's attack on the Bible that inspired walkouts."

From Blag Hag:

"We can use “bullshit” to describe ideas like astrology, reptilian conspiracies, alien abductions, Big Foot… but God is off limits, despite being equally ridiculous.
That’s why Christian groups cry foul when someone points out flaws in their religion. It’s not their emotions that are so fragile: It’s their faith. Because Christianity, like all religions, simply cannot stand up to questioning. It’s why so many parts of the Bible actively denounce questioning faith. It’s why Christians have to run out of talks and make press releases about persecution. Because Christianity crumbles in the face of history, biology, and analytical thinking. Silencing dissent is the only way for Christianity to survive." Jen McCreight, "Christianity is bullshit, and I'm not apologizing for saying that."

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