Dean Esmay has written for Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, The Moderate Voice, Honey Badger Brigade, and A Voice for Men. He is a writer and podcaster with Erin Pizzey on domestic violence, Mumia Ali on race issues, and various shows on geek culture. He encourages people to look at issues through the lens of compassion for men who deserve it, and respect for women who deserve it. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel Methuselah's Daughter.
…the Daily Mail, Raw Story, Cosmopolitan, and numerous other media outlets, as well as by lesser slimy weasels like Glenn Greenwald, PZ Myers, and the creepy clown car that is FreeThoughtBlogs. I have also been denounced by (and also befriended by) Members of Parliament on multiple continents. And I’ve been laughed at and mocked and lied about by a little coterie of haters, some of them pretty obviously doing it as part of their job, for years now.
I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s in the Marquette Park area of the South Side of Chicago. I once broke my back skydiving, and to make sure I would never let fear control me made sure to go and jump a few more times at least before giving up my jumping career for cheaper hobbies. I also used to repossess cars in some of the toughest neighborhoods in and around Detroit. I’ve had people holding weapons and screaming in my face and didn’t blink.
I’ve had cop friends all my life, including Federal agents. I have had numerous lawsuit threats and been served papers more times than I can count. I have given multiple court depositions. The first one back in the 1980s scared me a little. None since. I’ve never backed down once on anything I said publicly in 30 years at the behest of a court order–I only back down when I’m wrong.
I have helped get prosecutors fired, and judges removed from cases, and once embarrassed an entire state’s worth of cops and prosecutors, including the current sitting Vice President of the United State’s son. I have been called a rapist, a child predator, a woman beater, and more, none of it true, all while doing these things.
I am everything you say of me–cantankerous, ornery, stubborn, often more snotty than I should be. Including liberal on some things, conservative on others. And I say fuck a lot.
Do you really think what you think of me matters much when I decide to take a position? I don’t open my mouth most of the time unless I’m sure I’m right.
I am a Scientific Atheist. I have no creed. Dogma is anathema to me, for only the following things can be true:
Nothing exists but natural phenomena.
Thought is a property or function of matter.
Death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units.
There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature.
There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which transcend nature.
There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which are supernatural.
Nor can there be
But first and foremost I must always remember:
I have no creed. Dogma is anathema to me. For I am a Scientific Atheist, and I seek to embody Rationalty in all things.
Note: Whenever I write essays like this, some friends say “what are you talking about I never act that way, I never saw any of this.” So what? Not everything appears on my timeline, and not everything is about you even if once or twice we had some exchange that seemed to relate.
Nor do I have to provide you with proof that people talk like idiots about the Catholic Church. Nor do I have to prove that they like to fling this kind of poop around me. Sometimes it’s from people I don’t want a public fight with. And sometimes the material is so vile I consider it no better than KKK materials* and I won’t give it more traffic.
Nor am I “angry” or “ranting.” I’m just blunt, and far less polite than most Catholics. Thanks for noticing.–DE
I’m sick of hearing bigots squawk about the Roman Catholic Church and “Hitler’s Pope” and “ratlines” and “pedophile priests” and “enemy of science” or “burning Galileo” or “the Jesuits invented the SocJus movement” or other gross distortions or outright fabrications. A lot of people these days seem to just love throwing that crap around in casual conversation, as if half-assed generalizations and spitting on people you know won’t hit back makes you some kind of hero.
Here’s the truth: the Catholic Church today is almost certainly the least violent institution on the planet for anything close to its size and scope of operations–and in your heart you damn well know it. Any reasonable analysis shows that Christianity brought peace throughout its history far more than it brought war and suffering and intolerance. Christians almost never live perfectly up to their ideals but the Church is inherently nonviolent. Honest people admit this.
Furthermore, when you fling out some accusation you and your friends heard about, maybe you have a duty to investigate? To at least discover if what you’ve heard is really true exactly as you heard it before you hurl it like a bullet at some unsuspecting Catholic who may or may not even know what you’re talking about? Catholics don’t owe you any apologies for being Catholic nor do they require defense attorneys to follow them around to answer random charges you might fling at the Church at any given moment. Nor do they have to answer for your mom who beat you over the head with Jesus or Mary inappropriately, although we’re sorry, she shouldn’t have done that.
You aren’t being brave to bash the Catholic Church and you damn well know it. The worst reprisal you’ll face is a non-clerical guy like me telling you to piss off, which a priest would probably chide me for but which I think is necessary to get through to some people.
Defending ourselves with rhetorical firmness, and letting a jerk know she’s being a jerk: these are not out of bounds for good Christian manners.
So if you’re going to bring up crap about the Church around me, do me a favor: notice that we have here a 2000 year old institution with a membership in the billions if you go back through time, and it has NEVER been as rigidly centrally controlled by the Vatican as people so often fantasize about. Renegade priests and Bishops have always been a thing, just as corrupt or abusive men and women are found in every other walk of life–although given how high standards for the Priesthood are these days, a smart person would wager corruption among them is probably lower than, say, a completely unaccountable “independent Bible church” or, for that matter, your local grocery store manager.
Furthermore, being ex-Catholic or saying “I went to Cathechism when I was in gradeschool” does not convey expert status. Ex-Catholics do not have special license to bash their fellow Catholics who still think the Church is wonderful and awesome and wrongly maligned. Catholics who’ve left the Church, especially if they did it while young, are frequently hostile and often paint a distorted picture based on subjective experience–and sometimes are driven by personal motives that obviously have nothing really to do with the Church itself.
Short form: “I was an altar server!” or “I went to catholic school!” does not make allegations you fling hold any special weight.
Furthermore, as a fellow child abuse survivor, one who was abused by people outside the Church, I say this without apology: NO, you damn well don’t get special dispensation to tar innocent people if you were abused by someone within the Church. Innocents do not deserve to have you hold the crimes of others against them for all eternity. The Church leadership made mistakes. It was unbelievably painful. We owned it. Now how are Protestants doing with their own problem here?
To be clear, someone being ex-Catholic doesn’t mean we can dismiss what they say. But you get no points for being particularly authoritative either. People who leave any religion are frequently the most hostile, and sometimes have a personal agenda they aren’t even conscious of: maybe they’re mad at the Church for something legitimate, or they may just want to hurt their family or make a political grandstanding point. Or seriously, they could be just plain nuts.
Or they could be telling the truth and they may have a valid point. But “ex-Catholic” gets you NO special consideration either way.
Furthermore, being a Horsemanite atheist does not in any way shape or form make you intellectually or morally superior, you twat. Nor does it make you “objective.” In fact, you’re quite possibly less objective than anyone else, since you go into the conversation, most of the time, with the assumption that the orthodox Christian faith is all fairy fluff and unicorns for fools and old people who are afraid to die–in other words, most of you tend to behave as if you just can’t get enough of the smell of your own farts when you talk about religion. Take your pose of objectivity and superiority and shove it.
Your copy of The God Delusion didn’t come with a free license to throw garbage at people.
Ditto if you’re from some ethnic group that some people at some time in the Church’s history somewhere mistreated. Find me any nation or any movement that’s lasted more than a few decades that doesn’t have someone it’s wronged somewhere along the line. If the Church still owes you reparations, explain them to me. Otherwise take your ancestral grievance-mongering and stick it in with the #BlackLivesMatter punks.
Oh and if you’re gay, spare me: the Church was on record opposing the persecution, tormenting, and imprisonment of homosexuals long before most other religious groups in America . Countless nonreligious people and ideologies have historically been more anti-gay than the Catholic Church ever was. And while many people in the gay community were protesting in the streets, the Catholic church ran most of the AIDS hospices for free during the worst of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s and ’90s–whether they gave the best or right care all the time, they were at least the ones stepping up to actually take care of those dying men.
That’s because our Church teaches against hating anybody, and helping anyone who needs it regardless of their personal lives.
If you don’t like that the church considers gayness sinful, ask yourself why you care what the Church thinks, since the Church does not advocate persecuting or jailing you or forcing you to be Catholic. Why do you need our approval? Shouldn’t you be more concerned with things like secular ideologies and religious extremism that is still busy jailing and torturing and killing gays? You might ponder that the next time you decide it’s OK to be nasty toward your Catholic friends who actually do care about you even if you don’t approve of their religion.
Now, all of that leads up to some things I want to mention: As Catholics, we are constantly, constantly hammered with conspiracy theories that have long been debunked but won’t die anyway. And that doesn’t even count the snooty, centuries-old Anglican agitprop about how primitive and barbaric Catholic thought is, which still floats around English and Episcopalian circles culturally. Nor does it count the madness of some of the more deranged Sola Scriptura Protestant Fundamentalists (or their bizarre atheist children who can’t stop ranting about the Bible).
The Catholic Church is a lot of people’s favorite target. Sometimes what is said is true, some of it’s half-true, some of it’s outright lies–but it’s not any individual Catholic’s job to sit in the stockade and listen to whatever your personal grievances depending on wherever you are in your menstrual cycle at the moment.
In fact, I have a particular loathing for Catholic-bashing since I did not grow up Catholic but always saw the hate spewed at them. I grew up Protestant. And I was atheist for years. I don’t have the average Cradle Catholic’s long-learned “just grit your teeth and be silent” muscles built up as much.
By the way, teeth-gritting silence in the face of obnoxiousness allegations and name-calling? It’s something every religious minority also has had to learn–and yes, Catholics are a religious minority in the USA, one that’s been hated for centuries unabated not just in the US but in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States, i.e. pretty much the entire English-speaking world.
So, know a few things before you bitch at me or other Catholics. For example:
So please, make all the jokes you want about Pedophile Priests, just don’t pretend that makes you brave, and don’t pretend you care enough to do something about children who are abused.
And by the way, do you think there’s something cool and witty about tarring the reputations of the literally hundreds of thousands of completely innocent men who happen to be Catholic priests and Bishops? I don’t.
That is just the tip of the iceberg on false allegations about the Church. We could go into far more: phony charges of complicity in terrorism like Guy Fawkes or the IRA; people like Giordano Bruno who were executed as heretics versus people like Galileo who were not; valid allegations of occasional anti-Jewish problems versus unfair or one-sided allegations of same; whether the Reformation was really so wonderful; or a score of other things. I love to talk to people about history, as long as they don’t come into the conversation like an atheist version of Cardinal Ximénez:
(By the way, special note to fellow MRAs: can you think for two more seconds about that false allegation and reputation smearing thing, regarding the half a million or so men in the priesthood? Or are priests undeserving of the concern you sat have for for the rest of the falsely-accused? I’m just sayin’.)
Furthermore, if you want to talk to Catholics about their Church, you might want to know some things they believe: we believe the one and only Catholic Church to be the authentic Body of Christ as established by Jesus on the Twelve apostles at Pentecost. As the Book of Acts showed the Apostle laying hands on others to make new Apostles, we believe that process never stopped, and continues from the original 12 all the way to today, with each living Bishop (“apostle” and “bishop” are the same root word in Greek) tracing back to one of the original 12 Apostles who ordained his line (most frequently Mark, Thomas, Bartholemew, or Peter, if would seem). Those Bishops hold the Deposit of the Faith, of which the Bible is an indispensable part but is not the whole.
The Church we are blessed to be a part of is, in our view, a massive force for good in the world beyond anything any organized atheists have even attempted or, frankly, more than most if not all other religions in world history.
Yes, no matter how enamored you are of Buddhism or the Gnostics or whatever else floats your boat, odds are we’ve done more tangible good that you can measure. While we try not be prideful about it, a fact is a fact.
And by the way, we reject categorically the idea that anyone is capable of just reading the Bible alone and understanding its message properly. No, not even if you read all its original languages fluently. Sorry if that annoys you, but we’ve always thought so and never changed our minds. Most of you sound perfectly insane when you read the Bible to us or tell us how we’re supposed to interpret it. Especially most modern atheist “Bible critics,” who reason like prepubescent children with cartoonish interpretations and an obsession with Creationist loons.
We’re just usually too polite to say something about all this.
Furthermore, on more prosaic and secular matters: As a matter of record we also were, and are, the cradle of European culture from at least the 5th Century until the Reformation, and arguably really until the Industrial Revolution. Even when Church officials were in occasional (yes, occasional) conflict with creative types, those conflicts usually were because the Church was working hard to support the arts and sciences not crush them. We were actively supporting science, art, philosophy, and education going at least back to when Constantine and Augustus made our religion legal after centuries of persecution–and we’ve never stopped, thank you very much.
In a very real sense, the history of our Church, the one you mock and hate, is the history of Western civilization. And that is true whether you like it or not. So even if your’e not religious, it’d be nice if you’d acknowledge it’s done good for you as well as any ill you perceive.
So you might want to stop being morally smug just because you can find people who acted badly within the Church. Everyone in the Church knows there will always be bad people getting into authority. There are multiple warnings about it in the New Testament, the first example being Judas himself. History is replete with other examples, some of which you like to throw in our faces–and some of which were even true!
But the Church also also strives more than any institution I think you can name to come forward with its own history, good and bad, and to at least try to make amends, even if those amends aren’t always as swift as you’d like, or in exactly the form you’d like.
Furthermore, while you may not like the “spin” that Catholics put on events when they defend themselves, what on Earth makes some of you feel entitled to dismiss the Church’s own answers to pernicious charges? Just because Catholics formulated a response, you think you can dismiss it because they were Catholic? As the Brits say: u wot mate?
Anyone coming into conversations about the history of anything as big as the Catholic Church is biased: atheist, agnostic, ex-Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, or even Pope Francis himself. Nobody gets a special claim on objectivity but God. So if we defend ourselves and you brush it away with “well naturally you defend your Church you zombie,” you aren’t saying something clever at all. You’re being a gigantic ass with pretensions to a fair-mindedness when you talk like that–a fair-mindedness you have just demonstrated you do not possess.
Reality is that our Church, the one still seated in Rome, is the largest non-Government operator of low-cost or free medical services, hospitals, orphanages, schools, food programs, and scientific research in the world. We’re also the largest charity doing those things. Do people hate us because we do all that and they don’t? Or because they want governments to do it instead, whether those governments can afford it or not?
Anyway, in summary, my Church is the subject of many conspiracy theories and many false allegations. It gets old. Furthermore, treating me and my fellow Catholics as if we owe you some personal apology for the genuine misdeeds of our coreligionists is pretty narcissistic behavior on your part. Especially when you throw your prejudices on some innocent Catholic who may not be very well-educated on whatever issues you raise. Abusing random Catholics is not just narcissism on your part, it’s outright bullying.
If you want to ask me serious, non-loaded questions about the Catholic Church, ask them. I really don’t mind that. I’m not an evangelist, I’m just an unapologetic and slightly unorthodox orthodox Catholic who has not one word of apology to you for it. But I love talking about history, and I love arguing about religion and politics and science and history with people who are genuinely interested in a useful exchange. Even with people who think I’m wrong.
But if you approach it like a pompous ass, ask “questions” which assume your conclusion, behave as if my answers don’t matter because I’m Catholic, hurl accusations at the unprepared, or, possibly worst of all, bray that you’re being subjected to “PC Thought Police” when I tell you you’re being an ass, save your breath. I don’t particularly care what a horse’s ass thinks. But I will ponder horses asses while I consider your integrity.
Now, may God bless you and may you have a good day. 😉
* – Was I out of line with the Klan reference? Nope. Nobody likes talking about it but the KKK of the 1920s and 1930s hated Catholics about as much as Jews and blacks and even lynched a few of us. In fact the Klan in that era was generally more concerned with immigrant Catholics than it was with blacks in much of the United States. Furthermore, many smears on the Church which are provably untrue trace straight back to KKK and other White Nationalist groups going back a century and more. Indeed, my fellow MRAs may want to ponder that maybe I knew what prejudice against a wrongly reviled group looked like before I became an MRA.
PS: If you approach me with “there’s something to” The DaVinci Code, I will abandon all Christian morality and beat you over the head with a King James Bible until you submit to Islam in a synagogue.
I’m sure the scumbag Roosh and his cultlike goon followers is laughing all the way to the bank, although I do support his free speech rights. Just as I use my right to tell people he’s a fraud and may indeed be colluding with some of the press. It wouldn’t surprise me in the last, I know how these games are played, and it’s pretty clear that someone wants to work hard to tarnish the “MRA” name further as more and more people begin to hear it for the first time during this election year.
If you look in the Bible–which you may notice I rarely quote from, because I find that to be an obnoxious habit without a really strong reason–one of the most cited parables is the one about the Good Samaritan.
You probably know it, it’s the one about how a priest and a member of a respected group and other supposedly good people passed by an injured man in a ditch, who’d been waylaid by muggers. But a Samaritan finally came along and rescued him. Classic tale, right? There’s whole charities named after the Samaritans, although they’re an actual ethnic group still around today.
In other words, Jesus used a religious outsider, who followed a Bible different from the one he himself used, as an example of righteous behavior. In doing so he shamed those who had questioned him. If you’re some flavor of Christian or at least a Jesus fan, you might want to ponder that.
I love that exchange at the end:
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Galileo was provably wrong. That’s one thing nobody seems to know, but it matters.
By comparison, odds are you’ve been told a narrative about Galileo that was–empirically, objectively–a bunch of bullshit.
The phony story goes sort of like this: Galileo proposed the Earth goes around the Sun, he proved he was right, and in retaliation he was tortured and jailed by the Pope, the Catholic Church, and Christianity in general for daring to challenge the Bible and how the Bible supposedly declares the sun goes around the Earth.
Most of this appears to be 19th or 20th Century Anglican agitprop that is nowadays popular among both Protestant Christians who still harbor animosity toward the Vatican, and among atheists who pride themselves on their love of the empirical but just unquestioningly believe anything that makes Christians or other theists look bad. All without bothering to ask if what they were told is true or not.
Galileo was not the first to suggest the Earth went around the sun. In fact that idea was many centuries old and was easily found in materials that the Church kept in its universities and libraries. Almost all universities at the time were built by, and maintained by, the Church back then–not because they demanded that privilege, but hardly anyone else was doing it and spreading education was considered the proper Christian thing to do.
By the way, are there Catholic schools in your area of the world? That’s because the Church always believed in education for anyone who wanted it, even non-Christians, and was running schools and science labs before your government was. (And it still does today.)
Anyway, most astronomical observatories at the time were also under Church control–NOT because they demanded it, but because they were among the few BUILDING observatories and supporting astronomers at all. You know the calendar we all use? That exists because during Galileo’s lifetime, Pope Gregory XIII had got tired of the fact that the calendar seemed to be slowly drifting year over year and asked astronomers at Europe’s various universities to come up with a way to fix it. They did. It’s called the Gregorian calendar and we are still using it. I mention this solely because I’m tired of the godawful lie that somehow the Church was actively discouraging astronomy or science when in fact it was the main source of science in this and numerous other areas. (Speaking on the Church’s behalf, you’re welcome science fans.)
Anyway, got all that? Heliocentrism was a curiosity, an odd idea that no one thought much of. Not some offensive notion that infuriated Bible-clutching theologians and Bishops. Although surely some at the time thought it was a dumb idea and some may have harbored a suspicion it was an evil idea–as always happens when large numbers of people encounter an idea that’s new to them.
At the time of Galileo, Copernicus, a very Catholic monk, had done some fascinating work suggesting it made more sense that the Earth ran around the sun. He felt insecure about his proof, and only circulated it to a very limited number of people. This is not uncommon among people involved in scientific pursuits, although there was at least one political worry: he lived very near the where Protestantism at that time held most of the political power, and they were known to go after Catholics for bringing up points they didn’t like.
Galileo was younger, not a monk, less concerned about politics, and by all accounts was oblivious to offending people, and he broadly concurred with the Copernican view. He was also, however, famous for infuriating most people he encountered, having a very abrasive personality. Yet a number of people took a liking to him, including at least one Bishop who loved science that he befriended—a Bishop who later became the Pope by the way. Remember that point.
Galileo was very much in the habit of declaring himself smarter than everyone around him and that people who disagreed with him were dumb. He was also in the habit of making pronouncements that ran close to theological, because amongst other things he tended to speak as if he was irrefutable even on matters outside his own competence.
This is important: over the centuries Christians (and Jews and Muslims by the way) had increasingly gotten frustrated with the fact that observable reality sometimes seemed to bump heads with theological ideas. This is why the Scientific Method was invented and slowly promulgated. It was essentially a bargain: if you’re acting like a scientist, make no theological pronouncements. What you observe in science, you call it what you observe scientifically, and you don’t try to tell people what it means theologically. That’s not the scientist’s job.
Galileo had been warned once already about his tendency for sweeping pronouncements like this, so much so that he was told to shut up by some Bishops near him. But eventually he got frustrated, and when his old friend became Pope Paul V, he decided to appeal to that same Pope: The Pope was actually curious about the idea, having heard word of Copernicus’s ideas, and he invited–yes, invited–Galileo to make a presentation on the idea. He asked Galileo to show all sides and not stake out a position, especially a theological one.
Galileo, to put it shortly, wrote it in such a way that it was obvious advocacy, continued to suggest that any other position was idiotic, and wrote it in a way that easily misinterpreted as a direct personal insult to his old friend now the Pope. Many, including the Pope, read it and were pretty sure Galileo had just called his old friend, the former Bishop now Pope, a simpleton.
To add further injury to the insult, at least one of Galileo’s claims was irrefutably disproven. For his theory to be true as he formulated it, the tides had to work in a way that it was easily provable that they did not. Other scientists well-respected pointed this out: Galileo’s theory did not match observable reality. Galileo didn’t have a proposed fix, but had endlessly insisted he was right anyway. (Many frankly think today he may have been some level of brilliant autistic.)
To add further insult to the entire thing, the Lutherans and Calvinists publicly mocked the Pope for even indulging this heliocentrist idea. Meaning the Pope had political embarrassment on top of personal anger on the whole affair.
The Church eventually convicted Galileo of meddling in theology after being told not to, ordered him to shut up, and put him under house arrest–where he was given a servant, living expenses, and was free to pursue his research as he pleased for the rest of his life as long as he stopped publishing on something that was both scientifically and theologically false. Galileo continued his other work in peace for about another decade, unmolested.
Arguably, Pope Paul V acted badly. One might note that most Popes are not Saints and Paul V wasn’t one. He obviously took some of this personally, and he was obviously exasperated by his old friend. He was also politically embarrassed.
in the 20th Century, in looking back on it, John Paul II and Vatican researchers declared that while there were obvious problems with Galileo’s work at the time, the affair was handled poorly, and that personal friction and political friction had led the Church to overreact to something.
Now, tell me: why did you believe the fairy tale that Galileo was tortured and jailed for contradicting the Bible or Church teaching? Why is it not good enough to note that Galileo’s ideas were scientifically questionable at the time, and that he was actually provably wrong about some things which gave other scientists reason to suspect him? And that politics and personal friendships entered into an embarrassing affair, but in the end they basically slapped him and then gave him a lab to work in and an assistant where he was left alone to his work thereafter?
Why is it necessary to stand by the fairy tale that it was nothing but ranting religious zealots out to destroy science?
If you believed the tale of Galileo in a dungeon being tortured, ask yourself: why did you uncritically accept a fairy tale? Do the Catholics deserve so much of your scorn, that you’ll just repeat anything uncritically about them if it makes them look bad? Wasn’t the actual embarrassment of the whole thing enough?
*Update*: I have started a Twitter hashtag with further reading on this topic, which I’m otherwise tired of writing about. So if you seek more e on my point of view oon this, just see #ShariaConspiracy.
*Update 2*: OK I didn’t start the hashtag I thought I did. A few older entries there but they’re all intresting too.
For about fifteen years now, there’s been a burgeoning industry in scaring people about “creeping Sharia” and Islam and Muslims in general. It’s a lucrative line of work for some. Years ago I used to argue with those people, and I thought those days were over, but recently they were visited upon me again, unbidden, among many, many of my colleagues.
Most recently had a friend, whom I have long respected, tell me other friends of mine should be killed. Why? Because they follow Sharia law. Her literal words: “If you support Sharia, you belong in a grave.”
Another then asserted point blank that Sharia means theocracy. When I told him that’s inaccurate, I was told I was full of it.
I got upset with my friends, but I guess it will be for a higher power to say which of us gave in to emotion first. But I’m sorry, sharia isn’t theocracy, although it can be used by a theocracy. It is a vast system of guidelines and rules for the faithful that varies wildly from country to country, region to region, language to language, culture to culture, and sect to sect, as well as generation to generation. In other words, there is no one thing you can call Sharia, it depends on your local sect.
But generally, I find people will hear none of this. Their personal opinion, their emotions, some sensationalist reporting, and some dodgy statistics are enough I guess. That’s how such conversations have seemed to me for me over 15 years now. If the flaw is in me, I swear I have no idea how to correct it, because I think I see the other side’s argument but every time I try I just see what look to me like logical fallacies and bad or at least sloppy assumptions and generalizations.
It’s interesting to me how this happens: I spent years on this blog noting conspiracy theories about Jews and debunking lies about them, and nobody said I was secretly a Jew. In fact I was sometimes complimented for my “bravery” in defending Jews from libel. I was an atheist in those days, although my opinion on how very wrong it is to lie about Jews and Judaism never changed.
If you told me Baptists regularly beat and abuse their children, I’d tell you you were full of it. If someone told me Mormons secretly are plotting to overthrow the US government to put some heir to Joseph Smith in the White House, I’d probably have some tart words for them, irrespective of how I view Mormonism. If you told me Hindus practice human sacrifice on Christians, I’d probably get angry and tell you you’re an idiot. If you told me Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to steal money and torture animals, I’d probably be pretty steamed, irrespective of how I feel about Jehovah’s Witness.
Most people would not look askance at me for any of this, nor would they suggest I have a sinister agenda.
But defend the Muslims by correcting mis-statements about Sharia Law, Islamic history, or non-authoritative, pseudoscholarly analyses of their holy book? Or question pseudoscholars who make their living driving a relentless message of negativity about over a billion people? You can’t do it without a fight. I’ve lost multiple friends over this issue and I guess that’ll be a recurring theme in my life, because I don’t support shitting on religions with lies, irrespective of whether I agree with that religion or not.
You’re entitled to disagree with me all you want of course, but if you play victim and pretend I’m being the “PC thought police” by repudiating your words? Don’t expect me to have any respect for that. You’re hiding behind shallow rhetoric and nothing more with such claims; nobody muzzled you or said anything except that you’re wrong and being a jerk.
It’s always painful for me to write about things like this because Islam in my view is a false faith (although I don’t say there’s no truth at all in it) and it’s not a religion I want for my children. I don’t want them converting to Judaism or Hinduism either. And I certainly wouldn’t want them to be atheists, as I view atheism as incoherent and silly.
Indeed, these days, while I know perfectly well that not all atheists are like this, there’s a deeply anti-intellectual atheist movement, espoused by men like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens, that I consider just another secularist cult. This group of men is known as the “Four Horsemen” (just Google them and don’t make me explain it), and I call the adoring, shallow followers of those shallow, intellectually vapid men the Horsemanites.
But even if you were a Horsemanite, I still would not support lying about you, or your leaders. If you told me Richard Dawkins tortures small animals sexually, I’d call you an ass.
Bearing false witness against others, even (or especially) people you don’t like, is a horrible thing to do. And refusing to admit that maybe there’s something wrong with what you’ve said about innocent people is one of the signs of cultish or ideological thinking to me.
I used to bitterly fight the likes of Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch and Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs, but I finally buried the hatchet with Robert and others in his circle; we agreed to disagree and even exchanged regrets over getting too personal over things. But it remains that I do not approve of their message or what they do or how they do it.
The Sharia Paranoia movement is a big industry that sells lots of books, DVDs, keeps many blogs and “news” sites active, and keeps a lot of people in business with clickbait and with relentlessly hostile interpretations. I recognize they have a right to do this. I just don’t have to approve of it, and I don’t.
They of course don’t need my approval, and neither do you. But you can fully expect me to continue pointing out the problem, or to at least not hang around while you’re repeating that foul industry’s talking points.
*Update 2*: By the way, Catholics don’t consider Jehovah’s Witness or Mormons to even be Christians, any more than we consider Muslims to be. I don’t say it to be mean. It’s just true. Once again, why would that change anything I’m saying?
If you look in the Bible–which you may notice I rarely quote from, because I find that to be an obnoxious habit without a really strong reason–one of the biggest parables is the one about the Good Samaritan. You probably read it, it’s the one about how the priest and a lawyer and other respected people passed by an injured man in a ditch, but a Samaritan rescued him. One thing most people don’t know is that the Samaritans were a hated radical religious minority with what the Jews considered false scriptures and false teachings. Jesus used a religious heretic who followed a Bible different from the one he used as an example of righteous behavior, shaming those who had questioned him. If you’re some flavor of Christian or at least a Jesus fan, you might want to ponder that.
I’m not a Mormon. If you peddle Mormon hate I don’t want to play with you. I’m not a Hindu, but if you peddle Hindu hate I don’t want to play with you. Ditto for any serious major other religion. Sorry if you don’t like it. Furthermore, if you want to rant at me and accuse me of things, save your breath and just stop reading me, remove me from your social media, etc. Thanks.
Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy