When everything is sexism , nothing is ? When everything is racism , nothing is ? When everything is mental illness , nothing is ?
My answer follows.
Sexism means that ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL, you treat a person differently because of his or her gender.
Racism means that ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL, you treat a person differently because of his or her ethnicity.
Mental illness means you suffer from a condition which makes your life significantly harder than those of members of the general population.
The definitions of words stem from the intuitive understanding of ordinary folks and not from the wishes of ideologists.
I think that what I wrote corresponds very well to how the man (or woman) in the street understands these terms.
This has important consequences.
Let us consider that in the field of mechanical engineering, there are 20% of women and 80% of men. According to most feminists, there should be 50% of women having good jobs, otherwise sexism is at play. This is bullshit. The right proportion of hired females under those circumstances should be 20%.
By trying to force 50% (as they do in Germany and Austria), they unfairly give a female candidate much more chances to get employed just because she’s got two X-Chromosomes.
If feminists want 50% of women having jobs in that field, they should encourage more girls to orientate their studies accordingly instead of discriminating qualified men.
To the dismay of my liberal friends, I also believe that Arabs calling an innocent child in French suburbs “Jewish bastard” or “white bastard” are racists.
A lot of innocent Arabs suffer from discriminations in France but there are also Arabs who attack innocent white people out of racial hatred.
I’m an egalitarian. If I had a white-skinned son and an adopted black-skinned Lesbian daughter who had the same qualifications, I would like them to have EXACTLY THE SAME CHANCES.
Do you want to be bullied, ridiculed and dehumanised by a LIBERAL culture warrior?
Say to him or her any of the following things.
1) Systematic racism against afro-americans is alive and well in America in 2016. This shouldn’t be tolerated. But there are also innocent white kids who get bullied and battered just because of their skin colour. This should be called racial hatred and equally combated.
2) Nowadays, there is still an intolerable level of homophobia and misogyny in the Western World. We must not deny this but eagerly fight it. However,in 2016 the oppression of gays and females is MUCH worse in Muslim countries. They (and liberal Muslims who defend them) are much more in need of our support than Western females and homosexuals.
4) A man whose life has been destroyed by a false rape accusation is as much in need of our help and compassion as a woman whose life has been destroyed by a true rape.
5) While assessing the existence of real discriminations in the here and now in a given society (say America), you shouldn’t directly compare the whole groups of non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, blacks and Asians because these populations can be extremely different in terms of poverty, culture and many other factors.
Instead, while investigating academic success, unjustified police arrests, discriminations etc., you should compare homogeneous groups such as:
a) wealthy whites and wealthy blacks coming from wealthy neighbourhoods
b) poor whites and poor blacks coming from poor neighbourhoods
c) qualified men and qualified women applying for academic positions in philosophy or mechanical engineering.
6) Anti-black racism isn’t only a Western phenomenon. There are awful cases of persecutions of black Africans in Arabic countries as well. This is something progressive Arabs clearly expose and fight. Curiously, this is something progressive Westerners choose to completely ignore because it destroys their most fundamental beliefs.
7) Race-based affirmative action is unjust and inevitably upholds artificial divisions of humankind.
Instead, it should be replaced by a set of three measures
i) wealth-based affirmative action
ii) any enterprise must have the same amount of employees belonging to the ethnic minority as the amount of that ethnic minority among qualified candidates.
iii) public education in poor neighbourhoods must be extremely strengthened and improved through the intervention of the State. Much more money needs to be spent in these areas.
8) Discriminating a person because he or she is obese, unattractive or behaves oddly due to a mental health condition isn’t any less immoral than discriminating him or her based on race, gender or sexual orientation.
9) Stealing the wallet of a person swinging it around in the street is as immoral as stealing it from his or her closed pockets.
But given the bad mentality of a large number of people, it might not be wise to hold it in one’s hands while walking down certain streets.
Raping a sexily dressed and attractive woman is as wrong, egregious and wicked as raping a “modestly” dressed woman.
But given the bad mentality of a large number of men, it might not be wise to dress oneself provocatively under certain circumstances.
Liberalism, rationality and morality
I want to make it perfectly clear that what I wrote does NOT concern all liberals, but only the true “culture warriors” among them.
These people view themselves as the champions of truth, reason, decency and intelligence.
Actually, my numerous interactions with them have shown me they aren’t any different from nasty religious fundamentalists aggressively defending their cherished dogmas, without evidence and often even in the face of evidence.
I consider myself a progressive Christian because I believe that the Bible contains contradictions and errors and that we need to use our God-given conscience in order to figure out what is right and what is wrong in a complex world and to make moral progress.
And this all too often leads me to think outside the box, as the content of this post proves.
Frankly, I am ready to give up any of the nine “heretical” beliefs I laid out if you give me compelling rational arguments against them.
Insulting and dehumanising me would be definitely most entertaining (to me) 🙂
Alas, it is unlikely to change my mind in the least.
It is particularly embarrassing that many of these self-righteous “leftists” are self-professed Christians.
By bullying their respectful opponents and treating them like the scum of the world, they are dishonouring Christ who taught us to even love our enemy.
(I argued elsewhere that this principle stands at the very centre of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth).
This naturally entails trying to put yourself in the shoes of a person experiencing injustices and act as you would like one acts towards you if you were in his or her situation.
Pseudo-progressives, on the other hand, believe that moral progress is all about acting in accordance with politically correct dogmas nobody ought to question.
Currently, these alleged “sacred truths” can be summed up in the following way
“Oppression almost always stems from heterosexual white males who attack the right of women, homosexuals and non-whites.”
(Of course, “whites” and “non-whites” are artificial (and incoherent) constructions they more or less unconsciously uphold. This shall be the topic of another post).
Now, I certainly wouldn’t deny that misogyny, homophobia and systematic racism are still huge problems (especially in religious conservative or fundamentalist circles, at least as far as the first two ones are concerned).
But I think it is nonsensical and extremely offensive to pretend that poverty and unjust economical structures aren’t in and of themselves a significant cause of oppression.
I also believe it is wrong for these people to pretend to follow the teachings of Martin Luther King while ignoring an essential part of it.
Martin Luther King on poverty
While describing the way in which annoying aspects of the message of prophets are rewritten by the mighty of a society, liberal Christian scholar Thom Stark considered the case of Martin Luther King in modern America.
And we do this today. Martin Luther King Jr. was a notorious gadfly. He is remembered today solely for his role in the civil rights movement, but, especially in his later years, King was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, and spoke out often and dynamically against free-market capitalism. He said that the U.S. needs to honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society.
“There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question,
‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalist economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?” These are questions that must be asked.” King went on to call for a synthesis of capitalism and communism that involved nothing less than a total overhaul of the U.S. economic system. This is the King we don’t remember on Martin Luther King Day every year. And that is the purpose of Martin Luther King Day. King, whatever else he was, was an enemy to the power structures in the United States. The genius of declaring a national holiday in King’s honor is that the elites get to claim King as one of their own; they get to control, to a large degree, how we remember him. He was a dissenter from the establishment orthodoxy, but the establishment could hardly shut him out of the collective memory, and far less could they vilify him. So what they did was to call him “son” and thereby acquire the means to control howthe public remembers him.
In an article entitled “King’s final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle”, Stephanie Sieck further drives the point home.
King’s final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle
On Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, some will volunteer, some will attend celebrations of his life and legacy, some will do nothing at all. “I have a dream,” the title of King’s best known speech, will be repeated countless times, along with well-known stories about his commitment to nonviolence, his letters from a Birmingham jail, his marches against segregation and the bullet that ended his life on April 4, 1968.
But few will remember how King lived his last birthday, as he turned 39 on January 15, 1968.
According to accounts of the day retold by Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, King spent the day working on a campaign that he hoped would force Washington and the American public to acknowledge and resolve the problem of poverty for people of all races, religions and backgrounds in the United States. The Poor People’s Campaign was the agenda for the day, with a short break for birthday cake.
While King’s dream, the march on Washington and fight against segregation are well-known to children and adults now, fewer are aware that King spent the last months of his life fighting poverty.
When he died in Memphis, he was there to support fair wages and union representation for Memphis sanitation workers.
Rebecca Burns, who wrote about King’s last days, death, and burial in “Burial for a King,” said King’s antiwar and anti-poverty legacy are overshadowed in part because their solutions are more elusive.
“It’s a much more complex issue – it’s not, pardon my choice of words, as black and white as voting rights or where you sit on a bus,” Burns said. “It’s harder to talk about that in sound bites.”
Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, said that King’s dreams of economic justice remain unrealized, but not because they are impossible to achieve.
“It is easier to celebrate King as a civil rights leader, because that was the easier part of his vision to realize,” Carson said. “The southern Jim Crow system was a regional anachronism rather than a national problem – the gulf between rich and poor – that we still prefer to ignore.”
The Poor People’s Campaign reached out to poor whites, many of whom felt most threatened by the civil rights movement’s successes in black equality, as well as impoverished migrant farm workers who harvested the nation’s food and Native Americans who languished on reservations. Injustice anywhere, King said, was a threat to justice everywhere.
Race-based and gender-based affirmative action
This leads me to the topic of affirmative action and its usefulness in addressing injustices.
In another post, I argued that affirmative action should first and foremost be based on the wealth and well-being of individuals.
Pseudo-progressive passionately disagree and believe it should always only be based on gender and race even if this leads one to privilege a wealthy woman over a poor man in quite a few cases.
Richard D. Kahlenberg is an American scholar having spent considerable time analysing affirmative action in higher education.
On the whole, university leaders much prefer the prevailing system of racial preference in admission, which ignores issues of economic inequality and instead focuses, as Walter Benn Michaels acidly observes, on “what color skin the rich kids have.” (One study found that almost nine in ten African Americans at selective colleges are middle or upper class— though the whites were even wealthier.)
Recruiting fairly privileged students of color is far less expensive than including low-income and working-class kidsof all races. While higher education’s vigorous defense of affirmative action on one level represents a sincere desire for greater racial equality, it has another less virtuous side to it, as racial preferences avoid the hard work of addressing deeply rooted inequalities and instead provide what Stephen Carter has called “racial justice on the cheap.”
Most notably, in the late 1960s, before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrestled with the issue of how best to remedy our nation’s history of discrimination. On the one hand, he argued in his 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait that compensation is due to black Americans. “It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years,” he wrote.
In the book, and in subsequent testimony before the Kerner Commission in 1967, King called for “compensatory consideration,” noting, “if a man is entered at the starting line in a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some impossible feat in order to catch up with his fellow runner.” But instead of urging adoption of a special program for blacks, as some civil rights leaders had done, King called for a color-blind Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged:
“While Negroes form the vast majority of America’s disadvantaged, there are millions of white poor who would also benefit from such a bill.”
“It is a simple matter of justice that America, in dealing creatively with the task of raising the Negro from backwardness, should also be rescuing a large stratum of the forgotten white poor.”
King knew that class-based approaches would disproportionately benefit victims of historic discrimination without violating the color-blind ideal he had famously articulated in the 1963 March on Washington.
Given these political realities, it is perhaps not surprising that the father of racial preferences was not Lyndon Johnson or Martin Luther King and instead was Richard Nixon. In 1969, Nixon proposed the Philadelphia Plan that imposed racial hiring quotas on the city’s construction industry. Bayard Rustin, the great civil rights leader and friend of labor who planned the 1963 March on Washington, was suspicious: why would Nixon, who was no great supporter of civil rights, support a policy of racial preferences? Rustin charged that Nixon was using the Philadelphia Plan to “deliberately throw black and white workers at each other’s throats.”
I think this should give a pause to all of us truly interested in genuine social justice .
In 2015, the real victims of slavery and segregation are mainly those blacks living under the threshold of poverty.
Race-based positive discrimination overwhelmingly favours economically privileged blacks and latinos at their expense and that of poor whites.
Whites of lower classes, in turn, are all too easily lured into far-right movements such as the Tea-Party or the personality cult of xenophobic billionaire Donald Trump.
It seems clear to me that privileging wealth-based or class-based affirmative action over race-based affirmative action (without necessarily always giving up on the latter) would lead to a far more just and stable society, as Martin Luther King would have desired.
In 2016, in a Western secular context, it doesn’t demand any moral courage to stand for the rights of Afro-Americans unjustly killed, homosexuals being bullied or women victim of sexism.
For there is a large consensus that those things are egregiously wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated.
You probably don’t need to be a Christian in order to recognise the wisdom in the following words of Jesus of Nazareth:
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
There is no great moral merit in defending values the large majority of your peers agree with.
It does require, however, a tremendous courage to criticise politically correct dogmas.
For many pseudo-progressives react like outraged religious fundamentalists and do not hesitate to resort to emotional bullying and unfair characterisations of the arguments of their opponents.
I know that it is very unlikely I could ever change their minds and I don’t even want to try it.
For all other readers, I think it might be worth considering what follows.
In 2016, the mighty of this world (i.e. the billionaires and millionaires governing Western oligarchies) can, by and large, cope with a black leader (such as Barack Obama) or a female leader (such as Angela Merkel and probably Hilary Clinton) who uphold neo-liberalism, Western imperialism and do not call into question their scandalous economic privileges.
“It’s not a radical concept that maybe the United States government should represent working families rather than a handful of billionaires.”
No, it isn’t a radical concept at all, indeed.
But it is a lot harder than posting pictures in favour of gay marriage or abortion on your facebook account, getting a lot of “likes” and thinking in turn you are a noble hero contributing to saving our world.
I guess that if I wrote such a long post, it is only because I am an evil heterosexual white man who takes pleasure in oppressing women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals (and devouring small children alive).
Therefore, you don’t have to bother about refuting my arguments, let alone trying to fairly understand and describe my actual positions.
This is probably gonna be the most embarrassing post I’ve ever written.
If I were allowed to “come out”, I’d say I can identify myself very well with many things this kid (who shares my condition) had to say.
I particularly like the end of his video where he reminds people that those children acting strangely and inappropriately have feelings too and that you shouldn’t put them down due to features they’re not responsible for.
If we, as PROGRESSIVES, want to strive for a just society where discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation no longer exists, we should also combat the systematic discrimination and bullying of those having a peculiar mental condition, the obese, disabled… Of course, doing this might be A BIT more difficult than just putting the colours of the rainbow on one’s Facebook page in order to celebrate gay marriage and to show how “cool” and “modern” you are.
I am sickened by the endless number of pseudo-progressives focusing all their time and energy on institutional white racism (or remnants thereof), gay rights and misogyny while callously ignoring the suffering of children being battered because they’re white, men falsely accused of having committed a rape, divorced fathers missing their children, a qualified obese person being rejected after each interview or autistic, psychotic and hyperactive individuals being segregated owing to their “abnormal” mental features and behaviours.
“And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?”
There is a clear general pattern which emerges here: there is no great merit in engaging in moral behaviour a large part of the society you’re living in takes for granted.
There was clearly a time where standing for gay rights was a revolutionary act.
I certainly still believe this should be done but it irks me seeing so many self-righteous people who feel great about themselves because they do so while at the same time passionately despising those whose physical or behavioural appearance do not fit societal norms.
For me, being progressive often involves being a lonely warrior challenging unjust states of affairs which are considered perfectly legitimate.
It doesn’t demand a lot of courage to assert one’s support for gay marriage while bashing Conservatives opposing it. You’re going to find countless people joining you and admiring you for doing so.
It can be much harder to fight the discrimination that people seen as unattractive face in the workplace and in their daily life.
It can be much harder to foster tolerance and acceptance towards individuals whose behaviour is perceived as weird or out of place because of conditions such as ADHD, autism, social anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and so on and so forth..
I really wish I’d see much more progressives waging war on these injustices.
(Disclaimer: Let me say from the start, I’m an atheist . . . I consider the Bible a literary fraud and that the characters discussed below never existed.)
Based on a general reading of the Bible, especially the section labeled the Old Testament, the Hebrew god Yahweh (given the Christian title God from the LXX) is portraited as a debauched immoral character, often lacking any ethical conscious while theologically (not Biblically), the figure of Satan unjustly condemned.
To illustrate my point, I’ll breakdown the Bible’s own characterizations God and Satan so the reader can see for him or herself who is really morally debauched (I have left out the Book of Revelation due to the fact that the narratives in this Biblical Book have not taken place, being projected to some apocalyptic future which is theological speculation). Below, is a short list, though any student of the Bible who has a concordance or Bible dictionary will be able to find many more.
Murders men, women, children, babies and the unborn indiscriminately (The Flood of Noah: Genesis 7) God: Yes Satan: No
Commands the Israelites to rape, slaughter, steal / pillage and enslave men, women and children. (The attack on the Midianites in Numbers 31) God: Yes Satan: No
Demands sexual mutilation as a sign of an agreement (Exodus 4:24 – 26 = Genesis 17: 11 -14) God: Yes Satan: No
Demands rape of female children and babies. (Numbers 31: 18 “But all the young (טף) girls ( נשים) who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.” God: Yes Satan: No
Loves precious metals over the lives of humanity. (Joshua 7: 15 & Joshua 7: 25) God: Yes Satan: No
Attacks and curses a talking snake for telling the truth then lies to Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3) God: Yes Satan: No
Demands individual human sacrifice. (The AkedahGenesis 22:1-2; The murder (sacrifice ?) of Jesus; See Gospels) God: Yes Satan: No
Demands the burning of entire cities (שָׂרַף בָּאֵשׁ” or “to burn with fire”) so he can enjoy smelling the smoke of human flesh. (Thus Joshua 6: 21 makes it a point to tell the Jewish reader of this epic that death was to be by “the edge of the sword” before the ritual / sacrificial burning in Joshua 6: 24 could take place.) God: Yes Satan: No
Is never presented in the Bible as a murderer. (Despite Jesus’ assertion in John 8: 44. In Job, (in Job 1: 6 ) tells us that fire fell from God and destroyed Jobs animals. In verse 19, wind causes the house to fall on Job’s young people and, just like the fire from Heaven, God controls all these acts of nature. While Job clearly states in 42: 11 thatit was God who did all the harm to Job, his wealth and his family: “Then came there to him all his brothers, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him,and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought on him.” This is again backed up by Job’s statement in 1: 21: Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there.The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”) God: No Satan: Yes
Commands a following spirits (be they Angels or Demons) to carry out the mass murders in a nation. (The Passover: Exodus 12:29) God: Yes Satan: No
Will torture people forever in the name of love. (Mark 9: 44, 46, & 48) God: Yes Satan: No M. Lies to his own believers in order to kill off anyone stupid enough to to trust him. (The longer ending of the Gospel of Mark 16: 9 – 20). God: Yes Satan: No N. Presented generally in the Bible as a known lair and murderer. God: Yes Satan: No
I think that in order to show that a Biblical passage is immoral, you’ve got to engage in a thorough exegesis (interpretation) of the text revealing that all likely meanings are morally problematic.
It is worth noting that Harry did nothing of the sort: he rather assumed that his interpretations portraying God as deeply evil are the correct ones without explaining us how he got there.
I find his other examples (which I left in black) much more questionable.
For instance, I don’t believe that male circumcision is necessarily harmful. There are many ways of interpreting Genesis 3 and I see no reason to believe that the silliest meaning (involving a speaking snake being cursed) is the correct one.
I did not, however, chose to go into an endless dispute over the meaning of the passages I do not view as immoral.
Instead, I decided to point out the main flaw in Harry’s logics, namely his fundamentalist assumption that the Bible must be judged as an inerrant self-consistent Scripture rather than as a set of religious books written under various historical, cultural and theological contexts.
If we were born under the same circumstances, we’d certainly have thought and behaved like them.
I did mock some beliefs of ancient Greeks as I was an immature teenager. But since then I’ve fortunately grown up.
I find your response very odd.
First off, there is no proof that the Biblical history from Genesis to Solomon is pure fiction. William Propp’s commentaries on Exodus, along with the works of John Van Seters and TL Thompson on the Patriarchs with the fate of King David and Solomon sealed by the Tell Dan Inscription (reading it correctly using the supplied word dividers proves it does not mention “House of David”) has re-enforce the fact that (unlike an ancient Greek texts), the Hebrew alphabetic Semitic script is late; thus there is no trace of one Old Testament verse prior to 250 BCE.
Tom Stark is little more than a liberal Christian as both his writings and lectures reveal (after all, he still teaches at Emanuel School of Religion . . . ). If Stark comes down too hard on the Hebrew Bible, he’ll find that a secular job will be his only finical salvation. His Seminary clearly states: “Emmanuel Christian Seminary is affiliated with the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. These churches are known for their continued commitment to biblical preaching and teaching.”
Though Stark’s book was published in 2011, he fails (more likely, refuses) to cite Propp’s Anchor Bible Commentary on Exodus (final volume published, 2006) or any of TL Thompson’s or John Van Seter’s works from the 1970’s and 80’s. More importantly, while his book deals with human sacrifice in chapter 5, he seems to be totally unaware of Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s major 2002 Oxford dissertation: King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities, Walter de Grutyer, Berlin, 2004. I could go on, but I’ll let these books expose his real methodology . . . how to keep his God (with egg / evil on his face) looking good. Stark is a good P.R . man, but not good enough!
You stated, “I really think you’re giving atheism a bad name.” How would you know? From your comments on other blogs, and, like Thom Stark, you seem to be a liberal Christian. The last minister I talked to who was a member of Stark’s Churches of Christ was dogmatic in telling me that his church is the only true church founded by Jesus himself! Since Thom Stark links himself with this church on his book’s website ( http://humanfacesofgod.com/ ), he and Father Tom of the Greek Orthodox Church should fight it out for a cash first.
If you have a problem with my post, then, using the Biblical text, I would challenge you to point out where it’s wrong; after all, I simply based it on the Bible.
Finally, this blog is called Debunking Christianity for a reason. I rest my case.
Hey, thanks for your answer.
Sorry if I sounded rude.
My main problem with your writing is that you keep talking about THE God of the Bible which entails that the Biblical authors never contradict each other about the moral character of God.
For example, I consider it very far-fetched to pretend that vindictive psalms where the authors pray for the violent demise of the children of their foes are compatible with the command to love our enemies in the New Testament.
To the best of my knowledge, Christian fundamentalists and anti-theists are the only ones who make that claim.
Finally, I consider it very problematic to judge ancient people according to our modern criteria. As theologian Randal Rauser put it:
“I’m willing to concede that there are vestiges of tradition in the ancient Hebrew scriptures that take an affirmative position toward human sacrifice. Does it follow, as Loftus (a militant atheist leading the blog DebunkingChristianity) claims, that we can learn nothing from the cumulative Hebrew tradition as recorded in Scripture? Of course not. Indeed, the claim is completely ridiculous.
To see why, switch your focus from the ancient Hebrews to the ancient Greeks. Let’s take one Greek, the great Aristotle, as our example, and let’s just consider a couple of his beliefs from science, politics and ethics. To begin with, Aristotle believed that the human brain functioned to cool the blood, venting heat like the radiator in a car. Today we would consider this belief wildly false, even laughable. Second example, Aristotle also defended the use of slaves, describing them in his Politics as useful in the manner of domestic animals. This is a shockingly crude and immoral position. Does it follow that we should conclude we can learn nothing from Aristotle? Of course not. The very notion is absurd. What we do, instead, is judiciously read Aristotle, appropriating the wheat and sweeping away the chaff.
Sadly, it is common to find atheists like Loftus crudely dismissing the Hebrew tradition, even as they selectively read and appropriate the Hellenistic tradition. This is completely inconsistent and shows a deep bias against the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
Do Aristotle’s wrong beliefs about slavery mean he didn’t have deep moral insights in other respects?
Anti-theists engage in propaganda and emotional bullying with the hope of deconverting as many religious believers as they can. But if you manage to separate their real arguments from the hateful rhetoric enveloping them, they often prove to be incredibly weak.
I’ve already exposed one fundamental flaw of the New Atheism (also-called Anti-Theism): their failure to appreciate the fact that the entity they call Religion (with a capital R) is an incredibly diverse phenomenon.
NO, you should consider every specific denomination and compare its own performance and problems with respect to science,sexism, racism or homophobia.
It is silly to say to a liberal Methodist defending Gay marriage: “Get out of here hateful bigot!” just because he’s an American Christian, and American Christians have on average a low view of homosexuals.
(What follows is his post I quoted while emphasising certain sentences).
Jerry Coyne says I am wrong about creationism, misogyny and homophobia
Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True (both blog and book) didn’t like my recent posts about the link between creationism, sexism, and homophobia. In a recent post, he argues that I have made a logical fallacy and risk miring the battle against creationism in the ‘atheist wars’ over feminism.
Jerry introduced the post by saying some nice things about me, so I’ll return the compliment: I owe Jerry a great deal. Until I read his book, despite having not been to church in eight years I still thought it made sense to say “evolution is only a theory”. Although at that point I thought evolution was probably right, I had no idea how much evidence there is, nor why my understanding of the term ‘theory’ was wrong-headed. Thanks to him I entered the world of evolutionary science, and my life is the richer for it. And, as Jerry himself points out, he’s been a frequent supporter of my writing and I wouldn’t be as successful a blogger as I am without that patronage.
I sort of appreciate the sentiment of Jerry’s opening sentence—”It’s never a pleasure to criticize the views of someone I admire”—but actually I see no reason why this should be an unpleasant enterprise. One of the best things about my post-church life is that I now feel free to disagree with people without automatically making them my enemies. It’s also possible that I am mistaken about this, in which case I should be glad he’s pointed it out.
The title of Jerry’s post is “Does creationism matter more because it’s connected with misogyny and homophobia?” When you phrase the question like that, I struggle to see how the answer can be anything other than “yes”. Misogyny and homophobia, Jerry and I agree, are unqualified ills. If you take something that’s already bad and add misogyny and homophobia, you make it even worse. I didn’t say (and I do not believe) that if creationism were not homophobic or misogynistic there would be insufficient reason to oppose it. I did argue that the homophobia and misogyny that creationism involves are more pressing matters, and it seems Jerry agrees on this point. Near the end of the post, he writes “In fact, oppression of women and of gays are matters of greater import than is the teaching of creationism, and if I could wave a magic wand I’d make the first two disappear before the third”, which might leave some readers wondering where exactly he and I differ.
Jerry says I’ve made a logical fallacy, which is always a handy shortcut making your opponent look bad. If I’ve made a logical fallacy, I am objectively wrong. This is no mere difference of opinion, or difference of values, which might take longer to sort out or even be irreconcilable. I have made a fallacy, and I am a phallus.
Except that I don’t think I have. Jerry says it’s the underlying cause of all three that we need to oppose, and that was exactly my point in “Why creationism matters“. Possibly I didn’t make this sufficiently clear, in which case I’m glad for the opportunity to do so. We must be tough on creationism and tough on the causes of creationism. Jerry is right. Sort of.
The underlying cause of creationism, homophobia, and misogyny, says Jerry, is religion, and it is religion we must oppose. And here, I suspect, it is Jerry whose logic is flawed. Clearly, not all religion is all of these things, although much (perhaps most) of it is. Some religious people are among the most vocal opponents of creationism, and for some their faith is an extra reason to oppose the subjugation of women and gay people. Some of those people are among this blog’s most vocal supporters. So we’re going to need a different reason to oppose all religion, because this one is not fit for purpose.
Biblical literalism, on the other hand, is a root cause of all three of the problems at hand. The problem is the way creationists read the Bible. It promotes not just creationism, patriarchy, and gay-bashing, but also the denial of history, the enthusiastic acceptance of immorality, and an irrational rejection of opposing evidence. It is an intellectual black hole. But not all religion is Biblical literalism. I am (if you’ll forgive the term) agnostic on the question of whether the world would be better off if there were no religion at all. My hunch is that it probably would, but there isn’t enough data to be sure. Anyone who claims with certainty that religion must be annihilated for the good of humanity is taking a faith position. Which is somewhat ironic.
In my follow up post, “Creationism is inherently homophobic and misogynistic“, I made a somewhat stronger claim, but I still don’t think I made a logical fallacy. The argument here was this: the Biblical creation myths themselves contain verses which are anti-women and anti-gay. Now I’m not going to say there’s only one possible interpretation of those verses, because only fundamentalists think that way. But I did argue that if you interpret those verses using the same hermeneutic that creationists use to interpret the surrounding text, then you reach nasty conclusions. And I backed this up by empirically showing that those are, indeed, the very conclusions that creationists often come to.
The most trenchant criticism of that post, funnily enough, came from a Christian. Regular reader and commenter Kevin Long pointed out that I was expecting logical consistency from a group of people who have black belts in holding internally contradictory beliefs.
You’re thinking too logically here. Religion is not particularly logical. People are not particularly logical or theoretical about these things. People don’t usually haul out their beliefs and inspect them item by item. Most people are handed a set of beliefs early on in life, and then they just run with them, accepting the whole thing, but adapting bits when they need to. Most of these beliefs are rather fuzzy. Your gay Creationist friend is an example of that, and that type of thinking is, and has always been, the majority. This is actually an encouraging thing: people who are adaptable always outweigh people who are strictly inflexible.
That’s hardly a defence of creationism or of religion, but it does mean I could be more optimistic about the possibility of equality-affirming creationists. Of course, the problem, which Kevin’s post hints at, is that creationist beliefs actually rest on church traditions and authority, despite the fundamentalist insistence that they come purely from a plain reading of the Bible. Those church traditions are usually patriarchal and exclusionary. Kevin also pointed out that there are creationists who are not literalists with regard to other aspects of the Bible; my argument obviously wouldn’t hold in those cases. Our thread on the subject is worth a read.
I think the most important reason Jerry Coyne didn’t like my posts is that they failed the SJW sniff-test. And yes, at this point I must reveal (if it was not already clear) that I am one of those pesky feminist atheists threatening to divide the ‘movement’ with concerns over misogyny. Because what happens in this life matters more to me than what people think is going to happen after we die, I care more about equality, access to education, and social justice than I do about the nonexistence of gods.
Here follows my response to this post.
Simply amazing, Jonny!
If I didn’t fear to offend you, I’d be tempted to call you a prophet (in the noblest sense of the word).
There are so many true things you expressed here in such a stark and beautiful manner.
You (and Kevin) are entirely right that there is no consistent fundamentalist living under the sun.
Indeed, the Bible speaks with conflicting voices on many topics so that inerrantists have necessarily to distort some verses in order to take others at face value.
Their picking and choosing is (as you pointed out) strongly influenced by religious traditions and economical and social factors.
In the context of the American culture war, it is all too easy to use words in a fuzzy way without clearly laying out their meaning in order to make ideological points.
Over and over again, one can find people shouting: “Atheism has killed millions of people in the former Eastern block! Atheism is responsible for the Gulags!” and other loudly saying that “Religion is killing millions of people in the Middle East!”
For the sake of the argument, I will assume that atheism means the denial of God’s existence and religion any community based on supernatural beliefs (bypassing the difficulty of defining “natural” and “supernatural”).
If that’s the case, it is completely fallacious to say that atheism caused all the atrocities committed by these regimes in the past.
There’s absolutely no logical connection between denying God’s existence and thinking that such kinds of mass murders are morally warranted.
Countless atheists find these utterly abhorrent.
Likewise, it is completely fallacious to say that Religion causes misogyny and homophobia. There’s absolutely no logical connection between asserting “there is a supernatural realm” and “Gay people and women ought to be discriminated”. Countless religious folks find this utterly appalling.
While Jerry Coyne might be an incredibly brilliant scientist, he makes very blatant fallacies while wearing his armour of reckless culture warrior.
I appreciate your great modesty and the fact you care more about decency and love than about winning an argument.
I also think you’re entirely right to point out that the harmful moral beliefs of fundamentalists are worse than their teaching creation science.
Now I want to comment on the thought that the world would be better off without Religion .
I think it is a binary way to consider things.
As I wrote about Coyne’s initial defence of this idea:
“Basically his (implicit) reasoning was as follows:
1) It would be good to live in a world where creationism (and other anti-scientific beliefs) have wholly disappeared.
2) If ALL religions were to fade away, creationism would be no more.
3) Hence it is morally good to use our best techniques of psychological warfare to utterly destroy ALL religions.
Interestingly enough, French racists use exactly the same kind of reasoning:
1′) It would be good to live in a France where anti-white hatred no longer exists.
2′) If ALL blacks and Arabs were driven out of the land, anti-white hatred would be no more.
3′) Hence it is morally good to expel ALL blacks and Arabs from France.
Let us grant that both 1) and 1′) are true.
2) and 2′) are certainly technically true in both cases.
If ALL religions were to go away, there would be no longer any form of creationism, and if ALL blacks and Arabs no longer lived in France, anti-white hatred would be no more.
But it should be clear that a vital fact has been entirely left out of the picture in the second racist reasoning. There are countless blacks and Arabs (indeed the majority of them) who do not hate white folks and are completely respectful of French laws and customs.
It would be egregiously wrong to expel them as well for this would be a gruesome form of collective punishment.
Exactly the same thing can be said about Coyne’s reasoning.
There are countless moderate, progressive and even conservative religious believers who are not opposed to science and reason and who do not cause any harm to the society in which they live.
Advocating to systematically bully them out of their faith is equally egregious.“
(I can modify the example if you don’t deem it appropriate here. I do think it’s a good analogy which nicely illustrates the dangers of this type of reasoning).
I am convinced that the world would be better off if all fundamentalists who jettison their reason and moral intuitions for the sake of dogmas would give up their belief systems (and there are also many “secular” fundamentalists satisfying this definition).
But I see no reason to think that a thoroughly godless world would be better off than a world with religious people who are all driven by genuine love.
Let me end this long comment by saying one positive thing about Jerry: he has an adorable kitten he takes care of 🙂
Heroin addiction sent me to prison. White privilege got me out and to the Ivy League.
Second chances don’t come this easily to people of color.
Keri Blakinger, who spent more than two years in prison for drug possession, graduated from Cornell University after her release. (Courtesy of Keri Blakinger)
I was a senior at Cornell University when I was arrested for heroin possession. As an addict — a condition that began during a deep depression — I was muddling my way through classes and doing many things I would come to regret, including selling drugs to pay for my own habit. I even began dating a man with big-time drug connections that put me around large amounts of heroin. When police arrested me in 2010, I was carrying six ounces, an amount they valued at $50,000 — enough to put me in prison for up to 10 years. Cornell suspended me indefinitely and banned me from campus. I had descended from a Dean’s List student to a felon.
But instead of a decade behind bars and a life grasping for the puny opportunities America affords some ex-convicts, I got a second chance. In a plea deal, I received a sentence of 2½ years. After leaving prison, I soon got a job as a reporter at a local newspaper. Then Cornell allowed me to start taking classes again, and I graduated last month. What made my quick rebound possible?
It was prison that clued me in to just how much I benefit from systemic racism in our society. Until then, I hadn’t thought much about white privilege, which is exactly how privilege works – as a white person, I could ignore it. But sitting behind bars, I saw how privilege touches almost everything, especially the penal system.
It starts at the gate — or rather, who comes through the gate. When I moved into the state prison, the racial disparity was immediately obvious. I was surrounded disproportionately by people of color. While blacks represent just 13.2 percent of the New York State population, they are nearly half of the state’s prison population. Reasons for the disparities are clear: Nationally, blacks are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be searched, and, if arrested, likely to be sentenced to more time for the same crime. Although whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate and although whites are more likely to sell them, black youth are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than are their white counterparts.
Once in prison, minorities are at an even greater disadvantage. Some corrections officers (though hardly all) were overtly racist. Some used racial slurs. One was rumored to sport a tattoo of a black baby in a noose. Even if the rumor wasn’t true, it says something about the prison’s racial climate that prisoners believed it conceivable enough to repeat.
In one case, I watched prison officials send a black inmate to solitary confinement for wearing her pajamas at 10 a.m. Apparently, there was a little-known rule prohibiting inmates from wearing pajamas after a certain hour, despite the fact that they looked nearly identical to regular state-issued clothes. I never even thought about when to change out of my pajamas, so I’m sure I wore them after the appointed hour, too. But nobody ever troubled me about it, let alone sent me to solitary. There were many times that black inmates were hassled for things that white inmates weren’t.
To be clear, it is not only minority inmates who could get sent to solitary for little to no reason. Whatever their race, inmates routinely get put in solitary for trivial rules violations such as having too many postage stamps, missing appointments, or talking back. Overall, though, black inmates are treated worse. In New York State, they make up 49 percent of the prison population but 59 percent of the solitary confinement population. And the superintendents who decide how long prisoners will spend in solitary are overwhelmingly white in my experience. I knew of only one African-American superintendent or deputy superintendent in the five female facilities that existed when I was locked up. (The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says they have two black superintendents now).
Of course, race alone doesn’t explain my story. There were other factors that led to my reduced sentence and my return to Cornell. I was arrested in in Tompkins County, a liberal jurisdiction with long-standing commitment to alternatives to incarceration and progressive sentencing. (If I had been arrested in any of the surrounding counties, my sentence could have been three to four times as long.) In another stroke of luck, New York rolled back parts of the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws the year before my arrest. Had I been prosecuted under those laws, I would have gotten 15 years to life.
Although Cornell has a process governing the readmission of suspended students, they never explained exactly what persuaded them to allow me to return. When I was arrested, officials told me that it is standard to suspend any student who is arrested, though the Campus Code of Conduct doesn’t specify that punishment. Readmission is allowed on a case-by-case basis. I gathered letters of recommendation from former professors, my parents and my parole officer and sent them to the judicial administrator. I provided samples of my freelance writing to show I was working to support myself. I answered a standard set of written questions about what I had learned, what I had done to change my path and what safeguards were in place to make sure I don’t recidivate. I had a 20-minute or so phone interview with the judicial administrator and then waited on pins and needles for a response. It came in the form of a brief e-mail: “I am pleased to report that you have been approved to finish your Cornell degree, starting in January 2014.”
It’s impossible to know if a black or brown student in the same circumstances would have been allowed back in. But I think it’s likely. Through its Prison Education Program at a maximum-security state facility, Cornell allows inmates to earn Cornell credits. Clearly, it is a school interested in second chances.
I regularly encounter people who deny that things like racism and privilege still exist, who believe that we are living in a post-racial world. And yes, I dream of a world in which every ex-con could enjoy the opportunities I have. But I saw firsthand how deep and structural biases shaped our criminal justice system. For some, the battle is about ending racism and privilege — behind bars or anywhere else. But for others, the battle is simply acknowledging that there is a battle at all.
The war on drug is an atrocity
The first thing I have to say is that the war on drug is a terrible moral atrocity. As I explained, I consider it deeply wicked to punish people for consuming drugs, most of them having, like Keri Blakinger, often started their consumption out of despair. I also do not believe that people dealing drugs for financing their own addiction should be punished if they’ve completely lost any control over their consumption. I think that a very good case can be made that countless addicts dealing drugs have got where they are through an unfortunate set of circumstances and unfavourable genetics.
Big dealers who do not take in the poison they sell ought to be punished extremely severely. Not their victims.
Now I want to go into the main topic of this post. There is absolutely no doubt that there is a differential treatment unjustly affecting African Americans. To quote the last sentence of Keri, it is undeniable that a considerable battle must be fought.
I beg to differ, however, with her views on the causes of this revolting state of affairs.
While she didn’t make it explicit, according to her things seem to be going like this (see the parts of her text I emphasised).
1) American society is incredibly harsh and unjust towards drug addicts.
2) Then “white privileges” step in. (Some) white junkies are helped just by virtue of their having the right skin colour. Black drug addicts do not take advantage of such acts of mercy.
While I’m open to being wrong on that, this seems to be the most straightforward way to read her.
With all due respect, I think she has it backward.
It might be that under rare circumstances, some people in the American judicial system decide to save a person otherwise doomed to a long stay in jail because they say to themselves “Oh! (S)he’s white! I wanna help her!“.
Likewise, it is quite possible that in some cases, people are helped because the officials like their physical appearances or voices.
I strongly doubt, however, that this is going to be a main factor in more than a few cases.
To my mind, the most likely explanation of the statistical disadvantage of black persons looks rather like this.
1′) While still being very unjust, the judicial system has become more merciful towards drug offenders, to some limited extent.
2′) African Americans do not take advantage of such opportunities because of lingering racist prejudices against them. A great number of law enforcement officials are still convinced they are far less to be trusted than their white counterparts.
In quite a few situations, I can very well imagine that white members of the judicial system are animated by egregiously hateful feelings against human beings having a black skin.
That my own explanation (namely that direct racism instead of “white privilege” is the culprit here) is much more likely to be true is well illustrated by the problem of discriminating policemen.
As she rightly wrote
“It starts at the gate — or rather, who comes through the gate. When I moved into the state prison, the racial disparity was immediately obvious. I was surrounded disproportionately by people of color. While blacks represent just 13.2 percent of the New York State population, they are nearly half of the state’s prison population. Reasons for the disparities are clear: Nationally, blacks are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be searched, and, if arrested, likely to be sentenced to more time for the same crime. Although whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate and although whites are more likely to sell them, black youth are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than are their white counterparts.”
Of course, it’d be utterly absurd to think that days-in and days-out, policemen discover an equal number of white and black addicts and decide to leave most of the former alone because they’re white.
The true problem is that they are still persuaded that black people are inferior to white people and/or are driven by sheer racial hatred. Consequently, they’ll control disproportionately more black persons than white ones.
Does the difference really matter?
I guess that many liberals might react by saying:
“Yeah, I grant your point that these inequalities aren’t the results of a direct intention to privilege white people but stem from racist prejudices and racial hatred against black people. Still, what on earth does that change to this tragic injustice?”
Other might say that the distinction I raised is purely semantic.
If black folks are discriminated, it naturally follows that white people are privileged. Period.
My problem with that answer is that “anti-black racism” and “white privilege” do convey different meanings.
While the first involves racial prejudices and hatred against African Americans, the second suggests a conscious effort to favour a person having white colour.
As I explained in the case of the the policemen, it seems very likely that the former plays a much more important role than the latter.
Are poor whites to be punished?
Far from being a mere semantic choice, this concept of “white privileges” is very important to white liberals because it lies at the very foundation of their political worldview.
According to their deepest conviction, a white is always an oppressor and a black is always an oppressed, regardless of their relative well-being and plenty of other factors.
I mentioned elsewhere it is morally wrong to favour a rich woman over a poor man (or a rich African immigrant over a poor white) just because the latter didn’t have the chance to be born with the right genes.
Times and times again, I hear that the victims have to gladly accept that “positive” discrimination because they benefit of “white privileges” anyway.
As we saw previously, the problem is not that American officials do undeserved favours to white folks just because they’re white but rather that they’re much more severe and unjust towards African Americans because they believe them to be inferior.
It is cynical and inhuman to tell a homeless “white trash” that he cannot be aided because he belongs to the race of the oppressors. As I pointed out elsewhere, even more than 2500 years ago, an ancient Hebrew prophet preached against the notion that children have to pay for the sin of their parents.
How much more absurd is that to hold him accountable for misdeeds nobody among even his direct relatives committed?
Another thing I often hear is that there are worrisome statistical differences between whites and blacks in America in terms of successful careers, poverty, unwarranted incarcerations and so on.
(I agree this is a shame. )
They go on arguing that we must even out these statistics as soon as possible even if this means committing injustices towards members of the dominant group underway.
It is here I strongly disagree with the underlying philosophy.
Mean values, standard deviations and any other statistical values you can imagine are unable to feel anything.
The goal of any human system of morality should ultimately consider the well-beings of individuals who are capable of experiencing emotions such joy, pain, suffering and happiness.
Far from creating a society where race no longer plays any important role, affirmative action perpetuates such a state and hinders a real reconciliation between the white and black lower classes.
It is my opinion that many white workers whose economic condition is not too far removed from the economic condition of his black brother, will find it difficult to accept a “Negro Bill of Rights,” which seeks to give special consideration to the Negro in the context of unemployment, joblessness, etc. and does not take into sufficient account their plight (that of the white worker).
I believe we ideally need a race-neutral affirmative action which considers the relative well-being of the two candidates in question along their chances of getting hired elsewhere.
Racial peace can only be reached once we’ve given up collective punishment and the idea that children are responsible for the sins of those having the same skin colour or the same Y chromosome as they have.