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Friday, April 13, 2007

Some people really do lack a sense of irony. I think it's a hormonal condition or something.

Recently I've come across a trio of video clips that I think, collectively, make a point that none could quite drive home separately. Let's go through them one by one and see if we can't learn a little something along the way.

Quite a while back some of you may remember I wrote a post about some comments by Ms. Star Jones, a television personality who happens to be female and African-American. In my post I expressed a certain amount of surprise and consternation that, as a member of two groups who are traditionally discriminated against, she would be so unwilling to vote for an atheist presidential candidate purely because he or she was an atheist. Given that these statements emerged shortly after religious extremists committed the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil, I thought the irony surrounding her discriminatory attitudes bypassed amusing and went right into morbid.

In a development that leaves me reeling with deja vu, I recently encountered a clip of a sort of "panel" on CNN discussing the recent research by Penny Edgell et al. that finds that atheists are the least liked minority group in the United States. If you're unfamiliar with this work, or don't remember it well, I wrote a post on the subject. Go ahead and review it if you need to. Don't worry- I'll wait.

Ready? Okay, then take a look at this:

Honestly, I don't know what my favorite part of all this is. Is it the assertion that "Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion?" Because, you know, that claim has already been refutted by none other than Thomas Jefferson. There's also the fantastic assertion that, "I have nothing against atheists, they can believe what they want to believe. But they can't infringe on my right to have prayer in schools." Um... well... lemme see here. If by that you mean, "An individual student's right to pray privately," then I think we're okay. I don't think most atheists would oppose that. If, on the other hand, you mean, "The right of the institution to compel all students to participate in some form of religious worship," then I think we've really crossed the line into that fun territory where your "rights" infringe on my own. I also find it more than a little amusing that all of the panelists agree that atheists can't possibly be the most disliked group... while standing around doing everything they can to distance themselves from them and heap scorn on the heads of those dratted unbelievers. Absolutely fantastic. It's just a little too reminiscent of, "I'm not a racist, why some of my best friends are black! If people want to be black, then they can be black. It's just that black people are lazy. Oh, I mean not you of course, you're different, I just mean the typical black person." Yeah. Sure. Right.

But of course, aside from the Edgell et al. piece, we have other reasons to think that atheists are pretty disliked:

I'm not saying this strapping young lad hasn't done anything to antagonize his mother and/or father, he is an adolescent after all, but do we really think that the best way to persuade your child of god's love is to scream in his face? For that matter, when I was in Sunday School* they took great pains to thwart the idea that, "We believe in Jesus because he brings us presents at Christmas." It's a little bit funny to me to see that logic, that we love Jesus because he gives us shit, used here. Don't even get me started on the parental shock when religious bribery fails.

Look, I'm not saying that atheists have it worse that homosexuals or something. We, at least, have a much easier time of going into and remaining in the closet. Still, I think we have to acknowledge that if becoming an atheist can inspire a mother to yell like that at her own child... maybe atheists really aren't all that well liked.**

I would probably feel more depressed by all this but, thankfully, I ran across this lovely clip where a world with an all-powerful, all-knowing god is compared to North Korea. Only, of course, there's at least a way to escape from North Korea. He also spends some time discussing Jefferson's nature as a deist- a point about which conservapedia appears confused.

So what do we have? A group of panelists arguing that atheists aren't disliked while all clearly disliking them and a mother trivializing her own faith*** by indulging in pointless rage to teach about the "Prince of Peace."

Seriously, folks, if I get exposed to any more irony my head is going to explode.

* If you need to take a minute after reading that to stop laughing, I understand. I really was in sunday school when I was a kid, though. I think when I was seven or so I participated in a musical number featuring the refrain, "I'm gonna wash that god right into my head." In retrospect, I wonder if one of the sunday school teachers wasn't trying to make a subtle comment on brainwashing with that one.

** Of course I trust the research more, but sometimes a visceral anecdote helps.

*** Admittedly, I feel a little odd putting it this way since I think it's hard to "trivialize" the idea that grown adults should believe in an invisible being with logically impossible abilities, but I'm really in the minority on that one.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given Hitchens' current political leanings it's really ironic that he's the one defending atheism, and pushing for an anti-theocratic society. Must make his colleagues on the right cringe a little when they realize that even their intellectual support has severe issues with the religious right.

Speaking of which, that makes Hitchens a great source to cite in that conservapedia article that you mentioned. Sure they'll love that.

Friday, April 13, 2007 2:03:00 PM  

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