The Memory Hole

A nice little diatribe from Illinois legislative rep Monique Davis, directed towards Rob Sherman, an atheist activist.

Sherman objects to the Illinois governor donating $1M in tax dollars to a local Baptist church. And well he should. But while testifying about this before the legislature, Davis launched into her delightful little hate-filled rant, actually telling Sherman that he “Had no right to be there!” .. only Christians have legal rights, you see.

This, however, is the best bit:

“It’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!”

Ah yes. We don’t want the BadThink. DoublePlus UnGood!

12 thoughts on “The Memory Hole

  1. If there is anything that baffles me most it is the lack of understanding amongst persons of religious belief how an atheist could have moral and ethical values without also having religion.

    They really do not understand, I have had one person presume that because I was not christian that I must regularly break religious rules, such as sex before marriage etc. and at the time that person had and I had not, the look on his face when I explained this was priceless it was like I had produced a coin from behind his ear and he was now trying to figure out how it had got there.

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    1. I’ve had discussions like this with people where they say things like “If there were no god there would be no reason to be good and people would riot in the streets OMG WTF BBQ!”

      What shuts them up is just to look them in the eyes and say “SO if you found out for sure, tomorrow that there is no god. You personally would immediately begin raping and killing people because of the lack of afterlife consequences?”

      That usually shuts em up. Or they reply with “Well no, but I was brought up with good Christian values!” To which you reply, “So why can’t we just instil in children the values without the threat? People can be good without the threat of punishment after death. Look at all the non-christian societies out there that function just fine.”

      At this point they usually get pissed and revert to “you suck” style arguments or leave with their nose in the air… but you get the general idea.

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      1. Thing is, here in this part of ‘Merrikaland, where this story made the news, “they” [read: the general public] more often side with the polly. They simply can’t make it to the next stage of the argument. They stop at Not Religious: Cannot Have Morals. (Usually followed closely by Lockup The Children (& then have them shagged by pastor))

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      2. Thing is, here in this part of ‘Merrikaland, where this story made the news, “they” [read: the general public] more often side with the polly.

        This might be generally true, but it’s clearly not the case for this story. Comments are overwhelimngly in favour of Sherman.

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  2. There appears to be a good deal of missing context in the Chicago Tribune article. Sherman is not just an “activist”, but also a radio DJ and Green Party candidate for state rep (although not in the same district as Davis). I would guess that he’s well known to Davis.

    The hearing wasn’t in fact about the governor giving money to a church. He promised money to rebuild the church after it burnt down, which apparently would have been fine legally. The church was a historic building, generally considered the birthplace of gospel music. Aretha Franklin sang there. Martin Luther King Junior gave sermons there at the height of the Civil Rights movement.

    The hearing was called because he didn’t give the money to the church – he gave it to a private school that happened to rent space from the church. Said school was in financial trouble and owed a great deal of tax. The governor also pardoned the school’s director of a felony, among other irregularities.

    So… Sherman shows up at the hearing and starts wasting everybody’s time with a presentation about why the governor shouldn’t have given money to the church, something that never happened and would have been for a good reason if it had. Davis gets frustrated and says some really stupid things. Sherman goes on to tastelessly compare himself to Rosa Parks.

    Just to be clear here, Davis is a black woman and Sherman is a white man.

    Obviously, Davis lost her temper and said some inexcusable things. But it wasn’t a clear-cut situation of a powerful Christian abusing an innocent atheist. In my opinion Sherman provoked the situation, then allowed the media to destroy her career so long as he got the attention.

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    1. Thats interesting, and does change the context, but the contextual shift doesn’t actually alter the intent of Davis’ statements, in my opinion.

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      1. That depends on what you mean by “intent”. I’d agree that what she said reveals what is apparently a rather nasty personal prejudice against atheists.

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      2. Yes well I must admit.. much like Dawkins, Sherman isn’t the kind of atheist I would like representing the rest of us terribly often.. but the outburst by Davis is (I have found) not untypical of the attitude just under the surface waiting to get out in many US politicians and the electorate. A lot of them _think_ this.. they just keep it to themselves.

        Dawkins generally annoys me too when he talks as he can be horribly condescending to people, I suspect for the reason that he’s had to deal with a bunch of illiterate jerks for so long. But when he speaks to an audience more his speed he can be quite good.

        http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/113

        Hi call to more “radical Atheism” at TED (A think tank of the rich, famous and intelligentsia)

        I think it _needs_ to be talked about more often and less people need to be ashamed of their lack of belief because at the moment even I feel I can’t mention my atheism at work because some of my direct bosses are born again Christians. As a result I have to smile and nod through quite a few diatribes I would normally put into the ground so fast your head would spin.

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      3. A lot of them _think_ this.. they just keep it to themselves.

        No argument there, and I think that prejudice needs to be exposed. I think it’s a good moral principle to favour the underdog wherever possible, and atheists as a group are less powerful in the USA than Christians.

        In this particular case, though, I couldn’t be as quick to say which side I’d fall on. Davis’s outburst indicated some very unpleasant attitudes. On the other hand, I suspect that Sherman provoked a situation that was already charged with racial connotations. Were I an atheist, I’d steer well clear of using this as an example of discrimination – there are plenty of other cases to choose from that are more clear-cut.

        Incidentally, the reporter Dawkins mentions who interviewed George Bush was also Sherman. That’s a good example to use.

        Dawkins generally annoys me too when he talks as he can be horribly condescending to people

        I really enjoy Dawkin’s writing on evolution. What bothers me when he talks about religion is not that he’s condescending, but that he’s way out of his depth and doesn’t realise it. He seems to prefer to attack childish conceptions of religion and dismiss more grown-up believers as fence-sitters who refuse to pick a side between atheism and ignorance.

        But when he speaks to an audience more his speed he can be quite good.

        It was an entertaining speech, but I can’t say I found it any more realistic or logical about religion than I usually find him. It seemed to be the usual set of straw man arguments.

        He also, I think, missed the point about the status of atheism in the USA. People aren’t afraid of atheists because of anything much about atheism as a belief. They’re afraid of atheists because of a couple of generations of propaganda that equated atheism with communism, and communism with an imminent existential threat to civilisation. It’s the same reason why many people are currently afraid of Muslims, despite having no particular problem with anything much that Muslims believe.

        at the moment even I feel I can’t mention my atheism at work because some of my direct bosses are born again Christians. As a result I have to smile and nod through quite a few diatribes I would normally put into the ground so fast your head would spin.

        So… they feel comfortable expressing their belief, but you don’t feel comfortable expressing yours. Do you have any reason to believe that they would make life difficult for you if you publicly disagreed with them over something that has nothing to do with your work? If so, there’s a serious industrial issue. If not, are they oppressing you or are you oppressing yourself? Why not politely open their eyes to the fact that they have an atheist in their presence, so they might need to think more carefully about what they say?

        I don’t know them or the full situation, of course.

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      4. I often find “coming out” as an athiest quite worrying. I think I’ve had it drummed into me so much that you don’t dis other people’s beliefs that even admitting that I don’t share their faith feels like a breech of ettiquette.

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      5. That’s interesting. If it’s any help, I can tell you that as a religious person, it doesn’t feel to me like you dis my beliefs just by not sharing them.

        It would become a breach of etiquette if you pursued a conversation beyond a point of irritation for me – if, for example, you insisted on talking about why you disagree with my beliefs at every opportunity to the exclusion of other topics. Or if you, like Dawkins, tried to tell me that I actually believe the things you find easiest to refute (as in the line about believers having to absolutely disbelieve in all conceptions of God except their own, and therefore being mostly atheists).

        Politeness is a quality of behaviour, not of belief.

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      6. > That’s interesting. If it’s any help, I can tell
        > you that as a religious person, it doesn’t feel to > me like you dis my beliefs just by not sharing them.

        The thing is… you’re a rational, educated human being who, while I don’t agree with your stance on religion… I can accept it for being _far_more thought out and rational than the majority of people who profess faith.

        What I find with most people is that, even when I make _great_ efforts to avoid the topic or offend, they take the fact I don’t believe in god as a _personal_ attack on their belief.

        As if by saying “I don’t believe in god” I’m somehow directly threatening their faith.

        If pushed I will tell people I think it’s all a bit silly and generally much more so on the net than in real life (oh lack of consequences how we love thee) but I try to avoid that attitude because I can see how annoying it is in people like Dawkins.

        The thing I mainly find from people of faith is a total incredulity that someone could _not_ believe in god(s) and they give you that horrible “oh come on… surely you realise that god _must_ exist?” speech. Then immediately give you the same old tired run of “evidence” that no thoughtful religious person would ever use as defence of their religion. It’s as if, as long as you don’t believe there is some kind of “thorn” in their spiritual side and they need to pick at it. I have an acquaintance who has been trying to politely convert me for 10 years despite my not very subtle “It’s not going to work dude.. I don’t care”.

        Unfortunately this can wear pretty thin, pretty quick and I think pushes a lot of atheists towards that “you’re all a bunch of loonies, fuck off” attitude.

        I _try_ to be aware of this atheist version of the incredible hulk inside.. But sometimes it’s hard. 😛

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