Since I commented today about Bill Maher and the infamous Tebow Tweet, I thought that it was interesting to see the take that Sally Jenkins (sports columnist) had in today’s Washington Post. As Tim Graham at Newsbusters points out, she is hardly a straight laced Tebow supporter but she does see the idiocy in the stance of Maher and other’s in the pro-atheist/anti-religion camp.
Quite frankly, I forgot about the already ancient and slightly fossilized liberal pterodactyl, Bill Press, adding his sub-80 IQ to the commentary. I read about it but thankfully, since NPR isn’t broadcast in Scotland, I didn’t try to rip the radio out of my vehicle.
If God is liable to smite anybody around here, it’s me. When it’s smiting time, I duck, because I don’t believe in any religion that requires a building and loan payments. Nevertheless, I’m having a hard time seeing anything wrong with Tim Tebow taking a prayer knee in public. The knee seems a pretty plain and graceful statement, and it’s tiresome to see it so willfully misinterpreted. It’s the preachers from the top of Mount Idiot like Bill Maher who are hard to understand.
If you want to know Maher’s overriding philosophy on anything, you have to go back to high school and the stoner in the last row, surrounded by sycophants as he makes ugly cracks about his betters. That was the vein of the tweet that Maher chucked at Tebow on Christmas Eve, after the Broncos quarterback was intercepted three times in a loss to the Buffalo Bills. Maher wrote, “Wow, Jesus just [expletive] Tim Tebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is Tebowing, saying to Hitler, ‘Hey, Buffalo’s killing them.’
Set aside the intriguing question of whether Maher would have the nerve if Tebow were Muslim. Or whether he’s funny. (He’s not, really. Monty Python is.) What’s more interesting is why Maher, and other political commentators from Bill Press to David Shuster, feel compelled to rip on Tebow simply for kneeling.
“I’m tired of hearing Tim Tebow and all this Jesus talk,” Press said, adding a profane suggestion that Tebow should shut up. They act like he’s trying to personally strip them of their religious liberty, manipulate the markets, and take over our strategic oil transport routes.
What is so threatening about Tebow? It can’t be his views. Tebow has never once suggested God cares about football. Quite the opposite. It’s Maher and company who stupidly suggest a Tebow touchdown scores one for Evangelicals whereas an interception somehow chalks one up for atheism. Anyone who listens to Tebow knows he doesn’t do Jesus talk, he’s mostly show and no tell. His idea of proselytizing is to tweet an abbreviated Bible citation. Mark 8:36. He leaves it up to you whether to look it up. When he takes a knee, it’s perfectly obvious that it’s an expression of humility. He’s crediting his perceived source, telling himself, don’t forget where you came from. On the whole, it’s more restrained than most end-zone shimmies.
I also ran across this via Hot Air, it is a commentary at HuffPo by Chris Stedman, an author and atheist. Stedman echoes my position on atheism (albeit from the atheist perspective). My take is:
I could care less if you believe in God or not, that is your choice, but I’ll pray for you anyway because I do believe and I don’t see the downside for either of us. Being a Christian does not stop me from entertaining logic or scientific inquiry, in fact, I think my belief in God makes me even less arrogant that humans are the alpha and omega of existence and believing that mankind didn’t happen as the result of a chance chemical reaction combined with a totally random stray charge of static electricity generates even more curiosity in me to examine and explain the mysteries of life, something that accepting that we are nothing but a soulless, finite collection of elements and energy does not do. As a Christian, I will also maintain the tolerance taught to me by Jesus while critically examining other faiths and n0n-faiths alike while utilizing the commandment of “Thou shalt not bear false witness” to speak truthfully about my conclusions wherever they may lead.
Earlier this year, a friend sent me a message on Facebook that said, simply: “You might want to watch yesterday’s episode of The Daily Show.”
In the episode, host Jon Stewart did a segment on a lawsuit by American Atheists, the most visible atheist organization in the United States, regarding a piece of rubble in the shape of a cross that was to be placed in the World Trade Center memorial museum. During the segment, he quoted this statement by Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists: “The WTC cross has become a Christian icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross.”
After sharing that statement, Stewart — speaking as if he were Silverman — added: “As President of the American Atheists organization, I promise to make sure that everyone, even those that are indifferent to our cause, will f-cking hate us.”
For a split second, I wondered if Silverman had actually said that himself.
The question of how atheist activists should address religion is a recurring hot topic among atheists. Yesterday, it was brought to light by prominent atheist activist Greta Christina, who wrote an important blog post titled “What Are The Goals of the Atheist Movement?”
“I don’t think all atheists — even all atheist activists — have the same goals,” wrote Christina. “And I think this may be the source of some of this conflict and debate that we’re having.”
While some atheists seem to relish and even encourage it, this internal strife is, for many of us, exhausting. As someone who is regularly targeted with false critiques by fellow atheist activists — most frequently that I believe that religious beliefs should be immune from criticism, a claim I countered in this post, or that I am an apologist for religion, for which no evidence has ever been provided — I can attest firsthand that the debate over how atheists should approach religion is perhaps the most contentious conversation in the atheist movement. It is a frequent cause of disagreement, and the disagreements it inspires are very often vitriolic and personal.
In short: Christina hit the nail on the head. The source of the infighting in the atheist movement is, in fact, what Christina identified in her post — there are competing and often contradictory goals among self-identified “atheist activists.”
In an attempt to get at the heart of these conflicts, Christina named two goals of atheist activists. The first is “to see atheists be fully accepted into society, and to have our atheism recognized as legitimate.” The second: the demise of religion.
“Most atheist activists would love to see anti-atheist bigotry disappear, and are working towards that,” she writes. “But many of us — I’m one of them — see that as only one of our goals. Many of us don’t just want a world where believers and atheists get along and let each other practice their religion or lack thereof in peace. Many of us want a world where there’s no religion.”
The implication of Christina’s claim is that criticizing religious beliefs is a top priority for many atheist activists, and that those who do not prioritize it should allow that it is an important element of atheist activism as a movement. But I have concerns with the idea that the atheist movement is currently doing this well — or that it is truly “atheist activism.”
This is where I think that people like Bill Maher and his verbal dysentery with regard to Christianity and religion actually hurt the cause of the atheist community because he seeks the destruction of religion – totally. Except for one little caveat – Maher is an intellectual bully and a poseur because he only hits religions that won’t hit back. He reserves his harshest criticism for Christians because he knows enough about Christianity to know that Christian adherents are taught to forgive and turn the other cheek and not to praise Allah and pass the C4.
Maher and his ilk love to talk about how religion is emotionally, not logically based even as he and others react emotionally and not logically to religion in all its forms.
Stedman takes an opposite and frankly a more logical position:
I think she’s right. Our goals may not be the same.
If being an atheist activist means “persuading more people out of religion and into atheism,” as Christina wrote, then I am not one. I am an atheist who wishes to promote critical thinking, compassion, and pluralism, which is defined by the Interfaith Youth Core as “neither mere coexistence nor forced consensus, but the conviction that people who believe in different creeds can learn to live together with, in the words of Wilfred Cantwell Smith, ‘mutual trust and mutual loyalty.'” Many religious people are allies to me and other atheists in these efforts–and a good number of them cite their religious convictions as the motivating factor behind their efforts. I am far more concerned about whether someone is pluralistic in their worldview–if they oppose totalitarianism and believe people of different religious and nonreligious identities should be free to live as they choose and cooperate around shared values–than I am about whether someone believes in God or not.
To be sure, seeing an end to anti-atheist attitudes is a priority of mine. But it is a goal that is facilitated by relationship-building between atheists and the religious and by supporting meaningful communities for the nonreligious. For these reasons, I call myself an atheist and Humanist activist. But I also want to see an end to prejudice against Muslims, Sikhs, and many other communities, and an increase in understanding and cooperation between people of all beliefs, which is why I also call myself interfaith activist.
So let’s call it like it is. If your “top priority” is working to eliminate religion, you are not simply an atheist activist — you are an anti-religious activist.
I maintain significant disagreement with many religious beliefs, but I do not wish to be associated with narrow-minded, dehumanizing generalizations about religious people. I am disappointed that such positions represent atheist activism not only to the majority of our society, but to many of my fellow atheist activists as well.
“Atheist” and “anti-religious” are not synonyms. I will — and do — work with other atheists on our shared goals of trying to make the world a safer place for atheists, but we diverge at anti-religious activism.
Somehow I don’t remember atheists being dragged through the streets on the way to mass Sunday hangings – but maybe I missed it. Sure, there are people who think that atheists are going to Hell – we are taught that is where rejection of God leads. We do have evidence that atheists do make up a significant minority of the American population (around 7%) but it is the militant “activists” like Maher and Greta Christina who want to wipe my belief system off the map when it is the tolerance taught in that very belief system that protects them. Would that they would show the same respect and restraint.
Ignore God if you want – your peril. If you are right and I am wrong, no harm/no foul. If I am right, you are in for a bit of a surprise when Saint Peter refuses to validate your parking. As Bill Bennett said about the recent passing of noted atheist intellectual and author, Christopher Hitchens (a man I have great respect for), “I hope Hitchens is getting a big surprise today.” I’m not willing to take a chance on a surprise that late in the game, other’s may decide differently…
Rarely will you read this from me about something at the Huffington Post but Stedman’s column is worth a full read.