Self-Righteous Atheist

Hemant Mehta has an incredibly petty post in which he picks on Serena Williams for losing her temper and cursing at a line judge. He needlessly exploits her human failing to try to score political points against her religion:

I don’t think swearing is some horrible sin. But the outburst just shows how a religious label does little to change one’s behavior if the person isn’t too serious about it.

If you don’t want to live up to the ideals of your faith, why bother labeling yourself in the first place?

What is the value of picking on people’s religion when it is completely irrelevant to what they’re doing? She’s a world class athlete under a lot of pressure getting angry and saying things she shouldn’t. End of story. It has nothing to do with whether she’s living up to her religious standards or not or whether religion affects people positively or negatively, or any other such thing. There’s no need to be judgmentally cataloguing every sin of every religious person and taking out a smarmy megaphone to announce their hypocrisy and how it relates to their religion. It’s really, really unseemly.

Let’s save picking on religious people for when their religion (either in its ideals or its practices) is the basis of their bad behavior or when religious power leads to systematic abuses or when religious hypocrisies stem from and highlight the impossibility or irrationality of some particular religious standards.

All ethical people know we shouldn’t go around threatening to shove our rackets down people’s throats. Her religion is not excessive in telling her not to do such things and her religion is not the reason she did it. Her religion is irrelevant. It’s an ugly pair of glasses one has to wear to judge people entirely in terms of their Otherness to you such that everything bad they do is more than a human failing but an expression of their being a member of the group you are opposed to. That’s one of the major forms of prejudice.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.