Valedictorian’s Benediction Gets Way Out Of Hand

Stick with this video to its bizarre ending.  I oppose benedictions and forced group prayer in public institutions because of the offensive presumption to speak on behalf of a mixed group in the case of group prayer and the arrogant presumption that the audience accepts the authority of the giver of the benediction to invoke a divine blessing on anyone else in the case of a benediction.  Of course, I don’t mind at my own school since it’s a private institution and clearly religiously affiliated.  I knew what I signed up for and accept it.  And I also don’t mind if valedictorians, public officials, and other publicly designated speakers include among their remarks a mention of what they pray for.  So, rather than a valedictorian praying on behalf or praying for me, she may report during her speech that she prays for certain things related to me.  That’s fine with me, just don’t presume to lead me in prayer or try to invoke blessings or curses upon me in an event sponsored by a public institution.     That’s how I try to thread the needle of public freedom to express private beliefs in a way that does not violate the separation of religious practices and institutions from public ones.  In this wild video, this valedictorian does not even attempt to thread any such needles but rather works herself up into a creepy breakdown:

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via Proud Atheists (who also offer more wild videos worth watching for those who like watching train wrecks of the religious variety.)

For what I consider to be a far more admirable benediction, check this out.

Your Thoughts?

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.

  • http://sendaianonymous.wordpress.com atwitter

    Um, it would seem that she’s got some serious mental problems, right?

    I actually feel sorry for her :(

  • Daniel Fincke

    Well, it depends on what we consider to be serious mental problems I guess. She’s obviously extraordinarily functional if she can be a valedictorian. She does not seem to be a savant who could manage to get straight A’s while being otherwise completely out of her mind. She just seems like a smart, ordinary kid steeped in a religious tradition that trains her to work herself up into these fevered emotional states. I’ve never started shaking and fallen down from such a thing but I know in my religious days how you could work yourself up into an intense state of focused enthusiasm for God.

    Plus it’s a massive day for her emotionally since she’s obviously a school-focused person to become valedictorian, she’s giving a high pressure speech, she’s adding to the high pressure speech what I’m sure she feels as a big deal courageous affirmation of her religion in defiance of political pressure, and it may just be very hot in the auditorium and in those robes.

    So, you put it all together and a mentally normal person socialized to behave a certain emotion-ramping way acts this way when she does her emotion-ramping when already in an emotionally emotionally intense situation.

    That’s how I read it anyway. This starts to scratch a question I want to address soon. There’s a lot of religious behavior that is formally speaking irrational or unfair or emotionally messed up or psychologically seem oppressive which atheists denounce that is fairly understandable human behavior. Of course I am a strong advocate for not behaving irrationally, unfairly, emotionally unhealthily or under psychological oppression. But it’s important to distinguish what it’s LIKE to the religious person to how we’d assess it from an outsider’s position when assessing what kind of an experience it is. And also to take into account how much religious behavior, while technically on rational terms crazy, is simply the human norm.

    The major example of this is the meme Dawkins pushes about children not being capable of adopting a religion since they’re too young to assent to faith propositions as true. That’s formally speaking true, insofar as belonging to a religion involves assenting to various propositions believed by the religion. But the whole world over people are and always have been raised as members of a religion as a matter of cultural transmission. Families, cultures, states, and churches simply CLAIM their children’s minds. Each of these forces of socialization is simply going to presume to go about shaping your mind whether you like it or not. When you’re an adult you may defect, disown, or denounce any of the value systems or associative allegiances in which you are raised but that’s something adults do, children are simply conditioned. Even inculcating in children liberal values (while I think eminently more justifiable, rational, and more liberating to the child) still reflects a process of deliberately molding a child according to a kind of group value (insofar as liberal values come from a culture, a family, a state, etc.)

    But more on this another time (with portions of these remarks copied and pasted as the start!)

  • http://sendaianonymous.wordpress.com sendaianonymous

    Huh. I guess it’s a cultural difference, this time. I mean, I theoretically have heard about some bizarre Pentacostal movements or whatever, but, um. I was sort of uncomfortable watching this video, because I had the impression that the people who made it were making fun of an unfortunate person with serious mental problems.
    Hm. I guess this is the outsider’s perspective on any religion, in many cases.

    I don’t think it’s exactly fair to compare indoctrinating children with non-liberal values to indoctrinating children with liberal values. Of course, my understanding of “liberal” might be a bit different than yours, but I’ve always had the impression that part of a liberal upbringing was to explain to children something like “this, this and this is what we think. However, there are people who think differently. When you grow up, you may want to decide that you think differently, too, and it’s absolutely OK to do that”.

    This is how it worked out for my family, anyway: parents: into Buddhism and New Agey woo, one brother: theist against organised religion, other brother: too young to decide, the third brother: atheist against organised religion, me: vicious militant atheist, LOL.

    Looking forward to the longer post!


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