Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt.

I am tempted to say that Dr Richard Dawkins is the Westboro Baptist Church of the atheists.

But I won’t.

The reason?

The only thing Dr Dawkins has in common with the much ballyhooed and massively exaggerated Westboro Baptist Church is that they both specialize in attacking the sensibilities of other people in order to gain fame for themselves. The similarities pretty much end there.

Dr Dawkins writes best-selling books that evidently convince a lot of people to pull their own pants down in public and waggle their beefy buns in other people’s faces. Dr Dawkins gives speeches that attract tens of thousands of cheering fellow haters. Some them have gone on to write books and run popular blogs, spreading this hate like a virus.

Dr Dawkins is, in a word, effective at spreading his call for verbal bashing and social discrimination.

Meanwhile the Westboro Baptist Church is a family-sized congregation of weirdos who go around the country demonstrating with homemade signs. They carefully pick the place to do their thing that will upset and offend the most people. They are universally dissed. People form human chains to defend their targets from the offense they give.

The Westboro Baptist Church, is, in a word, ineffective.

For these reasons, I cannot call Dr Dawkins the Westboro Baptist Church of atheism. In fact, I think I will avoid that kind of comparison altogether and let Dr Dawkins speak for himself in the video below. 

The interesting portion of the video comes after Dr Dawkins’ predictable call for his audience to “mock them, ridicule them, in public … with contempt,” when they talk to Christians. That’s when Dr Ravi Zacharias responds to Dr Dawkins’ little diatribe.

There are people who come on this blog all the time with the intention of following their leader’s instructions. They get deleted.

Dr Dawkins begins his comment with the phrase, “Whenever I talk to religious people …”

My question is why would a religious person talk to Dr Dawkins? Why would anyone allow themselves to be interrogated in the manner he claims he engages in?

What he describes is verbal abuse. It is hate speech. It is Christian bashing.

His call to “mock them, ridicule them, in public … with contempt” speaks far more specifically to the valueless ethos of his non-belief than it does anything else. It is also, as Ravi Zacharias points out, ridiculous.

I would suggest two things: Watch the video below to hear Ravi’s reaction. And do not allow yourself to be subjected to pointless verbal abuse by people who’ve drunk this particular form of vicious kool-aid.

Delete them. Hang up on them. Walk away. If you are in a situation where you can’t do one of these things, try coming here and asking the rest of us for ideas. We are, after all, in this together.

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After the Election Comes the Scary Part

After the election comes the scary part.

It was a long time ago, but I remember it well. I won my first election over 30 years ago, before I met my husband, before my religious conversion, when I was at the height of my anti-religion period.

I won the election by defeating a 16-year incumbent most political deep-thinkers regarded as “unbeatable.” A couple of weeks later, I got a notice that I needed to show up at the Capitol to be sworn in. A friend of mine took me out and bought me a suit to wear. I didn’t have enough money to buy one for myself.

No one was ever more sure of herself than I was the day I marched into the Capitol building, all gussied up in my shiny new Representative Suit. I brought an escort of sorts. They were my running buddies (literally) my old junior high gang and a couple of bffs that I confided my every waking thought to. I led this little flock of mine up to the first man in uniform that I saw and blurted out, “Where’s the House?”

He looked us over, and said, “I think you mean the gallery. It’s up the stairs  …”

“No,” I told him. “I’m a House Member.”

Women were just starting to win elections. A sprinkling of women had made it, but my chirpy group of pals and I were something new in this echoey building. Truth told, our youth and overall giddiness would still stand out today. He stared at me, then said, “Uh sorry Ma’am.” and directed me to the House. I headed toward the big doors, and he slid an arm between me and my friends.

“Sorry,” he said. “Only the Representative can go in.”

That is how I learned one of the most frightening and inflexible truths of holding public office. Your friends can help you get elected. They can strategize, sympathize and support you through the rigors and nastiness of a political campaign. They can even go out to dinner with you after the day is done and hear all about what happened at the Capitol. But when you are functioning as an elected official, you — get ready for this now — you have to stand alone.

Despite my gaggle of friends and my blithe insouciance, I wasn’t a fool about politics, not even at that early point in my political career. I had just put together, executed and survived a winning campaign against a 16-year incumbent. I was the former state director for NARAL. I was a lot of things; some good and some bad, but I knew a lot more about what I was doing that my easy attitude indicated.

If I found this realization that I had to walk through those doors alone daunting — and I did — think how stunning it must be for one of the party candidates who are beamed into office on a beam of corporate money. There’s a world of difference between an elected official who has come out on top in a vicious do-it-yourself campaign and one who spent the entire process like a little kid riding in the back seat of mommy and daddy’s car. If I was self-confident, I had some reason to be. If they are confused and mulish, they also have reason to be.

People often assume that legislating is easy; just make a few half-baked speeches, cast a couple of obvious votes and get your picture taken. In truth, it’s a complex job that changes constantly. No two days as a legislator are ever the same. I’m starting my 17th year in office, and each day of it has been different than the ones that went before. It isn’t boring. But it can be and often is terrifying. And the pressures are indescribable to anyone who hasn’t felt them.

Most of the people I work with have only a handful of years on the job as legislators. They have zero memory of the twists and turns, tricks and finagling of the past. They are like 100 geese, born into a brand new world every single day. Combine this with the fact that most of them were recruited to run based at least partly on their malleability and willingness to go along to get along, and you have a recipe for a confused and troubled legislative process.

One of the most obvious traits of these beamed-in legislators is how easy it is to scare them. Not only that, but they have a real proclivity for being afraid of the wrong things. Most of them come from backgrounds where people didn’t actively try to intimidate and bully them every minute of every day. They aren’t used to being constantly lied to, flattered, made fun of and berated. This may be the first time in their lives that they have had to stand entirely on their own.

But that is the life of a legislator. On any given day, you’re going to be called a nincompoop or worse. You’ll see unflattering cartoons of yourself and get emails from all over the world calling you things you never even heard of before. In the next instant, somebody or other will be comparing you favorably to Moses or Abraham Lincoln. It’s the ultimate hero-jerk roller coaster, and it never stops until you leave office.

At the same time, you have in your hands the awesome power of government. You can literally kill people by putting a comma in the wrong place. Or, you can save lives, give people a hope and a future, do your share to create a just and stable government that will enable people to live their lives in freedom and safety.

What you do with it, how you handle it, is up to you.

You have to walk through those doors alone. And you have to figure out how to do this complex, ever-changing job by yourself. You have to find a way to deal with the demands and needs of tens of thousands of constituents, how to run the traps and do the work to pass legislation, how to discern who’s lying and who’s telling the truth, how to keep your balance in the face of alternating adulation and abuse, and how to keep from losing yourself to the hype and unreality of it, how to stay an authentic person. You have to do this, and you’ve got to do it by yourself.

It isn’t easy. But after 16 years of it, I can tell you, it is rewarding. It is meaningful work.

I don’t recommend it to everybody. But I do recommend it. Public office can and should be a form of servant leadership. We need men and women who are grounded in a deep faith and personal morality, with strong characters  and the ability to think for themselves to run for office.

Those are the kind of people who can handle it when they learn that no matter how rigorous the campaign, the scary part comes after the election.

The Atheist Boys Club and Online Misogyny as Sport

On-line misogyny. The anonymous crime against human dignity.

Leah Libresco, who blogs at Unequally Yoked and bills herself the “geeky convert” wrote a fascinating post last week about online misogyny from the atheist perspective.

Her post, Ave atque vale, Jen McCreight, discusses how one female blogger has been forced to retire from blogging due to online attacks from the atheist boy’s club. Ms McCreight’s  explanation for quitting is both straightforward and poignant. I just can’t take it anymore, she said. According to the post, the group primarily responsible for these misogynist attacks bills itself FtBullies.

I’m not going to repeat the things Ms McCreight has suffered at the hands of these people. Leah Libresco covers it in her post, as does Ms McCreight in hers. If you want to see it, you can follow the links. I’m also not going to discuss her beliefs.

The important issue to me is that she is a woman and she has been attacked to the point that she feels compelled to remove her voice from the public debate simply because she’s a woman. Do I need to tell you that this is wrong? I doubt it. Anyone who sincerely tries to follow Jesus Christ already knows that.

The simple fact is, we should never treat human beings made in the image and likeness of God in this degrading manner. We do not have the right terrorize women into silence with threats of rape and by sludging their names all over the internet. Brutalizing women, whether it’s done physically or verbally, is wrong. It is a sin.

Before I began writing this post, I googled “internet misogyny.” I got a pageful of hits with more pages to follow. It was, for the most part, articles by women trying to defend women against this sadistic menace. You can look here, here, here or here. I picked these because they were the first four hits. I don’t vouch for their brilliance or even the specifics of their facts. What I do vouch for is that they point to a real and growing problem of misogyny directed against women in our society.

The debate following Leah Libresco’s post evidently fell along predictable lines. I didn’t read it, but she did, and what she read moved her to write two more posts, defending Ms McCreight’s decision to step down. Based on what she said in these posts, I am assuming that some people felt that Ms McCreight should just toughen up, “take the heat,” and get on with it.

My first thought about this was that it sounded suspiciously like they were expecting the victim to “handle” what no one should be asked to “handle” in a civilized society. Do we believe that misogyny is something that women should learn to accept, and that if they don’t learn to accept it, there’s something wrong with them?

As I said earlier, I’m not going to address Jen McCreight’s beliefs. Whatever she believes she has the right to talk about it in public venues without being assaulted by the misogynist boys club competing in their favorite sport. I’m also not going to discuss the irony of such rampant misogyny from the self-proclaimed “tolerance” police of our society. Ms McCreight did a fine job of that in her post How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism that you will find here.

My point is that misogyny is wrong. It is cowardly. When it’s done anonymously over the internet, it sinks to levels of spineless cowardice that defy description. It is also a particularly virulent form of cyber-stalking, which means that it is probably illegal and punishable by criminal statutes.

However, the message I want to convey with this post is not about legal sanctions. It’s about us; about Christians and how we should treat other people. It is simple. If you are a Christian: 

Do not engage in misogynist attacks against women.

Do not go to websites that do this.

Do not click on links that lead to it.

If one of your kids starts using their computer time for this, stop them.

We bear the name of Christ. He has taught us to be better than that.


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