Davis controversy

There’s a minor uproar going on among secularists about Illinois state representative Monique Davis scolding an atheist activist, saying

What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!

Certainly an obnoxious outburst. But I also have a sneaky suspicion Davis stands out for being honest as well as perhaps bigoted.

I would guess that Davis really, seriously believes in the whole package: God and the Devil, heaven and hell. Nonbelief is a terrible sin that consigns you to hell. Faith is the basis of morality. Etc., etc. And so, yes, atheism might seem like an extremely dangerous view, if you really took all that completely seriously. If children get to know about such a philosophy, they may be tempted and a few may even fall. That means an eternity in hell—what could possibly be more disastrous than that?

The more common practice of not questioning anyone’s religious stance in public certainly is better in order to keep the peace. But that’s going to be a lot easier for people who primarily believe in a vague supernatural something rather than a fire-breathing religion. Even easier for people who believe in believing in God, rather than those who go around thumping bibles.

More fundamentalist believers might see all this indignation over Davis’s remarks as another attempt by “the culture” to marginalize them. They wouldn’t be entirely mistaken.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06394155516712665665 CyberKitten

    I’m confused as to the point you’re trying to make here…..

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10778996187937943820 Taner Edis

    Cyberkitten: “I’m confused as to the point you’re trying to make here.”

    Nothing deep. It just struck me that from her point of view, Davis’s remarks might not be all that unreasonable, that’s all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06394155516712665665 CyberKitten

    TE said: It just struck me that from her point of view, Davis’s remarks might not be all that unreasonable, that’s all.

    From her PoV I think she was probably being very reasonable. Atheism *is* a dangerous idea in regard to her probable beliefs.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    Its good to put oneself in the another person’s shoes and try to understand the other person’s POV. We should do that. But of course, understanding a POV is not agreeing with or condoning.

    On the contrary, in this case, understanding Davis’s POV should also make us more determined to marginilize that POV because her POV doesn’t allow for equal opportunity for people who don’t share her false beliefs. It is a POV that advocates marginilizing us as people, not just our perspective. Some POVs are themselves a problem that need to be defeated because they are anti-democratic/illiberal/pro-ignorance/etc.. We need to say this directly and unequivocally when we identify such a POV. This is a POV conflict, not of our making, that we cannot avoid and where we need to prevail, the sooner the better, but for however long it takes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15251547886605570242 arensb

    Of course, one obvious problem with this point of view is that it leads to reasoning like Andrea Yates’s. If you believe that children automatically go to heaven when they die, but that some adults go to hell, then the most altruistic thing you can do is to kill your children: you may be damning yourself, but you’re saving your children.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01267112937396907790 DB

    It should not have been said. I can imagine how she would respond if the tables were turned. A Christian being called dangerous. A woman. A black. She is nothing more than a hypocrite.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01508214155708822274 Yaab

    You make an interesting and subtle point, one that I think is common across many such pronouncements that raise atheists’ ire. Interestingly, even the (presumably) more moderate believers who recoil at these statements (for example, the commenter’s on Zorn’s blog) don’t go the extra step to see that this sort of statement really is logically consistent with the theist’s belief system, if you really, really believe that the world works according to these principles.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01898478961169607232 MrMarkAZ

    The greater hypocrisy being that nobody will ever question the moral or social value of her deeply-held religious convictions, or throw her out of Congress because she is clearly unable to separate her (insane) beliefs from her role as a public servant.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11815695119406091177 Interested

    And isn’t it too bad. It seems okay that she said what she did because she is a believer but as others have said and I reiterate; turn the tables. What if the atheist had said the same thing about her beliefs being dangerous to kids? I, and others like me, believe whole-heartedly that religion is dangerous to children, in any form.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01267112937396907790 DB

    At least she has apologized (Pharyngula’s site). As I posted on another site, if she can offer an apology, I can offer forgiveness.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01898478961169607232 MrMarkAZ

    Yeah, she apologized, all right. She apologized because she was “having a bad day,” not because she realizes now she has a closeted (or not so much now) prejudice against atheists.

    Her apology, however heartfelt, misses the larger and more disturbing issue, which is that none dare call her tirade “bigotry.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09918104655528794073 Charred Atheist

    I’m surprised she has a pov at all with her head stuff that far up her own @$$!


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