Are Reason Rallies Analogous to KKK Rallies?

Victor Reppert links to an article at the Catholic League website entitled, “Atheist Rally Draws Haters.” Reppert writes:

OK, as Ricky Ricardo would say, splain. Explain to me the difference between this and a KKK rally, other than the fact that, primarily, Christians were the targets, as opposed to Blacks and Jews.

Because I have so much respect for Reppert as a philosopher, I find it hard to believe he cannot tell the difference between a KKK rally and a Reason Rally. If I didn’t know him better, I would assume his post as a “troll.”

I did not attend the Reason Rally, so I am basing my comments solely upon the Catholic League’s report.

What are the similarities between KKK rallies and a Reason Rally? Let’s see:

  • They both have the word “Rally” in their name.

Here are the differences:

  • The KKK committed acts of violence against African Americans and Jews, whereas none of the organizations involved with the Reason Rally have ever committed violence against Christians. 
  • If memory serves me correct, the KKK opposed court rulings and/or legislation which supported racial equality. None of the atheist organizations at the Reason Rally suggest  that Christians should have less rights than non-Christians, much less than atheists.

It also interesting that, for the most part, the Catholic League article mainly describes what some atheists wrote on their signs; given the Catholic League’s purpose, it is safe to assume that the Catholic League focused on what it considered the most extreme signs. It’s far from obvious the signs mentioned by the Catholic League are even representative of all the atheists who attended. (For the record, I disagree the sign mentioned in the third paragraph of the article.) Also, with the exception of a very brief paragraph about Richard Dawkins, the Catholic League said nothing about the content of the speakers at the Reason Rally.

Probably the most accurate thing the Catholic League has to complain about is the overall tendency to mock or ridicule religious beliefs and the people who hold them. I disagree with the so-called “new atheists” about this. Not only is it adversarial, I don’t think mockery and ridicule is an effective public relations strategy for a minority group who is already viewed negatively by a large segment of the population.

Returning to Reppert’s post, none of this justifies the comparison to KKK rallies, however.

    About Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

      Are you expecting Reppert not to be a troll?

      Victor's blog exists so he can have a channel to smear atheists.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

      I don't think the purpose of Victor's blog is to give him "a channel to smear atheists." Yes, it's a partisan blog, just as this blog is. It doesn't follow that his blog exists to smear atheists, any more than it would follow that this blog exists to smear theists.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

      So what purpose does comparing an atheist rally to a KKK rally serve, if the purpose is not to smear atheists?

      Or other posts accusing atheists of launching heresy trials against each other?

      (It is interesting that the worst thing Victor can think of is claiming atheists are like religious people in very many ways.)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16342860692268708455 Angra Mainyu

      Jeffery,

      I agree with your points about the main differences, of course, but I'd like to add another one that I also consider relevant, even if to a lesser degree:

      The fact is that nearly all people who go to a 'Reason Rally' are against a number of false beliefs, and the consequences that they have on others.
      They're not singling out people because of their ancestry, but singling out belief because they're false and have negative consequences, and yes also sometimes accusing and/or mocking people who, by holding such beliefs and acting in accordance to them, unjustly inflict suffering on others.

      Sometimes, some of those attending such rallies get carried away and overgeneralize, etc., that's true, but that still has nothing to do with the KKK.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

      Here is one of Victor's posts 'If you stir up hate to that level, regardless of the cause, someone is going to step over the line into violence. Of course, you didn't tell them to be violent.

      I'm perfectly sure that the Nazis made their agenda sound appealing to the citizens of Germany. The picture that Hitler put into people's minds was certainly not the picture of the charred bodies found at Auschwitz.

      Once we step outside the realm of civil discourse and fundamental rules of interaction, you are headed for trouble. The nobility of the cause, if anything, makes the temptation to be a persecutor more severe.'

      No smears there.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05868095335395368227 vjack

      Suppose I were to agree with you that mockery is a bad thing that we should avoid. Who gets to define what constitutes mockery? Christians seem to equate criticism (and sometimes even disagreement) with mockery. This has been a very effective strategy for them to stifle critical examination. I think going along with this is a serious mistake. Ridiculous beliefs invite mockery; ridiculous beliefs that endanger others command it.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09328034026300036704 Buffy

      The KKK is a Christian group so there's one reason there's no parallel. Nobody at the RR was calling for people to be harmed, or demanding anybody's rights be restricted/eradicated so there's another reason the comparison is bull.

      But many Christian/"pro-family" gang-bangs could easily be compared to KKK rallies. They preach hatred and intolerance of women, LGBT folks, atheists and/or other groups. They actively advocate and even plan the eradication of other people's rights. The only thing that's missing is the burning crosses on people's lawns. But the death threats atheists get whenever they challenge Christian privilege are close enough to that so…

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12045468316613818510 Blue Devil Knight

      There are always parallels: for instance, both involved people getting together for something they believe in.

      However, that doesn't justify the invidious blind stupidity at Victor's blog. I have lost respect for Victor and his followers.

      If it were an atheist blog where people painted a Christian meeting in such an invidious way, I would strongly denounce the unfair comparisons and point out people were being silly. None of the flock is doing that over there, to my surprise.

      I consider this a bridge burned.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

      Reppert's blog has degenerated horribly over the past year or so. He recently mentioned (in a comment, not sure how serious he was) that he was thinking of quitting it to 'work on more important things' (IIRC) due to the atheist trolls/overall tone of the comboxes, and yet he deserves his trolls, both Christian and atheist, for posting drivel like this. He is so upset by Dawkins, Inc., that he charges into the same type of behavior he condemns – yet another example of how Christianity doesn't seem to have any significant overall effect on one's behavior; Christians react just as pettily as anyone else. But they're still 'saved' after death, I guess.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12045468316613818510 Blue Devil Knight

      It truly has become a cesspool over there.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

      Victor Reppert is a personal friend, but, as Aristotle said, we must value truth even more than friendship. Yes, I have noticed a definite intellectual deterioration at Dangerous Idea. Just as one case in point, I noticed a few weeks ago that Victor had posted a memoir by the son of late Australian philosopher David Stove.

      I always enjoyed Stove's philosopher-as-curmudgeon approach, at least until his bizarre anti-Darwin rant. His critique of "irrationalist" philosophers of science was a hoot, and I largely agreed with it. Anyway, Stove was an atheist, and his son's memoirs chronicle Stove's final, sad decline and death.

      It really appalled me that Victor would apparently be trying to make apologetic hay out of this man's suffering. Not only is it exploitative, but it represents a very disreputable genre. One of the lowest and slimiest of apologetic endeavors has long been to portray unbelievers on their deathbeds. The claim, of course, is that the unbeliever loses all courage when finally facing eternity. The fact that the unbeliever often did no such thing was, of course, no deterrent to claiming that he did. James Moore's The Darwin Myth chronicles how this was done in Darwin's case. Though repeatedly repudiated by the Darwin children who were present at their father's final days and death, the legend quickly spread that Darwin had despaired, repudiated his theory, and cried for salvation. Such garbage is disgraceful.

      Even if Stove's last days were sad, as I say, to exploit this for ideological purposes is inexcusable. Besides, in my 60 years I have seen quite a few good Christians in extremis. It was often ugly. I can't remember any that went with a smile on the face. Indeed, I had an aunt who expired at age 91 last July. She was one of the most devout persons I ever knew. She died cussing like a sailor. I say "good for her." Don't go gentle into that good night. Not exactly the way I think Victor would expect a Christian to go, though.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2012/05/by-way-of-clarification-atheism-and.html

      I think my point was expressed inaccurately. The rally itself was not equivalent to a KKK rally, but the expressions of hatred there were, nonetheless, expressions of hatred, and they are not more respectable than other expressions of hatred in virtue of their being in the name of "reason" or "science." I am further claiming that these expressions of hatred would be far less tolerable in the eyes of many if we were to substitute "Jews," "atheists," or "homosexuals, or "African-Americans."

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      Let's see.

      Dawkins not only mocked the Eucharist, he advised the crowd to ask Catholics, “Do you really believe…that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ?”

      OK, I don't believe in transubstantiation, but where is there a recognizable argument here against it? Is it criticism, or just mockery? The answer, for an orthodox Catholic, is going to be "Yes. Next question?"

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      It is somewhat dismaying to see people I respect get the wrong message from my post. But being clear is, after all, very important, and your responses do reflect a literal reading of what I said.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16342860692268708455 Angra Mainyu

      Victor Reppert

      Dawkins not only mocked the Eucharist, he advised the crowd to ask Catholics, “Do you really believe…that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ?”

      OK, I don't believe in transubstantiation, but where is there a recognizable argument here against it? Is it criticism, or just mockery? The answer, for an orthodox Catholic, is going to be "Yes. Next question?"

      I would need more context to be sure, but it seems probable to me that at that moment, he was advising them to press the issue because, in his assessment, many Catholics (maybe cafeteria Catholics?) do not really hold such belief, and if they thought about it for a second, then they would assess that their belief is really silly.

      If Dawkins' assessment of the effectiveness of that claim is in error, that is a question about the effectiveness of the tactics.

      If you question the morality of the tactics, that's yet another moral disagreement (see the following posts for more details), but I do not see this as a particular expression of hatred. The mockery is meant to persuade (not the best tactic in most cases in my view).

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16342860692268708455 Angra Mainyu

      Victor Reppert

      I think my point was expressed inaccurately. The rally itself was not equivalent to a KKK rally, but the expressions of hatred there were, nonetheless, expressions of hatred, and they are not more respectable than other expressions of hatred in virtue of their being in the name of "reason" or "science."

      It seems to me that many of the expressions that you would deem 'expressions of hatred' are expressions of moral outrage, and they're bound to happen in a context of strong moral disagreements.

      If not all expressions of moral outrage are expressions of hatred, then maybe some of these ones aren't. Still, the question would be whether the expressions of moral outrage are justified.
      If all expressions of moral outrage are expressions of hatred (doubtful in my view), then surely some expressions of hatred are morally acceptable, and it's a matter of ascertaining which ones (which, of course, will also result in serious disagreement).

      Even if not all expressions of moral outrage are expressions of hatred, arguably some expressions of hatred due to moral outrage are justified. For instance (and to use an extreme example), would it be immoral to hate some members of the KKK if they murdered one's family? The same goes for, say, those who killed one's family member for apostasy, or just killed scores in a terrorist attack, etc.

      Of course, the moral outrage in the rallies in question is not limited to the most extreme expressions of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc., but on the other hand, that does not mean that the degree of outraged displayed in such rallies is unjustified. Moreover, even in those cases in which they're not justified, the degree of non-respectability of such displays still depends on the display (i.e., it's not the same for all), and as usual, one has to assess that on a case by case basis (and one can expect strong disagreement, etc.).

      In any event, it seems to me that the question is whether the moral outrage is justified in that context, in each case.

      But to put an example, let's consider the case of the woman who demanded that adherent to some religions get out of her panties (which was one of your examples).

      The claim was surely not literal, and while I can't be certain without more info, it's probable that what she was demanding was something like a stop to attempts to make it difficult for her (and others, etc.) to carry out her decisions (e.g., by reducing availability of contraception, or by not allowing same-sex marriage depending on the case, etc.), and/or moral condemnation of behavior such as hers (and other people's, etc.) in that regard – condemnations which normally have negative social consequences if the moral claims (i.e., condemnations of her behavior) are believed -, and so on.

      So, while there are other alternatives, I'd say she was (probably) morally outraged by some of the behaviors of some (probably most) adherents to those religions.

      It's true that not all adherents to those religions engage in one of the behaviors I mentioned above, though plausibly most of them do; in fact, it's hard to tell as it's hard to define 'Christianity', etc.

      So, maybe she overgeneralized to some extent, which may be a fault of hastiness because she didn't include something like 'most believers', etc., but hardly KKK-like (and sorry, but surely not more of an overgeneralization that saying that those rallies are like KKK rallies in terms of expressions of hatred; of course, the moral disagreement between you and her runs deep and is not limited to an issue of overgeneralizations). Alternatively, maybe she assessed that all adherents to such religions were at fault because by adhering to a religion in which the majority engages in one of such behaviors, they implicitly give such religions a bit greater social availability, etc.; I do not know.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16342860692268708455 Angra Mainyu

      Victor Reppert

      I am further claiming that these expressions of hatred would be far less tolerable in the eyes of many if we were to substitute "Jews," "atheists," or "homosexuals, or "African-Americans."

      With regard to the expressions of moral outrage, they would be seen as less tolerable in the eyes of most people if they were expressions of moral outrage at someone just for being an African-American, or a Jew (in the cultural and/or ethnic sense).

      If, on the other hand, there were expressions of moral outrage at someone for being an atheist, or gay, you're right that they would be seen as far less tolerable in the eyes of many (e.g., atheists and gays respectively), but on the other hand, in my assessment they would most likely be seen as far more tolerable in the eyes of many others (e.g., many Christians and probably many more Muslims).

      That's what tends to happen where there are strong moral disagreements: people exchange moral condemnations of each other' behavior, including of course moral condemnations of the other persons' moral condemnation of one's behavior, and so on.

      Purely for example: most Christians say that behavior X is immoral, and act on such belief, which causes outrage in many people who engage in X, or who do not but still find the moral condemnation of X morally unacceptable, and so you have moral outrage at the behavior of (some, probably most) Christians expressed in some rally, which prompts moral outrage from some Christians, which prompts moral outrage at the moral outrage…well, you get the picture.

      In the middle of the moral battle, the 'most', 'nearly all', 'usually', etc., tend to get lost, for some reason or another, and those who generally form a part of the group of one's opponents in a sense that appears relevant to the matters at hand (i.e., they attend the apparently offensive rally, express adherence to the religion on which the claims are based, etc.) get targeted as well, sometimes unfairly, sometimes not (that depends on what behavior one is talking about, how relevant the group in question turns out to be, etc.).

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      The one about panties I could actually understand, in that some politicians have made an issue about contraception, etc. But the Rick Santorums of the world aren't causing problems because they are religious, they are causing problems because they think they can use the state to advance their religious agenda. On the other hand, I am a pretty throughgoing church-state separationist. For example, I voted against the anti-SSM initiative in Arizona on grounds that had nothing to do with my approval or disapproval of homosexuality. It had to do with the fact that we have long since stopped giving out marriage licenses based on morality tests. If we had not, Newt Gingrich wouldn't have one. So, whether I approve of homosexuality or not, I can't see how we can give Hugh Hefner a marriage license to marry the latest 19-year-old Playmate, but not give George Takei (Mr. Sulu) a license to marry his long-time, monogamous partner. We have to be able not only disagree with one another's beliefs, but also disapprove of one another's conduct, without social conflict; otherwise, our pluralistic society will break down.

      I am offended not by Dawkins' atheism, but by his attempt to use what I consider to be intellectual bullying tactics to make the case for atheism. The ridicule, the child abuse rhetoric, etc., suggest to me that he is not willing simply to make his case and follow the argument where it leads. He has advocated mockery and ridicule as a method of persuasion, and I think it poisons the atmosphere.

      I wonder, though, if a lot of hatred doesn't begin as moral outrage, and then grows into hatred.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16886474794200567572 Rike

      What I wonder is what Victor Reppert would compare a church service to, in which the pastor is calling for all gays to be fenced in and kept there until the last one has died out?
      No hatred there, Mr. Reppert? Oh no, if the "Bible teaches it" it's not hatred – it's love and caring!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

      Why is Victor so upset that it is religion that is being questioned?

      If Dawkins had asked 'Does group X really believe that the Latvian Gambit is the greatest opening in the world?', would Victor start to complain that Dawkins preached hate, mockery and ridicule?

      If Dawkins had asked 'Do Lions fans really believe the Detroit Lions are the greatest team in the history of the NFL?', would Victor compare that to the KKK?

      Why are we allowed to mock people who think that Elvis Presley was a greater singer than Pavarotti but we are not allowed to mock people who think a glass of wine has been turned into blood, but looks and tastes just like wine?

      Well, we can mock them, but Victor will write articles about us expressing hatred and comparing us to the KKK.

      Which he would never do if we mocked 'America's Got Talent'.

      Why the double standards?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16342860692268708455 Angra Mainyu

      Victor Reppert

      The one about panties I could actually understand, in that some politicians have made an issue about contraception, etc. But the Rick Santorums of the world aren't causing problems because they are religious, they are causing problems because they think they can use the state to advance their religious agenda.

      But the problem is precisely their moral beliefs, which include a belief that they ought to promote that agenda by means of the state.

      Yet, their moral beliefs are to a considerable extent inform by their religious beliefs.

      In fact, using the law in many cases seems to be the official Catholic position as well (not exactly that of Santorum on many issues, but surely to use the state in many cases): for instance, the Catholic Church actively campaigns against sex-ed except 'abstinence only', SSM, abortion rights, and so on, not only in the US but in many other countries as well (e.g., across Latin America).

      Not all the attendants are American or care only about American issues, but even if we restrict the matter to the US, recently, Catholic bishops put pressure on Obama on a measure related to contraception, and they succeeded. Moreover, they tend to actively campaign against SSM.

      Of course, not all Christians hold that position, but the fact is that religious beliefs like Christianity (in its different versions) usually inform to some extent people's moral beliefs, and they in turn how they would behave publicly, what laws they would support, what moral teachings they will pass on to their children or to others they may convince to join their religion, etc. On that note, it's not only support for laws that many atheists have a problem with.

      That aside, it seems pretty much everyone is in favor of using the state to enforce some moral beliefs. The question is which ones. Religion is of course not the only cause of conflict in that regard – there are plenty. But it's one of them, and the one that plays a significant role in many social disputes involving somewhat organized atheists.

      Victor Reppert

      I am offended not by Dawkins' atheism, but by his attempt to use what I consider to be intellectual bullying tactics to make the case for atheism. The ridicule, the child abuse rhetoric, etc., suggest to me that he is not willing simply to make his case and follow the argument where it leads. He has advocated mockery and ridicule as a method of persuasion, and I think it poisons the atmosphere.

      But it's already poisoned, given even standard Catholic beliefs and usual actions based on them. There is no way around that as far as I can tell.

      The question, as I see it, is whether the methods are justified. I think it depends on the context.

      I might mock, etc., as a reply to some tactics or behavior. For instance, if someone tells me I deserve to be tortured forever, mockery would likely be perfectly suitable in my assessment, though I'm more likely to pick a different course of action (depending on what I'm trying to accomplish, etc.).
      On the other hand, I would not jump on random Catholics and ask them whether they really believe.

      I don't know what exactly Dawkins is advocating (i.e., in which context he's recommending that); I do not really follow his position too closely.

      Victor Reppert

      I wonder, though, if a lot of hatred doesn't begin as moral outrage, and then grows into hatred.

      That may well happen (I think it does); the moral outrage increases, and then one gets both outrage and hatred.

      For instance, if the assessment is that the opponent is so evil that he'll continue with very immoral actions even when confronted with definitive arguments against the beliefs on which they base them, hating them does not even look out of place.

      Of course, the big disagreements are on the morality of the actions in question, the weight of the given arguments, and so on.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16342860692268708455 Angra Mainyu

      Victor Reppert

      On the other hand, I am a pretty throughgoing church-state separationist. For example, I voted against the anti-SSM initiative in Arizona on grounds that had nothing to do with my approval or disapproval of homosexuality. It had to do with the fact that we have long since stopped giving out marriage licenses based on morality tests. If we had not, Newt Gingrich wouldn't have one. So, whether I approve of homosexuality or not, I can't see how we can give Hugh Hefner a marriage license to marry the latest 19-year-old Playmate, but not give George Takei (Mr. Sulu) a license to marry his long-time, monogamous partner.

      I will address the issue of the grounds on which American states give out marriage licenses in a moment, but first a couple of points:

      1) I find your position much better than that of many Christians.
      I'm not sure what your take on the morality of sex before marriage, gay sex, etc., is, though.

      2) If a Christian finds gay sex always immoral, or you find divorce immoral, or abortion, etc., and she passes on those moral beliefs, that too would have social effects, and many of those on the other end will likely reply condemning her back. As I mentioned, that's pretty much the nature of moral disagreement.
      It's true that if she does not support any legal enforcement of her beliefs, the social consequences are much milder. But they do not disappear.

      3) While the laws on marriage licenses have changed, that seems to be the result of both changing moral beliefs. But that does not mean that American states (i.e., their lawmakers, officials, etc.) have stopped giving out marriage licenses on moral grounds.
      It's just that there are plenty of cases in which some unions are no longer deemed immoral by most, or they are deemed somewhat immoral but not immoral enough to warrant the use of state force to prevent them, or even to deny legal recognition.
      That depend on the case.
      Yet, for instance, American states would not grant a marriage license to a couple of infertile siblings.
      It does not matter whether he had a vasectomy, or whether she had a tube ligation, or both. It's not a matter of public health, but one of morality: it's one case in which it appears most people (or, at least, lawmakers) consider that the union would be immoral enough to deny the license.
      Many of those who oppose SSM also deem same sex unions immoral enough to deny a license.
      Other do not, but still find them immoral and are willing to spread the belief that they are immoral.
      And so on. In short, people have different moral beliefs, some of them resulting from different religious beliefs, and that results in different actions, etc.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

      vjack wrote:

      Suppose I were to agree with you that mockery is a bad thing that we should avoid. Who gets to define what constitutes mockery? Christians seem to equate criticism (and sometimes even disagreement) with mockery. This has been a very effective strategy for them to stifle critical examination. I think going along with this is a serious mistake. Ridiculous beliefs invite mockery; ridiculous beliefs that endanger others command it.

      That's a fair (and good) question, vjack. I don't know how to answer who gets to decide; but I have an idea about how each person should decide. I suggest each person ask two questions:

      (1) Am I treating others' sincerely held beliefs the way I would want my own beliefs to be treated?
      (2) What are my goals in communicating and how will my behavior help or hinder my achieving those goals?

      For example, I think belief in a flat earth is absurd, but if I were talking to someone who were a "devout" flat earther, I would try to be respectful to the person although I have no respect for their belief. I might even say something like, "I can tell you sincerely believe the earth is flat. I don't. In fact, I think that idea is so absurd I simply can't take it seriously."

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

      Hi Victor — Thank you for your comments here and also for your follow-up, clarifying post. I see the distinction you're making and agree that my post does not apply to your position, based upon that clarification.

      Jeff

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

      Jeff,

      You say that you can be respectful of the person while having no respect for a belief. I think that this is the only thing you have ever said that in ANY way reminds me of something said by Jerry Falwell. The late, not-so-great Rev. Falwell used to deny the charge of homophobia. Concerning gay people he would say (MOCKERY ALERT)"We do not hate the home-o-sexual. We luuuv the home-o-sexual. It is his si-yin we hate-uh."

      Can you respect the believer but not the belief? Well, it depends…Some assertions are so irrational, bigoted, or slimy (like Rev. Falwell's uber-hypocritical remarks about gays), that I think that they should make us think less of the speaker.

      Further, when people say things that are hateful, stupid, and hypocritical, mockery is a perfectly correct response. The ridiculous deserves ridicule. In such a case there is no ethical issue, only a practical one: Is it prudent to employ mockery in this context?

      Frequently the answer will be "yes." As H.L. Mencken sagely observed "One belly laugh is worth a thousand syllogisms." Tina Fey, by getting people to laugh at Sarah Palin, achieved far more than any amount of sober critique. So, in the spirit of Ecclesiastes, there is a time to mock and a time to refrain from mocking.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

      Keith,

      LOL! Well, in that case, let me try to distance myself from Falwell.

      It's hard for me to imagine a real-life scenario where I would respect a flat-earther. Whether or not I would be respectful would probably have a lot to do with the context in which their belief came up. If they just mentioned, in a roundabout, non-proselytizing sort of way that they were a flat earther, then I would respond like I mentioned in my comment above. But if they tried to argue for their position, I probably would use mockery, sarcasm, and ridicule. I would do so with the full awareness that doing so is almost certainly not going to change their mind.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

      JJ LOWDER
      (1) Am I treating others' sincerely held beliefs the way I would want my own beliefs to be treated?

      CARR
      Well, that depends upon if you have the ability to laugh at yourself or not.

      And if you regard yourself as belonging to an infallible organisation or not.

      If you are unable to take some gentle ribbing and cannot comprehend the possibility that you might be wrong about something, then you will not like mockery.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      Rike: What I wonder is what Victor Reppert would compare a church service to, in which the pastor is calling for all gays to be fenced in and kept there until the last one has died out?
      No hatred there, Mr. Reppert? Oh no, if the "Bible teaches it" it's not hatred – it's love and caring!

      Nope, the Bible doesn't teach it, and it is hate.

      Q: What was the sin of Sodom?

      A: Ezekiel 16: 48-49. "This is the sin of Sodom; she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not help or encourage the poor and needy. They were arrogant and this was abominable in God's eyes."

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

      I see Victor is cherry-picking bits of the Bible to see what tastes good and what can be left to rot.

      Good for him!

      No need to read just a couple of verses later where 'God' says '“‘However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them,….'

      You can oppress the poor as sinfully as you want.

      But God will forgive you (Ezekiel 16)

      Of course, Victor will denounce this as fundamentalist atheism (ie reading the proof-texts he uses to ease his conscience in their real context)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      So, if you were God, these sins would be unforgivable? You'd make repentance and forgiveness impossible?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      Keith: What exactly, is the problem with the "hate the sin, love the sinner" response.

      I don't think, for example, that disbelieving someone's beliefs, or disapproving of someone's actions, is makes one's treatment or response to that person hostile. If every instance of disapproval or disagreement were hostile, we could not live in a diverse society.

      That is why, for example, I think it important to be able to make the case for SSM that doesn't require moral approval of homosexuality. The ability to interact in civil society given fundamental differences of religious belief and moral practice is critical, and one thing I find upsetting in people like Dawkins is that I believe his atheist fanaticism is undercutting that.

      If we could believe Falwell when he says he only hates the sin of homosexuality and doesn't hate gay people, I think we would look at him differently. The reason his comments are obnoxious is that his conduct otherwise suggests that they are not true. He doesn't practice what he preaches.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

      VICTOR
      So, if you were God, these sins would be unforgivable?

      CARR
      If I were God, I would kill them all.

      Happily for everybody I am not God, so I don't have to arrange for people to be hacked to death and stoned.

      Which saves time in my busy schedule.

      I can leave all that to the All-Smighty.

      Ezekiel 16 (Victor's chosen chapter)
      I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring on you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger. 39 Then I will deliver you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you stark naked. 40 They will bring a mob against you, who will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords. 41 They will burn down your houses and inflict punishment on you in the sight of many women.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

      Victor,

      I think you are conflating two different questions here: (1) Can you hate the sin and love the sinner? and (2) Can you hate the sin and still be tolerant of the sinner? Answering the second question first, the answer is "Sure. Even if I not only hate the sin, but don't like that S.O.B. at all." I disliked Rev. Falwell's homophobia. I also (vehemently) disliked him. Does that mean I was intolerant of Rev. Falwell? Not at all. I could say to someone, paraphrasing the famous saying of Voltaire, "I disagree with everything you say. I also think you are a son of a bitch. However, I would defend to the death the right of a son of a bitch like you to say stupid, hateful things." In short you can strongly defend tolerance for people you personally despise. The ACLU has done it on many occasions. Being tolerant of someone is completely consistent with having no respect for their beliefs or them. Tolerance means being willing to put up with something, not having to like it or respect it in any way.

      Concerning the first question: Can you love the sinner while hating the sin? Well, it depends on the sinner and the sin. Sometimes it is reasonable and sometimes it isn't. Some sins are so rotten that they show that the person who commits them is utterly despicable. I guess a saint could love even the despicable…but why? Where is the virtue in loving a Dick Cheney or a Donald Trump?

      Rev. Falwell's problem was simple: Despite his nauseatingly unctuous reassurances, he clearly hated gay people. His offense was simple hypocrisy.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16342860692268708455 Angra Mainyu

      On the issue of 'hate the sin, love the sinner', I agree with Keith's excellent point about a crucial distinction between tolerating someone and loving them.

      Another distinction (less crucial in this context, though still relevant to the discussion) is between 'love' and 'not hate'; those aren't the same. One may well neither hate nor love a person.

      But leaving that aside, regarding 'hate the sin and love the sinner', I think a difficulty (not the only one) is that there is no entity 'immoral behavior' separated from people who behave immorally, 'out there' so to speak. If a person feels hates how other person is behaving, how is that hatred not directed to the person who is behaving in such a way?

      Of course, someone may well disapprove of someone else's behavior, but not enough to actually hate them – there are different degrees of disapproval.

      Also, someone may well love a person most of the time, and hate them in specific cases, when contemplating some behavior that is deemed appalling (e.g., the mother of someone who behaved in a truly appalling way). That results in conflicting feelings, but it may well happen too.

      I also tend to agree with Keith about the lack of merit in loving the despicable. What's the merit in loving Ted Bundy?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      Your critique of at least Falwell's assertion that he hated the sin and loved the sinner is, in the last analysis, to say that his statement is not true. In various ways, through his actions, he showed that he not only hated homosexuality but homosexuals. But if so, what infuriates you about Falwell isn't that he preaches the maxim that one should hate the sin and love the sinner, but rather his failure to practice it.

      Christians are enjoined by their faith to love others, and I take it that means that regardless of how badly a person has gone wrong, we think that, by the grace of God, that they could someday be brought to disconnect themselves from their sin by repentance. Sin, if unchecked, will make you miserable for all eternity (no fire, no brimstone needed here), so we can hope for their repentance on only for our own sakes, but for theirs. Atheists are, of course, under no such obligation.

      I guess one question you might ask is whether you can continue to respect a person while believing that what they believe is completely unworthy of respect. And I think that would depend on what kinds of processes you think went into the person's holding the belief that they hold.

      Let's take a belief that secularists invariably hold in total contempt, such as the idea that the world was created in six days in 4004 B. C. If that person had access to a scientific education it would be hard to see how they could hold on to that belief without something having gone very haywire with the way in which they went about deciding what to believe. In the last analysis, what you would be lacking in respect for would be the process, as opposed to merely the belief itself. We can imagine people for whom YEC could be believed even though their belief-forming processes were relatively innocent.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

      Victor,

      I think the issue between us boils down to this: SHOULD we always attempt to distinguish between the sin and the sinner or the belief and the believer, so that we can love and respect the one while despising the other? Falwell was a hypocrite because he claimed allegiance to this ideal, but failed to practice it. Further, I question the ideal, or at least its general applicability.

      Let's focus on beliefs and believers. I endorse W.K. Clifford's concept of epistemic rights and duties. Yes, of course, you may be within your epistemic rights in believing something totally false. At various times it was eminently reasonable for people to believe in phlogiston, the luminiferous ether, and vital forces.

      My point was simply that some expressed beliefs are so egregiously hateful, stupid, and inexcusable that you have good grounds for judging the believer as well as the belief. Early in my teaching career a student submitted an essay that argued that we should not seek a treatment for AIDS. AIDS, he claimed, was a good thing because it helped rid the world of wicked perverts. He seriously meant it; it wasn't a satire. Also, he was not an 18 year old, but a man in his 30's or 40's. Prima facie, then, he was a bigot and/or a moron. Is such a judgment wrong?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

      Victor,

      A further issue I have always had with Christianity is the one you express as follows:

      "Christians are enjoined by their faith to love others, and I take it that means that regardless of how badly a person has gone wrong, we think that, by the grace of God, that they could someday be brought to disconnect themselves from their sin by repentance."

      Taken literally, this means that Christians are enjoined to love, say, people who throw acid into the faces of little girls to keep them from going to school. Indeed, Christians are enjoined to love tyrants, serial killers, traffickers in sexual slavery, drug cartel thugs, terrorists, fanatics, con men who cheat the elderly out of their life savings, etc.

      This is one of the many cases where Christianity, by setting up an impossible (and undesirable) ideal creates conditions that guarantee self-deception and hypocrisy. CAN you love someone like, say, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad? SHOULD you even if you could? I think the answer to both questions is "no."

      I submit that a person with any sense of decency who is well informed about the actions of Assad–shelling towns, sending death squads to massacre unarmed civilians, etc.–cannot love such an individual, not even "by the grace of God." If such a person claims to do so, I think that he is fooling himself or attempting to fool the rest of us.

      Should you love Assad, even if you can? Why? Because of the off chance that he might someday repent? Get real. I submit that the proper, the MORAL attitude to take towards Assad and his vile ilk is one of outraged contempt.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

      Sometimes this issue gets cast when Christians ask whether they ought to love Satan. For non-universalists, Satan is a spiritual hopeless case; there is no good for Satan that anyone can possibly hope for. Again, with some persons who do great evil, you it's hard to find anything in that person that could give you a basis for a movement back toward good.

      For me, loving people like that is, as Obama would say, "above my pay grade." It's tough enough for me to maintain an appropriate loving attitude toward people who behave rudely on Dangerous Idea (of all persuasions). So, your question is better addressed to sa better candidate for canonization than yours truly. And to pretend that you have actually succeeded in loving people when you really haven't is worse than just hating their guts. Falwell makes a fool of himself, of course, when he pretends that he loves gay people.

      There are remarkable transformations of evildoers, and it is a major theme in Christianity and literature. John Newton, the slave ship owner who wrote Amazing Grace comes to mind, and even from Star Wars there is the transformation of Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi.

      I wonder if Bonhoeffer ever addressed this sort of thing. Did he think it was possible to love Hitler, and what could he mean by that given his involvement in efforts to kill him.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

      Victor,

      Looking at some of the comments on our dialogue at Dangerous Idea, I see that there are two kinds of replies. The first reasserts that you can be outraged at the actions of someone, even a Bashar Al-Assad, while still loving the person. The second reply says that to love is to wish a person well, that is to want what is good for the person. You can want what is good for someone while deploring what they do. Both replies typify what is wrong with the "hate the sin love the sinner" doctrine.

      The first reply disregards the fact there is an obvious connection between outrageous action and outrageous character. Acts that are cruel, greedy, callous, vicious, exploitative, or hateful spring from characters that are cruel, greedy, callous, vicious, exploitative, and hateful. If you despise the one, you should despise the other. Or is the person somehow distinct from his character so that you can love the person and hate his character? What IS the person if not his character?

      The second reply is equally wrongheaded. I assume everybody has heard the awful story about the porn actor who posted videos of himself torturing and killing cats and then torturing, killing, and dismembering a man. Should we will this monster well and want what is good for him? No, I think we should want bad things for him, namely, that he be executed (Canada has no death penalty. Rats.) or at least that he spend the rest of his life in a maximum security prison. Or are we to say that willing such a person's just execution is willing what is good for him, and therefore is loving him? Here we have another fine example of the ethical contortionism and conceptual gerrymandering Christian casuists have long practiced.

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