No Deal

Rachel Held Evans, one of the most prominent liberal Evangelical voices on the ‘net, has noticed the chagrin which some atheists feel at Richard Dawkins verbal missteps. She’s got a bargain for us:

So, atheists, I say we make a deal: How about we Christians agree not to throw this latest Richard Dawkins thing in your face and you atheists agree not to throw the next Pat Robertson thing in ours?

This reminds me a bit of the hopelessly well-intentioned Brad Paisley/LL Cool J song “Accidental Racist,” in which LL Cool J attempts to bridge the gap by rappin, “If you don’t judge my do-rag/I won’t judge your red flag” and “If you don’t judge my gold chains/I’ll forget the iron chains.”

I understand the intent. The attempt to bridge the gap is appreciated. The impulse is probably good. But forgetting the lingering effects of centuries of slavery and racial oppression in exchange for overlooking some perhaps questionable sartorial decisions? Worst. Bargain. Ever.

Obviously Evans’ deal is on a completely different scale, but still …

On this hand, we’ve got Marion “Pat” Robertson: supporter and business partner of war criminal Charles Taylor, organizer of the Operation Blessing mess which lined his pockets with diamond mine proceeds while claiming to support Rwandan refugees, founder of the ACLJ which is trying to undermine the separation of church and state, and founder of Regent University which has produced large numbers of reactionary politicians and civil servants. Oh, and he says a lot of stupid offensive things.

On the other hand, you have Richard Dawkins, who is apparently suffering the early stages of Fox Geezer Syndrome.

This is not a fair exchange. Robertson has done, and continues to do, serious harm. He’s able to do so thanks to the financial and political support of a large minority of American Christians.

Honestly, I appreciate the folks like Evans and the NALT project who actively speak out against Robertson, Bryan Fisher, Scott Lively, et. al. I recognize that the liberals are our most likely allies, and I try to step carefully when calling out the reactionaries so as not to include the progressives in condemnation. Realistically, I’ve already accepted Evans’ bargain.

But let’s not kid ourselves: Robertson is more than just the crazy uncle of American Christianity, and undoing the damage he’s done is going to take more than writing some stinging blog posts. I wish Evans had found some other figure to balance against Dawkins.

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  • Neil Rickert

    A counter offer:

    How about Christians being as critical of Pat Robertson as atheists have been of Richard Dawkins?

    • GubbaBumpkin


  • mikespeir

    When Dawkin begins attributing his insights to something supernatural I’ll put his faux pas into the same class with those of Robertson.

  • SansDeus

    At least Dawkins clarifies his position after a brief tweet that comes across as controversial.
    Pat may do this but I haven’t been presented that evidence.

    • JohnMWhite

      Robertson has clarified once or twice, when he’s really put his foot in it, though only by saying he never said what he said. A bit like the Vatican clean-up crew who keep saying, “Well, when the Pope said gays and atheists are ok, he didn’t mean it like that“.

  • JohnMWhite

    Is this still about Dawkins’ remarks on paedophilia? I guess Vorjack still hasn’t bothered to read the actual interview, nor has Evans. How about this deal: atheists and theists will both agree to actually look into the context of a quote from either Dawkins or the Bible before spouting off on how terrible it supposedly makes millions of tangentially connected people look.

  • PsiCop

    This putative “deal” is most certainly not a fair one … because it requires an apples-to-oranges comparison.

    The things Christians say, no matter how bad they might be, are almost entirely based on their reading of scripture and centuries of Christian teachings. In other words, they are the inevitable, if not very attractive, products of Christian doctrine and history. Even if some individual Christians might disagree with cranks like Robertson, no one can say he’s saying anything that can’t somehow be extracted from Christian tradition.

    The things atheists say, on the other hand, are the products of … well, their own minds. Atheists have no “doctrine”; all they have in common is a conviction that there are no deities. They don’t base what they say on this, because it’s not really a consideration in why they say it. It’s too restricted an idea to really produce much of anything else, unlike the various beliefs of Christianity, which (if they were true) have all sorts of potential ramifications.

    The smug Ms Evans no doubt thinks she’s being clever, in her self-righteous way, and her theist friends probably do, too … but too bad for them, it fails the test of logic.

  • Noelle

    Why not both call out both? No sacred cows here.

    • kessy_athena

      No sacred cows? But then what will we have for the barbeque?? I mean, there’s nothing quite as tasty as sacred cow burger.

      • Noelle

        Meh. Sacred vs non-sacred is so overblown. I suspect it’s a scam to make me pay more money for steaks.

    • Gordon Duffy

      There was no suggestion here that she shouldnt call out both, just that they are not in the same league, let alone each other’s equivalent.

      • Noelle

        There is no atheist equivalent to the Pat Robertsons of the religious world. That the Rachel Held Evans thinks there is, and that it could be used as a bargaining chip for the can’t we all just get along crowd, it just doesn’t work. I was speaking more to the idea that creating a solidarity between liberal Christians and atheists by agreeing to not criticize the other’s side will also not work. And if Christians are doing their jobs, they shouldn’t be surprised or annoyed when atheists do go after the Pats. They should be doing it themselves as well. That’s some solidarity I can live with

  • brgulker

    I think Rachel’s point is bigger than just Pat and Richard… the point is that, while it’s certainly fair to criticize individuals for saying stupid things, it’s not usually fair to characterize an entire group of people by an individual saying stupid things.