Defending Horrors to Build Bridges

Disclaimer: What I blog on my personal site does not reflect the views and opinions of the Secular Student Alliance, just me.

Oh, Chris Stedman.  I caught a tweet of his the other day that made me chuckle.

ChrisDStedman: Childish, vulgar, dehumanizing comments by @AmericanAtheist prez. MT @MrAtheistPants: I’ll defame #Islam if I want to.. fb.me/HEH66rNB

He was referring to Dave Silverman saying…

Never give up a right without a fight. I will defame Islam if I want to. It doesn’t mean I hate Muslims. It means Islam is a shitty religion that worships a pedophile as morally perfect.

Vulgar?  Sure.  Who gives a shit?

As far as childish and dehumanizing, how so?  Islam is a shitty religion (more shitty than most, and try me if you don’t think we can defend that statement) and Muhammad was a pedophile, which has resulted in several Muslims continuing the practice.  If Chris doesn’t like the word “shitty”, I wonder what adjective he would suggest.  Horrible?  Morally repugnant?  Should we greet the anti-science, morally fucked up religion of Islam with an, “Oh shucks, that is pretty anti-humanity and doesn’t make much sense now does it?”  How softly would be enough to get Stedman to relinquish his iron-clad grip on his pearls?  Frankly, to call Islam shitty is like calling the surface of the sun warm.

You want to know what’s dehumanizing?  Marrying a pre-pubescent woman or treating that like it’s ok.  Aisha was 6 or 7 when she became engaged to Muhammad.  He consummated the marriage when she was nine.  Nine!  That’s pretty damn sick.  And to call it childish or dehumanizing when someone points that out is pretty fucking dehumanizing.  It places a care of offending those who place the pedophile on a pedestal over rebuking the practice.  It places political correctness (or at least a very messed up idea of political correctness) over human suffering, and I take far more offense to Stedman insisting that some wonky sense of propriety should trump anybody’s willingness to call a spade a spade than I take to anything Silverman said.

Or maybe Chris would prefer that we remain silent, making nice with the Muslims who are closer to being functional atheists while letting the monsters slide unopposed?  Or shall we just let the fundamentalists be and hope that our tacit endorsement prompts them to abandon their fundamentalism on their own?  If that’s the case, I can only give a resounding NO!  If that’s not the case, at what point would it be acceptable to tell them they’re wrong?  How fiercely should we condemn some of their faith’s anti-human ideas (burka, gays, Koran’s policy on apostates…I could go on)?  And since when does Chris Stedman get to appoint himself as the one to make that call?

Jesus Christ, I can’t stand when people try to sell themselves on how nice they are and how eager they are to build bridges by complaining about those who criticize irrationality and its fruits.  It gives the worst qualities of humanity as well as the irrationality demanded by faith a pass.  I’m not ok with that.  Chris is, of course, not the only person who does this.  But in this case, stepping in and defending the worship of a pedophile by suggesting it’s not dehumanizing is not nice, it’s fucked up to the extreme.  One may build a bridge with moderate Muslims by catering to their fantasies and by failing to point out the glaring moral shortcomings of the Islamic faith (or by just not criticizing it in general), but they’ve burned the bridge with anybody who gives a damn about honesty or the truth in the process, and that includes any bridges remaining with me.

Here’s the deal.  Religion does not win by having the best arguments.  One of the ways it does win is by convincing the world that it’s obliged to respect religion.  By calling Islam, or Christianity, or whatever religion precisely what it is, we take that away.  Is it off-putting?  Yes.  But so are billboards that say atheists can be good people.  What is accomplished by this is forcing religion to pull itself up by its boot straps and at least try another tactic.  That’s a good thing, and don’t pretend that it’s not.  And let’s also not pretend like Dave, myself, Ophelia, or anybody stops at calling them shitty.  We spend a tremendous amount of time factually criticizing these faiths.  If we’re wrong about Islam being false or about Islam having some anti-human ideas, tell us why, but don’t act like we’re being “dehumanizing” by pointing them out.

The problem here is that a lot of people want to coexist by acting like our intellectual differences don’t exist. But the thing is, the people who insist women wear burkas, the ones saying gays don’t get equal rights, etc….those opinions are produced by belief in god. The only way to get them away from it is to either convince them that that’s not what god really wants, or to convince them that god doesn’t exist.

In neither case is pretending like we can get along while that belief lives tenable, and in one of the cases it’s an outright lie.

Build bridges, but not by assuming people need to be lied to or that evil must be tacitly endorsed (or treated like it’s not shitty).


Got a tweet from Chris.

Inaccurate, #Islamophobic, and pretty vile overall… RT @jteberhard: Defending horrors to build bridges @ChrisDStedman bit.ly/vEC0bR

Of course, Chris can’t be bothered to say where it’s inaccurate.  And the guy who thinks defaming the worship of a pedophile is “dehumanizing” calls me vile.  That’s adorable, if not silly.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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