Michael Egnor: Champion of Those Who Think Reading is a Waste of Time

Michael Egnor is displeased with me.  He came to my blog and dropped a big pile of lame in the comments.  I rebutted that comment.  Now he’s issued me a challenge which, frankly, deserves a td;dr (too dumb, didn’t read).

If you read my response to Egnor, you’ll see that I took excerpts of what he said and responded to those excerpts.  This is how dialogue happens, by responding to what people say.  Egnor responded not by rebutting anything I said, but by vomiting up a whole bunch of talking points on the Jessica Ahlquist case.  What’s more, those talking points are a bunch of easily answerable confessions of ignorance that could have been answered by either reading the judge’s decision or by learning to use google.

The proper response is to just ignore people who change the goalposts, but gosh dangit, you know me: I try to please everyone.

I’ll throw in later.  Dad has already gone in there and sprayed some whup ass.

“In what way was Jessica Ahlquist harmed by the prayer mural?”

The way she was harmed was “legally”. If you had read the 40 page decision, you would know this. It is explained clearly and at length by the Judge. Actually, had you read the decision, most of your sophomoric questions would have been answered. Why didn’t you bother to read it before exposing your ignorance in this manner?

“Is feeling “excluded and ostracized” by a prayer on a wall the reaction of a reasonable person?”

Yep. At least, it is the decision of an impartial court that is exactly the reaction of not only a REASONABLE person, but also an OBJECTIVE person.

From the decision:  “While Plaintiff recalls feeling ostracized and alone, the constitutionality of the Prayer Mural turns not on Plaintiff’s feelings, but rather on the Court’s assessment of how a reasonable and objective observer, fully aware of the background and circumstances, would view the Prayer Mural and the conduct of the School Committee.”

“During the 50 years the mural was on the wall, how many other people reported experiencing the same harm?”

Some, but it doesn’t matter how many. Of course, based on the vitriol, ostracism, bullying, harassment, threats of assault,rape, and death from good tolerant Christians over this, very few people would likely have the courage to protect the rule of law as Jessica did.

From the decision: “Nor did it matter that few children had complained of the practice, for the measure of the seriousness of a breach of the Establishment Clause has never been thought to be the number of people who complain of it.”

And this from the decision: “What to most believers may seem nothing more than a reasonable request that the nonbeliever respect their religious practices, in a school context may appear to the nonbeliever or dissenter to be an attempt to employ the machinery of the State to enforce a religious orthodoxy.”

This explains it very well: “Tommy P. Baer, international president of B’nai B’rith stated:”We believe in religion and we believe in the importance of prayer. What we don’t believe in is government-sponsored religion expressed in public places…As a minority, we have felt the pain of being the outsider. No one — especially school children — should be made to feel inferior because they do not believe in the religion of the majority…”

“In what way is Ms. Ahlquist now benefitted by removing the prayer?”

1) She will no longer feel ostracized from looking at it 2) she will no longer feel marginalized to second class citizenry by her own government as excluded from the preferred religion, 3) she has the comfort of knowing she has supported our Constitution and the rule of law–a benefit every American SHOULD access but which you don’t. We ALL benefit when the rule of law is upheld, including Ms. Ahlquist.

More importantly, why do you even ask this? The real question, and one you avoid assiduously, is “Did the school violate existing case law and jurisprudence?” That is what the trial was about. Nothing else. Keep your eye on the ball.

“Would it be of benefit to Ms. Ahlquist to learn to tolerate displays of the beliefs of others?”

In terms of the trial, this question is a non sequiter. However, the answer is “In terms of THIS banner, that is her decision to make.” As to tolerating “displays of the beliefs of others?”, we all–including Jessica— do this all day every day. From our money, to clothing and jewelry on others, to icons and sayings on their cars, to churches on every corner, to Jehovah Witnesses trespassing on our doorsteps, to Westboro Bapist, to the church organized abortion protests, to bibles in hotel rooms….the list is literally endless. A much better question would be, “Would it be of benefit to people like you to respect the rights of citizens who do not subscribe to your preferred religion?”

“Do atheists have a Constitutional right not to see religious expression with which they disagree?”

Depending on WHERE that religious expression is and who is promoting it….yep.

From the decision (again): “The Supreme Court has traditionally drawn a clear line between government conduct which might be acceptable in some settings and the conduct which is prohibited in public schools.”

No one claims “atheists have a Constitutional right not to see religious expression with which they disagree” in general. However, they do in specific circumstances. That is exactly what the case was about. How could you miss that? Oh, yeah…you never read the decision.

“If atheists don’t have that right, what standing did Ahlquist have to bring the suit?”

They do have that right in instances like this one. However, the judge addresses standing. Had you read the decision, you would have the answer to this, as well as most of the other questions. If you REALLY want answers to these sophomoric questions, why aren’t you reading the actual decision of the court instead of asking them to a music major (Mr. Eberhard)? The pretty obvious answer is you don’t really want answers, you are just attempting to sow the seeds of confusion…..and failing miserably, I might add.

Well, enough time spent advising you to do the simple thing you should have done long ago: read the decision. Most of the answers you demand are there. Like the old saying says, “When all else fails, read the instructions”.

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.

  • http://willisweb.com CoderHead

    I love your dad.

  • Nomen Nescio

    over on scienceblogs, Orac has long noted that indefeatable ignorance is pretty much Egnor’s stock in trade. take that away from him, and there’d be nothing of any note left.

  • sunnybook3

    I love your dad, too!

  • Forbidden Snowflake

    over on scienceblogs, Orac has long noted that indefeatable ignorance is pretty much Egnor’s stock in trade.

    The term is “egnorance”.

  • Glodson

    Ah, that was refreshing. Now, I haven’t read much of Egnor’s work, but if that is what he offers up… well the argument could be made that reading it would count as a waste of time.

    But that was well done refutation of something that should never have existed in the first place.

  • SuperM

    Egnor is a childish fool. He flaunts this every chance he gets.

  • neatospiderplant

    Your dad’s awesome!

  • starskeptic

    I wish non-theists would stop using phrases such as “it makes me feel like a second-class citizen” – the banner made you a second-class citizen regardless of how it made you ‘feel’…

  • http://umlud.blogspot.com Umlud

    I always find these sorts of attacks humorous when you play the “when the shoe’s on the other foot”:

    If the prayer mural started with, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” and ended with a similar Tibetan Buddhist ending to prayer, with all the rest of the mural being the exact same then would Egnor (and his ilk) be so willing to defend its 50 year prominence?

    What if it started and ended with standard prayer openings from other religions, such as Judaism, Shintoism, Taoism, Sikhism, Wiccanism, or (*gasp*) Islam?

    Methinks that Egnor would not be so wrapping himself so tightly about the banner in that case.

  • eric

    Umlud, I have often thought that many of these squabbles could be easily dealt with by offering Egnorants a variation on the child’s ‘cut the cake’ exercise in fairness. In this case: they decide what sort of religious promotions the federal/state/local government is permitted to make…and then I, the other player, will decide which religion. If they then want to swich roles, we can play that game too (though it will be quick: I’ll pick no promotion at all).

    Either way, its instructive. The exercise makes transparently clear to all the players that the only time anyone thinks the big slice/small slice cut is good is when they are assuming they’ll also get to choose the first piece.


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