Daily dose of Cranston #2: Jim Forti

One by one they came to the podium to implore the banner committee to fight a losing fight paid for by their children’s future.  They deserve a rebuttal.

Jim Forti deplored the climate of aggression and enmity the pro-appeal crowd had maintained for Jessica Ahlquist.  Good for him.  Sadly, being nice does not make someone more reasoned, as this video reveals.


He says…

“As a practicing Christian I believe I have been given a special gift…”


“…and that is the wisdom to realize that there is someone far greater than myself…”

There are lots of people better than you, Jim.  There are lots of people better than me.  It doesn’t take a “special gift” to realize this.  Being a Christian does not make you special.

Of course, Jim was referring to god.  The special gift he’s referring to is his belief that god exists and that 2,000 years ago some guy rose from the dead.  A belief he has reached, as have all Christians no matter how nice, through gullibility, not evidence.

“…and a religious belief that teaches one important fact: to love and accept others as they are.”

Swell.  Of course, one doesn’t need religion to arrive at the conclusion that you should love your neighbors.  However, for the conclusion that love means depriving people of equality, or that love means not calling a doctor as your child dies, or that love means covering your spouse in a cloth bag, or that love means spending your children’s educational dollars to fight to have religious words on a government building, etc., those things all seem to require religion.

And since when is it moral to accept people as they are?  I think people who believe things for bad reasons should not stay as they are.  I think they can do better.  I think they should feel obligated to do better.  The people who oppose equality for gay people?  I want them to change.  The people who prioritize prayers on walls over proper education (people like Jim Forti)?  I want them to change, and I very much think they should.

“The most important words a Christian says and practices is simply “Love thy neighbor as you would want to be loved yourself.”  That, ladies and gentlemen of the council, is something to fight for.”

Those words in the bible, not unlike the prayer banner’s admonition to lose with grace, clearly have little effect.  Look at all the believers in the crowd, Jim.  Are they loving as they would like to be loved?

“It is the true reason to vote to appeal the decision, and I’ll explain.”

And how is the idea that you should love others as you would like to be loved under attack, such that you need to fight for it, Jim?  You never get around to telling us.

“I would ask those who really believe in the Christian faith not to belittle or speak in a cruel and hurtful manner to this young lady…”

But Jim, they do really believe.  And yet, it hasn’t made them better.  In fact, I don’t see how anybody could argue that it hasn’t made them worse.  Take every single person who supports this “neutral, non-prayer mural”, and every single person who has threatened Jessica, and you will find one quality that unites them all: the belief in Jesus.

Jesus fails at making people more loving.  It’s obvious.  So let’s not be in a terrible rush to give Christianity the credit for kindness, Jim.

“I think it’s fair to say that a mural, with words on it, could never hurt anyone.”

Words elevating one class of citizens over another when endorsed by a government that is supposed to serve all its citizens equally sure can!  What if the banner had said “Be happy there’s no god and no hell, so all our successes are the product of our own effort!”?  Would you be arguing for the school to lay off teachers and cut programs to fight for that banner because a mural, with words on it, could never hurt anyone?

“It has inspired thousands of people in the past and in the future will inspire more.  What’s wrong with that?”

Nothing is wrong with that.  Of course, nobody takes issue with that.  They do take issue with the fact that the state must stay neutral on matters of religion.  Eye on the ball, Jim.

“The real question is what is the fear about this mural?  Wouldn’t all of us agree that there a lot more things to be fearful of in this world, and if your real message, Jessica, is to better our schools and our nation, why not look at a cause that is truly fearful…”

I see, so concern about one issue, like her school breaking the law, prohibits Jessica from being concerned about other issues?  Because really, you can only care about one thing at a time.  Do you say to police officers “C’mon guys, why are you worried about thieves?  Don’t you know there are murderers out there?”

“The social media may be our greatest enemy so far…”

In the case of Christianity, this banner, and anybody who wants to bully Jessica from afar, I certainly hope it is. If someone talks about how god has it in for Jessica, it will spread like wildfire; if somebody makes a crummy argument about the banner, ditto.  Social media is fantastic at taking the option of bullying in private away from people.  It creates accountability, and that is anathema to lies and mean people.

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.

  • unbound

    “In fact, I don’t see how anybody could argue that it has made them worse.”

    I’m thinking that you meant that to read:

    In fact, I don’t see how anybody could argue that it has done anything but made them worse.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I did. Thank you!

  • sqlrob

    Are they loving as they would like to be loved?

    Given how they like to claim persecution? Yes.

  • Randomfactor

    “The social media may be our greatest enemy so far…”

    Did they REALLY think we’d stop after Scientology was vanquished?

  • H.H.

    Every Christian who has defended the banner assumes that anyone who opposes it must be doing so on emotional grounds. It “scares” us. It “disturbs” us. We are “offended” by it. They then go on to explain why we shouldn’t be scared, disturbed, or offended.

    But the reason for wanting the banner to come down has nothing to do with personal feelings. It’s illegal, people. It violates our Constitution and the principles it established. This has been explained. Repeatedly. But apparently the religious–who are themselves ruled by fear, revulsion and offense–can’t help but project these petty motivations onto us.

  • Zinc Avenger

    @H.H., #4:

    Suddenly I understand what it must be like to be them.

  • Randomfactor

    Zinc Avenger, I think that’s a basic human flaw. We see others as we see ourselves.

    It causes Religious conservatives to imagine we’re all a bunch of hideous criminals barely restrained from raping, killing and littering.

    It causes us to imagine Religious conservatives can be reasoned with.

    • Efogoto

      Succinct and spot on!

  • keith

    Has the banner actually been taken down?

    I think that it is reasonable to wait for a little while if some Cranston residents want to pay to have this done in a way that will allow the banner to be preserved, but they need to be working on this with some urgency now that the decision is final.

  • keith

    Apparently not. Looks like the superintendent wants to play with the possibility of contempt charges.


  • http://NA Todd Armstrong

    Great analysis JT.

  • http://clevelandatheists.com Sam Salerno

    JT you are fucking hilarious. But also, you are right. I would like to address this guys question of what do we fear in leaving the “prayer” up. It is because we don’t want to revert back into the Dark Ages. This is the reason we fight state/church issues. If we did not the religious nuts would run roughshod over us like they did in the past. And that’s what I’m afraid of. And that’s why we have a first amendment.