Second comment: Rebecca doesn’t think the Cranston banner should have come down.

Our next comment comes from Rebecca:

I’m a Christian and I think that looking at the majority of us from the few that do the wrong thing is misleading. I, as a Christian personally hate it when other Christians shove their religious beliefs down other people’s throats, and they goes for all religious and that includes Atheism. I do not agree that the school should be focused to take down the mural, nor should prayers be forbidden in school. That disadvantages Christianity as a religion. If this was a discussion in terms of something that impacted non-Christians in a negative way then it would be something worth discussing. The responds from Christians on this issue though, is also appalling. Threating physical or emotional abuse towards someone who has a different view on life is wrong also. Jessica should not be focused to pray nor should she be a focus of a public Facebook attack using pray as a defence. However, trying to remove this mural is not a moral correct move on her part either. We live in a world where we must all be tolerant of each other, or hate crimes are just going to get worse.

There is a lot I thought Rebecca missed.

I’m a Christian and I think that looking at the majority of us from the few that do the wrong thing is misleading.

But you are all doing the wrong thing: you are all believing based on faith.  Sure, this causes some people to be tremendous monsters, and I’m not saying that all Christians are terrible monsters, but what I am saying is that all of them throw reason to the wind, and that is my gripe.  If you think I’m wrong about this, you may feel free to defend the truth of your personal claims about god.

After all, you admit in that sentence that there are bad Christians out there, shouldn’t your beliefs be more credible than theirs if you are to really say they’re wrong?

I, as a Christian personally hate it when other Christians shove their religious beliefs down other people’s throats, and they goes for all religious and that includes Atheism.

Atheism is not a religion.  It is, in fact, as far from a religion as you can get.  Saying atheism is a religion is like saying good health is also a sickness.

And I can actually understand when Christians try to shove their beliefs down my throat.  After all, if eternal torment is on the line, I’d expect nothing less from the compassionate.  It’s the Christians who believe I’m going to hell, who walk right past me without mutter so much as a syllable as if to say “Yeah, you’re going to hell, but if a conversation might save you, I’m sorry, that’s just too much hassle for me.  I got mine!”

Likewise, I feel it would be immoral of me not to combat unreason.  Most people have good intentions, but what makes most of the human-driven suffering in this world is well-intentioned people with inaccurate beliefs.  And because beliefs are the gatekeepers of actions, and our actions affect those around us, the accuracy of your beliefs in very much my business.  That’s not “shoving anything down your throat”, it’s holding you accountable.  What I am saying is “you’re wrong, here’s why.”  The message of religion is “believe like us, or suffer for eternity” and pushing for legislation that makes their faith above the law, or requires non-believers to abide by their wonky moral code.  One group is shoving their beliefs down the throats of everybody else.  The other group, my group, is finished gagging on it.

I do not agree that the school should be focused to take down the mural, nor should prayers be forbidden in school.

Nowhere is prayer forbidden in school.  Mandatory, government-endorsed prayer is forbidden, but students can pray until they’re blue in the face, and they do.

That disadvantages Christianity as a religion.

No.  You do not grasp the difference between censorship and neutrality.  Having a Christian mural on the wall, unaccompanied by murals for other faiths, is an endorsement of Christianity.  Not having it there, along with not having the banner of anything else, is neutrality.  Giving Christianity the same treatment as other faiths is equality, not a disadvantage.

If this was a discussion in terms of something that impacted non-Christians in a negative way then it would be something worth discussing.

Hanging up the banner of one religion conveys a message that Christians are somehow more special than others.  Our government, which is precisely what a public school is, is not allowed to treat one group of Americans as second-class citizens.  To quote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (in Lynch v. Donnelly, which took place in Rhode Island)…

Protecting religious freedoms may be more important in the late twentieth century than it was when the Bill of Rights was ratified. We live in a pluralistic society, with people of widely divergent religious backgrounds or with none at all. Government cannot endorse beliefs of one group without sending a clear message to non-adherents that they are outsiders. 

Or this from Justice Hugo Black…

When the power, prestige, and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain.

That is precisely what the prayer banner did.  If you work for the government, such as in a public school, you cannot give sectarian religion precedence.  The “freedom” to marginalize others while serving in that capacity is afforded to nobody, and rightly so.

The responds from Christians on this issue though, is also appalling. Threating physical or emotional abuse towards someone who has a different view on life is wrong also.

Yes, yes it is.  But it’s wrong because it’s cruel, not because god said so.

However, trying to remove this mural is not a moral correct move on her part either.

Yes, it is.

We live in a world where we must all be tolerant of each other, or hate crimes are just going to get worse.

You seem to equate tolerating each other with staying silent while one group of students is marginalized or while Christians are flagrantly violating the law, as they were with the prayer banner.  Neither of those is ok, and lending them tacit endorsement in an effort to be tolerant merely makes you an accomplice, and a snooty one at that.

Telling other people they’re wrong is not intolerant.  Telling Christians to obey the law is not intolerant.  Insisting that our government represent all Americans, of all religions equally, is not intolerant.  Let’s not equate being tolerant of others with being tolerant of wrong doing or irresponsibility.

  • Glodson

    We live in a world where we must all be tolerant of each other, or hate crimes are just going to get worse.

    That line bothered me. It read like Blaming the Victim to me. Because Jessica Ahlquist fought for her rights to recognized, she was being intolerant, and her intolerance lead to her being bullied. So she gets some of the blame for her attacks in her effort to get the school to obey the law.

    No. That doesn’t make sense. Which is what bothers me about this statement. Yes, we should be tolerant, and we should recongize where our rights begin and end. The young lady got her rights trampled, and when she stood up, the lawyers for the district made sure to get her name out there. Just for the purpose of getting her attacked verbally. They know what they were doing.

    I guess this statement can be turned. Because the Christians were intolerant of Jessica Ahlquist’s rights and beliefs, the Christians committed hate crimes. I like that much more as it places the blame for the bullying squarely where it belongs, with the asshole Christians who think their religion is exempt from the law.

    To be fair, there are intolerant atheists out there, and when they go to far, I’ll call them on it. I don’t respect your religion, but I respect your right to freely practice it. I don’t like it when you try to force it into a public square that should be for everyone, like in a public school. And I wouldn’t let anyone else push their beliefs in the same way, even if I agreed with them.

    • Randomfactor

      We live in a world where we must all be tolerant of each other, or hate crimes are just going to get worse.

      Basically, we’re being asked to be tolerant OF hate crimes. At least at the “marginalize and discriminate against” level.

      • Glodson

        It bothers me because it also sounds much like bigotry apologetics. Hey, gay people, don’t be too gay or you’ll deal with worse hate crimes. Hey, trans people, don’t confuse the cisgendered people too much, or you’ll deal with worse hate crimes. Hey, black people, don’t be too black or your face worse hate crimes.

        You are right. The message is put up with this, or it will get worse.

        That’s a fucked up message. It should be “hey, you people who are prone to abuse people different from your in-group, knock it the fuck off, you assholes.”

  • sqlrob

    Hey Rebecca, you’re Christian, right?

    So why don’t you follow Mark 12:17?

    • Glodson

      And remember the parables as well.

      That’s some good morality.

  • Gordon

    The banner shouldn’t have come down… because it should never have been up in the first place.

    • Steven Findley

      Heck of an oxymoron

  • theAtheistAxolotl

    Rebecca is actually correct when she says that enforcing neutrality is disadvantageous to christianity, at least in a setting where christians have been favored up until that point. They are losing whatever advantage they had through government endorsement, which is as it should be.

    • Jasper

      Technically yes. If all the religions are in a race, and the Christians have a 50ft head start, given by the race organizers, yes, it’s disadvantageous to them to eliminate that unfair head start that they shouldn’t have had in the first place.

  • Art Vandelay

    Will the third comment be from someone who can write a coherent sentence? (I keed)

    I actually met Jessica’s uncle a couple weeks ago…real nice guy. Apparently, the full extent of what she dealt with wasn’t even close to be documented/reported. Certainly enough so that everyone got the memo that religious zealotry and bigotry don’t only run rampant in red states.

  • http://skepticfreethought.com/tokenchristian Jaime Wise

    I’m assuming this is coming from another high school student. I see this types of reasoning happen a lot in teenagers who are just becoming aware of diversity conflicts. You already pointed out the problems with her arguments themselves, and very well; but I think it’s also important to address this attitude:
    “I, as a Christian personally hate it when other Christians shove their religious beliefs down other people’s throats”
    All well and good, but this is a pointless declaration. It would be one thing if she was addressing a religious audience, but attempting to improve public opinion of Christians by making easy statements is futile. It’s actions that have value, and while rhetorical skills are important, all the eloquence and noble sentiments in the world won’t make up for an ineffective response to intolerance. I’d be much more inclined to respect the sentiment if this commenter had done a better job of acknowledging the problem of religious privilege. Instead, she showed little understanding, and gave the impression that she took the Cranston incident personally.

  • MikeMa

    Difficult to understand why it is so hard to grasp government endorsement. Public schools are an extension of government. Government cannot preferentially treat any religion. The banner/mural was unquestionably religious, unquestionably christian and was, by the fact of its existance preferentially promoting christian religious belief.

    Doesn’t matter how long it was up.
    Doesn’t matter if it was a gift from a student.
    Doesn’t matter if the majority of the students liked it.
    Doesn’t matter whether you feel atheism is a religion.
    Doesn’t matter if you feel others should just look away.
    Doesn’t matter if you feel diminished by he loss of the banner/mural.
    Doesn’t matter if you think christians are being persecuted by the loss.
    It just doesn’t matter. The law, as defined in our constitution and designed to protect all religious belief, was broken. For a rather hefty sum of money, Cranston, RI got a lesson in civics. Money not well spent.

    • Jasper

      Indeed – even if it was “non-sectarian”, it’s promoting monotheism over polytheism or atheism. If you aren’t a monotheist – you aren’t in the in-group.

      • John Horstman

        Yeah, this is sort of what always bothers me about the pluralistic or pantheistic view of religious neutrality – with all of the millions of interpretations of various religions that exist on the planet, there’s no way to be truly equitable to ALL of them in any practical amount of time or without spending millions on, in this case, banners to promote every variety of every religion and non-religious existential or philosophical framework. The only practicable approach to neutrality is secularism; so-called non-sectarian religious displays or actions still inevitably are sectarian and should not be allowed. I’m fine with governments declaring some portion of public space – a wall, a plot of land, whatever – to be an open forum for individuals to express religious ideas or erect iconography (though I find and of the Yahweh-following religions doing so odd, as the shared part of their holy book is pretty clear in banning idols), but then reasonable steps must be taken to protect the expressions of minority positions (for example, atheist holiday displays are regularly vandalized).

        It seems, too, that confusing neutrality with a preference for atheism is common, likely because many Christians are so accustomed to religious privilege that it appears to them to be the neutral baseline. A lack of religious displays is not an endorsement of atheism. A display explaining that all gods are imaginary would be preference for atheism. It sometimes makes it easier for people blind to their own privilege to recognize it when one presents a view of what preference for another group would actually look like.

  • http://gravityswings.wordpress.com Avery Thompson

    “I, as a Christian personally hate it when other Christians shove their religious beliefs down other people’s throats”
    Oh wow, me too! Like when teachers force their students to pray in the classroom, or when a school hangs a clearly religious banner in the gymnasium, or… oh wait.

  • CottonBlimp

    “I’m a Christian and I think that looking at the majority of us from the few that do the wrong thing is misleading.”
    And then she goes on to support the banner and blame Jessica.

    Rebecca, let me share an important lesson in life: it is not really possible to recognize when you’re part of the problem. From your perspective, I’m sure it seems like everything is fine before people like Jessica shake it up. That is because it doesn’t affect you. For a lot of us, the status quo is the problem – when you defend the status quo, you ARE a part of that problem.

    Listen to voices like Jessica’s. They have a much better understanding because unlike you, they can’t ignore the dark side of the issue.

  • BKsea

    The failure in thinking that I see here and often coming from the religious is the belief that “no banner” is a pro-atheist stance whereas the prayer banner is pro-Christian. Thus, removing the banner is being pro-atheist. In reality a truly pro-atheist scenario would be something like placing a banner that says “School creed: Even though there is no god to punish you, you should still treat others with kindness and respect.” The question for those like Rebecca is whether such a banner displayed prominently in the school would be inappropriate, even if 51% of the students favored it.

  • Rod

    Strikes me that Rebecca, like many “Christians” see the world in stark black and white terms.
    ie… if you are not for us, you must be against us. The third option, we really do not care, doesn’t seem to occur to them. Hard for “Christians” to grasp the concept of neutrality.

  • articulett

    Rebecca is peeved because Christians are required to follow the same laws as everyone else.