Monday, December 8, 2008

Kevin Beck on the Atheist Sign, and Why it isn't Extreme

Kevin Beck uncorks a great fantasy of what we atheists might do with manger scenes were we so inclined to vandalism and theft as are the Christians:

"At Pharyngula, PZ Myers is urging people to not respond in kind by defacing religious symbols. He's right, of course, but fantasizing about ways of wrestling in the metaphorical mud with the righteously blinkered [can be fun]. For my part, I decided that in about a week and a half, I'm going to head out in the middle of the night, gather up the many nativity scenes on locals' lawns (I'm in Virginia, remember), and arrange the whole collection in front of the nearest church in the form of a massive orgy including fifty-seven wise men, nineteen prematurely priapic baby Jesuses, one hundred and twelve drunken shepherds wearing Yankees hats, several camels and donkeys wearing Red Sox jerseys, and six toothless crack whores with angel wings. To this menagerie I would add a Domino's pizza delivery boy with a Hitler 'stache driving a chartreuse-colored cement truck over a monument of the Ten Commandments covered in Crips graffiti, the lyrics to Stairway To Heaven, and a Fibonacci sequence; a JumboTron showing the members of the Backstreet Boys re-enacting the Scopes Monkey Trial; and a twenty-foot-tall statue of Richard Dawkins wearing a huge, genial grin and nothing else.

Once the mescaline wore off, I realized that this would involve quite a bit of work."

PZ is right of course. Acting like them would sacrifice the moral high ground. Watch those irony meters. As for the atheist sign, you could certainly be a lot more in-your-face than this:

"At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Nonetheless, some would have us believe this is as bad as describing evolution as "the secular society trying to drive Satan into the minds of our children." To that I say it isn't even close to being as extreme. "Religion enslaves minds" is at worst, an exaggeration. At best it is an accurate description of reality. The religious people that do indeed enslave minds may make up a minority (I hope) of religious people, but there are still millions of them. Further, there are good arguments to be made that religion enslaves minds per se.

By contrast, "secular society is trying to drive Satan into the minds of our children by teaching them evolution" is, at best, creative fiction. At worst, it is dismal incoherent fiction. The number of supporters of evolution who are trying to drive Satan into the minds of children is exactly zero, and logically evolution has little to do with Satan anyway.

Chalk this up as yet another example of the inherent bias in our society in favor of religion. The tiniest atheistic comment is considered the antagonistic equivalent of the most idiotic inflammatory apologetic rhetoric.


kemibe said...

What's interesting is that you and I posted virtually the same rebuttal to Rob's equivocation at the same time (although yours was better). That either means we're both geniuses, that we're both Hell-bound, or that Rob's argument was stupid and easily dismantled in a schematic way.

ScienceAvenger said...

I vote Hell-bound Geniuses. :)