“Where is atheism when bad things happen?”

That’s the very important question being asked by Stupidest Guy on the Planet Dinesh D’Souza, using the shooting at Virginia Tech to advance his awesome theory that godless liberals are to blame for, well, everything (especially 9/11). According to D’Souza, atheists don’t believe evil exists, so they don’t have the capacity to deal with it. And, apparently, to avoid revealing themselves as morally bankrupt nogoodniks, in times of tragedy they “use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.”

Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.


Via Hilzoy, here’s Nikki Giovanni’s speech in its entirety:

We are Virginia Tech. We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech. We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again. We are Virginia Tech. We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant in the killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy. We are Virginia Tech. The Hokier Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness. We are the Hokies. We will prevail, we will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.

Hmm. The whole “no atheists in foxholes” approach might have more traction if the speech one accused of being heavily reliant on “religious symbolism and meaning” actually included the merest hint of religious symbolism and meaning.

The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference. … To no one’s surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. … If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.

Fucking hell. Never mind his tired, deliberate misrepresentations of atheism (PZ ably handles those). This excerpt illustrates why the question being asked is deeply disingenuous. “Where is atheism when bad things happen?” is rife with the insinuation (here spelled out in the post, in case its reeking title didn’t get the stink to your nose) that atheism is devoid of morality, and, ludicrously, the simultaneous intimation that atheists nonetheless behave immorally. D’Souza can’t have it both ways – he can either accuse atheism of having no morality, or he can accuse atheists of behaving immorally, but he can’t assert to judge atheists by a morality he claims atheism doesn’t even have.

The problem for D’Souza is that the premise of “secular progressivism” wholly lacking any shred of decency, no less morality, is essentially that on which he’s built and staked his entire career, which leaves him with no honest standard (according to his own claims) to now criticize his loathed nemeses on the godless left. Meanwhile, the constant bloviations about their superior morality has left people like him open to very fair criticisms from any old godless schlub. If you say you’re a Christian, your rulebook is in every bookstore, every church, every damn hotel room in the country – and we can read it, and we can question you legitimately on the rules.

That makes “Where is Christianity when bad things happen?” a fair question. And I’d add: Is “a public gathering [to] talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing” really the best D’Souza’s Christianity can do? Gee, if that’s the best that D’Souza’s Christianity has to offer us, I think we need something more than D’Souza’s Christianity.

Ahem.

64 Comments

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64 responses to ““Where is atheism when bad things happen?”

  1. shen

    “where IS christianity when things go bad?”

    ….well, i notice that our CHRISTIAN president was in the driver seat on most of the worst decisions ever made by an acting president, does that count?

    hell, the KKK claims to be christian. if i recall, so did the Nazis.

    i fail to understand how people can claim that christianity is a wonder balm to heal all wounds when more people have died and been killed in gods name than in any other.

    where is atheism when bad things happen? generally sitting off to the side thinking “i told you so” but instead saying things meant to comfort. it is a shame that many christians can’t take a more humanist approach and try to help rather than magnifying the problem.

  2. Perhaps he mistook the reference to “invisible children” to be a ghostly reference? And that implies an afterlife and a god and…

    Must. Stop. Stupidity is over. Whelming. Me.

  3. Well, as a devout atheist, I have one question for Dinesh D’Souza:

    Why would you worship an asshole who, in his divine wisdom, sends individuals on mass murder sprees?

  4. amish451

    Chistianity was present in the aftermath of the shooting in the Amish school.

    …as I am sure it is also present now at VT. But at VT it will be pushed aside for more profitable sound bites ….stupidity is easy..

    Forgiveness in the face of awful, senseless murder is a horrible test of the Christ …

  5. Where is atheism? Same place it’s always been. Duh. Like any other belief, it’s just a fucking belief.

    Atheists feel just as badly about this as everybody else. Being a compassionate member of the human community isn’t about religion or lack thereof. It’s about character and capacity for empathy.

  6. John CLayton

    I just read this on another post but it really stuck with me:

    If “there are no athiests in a foxhole” does wouldn’t that mean that there is no war without religion?

  7. Stupidest Guy on the Planet Dinesh D’Souza

    What?! Bush is dead?

  8. GayAsXmas

    It really is an alternative universe isn’t it? Joan Walsh had a good piece on her Salon blog where she talked about the differing reactions between left and right blogs over the shootings – and not just in smaller blogs, but from major commentators. It is frightening and sad that their reaction is to lash out in the most tired and pre-fabricated directions. Atheists. Liberals. Pop-Culture. Too Much Gun Control. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

  9. As if Atheists feel no sorrow when something like this happens.

    Ass.

  10. To no one’s surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community.

    And neither was Chaka Khan, Corey Feldman or Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds. To no one’s surprise.

    –WKW

  11. Urgh. Being a liberal who also happens to believe in God (oh noes! oxymoron!), it always depresses me to hear other so-called Christians ricketing on about this sort of nonsense. I am so tired of it.

  12. Let’s see … It’s another case of getting the question backwards.

    If I knew anybody like Dinesh D’Souza, he’d be the last person I’d talk to in times of tragedy.

    So the reason he can’t find any atheists is that we’re avoiding him specifically, perhaps to spare him the punch in the face he seems to be begging for.

  13. Is “a public gathering [to] talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing” really the best D’Souza’s Christianity can do?

    I had a similar take on this … and also, as I listened to the sermons at the convocations and remembrances, I couldn’t help but feel a tad insulted.

    What if not everyone in the audience is Christian? What if there were atheists, agnostics, non-Christian religious and spirtual people at these events?

    Is a Christian event REALLY the best use of a university organised and sanctioned session for healing a student body? What’s wrong with having a secular event, that includes and heals EVERYONE?

    And more importantly, what if not everyone that were killed were Christian? Isn’t that a tad disrespectful then?

    This wanker wants to know where us atheists are? We’re where we normally are; being marginalised and feeling like we aren’t welcome at these kinds of events. That’s where we are.

  14. Right there with ya, K.T.

  15. I think you guys know that I’m a believer (I’m starting to dislike “Christian). Apparently D’Souza insists upon claiming that he is one too.

    So, sorry about him. Thing is, with an attitude like that, even if D’Souza has met Jesus, he hasn’t spent much time talking to Jesus or listening to what he has to say.

    The only “defense” of God that anyone can do right now is to respond with compassion to everyone involved. I’m not in Virgina, I don’t know anyone even remotely involved. But I do have hope that there are people there and in communities around the world affected by this who will reach out to the victims – which includes families and friends of those killed and wounded – with love, and with no thought of scoring points with this – whether they have a particular religious belief or not, for I know that Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists and who knows what else have been affected by this and will have the opportunity to help those in need.

  16. Sarah – I had just that reaction to that whole “our prayers are with you” response – what if the victims, or their families, don’t want prayers? Especially ones from a faith to which the murderer himself subscribed?

    My usual reaction to the people who assert that atheists have no morality is to move far away from them. Anyone who cannot imagine behaving kindly and decently without rules and punishments forcing one to is not a person I’d trust under any circumstances.

  17. shen

    where is christianity at a time like this?

    quote from the gunman according to the WaPo “Jesus loved crucifying me,” he said at another point. “He loved inducing cancer in my head, terrorizing my heart and ripping my soul all this time.”

    no, to be clear, i don’t think that matters. i am not blaming christianity for what he did. it is only the deranged ramblings of a mentally disturbed person…. i just find it interesting that given great lines like that nobody is blaming christianity. no, we have other places for blame!

    we have now blamed a girl he stalked and murdered for what happened. video games. and atheists for not fixing the problem after the fact. but anytime someone points out that he used guns to kill people, and that he bought the guns by lying about his time in an institution, and that our current gun laws are not enforced, and maybe we need better laws anyway, well….. that is just crazy talk!

    wake me up when we have evolved…..

  18. “where IS christianity when things go bad?”

    And, specifically, where was “God” when those VT kids were praying for their lives?

  19. So, sorry about him.

    You don’t have to issue an apology on his behalf. You’ve got nothing more in common with him than I do.

    he hasn’t spent much time talking to Jesus or listening to what he has to say

    Right on. I’ve spent lots of time with Jesus, and, frankly, he and I get along just fine.

  20. Seems the thing D’Souza finds so troubling is that atheists don’t need a comforting lie. After all, people who sustain themselves must be dangerous.

  21. Not only that, there are people blaming the students themselves for not responding like stars in an action film (who, btw, have stunt doubles) and making split-second decisions to take out the shooter. I’m not only hearing that crap on TV, I just heard it from a couple of goobers sittng next to me in the Panera in my town. I could bet with almost 100% certainty that, if asked, these two would identify themselves as Christians — and Republicans.

    So far, I haven’t seen anyone on the supposedly godless left blame anyone other than the shooter for what he did. Hmmm — what’s wrong with this picture?

  22. AZrider

    Sure, it’s a lot harder being an atheist than blindly believing in religion. That’s what people like Dinesh don’t understand. That’s why they say that if there is no god, anything is possible, so morality is meaningless.

    Wrong. Finding morality and being a moral being requires a lot of hard work. Most religious types just take the easy way out: They do what they are told by thier religious leaders.

    Dawkins and others have covered this ground, and I’d be glad to recommend some good discussions of where morality comes from. It no more comes from some supernatural being than does the sun revolve around the earth. How we deal with situations like this will define how mankind evolves into a more rational being –or not.

  23. Ginger Yellow

    The whole “no atheists in foxholes” approach might have more traction if the speech one accused of being heavily reliant on “religious symbolism and meaning” actually included the merest hint of religious symbolism and meaning.

    Indeed.

    We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army

    I’ll give you some religious symbolism and meaning: We are all sinners. The wages of sin is death.

  24. And neither was Chaka Khan, Corey Feldman or Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds. To no one’s surprise.

  25. bluestockingsrs

    I am Episcopalian, one of our tenets in the motion of divine reason. Divine reason is that the ability to reason and gain insight is a gift from God as well as the ability to choose, or free will.

    We have a Presiding Bishop, who is a scientist and she believes that Christianity’s mission is to heal and bring peace to people who are suffering. To bring peace to a world that is suffering.

    Many individual Episcopal churches are ecumenical and are not exhorting people of other faiths (or non-faiths) to leave their religion at the door of our church, but that it takes communion between different faiths (and non-faiths) to bring peace into the world.

    To lump all Christians (not that I think Melissa is doing that here, but it is a pattern among the left wing) or people of faith in D’Souza’s or Robertson’s or al-Sadr’s camp only alienates people from the discussion who might make valuable contributions.

    I am also a lesbian, but I keep the fact that I am a Christian a secret far more often than sexual orientation because of the prejudice on the left that we must all be incapable of rational thought because we are Christian.

    Faith (or the absence of it) should not be barrier to creating a more just and sustainable world.

  26. Jaclyn

    Thank you for that. I needed a giggle this week.

  27. Jaclyn

    … although in all fairness, Chaka Khan does feel for you. And me. And all of us, I’m sure.

    **need sleep**

  28. Just remember peoples, the most honorable Franklin Graham was on Fox news yesterday and he informed the world that is was SATAN who did the shooting.

    I used to call myself an apathist-I could care less about religion- but now consider myself an atheist because Christian/Islamic/_______ Superiority drives me insane. To stipulate that only religious, in this instance christians, have the monopoly on compassion is ludicrous. We are born with emotions and regardless of religious indoctrination, we are all capable of compassion. It is inherently human and not something that is learned.

    ARGHHHH…..

    and the question, “where are the atheists?” Perhaps the atheists don’t find it necessary to proclaim their compassion so vehemently, let alone on the TV or contrived ceremonies. Compassion and Empathy should be personal not a floor show.

  29. We are all sinners. The wages of sin is death.

    Speak for yourself, only; and fix the grammar: “wages” is a plural – you have to have a plural verb.

  30. D’Souza is a complete intellectual fraud. the only way he can make a point, like his whole recent book as an example, is to to ignore facts or outright lie.

  31. I was going to say forget the whole “our prayers are with you” BS–especially coming from the Bush White House. But a better response for the victims’ families would be “let’s develop a comprehensive, working policy to identify and help these individuals, like Cho Seung-Hui, before they go on another rampage in another school.” So that other families will not have to suffer the same fate as the families of Virginia Tech, or even the families of Columbine.

    At least that is what this “somewhat athiest” would say.

  32. I was going to say forget the whole “our prayers are with you” BS–especially coming from the Bush White House. But a better response for the victims’ families would be “let’s develop a comprehensive, working policy to identify and help these individuals, like Cho Seung-Hui, before they go on another rampage in another school.” So that other families will not have to suffer the same fate as the families of Virginia Tech, or even the families of Columbine.

    At least that is what this “somewhat athiest” would say.

  33. Re: To lump all Christians (not that I think Melissa is doing that here, but it is a pattern among the left wing) or people of faith in D’Souza’s or Robertson’s or al-Sadr’s camp only alienates people from the discussion who might make valuable contributions.

    What discussion? D’Souza deliberately insulted us, and we’re responding to these insults. Otherwise, we — or at least I — wouldn’t be in this thread.

  34. Lizard

    “Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.”

    Add me to the list of folks who haven’t a damned clue what he’s talking about here. If that’s all it takes to be “drenched” with religious anything, then I’m Mother Superior.

    I see symbolism, imagery, beauty, and multi-layered significance in Giovanni’s words. Obviously D’Souza believes that these qualities, since they are supposed to be hallmarks of religion, are therefore only available to “believers.” (Where two or more similes are gathered, there God is…)

    That says a great deal about his narrow and idiotic concept of atheists. We’re not just godless–we’re blind and deaf to beauty and meaning, wandering this earth with no idea of how anything connects to anything else, guided by nothing more than random whims. THAT’S where all the atheists are!

  35. As someone brought up Episcopalian myself, I’d like to just say, “What bluestockingsrs said.”

    Also, Sarah’s comment about these kind of gatherings is spot on as well. Even though I identify as Christian, I find public gatherings of grief that don’t remain secular or go to some length to acknowledge others faiths and atheists to be unsettling. Christianity may be the majority faith in an area, but it isn’t right to ignore other folks, make them feel marginalized, or make them nod their heads and think “There they go again.” Some of the larger 9-11 events did a decent job addressing this — and the Lutheran or Methodist priest who attended was ousted from his job for praying with Muslims of all things.

    Maybe some day we’ll get it right.

  36. "Fair and Balanced" Dave

    To lump all Christians (not that I think Melissa is doing that here, but it is a pattern among the left wing) or people of faith in D’Souza’s or Robertson’s or al-Sadr’s camp only alienates people from the discussion who might make valuable contributions.

    Like you, I’m also an Episcopalian. I’m saddened that so many people seem to feel that all people who call themselves Christian walk in lockstep with right-wing fundamentalists like Dobson, Robertson, and their ilk.

    While D’Souza is typing away on his laptop in his Southern California mansion and cashing his wingnut welfare checks from Richard Mellon Scaife, there are people giving food, shelter, medical care, and other comforts to the oppressed, hungry, poor, and sick everywhere in the world from the nearest homeless shelter to the most isolated refugee camp in Darfur. Many of these humanitarians are atheists, agnostics, and humanists.

    Whose actions are closer to the teachings of Jesus?

  37. (not that I think Melissa is doing that here, but it is a pattern among the left wing)

    With all due respect, using the thread of a progressive non-Christian to air complaints about “a pattern among the left wing” which the post doesn’t fit is probably not going to inspire a lot of good will among the progressive non-Christians in the thread.

    Even in spite of having to issue the caveat that the post author is exempt, you’re nonetheless lumping “the left wing” together in the same way you’re accusing “the left wing” of doing to Christians.

    If you believe regarding diverse groups as monoliths is bad form, lead the way by example.

    [Edit: That wasn’t really a reply to John; just building on what he said.]

  38. Ok, first I am here, but I need to be there, so I will be here when I can. Gota go, but I will be back, as the atheist bitch you have ever seen. Around six, wait I might have to eat something first, helps the nerves and the shakes from the round-up my land lord sprayed on my herbs!

    gota go …. for now

    But I am here!!!

    WoWonder

  39. "Fair and Balanced" Dave

    What discussion? D’Souza deliberately insulted us, and we’re responding to these insults.

    Personally, I wear insults from people like D’Souza, Coulter, et al. as badges of honor.

    Being called “immoral” by Dinesh D’Souza is like being called “cold-blooded” by a snake.

  40. It is times like this when the best religion can seem to do is divide us, when the promise has always been that it would unite us. “My belief is better than your belief (or lack thereof).”

    I’m still waiting for the concrete example of religion used to unite, to heal, to improve a situation instead of be a wedge. Anytime, anywhere in history…

    I’m sure the members of the funeral party at yesterday’s burial of the devout Jewish professor weren’t talking much about Jesus. And I know the killer’s ramblings about Jesus weren’t intended to unite anyone.

    Perhaps the most bumbling victim of the last 30 years said it best when Rodney King said: “can’t we all just get along?”

  41. Aaron Rapp

    Perhaps a little off topic, although the subject does resonate with me since

    a) I graduated from VT in May 2006 and still have friends there (Thankfully they are OK)

    b) I am an athiest (Not going to pull a Noam Chomsky and refuse to accept the commonly understood definition even if it doesn’t make any sense)

    Anyway, I could go on and on about either of those points (you can already see that I am long-winded), but I just thought this community might find this interesting:

    I was in a grocery store last night, wearing my VT T-shirt, and a man had the nerve to ask me if I thought that the killing was due to “The marxist hatred that they teach in English class”. I managed to refrain from punching him in the face (on principle, not because that could be interpreted as proving his point), and simply told him I did not think it was the reason…anyway, I thought it was along the same lines. Why does everyone insist on placing blame for something like this, and more importantly, why do people place blame in such ill-deserved places?

    Ultimately, things like these are impossible to prepare for and difficult to prevent. Across all topics of importance in the U.S., it never ceases to amaze me what things people choose to show outrage over and what things people don’t care about in the least. (I could get into the Department of Homeland Security lecturing to my girlfriend’s master’s degree program about how child pornography funds terrorism such that the Department has AN ENTIRE UNIT dedicated to it, but I won’t)

  42. Doctor Jay

    Granted, it is very difficult to prepare for stuff like this happening in your back yard on a personal level.

    But I think that one can develop one’s capacity to look at the bad shit in the world and try to learn from it. It goes hand in hand with the ability to confront complaints, and your own mistakes.

    Every time something like this happens, be it VT or Columbine, it gives us as a culture the opportunity to study it, and learn how to prevent it better. I don’t think we will ever get to 100 percent prevention, but we can improve.

    And we are improving. The number of students subject to violence has dropped every year since 1992, and maybe further back. The number of students killed is on downward trend. We’re not perfect and we never will be perfect, but we can and will improve.

  43. DragonScholar

    This is also the guy who sympathized with Al Quaeda and stated the US’s problem is that our secular liberal culture makes attacks on us by terrorists justified.

    And he wants to talk about sympathy and decency?

  44. but he can’t assert to judge atheists by a morality he claims atheism doesn’t even have.

    Sure he can. The ability to simultaneously hold contradictory, illogical positions is the hallmark of a right-wing conservative.

    (Not just my opinion, but according to Bob Altemeyer’s interesting research.)

  45. bluestockingsrs

    I think if you look carefully at my comment you will notice that I said there is a “pattern among the left-wing” not that the entire left wing is guilty of this behavior. I was deliberately avoiding making generalizations, even among Episcopalians there is no unity of opinion (perhaps you’ve noticed our rather public debate about allowing GLBT people full membership in our churches?).

    There is a group called “Faith in America” that is working to counteract the distortion of the religious right in media and politics. And Pam as blogged about another religious organization that is working to heal the damage religion has done to GLBT folk.

    I am all too familiar with what the right wing is capable of -I grew up in a small town in Central California and spent my life being told I was going to hell because I was an agnostic. I am also a lesbian who couldn’t find an Episcopal church to go to when I went home once because all the Episcopal churches in my hometown do not permit GLBT people full membership in the church. I found a Church of Christ to attend instead.

    As for when has religion of any stripe worked for good, perhaps the Rev. Martin Luther King’s strongly Christian message might be familiar to some. Yet, he managed to include members of all faiths in his movement, perhaps because of Bayard Rustin’s Quaker upbringing and his subsequent influence with Dr. King.

    Christians used to be members of progressive movements –in fact used to lead them. My own dearly beloved feminists of history (Susan B and others) were Christians and worked for equality because they believed that it was a tenet of their faith to do so.

    I guess, my point is that not all Christians are like D’Souza. I am clear that it is not a belief in God that creates compassion in human beings. I believe, like many other people, that we are capable of compassion by virtue of being human. I would go so far as to say that it is an innate human trait that is destroyed by “civilized” society, but then, Rousseau said that first.

  46. Jaclyn

    Aaron,
    Like everyone else here, I’m so sorry for what the VT community is going through. And may I say, the fact that you didn’t call that guy in the grocery store a miserable fuckwit shows you have much more restraint than I do. Kudos to you.

  47. And may I say, the fact that you didn’t call that guy in the grocery store a miserable fuckwit shows you have much more restraint than I do. Kudos to you.

    Ditto.

  48. People like D’Souza assert that having a system of beliefs that include God, creates moral strength and clarity.

    I would suggest that, any beliefs about the nature of God … serve only to clutter a person’s morality with complex and often contradictory mandates.

    Less is more.

  49. Ginger Yellow

    We are all sinners. The wages of sin is death.

    Speak for yourself, only; and fix the grammar: “wages” is a plural – you have to have a plural verb.”

    Uh, dude (or dudette), I’m an atheist. The point is that if the speech had been full of (Christian) religious symbolism he would have said that they did deserve it. Original sin and all that. And the correct grammar is “is”. It’s the theology that’s screwed up.

  50. Jay in Oregon

    I don’t know about anybody else, but this atheist drives a 40-mile round trip about once a month to donate blood at the only Red Cross station in the area that can do apheresis. And I hate needles.

    In fact, I was doing just two days before this shooting occurred. If that wasn’t the case I would’ve called and made arrangements to donate; even though my blood would not have been used in an attempt to save one of those victim’s, it would’ve replaced the blood that was getting used.

    I’ve been giving blood for about a year and a half now. Well, blood products mostly — I’m AB-positive, which means my blood can only be given to other AB-positive. However, what is true for whole blood is apparently the opposite for blood platlets and plasma; I’m effectively a universal donor for those.

    Why do I do it? Because my blood or blood products can help save someone’s life. All it requires of me is the tremendous burden of sitting on my ass for two hours while the process takes place.

    Yet several my Christian friends not only are reluctant to do it, they make fun of me for doing it. One sensitive guy claimed (in jest, of course) I liked the attention; another joked that they take “the good stuff” and put “the crap” back into my arm. These are guys 100% Bush’s base — they back the war and think Bush is the best president since Reagan.

    So Dinesh D’Souza (who I had the dubious fortune of meeting about 10 years ago, when he did a lecture at my college) and his ilk can take their false piety and shove it up their collective ass.

  51. And may I say, the fact that you didn’t call that guy in the grocery store a miserable fuckwit shows you have much more restraint than I do. Kudos to you.

    Thirded.

  52. I think if you look carefully at my comment you will notice that I said there is a “pattern among the left-wing” not that the entire left wing is guilty of this behavior. I was deliberately avoiding making generalizations

    I did look carefully at your comment. You also said: “I keep the fact that I am a Christian a secret far more often than sexual orientation because of the prejudice on the left that we must all be incapable of rational thought because we are Christian.” Perhaps you didn’t intend that to read as a generalization about a prejudice shared by everyone on “the left,” but it certainly read that way to me, which I don’t think is totally unfair. If I said “because of the prejudice among Christians,” you’d probably think I meant all Christians.

    I guess, my point is that not all Christians are like D’Souza.

    I understand that. I’m just not sure why you felt the need to make it in response to a post that didn’t claim that they were.

  53. Azelie

    It’s not like Christianity has a really good (or consistent) answer to the problem of evil, either. There are significant Christian thinkers, including Augustine, that explain evil as a lack of existence, but that’s hard to get your head around – it’s much easier to believe in the Guy with the Horns and the Cape. I teach this stuff sometimes, and when people have to think about the problem of evil in the context of a religion that posits an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good God, and think about the various answers that people have come up with, it tends to give people headaches. So the statement that Christianity (or other religions that people like D’Souza would recognize as legitimate) can deal with calamity in a way that the agnostic or atheistic thought can’t relies on a very superficial understanding of religious belief (but what should I expect?).

  54. bluestockingsrs

    I guess, I must have been responding to the subtext of the post and then the comments that followed.

    I don’t know why I keep de-lurking ’round here, I feel I am trying to make observations that I see other people making and then inevitably I get this kind of response.

    Are we only to respond to the post itself? not the comments made by others in the comments to the aforementioned post? did I miss something?

    I was genuinely trying to be gentle in my objection to what I saw as generalizations being made in response to an unfair generalization (by D’Souza) about atheists… it seems like that might be important in trying to encourage fair and open discourse.

    For my own part, you are right about the “prejudice” comment – I was speaking from my experience of being a Christian in SF as I am involved in left wing legal issues – I am often caught in conversations where people demand that I justify my choice to be a Christian- I think this is as much bullshit as it is to require people to defend being an atheist is all.

    :shrug:

  55. responding to the subtext of the post

    Where do you see the subtext that I’m conflating all Christians, in spite of my having repeatedly referred to “D’Souza’s Christianity”?

    I don’t know why I keep de-lurking “˜round here, I feel I am trying to make observations that I see other people making and then inevitably I get this kind of response.

    What “kind of response” do you believe mine to be? My first response to you began: “With all due respect.” I’m not sure how that translates into some kind of hostile response.

    How am I not engaging in the “fair and open discourse” you said you hoped your comment would encourage? Am I being unfair? Closed?

    I’m not being sarcastic; I’m asking these questions with quite genuine curiosity.

    Are we only to respond to the post itself? not the comments made by others in the comments to the aforementioned post? did I miss something?

    Not at all, but you didn’t reference any other comments or direct your comment to anyone, which is generally presumed to be a response to the post–and, again, I didn’t understand why there was a need to make a point about lefties who hold prejudices in response to my post, except to imply that I’m one of them.

    Which, now, you appear to confirm re: “subtext of the post.”

  56. bluestockingsrs

    Wow.

    Okay, Melissa, I don’t know what to say to that… I guess you get attacked by comments on a pretty regular basis ’round here, but to be clear I am not interested in categorizing or judging your opinions –I was just trying to present another point of view in the comments.

    Clearly, that intent was lost in what I wrote, and I don’t really know what to do about this.

    I don’t mean this in a snarky way, but I don’t just always comment “Ditto” or “Right on” because I want to have a conversation about the ideas in the postings. Though I am often nodding my head in agreement or posting something relevant to my blog from something I found on Shakes.

    I have failed fairly miserably today apparently – so I guess I will go back to reading for awhile until I figure out how to better present my comments.

  57. I understand that. I’m just not sure why you felt the need to make it in response to a post that didn’t claim that they were

    At the risk of embroiling myself (that never stopped me before — shoe leather tastes good 🙂 ), I’ll try.

    I don’t think it was so much any subtext in your post or the comments as it was D’Souza’s ridiculousness and blue’s personal history having to defend herself against such things. Subsequent questions and explanations just seem to be digging the hole deeper since we’re working on some perceived slight or misunderstanding that really isn’t there. At its core, blue was responding to D’Souza’s rant in her own way to show she didn’t agree with it. I think we can all take a step back and realize the majority of what is said here are personal feelings and not necessarily a personal attack.

  58. I don’t think it was so much any subtext in your post

    Well, I didn’t pull that out of thin air. I pulled it from the previous comment.

    not necessarily a personal attack

    I don’t feel personally attacked. Bluestockingsrs says “I want to have a conversation about the ideas in the postings,” and that’s, y’know, what I’m doing–participating in that conversation.

    I’m not sure why my comments are being read as angry when I don’t feel remotely so. I tried asking questions to find out, but it was met with “Wow,” rather than actual answers, even though I stipulated quite clearly I was not being sarcastic, but asking “with quite genuine curiosity.”

    Not much else I can do to avoid people reading an emotion that simply isn’t in my comments.

  59. What the heck … I’ll throw in. I believe (in Peter Pan) and that confusion about personal attacks, spring from addressing responses in the first person.

    So, if someone says “Bush is hot.” A personal response might be “You are deranged.”. Whereas a third person approach “I think Bush is about the most disgusting pig on the planet and anyone who is turned on by this maniac is deranged” … both supplies additional information and frames the opinion in a conceptual (rather than personal) fashion.

    If I mean to personally challenge a specific person (rather than a concept) I always use “you” or “your” … combined with an expletive. So, I might say “Holy Shit! Your post is as conceptually bogus, as it is riddled with grammatical errors.”. Which might well be true at the time … but there is no doubt, that I am picking a fight.

  60. TheCunningRunt

    After all that reading to get to the end of this thread, I think I just decided to keep my mouth shut.

  61. So, if someone says “Bush is hot.” A personal response might be “You are deranged.”. Whereas a third person approach “I think Bush is about the most disgusting pig on the planet and anyone who is turned on by this maniac is deranged”

    So you’re essentially recommending being passive aggressive, lol?

    Personally, I hate that conversational style, because clearly the end result is the same–one wants to communicate that someone who thinks “Bush is hot” is deranged in direct response to someone who said “Bush is hot.” Why not just say “You are deranged!”?

    I guess the reason it bothers me is because most of the people I know who engage that technique don’t do it to spare feelings, but to deflect accountability for their opinions.

  62. That doesn’t, btw, include you, Nik E. I meant people I know IRL.

  63. Dee

    Religion does not corner the marketplace on grief, attempts to understand a tragedy and the desire to comfort those directly affected.

    Sorrow is an equal opportunity emotion.

  64. So you’re essentially recommending being passive aggressive, lol?

    I don’t think that fits my definition of passive-aggressive behavior. But I guess, opinions vary. I see passive-aggressive behavior as more related to influencing people. So, if I genuinely believe that people who think Bush is hot, really are deranged … it is very different than if I throw that out there … in an attempt to influence a conversation. And I do think it is less personal … if someone tells me that they think anyone who exhibits my type of behavior is deranged. It becomes less about me … and more about the behavior.

    I guess the reason it bothers me is because most of the people I know who engage that technique don’t do it to spare feelings, but to deflect accountability for their opinions.

    Yeah. That bugs me to. Which is why I prefer to use declarative statements. But I would also say, that its not just about sparing feelings … its about staying on topic. People looove to talk about themselves. The more intimate the conversation, the less time will be spent on topic … and I would also assert … the less objective it is.

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