Thursday, August 04, 2011

Violence and not

 The illustration at left (click to embiggen) is of actual comments from Fox “News” viewers responding to the lawsuit filed by American Atheists Inc. against the placing the World Trade Center “cross” in the memorial museum on the site. The “cross” is actually two steel beams from the collapsed towers that happened to land upright, reminding some people of a cross.

I think the lawsuit is a dumb idea for reasons I’ll discuss another time, but it’s not the reason I’m posting this image. First, there’s the sheer hypocrisy: Far right religionists have treated every ill-advised, intemperate comment placed on a gay blog as if it was an actual threat of violence. One famously claimed to have “called in the FBI” after some particularly bad comments on Joe.My.God. (where I found the graphic). The anti-gay industry still cites the existence of such comments as evidence of the “persecution” and “threats” from GLBT people that fundamentalist “Christian” activists claim to face. Yet here in this graphic are threats of violence against atheists—and that’s all okay?

I think that this also shows that rightwing “Christians” hate atheists even more than they hate GLBT people, perhaps more even than Muslims; there’s polling data that seems to indicate that, as well as their own online comments, like above. And this leads to irony.

A new Gallup Poll has found that among religious people, Muslims are most likely to reject violence, followed by atheists. Who’s least likely? Christians.

Asked whether military attacks targeting and killing civilians is justified, 78% of Muslims answered it is never justified, as did 56% of non-religious/atheists/agnostics. Only 38% of Protestants said it was never justified, as did a similar 39% of Catholics, and a mere 33% of Mormons. 43% of Jews also said such attacks were never justified.

Asked specifically about violent attacks on civilians by individuals or small groups, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mormons and non-religious are all within a few points of each other, 71-79% saying such attacks are never justified. But 89% of Muslims say that—well ahead of everyone else.

What all of this tells us is that no one has a lock on virtue and that our prejudices about other people based on their religious description may not necessarily be justified. We cannot know someone’s propensity for violence because of their religious beliefs, or lack of them, alone, and we cannot assume, without more evidence, that asinine threats left online are real, credible threats of actual violence.

I think everyone needs to take a step back and think about the extent to which their assumptions about people based on religion are, in fact, prejudice, and how that might affect all sorts of behaviours, from speech to voting. I intend to do exactly that when I return to this topic in a few days, using that atheist lawsuit as the starting point.

In the meantime, in the words of a leading maker of atheist videos for YouTube, “don’t be a douche” when talking about other people’s views about religion or presenting your own. I think that’s a good starting point.


Bjorn said...

Scary. How do we leave american again?

Mark From Slap said...

So, as a gay athiest, I probably shouldn't visit the states too often…

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Bjorn: Dunno, I already did… ;-)

Mark: Well, if you add being Canadian AND having been to France, you're certainly doomed! Just kidding—I think… ;-)

Roger Owen Green said...

I've been long frightened by the deification of 9/11 itself. Awful event, to be sure.

But I believe the "Ground Zero mosque" noise was at least in part because Ground Zero is Christo-American "hallowed ground", even though non-Christians, and non-Americans died there.