Pharyngula

No guts, no glory

Matt Yglesias comments on one of Amy Sullivan’s usual complaints about “secular liberal intolerance” in the most cynical, hypocritical way possible:

Now Amy’s right. It would be useful, for the purposes of electoral politics, for liberals in the media to avoid expressing the view that the belief — adhered to by millions of Americans — that failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is daft. On the other hand, the evangelical view of this matter is, in fact, completely absurd.

What prompted this was Sullivan getting her back up because a writer called Pat Robertson insane for believing that the Jews were going to burn in hell—to Sullivan, that’s not insane, that’s just an ordinary article of faith for millions of Christians, and not to be questioned. And she’s right?

Look, this is a simple issue. Doing a little dance and trying to pretend you don’t believe what you believe because you think it’s good tactics, especially when you readily admit that you are doing some political maneuvering, is stupid. What’s far better is to simply be what you are: be sincere and honest and go ahead and state your mind. No one is fooled by the act.

Sweet Jesus, Pat Robertson is insane. Wouldn’t the whole country be immensely better off if crazy grandpas like Robertson were left to just putter about in their gardens instead of peddling voting blocs and being sucked up to by people who ought to know better? The only way we’re going to get to that much-desired situation is if more people speak up against lunacy. And I count moderates who accommodate insanity, like Amy Sullivan, as part of the problem.

(via Atrios. Am I damned for citing one A-lister citing another A-lister?)

Comments

  1. #1 Ginger Yellow
    October 31, 2006

    Are you saying that Matt is being cynical, or Amy? I don’t think he is. He ends the post by saying that some true things should be said even if they are impolitic.

  2. #2 June
    October 31, 2006

    Maybe – just maybe – only God can decide who goes to Hell, like only the captain can perform marriage on board his ship. We have had plenty of warning on this point (venegeance is mine, do unto others, beam in your eye, turn the cheek).

    And so, can one hope that poetic justice rules the cosmos, that those who say others will go to Hell will themselves be first in line?

  3. #3 Jud
    October 31, 2006

    PZ: “Sweet Jesus, Pat Robertson *is* insane.”

    Granted.

    “Wouldn’t the whole country be immensely better off if crazy grandpas like Robertson were left to just putter about in their gardens instead of peddling voting blocs and being sucked up to by people who ought to know better?”

    Yes.

    “The only way we’re going to get to that much-desired situation is if more people speak up against lunacy.”

    Dunno if I necessarily agree that it’s always the only way. I keep remembering that line from The Who’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” –

    “Let’s forget you, better still.”

    Though it is kinda hard to forget folks like Pat who have zillion-dollar TV networks. What usually brings these folks down is either a personal peccadillo (Swaggart, Bakker) or too-transparent appeals for personal enrichment (God’s gonna kill Oral unless you poor folks send more money you can’t afford). So far Pat’s avoided that, concentrating on tactics loved by a scarily large segment of those who follow the Lamb, a/k/a the God of Love, a/k/a the fellow who said to treat others as one wishes to be treated – telling them everyone else is gonna burn in Hell except them. (Particularly those folks who happen to follow the same religion as the Lamb himself. God sent his only begotten Son to Earth as a practicing Jew, therefore all Jews will burn in hell! Yay, makes sense to me!)

  4. #4 j.t.delaney
    October 31, 2006

    What usually brings these folks down is either a personal peccadillo…

    Somewhere in America, there’s a Chuck E. Cheese’s public restroom just waiting to be eternally disgraced by Pat Robertson.

    Destiny awaits!

  5. #5 David Harmon
    October 31, 2006

    I note that the Bakkers may have been smited, but they reproduced first. Their son is a “punk preacher”… gaahh!

  6. #6 writerdd
    October 31, 2006

    Chrstians say ridiculous things all the time, quite matter of factly, as if they assume (and they do) that everyone around will agree with them.

    It’s time for those of us who are nonbelievers to start doing the same thing. Why should we have to censor ourselves? Let’s start assuming that everyone else around is reasonable and intelligent and start talking that way. If they’re not, that’s their problem.

  7. #7 99 bottles
    October 31, 2006

    PZ said: “Doing a little dance and trying to pretend you don’t believe what you believe because you think it’s good tactics, especially when you readily admit that you are doing some political maneuvering, is stupid.”

    Damn right, PZ!!! We have to fly right, and stay the course. When it comes to atheism, you’re either with us, or against us. Anyone who doesn’t toe the line and put the smackdown on the religionists is a traitor. If we back off in our rhetoric, or make namby-pamby gestures of moderation, or think about the “root causes” of religion, it helps the religionists win.

    This is a clash of civilizations, and we can’t moderate our rhetoric or our tactics. We must stay the course. It’s the most effective strategery there is. 100 years of ranting atheism: good enough for my grandfather, good enough for me.

  8. #8 Steve LaBonne
    October 31, 2006

    Right, because of course atheists have the power to invade christ-land and kill tens of thousands of Christians, so the analogy is a really good one. [rolls eyes in disbelief]

    People who think that forthrightly atating their beliefs (or lack thereof) is a terribly agressive act (because somebody sonewhere might not like it)- why don’t all you just kill yourselves now and get it over with? After all, that’s the only way to completely preclude the possibility that you might offend someone in the future.

    You won’t be missed.

  9. #9 JJR
    October 31, 2006

    99 bottles: you keep swingin’ at those straw men now, y’hear?

    twit.

    It’s the Religious community that demands conformity, not atheists. As an atheist, I’ll settle for “live and let live”–THEY *never* will. And that’s the difference.

    And if they won’t leave me in peace, I’d rather fight than bend over and take it.

    That’s not inflated rhetoric, or “intolerant atheist hatemongering”, it’s just the truth.

  10. #10 Mrs. Coulter
    October 31, 2006

    I love the twisted logic of it:

    Saying that millions of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, and atheists are all going to hell because they don’t accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior isn’t hateful in the least, but pointing out that this point of view is, perhaps, a bit to the extreme is hateful.

    Do we really want the Democratic party to pander to the people who think that everyone else is going to hell?

  11. #11 Rob Knop
    October 31, 2006

    It’s the Religious community that demands conformity, not atheists. As an atheist, I’ll settle for “live and let live”–THEY *never* will. And that’s the difference.

    Which they are you talking about?

    Lots of the Christians? Yeah, you’re right. They don’t like live and let live. They will shove their laws down your throat, they will undermine good thought, they demand you conform, etc.

    However, there are others who not only are in favor of good science, but also are strongly in favor of, within limits, live and let live. And when I say within limits, I’m thinking about wanting to prevent the fundamentalists from giving “equal time” to nonsense in science courses….

    Yes, obviously, the extremists are a problem. But it’s irritating to constantly be told that some of us are both tolerating the extremists bad positions (when we aren’t) and that we’re refusing to accept athiests (when we aren’t).

    -Rob

  12. #12 commissarjs
    October 31, 2006

    This shouldn’t come as any surprise. They literally believe that they are the chosen of Yahweh and their point of view coincides with his exactly. If you disagree with them or point out the flaws in their point of view you are the enemy.

    Just look at their egocentric point of view on civil right. Dr. Adams and the woman who would become his wife were just exercising their right of free speech. But the student they were railing against had no such right because she wasn’t saying what they wanted to hear. The people who thought Dr. Adams had gone too far were just as wrong. Their very disagreement wasn’t free speech, it was them trying to abridge his rights.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times the wingnuts have used this tired old canard. But it all boils down to the same thing said a couple different ways.

    1) They matter and you don’t.
    2) All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

  13. #13 Steve LaBonne
    October 31, 2006

    …are strongly in favor of, within limits, live and let live

    And what limits would those be, and who chose Christians, of any stripe, to set them? And while we’re having this discussion, why don’t they spend more energy trying to rein in the crazies in their own camp and less whining about unbelievers?

  14. #14 Jud
    October 31, 2006

    Having pointed out that it is rather ineffective and incongruous for supposed adherents of a God of Love to try to convince others of the infinite love to be found on that path by saying “You’re doomed to eternal hellfire,” I do feel constrained to point out that it would seem to be equally ineffective and incongruous for adherents of Sweet Reason to try to convince others of the wonders of that path by saying “You’re an ignorant fool.”

    In other words: Don’t self-censor, don’t ignore what is incorrect, but demonstrate by your own reasonableness and logic the advantages of reasonable, logical thought. Of course the occasional devastating remark can feel quite good, and there’s nothing at all wrong with having some fun in that regard, but it’s a temptation that perhaps ought to be yielded to sparingly, since it is likely not the most effective means for making others see reason.

  15. #15 Kristine
    October 31, 2006

    I think it’s time for some “Hellbent for hell! Doing my part to keep the earth’s mantle hot” buttons. We don’t want that generator to solidify and lose the earth’s electromagnetic field, do we?

    Sorry. But this is all too absurd. “You secular liberals are intolerant of intolerance.” You bet. Sue me.

  16. #16 CL
    October 31, 2006

    Look, this is a simple issue. Doing a little dance and trying to pretend you don’t believe what you believe because you think it’s good tactics, especially when you readily admit that you are doing some political maneuvering, is stupid. . . . No one is fooled by the act.

    Actually, I think quite a lot of people are. Tactically, it does work to pander to religious groups, unless it’s done in such excess that no one could possibly believe you to be serious. Compromise with (and, to an extent, pandering to) people you disagree with is necessary for political warfare. Whatever Lenin’s other faults (I’m by no means a communist), he recognized this quite well:

    After the first socialist revolution of the proletariat, and the overthrow of the bourgeoisie in some country, the proletariat of that country remains for a long time weaker than the bourgeoisie, simply because of the latter’s extensive international links, and also because of the spontaneous and continuous restoration and regeneration of capitalism and the bourgeoisie by the small commodity producers of the country which has overthrown the bourgeoisie. The more powerful enemy can be vanquished only by exerting the utmost effort, and by the most thorough, careful, attentive, skilful and obligatory use of any, even the smallest, rift between the enemies, any conflict of interests among the bourgeoisie of the various countries and among the various groups or types of bourgeoisie within the various countries, and also by taking advantage of any, even the smallest, opportunity of winning a mass ally, even though this ally is temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch08.htm

  17. #17 GH
    October 31, 2006

    But it’s irritating to constantly be told that some of us are both tolerating the extremists bad positions (when we aren’t) and that we’re refusing to accept athiests (when we aren’t

    If one believes people are going to be tormented and suffer for eternity in a place called hell by the hand of an all merciful loving God then frankly a little irritation is just fine. It is a disgusting and horrid thing to accept.

  18. #18 David Marjanović
    October 31, 2006

    Oh, you Americans…

    Most European Catholics (at least) don’t believe anyone particular will go to hell. Many believe hell is in fact empty. My Religious Instruction teacher in school (an ordinary public school) told us that his personal view is you only go to hell if you consciously want to be separated from God, and so on.

    I’m (still) surprised every time I read some American fundie is certain they’ll go to heaven. WTF? How can they know? Isn’t it blasphemy (like, claiming to know God’s will)? This, too, is not the kind of Christianity I’m used to.

  19. #19 Mena
    October 31, 2006

    This, too, is not the kind of Christianity I’m used to.
    I still don’t think that these are the main stream Christians, these are the crazies. They are the ones who tend to whine the loudest on the Internet so they get more attention. This country was founded by the craziest of the crazy, a proud tradition that hasn’t died out yet.

  20. #20 Jud
    October 31, 2006

    David: “I’m (still) surprised every time I read some American fundie is certain they’ll go to heaven. WTF? How can they know? Isn’t it blasphemy (like, claiming to know God’s will)?”

    Mena: “This country was founded by the craziest of the crazy, a proud tradition that hasn’t died out yet.”

    For a classic commentary on the above ideas and others, see the book summarized here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protestant_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism

  21. #21 Sastra
    October 31, 2006

    Pat Robertson is not really “crazy.” He’s far more mainstream than most of us, and his views make sense within his religious framework. If religious “nuts” were really nuts, they would be unable to hold jobs, love their families, have friends, and so on. That’s what’s so bothersome. It’s the disconnect between viewpoints which ought to be considered nonsense or at least clearly mistaken, coupled with the often thoughtful, surprisingly intelligent, generally likeable and perfectly normal people who hold them.

  22. #22 Max Udargo
    October 31, 2006

    This is tangential, but does anybody remember Pat Robertson predicting last May that both coasts of the United States would be lashed by storms and possibly a tsunami during the course of this year? He was obviously inspired to make this prediction by the nasty hurricane season of 2005 and the tsunami of 2004, but this year has been unusually quiet on both coasts, hasn’t it?

    But this failed prediction will not be perceived as evidence of fraud. I wish I could get a gig like that.

  23. #23 Jud
    October 31, 2006

    Robertson’s outside-the-mainstream views are by no means confined to religious topics. His call for the assassination of Chavez has already been mentioned. I also remember flipping through channels in 1980-81 and catching Robertson and another fellow on the 700 Club having a good laugh over a man who’d shot and killed his wife because she walked in front of the TV during a football game.

  24. #24 Skemono
    October 31, 2006

    Most European Catholics (at least) don’t believe anyone particular will go to hell. Many believe hell is in fact empty. My Religious Instruction teacher in school (an ordinary public school) told us that his personal view is you only go to hell if you consciously want to be separated from God, and so on.

    I’m (still) surprised every time I read some American fundie is certain they’ll go to heaven. WTF? How can they know? Isn’t it blasphemy (like, claiming to know God’s will)? This, too, is not the kind of Christianity I’m used to.

    What? You just said that many Europeans believe hell is empty, so everyone must be going to heaven. But it’s blasphemy for American fundies to claim that they are?

  25. #25 CJColucci
    October 31, 2006

    From many years of cross-examining witnesses, I’ve learned that when someone says something bat-shit crazy, the best response is usually to let the bat-shit crazy witness do himself in without my (visible) help. That’s not ethics, that’s tactics.

    It is true that the “official” doctrine of most major religions I know about is that only co-religionists get a satisfactory afterlife. But real-life folks, for the most part, are morally superior to the God they think they worship, and don’t really believe this in their bones. So when one of the more indiscreet bat-shit crazies mouths the “official” line, the best response is to let it sit there like the proverbial skunk in the jury box. Commenting on the bat-shit craziness of it is unnecessary and counterproductive. Those who actually believe the “official” line can’t be reached and the real-life believers will be quietly appalled on their own as long as we don’t get in the way.

  26. #26 99 bottles
    October 31, 2006

    CJ Collucci said: “From many years of cross-examining witnesses, I’ve learned that when someone says something bat-shit crazy, the best response is usually to let the bat-shit crazy witness do himself in without my (visible) help. That’s not ethics, that’s tactics….But real-life folks, for the most part, are morally superior to the God they think they worship, and don’t really believe this in their bones.”

    No, no, no, CJ. The key point about the rabid atheist strategery is, once you decide on that strategery, you HAVE TO STICK WITH IT, whether it works in favor of your nominal goals or no. See, it’s more important to say what’s true than win elections. Because truth matters, and being true matters. But actually winning hearts and minds is for pansies. Anyone who wants to win people on the margin, or simply “be polite” is a traitor to atheism and might as well admit to their covert support for bible bangers.

    I mean, c’mon:

    1) The best evidence of archaeology, textual history, and modern cosmology/geology indicate that Biblical accounts of creation are wrong.

    2) Anyone who believes in God is batshit insane and needs to be regulated or medicated.

    Isn’t it obvious that these two statements are saying basically the same thing? Isn’t it obvious that both are equivalent politically and rhetorically? Isn’t it obvious that simply adhering to number one will damage our chances of ULTIMATE VICTORY????

    Sure, 100 years of rabid atheism like the kind shown in satement 2 haven’t really, you know, worked yet, but we have to stay the course. History will ultimately prove that we are right, and the moderates on this issue are just as delusional as the fundies.

  27. #27 Aniko
    October 31, 2006

    “Oh, you Americans…

    Most European Catholics (at least) don’t believe anyone particular will go to hell. Many believe hell is in fact empty. My Religious Instruction teacher in school (an ordinary public school) told us that his personal view is you only go to hell if you consciously want to be separated from God, and so on.”

    Oh, you European Catholics…

    The trouble is, you guys never went to real catechism class. Please consult the current teaching on hell.

    People who “willfully turn away from God” are of course those who don’t accept the correct teachings of the Church. That would cover all the Jews, Muslims, etc previously referred to, as well as atheists, but also Catholics who believe Hell is empty when the Church has told them this is not the case.

    So be advised.

    Note that the seperation itself is the “chief punishment”, but fire is certainly not excluded. There’s the little trouble there of Jesus repeatedly mentioning it in the Book, unfortunately. So it’s rarely mentioned these days in Catholic churches, because people don’t like to hear it and even more of them might stop going (and let’s be frank, most “European Catholics” can count on one hand the number of times they’ve been to a mass that was not someone’s baptism, wedding or funeral).

    A neat example of people’s moral sense making the old teachings untenable and the Church adapting by subterfuge.

  28. #28 99 bottles
    October 31, 2006

    Steve Labonne said, “People who think that forthrightly atating their beliefs (or lack thereof) is a terribly agressive act (because somebody sonewhere might not like it)- why don’t all you just kill yourselves now and get it over with?”

    But, Steve, this isn’t about BELIEFS at all. This is about the proven fact that theists are insane. It’s not enough to say that the Bible is wrong. You can’t just leave it at that, because it lets them breed more apologists. Unless we’re on the news, 24/7, saying over and over and over that theists are fucking crazy, how will our message get out? How will we convince anyone?

    Some moderates think that the fact of biblical inadequacy will work in our favor. They think that rising incomes and education will promote agnostic or atheist views more than blogging. They think that simply getting people interested in the history of the bible, or the shortcomings of theology will be enough. These people are wrong.

    We’ve known about the shortcomings of the bible for what? 100 years or so? We’ve had good archaeology for what, 50 years? Geological evidence against the flood goes back 200 years? Has atheism increased in the population since then? Have more books about atheism and geology and science been published since then? Obviously not. Obviously the long term trend is toward theocracy, and unless we accept this is a clash of civilizations and that we must amp up our rhetoric beyond mere beliefs about the data, and to include THE FACT THAT THEISTS ARE FUCKING INSANE, then we’ll never get anywhere.

    You moderates can talk about your beliefs all you want. I’m with PZ. God is a phantasm and a delusion. Unless we spread that statement far and wide, theism will prosper.

  29. #29 Steve LaBonne
    October 31, 2006

    Aren’t you running out of straw yet, sonny? Go play in traffic.

  30. #30 George
    October 31, 2006

    Pat Robertson is not really “crazy.” He’s far more mainstream than most of us, and his views make sense within his religious framework.

    Of course! But the religious framework is batshit crazy.

  31. #31 99 bottles
    October 31, 2006

    JJR said, “It’s the Religious community that demands conformity, not atheists.”

    I’m right with ya, JJR. Just look at the great service PZ is doing for atheism. I mean, he’s finally pointed out that moderates aren’t really atheists at all. They’re a bunch of namby-pambies who are afraid of telling the truth about the facts.

    I mean, it’s not like the Jesus Seminar gets on the cover of Newsweek every few years with big stories about the flaws in the bible or anything. You keep fighting them, JJR. Those moderates are just shills for theocracy. The only way to help secularism to advance is to shout, far and wide, that theists are insane. If that alienates the poor and uneducated from voting Democrat, too bad. What do we want? A secular society, or to be righteous?

  32. #32 99 bottles
    October 31, 2006

    Steve Labonne said, “Aren’t you running out of straw yet, sonny? Go play in traffic.”

    But Steve, PZ has been harping on this for the past n weeks. He’s not gonna cave to a bunch of moderates who think atheist rhetoric needs to be toned down. That’s the whole point of this post. I’m with him, 110%. Theology is pointless. Moderation is pointless. All that matters is how loudly we proclaim our unbelief, and chastise believers for their insanity.

    You might not like the idea of sticking with a winning strategy, just because it seems to be losing out in the short term, but you need to keep your eyes on the long game. This isn’t about vanity or selling books, it’s about convincing people of our righteousness.

  33. #33 commissarjs
    October 31, 2006

    99 bottles? More like 99 posts on the same subject?

    How have you not been disemvoweled yet?

  34. #34 bernarda
    October 31, 2006

    marjonovic, “I’m (still) surprised every time I read some American fundie is certain they’ll go to heaven. WTF? How can they know?”

    The Calvinists certainly are not of that opinion. They believe that all has been pre-determined.

    You can pray and do as many good-works as you like, but that has no influence on whether you are saved or not.

  35. #35 snoey
    October 31, 2006

    The Universalists – the other U in UU – believe that we are all going to heaven. They don’t believe that a loving god would actually send anyone to hell. He just uses the threat as one more way to encourage good behavior.

  36. #36 Steve_C
    October 31, 2006

    99. You do a poor imitation of a hard atheist.

    We use the term demented fuckwits when referring to people espousing the belief they can do more to bring the end times or that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.

    Get it straight.

  37. #37 truth machine
    November 1, 2006

    But an excellent imitation of an idiotic ass — or someone who has had a lot more than 1 bottle.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.