Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roy Williams and yet another dose of atheist bashing by pesky, bolshie, outspoken, in your face, assertive, evangelising god botherers ...

(Above: more Xkcd here).

The pond decided that this would be the year where idle provocations by stick-and-word wielding god botherers would be left alone ... to rest, along with mad dogs and Englishmen and conspiracy theorists, in the noonday sun.

On the Bear Grylls principle that if you spot a sleeping snake, you should leave it alone and it won't bother you, nor even offer you a juicy apple.

But dear sweet absent lord it's hard when - in a stray moment - you cop a serve like Roy Williams' Why God botherers bother.

Not that he ever answers the question why they bother to bother the pond when it's just a botheration, but you can see why the editors of The Punch bother. With comments heading to over the four hundred mark, the column's hit city - right up there with Barney Zwartz. It's an advertising nirvana, cheap controversy of the Punch-drunk kind ...

There's nothing like a Williams to get the Rikki-Tikki-Tavis going.

You hear many complaints nowadays about pesky, outspoken Christians. Across the West, a fashionable attitude has emerged: Beyond the doing of charitable works, and perhaps the soothing of the bereaved at funerals, “religion” should be an entirely private affair.

The so-called New Atheists are vocal advocates of this position. One of them, Michel Onfray, has admitted that his atheism “leaps to life when private belief becomes a public matter”. Onfray hates it “when in the name of a personal mental pathology we organise the world for others”.

Oh sweet Jesus, it's the vocal Xian Roy Williams shouting in The Punch at every and anyone who drops by about the way the New Atheists are vocal ...

But is it the new atheists or the newly enraged Xians who've ruined the Republican party and the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, and are presently ruining the United States on a daily basis?

And lordy lordy, lah de dah, is Williams a paranoid example of the breed, or what. You see, it's not just the new atheists, it's everyone who's out to get the Xians:

What the Right and the Left have in common is an ugly tendency to rebuke Christian spokespersons with whom they disagree. Rather than engaging with the substance of counter-arguments, their instinct is to dismiss them as irrelevant or illegitimate, purely because of their source.

Now in the old days this would have been dismissed as an argument of the purest tosh, a straw man argument which is purely drivel (especially in relation to the United States, where both right and left kow tow to the Xian vote).

Does Williams actually have any evidence of anyone failing to engage in the substance of counter-arguments, and dismissing arguments presented by Christians purely because of their source?

Purely? Has anyone noticed anyone going around town saying look, I hate to tell you this, but your argument is irrelevant and illegitimate, purely because you're a Christian?

Oh okay, maybe if Fred Nile is involved. But really what's wrong with dismissing anything Fred Nile says, purely because of its source? Or Pat Robertson, at least when he says god has told him who's going to be the next president, and then like a yah yah spoilsport, won't tell us what god told him. Hard to argue with that, or check up when the election takes place (here, with bonus video).

Speaking of straw men slippery slope arguments, the paranoid Williams likes to go the full hog:

Of course, there’s nothing new about this phenomenon. In 1170, Henry the Second famously denounced the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, as a “meddling [or turbulent] priest”. In the twentieth century, the Soviet Union tried to silence the churches altogether.

Uh huh. But strange, no mention of Orwellian, or Godwin's Law, communist sub-section. Still, it's nice to see Stalin doing the hard yards. Let's not worry about the times the churches tried to silence the atheists and the secularists and the witches and the weirdos altogether ...

And Williams is a dab hand at cliches too:

In the West today, opposition to public Christianity is of a different sort. It is usually based upon ignorance of Christian history and doctrine, and a misunderstanding of one of the most basic of human rights. In Australia we enjoy freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

That's two cliches and a straw man argument, all in one noble sentence.

In Australia of course we enjoy the freedom to argue stupidly, and we know this will always lead to stupid arguments, but how is opposition to public Xianity usually based on ignorance of Xian history and doctrine, and a misunderstanding of human rights?

That's as fatuous as suggesting Xianity is forever forgetting the huge number of people outside its particular corporate tent, when we all know that Xians know that Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Confucians and such like are misled muppets ....

And where would we be without a martyrdom fantasy, of the kind that sends Islamics off to martyr heaven?

Most Christians who speak up for their faith do not do so in order to annoy or impress, still less (a few American televangelists aside) for reasons of worldly self-enrichment. The Bible denounces such people harshly.

Uh huh. Tell that one to Hillsong ... and its fellow traveller Peter Costello.

The real reasons why so many good Christians speak up – why some become ministers or missionaries or martyrs – are quite different.

Yes, they're doing it for you and me, for us, even if we don't want them to, and even if we tell them just to bugger off, ever so politely.

You see there's no brownie points in Stalin trying to suppress religion - it will bubble up like shale oil in sand - but equally there's no brownie points in attempting to convert people who don't want to be converted.

Why bother trying to turn an Xian to atheism if they're happy with an imaginary friend? And why see the need to hector and harass and convert atheists happy to accept there's no pie in the sky bye and bye ...

But no, never the simple life, because then comes the bible bashing. There's the peerless Jesus of Nazareth, and John 15:27, and Matthew 28:19 KJV, and Romans and Corinthians and Timothy and Hebrews and Peter and Paul and his second letter to the Corinthians:

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Uh huh, some kind of kinky submissive thing going down.

So it's on to Ephesians, and then more of the message and more from John 5:22 and then an explanation of the meaning of the word 'Gospel' - as if no one's ever been made to sit in a state government school and hearan Xian rabbit on about the meaning of 'Gospel' and 'good news' - and then it's even more of the good boook via Acts 2:1-5, and oh for the love of sweet Jesus and the long absent lord will he never shut up, enough already of the bible bashing ...

Okay, okay, time out. Here's an upside view of god:

Oh and along the way you get a caveat, kind of standard operating procedure in these troubled times, because it turns out that, at least according to a Pew survey, atheists do tend to know more about religion than Xians (Why Do Atheists KNow More About religion?).

And right before these troubled times, it turns out Xians haven't been the victims, because for a very long time in western societies, they had the upper hand, and they let everyone know it, delivering a hell on earth while promising hell in the afterlife to anyone who disagreed:

Things changed, of course, once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. It’s impossible to deny that, ever since, evangelism has too often been conducted in a forcible and non-Biblical way.

Oh no Joe, say it ain't so ...

Even so, modern critics of religion tend to overstate their case when invoking this argument. Ever since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which entrenched the system of sovereign nation states, most armed conflicts have not been waged even notionally for purposes “religious”.

WTF? Well it's a relief to know that the civil war in Lebanon had nothing to do with the Christians, Sunnis and Shiites getting up each others noses 1975-90, and it's even more cheerful to understand at last that religion had nothing to do with the troubles in Ireland these last four centuries, and what a pleasant surprise to discover that any tensions in the middle East between the Arabs and the Israelis have absolutely nothing to do with religion, and how comforting to learn at last that the brutal division of Pakistan and India was utterly unrelated to religion, and surely it will greatly please the Somalis that their state is currently undisturbed by notions of religion ...

Got a few more hours? We could go on and on. What a tragic, ignorant, Eurocentric misunderstanding of world history since the treaty of Westphalia ...

Williams even tries to get the Crusades off the hook:

The Crusades, fought sporadically from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, are frequently held up as the archetypal example of violent Christian evangelism. Even that charge is true only in part, because the Crusades were fought for a combination of reasons – ethnic, dynastic, economic, political, historical and military.

Yes, but of course religion is always conflated with dynastic, economic, political, historical and military issues.

That's why the Pope, still even to this day, has an army on hand, even if it's only to keep the tourists out, because even as late as 1870 the Pope was fighting to retain the Papal States, and instructed his tiny army to put up a token resistance so he could say that Rome was being acquired by force and not consent ... (Italian nationalism and the end of the papal states).

The point about the Crusades is that the dominant reason, the dominant excuse, offered by the Crusaders, always started with religion, and the need to defeat the Muslim hordes, as even the most cursory reading of the history reveals, and which is signalled in the opening remarks of the Crusades wiki:

The Crusades were a series of religious expeditionary wars blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church, with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem.

Sure there were crusaders who were bandits and louts out for loot, without care for Xian pieties, in much the same way as the Irish troubles provided a convenient cloak for IRA and Unionist gangsters and thieves, but a wave of the historical hand doesn't take religion out of the equation, or deny its pivotal role in such sordid affairs.

Why must Xians re-write history, deny what has happened, deny what is happening right now in the name of religion, whether Xian, Islamic or Calathumpian?

Never mind, Roy Williams insists on the right of Xians to evangelise, which presumably means he's also happy with the right of Scientologists, Islamists, Jews, atheists and Calathumpians to evangelise, so here's the deal.

Turn up at the pond's door in an evangelical frame of mind, and you'll be gravely informed that a nest of Satanists lurks inside, and unless you're off the property licketty split, you're certain to lose your eternal soul. Always works like a charm ...

And now to the godspell good news. It turns out that there is one godforsaken country that has no truck at all with the Christian religion, and yep, it's the good ol' United States of America:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. (Treaty of Tripoli, 1796-97)

Lordy lordy Uncle Sam as a secular state.

Now who's going to break the bad news to Roy Williams? And to the Republicans? And to fundamentalist Christians throughout the land?

Gosh darn it, those vocal atheists have done it again, and what's more, in the eighteenth century ...

(Below: another xkcd riff on god. Well we've got to spice up things somehow because if there is a god, surely she's a super geek).

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