Friday, September 18, 2009

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Okay, for those who don't know, a study came out the other day that indicated a correlation between conservative religious beliefs and teen pregnancy. First off: no shit. I mean, seriously. You tell your kids that abstinence is the only way and that Jesus will protect them from the horrible penises or vaginas and you know what happens? They're not prepared for the reality of being a hormonal teenager left to their own devices with another hormonal teenager. Anyway, Jesus' General linked to some random right-wing blog (warning: the stupid. It burns) that brought this up for a completely different reason. What struck me, though, was this interpretation of the original scientific study:
The objective of this study? To convince college-educated middle-class people that religious faith is the No. 1 force for evil in the modern world. "OMG! If we let our daughter go to church, kiss Vassar good-bye!" [emphasis theirs]
No. That's not how science works. However, the crazed Biblical literalists and creationists and all that who are running around telling us that Darwin caused Hitler and universal health care will lead to death panels are trying to convince us that whatever their bugaboo of the day happens to be is the number 1 force for evil in the world. It's just so much more effective if you convince people that it's your opponent who's up to all those nefarious schemes. It doesn't matter whether or not your original assertion is true. It only matters that it puts your opponent on the defensive. Because remember. The goal is not to make the world a better place for everyone. The goal is to win. Because everyone who is different than or disagrees with you is wrong. And evil. And doesn't deserve anything other than Hell. EDIT: Also, Frank Schaeffer may well be my new second-favorite internet Christian. Right behind Fred Clark. Seriously, the dude is on a roll. Also, that edit really isn't as off topic as you might think...


BeamStalk said...

Thanks to you, I too am digging Frank Schaeffer. I just had to call him on his degradation of the "New Atheists". He provides no examples but claims they are just as bad as fundamentalists. That is a straw man or extreme hyperbole.

Geds said...

Yeah. I totally don't get the New Atheist hate. That's one of the prime issues that I point to when I say, "Look for the original source."

That could come from my historian background, though. You simply cannot trust a later source that says, "This person said [this]," completely. If it's the only thing we have then we're kinda screwed, I guess. But there's no excuse to not pick up a Hitchens or a Dawkins book and at least give them a fair shake.

You still don't have to like them, but at least arm yourself with some evidence in the process...

PersonalFailure said...

I don't like to engage in "Pin the A on the Atheist", but I suspect that Schaeffer may be a lot closer to agnosticism or atheism than he lets on. Generally, New Atheism hate from nonfundys comes from the newly agnostic/atheistic.

Everyone does it. We realize we're atheists, but we're not really ready to let go of "Christianity does wonderful things for the world" yet, so Dawkins and Hitchins sound shrill to our ears.

Then we start actually listening to/interacting with the fundy element, and realize the Hitchins and Dawkins are rather firm, but quite polite.

Geds said...

See, that's the weird thing for me. I think it might be because I always took a somewhat balanced view of Christianity's effect on the world, so it never surprised me to find that people thought Christians could do bad things. My main problem was pulling back from that peculiar attitude that if everyone just went with my version of Christianity, then everything would be okay.

Of course, I wasn't a fan of my version of Christianity, either. So, y'know, cognitive dissonance and all...

Either way, when I read Hitchens' god is not Great I found much of it insightful but I also found much of it problematic. His thesis that religion always poisons everything is just as flawed as the Christian supremacists idea that what we really need is more Jesus. For while the Pope assisted the Nazis in their rise to power in Germany the Archbishop Desmond Tutu did much to tear down Apartheid. While Martin Luther set off a couple centuries of war, Martin Luther King, Jr. did, well, all the stuff he did.

We need to look at the people as well as the system. I suspect that Tutu and King would have been Tutu and King had they been non-religious and had similar platforms.

So while I have no conflict with the New Atheists and, in fact, agree with many of their points, I do think that they can get myopic from time to time. And that doesn't help anybody.

But, by the same token, the denunciation of PZ Myers for Crackergate was utterly ludicrous. For one thing, as he said over and over again, it's a frackin' cracker. For another, he didn't do it to make a statement about the evils of religion. He did it to make a statement about the evils of unthinking conformity. Those two ideas are worlds apart, but the former gets way more play in the anti-New Atheist circles.

Of course this also doesn't mean we should let Christians off easy. One of the things I like about Schaeffer is his willingness to call fundamentalists the village idiot and to say that we shouldn't structure our society around their whims. And I totally agree that while Joe Wilson is almost certainly a racist we're idiots to run around screaming that racism is the chief and only factor. The proud ignorance of the fundamentalist bigot is at least as much to blame as the proud ignorance of the racist.

But, y'know, it's far more politically correct to turn everything in to a racial issue than to look at religious issues. So we're left with the weaker argument taking center stage. And that's not gonna help anyone.

jessa said...

Woah, that other McCain... wow. I went through the comments on that post, and only one even mentioned my immediate thought. Kathy said, "I just want to check out my impression before jumping to conclusions: Was it your intention to suggest that becoming pregnant and giving birth at the age of 12 is a positive outcome for a girl in 2009 because Margaret Tudor became pregnant at 12 in 1485?"

To me, that was just an immediate red flag. Kathy doesn't want to jump to conclusions, but I'm willing to jump. Whether or not the other McCain intended that story to say that it is a good idea to get pregnant at 12 years old in 2009, that is what he said. If he is using that story to show that abstinence only sex ed is okay by pointing to the results, than he is saying that those results are okay for today too. If those results are not okay for today because the culture has changed (which is what I would expect someone like that to say), than the education has to change with the culture. Children used to be taught that the world was flat and now they aren't, we update our lessons based on updates to our knowledge and our culture.

Sorry, this would have probably been more appropriately placed on his blog, but I didn't want to troll, and my eyes are popping at the stupidity that I had to say something somewhere.

Geds said...

That's quite alright, jessa. And you're apparently made of sterner stuff than I. I barely got past the bit that I quoted. My brain started to melt and I decided to quit.