Tragedy in Brooklyn

Katha Pollitt rocks.

So it’s 2005 and this is the academic question that has driven the Daily News and the right-wing New York Sun into apoplectic fits, and caused heartburn all over CUNY: Should Tim Shortell, an atheist, be allowed to assume the chair of the sociology department of Brooklyn College? You know, an atheist–someone who doesn’t believe in God. An anticleric. A disrespecter of religion. A mocker of Christianity.

This is what I’m saying. This is why atheists sometimes use noneuphemistic language. It’s because atheism is viewed and treated and spoken of as a crime and an outrage and something that ought not to be allowed. And that’s why the habit of just bashfully not mentioning the fact that theism is about truth claims that are not true, gets a little tiresome. There is a real problem here. I’ve said it before (so those who are tired of hearing it should leave now and go get an ice-cream soda or something), but I’ll just restate it again. There’s a real problem when the people who don’t say there are invisible supernatural entities (or entity) operating the cosmos are considered reprehensible, while people who do, are considered virtuous. That’s backwards. It’s the wrong way around. It reverses the terms. One might as well give prizes to bullies and sadists and throw kind helpful people in prison (which is exactly what happens in some places, and let’s not go live there).

You might as well say no Southern Baptist should be chair, since someone who believes that women should be subject to their husbands, homosexuality is evil and Jews are doomed to hell won’t be fair to female, gay or Jewish job candidates. Or no Orthodox Jew or Muslim should be chair because religious restrictions on contact with the opposite sex would privilege some job candidates over others. But nobody ever does say that. As long as a believer ascribes his views to his faith, he can say anything he wants and if you don’t like it, you’re the bigot.

Sad to say, she’s right. I’ve been seeing a certain well-known atheist (and self-proclaimed anti-theist) called a ‘bigot’ lately myself. The benefit of the doubt is always with the people of ‘faith’ (despicable word) and always against the people of reason. Well, enough of that. (Though I’m still not going to start calling myself a Bright. There are limits.)

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