Atheism in 2012: Double Standards & Hypocrisy

This is the first post in my series on Atheism, a series of observations with the goal of leading to a hypothesis as to why atheism has yet to become the dominant belief structure of society, particularly among technologically wealthy cultures.

This particular post will reference a post by my new friend Larry, which I encourage you to familiarize yourself with as it's a pretty good read and offers a lot of insight into the double standards & hypocrisy I've encountered in my interactions with atheists. He calls it:  Freedom of Expression

Double Standards
Recently, Paula Kirby posted an article that inspired me to write a fairly controversial post.

Apparently, the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society at UCL Union decided to use a cartoon depicting Jesus and Muhammad to promote a meeting at a pub. UCLU received complaints and asked them to remove the image. Things escalated from there.1 

Part of the escalation involved death threats to a 17-year-old who changed this facebook profile picture to the cartoon in question, an incident featured both in Ms. Kirby's article and in my controversial post it inspired.

With the terms: "atheist" (modifying an organization), "atheists" (indicating an audience), "we", and "our," Ms. Kirby's article paints atheists as a group whose freedom of expression is under siege. As the obvious common thread when referring to a group as atheist is their common lack of belief in a deity, the article is likely to lead one to believe that the inclusive group is being targeted because of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

As the cartoon series in question is (barely debatable) obvious mockery of the behavior and attitudes of the religious as observed by the cartoonist, and the cartoon uses characters from those religions to express that mockery - it's evident that the mockery is targeted on the basis of religious beliefs. 

I'm of the mind that it's a double standard to target a group because of their religious beliefs and then rage against those that would target others because of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

So moved by this blatant double standard, I used my freedom of expression and wrote my controversial post, full of scorn, criticizing the decisions made in the exercise of Mr. Morgan and Ms. Kirby's freedom of expression.

In response, I receive criticism and scorn of my exercise of my freedom of expression. It was labeled stupid by my new friend Larry, and those at RDF couldn't see anything wrong with targeting on the basis of religious beliefs but took a hardline stance against targeting on the basis of lack of religious beliefs..

I asked Larry to explain his position, and he was gracious enough to do so2. Here's my analysis and response:

I took some time poking around Larry's blog in an attempt to find a direct statement and failed, but I found enough circumstantial evidence to feel confident continuing the analysis with the assumption that he is an atheist. I point this out because I see the first paragraph of his explanation as a demonstration of a sense of humor. My post is titled 'These Atheists are Bullies' ('These' was added), and it would appear he's an atheist writing a post with the intent to 'heap additional abuse' on me, something one might expect a bully to do.

Then there's an accusation of hypocrisy - an insufferable prick complaining about insufferable pricks. This is a slight misinterpretation. The complaint was insufferable pricks calling for unanimous support of their right to express their prickitude. As one not only has the freedom to express what they please, one also has the freedom to support or not support that exercise of freedom. I choose not to support their mockery on the basis of religious belief, just like I refuse to support Westboro Baptist funeral 'protests' as an exercise of freedom of expression. Using a freedom as a weapon risks that freedom for everyone else.

He later uses this to imply that I don't understand rights, and that to accept a right is to accept a social obligation to protect that right. Very well, in that case I accept the limited right of freedom of expression and will vehemently defend anyone's right to expression that doesn't infringe on other rights. Cross that line, start using it to infringe on the right of freedom of religion, and my support stops at the line.

Then there's the point that mockery on the basis of religious belief isn't bullying. Maybe. I'd debate it. Particularly since it seems to be so accepted, defended, and encouraged among atheists that it is accepted as commonplace. Frequency and recurrence of such mockery starts to look like a campaign to to dehumanize a people because of their religion. If the campaign remains intact and escalates above mockery, you're well on your way to persecution on the basis of religious beliefs (or lack there of). Isn't at least the parenthetical version of that something atheists oppose?

Then the most frequent atheist behavior I've encountered occurs. He examines a statement and then pretends it says something it doesn't. Perhaps he needed clarification but was too proud to ask. 

For the record, I think murdering someone for a cartoon posted on facebook is the act of something far worse than an insufferable prick. Said murderer would not be receiving applause. I oppose that intolerance more than I do minor demonstrations of intolerance. However, just because both versions of intolerance arise in a certain situation doesn't mean the minor intolerance should pass by ignored, and there were plenty of people speaking out against the major one already.

Education: Right or Privilege?

Isn't it time we gave up on schools? I know we'll need to replace the socialization and normalization somehow, but I mean as far as a quality education goes.

You hear a lot about the 'free market' these days. How the best products an solutions come from personal interest - that society will benefit from people trying to make themselves rich. There's definitely some truth to it, but I think it's time we tapped into something more powerful than self interest to shape our society. Parents.

Not all parents, obviously, but enough - more than enough really. Self-interest (at least on the surface level) will never have a person throw themselves in front of a car to save another. Yet, I can't say that I know a single mother that wouldn't do so for her child. I'm sure they are out there, but overwhelmingly the mothers I meet would do anything for their children.

So, let's see if we can't take that emotion and use it to build our society from the ground up. Let's make THAT the foundation of our society. If a mother's love for her child is the foundation, the next layer would be education. What if a great education was available to every child (at least every child with internet access)? What kind of world would result from that? Would it be a better world to live in than if education - particular American education - remains as horrible as it is?

What if education goals weren't the minimum it takes for a child to succeed, but the maximum that child could achieve?


Procrastination and Priorities

  1. to defer action; delay.
  2. to put off till another day or time; defer; delay.
I could definitely be considered a serial procrastinator. I know I'm not the only person who struggles with procrastination, because I have clicked on many articles with tips on how to avoid procrastination, and if people are writing about it and people are reading about it, then there must be other people struggling with it. I firmly believe procrastination is fairly common, and it's likely this post would have gotten more readers if I had entitled it: 'Conquer Your Procrastination' or similar.

Procrastination is not without consequence. Things that get put off tend to pile up. The 'list of things you need and want to do' gets longer and longer. When you finally make the time to start addressing the list, deciding which thing on the list to address eats up a large portion of that time since there is so much to choose from. While that sand slides through the hourglass, you not only feel the burden your procrastination has caused, but that while you decide what to do you're making things worse.

My ability to procrastinate used to come with a sense of pride. The homework with the ever-approaching deadline? No match for me. I was fully capable of putting it off and putting it off, only to cram in a burst of effort at the last minute and still get a passing grade. Marvel at my prowess! Inevitably, I reached the point in my life where I realized that getting a passing grade was a lot more difficult in the real world, and my procrastinating habits were making my life harder instead of easier. I also realized that I owed it to myself to do better than 'a passing grade,' and that pride in doing my best on a task tasted far sweeter than pride in my ability to procrastinate and not fail.

Thinking it Through
I was actually in the process of not-procrastinating when this post began to form in my mind. Particularly when what you've been putting off is manual labor: washing dishes, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash - your mind has plenty of time for internal dialogue about abstract concepts. As my hands did their work, my mind examined my procrastination.

Was I intentionally procrastinating? I don't really need to make a budget. I've gotten by, at least, with not having one for many years. I want to be on a budget, I want better control of my finances. Surely with these noble goals I wasn't intentionally avoiding making a budget. Even back in school, I wasn't intentionally avoiding the homework. I wanted to spend time on it. I wanted an awesome finished project. I wanted to knock it out of the park.

If I wanted to spend time on it, why wasn't I?
Because you don't want to spend time on it, you want to have already spent time on it. You want it to be done, to reap the benefits of having done it - but you don't actually want to do the thing itself.
Instant gratification? Of course that's what I wanted. Only in retrospect does my desire for the result outweigh what I wanted to do at the time.

But it happens almost every time. Almost every time I choose what I want to do at the moment of what I want to have done, and almost every time hindsight shows it to have been the wrong choice. Logic suggests remembering this and using it to overcome the appeal of what I want to do at a given moment - yet, logic faces a challenging foe in the form of momentary desires.

Priorities in Order
My rational mind constructs a simple plan to follow. It sorts through all of the retrospective anecdotes and finds the pattern of the data. To reduce the stress of enormous todo lists, follow these simple steps:

It assures me that by doing so my life will become more peaceful and more under control. My stress level will decrease. My contentedness will increase. Just follow these simple steps. Try it for a short time, prove it's effectiveness.

 I see the logic. I see the simple wisdom. Then it occurs to me, This wisdom should be shared. You should turn all of this thought into a blog post. Quick, do it now, before you lose the inspiration.

Clearly it will take great effort to promote this and manage to prevent hypocrisy.

It will. Let's focus on that right after we write the post and hit publish...


To my friends at the Richard Dawkins Foundation

Sadly, I am no longer allowed to play with you as the moderators have decided they could construe an if-statement as potentially libelous. I'll try to recall it and repost it here when I have more time as they don't seem to believe in returning a copy of the removed message to the poster for reference.

I'll address your comments here when I have the time, as you seem to have a taken an interest in my work and I certainly welcome dissenting opinion. Meanwhile, I'm flattered by your interest in myself and my blog - though somewhat confused by:

  • My link to my personal blog being removed due to it being a link to a personal blog, but your link to my blog not being removed.
  • That discussion of me isn't considered off-topic.
Be careful though, all this attention might feed into my NPD. :)

Regarding such, I say:
Be yourself, even if you're a sociopath.
Best wishes,
Grizwald Grim

Potentially Libelous
Turns out the if-statement wasn't the "potentially libelous" one. Though if I recall correctly it was hypothetical and phrased as a rhetorical question. It was a reply to Steve Zara's post:
Your position is wrong. For goodness sake, this is a few students advertising for a pub evening using a cartoon that probably amused them.
and went something like:
Then why when I imagine a group of these college lads leaving said pub with a healthy buzz and stumbling across a lone Muslim girl am I concerned for her safety?

phil rimmer then quoted it (he's since deleted the post) and made an accusation that I must think atheists are terribly immoral (or similar).

Of course I don't. I think they're humans. Humans do a lot of really screwed up stuff, and to assume the morality of these individuals on the basis of their faith or lack-thereof would be terribly ignorant. Point being, you shouldn't assume a positive about their moral character on the basis of their atheism or group affiliation any more than I should assume a negative. Just as every Muslim isn't prone to death threats, every Atheist isn't prone to acceptable behavior.

Even Paula Kirby (the articles author) nods in the possible direction this intolerance can lead: 
The day I see atheists threatening violence or inciting hatred or indulging in any other kind of threatening behaviour, I will not hesitate to condemn them for it.
Certainly not every atheist who thinks the cartoon is appropriate would think violence against believers appropriate would be okay. However, I suspect that those who think violence against believers is okay would never consider the cartoon to be promoting intolerance.

In fact, notice comment 53

Continued Discussion: Episode 1

There was a great deal directed at me that I hadn't addressed prior to losing my commenting privileges for the above. As those who wrote it and I didn't get the opportunity to get the point of agreeing to disagree (in fact it seems most have yet to wrap their heads around the points I tried to make with my latest post), I am taking this opportunity to address those comments.

As I mentioned, there was a great deal and it is likely to take some time. Here is the first installment, the rest will come as time allows.

Tonight's special guest star: 
(offsite quotes of me in green)

You are struggling with this I can tell. Bullies ridicule as part of the bullying tactics, but not all ridicule is bullying. It's a concept you really need to grasp.
"We want to win arguments by cogency. I think ridicule is a weapon, but it must be witty ridicule and not just abuse,” he says."  Richard Dawkins, The Sunday Times, 22 Jan., 2012
I would very much like to say: "No abuse is just abuse, abuse is unjust." because I like the play on words, but it's intellectually dishonest. I think child molesters should be executed, and that might be considered abusive.

HOWEVER, witty or not - abuse is unjust when the weapon is not carefully aimed. There are an great deal of Muslims (wikipedia claims 1.5 billion if I recall correctly), and without evidence to the contrary my stance is that a great many of them are not deserving of abuse - that many of them are good people who fell into believing what is most likely nonsense.

When these good people are ridiculed right along side the less desirable Muslim extremists, it is reasonable that there is a bond created by the ridicule. Indiscriminate ridicule creates a common ground between the good people and the extremists, and is therefore highly counterproductive to eliminating the extremists. The extremists are then able to find sympathy among the good people on those common grounds.
I see, so if they had posted the group logo instead of the cartoon all this still would have happened. Weird.
That is not the correct question, the correct question is "Would anyone have been offended if any other group had posted the cartoon?" If yes, then it was not because the poster was Atheist, if no, then you have to start asking other questions.
BTW, the very existence of Atheist groups offend some people, do ya reckon that has any bearing?
I'm sure it has bearing on something, but as the points I am trying to make are:
  • that public ridicule of others on the basis of their beliefs is wrong 
  • portraying the tolerant as enemies of free expression for denouncing an act of intolerance is ill considered
It doesn't appear to have any bearing on the discussion at hand - nor does your "correct question." However, I think I would greatly enjoy discussing various aspects of discrimination faced by atheists at another time/place.
She gets accountability for her decisions, not responsibility for the decisions of others. As there’s nothing wrong with dressing provocatively, that accountability is nil. However, publicly ridiculing the beliefs of other people on behalf of an organization is wrong, unless that organization’s purpose to promote discord within its community.
Why? Why is it wrong to ridicule the beliefs of others, publicly or otherwise?
For the same reason it's wrong to burn someone at the stake for their beliefs.
What difference does it make whether it's an organization or an individual ridiculing an organisation or individuals belief's?
See the bit about common ground with extremists I mentioned above. If faced with a hostile group rather than a hostile individual, one is more likely to seek allies for protection.
Why are religious belief's held in such high regard, yet other belief's are not? Undeserved respect, that's why. We are back to undeserved respect.
Because the world is the way it is and not the way it should be.

I know my friends at RDF have a hard time with this, but try to grasp the core concept of the following:

The religious establishment is a castle. You, I, and a few others are standing outside the castle wishing it was a pile of rubble. You try to throw a rock at the castle and I say, "Dude, don't throw rocks at the castle, are you daft?"

You reply: "But the castle deserves to have rocks thrown at it. Everyone throws rocks at other things, even the people in the castle? Not throwing rocks at it is showing the castle undeserved respect."

"But Amos," I explain, "it's a castle, and that's a rock. If we want to bring it down we'll need an army, and there are more people in there than out here. Let's play nice, go inside, and convince as many people in there as we can to come out here with us."

What about the offensiveness caused to Islam by the wee girl going to school for an education? Do you think those who use their belief's as an excuse for doing bad are above being ridiculed for those belief's?
No, I think that ridiculing those beliefs rather than those people is counterproductive because it establishes common ground between those that share those beliefs but are ignorant of the wee girl (most Muslims) and those that would harm the wee girl (the extremists). Better to inform the ignorant of the wee girl without establishing that common ground with the extremists. That way to establish common ground between most Muslims and everyone else.

Belief's we are talking about now, not the obesity of someone's mother. They are not the same thing and those that think they are need a double dose of the ridicule.
Of course they aren't the same thing. However, they are similar enough to illustrate a point to those with an open mind, imagination, and the capability of reason.
Your position, correct me if I'm wrong, is that the Atheist group advertising their function with a satirical depiction of 'Jesus & Mo' should have considered the feelings of anyone that is liable to be offended by the depiction before going ahead and using that depiction. By going ahead and using the cartoon and causing offence, they behaved like ridiculing bullies who went out of there way to persecute religious believers and brought whatever repercussions that resulted on themselves. Right?
This is me correcting you because you are wrong:  My position is that the group should have considered whether or not posting the cartoon in the advertisement of their function was in alignment with the goals of their organization:
  • If the goals of their organization are to ridicule people that believe differently then they do, posting the cartoon met that goal.
  • If the goal was to amuse members without ridiculing people who believe differently, there's no reason the announcement needed to be public as they could have limited it to the 421 members (last i checked) group. 
  • If their goal is to expose people who believe differently to other options as to beliefs, the ridicule in the cartoon is counterproductive. 
Since the post was representative of an atheist group, it is speaking for the group, and that should be considered when deciding what to post (less hub-bub for an individual posting what he pleases. When it's representative of a group you're moving from freedom of expression into something more convoluted). Paula Kirby should not accuse those promoting tolerance of infringing upon the right to freedom of expression when they oppose an intolerant message, they're just promoting tolerance.
Why can’t what I’m saying be what I’m saying? Why do you insist on reading what I write, then accusing me of saying things I haven’t?
Because it's a problem when you use emotive language like, bullying, persecution, harassment, provocation, bat-shit crazy.
Well, I tried calling it "calling someone's mother fat," but you and my other friends at RDF would have none of that. 
Is it perpetuating harassment and provocation if the people don't go bat-shit crazy or issue death threats?
Yes, just of significantly less magnitude than people normally associate with those terms.
What is the purpose of the bat-shit craziness and death threats if not to intimidate into kowtowing?
Honestly, the purpose is to defend the castle from a rock. Clearly it's an unacceptable response. It's obvious it's an unacceptable response. That I don't rage against the obvious is apparently oft misconstrued for acceptance of the response. I feel I'm demonstrating the appropriate response. Stopping by the comment section defending the rock throwing and saying "Hey, don't throw rocks."

As the unacceptable response is so obviously unacceptable, it seems to me that a great deal of people are already voicing that opinion. If questioned directly, I'll gladly add my voice as well. In the shadow of such an overreaction though, the initial intolerance is getting a free pass. As such, I felt my demonstration of an appropriate response was warranted to draw attention to it - as it's clearly not obvious that it was an act of intolerance.

Is it wrong to ridicule a gay teen for being gay?
Is it wrong to deny gay adults visitation of their lovers dying in a hospital because they aren't married?
Is it wrong to execute people for being gay?

I say all three of those are wrong, but it seems to me many people are quite comfortable with letting the first one slide, fewer but still many are comfortable with the second, and fewer still but enough are comfortable with allowing the third.
However, the fact that unjustifiable wrongs are committed does not change the fact that X falls into the category of persecution.
It is not persecution, even by the definition you have chosen.
It might not be if viewed as an isolated incident, but it's not an isolated incident it's a systematic campaign reinforced by (usually) silent consent.
Let me use an analogy. Manchester United supporters believe they support the best team in the world. Everyone else hates them for their arrogance. Everyone else ridicules and mocks Manchester United supporters. Manchester United supporters get upset at everyone taking the piss out of their football team. Taking the piss out of a football team is not bullying or persecution, but some Manchester United supporters love their team so much that they are prepared to inflict violence on anyone taking the piss out of their team...on that basis, should everyone stop mocking Manchester United?
On the basis of threatened violence? No. On the basis that people are starving to death, being murdered for trying to go to school, being imprisoned for posting 'there is no god' on facebook? Hell yes everyone should stop mocking Manchester United.
"The systematic; socially supported mistreatment and exploitation of a group or category of people by anyone". Not on your nelly Grizwald.
What if the only difference is which group is in the majority?
Whether it should have caused a reaction is irrelevant.
No it's not...it was posted to raise a reaction, a reaction from the group members seeing it...the reaction being a laugh at the satire. The university Atheist group didn't draw these cartoons, you are aware of that are you not?
A laugh at the satire or a laugh at Muslims? If that was the goal there was no reason for it to be a public announcement. Yes, I am aware.
We don’t live in the world as it should be, we live in the world we live in. Are you suggesting that despite all of the articles on this very website that suggest otherwise, the possibility of an outlandish reaction wasn’t considered?
So what? Are you saying that at the risk of offending some ignorant fuckwit by attending school and the possibility of an outlandish reaction wasn't considered, namely, an attack with acid? Better keep every wee girl at home and let terrorism win.
No, I'm saying people should watch less football and deal with problems like this - and that university groups shouldn't be fueling that fire.
"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people." Martin Luther King, Jr.
Precisely. Yet you'd have me remain silent about the intolerance of the ASH.
That is the whole point. 
All I did was copy and paste your self description from your very own blog Grizwald. These are your words about you.
Which you posted here and emphasized for the purpose of ridicule, correct?
This goes to the heart of the matter. It is all about perspective. I was pointing out your failings in your self description and the way you have approached this subject...how is that ridicule?
Were you really? Who were you pointing them out to? Were you candidly expressing concern to me? It certainly doesn't seem so, as you didn't detail what exactly those failings were. Were you pointing them out to my friends at the RDF because they'd know what your emphasis meant and get a chuckle at my expense?

See, the squiggles with the dots underneath are question marks. When I say "correct?" I'm asking you if the assertion prior was correct. This is your opportunity to clarify if it is incorrect. Instead, you chose to accuse me of paranoia. What is the assertion you were supporting?
The errancy of the parable was outlined. The point of ridiculing religion is to show how ridiculous it all really is, that is the issue here. I'm not obliged to show undeserved respect. Invisible entity with zero evidence, pervert's on flying horses claiming to have garnered instructions for the worlds population from god via an angel deserve no respect and will receive none.
I'd never ask you to respect a religion - just people, the current social climate, and the consequences of rock throwing.
Publicly ridiculing others on the basis of belief is wrong regardless of reasoning or consequences.
No it's not. It really isn't. Manchester United, Skoda drivers, Republican voters, people who support a religion that supports paedophiles, people that support a religion that throws acid in the face of school children....they are all fair game for satire and ridicule....live with it Grizwald.
Bullshit. It's lazy and marginally effective at best. Try a new tactic - hold people personally accountable for their actions and their beliefs. Allow me to redirect you to the portion of comment 208 the whole gang seemed to readily ignore:
Another telling moment in this whole debacle was the decision by whomever in the ASH to respond to the demand of removal with public appeal regarding infringement of the right to free expression.
Justifications I've heard for use of the cartoon have included that mockery is an effective method of criticizing or questioning religious beliefs. If that truly was the purpose of the cartoon, why did the response to the demand of removal not continue the goal?
Would it not have been more in line with goal of criticizing beliefs to respond with something like:
Dear UCLU:
We will not be taking the cartoon down. If religious students are offended by it, they should perhaps focus less on facebook and more on their religious texts.
Specifically, if Christian students are offended by the comedic depiction of Jesus, they should direct themselves to the portion of the bible that speaks of 'turning the other cheek.'
If Muslim students are offended by the comedic depiction of Muhammad, please direct them here: http://answering-islam.org/Muhammad/pictures.html
Additionally, we will be reviewing UCLU policies on censorship and will likely call for your resignation on those or similar grounds shortly. Have a great day!
Aside from being way off base about removing the cartoon do to offense, I agree with a few points S M Tahir Nasser made in the same statement found here: http://freethinker.co.uk/2012/01/12/atheists-have-no-right-to-decide-what-is-or-what-is-not-offensive-to-believers/
"It may be argued that such cartoons are in the manner of satire and that satire is a key element in freedom of expression. When examined however, it is clear that these cartoons are not satirical in the least. Satire is characterised by the bringing to light of vices for the purpose of initiating reform within the individual or group of individuals who are satirised.
Was this the purpose of cartoons with Jesus and Mohammed (peace be upon them both) lying in bed together, or comparing the number of Twitter followers they have? It is clear that the purpose of the cartoon panels is not to initiate serious discussion regarding the holy founders of either religion. The cartoons only have one purpose – to mock and deride and poke fun."


These Atheists are Bullies

"No one is more insufferable than he who lacks basic courtesy."- Bryant H. McGill                  

I think I had an atheist whine in my general direction today. Over at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, (emphasis mine) Paula Kirby posted:
"But the key thing to note in all these cases is that it is no longer just the religious who would inhibit our freedom of expression: increasingly, secular bodies are buying into this invidious idea too, all in the name of 'tolerance' or 'community relations' or 'respect'."
Let's try a little of that reason for a moment, shall we?


Why SOPA has nothing to do with Online Piracy

"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws." - Plato
They want you to think SOPA and the Protect-IP act are good things, about protecting intellectual property and stopping online piracy. That's complete bullshit. Here's why:


BREAKING NEWS: Obama Indefinitely Detained

In a stunning move this morning, the President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama was taken into custody by a platoon of army soldiers lead by Brigadier General Clyde De'Sarae.

Just after 10:10 a.m. Eastern time, the platoon raided the White House quickly sweeping into the Oval Office taking President Obama into custody.