There’s been an exponential rise in atheist advertising these past few months; it’s all chronicled at Friendly Atheist, where you can follow the dozens of atheist bus ads, subway ads, billboards and the likes that appear across America and the world. The overlying theme present in all these ads (or, at least, 99% of them) is how very non-confrontational, inoffensive and really quite benign these messages are; all they do is tell people not to worry about a God who “probably doesn’t exist”, or let other atheists know that they’re not alone in their godlessness. And yet, naturally, religious nuts still find a way to get their panties in a twist over them. After all, they can’t admit that godless people exist, and can be good and moral people without religion, can they?
The latest of these ads, from the British Humanist Association, is arguably the most agreeable of them all:
|[EDIT: 01/10/13 7:57 PM ET – Fixed broken image.]|
One of the larger points of contention atheists share, I included, is how there is no such thing as “religious children”. To label a child as a “Christian child”, or a “Muslim child”, or even an “atheist child”, is blatantly unfair. A child cannot subscribe to a faith (or a lack of one) if they aren’t even old enough to understand what faith really is. This sort of labeling is unfair and needs to stop – which is where the aforementioned ad comes in.
Notice its subtle brilliance: not only does it decry the use of terms such as “Catholic child”, “Protestant child” and “Sikh child”, it also includes others like “Libertarian child”, “Anarchist child” and “Marxist child”. This drives the point home: children can and should not be defined by a religion, no more than by a political ideology, or any ideology of any sort. The point couldn’t be clearer or more self-evident: let them grow up and decide for themselves. Who could possibly find anything to complain about in such a message?
Well, Ed West did in this profoundly stupid article at the Telegraph, where he makes any number of dumbass errors and assumptions in between being a general twit in his November 18 article, entitled ‘Stay away from my kids, Richard Dawkins’.
But Dawkins’ latest piece of propaganda is just sinister. With a picture of two smiling children, it proclaims “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.”
The Richard Dawkins-led anti-religious movement in many way resembles the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, on both Left and Right, which hated religion as rival sources of loyalties, and sought to drive it out.
Wow. That was fast. Barely a single paragraph in, and already the equating of a peaceful message about not unfairly labeling kids to fascism has begun. Talk about getting to the point – and saying something stupid – in record time.
Other than that, though, the second dumbass thing he says is about how this has anything to do with Richard Dawkins. Dawkins (who is Vice-President of the British Humanist Association) has nothing to do with the message of this billboard itself; the closest he comes to having any relevance here is in a segment in his book, The God Delusion (excerpt from Friendly Atheist):
At Christmas-time one year my daily newspaper, the Independent, was looking for a seasonal image and found a heart-warmingly ecumenical one at a school nativity play. The Three Wise Men were played by, as the caption glowingly said, Shadbreet (a Sikh), Musharraf (a Muslim) and Adele (a Christian), all aged four. Charming? Heart-warming? No, it is not, it is neither; it is grotesque […]
Imagine an identical photograph, with the caption changed as follows: “Shadbreet (a Keynesian), Musharaff (a Monetarist) and Adele (a Marxist), all aged four.” Wouldn’t this be a candidate for irate letters of protest? It certainly should be.
Dawkins has oft repeated his belief that the religious indoctrination of children is tantamount to child abuse. While this view is admittedly a bit extreme, he does make a good point: it is unfair to label children as anything, seeing as they are not mature, responsible and knowledgeable enough to be able to decide for themselves.
Anyway, back to Ed West’s nonsense.
It’s a basic premise of liberalism, and of anti-authoritarian regimes generally, that people do not attempt to interfere with other people’s children, and the way their parents try to raise them. Whether people wanted to bring up their kids as Christians or Muslims, vegetarians, Marxists or Latin speakers, conservatives or liberals was up to them, so long as they did not abuse them, and society had a pretty agreed notion of what abuse was. So when Dawkins suggested that raising children as religious was a form of child abuse in itself he showed his true Stalinist colours.
Holy hell, the bugger’s insane. First of all, all Dawkins has done when he famously states that indoctrinating children into religion as they are raised is child abuse, is give his opinion. He is not trying to control anyone or interfere in anyone’s child-rearing; he is simply explaining his beliefs and views. Ed West shows himself to be no more cleverer or sensible than your average American teabagger when he jumps so quickly to cries of “FASCISM! STALINIST!” as he just did.
Skipping a few hackneyed (and plain silly) shots at atheists making fewer kids than most (yeah, because not feeling it is our religious duty to become baby Pez Dispensers is a negative thing, apparently) using some highly doubtful statistics and a dumb quote or two, we (mercifully) arrive at the end of West’s tripe:
Stay away from my kids, Richard Dawkins. And if atheists want more children who aren’t “labelled” maybe they should try to come up with an alternative to religion which matches the social capital of church-going and the moral structure of Christianity, rather than mere postmodern chatter. And while they’re at it maybe they should stop aborting so many of their own children before they get a chance to grow up at all…
Whoa, two loads of dumbassery in one! West certainly is generous with his helpings, isn’t he?
First, that first part about atheists who don’t want kids to be labeled needing to find an “alternative” to religion is pure hokum. Hell, I have trouble understanding what it’s supposed to even mean. It certainly has little, if anything at all, to do with the issue at hand, and his response to us decrying the labeling of children seems to be summarized as, “Okay, so you don’t want kids to be labeled as religious? Well then, find something else we can label them as”, which totally misses the friggin’ point. We don’t want kids labeled as anything.
And, just to comment on that last, weaselly little swipe at abortion: the fact that atheists tend to be (not that they all are, which would be an over-generalization) pro-choice as opposed to anti-abortionist is more indicative of the fact that atheists and humanists generally place a much higher value on people’s lives than religious drones do, considering all the latter do is in God’s name and not theirs or their friends’ and loved ones’. Pro-choice atheists and humanists actually realize that, A) life is not sacred (and nor is anything else), B) abortion is a crucial part of women’s reproductive health, and that C) abortion is no more or less damaging to human life, or to anything, than is cutting out a lipoma, or jacking off and dumping your jizz in the toilet. Early-stage embryos, at which time the vast majority of abortions take place, are no more than blobs of cells. They are insignificant, the only thing tying them to the human race is their genome, and they certainly are not “persons” by any stretch of the imagination. Atheists and humanists, who tend to be more reasonable and rational, understand this. Religious types tend not to.
But, you know, if Ed West is so afraid of authoritarian people meddling in his life and interfering in how he raises his kids, maybe he should just move to the Middle-East or China or something. Then he’d get a real taste of what fascism truly is like. That way, when he came back, may be he’d learn to think straight and to keep his yap shut before spewing idiocy.
Though, granted, it does make for good blogging fodder.