There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about bullies. Unfortunately, it’s distracted a lot of people from some of the biggest bullies, religious people. The driving force behind these individuals hasn’t changed in eons. It is, and always has been, fear. Fear is what drives religion, gives it purpose, promotes willful ignorance, science denial, and is the central emotion responsible for the bigotry, discrimination and hatred that is widespread among many people who profess an undying love for their gods. Religion is the ally of the bully, the friend of the charlatan, the tool of the tyrant, and a constant deterrent against self-esteem.
Every time we hear or read the words of a religious person who calls for the denigration, shunning, banning or death of another human being or group of human beings, we shout out, “bully!” And, rightfully so. These people are bullies, and it is the right of those of us who share in the common decency of humanist principles to continue to speak out loudly against their bigoted rhetoric. It is our right to post our blogs about the awful things they say and do. It is our right to comment on their videos when they preach their vile sermons. It is our right to carry our signs pointing out their hatred. It is our right to protest these tyrants by assembling in front of the places they meet. But, guess what?
They Have Rights, Too…
I have written a lot over the years on the concept of free speech, and why it needs to be protected. I’ve stood in support of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the legality of the Westboro Baptist Church to hold up their horrific signs. I have maintained that as much disdain I have for reprehensible groups like the American Nazi Party or the Ku Klux Klan, they have a right to march in their parades and hold up their hateful, shitty little signs and banners. Contrary to what many people infer, this doesn’t mean I support these groups, what they stand for, or their ideologies. It means that the way our Constitution is interpreted regarding the First Amendment, if the rights of those we vehemently disagree with are usurped, then the rights those who disagree with the groups who are working for equality and against bigotry and discrimination can also be usurped.
The support for free speech is often misunderstood. Those of us who maintain that an individual has the right to say whatever they want often come under fire because our detractors are under the impression that our support for this right automatically connotes support for context. They are also under the impression that we do not reason that there should be consequences. These impressions are total and complete bullshit. They are false, by definition, meaning they are ‘false impressions.‘ The support for free speech just means that a person is free to say whatever they want.
So, what does this mean? Well, just because an individual has the right to say whatever they want, doesn’t mean they are free from the consequences of their actions. Free speech sometimes means that people utter some pretty horrible things. I stated in the piece I wrote about Free Speech the other day,
“If you click on a link that you know is going to take you somewhere that is gonna flip your shit, in spite of the fact that you don’t want your shit flipped, then your shit deserves to be flipped. This is not blaming the victim, because you have made a choice to expose yourself to something that you are fully and completely aware will cause the exact reaction that you expect it to. It is not blaming the victim if you intentionally step in front of a freight train.”
To which, much shit was flipped, and the point was completely lost on a few people.
Shortly after I posted my piece on free speech and personal choices, we learned about Amanda Todd. She was fifteen years old, and was the victim of cyber-bullying that had gotten so bad, she felt the only way to escape was to end her life. I literally shed tears when I read this. I am a father and a grandfather, and while it is true that on the very same day there were many, many others who also died – some with the very same circumstances – at this time, Amanda Todd became their voice. We connected with her, and for me, this tragedy reinforced my opinion that there is a severe disconnect in what bullying is and what some perceive it to be.
I cannot fathom, as a parent, how it must feel to lose a child to anything, let alone a suicide. So, I made this comment on Twitter:
This comment was made in general reference to the piece I had just written, and in spite of its wording, it was not directed any specific commenter. I got several responses to my tweet, and I tweeted back to one of them,
My tweet above was made in response out of my frustration at how something like this could progress as slowly as it did without someone noticing that something was going horribly wrong, and that this girl needed more than a reassuring talk and a link to a video telling her that it will get better, eventually. This girl was crying out so loudly, and for so long, that it is painfully obvious that even though steps were taken, too little was done by too few people. Admittedly, I probably should have put those thoughts here, rather than trying to cram it into 140 characters.
Back To The Godly…
The comments that were generated by this video ran the gamut from one extreme to the other. There were several among them that were genuinely horrific. I don’t need to rehash them here, they’ve been reprinted many places. There always are comments like these, especially when something like this happens. Most of them are trolls, looking to elicit a predictable response. Some of them exhibit actual points of view. These people exist, and as repulsive as their comments are, they have a right to their point of view. Their consequences? Well, their comments can be deleted, they can be banned or the venue which is reporting the story can close the whole article to commenting, altogether. This is pretty much the end of it. Of course, we also have the choice to not read the comments.
The point is, with respect to Amanda Todd, nothing that is said in the comments of wherever you’ve read about her, no matter how vile, will have an effect on anything in the real world. This is why comparing it to, say, websites that allow people to lift pictures of scantily clad, underage girls from social networking sites doesn’t make sense to me. Or comparing it to someone saying something nasty about a person in a forum. But I digress…
Public figures, such as politicians whom have or might have a real-world effect on legislation, or have a lot of influence over large constituencies of people, are a whole other animal. Particularly if these public figures hold a belief in fundamentalist religion that includes doctrines that allow for the actual, real life assaults and deaths of living human beings. This is one of the principal reasons we need a total separation of religion from government.
Point in task, Arkansas State Representative Charlie Fuqua, who is currently running for re-election. This man is fucking nuts. Certifiably, unequivocally batshit crazy. As reported everywhere, he advocates for the execution of children who disobey their parents.
From Talking Points Memo:
“A child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21” – Republican Charlie Fuqua, from his book God’s Law
“I think my views are fairly well-accepted by most people” – Charles Fuqua, as quoted by the Associated Press
It has rapidly migrated from the Arkansas Times – which has broken the story about a controversial book written by Republican candidate for the Arkansas Legislature Charlie Fuqua – to the Huffington Post, but so far media has not identified the most astonishing aspects of Fuqua’s suggestion, in his e-book God’s Law: The Only Political Solution, that rebellious children should be executed in accordance with Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
First, Fuqua is not advocating just any form of execution. By citing those verses from Deuteronomy, candidate Fuqua is recommending stoning rebellious children to death. Here is the scripture Fuqua cites, Deuteronomy 21, verses 18-21, from the King James Version of the Bible:
“18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: 19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. 21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
Next, Fuqua’s view that the American legal system should be based on Biblical Law identifies him as a type of Christian Reconstructionist. On Fuqua’s website for his book, he explains,
“Everything that is wrong with the United States will be corrected only when we turn back to the Biblical principles followed by our founding fathers. The prophets of the Bible told Israel that the nation would suffer as a result of disobedience to God’s law. It is no different today. God made the universe and the laws that govern it. Disobedience of those laws always produces bad consequences.”
You really have to read the whole article to get where this asshole is coming from. And there are hundreds of thousands of people who believe this shit, and the ones in his district are voting for him. If you think that this guy’s views are to fucked up to allow him to be elected, consider we have a Mormon that has been nominated for President.
Bullying is a huge problem, and whether or not anyone thinks I don’t have a right to comment on it for whatever twisted and idiotic reasons they come up with, I have stood staunchly against it for my entire life. Even through the ten years I was a Baptist Pastor. All bullying is not equal in scope or in application. Some of it can be avoided, altogether, and some of it truly needs way more attention than it is getting.
The fact that much of the bullying that exists can be traced directly back to religious doctrine, and much of the discrimination that exists in the laws of the United States can also be. And people wonder why I place the need to address violations of the separation clause in the First Amendment as part of my “Top Five” social justice issues? Please…
As always, commenting is open to everyone.
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