2007-02-11

Insulting Freethinkers

Occasionally the Florida Times-Union prints a syndicated feature in which two columnists, Shaunti Feldhahn and Diane Glass, defend opposing stances toward a particular issue posed as a question. A couple of weeks ago, the pair addressed the issue of whether symbols of specific religions should be displayed on public property. Today we find a letter to the editor in response to Feldhahn's arguments. This letter by George Starkes was published today under the heading, “Christians: Hypocrites are everywhere.”

This is in regard to the column titled "Why is it all right to insult Christians?" by Shaunti Feldhahn.

The blatant hypocrisy of individuals like Feldhahn never ceases to amaze me. They are so quick to denigrate anyone who dares to criticize the Christian belief system, but they remain totally silent when members of their faith insult, attack and vilify those of other non-Christian beliefs.

Just as African-Americans, women, gays and other groups discovered long ago, people have to defend their rights. Most powerful religionists will not merrily grant rights to historically oppressed religious minorities or secular freethinkers. Moreover, no one can win his rights by hiding and trembling in the closet. Human beings can only make progress through courageous agitation.

Hardly a day or night goes by that I don't hear a right-wing radio talk-show host referring to atheists and minority religionists as scum, fools, vermin and many other derogatory terms. Yet, not one Christian has ever called in to tell the host to knock off the bashing, insults and their overt bigotry toward people of other beliefs.

When secular symbols and even minority religious symbols are placed in the public square, the extremist right-wing Christian fundamentalists are quick to remove them, protest them, or harass and threaten those who represent other non-Christian beliefs. It is the typical double standard over and over.

Those of us who are freethinkers are proud of our rational beliefs. We are fed up with the perpetual insults we endure on a regular basis. There should be no shame in embracing and celebrating reason, critical inquiry, philosophical naturalism and the scientific methods of investigation.

As for me, I don't need to be "born again," since I got it right the first time. I suggest that Feldhahn and her cohorts learn to practice what they preach.
I don't really have much to say regarding this letter. The original piece by Feldhahn focused almost entirely on removing a cross from a private university before mentioning the Mount Soledad cross, which is on public land, almost as an afterthought. There's no real substance to discuss. This letter to the editor is somewhat rambling, doesn't address Feldhahn's points, and paints with too broad of a brush in parts for me to give my support. I do wholeheartedly agree with the author, however, that we freethinkers must stand up for our rights and make ourselves visible as a group to demand fair and equal treatment in society and in the law.

UPDATE: A reader has corrected my knowledge by informing me that the university in question, The College of William & Mary, is in fact a public institution. This makes the permanent removal of the cross from the chapel a governmental issue.

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8 comments:

Sarah said...

Just to clear things up, William and Mary is a public university, and has been for over a century. I think that changes the context of the discussion of whether it's appropriate to have a cross on permanent display in the the College's only chapel which is meant to serve all students.

Secular Planet said...

Thank you for correcting my misunderstanding. I will make a note of it in the blog.

George said...

I wrote the letter entitled _ " Insulting Freethinkers" and I find it odd that you consider it rambling and you rant about not giving it your support. First of all-- Who appointed YOU to be the all-knowing critic of freethought letters to the editor ? Secondly, if you really wanted to give support to secular letter writers then you would write a support letter to the editor instead of simply posting letters on your worthless blog. Very few secular individuals have the guts to publicly respond in writing to the secular bashing in the media. My letter was specifically addressing the TITLE of the article and the hypocricy that people overwhelmingly respond to remarks about Christians but are silent about attacks upon Atheists. I was well aware of the CROSS issue being the main focus of the article.. Its also interesting that you didn't post your name, photo, or contact e-mail address to write any personal message to the blog host (YOU). What do you have to hide ? I have been pushing for many years for freethinkers to come out of the closet and be assertive and vocal and stand up to the secular-bashers of our society and I've been a member of numerous secular organizations. Anyone can post letters on a blog and give their opinionated view of them. This is the attitude that discourages others from coming forward. Why didn't you write to the newspaper and comment on the original article instead of criticizing someone who had the testicles to publicly respond ? I hardly consider this to be SUPPORT. I've discussed this with several freethinkers who agree with me. I'm in the process of starting a secular group of secular community activists instead of a group of mere talkers-- Sincerely-- George Starkes

secularplanet said...

I wrote the letter entitled _ " Insulting Freethinkers" and I find it odd that you consider it rambling and you rant about not giving it your support.

So it's OK to label what I write a rant, but what not OK for me to label your letter rambling? Y'okay.

First of all-- Who appointed YOU to be the all-knowing critic of freethought letters to the editor ?

Welcome to the internet, George, where everyone is entitled to write anything they want without any special license.

Secondly, if you really wanted to give support to secular letter writers then you would write a support letter to the editor instead of simply posting letters on your worthless blog.

I have written letters. I don't, however, connect them to the blog. And while my blog may be worthless to you, not everyone shares your opinion.

Its also interesting that you didn't post your name, photo, or contact e-mail address to write any personal message to the blog host (YOU).

I addressed this issue in an early blog entry. And I'm glad you find something interesting here.

What do you have to hide ?

I'd rather not have my current or potential employers find my blog. You can say whatever you want about that, go ahead but I frankly don't care what you think.

I'm in the process of starting a secular group of secular community activists instead of a group of mere talkers.

Good luck to you then. You might want to avoid attacking ("rant", "worthless", [not having] "guts" or "testicles", "opinionated") anyone who doesn't share your exact attitude.

george said...

You're right about not everyone shares my opinion, but the fact still remains that if you really wanted to support a fellow atheist, then I would think it would have served you better to simply write a support letter ( in this case specifically -regarding MINE ). As far as the term "ranting", I was letting you see how it feels when you make such remarks. As far as you not caring what I think ( that works both ways ).I never said you don't write letters. I was asking WHY you didn't bother to support my letter instead of just posting my letter on your blog and just making a personal critique judgement. Whenever I see a secular letter in the newspaper ,I write a support letter to the editor ( however very few get published because I am very aggressive in my delivery -( sometimes very militant ). First ,you made the first attack upon me in your referring to MY letter as "ranting". I called a few secularists here in Jacksonville to write a letter to support me after a response letter was published written by a fundamentalist Christian and ALL of them refused. I've called other freethinkers to support other secular writers and the same response. Just recently a person wrote a letter saying that Darwinism has been proven to be false and they wanted to put God and prayer back into the schools. I called a few atheists in Jacksonville and local area and ALL of them refused. I had just had a letter published about one week prior on another subject. I've even had to call leaders of out of state secular organizations to write in to the editor of the Jacksonville paper to get them to respond. I can relate to employers and their attitudes toward secular employees as I have been ostracized and even harrassed to the point of almost being threatened. As freethinkers we are all on the same team even if we have different political and social opinions and I encourage all freethinkers to monitor the newspapers and let ourselves be heard. By the way, they are attacking freethinkers regularly on the radio talk shows , so please have your readers listen and respond in defense of freethought. Thank You Sincerely ---- George Starkes

secularplanet said...

As far as the term "ranting", I was letting you see how it feels when you make such remarks.

Do you honestly think calling my entire blog "worthless" and saying I personally lack "testicles" are equivalent to commenting on your letter's style?

I was asking WHY you didn't bother to support my letter instead of just posting my letter on your blog and just making a personal critique judgement.

There was no reason to write another letter. There was nothing more to say to the newspaper's audience.

Whenever I see a secular letter in the newspaper ,I write a support letter to the editor ( however very few get published because I am very aggressive in my delivery -( sometimes very militant )

That's your style, and that's great, but it's not mine. I have a very high success rate of getting published when I do write, which indicates that I do know when and how to write.

First ,you made the first attack upon me in your referring to MY letter as "ranting".

(1) No, I didn't. I called it "rambling," meaning that it wasn't focused on a single topic but rather tried to address several topics in a short space.
(2) It was never intended as an "attack" on you. It was my comment about the letter's style. There's no reason to take it personally. Please note that I commented on many, many letters last year.

As freethinkers we are all on the same team even if we have different political and social opinions and I encourage all freethinkers to monitor the newspapers and let ourselves be heard.

Yes, let's focus on that. There's no real reason to argue about who writes what when. We both do our parts with respect to the newspaper, you with lots of letters and me with an occasional letter and lots of blog entries.

george said...

I am actually in agreement with your presentations. I admit, I did take it personal and I don't think your blog is "worthless". I actually stated that because of your comment. I actually admire your blog. I agree with you about not wanting your boss or others in certain jobs knowing that your are a secularist. One of my best friends who is an atheist put a Darwin fish decal on the rear of his car. His religious zealot boss was about to give him a raise and a promotion and he was quickly fired for some flaky excuse. A former high ranking member of American Atheist told me many years ago that he was fired from his job because he was an atheist and his attorney said there was nothing he could do. This occurred in Austin, Texas. When I joined the Marine Corps at age 18 , we were all forced to attend the chapel every sunday. Anyone refusing had to write a letter to the base commander at Paris Island and give reason why you refused. No secularist dared to do so as the term "atheist" was being associated with "communist". This was during the Viet Nam era. Believe it or not, I actually hope you keep up the good work as I have gotten much inspiration to much of the literrary content on your blog. I left ALL of the secular organizations I belonged to since they only wanted to meet once a month and chit chat and not do anything positive from a pragmatic perspective as far as activism. Did you see the letter to the editor in the Florida Times-Union today 01/08/08 entitled - " Science Standards: Prohibit Myths " ? I loved it. Please print it on your blog. I have a question. Do you also monitor the radio talk shows ? I heard one night time radio talk show host who in my opinion is a religious bigot refer to atheists as -" You atheist fools", " You atheist scum", " You atheist vermin" and also stated -" The atheists have destroyed San Francisco" , etc etc . If one were to replace the word "Atheist" with "Christian" ot "Jew" there would be a major uproar. Not one atheist called and complained about the secular bashing . I called frequently but couldn't get through. I wrote a recent letter to Folio Weekly and I'll see if they print it. Keep up the good work--George

SecularPlanet said...

I'm glad to see that we resolved the tension between us. I especially like to be on good terms with local nontheists.

To answer your question, no, I don't monitor any talk shows, just the newspaper. It doesn't take much time since I read the editorial page every day anyway and it's easy to link to. I don't really have time to listen to any radio show regularly except the nonreligious podcasts that I link to in the sidebar.

Thank you for bringing the letter about creationism in today's paper to my attention. I might have missed it because they hadn't updated the page this morning when I checked it before going to work. I will write something on it shortly.