Posts Tagged ‘education’

How to Counter the Phelps Clan and the Westboro “Baptist” “Church”

March 3, 2011

As I’m sure you all have heard by now, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Phelps and his Minions regarding freedom of speech. And while I don’t ultimately disagree with their ruling, it frustrates me that there isn’t a way to punish these monstrous, vile, sub-human pieces of filth (Edited to clarify: I don’t actually advocate punishing them, but I wish I could frustrate them as they do me). But we have no right to legislate against idiocy. I’m paraphrasing a paraphrase of Thomas Jefferson through Mark Crislip that the only remedy for nonsense is ridicule, and I whole-heartedly agree. I want to get to a point where they’re beyond ridicule.

I hear and read all the time that if only “the media” would let go of it, if we all just ignore them, they’ll go away. I think we all know that and agree deep down, but I don’t think shouting “just ignore them” is going to change a damn thing. It’s like gawking at a traffic accident. While we’re in the back of the traffic jam, we curse those in front who gawk, but when we get up there, we can’t help but do it ourselves. Same thing with WBC. “Ignore the wreck and just keep going” aint ever gonna happen.

So, the question then is, What Next?

Below, about a year ago, I highlighted a roaring success of a counter-protest launched against the Westboro goons. The fact that they did fundraising for local gays and lesbians was AWESOME, and that they seized the opportunity to turn a hateful event into a positive and uplifting one with positive or funny signs, people giving out hugs, etc. was EVEN AWESOMER.

While I agree with those aspects (of positive messages and raising money), I think we need to do more. Standing around and holding signs? Kinda cool. Holding up bigger objects in front of them to block them from view? Eh, I guess kinda better. C’mon, I think we could do WAY BETTER THAN THAT – do more with this passion and this energy, more with the anger and frustration that we may have regarding this ruling, the restlessness and helplessness that some of us may feel.

So, here’s my proposal:

The only way to ever get the Phelpses to stop is to go after what they’re going after – to ensure that their goals are countered at every stop, so that it no longer is worth their effort, no longer worth their time, no longer worth their money, and no longer an effective means to spread their childish, hateful message. (Again edited to clarify: I am not proposing that we stop them from exercising their right to free speech. What I am proposing though is that we show through our action that the content of their speech is crazy on its face, because right next to the people saying gays are the cause of all the problems in the world, all the gays and atheists and christians and whatever are coming out and working together to actually make it a better place.)

Their whole schtick, in a nutshell, is that the death of soldiers, national tragedies, and other random disasters is the pouring of their god’s wrath upon America for being more accepting of homosexuals (and I think we still have a long way to go in that regard, but that’s a topic for another post). So, their goal is to have people be less accepting, more hating, more afraid of homosexuals, right?

So then our goal should be to turn each of their “protests” into events that directly benefit homosexuals: their communities, their educational opportunities, their career advancement, their reputation in the eyes of ignorant haters. Instead of just standing around with posters, and in addition to doing fundraising to benefit to local LGBTQ community group, local counter-protesters should do public – and publicizable – acts of charity and good works. We should all get together and do a street clean-up. Set up a mobile soup kitchen down the road from the wackos with the dayglo signs. Bake sales and sexy sexy car washes with proceeds benefiting local groups. Let’s get creative, people!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the funny and poignant and love-filled signs, but it just strikes me as not enough. It’s not enough just to mimic them, to copy their method. We’re reacting with the same action when we need to meet their action with an equal and opposite reaction.

As recent events have shown, social media are powerful mechanisms for effecting change. The Dub-Bub-Chubs announce where they’ll be and when, and so I encourage anyone and everyone who reads this to spread the word, organize, get out there, and turn it into a positive event. Positive for the ones they target, positive for the community, positive for the human race. And again, to emphasize, I laud those who have guarded mourning families with their wings, their flags, their bodies, their signs. And certainly the existing mechanisms for countering the “church” should continue. I just don’t think it’s enough. I want to see a future where wherever they go, there’s something better going on to report on, where their only mention is brief and cursory – as “those wackaloons again”- and then move on to the real story of how we raised 20K for scholarships to high school gays. How we cleaned up the park and beaches. How we raised enough money to renovate a youth center. How we made sandwiches and soup and gave it out to the homeless. How we made lemonade, literally and figuratively.

So – University unity groups, church groups, atheist groups, any loners out there who’ve always wanted to help counter the Phelpses’ message, let’s get out there! Find out when they’re coming to your area, organize a positive event based on your community needs, and let’s all be the ones to take advantage of them for a change!

Meme It

January 20, 2010

meme (meem) v. To fortify a meme by consciously using it in such a way that the uninitiated reader would immediately discern its novel application.

So.

Now that you’ve seen it, meme it!

Ruse the day

November 11, 2009

Philosopher Michael Ruse has recently put up an essay about the newest new atheism news: The Schism. Or as PZ Myers has described it Deep Rifts, DEEP RIFTS! that are rending the frail alliance of non-accomodationalist new atheists and the old republic of old accomdationalist atheist vangaurd! The drama! I can’t wait to hear of the latest encyclical from the pope his most rationalist Dawkins Darwin the Fifth on the dogmatic neccesity of philosophical naturalism and its twin sister the materialist evolutionism-ist neodawinianism-ist humanist secularism.

Anyway, Ruse says,

As a professional philosopher my first question naturally is: “What or who is an atheist?” If you mean someone who absolutely and utterly does not believe there is any God or meaning then I doubt there are many in this group. Richard Dawkins denies being such a person. If you mean someone who agrees that logically there could be a god, but who doesn’t think that the logical possibility is terribly likely, or at least not something that should keep us awake at night, then I guess a lot of us are atheists.

Seriously? His first question as a professional philosopher naturally is about who counts as an atheist? What a waste. Maybe he just means on this particular topic. Sure, in a certain sense, you can only be agnostic as to whether gods exist because, Jesus Christ could come back tomorrow (or some Other , Thing…)
and strike all his believers dead rapture them to heaven, forcing a reconsideration of a few points of view.

Atheists are even more complex than a these-and-those situation. “We”, as Ruse doesn’t seem to realize, form a continuum of different beliefs, just like any other group of people you might care to imagine in your granfalloon.

Moving on,

But there is certainly a split, a schism, in our ranks. I am not whining (in fact I am rather proud) when I point out that a rather loud group of my fellow atheists, generally today known as the “new atheists”, loathe and detest my thinking. …

and then he goes on to detail all the proud detestation he has earned, at length. Its a shame all Ruse got out of PZ’s response was “clueless and gobshite“.

I have had first hand experience with Michael Ruse. Both I and slightlyharmless were at the CFI World Congress in Bethesda, MD, where Ruse made the argument that, as he later states in this essay,

If, as the new atheists think, Darwinian evolutionary biology is incompatible with Christianity, then will they give me a good argument as to why the science should be taught in schools if it implies the falsity of religion? The first amendment to the constitution of the United States of America separates church and state. Why are their beliefs exempt?

Really. He makes this argument (At Bethesda it was phrased a bit different, the content was the same). As if somehow beliefs derived from the bible are on par with hard earned science. So apparently, if a well meaning parent feeds a child bullshit, we “atheists” are to blame for science teachers contradicting the bullshit put there. This IS America, after all. Just because it’s factually wrong doesn’t mean you can’t make your kids believe it. Ruse treats creationism leading to kids being christians, and evolution leading kids to being atheists sitting on exactly the same grounds.

Its insane. Even putting aside whatever crap someone put in a child’s mind, shouldn’t any kind of real education change a child’s beliefs about the world? Any deep understanding of the sciences (or history, languages, art, literature, etc) *should* change how you view the world, because it makes you think in new, different ways.

Ruse does have the drop on me though. I didn’t know that, as a “new” atheist, “that all religion is necessarily evil and corrupting”. I had previously thought that religions in general were full of good people because churches attracted a certain kind of them, but now I will dogmatically adopt the latest decree from the lords of new atheism. I hope they tell me to think for myself soon.

Ruse asks “us”, “how dare we be so condescending?” Oh, “we” new atheists, if we could just stop being such jerks! How dare we talk about the cause or contributing factor to many problems. Tough questions! The hard, varsity level ones like “should people be treated equally under the law?”. I’d say yes, but as Maine shows, religions can be part of the problem.

I’ve started re-reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and this part

But to tear down a factory of revolt against a government … because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. pg 88

The “new” atheist movement has a lot to do with religion. Mostly, against it. Some people just want religiously motived (or funded) groups to stop attacking the separation of state and church, and keep the god nonsense away from politics. Others would arrest all clergy for fraud. If the approach Ruse favors could work, it would have by now, and there would be no need for the entire “movement”, because we would all have moved on to moon bases, and free oral sex for everyone, and ending hunger and disease and overpopulation and all those other real problems, real people have, in this world, now.

It seems to come down to one main point Ruse seems to have for us: just shut up already.