Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Via the OList, I have gotten wind of a recent display of anti-religious bigotry by a government official. Here is a transcript (via Qwertz), but do watch the video embedded below when you get a chance.
Here we have Illinois State Representative Monique Davis -- a government official -- "informing" a citizen, atheist activist Rob Sherman, that he hasn't the right to freedom of speech because of his beliefs concerning religion.
Davis: … What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it's dangerous--While Davis does have the right, as a private citizen, to "spew and spread" such dangerous nonsense, her doing so in the context of a government hearing constitutes a threat to Sherman's freedom of speech. As such, it is morally wrong, contrary to the proper purpose of a government (if not illegal), and completely unacceptable.
Sherman: What's dangerous, ma'am?
Davis: It's dangerous to the progression of this state. And it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you'll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!
Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I'm sure that if this matter does go to court--
Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon. [bold added]
As you will notice from the video clip, she sounds like she's ready to round up a lynch mob.
Opinion polls regularly show that atheists are one of America's most distrusted and despised minorities. Having been born in 1936, well before Jim Crow ended, Davis should be able to remember something about what government persecution of individual members of minorities means. Her willingness to turn around and do the same thing in and of itself demonstrates that her faith is anything but a sound basis for understanding or protecting individual rights.
After I showed this video to my wife, she asked whether I would like to hear an atheist rebuttal. "No, sweetie," I said. "Most atheists have a such a poor command of the issues involved that they will do more harm than good."
I had forgotten, though, about an excellent series of discussions about "Reason vs. Faith" posted to YouTube by the Ayn Rand Institute. Fortunately, Davis reminded Amit Ghate of those. I recommend watching them and link to each at the end of this post.
I am an atheist and have been for more than twenty years. I disagree with Christianity and regard it as a moral and practical impediment to happiness at best and to life itself at worst, when it is practiced. And it is a threat to life and freedom any time it is incorporated into government. But I have never said and never will say that a Christian "has no right" to hold or state his opinion, or to practice it so long as he does not interfere with my rights.
All men have rights that inhere in our nature as rational beings, and the right to discuss facts and opinions -- which Davis refuses to recognize or protect -- is one of those rights. I recommend that anyone in Davis's district first complain about this display of bigotry and incipient tyranny, and then work to unseat her in the next election.
And then, for anyone who might wonder why I think rejecting religion would be to anyone's benefit as a rational being, I refer you -- as a start -- to the following "Reason vs. Faith" videos from ARI. Each raises a question and answers it, so click on a number and watch: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Rejecting religion alone will not lead to morality or happiness, but taking a rational approach to the kinds of questions religion attempts to answer eventually can, as Ayn Rand demonstrated.
Contrary to the approach of faith that countless Christians have advised over the ages, nothing worth doing -- like living a happy and fulfilling life -- is ever as easy as just taking someone's word wholesale on a host of life-and-death issues, or following orders.