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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The New Anti-Semites

There have been some arguments erupting in the comments of Pharyngula and Uncommon Descent regaring the so-called "anti-Semitism" of atheists/agnostics/"Darwinists" and other evil-doer boogey(wo)men of the right wing. Some people love to trot out Darwin's nonexistent ties with Hitler and Stalin, as if either of these men believed in evolution. (News flash! They didn't; they replaced it with "Aryan science" and "proletariat design." Hitler especially couldn't stomach the idea that all human beings belong not only to one species but to one race as well, which we do - we are Homo sapiens sapiens.)

However, the Southern Poverty Law Center is now tracking a new surge in anti-Semitism among some Catholics. I admit this took me by surprise.

Few Americans defended Mel Gibson's drunken rant about the evils of the Jews. But radical traditionalist Catholics did. A three-year investigation of this subculture by the Intelligence Report has found that these Catholic extremists, including the Gibsons, may well represent the largest population of anti-Semites in the United States. Organized into a network of more than a dozen organizations, scores of websites and several extremist churches and monasteries, radical traditionalists in the U.S. are preaching anti-Semitism to as many as 100,000 followers. A few, such as the lawyer [did you know that? I didn't] for Terri Schiavo's family, Christopher Ferrara, are even movers and shakers in important right-wing Republican circles.

...While spouting the same kind of anti-Jewish propaganda as the Nazis, Fahey crafted an argument that he believed should exempt him from the label of anti-Semite. Fahey claimed he didn't hate the Jews per se, but merely opposed their "naturalistic aims." Since he also argued that Jews can't help but work to further those aims -- communism, the destruction of Christianity, and the like -- this was a distinction without a difference. (Today's radical traditionalist Catholics, including the Society of St. Pius X, a far-right powerhouse that has thousands of supporters, continue to claim they are not anti-Semitic, just against "Jewish naturalism.")

(Hoo boy, sound familiar? Can you think of anyone today who similiarly attacks scientists, philosphers, feminists, etc. for their naturalism? I'm not saying this person is anti-Semitic - I have never seen any indication of that at all and I don't mean to imply that - but it's weird to see these words tossed around in the past as they are today.)

This comes at a time when the SPLC also reports that Catholics themselves are increasingly under attack from without - and from within.

At the same time, a major theme at the increasingly hyperbolic blog Uncommon Descent is that "the Darwinists hate us all!" (And if you're a scientist and a Christian who got banned from that blog, you're a wicked "nihilist" - just like me . Man, did they give it to me. How am I supposed to "prove" that I've never lacked for a purpose in my life?) I am so sick of the "you hate us" talk! Apparently I must spell out once again for people that my not hating anyone is just that - my not hating anyone. But people accuse me of hatred because I refuse to choose one group of human beings as more special than another. (Besides, when you read the thread at UD, it seems that they hate me.)

Richard Dawkins in his television show Root of All Evil? - a show that will never be aired on television in our "free" United States (yeah, "teach the controversy" and all that) - stressed the damage that unswerving believers do to each other. He talked about the intolerance in Jerusalem just before Israelis and Lebanese civilians suffered from a vicious war that broke out last summer. He talked about children learning to hate other children because of the religion that neither child chose. (Northern Ireland is a great example of that - girls can't even walk through certain neighborhoods without being pelted with stones.) That's what he means when he says that raising a child as a religious label is child abuse, and it is child abuse, because it doesn't encourage the child to become and express his or her own unique self. It doesn't allow the child to think or to question - it just pushes individuals through the sausage-grinder. Dawkins has also unequivocably said that raising a so-called "atheist child" would also be child abuse, and I agree! No one is born with any one view any more than anyone is born racist (although there is some evidence that tendencies toward religiosity/nonreligiosity are genetic, just as our capacity to have morality, rather than any particular morality itself, could have evolved as Pinker describes).

Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind. - Eric Hoffer

The folks at Uncommon Descent have trouble imagining morality and altruism without a belief in God. Well, we learn by doing. When we practice altruism, we think altruism. Evolution does not mandate that we all snap at each other like wolves - that's a Victorian era stereotype. That is what I tried, and failed, to communicate to the other commentors at Uncommon Descent, who insisted that I was a lost person, that if I took my atheism to its logical conclusion I could have no purpose in life, that I could do no good as a person, that I was some sort of monster. (Well, for a horrible monster I sure got my feelings hurt.) So I just stopped communicating (I was never banned as far as I know). Now I see them sniping at each other at UD, and banning commentators left and right. The tone has grown even more hostile and sarcastic, and yet the only people left there are the fanatics.

It's like a microcosm of the same religious hatred that Dawkins described.

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Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

I grew up Catholic and attended parochial school for most of it - I had religion classes every day and not once did we EVER learn a thing about any other religion or philosophy! How can you exercise tolerance if you have little or no knowledge about other people and their culture? Catholics - close minded an anti-semitic - huh, how about ignorant?

March 11, 2007 11:59 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Well, I guess in the current climate I tended to view Catholics as more civilized and cultured, given their tradition and history and art, in sharp contrast to the incredible banality of modern Protestant church music, the functional cinderblock spaces, the church-basement aesthetic, and the emphasis on glossolalia rather than thinking. (What the hell is all the crying about? I was never scared to enter a church before, until they started all the crying! I mean, church is boring, but sitting through a dignified service - okay, I can handle it, especially if there's good music. I even sat through a twenty-minute Internet sermon by our William Dembski multiple times because cute stuff got all nerdy and geeky about it, and that didn't even have good music. But all the weeping and gobbling? It's embarrassing.)

I guess that is naive, but I was taught so much outright crap about Catholics that I'm suspicious of many of the things said about the Catholic Church today. (For example, there was more nonsence on the Discovery Channel about freemasons trying to control the world. What garbage.)

Jesus was a Jew, so how can any Christian be anti-Semitic? Well, look at Martin Luther, the granddaddy of anti-Semitism. Yep, I'm naive.

I really don't get it. Knowing a person's religion is the same as knowing absolutely nothing about them. Religion is really not a predictive characteristic - it indicates nothing about that person's character or behavior. So why hate them? From my experience, it's the members of your own congregation that'll shit on you.

March 11, 2007 10:13 PM  
Blogger Kevin Scott said...


Of course you have no purpose because, of course, true purpose only comes from God Almighty through His Son Jesus Christ. How can you miss that?

BTW...thanks for the post at my blog. I posted some ideas there. If you need more help, let me know. I will do all I can, provided, of course, that when John becomes rich and famous he hires me as some kind of advisor on a big budget movie. I'm sure you understood that already.

March 11, 2007 11:42 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

But I thought you were going to be the producer? ;-)

If John ever became a big director, he’d probably make something like Citizen Kane and get his funding yanked just as Wells did. Or else we’d start a filmmaker’s collective. How’s that?

I, for one, would like to see a bunch of people working together and making lower-budget films about important topics than see John become big (and I’m sure he would, too). That would be more fun, and we could get more accomplished.

March 12, 2007 9:10 AM  
Blogger AJM said...

Well, I'm assuming you're more talking about your sense of the contemporary picture (mine wasn't far from that, actually), and it's probably redundant to tell you, but Catholicism and anti-Semitism certainly haven't historically been strangers. Inquisition, of course, was initially about Jews. Google
'marrano'... And I'm afraid traditions of the blood libel are still ticking along, here and there. See:

... as to it not making much sense, I'm afraid at the level of psychology and anthropology, it makes entirely too much sense. Outgroups, ingroups, someone to hate, y'know...

March 13, 2007 11:56 AM  
Blogger AJM said...

I'd previously commented on the La Guardia story here: (which is why it was on the tip of my tongue... well, that and the confessed modest obsession with this sort of thing).

March 13, 2007 12:02 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

AJ - Gaaaa. That plaque is just bizarre! And you know, I just made a connection when you said “Yep. Satanists among us. Eating babies. And never mind that no one’s noticed a lot of babies actually going missing—buggers must be breeding them for the purpose. Those fiends.” There are a lot of rumors about “Satanists sacrificing babies” in America; in the 1990s it was a whole cottage industry, with fundies lecturing to cops about “ritual abuse” and missing babies and crap. All of this isn’t explicitly anti-Semitic, but could it be a remnant of that? I think perhaps Americans’ latent anti-Semitism (we had a tradition of it, and where did it go? Did it just disappear? Don't think so) is being channeled into more "acceptable" forms (Satanists, homosexuals, etc.) just as our latent racism is, in this age of blended churches and evangelical ecumenicism, being channeled into anti-science, anti-evolution efforts (yes, I believe that a lot of the anti-evolution movement is buried racism).

March 14, 2007 3:02 PM  
Blogger AJM said...

Yeah. Old impulses slightly redirected, sure, I'd buy that. I'm remembering also Sagan commenting in Demon-Haunted World how he wondered whether the X-Files-era fixation with alien abduction might have some continuity with Inquisition-era anxieties about incubi and succubi. Dreams of scary inhuman things that come from the sky at night and mess with human bodies--the parallels are there, at least.

It's speculation, sure, and hard to prove but I'd put some money on there being something there. And I remember being so struck by the similarities, at least, between the guy with his stories of cults in the jungle and the testimony from witch trials: dark, frightening rituals, performed somewhere just out of our sight, things bad people--other people, but people we see every day--do when we're not looking. Change his vocabulary slightly to fit the period, and it would have been hard to tell the difference between his claims and the testimonies given at Salem.

March 15, 2007 10:18 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Change his vocabulary slightly to fit the period, and it would have been hard to tell the difference between his claims and the testimonies given at Salem.

Miller's The Crucible is so appropriate for our time...and so is Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. Satyajit Ray made a version of that - worth seeing. It critiques literal Hinduism.

March 15, 2007 7:26 PM  
Blogger Uri Kalish said...

In Jewish tradition there is a sentence that roughly translates to “First be human - only then a Jew.” - Judaism considers being a moral person more important than being a religious Jew.

March 16, 2007 6:55 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

That's cool. I can get behind that. That's definitely my attitude - I don't hold with the "perfection" thing, just being a good person, and being good enough (I don't know how "moral" anyone would call me, though basically I am, of course). It's more important to me than being an atheist - or rather, to me that's what being an atheist is. I'm just me, living on a planet with a lot of people who are very different than me, yet we all had a common ancestor, and we've got to work it out. (But I'm relatively safe over here, whereas I guess you deal with that issue on a daily basis, huh?)

There are several tenets of Judaism that I definitely like: emphasis on life lived now being one of them. That concept doesn't lead to suicide bombers, for example.

I didn't watch the PBS series on spirituality and September 11, but I saw a few minutes of it, and there were two speakers juxtaposed against each other, a Muslim woman who lost her daughter that day, and a rabbi. The Muslim talked about how she could not be angry at God, how she had to accept, etc., and the rabbi stated, "No way. Don't just accept God's authority. That lets God off the hook." I was fascinated that someone who called himself a rabbi, a believer, would say this. This is definitely a no-no in the Christian church - in some traditions one can get angry at God, but must never, ever question God's authority! And yet, what if it turned out that God, being alone and having no other reality aside from himself, isn't a very good parent and is just another scared, lonely, and confused entity after all? I have a feeling that, if this were true, His most devoted followers would reject him, whereas I would be okay with that (because that's the situation of any human being). What I really have a problem with are these blind appeals to authority, and belief in supernaturalism - short cuts, essentially.

I understand that there's a tradition of Jewish atheism that takes the form of arguing with God. Myself, I never do that - I never talk to God as if He was there - I may refer to him in the third person hypothetically when I'm arguing with other people, but I really, truly have never said to God, "I'm angry at you," because I had no concept of Him being there.

I wonder if I ever had it - looking back (it's hard, because I was so young), I don't really remember talking to God on my own very much - I talked to other people about Him, the way one discusses philosophical ideas. And I think that says a lot. A lot of people don't consider the fact that me being an atheist means that I'd rather talk to people.

Thanks for visiting, Uri. Take care.

March 16, 2007 8:30 PM  
Blogger Uri Kalish said...

You know, it’s funny that religious people I know think my life is much easier than theirs because all of these traditions they must keep (e.g. they can’t drive on Saturday, they can’t eat curtain foods…). Give me a break! By my belief there is no heaven, there is no afterlife, there is no entity watching and helping me from above; I’m all alone and my whole existence is really meaningless. Can these problems really match the prohibition of pork???

p.s. Come visit my blog

March 17, 2007 9:46 AM  

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