Monday, October 6, 2014

Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and just how crazy the fangirls can get.

So, straight up, a bit of coming clean:  I don't like Bill Maher.  Not since "Religulous," and the pissy way he he baits and misleads and sets folks up to be comedic foils.  The way he misrepresents doctrine in order to make it as ridiculous as possible.  There's no reason to do that--it's already ridiculous, there is no reason to twist it about for comedic effect.  I try to remind myself that he is, after all, just a comedian, so of course he's going to do that.  But for me?

It's personal.  Because *I* am also an atheist, and when this guy's sneering mouth utters that snarky anti-Arab (anti-GMO/anti-vaccine/anti-Muslim/anti-Palestinian/pro-Zionism/anti-woman/anti-breastfeeding) bullshit, and does so as a perceived representative of atheists, I get pissed.

I do have to give Bill credit.  Until I found myself in his sights, I thought he was funny.  I thought he was mean, sure, but in a GOOD way because his nastiness was dovetailing nicely with my ideas.  So thank you, Bill, for teaching me how it feels to have some half-informed stand-up comedian use snarkiness and condescension in the place of knowledge to tear at my ideas.

It was a lesson I likely needed.

As for Sam Harris, what a disappointing fount of prejudiced urp.  Thankfully, I don't do atheist heroes, so I wasn't so disappointed.  Hubby was pretty bummed, though.

Here, let me quote Sam, give you a taste:

"It is time we recognized—and obliged the Muslim world to recognize—that “Muslim extremism” is not extreme among Muslims.  Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty, gender equality, secular politics and genuine pluralism. The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center. In Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history."

Because, it would seem, Muslims are fair game.  Like overweight women and atheists, they're one of the last "hey, have at" targets out there.  It was nice to see Ben Affleck go a bit nutty on Bill and Sam, taking them to task for their sweeping generalizations.  See, I'm particularly sensitive to that whole "big, broad brush" thing because, all too often, people look at Bill Maher, then judge ME as part of that broad atheist group.

All atheists are not Bill Maher (or Sam Harris, or Hitch, or Dawkins), and all Muslims are not ISIS. Thank you, Ben, for championing that simple, obvious point.

Now, on to the "fangirls" I mention in the title.  This would be the atheists who are so enamored of whichever "atheist heroes" that they embrace their positions without really examining them with an objective eye.  Not all atheists are like this, but there are some, and they are loud.  Loud, and ravening.  They leap like a pack and tear dissenters apart.  Logic and reason fly out the window in favor of a competitive race to outdo each other with snarky nicknames, personal attacks, unrestrained ridicule, and off-topic nitpicking.  You know, like Sam and Bill repeatedly arguing that "Islam isn't a race, and therefor we're not racists."

What?  That's your defense?  You can't deny the charges, so you'll do the semantics dance instead?

How intellectually dishonest of you.

Again, I don't do "atheist heroes."  Many atheists don't.  But I understand why those who do, do. Because there are SO many out there who condemn atheists.  Who say we're un-American, evil, awful, worse that rapists and child molesters.  And there are so few of us who are prominent and willing to "come out," to risk ourselves in the spotlight.  So when someone relatively intelligent and unafraid to be open and loud shows up, it's natural that some atheists would rally around him (I say him, because so many prominent atheists are also, unfortunately, misogynistic).  And sadly?

That makes for some crappy heroes sometimes.  Some are brilliant (and some, like Maher, are just comedians), but even the brilliant ones tend to have fatal flaws, be it Islamophobia (which includes an inability to differentiate between Islam and being Middle Eastern), Zionism (I know, right?), misogyny, or a cold, Ayn Rand-style social Darwinism (this is where some smug heathen will leap in and argue that Rand's dance was "objectivism," not social Darwinism)..

Now, I'm not arguing that atheist "stars" are any MORE messed up than the general public.  No, not at all--in fact, by virtue of their disbelief, I'd say they have one less flaw than the average person. What I'm saying is that they're just folks.  Sometimes incredibly intelligent folks, but not infallible by any stretch.  And yet, so often, crowds of adoring fans gather 'round to lend support for statements that maybe don't, on objective consideration, merit that sort of cheerleading.  And that cheerleading?

Is often of the mean, nit-picky, ugly variety I spoke of above.

So Mr. Affleck?  I know you don't remember me from the first Project Greenlight, but I remember you.  And boy, what a man you've grown to be.  I applaud your bravery here, and bravery is what it is, because it takes a lot of guts to go up against Maher's caustic sarcasm and Harris' plodding anti-Islam narrative.  So thank you.  I hope we hear more from you.  I hope they didn't scare you off.


And now, for those who might be thinking it:  I have zero use for Islam.  No more (or less) than for other religions.  I am by no means a champion of Islam--it's theism, I think it, like other theistic faiths, is inherently harmful.  I think it, like other theistic faiths, lends itself to oppression and intolerance.  My problem is when people hold it up as somehow MORE damaging or MORE scary than any other.  That's just not true.  What makes Islam SEEM more violent or more awful is simply Western intervention.  The Middle East was not a roiling puddle of violence and extremism before Western colonialism.  What makes for extreme Islamic groups is outside interference, military interventions, oppression, occupation, and invasion.  You'd think we'd have learned this by now--devastation, destitution, and oppression are what makes for fanatical responses.  If we would sink money, no strings, into their infrastructure, economy, and education instead of into invasion, devastation, occupation (by us and by our "special" allies), and overthrow, there'd be no "need" for religious zealotry and violent resistance.  

I know, I know--what if it didn't work?

That's easy--what we're doing now clearly isn't working; it's creating ever bigger and badder violent groups.  Worst thing that could happen is that being nice for a change wouldn't work, either.  

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