Friday, August 10, 2012

Dear Pat Robertson

Dear Pat Robertson,

Recently, you said some pretty ridiculous things about a terrorist act.  Violent tragedies which expose some of the nastiest problems in our national culture are not the best place to make ridiculous statements, so I hope that you'll ponder your mistakes and strive to speak more appropriately in the future.

Let's look at some of the bullshit you went with this time:
...televangelist Pat Robertson came to the conclusion that Sunday morning’s Sikh temple massacre in Oak Creek, Wisc., was ultimately because “atheists hate God.”

“What is it?” Robertson wondered aloud. “Is it satanic? Is it some spiritual thing?”

“People who are atheists, they hate God, they hate the expression of God,” he continued. “And they are angry with the world, angry with themselves, angry with society and they take it out on innocent people who are worshipping God.”
First, atheists don't hate God.  Atheists don't believe in God.  Atheism is defined by a lack of belief.  There is no deity for them to hate.  I don't hate the tooth fairy; there is no tooth fairy.  I don't hate the Easter bunny; there is no Easter bunny.  I don't hate Zeus.  There is no Zeus.  There's nothing for me to hate.

Do atheists hate Christians?  I'm sure that some of them do.  And a lot of Christians have given them plenty of good reason for it.  Frankly, you're not exactly helping.

Why, precisely, do you think that atheists hating God is at all related to Satan?  Are you trying to say that atheists worship and obey Satan?  You do understand, I hope, that since atheists are defined by their lack of belief, they don't believe in Satan, either?  They don't worship Satan.  If they did, they wouldn't be atheists.  Maybe you're implying that they're innocently and helplessly being used by Satan in some sort of anti-Christian plot?  Okay, that's possible; I have no idea what Satan's up to these days.  But that wouldn't be their fault, it would be Satan's fault; they'd just be pawns in some merciless game.

Here's the problem with that theory, though: it removes human agency.  It erases the motives of the actual killer.  It ignores all of the cultural and systemic problems which played into what happened.  It permits us as a nation to wash our hands of the entire issue and pretend that nothing could've been done to prevent the tragedy.  It discourages us from taking steps to prevent it from happening again.

Atheists are not angry.  No angrier than anyone else, I'd imagine.  Do you have independent and verifiable research?  If there are any scientific results which point to atheists being significantly unhappy, can you prove that it's not because they live in a nation filled with Christian supremacy and nationally known figures like you who blame them for terrorist acts?  If people pointed the finger at me every time a national tragedy (whether natural or otherwise) occurred, I'd be pretty testy, too.

Any more words of wisdom for us?
“Whether it’s a Sikh temple, or a Baptist church, or a Catholic church, or a Muslim mosque — whatever it is — I just abhor this kind of violence, and it’s the the kind of thing that we should do something about,” he said. “But what do you do? Well, you talk about the love of God and hope it has some impact,” the TV preacher recommended.
Those things are not equal.  Not in this country.  Not in a culture where Christianity reigns.  It's appalling, disgusting, abhorrent, that in commenting on a terrorist act which specifically targeted a minority religion and a temple full of people of color you're acting as if it were just the same as if a white Baptist church had been attacked.

When an abortion clinic is bombed, do you compare it to Johns Hopkins being bombed and shake your head in regret that anti-healthcare people are at it again?  You are deliberately misrepresenting what has happened.  This is not a case where any old generic house of worship was attacked and any old congregants were killed.  In a majority Christian nation, a non-Christian religion was targeted.  In a racist nation, people of color were targeted.  This is not about atheism, but you got one thing right: this is about hatred.  And fear.  And the lies we tell about Christianity being under assault.  And the lies we tell about white men being in more danger than anyone else; being in danger from everyone else.
What is particularly striking about Robertson’s conclusion is that, as of yet, there has been no evidence that the alleged gunman Wade Michael Page was an atheist. In fact, neo-Nazism and white supremacy movements often encompass a form of Christianity that emphasizes racial purity and nationalism.
 Got that?  "A form of Christianity that emphasizes racial purity and nationalism."

Christianity emphasizing racial purity and nationalism.

Neo-Nazi.  White power.  Christianity.

You blame atheists as if nonbelievers are the problem.  You blame Satan as if all-powerful figures are at work and we're helpless to do anything about it.  You skew a terrorist act as if Christians are under attack.  As if Christians aren't often the terrorists themselves.

The narrative that Christianity is under attack is part of the problem.  Pointing the finger at anyone else, everyone else, from people who aren't like you to mythical figures, isn't going to solve the problem.  I'd like to solve the problem.  I hope that someday soon you do, too, because your voice reaches more ears than mine, and it's going to take a lot of us to make a difference.

With love,
Frank Lee

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