Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hyman: The Infidels Must Be Punished!

Apparently if your beliefs in God don’t coincide with Mark Hyman’s, and you dare to stand up for them, you deserve injury or death.

That’s the upshot of one of
Hyman’s recent “Short Takes” segments. Commenting on an atheist group’s objections to the state of Utah erecting 12 foot tall metal crosses to commemorate state troopers who died in the line of duty along its roadways, Hyman says that

Poetic justice would be a member of the atheist group, in trouble
on a Utah highway, praying to God that a state trooper come to his aid.

Keep in mind that the atheist organization is not opposed to public memorials to fallen state troopers. They simply don’t think it’s right for these memorials to take the form of giant crosses that are put up with taxpayer money and carry the insignia of the state patrol—a governmental organization.

In fact, it’s apparently Transportation Department in
Utah already has regulations against putting up religious symbols as memorials on public roads (such as might be created by families of those who died in traffic accidents).

The atheist group has an excellent case, here. There’s no reason why the memorials must take the form of a religious symbol, and to have the government use public money to create overtly religious imagery of a particular belief system is clearly insensitive to those citizens, tax payers, and state troopers who might not share that particular belief system.

And while I don’t agree with it, I can also understand why people would argue the other side of the issue: if the families of the troopers all would like the memorials to take the form of a cross, it might seem crass for others to object to the memorials taking the form that the families want.

What is not debatable, however, is the crassness and mean-spiritedness of Hyman’s take on the issue. The atheist group are not considered people who have a right to defend government infringement on their rights—they are portrayed as people who are against state troopers and don’t respect those who have given their lives.

Even more disgusting is Hyman’s oh-so-cutesy suggestion that those who dare speak up in defense of what they feel is an infringement on their freedom of belief should suffer because of what they believe. If the group in question had been Jewish rather than atheist, would Hyman have been so quick to make such a quip?

Should we be any less outraged because it wasn’t a Jewish group that Hyman fantasized about coming to harm?

I think not.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What do you make of all this appeal to religious identity? By that I mean people like Hyman, O'Reilly, and the Very Reverend Pat Robertson making such a big deal about relatively trivial (and controversial) DISPLAYS of religious identity, as oppose to say Christian behaviors and action?

It is what my parish priest would say "wearing religion", not practicing it.

While I'm not that good of a Christian (with spotty church attendance), my wife and I try to follow our Christian teachings. We also know there's no point in saying "I'm a Christian" -- that acts of love for one's fellow human are the key. But those teachings seem so far away from what the aforementioned individuals get all bothered about. I'm upset how it seems that the Weathy & Loud Right has taken over the concept of Christianity and use it as a cudgel against the infidels.

For example, O'Reilly habitually doing his bully act (come on, fight me!) on the Anti-Christ act of saying "happy holidays". Right wingers even got pissed off at Bush's Christmas (er, Holiday) card.

What's going on here? Are these folks jealous of all the power that the mullahs have in manipulating their societies?

Just wonderin'

At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, check out this site -
www.TheocracyWatch.org for some insight into the merging of the Republican Party and the Church.

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Sickofspin said...

And another Texas-based atheist group, "American Atheists, Inc." has sued the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Department of Transportation. The group is demanding the removal of roadside crosses erected in honor of fallen troopers. Poetic justice would be a member of the atheist group, in trouble on a Utah highway, praying to God that a state trooper come to his aid.

Hyman's pithy opinion rings true. It would indeed be poetic justice.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Hi Anon--

Yes, the whole religious trappings aspect of the political right is interesting, and I certainly don't have any answers that do justice to the complexity involved, but here are a couple of thoughts:

As for this bizarre "war on Christmas" nonsense, it's nothing new. Henry Ford (yep, *that* Henry Ford) in his vile anti-semitic work "The International Jew" claimed there was a Jewish conspiracy to undermine many aspects of the United States, and that part of this was to secularize Christmas. Some of the quotes from that work would fit perfectly into the mouth of O'Reilly and Co. (stuff about how it's hard to find a Christmas card that explicitly mentions Jesus, that prohibiting displays of Christian symbols on public property is anti-Christian, etc.). Then, in the late 50's, the John Birch society used almost exactly the same sort of rhetoric to suggest that the "Reds" were undermining Christmas in order to weaken the United States. So what's been happening this year is simply the latest incarnation of the radical right to use Christmas as a political tool with which to tar and feather people they don't like (Jews, communists, and now, "secular liberals").

This is very much in keeping with a general tendency for the right to identify something that the public at large holds in esteem then falsely suggest that evil liberals are endangering it (see: Flag Desecration).

Like you, I'm continually mystified by how so many people on the right manage to ignore the fact that more than 10% of the sentences in the New Testament speak about helping the poor and less fortunate while identifying single verses that the creatively interpret to suggest (for example) that homosexuality is a huge threat to spiritual wellbeing. I think the broadest explanation of this might come from the work of George Lakoff (see the link to the Rockridge Institute in my blog's sidebar), who has examined the way conservatives and liberals think and talk about morality. His conclusion is that we tend to frame morality in terms of familial relationships, and while conservatives tend towards a "strict father" model (patriarchal, based on rewards and punishments, discipline, self-sufficiency, etc.), liberals think more in terms of "nurturant parent" morality (which emphasizes fairness, protection, acceptance, and helping others).

If one accepts that, I suppose you can see why the judgmental parts of religious beliefs appeal particularly to those on the right, while the stuff about loving your enemies and helping the less fortunate gets glossed over.

It's certainly possible that some on the right cynically invoke religion as a way of currying favor with certain voters, but it's also the case that many on the right feel strongly and sincerely that a central role of religion is to lay down the "thou shalt nots" that separate the good and virtuous from the wicked, and that without such rigid definitions of right and wrong, civilization itself is in danger.

I tend to think that the main message of the New Testament (and I'm saying this as a believing but non-denominational Christian) is that those who use God as a way of rationalizing judgments against those they don't approve of are missing the point. While there certainly are things that are good or evil, our main job on Earth is not to label these things, but to make as much "good" as we can, and this comes through love, understanding, and compassion. These are our highest callings as human beings and believers (and often far more difficult than passing judgment).

Of course, that's just my opinion; I could be wrong (to quote the once-funny Dennis Miller).


At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Sick Smear-o-Meter: ELEVEN
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is now at least the ELEVENTH time Sick of Spin has refused to provide any evidence for his smear against Ted Remington (Sick claimed the Ted abused his academic position)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It wouldn't be poetic justice, but a downright miracle if Sick actually practiced what he preaches over and over and over again.

Where's the data for your smear, Sick?

Like so many of the rabid right, he spews without providing data.

Sick, Ted's been a lot nicer than you in (1) letting you accuse him of wrongdoing, without any data and (2) allowing your posts to go uncensored (which is more than you do on your blog).

Remember the Golden Rule, Sick, or did you miss class that day?


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