Thank you, #DanSavage, for calling the #Bible on its bullshit!
It’s a damn good thing this isn’t called “Atheist News Asshole” (though I do contribute to Atheist News) because I always take days or sometimes weeks to get to the big stuff. Let’s start with the essentials, from The Young Turks:
And now some more in-depth insight, courtesy of Zinnia Jones:
And before we go any further, let’s be really clear on what a “bully” is, per Dictionary.com:
N. a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
V. (with object) to act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer.
V. (without object) to be loudly arrogant and overbearing.
A bully is someone who isn’t nice to someone else for whatever reason, and it tends to be a physical not-nice, though it can be
verbal/emotional. What I don’t get is, how was Savage “bullying” the students?
Let’s pretend he was.
He called parts of the Bible bullshit. But as Zinnia points out, we all, even most Christians, agree that some parts, like the stoning of gays and the endorsement of slavery, are bullshit. So was it that he called those parts bullshit? If so, then why is calling a spade a spade bullying? Was it that he pointed out something that Christians don’t want to hear? I can understand that too as, if I were a fat kid and some bully picked on me for being fat, it wouldn’t be that he were wrong about my being fat, it would be that I were being picked on. But Savage didn’t pick on anyone. Yes, he called those parts bullshit, which I guess can be a kind of picking on given the negative connotations of the word, but also given as how we almost all agree that the parts in question are bullshit, how is it picking on to point out that simple fact?
Had Savage told the students that they were dumb for lending any respect or merit to the Bible, I can see how that’d be construed as picking on them and therefore bullying, but he didn’t do that. And even had he done so, would it really be bullying? Is it bullying to point out to a smoker that by smoking they’re damaging their lungs? Has the word been so watered down in its definitions that it now means “expressing anything that someone else might not like”? If so, doesn’t that completely trivialize the very real physical and emotional experiences that many gays (and atheists) have faced over the centuries? I think everyone will agree that occasionally hearing something you may object to isn’t the same thing as getting your ass kicked for being gay. Further, what good is the First Amendment? If we all run the risk of being labeled bullies by expressing things that might offend others, then are we all bullies?
If everyone’s a bully, then no one is.
There is a bit at about 1:02 in which Savage calls the offended “pansies” for not being able to take it when he “pushes back.” Certainly, this isn’t the nicest thing in the world to say, but how is this bullying? If a bully pushes a kid to the ground and the kid pushes back, has the kid now become a bully for defending himself? We don’t call rape victims rapists when they fight back against their aggressors, so why is Fox News pretending that Savage has done the equivalent, of being beat up for being gay, to the offended students?
Rick Tuttle then complains of a “vulgar, profanity-laced attack on Christians.” Again, had Savage said, “You’re stupid for believing this,” I think Tuttle would have a point (not a good one, but a point nonetheless). But Savage wasn’t attacking the believers, simply their beliefs and for good reason with cited examples. If the argument is that by attacking (or rather pointing out) the bullshit in the Bible is itself an attack on the students, then doesn’t that naturally and necessarily extend to anyone’s idea about anything? If someone makes fun of Star Trek for being, at times, ridiculously cheesy, do I get to claim having been bullied because I’m a Trekkie?
Zinnia has a great point in that in the big picture of this, the students were there for journalism. Journalism! Not, a
let’s-kiss-Christians’-asses conference! Nowhere is it written that 1. you have the right NOT to be offended or 2. that if you’re a journalist that you should only investigate that which you already find complementary to your views. Certainly, a journalist has no obligation to do stories on issues they don’t agree with, but journalism that chooses to ignore controversy is ineffective journalism indeed.
My last point is on the linguistics of it (because I’m not just a Trekkie). Let’s take a look at “tolerance” and “bigotry.”
1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.
3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.
2. the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot.
I admit that I was a bit wrong in my assumption that tolerance does and should derive directly from “tolerate” in the sense that one is putting up with something despite one’s lack of support for it. Seems Dictionary.com feels more of a practice of letting bygones be bygones. The “permissive attitude” I find central to the definition. The problem I’ve always found with the term and it’s post-modern definition is it’s fundamentally dishonest in practicality. No one tolerates explicit hatred from another. We get angry and we defend ourselves, physically and emotionally. Had African-Americans been “tolerant” in the modern sense of actions against them, they may never have instigated the Civil Rights movement and forced the larger culture to recognize them and treat them with (more) respect.
We don’t really mean “tolerate everything all the time by everyone no matter what.” What we mean is “don’t be intentionally mean for the sake of it solely to hurt someone else.” And yet, as both Cenk and Zinnia pointed out, the religious want to have their cake and eat it too.
Finally, I’ve been very fascinated with “bigotry.” And like “tolerance,” what it’s come to mean seems to have been “any
disagreement or citing of hypocrisy or ill intent.” In my mind there are two kinds of bigots. There are the bigots who hate things about which they know nothing or very little, usually for either a dogmatic reason or for no discernible reason at all. Then there are people like me. I’m a bigot, per Dictionary.com’s definition, after having learned about and observed certain things, such as various forms of religions, and I am stubbornly and completely intolerant of them, not because they’re different from my own, but rather because they’re false, invalid, and damaging to all of us.
Words mean things. Pretending that they don’t doesn’t change the fact that they do. If everyone’s an intolerant, bigoted bully, then no one is.