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


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 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’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.

2 Responses to “Thank you, #DanSavage, for calling the #Bible on its bullshit!”

  1. daniel0731ex Says:

    The Bible is a loose collection of historical records that needs to be interpreted in accordance to its historical background and context.

    As Christians, when reading the Bible we need to sift out what is old and outdated traditions of the time when the text is written, from the core message that it tries to convey (which what we believe is God’s message, and which we found to be a recurring theme throughout the Bible that intricately connects these historical records that span over 5000 years).

    Ever heard of this thing called theology?

    It’s too bad that many people, both Christians and non-Christians, chooses to ignore the fact that the Bible is a loose collection of historical records requiring interpretation, and each takes the Bible out of context to support their agenda. It is the dogmatic and stubborn nature of humans, not one side being more irrational that the other.

    Religion is logical. They may be founded on an irrational postulate (faith), but what derives from it could be explained perfectly with logical sense. Even in the fields of science, while a theory may have a perfectly logical system to support it, it still must originate from the irrational choice of a scientist to pick the one to develop on. Just look at the debate of quantum mechanics

    • Anton A. Hill Says:

      Hi Daniel,

      The Bible is a loose collection, but you’d have to prove that the collection is of “historical records.” Some of it certainly could be proved as such, but no one’s been able to prove that the whole thing is. As to this alleged need of interpretation, I wonder how you arrive at that conclusion. Among the doctrines said of the Bible, one is that it’s inerrant and another is that it, like God, is eternal and unchanging. If those are true, then no such things as “interpretation” or “context” would be relevant to the Bible. Per these doctrines, there is only one interpretation.

      How is it possible that anything in the Bible would be “old” or “outdated”? Doesn’t that contradict the above-cited doctrines? What is this core message? And why would there be a need to “sift” it out from the document? Other doctrines of God are the He’s omnipotent and omniscient, so certainly it’s reasonable to expect that such a God could provide His message without need for interpretation or sifting.

      I have heard of theology. 🙂 Like warp theory, it’s a fascinating, but completely made-up, discipline. And along with my above point, completely unnecessary in a universe created and controlled by an omnipotent, omniscient god, who, if He so chose, could give us His message without need for interpretation.

      I don’t ignore that the bible can be interpreted, but again you say “requiring interpretation.” Why would it require such? Isn’t your claim that each takes the Bible out of context to support their own agenda your agenda? Under what context is God’s command that Abraham kill his son Isaac a positive moral message? Under what context is the notion that Noah fit two of

        every animal

      on his ark accurate science? Under which context is God’s endorsement and regulation of slavery ever appropriate? Your claim that humans are dogmatic almost seems to be an appeal that all ideas are equally valid. If this is your claim, it’s been exhaustively demonstrated to be false.

      I’m not sure I follow your last paragraph. I agree that there is logic to religion, especially ritual. But ritual alone is separate from religion similar to how a steering wheel is an independent component of a car. And I’d love to hear how you figure that a scientist’s irrational choice to pick a theory to develop.



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