Friday, October 08, 2010

Out Of Nowhere

Although my post was intended to launch discussion, not to state a personal viewpoint, it's been mis-read to imply that I personally hate babies. My favorite out-of-nowhere slap (among many prompted by the ever-scathing, always fun PZ Myers) is from the blogger at Digital Cuttlefish who imagines that if my house were on fire, I'd leave the baby and grab the Bible. No, seriously...

Out of nowhere? Oh, dear me, no. Out of nowhere is this: “Do you think a baby conceived in test tube is still a child in the eyes of God?” Particularly in an article entitled “'Test tube babies': God's work or human error?”. Such questions can only be asked out of religious belief. Out of nowhere.

No, Ms. Grossman, my comment was not ‘out of nowhere’. It was out of the recognition that the words I had read were the words that you had written. If you’d like to distance yourself from them, I can understand that, but perhaps it would have been better not to have written them. “I’m only asking questions” is the refuge of 9/11 conspiracy buffs and holocaust deniers, not the stance of a newspaper columnist. It ranks with one I saw earlier this year: “are blacks equal to whites?”

You are aware, I am sure, that the way a question is phrased is important. It frames the debate, and shapes the discussion even as it launches it. Your question was an out-of-nowhere slap. My response did not come from out of nowhere; it came from disgust that religious belief, so often seen as a fountain of all that is good in the world, could so twist someone into thinking that such a question was reasonable to ask. In a world without religion, your question would not have been asked… and atheists are seen as the angry and bitter people. Go figure.

As for your current question--am I sick of being slammed? It's hard to answer, really. I've rarely not encountered it, so I'm not really sure how it would feel to be rid of it. I can assure you it is a false stereotype--but then, what stereotypes are accurate? Anyone who knows me would assure you that I have a sense of wonder, of awe, of joy for having the extraordinary good fortune to be alive in such a world as this. I am patient, giving, kind, gentle... and every so often I will hear, from someone who means well in saying it, that I "really don't seem like an atheist at all". Awfully white of them to say, don't you think?

Here--if you are going to look for how atheists are perceived, how we perceive our perception, and how we really are, you may as well click a couple more links. Yes, bitter angry atheists write silly verses. We are human, after all.

Real world vs. bible.
I thought I saw an atheist
Nothing Missing


Rhacodactylus said...

I can just see him sitting around "why are they all mad? because I said their kids were soulless? really? . . . are you sure? . . . that doesn't track, it's gotta be something else"


Cuttlefish said...

Her, not him, but other than that, I am wondering if she really was so bereft of clue as to think her insulting question was innocent.

Which is more likely, that sort of lack of awareness, or that a USA Today writer has difficulty translating her pure thoughts into mundane words?

minusRusty said...

Cuttlefish, in this case I think you and PZ have misread Cathy.

I've been on the USAT site for a year and a half, and her blog isn't one for her personal viewpoints, but rather more of a "reporting"/"dialog-seeking" blog; and I think it's due to her covering the religious beat that sometimes makes the questions sound different from the intended query. And I think this works against those of us who are used to, e.g., Pharyngula or puke like, oh, I dunno, Dumbski's rag. (You know who I'm talkin' about.)

And a good number of godless folks actively post on the USAT Faith and Reason discussion board, and though the posts can't get crazy wild, we as a group haven't had much of a problem.

So, yeah. I think the problem wasn't on Cathy's end. (But then again, look at what Phil Plait got with his DBAD speech. LOL)


Cuttlefish said...

Rusty, I hope you are right. The question she asked is clearly offensive, and I would hope that she does not hold the beliefs reflected in it.

Like I say above, I have seen "just asking questions" used as a smokescreen, hiding accusations that conspiracy nuts and denialists are hesitant to come right out and state. If this is Ms. Grossman's normal style, she shares it with some very unpleasant bedfellows.

Anonymous said...

minusRusty -

I'm not inclined to agree with your generous assessment. I feel like I learned a whole lot the day this piece ran.

<3 u, Cuttlefish!

minusRusty said...

I have seen "just asking questions" used as a smokescreen, hiding accusations that conspiracy nuts and denialists are hesitant to come right out and state.

No, that's not where Cathy's coming from at all. I know very well the type of which you speak, but that's definitely not the case here. These aren't questions leading to an underlying agenda.

I can understand why they can be read that way, especially to those of us used to the trolls and jerks who haunt the various boards, but in this case, that's not her intent.

minusRusty said...

Anonymous, are you talking about the blog post itself, or the comments on the thread? (I haven't read the comments on the thread, but if it's typical, there's a fair amount of vitriol, the "pro-Catholics" who think atheists or coverage of the pedophilia scandals are "Catholic bashing", while others are defending Dawkins, etc.)

Forbidden Snowflake said...

Really? She is outraged at being misrepresented since she didn't CLAIM IVF children were subhuman, but merely SUGGESTED that they were?

Cuttlefish said...

That was how it read to me, Snowflake.

Frankly, whether it is her own opinion or not (and both she and Rusty argue that it is not), the very fact that such an argument could find purchase anywhere is testament to the moral low ground of [at minimum, this particular version of] religion. That it provides a rationale for a thinking person to doubt the very humanity of the most innocent among us is, frankly, horrible. Perhaps it may not seem so to someone who is accustomed to the doctrine of original sin, and who sees all infants as somehow guilty of the sin of an imaginary forefather, requiring the blood sacrifice of an only child to a vengeful deity in order to set things right.

Me? I'm a simple atheist. I see a baby.

Anonymous said...


I meant Grossman's column.

I don't think she likes atheists very much (lol). She is offended by atheist language but unconcerned by religionists' hyperbole.

Andy said...

Yeah DC it was just a question.

Sure it was backed up by half a dozen examples of why IVF is evil and not one example of why it might be good but, jeeez, it was just a question.


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