We have an overall summary of the case brought to our attention by 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist via Friendly Atheist. With me so far? Church/state separation issue, prayer banner displayed in public school, clearly unconstitutional, no surprise that the judge ruled against the school? Right? Right, so, THAT happened, and now that the case has been decided, a lot of people in Cranston, RI are not happy with Jessica. In fact, they are extremely upset with her, and they’re making sure she knows it.
Greta Christina gives her analysis of the backlash at Alternet. She draws from these two basic observations: 1) this was a clear, simple question of church/state separation from the beginning, and no one should be surprised that the judge ruled against the school, and 2) and yet people are totally enraged at Jessica for her role in this case.
Some edited highlights are below the jump. This shit ain’t pretty, folks.
“hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”
“We can make so many jokes about this dumb bitch, but who cares #thatbitchisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”
“Brb ima go drown that atheist in holy water”
“May that little, evil athiest teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!”
“yeah, well i want the immediate removal of all atheists from the school, how about that?”
“I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus”
“nail her to a cross”
“When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists”
“gods going to fuck your ass with that banner you scumbag”
While that’s going on, the comments at the Jesus Fetus Fajita Fishsticks entry (it is surprisingly tricky to type that blog name) are full of all kinds of Don’t Make Us Uncomfortable, mostly dominated by the No True Scotsman fallacy.
Picture this: A brave teenage girl asks that her school stop shitting all over the Establishment Clause, and in response, people who go to class with her and see her around town call her things like…”shes not human shes garbage”…and in the comment section, we see all this business of, “But but but they’re not TRUE Christians!” and “But why can’t she just RESPECT other people’s religions?!”
The latter complaint is a red herring. The former is what I’d really like to see stomped into the ground.
To respond to the bullying of Jessica Ahlquist by pleading that the bullies are not really Christians is, first, a No True Scotsman claim. Who gets to decide what makes a true Christian? Who has the right to tell anyone who, judging by their #TeamJesus, #TeamHeaven and #GodOverEverything tags, really seem to think of themselves as Christians, that they don’t make the cut? If the identity of “Christian” has to be earned through good behavior, then how do you know whether YOU qualify? If we’re going to quibble over who is a nice enough person to merit the Christian label, then there should be no using religious identity as a predictor of behavior. If one must behave like a decent person first to be a True Christian, then obviously the religious identity does not create good people. Either good people make Christians or Christianity makes good people, but if you want to have it both ways, then the label of “good person” says nothing about how one behaves towards others. Second, it’s an offensive response because it derails the conversation about what someone like Jessica Ahlquist, or, an earlier example, Damon Fowler, is up against. We want to talk about a teenager putting up with threats of violence for defending the Establishment Clause at her school, and your response is to complain that we’re being unfair to Christianity? Really?
When I first saw the threats going around on Twitter, one of my thoughts was that I know a lot of people who are Christians, and they are better people than those bullies who are now trying to silence Jessica. They would never tolerate anyone behaving that way towards a law-abiding citizen (or even a petty criminal), and they would definitely not thank the bullies for labeling their bile with tags like #TeamJesus and #TeamHeaven. They would be not the least bit amused to see God’s name associated with this abuse. But they would also know better than to make the conversation all about how it’s so unfair to Christians in general to show how their faith in God inspires some people to behave like vicious thugs. They would not try to shame Jessica Ahlquist for having spoken up. They would not complain about her lack of “respect” for their faith.
Meanwhile, Jesus Fetus Fajita Fishsticks continues the fun with this here letter from the Department of O RLY and follows up with some clear-headed Advice to the True Christians. I’ll cut straight to the good part of “John’s” comment at JFFF:
Now back onto the topic I was attempting to get at in the beginning. You characterize all Christians as hatemongers and back it up with photo’s from social networking sites. Great. But what makes you better than those “Christians” who stated they want to harm a young woman who stood up for her constitutional rights?
All you did with that blog is incite hatred towards the Christian religion. Why?
Are all Christians evil hatemongers that think everyone has to follow their religion? No. I don’t and I’m a non-denomination Christian. I may be non-denomination, but I’m still Christian. I do not believe everyone HAS to follow Christianity. Do I believe atheists will go to hell? Yes, but if you chose to not believe in the religion, that’s your choice. I won’t think anything less of you for it. Heck, I encourage you to use your brain.
As a Christian and a member of the United States Armed Forces, I fight for what this country stands for. I hold all of our rights dear to heart and believe no religious belief should hold any sway over any other. And yes, atheism is a religious view. It is a view that all religions are bogus and science has proven it.
So I challenge you, since you are a blogger with a following, to give both sides of the coin a showing. Your blog was about hatred and contempt from Christians towards a young woman. Try writing a blog about kindness that Christians do for others. Not just other Christians, but people of other religious views. You wrote the blog “Good without God.” That was atheists helping atheists. Do a blog about Christians helping atheists, Muslims, agnostics, whatever. Give five examples. Show me that you yourself are not a hatemonger towards Christians and/or other religions, but a true believer in American Rights.
Also, I must ask one question. Can you prove that all those people in the images you posted are Christians? If so, then that just sickens me.
What the fuckity shit.
When people who consider themselves Christians behave like bullies, we should not have to stay silent about it, lest we appear to be “inciting hatred” against Christianity. And when we bring some sunny disinfectant to the hostility that atheists (and, for that matter, other religious minorities) get from the majority, the burden is not on us to prove that we don’t hate all the majority. It is not our responsibility to research for examples of majority members being good people. As JFFF points out, American Christians don’t exactly have a PR problem. There’s a reason why many atheist billboards say, “You can be good without God”— it’s still a pretty controversial idea.
If you’re worried about how your religion is being perceived, though, think about this: it looks really damn arrogant to tell someone you think he’s going to Hell in the same missive as that in which you demand that he devote time to compensating for his list of examples of believers terrorizing a non-believing 16-year-old. You want atheists to have a better view of Christians? Start with your own sense of entitlement.
(Not that we’re all that bothered by threats of Hell. We don’t think Hell exists any more than the Tooth Fairy. But it still says something about the way you think of us, and we tend to notice.)
All that said, though, I am not invested in the idea that the religious majority is overwhelmingly inclined towards hostility towards people who defend church/state separation. I also do not assume that most of the religious majority are disagreeable or even ambivalent about church/state separation itself. I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head of any Christians defending Jessica Ahlquist, but then, I tend to hang out in the godless heathen section of the Internet, where my news related to Cranston, RI is unsurprisingly coming from fellow nonbelievers. And from this corner of the god-free blogosphere, it would be nice to see some examples of Christians making a full-throated defense of Jessica Ahlquist or similar non-religious person. By “full-throated defense,” I mean none of this “yes, but…” nonsense. We’ll be having none of the “but the banner wasn’t really religious” excuses, none of that “but if she’d just stayed quiet, she wouldn’t be getting these threats now” rubbish. The school was in the wrong from the start, Jessica did the right thing, and the abuse she’s taking now is not only unacceptable, it is a transparent attempt to frighten her into shutting up. I would like to see some examples of Christians saying that. If you know of some instances posted online, paste a link in the comments. If you can’t think of any already online, but you’re a Christian and you want Jessica Ahlquist to know you’re pulling for her, then say so in the comments.
The next time something like this happens—and it will happen again—and your fellow believers conduct themselves in ways that make your religion look bad, don’t go yelling at us that those people aren’t “really” Christians. Go yell at them. Tell them to get off your side, and that Jesus would never have tolerated their actions. When people go on Twitter to tell a girl they expect her to go to Hell and get raped by Satan, it’s not the atheists making Christianity look bad.