An Atheist Reads: It’s Dangerous to Believe Part One

What is “An Atheist Reads”?
“An Atheist Reads” is where I read apologetic type literature and see if any of the arguments within the pages and paragraphs actually hold water. To be quite honest, I’ve yet to see any of them that do.

You are warned: if this may offend you, you won’t want to continue after the jump.

The book I’m tackling right now is one that I’ve been planning on reading for the past several months; it’s Mary Eberstadt’s It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and It’s Enemies. I spotted it on the shelf of the local library late last year and it caught my eye; to say it looked spectacularly bad would be very gentle.

Trust me, this book is bad. I’ve only gotten through the introduction and first chapter and I’ve groaned aloud multiple times.

In the introduction, Eberstadt starts with a “loaded” question: “Where will we go?” Because apparently, those who have faith–and by those who have faith Eberstadt means True Christians™ and True Christians™ only–have been facing discrimination here in the United States.

By discrimination, Eberstadt means “I’m not allowed to discriminate against those ickie gays in the name of God”, among other things. I wish I could tell you I was kidding.

Now, if that isn’t bad enough, we have Eberstadt lie about three separate incidences and claim that the big bad secularists are being mean to the poor, sweet, innocent believers; those incidents in question are about the Sweet Cakes Bakery incident, Coach Joe Kennedy and Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling. To Eberstadt, these people did nothing wrong but the evil secularists just had to come in and punish them because of their faith.

Uh, no. That is a lie.

The reason that Sweet Cakes ended up with a $135,000 fine? It wasn’t just because they refused a lesbian couple service. It was because they also doxxed the couple. You are reading that correctly.

In testimony Tuesday, Rachel Bowman-Cryer said she and her wife received death threats as media attention and criticism from strangers escalated in the months after the story went national in January 2013.

She said the threats were part of a stream of “hateful, hurtful things” that came after the couple’s contact information (home address, phone and email) was posted on Aaron Klein’s personal Facebook page. She said she feared for her life and her wife’s life.

Not only that, the couple had foster children and feared for their safety. The couple deserved a hell of a lot more than $135,000 for what they went through. And worse? The bakery didn’t go bankrupt, either, as Eberstadt implies. Instead, the bakery received $325,000 via crowdfunding. So basically, not only did these “good Christian bakers” discriminate, dox a couple and place the lives of that couple’s foster children in danger, they got a big, fat paycheck for acting like complete assholes.

You can’t make this shit up, folks. Nor would you want to, really. But Eberstadt doesn’t even mention any of this in her book. It’s just the secularists, trying to wipe away religion. Because the evil atheist is always the bad guy. Then there’s Coach Kennedy.

Coach Kennedy was warned that he couldn’t pray with his players but he did so anyway. He was duly fired then proceeded to sue the school district, even though it was seen as a waste of time. Now, to hear Eberstadt’s take on this, he was fired because of his faith. Again, this isn’t true. He was fired because he promised to stop the behavior after he had been warned but did it anyway. This was insubordination, pure and simple. It had nothing to do with the fact that he was Christian.

Though I am forced to wonder if Eberstadt would have had such a reaction if Coach Kennedy asked his players to face Mecca while praying. Would she be so quick to defend this guy if he had been leading the team in a prayer to Allah? What if he led the group in an invocation to Satan or Thor? Would she be willing to say his rights had to be protected? One has to wonder. Lastly, we’ve got the good Lance Corporal.

The “known” story is that the Marines freaked out over a piece of paper that was inscribed with a biblical verse. That’s not the entire story here. It seems she didn’t perform certain duties when asked. For example:

Sterling was assigned the duty of giving out passes to family members visiting Marines who had just returned from a deployment. This duty was to be for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. Sterling claimed that she couldn’t perform this duty because she was on medication for migraines that made her drowsy, but, as the court-martial found, there was no reason that this medication would have interfered with Sterling performing this duty if she took it at night as prescribed. But, as Sterling admitted, she was not planning to take her medication as prescribed on that Sunday. She was planning to take it earlier. Her reason? She was going to church and the loud choir at the church service might bring on a migraine. Seriously, that was her excuse — that she planned to take her medication not as prescribed. Needless to say, this excuse didn’t work.

In other words, she disobeyed orders. That wasn’t even the first time, either:

Sterling’s defense for the charges against her regarding her disobeying direct orders to wear the proper uniform was also a medical excuse. Sterling claimed that she had a medical order, referred to as a “chit,” saying that she did not have to wear a particular uniform because of a medical device she needed to wear for a back problem. But when her superiors checked this out, they found it not to be true, and that there was no reason that Sterling couldn’t be in the “uniform of the day” like everybody else. Much of the court-martial was focused on this issue of Sterling’s medical “chit,” and the finding was that it did not excuse her from refusing to obey the orders of her superiors to change into the proper uniform.

As for the desk in question? It was shared, the verses she had displayed were paraphrased and the religious connotations were only mentioned mid-trial. Needless to say, the Supreme Court won’t be hearing the case. But all these facts that I’ve just laid out aren’t even a blurb on the pages of the introduction. For very obvious reasons, I didn’t check out every single story, as debunking all of them would lead to an encyclopedia and not a blog post.

Again and again, Eberstadt claims True Christians™ in the United States are being discriminated against because belief, but the incidents she cites are less than convincing. Again and again, it’s the True Christians™ acting like bigoted assholes, then howling loudly when someone either calls them on it or they end up facing repercussions from it. The evidence she gives is outright laughable. But to her, telling a Christian that they don’t get special discrimination privileges because of the bible is just this side of communism. Because religious freedom and all that. Don’t ask me how the hell I slogged through that intro, but I did. It wasn’t easy.

In chapter one “The Roots of the New Intolerance”, Eberstadt tries to give us a history lesson in modern religious intolerance, basically pointing to two different incidents as the roots. They are 9/11 and the recent Catholic sexual abuse scandal. Now, she spends a good amount of time talking about 9/11 and how the attack that took down the Twin Towers emboldened firebrand atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. A good portion of that chapter–when it’s not talking about things like the Hays Code or the fact that CBN was a thing back in the 1980s and how Christians have now become a minority–deals with 9/11.

The sex abuse cases of the Catholic Church? They get a paragraph. Oh and to Eberstadt, this is the “long Lent” and not even a charismatic leader like Pope Francis seems to be helping.

I’m going to pause here for a second in order for that to sink in; I had to do the same while I was reading the book. It was either that or throw said book against the nearest wall.

Ratchet-facepalm

Okay, let’s go ahead and get some facts straight here: this isn’t simply a “long Lent”. There has been systematic abuse of children in the Church for decades. Yes, you are reading that correctly. This. Spanned. Decades! There were hundreds of victims in this. Making it worse was the fact that the Diocese interfered with the police investigations into the matter. As if that isn’t horrible enough, we had a bishop blame the victims, claiming the boy was culpable in his own abuse. As for Pope Francis, he continues to protect the pedophiles and refuses to punish them.

Yet none of this is mentioned by Eberstadt. She refuses to acknowledge that the Church has done wrong and continues to do wrong. To her, it’s treated like some unfortunate incident, a sad little chapter in the Church’s history that needs to be forgotten, swept under the rug.

In other words, keep doing what the Church itself has been doing all these years.

Eberstadt ends the chapter saying that secularists don’t really know any people of the Book and that none of these people of the Book are bigots in any way, shape or form. It smacks a bit of the No True Scotsman argument: True Christians™ are loving, tolerant people, the Westboro Baptist Church is not loving or tolerant, therefore the WBC has no real Christians attending their church.

At the end of the chapter, Eberstadt claims that what hangs in the balance is free speech. To her credit, she does seem to be very interested in free speech. But to her, free speech only seems to apply to the True Christians™ that inhabit the United States. She doesn’t seem all that concerned with the free speech–or any other rights–of secularists.

With that, I shall end this post. Tune in next time when I give a review of chapters two and three. As to whether my sanity remains in tact while reading them, that remains to be seen. Wish me luck on that one.

Damn, do I ever need a drink now.

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About Silverwynde

I'm a Transformers fan, Pokémon player, Brewers fan and all-out general nerd. I rescue abandoned Golett, collect as many Bumblebee decoys and figures as I can find and I've attended every BotCon since 1999. I'm also happily married to a fellow Transfan named Prime and we are both owned by a very intelligent half-Siamese cat. Life is pretty darned awesome.
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