What is “An Atheist Reads”?
“An Atheist Reads” is where I read Christian books, analyze them and see if any of their arguments stand up on their own or can be discredited by a simple Google search. So far, Google seems to be winning this war and quite handily, I might add.
As always, if you think this sort of thing might offend or irritate you, it’s best to not to continue after the jump. This one is also very wordy, so you might want to take a few breaks while reading. But if you’re ready, then away we go!
Chapter five–Inquisitors vs. Good Works–starts off with Eberstadt talking about a young woman she met years ago. The woman, called “Jen”, is referred to by Eberstadt as a Pope Francis-style Catholic, as Jen seemingly wants nothing more than to help the less fortunate. However, it seems that some of the work Jen is doing may be endangered; she works at a Catholic adoption agency and as Jen says:
“I know the time is coming when we’ll either close our doors, or decide to keep up our work regardless–in which case we’ll end up in jail. But who will take care of the children? Not the people who have sued us out of existence–they’ll just move on. Who will take care of all those kids?”
Here’s an idea, Jen: there are gay couples who would love to adopt. They could take those children off of your hands and give them a good, caring home. Oh wait, the pope isn’t too keen on that idea so it will probably never happen. So no, I can’t exactly get upset over the idea of Catholic adoption services getting closed down; considering how a good number of these agencies were happy to take infants away from their “neurotic” unwed mothers during the Baby Scoop Era, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for them.
This is how Eberstadt starts the chapter, with the complaint that these wonderful Catholic charities will be penalized or–shock and horror!–be forced to actually follow the law!
Now, Eberstadt keeps saying that the church is going against the teachings or beliefs or what have you of the sexual revolution. Because the sexual revolution is all about having massive quantities of sex with anyone and everyone, while the church says “one man, one woman”.
Yeah, about that…
As you can see, the idea of “biblical marriage” isn’t so cut and dried. Things are just as messy with abortion as well. But I digress.
What Eberstadt is trying to say is that these charities might end up losing funds because of “needless” lawsuits. Like the one involving the Little Sisters of the Poor. To which I ask: wouldn’t an organization like this actually embrace contraception? Because fewer babies born to impoverished mothers means that cycle of poverty could be broken. But apparently not. We then are told by Eberstadt that this could affect hospital care, as a good number of hospitals are Catholic and they are “renowned” for helping others.
I’m not so sure. But that’s all I’ll say about that. Oh and according to Eberstadt, secularists are attacking good charities like crisis pregnancy centers who “help” pregnant women keep those precious babies that they inadvertently conceived while they were out doing horrible secular things that would make the baby Jesus cry. Why would anyone oppose a charity that helps pregnant women? How heartless are these atheists, anyway?
Throughout the conference, I asked at least a dozen pregnancy center staff if seeing so many unplanned pregnancies ever tempted them to suggest birth control pills or IUDs. Again and again, they mentioned claims, which have been debunked, that abortion sterilizes and birth control pills cause cancer. “All those chemicals can be dangerous,” one staff person told me, and she seemed to believe it.
All those chemicals in birth control pills? Oh, those are bad. Abortion? That’ll give you breast cancer. But good old fashioned pregnancy, the way God intended it? Don’t worry about it because nothing will ever go wrong ever because it’s totes safe.
Then we get to the case of the American Humanist Association, some schools and Operation Christmas Child. The AHA objected to the fact that several school districts took part in Operation Christmas Child and sued to put a stop to it.
Because of this, the AHA received an “Ebenezer Award”. But holy slag, was this ever a case of spin:
The non-profit that coordinates the volunteers and sends the boxes, Operation Christmas Child, has been offending the AHA for years. The perpetrator of good deeds asks volunteers to pack shoe boxes for children of various age groups with items including stuffed animals, small toys, school supplies, and basic hygiene items like toothpaste and soap. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has provided more than 100 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 130 countries.
“These boxes are filled with school supplies and basic hygiene items,” said Kristina Arriaga, executive director of Becket Law. “It’s heartbreaking enough that there are children who will receive nothing but a toothbrush for Christmas. The American Humanist Association would deny them even that?”
Sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? But as Hemant put it:
How’s that for spin? There’s no mention whatsoever that Operation Christmas Child is, first and foremost, a tool to convert children to Christianity. It’s part of a ministry that fully intends these shoeboxes to be a gateway into the church. I don’t work for the AHA, but I assure you that they would fully support the children in the District packing shoe boxes for needy kids if they weren’t doing it as part of a religious ministry.
So this isn’t so much a charity as it is a bribe in disguise. That’s not even covering the fact that this charity will not accept certain toys. If any Pokémon or Harry Potter toys are donated, they will be removed from the boxes. Not only that, those boxes are strictly gendered; a boy won’t receive a teddy bear and a girl won’t get an action figure because those aren’t “appropriate” for the child’s sex. There are other reasons not to participate in the program, as this link will tell you.
Tell me again why I’d want to donate to this “charity”? Because what I’ve found in my searches isn’t giving me any good reasons to donate. But don’t tell that to Eberstadt; these are just good Christians doing good Christian things, like snaring overseas kids for the Church when they are young. You know, good Christian charity work. Or something.
Mercifully, we head into the final chapter–What Is to Be Done; or, How to End a Witch Hunt–with the story of the Benham brothers. Apparently, being Christian cost them a TV show. It had absolutely nothing to do with them being bigots. Or possibly liars, for that matter. Nope, it’s because of the Jesus!
Another lie that Eberstadt tells is the fact that these two were “star” baseball players; neither one made it into the Majors for any length of time. But again, this simply isn’t mentioned; Eberstadt refers to them as if they were MVPs. Truthfully, these guys never made it above Double A.
In other words, stars these guys were not. Their names will never be uttered in the same breath as Robin Yount or Catfish Hunter. They never even made it to the Bigs. Yet again, I digress.
Eberstadt pleads for rationality in this chapter, basically begging for the religious to keep their “sincerely held belief” to discriminate against other people. She also wants to know the “harm” in other people believing in things such as hell. It doesn’t affect atheists, so why should they care?
Oh. WOW. Seriously. WOW.
It affects us when a transgender teen kills herself. It affects us when that same teen’s mother misgenders her repeatedly. It affects us when when a transgender teen is denied service and labeled an “it”. It affects us when a gay athlete is disowned by his parents. It affects us when a so-called “coach” claims that the gays will “kill us”. It affects us when an abused wife is told to silently suffer through her abuse, rather than leave her abusive husband, advice that could kill her.
Do I really need to go on here?
In other words, it affects us when it affects other living people. When bad ideas affect other people, it affects us. Which is why we speak out against those bad ideas. Which is why I read and do my best to debunk books like this. This does affect people and not for the better; if you don’t believe me, ask a trans person.
This is why we care, this is why it affects us, as it should affect everyone. People have rights. Ideas do not. End of discussion.
But it gets worse. Boy howdy, does it ever get worse.
In her railings against the so-called sexual revolution, Eberstadt goes after secular schools, claiming that they are predatory. But the Christian colleges out there? Oh, they’re are totes safe.
On the surface, they look benign enough but those strict honor codes are often used to silence and shame the victims of sexual assault and not to punish the perpetrators. It’s the victim’s fault because they broke the honor code; they should have expected something like this to happen! Oh, it really wasn’t the victim’s fault? Well then, s/he is lying and is still breaking the honor code. You know, the whole “bearing false witness” thing. But Eberstadt paints these places as innocent and quaint; how cute that the local Christian college girls’ dorm has posters for the knitting club and not information about eating disorders, suicide prevention hotlines and information about sexual assault. Because sexual assault never happens on a good Christian campus!
But that is a lie. Again, a simple Google search proves Eberstadt devastatingly wrong. But apparently, typing a few words into Google and reading the results would undermine her talking points, so Eberstadt won’t do that.
Again, Eberstadt rails against abortion and birth control for religious reasons–which is rather silly, considering the whole “Great Flood” story–and the sexual revolution. She also rails against using quotes from the bible as proof of hate speech because a True Christian™ could never ever be a hater. (Wow, she does love those “No true Scotsman” arguments.) But then she veers into the asinine.
Apparently, secularists can never get rid of religion anywhere because religious monuments are Things That Exist and thus humans will always believe in God. Seriously. But this only holds in places like Western Europe; she didn’t mention anything about Greece or the Parthenon, because those pesky pagan gods weren’t real gods, I guess. You know, only Jesus and company counts in this equation.
She closes the book asking for civility and letting the believers the right to have their say. Here’s the thing: they already have that right. You can bigoted shit online all day. However, because free speech is A Thing That Exists, if someone calls you out on your bigoted shit, you are not being oppressed. Your opponent is exercising his/her right to free speech. Disagreeing with someone or telling them, “Yeah, that idea is wrong and here’s why…” is not oppression. It is not labeling someone as a “hater” or a “bigot” when you quote what a person has said and pointed out that what they are saying is wrong. Yes, religious people have a right to speak but so do secular people and it seems that Eberstadt simply wants to silence the opposition. She isn’t looking for “equality”, she’s looking for special treatment. There are no secular witch trials here, just a lot of spin and hand wringing.
Final Verdict: It’s dangerous to believe, all right. Anything you might read in this book, that is. It has more spin than a flushing toilet and Google can disprove Eberstadt’s so-called claims with ease. The slant on this book is so obvious that it’s painful; reading it just made that even more apparent. Do yourself a favor, avoid this book at all costs. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this later.
Dear Primus, I need a beer. Or twelve. I’ll catch you guys later; I need to get my drink on right now.