Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This just really annoys me

We interrupt normal Les Introuvables de Nereffid programming to bring you some casual bigotry. Over on Bloomberg View, columnist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote about a retired airline pilot who died when he tried to save his son from drowning in an 8-foot-deep septic tank. It was a post for Father's Day, you understand. As it happens, the man was a devout Catholic. So far, all very human-interest and a touching story of what a parent will do to protect their child. Then Goldberg tosses this out:
I’m reasonably sure an atheist would sacrifice his life for his child. But I also don’t doubt that Thomas Vander Woude’s powerful faith cleared the path into the tank. A person who has an articulated calling, who believes in something larger than himself, could more immediately accept the gravity of the moment.
For fuck's sake. He's reasonably sure an atheist would sacrifice his life for his child? He's not certain, of course. I mean, atheists, you know... it takes them that little bit longer to accept the gravity of the moment.
Leaving aside the absurdity of this last claim - might not an atheist regard death as rather more significant if there's no happy-ever-after afterlife? - what we have here is the implication that atheists are pretty much by definition lacking a certain morality, or as Cardinal Murphy O'Connor so obnoxiously put it recently, "not fully human".
A subtle piece of hate-speech. I don't know if Goldberg or others who use this kind of language even realise how contemptible it is. Or am I giving too much benefit-of-doubt? Commenting on Goldberg's post, I suggested that the atheist/religious comparison could be replaced with (as an example) a Jew/Christian one, to clarify how unpleasant it sounds.
As for whether atheists make good parents... I'm reasonably sure an atheist wouldn't have his son tortured and executed in order to save the world from a punishment that he himself devised.

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