Sunday, May 21, 2017

22.2 - From atheist Virginians to xenophobe GOPpers

From atheist Virginians to xenophobe GOPpers

Tom Hicks is a guy who lives in Chesterfield, Virginia. And he has a pickup truck. And on the gate of that truck he has painted a verse drawn from 1 Corinthians: "Women shall be silent and submissive."

To that, he added three crosses, the fish symbol, and the expression "Read The Bible." He, as you might expect, has gotten a fair amount of flack for his sexism and his retrograde attitudes toward women.

Here's the kicker, though: Tom Hicks is an atheist who put the phrase there to try to provoke Christians to think about what it is that their holy book actually teaches. It does remind at least me of how many times we get told, in effect, that the Bible means exactly what it says - except when it doesn't.

It also raises an interesting question apart from the one Hicks is trying to raise: Just how many atheists are there among us?

Pew Research and Gallup, two of the most reputable polling firms in in the country, both suggest that about 10 percent of Americans do not believe in God. But recent research indicates the number may be considerably higher.

University of Kentucky psychologists Will Gervais and Maxine Najle noted that there is a social stigma attached to saying "I am an atheist" and that might make people reluctant to admit to it in a survey. So they tried to design an experiment in which a person could say that without the stigma.

As a very oversimplified explanation of the method, they created a questionnaire and distributed it to 2000 people. The survey included a number of simple statements such as "I am a vegetarian," "I own a dog," and, "I have a dishwasher in my kitchen." Respondents were asked how many of the statements are true of them. Not which ones, just how many.

A second version of the questionnaire went to another 2000 people. It was identical to the first except that it had one additional statement: "I do not believe in God." Again, respondents were asked how many, not which, statements were true of them.

The idea is that overall, there will be about the same number of vegetarians, dog owners, and so on in each of the two groups, so any statistically significant increase in the number reported in the second case arises from people finding that the statement "I do not believe in God" does describe them.

Based on the result, their best estimate was that 26 percent of Americans do not believe in God, more than double the number regular polling reports. Because the methodology is not the tightest, the error bar was rather wide: 11 percent to 35 percent. However, they reported 99% certainty that the proportion is greater than 11 percent and 80% probability that it is greater than 20 percent.

Which in its turn raised another, related, concern: In his commencement speech at Liberty University, which is likely one of the few places he can go these days without protests, TheRump declared that, quoting, "In America, we don't worship government; we worship God."

Which means, in essence, in his mind you can't be American if you're an atheist. Or an agnostic. Or an animist. Or a Jainist. Or a Buddhist. Or any of several varieties of Hindu. Or a Taoist or a deist or a follower of any number of other nontheistic beliefs.

In fact, to be an American you have to be Judeo-Christian and I'm not sure if all of them would include the "Judeo" part.

Oh, and Muslim, because as Muslims will tell you, Islam says that Allah and the Judeo-Christian God are the same being, it's just a different name. But wait, no, they don't count as Americans anyway because they are, well, you know, Muslims.

Which, again and in its turn, raises something else about TheRump and those around him, and the real reason I brought all of this up.

It's something that unites the Muslim ban with the wall with Mexico;

connects with the horror stories about Immigration and Customs Enforcement - ICE, which is an amazingly appropriate acronym - grabbing people in court, trying to get into schools to investigate children, deporting people who have green cards, targeting for deportation undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record;

connects with the White House slowness to condemn the wave of antisemitic and racist incidents that came in the wake of the election;

connects with the push to undo federal consent agreements with various violent and racist police departments and let them go back to being violent and racist;

connects on the state level with the state of Texas enacting a law to punish local police authorities with removal from office, fines, and up to a year in prison if they do not submit to demands for cooperation from federal immigration agents*, passed it despite the fact that every major police chief in the state opposed the bill;

something unites all of those strands and more:

It's that these people are not merely racists, who hate based on race; they are not merely religious bigots, who hate based on religion; no, they are truly, in the truest and worst sense of the term, xenophobes, they hate and fear everybody who is not them, who is "other," who is not, in their minds, "one of us."

And their xenophobia, the bigotry and fear they have expressed and acted on, has made it acceptable, more acceptable than it has been in decades, for people to be openly bigoted and even to feel pride in their bigotry.

And if right now, today, this instant, this bigoted boxcar of bozos were to turn on a dime and denounce all their former words and actions, that impact, that freeing up of hatred, will persist because it will take time to pound it back into the dank, fetid cave from which it arose.

And for that, whatever else happens, I will never forgive them. Never.

*Sidebar: A news article about the law said officials who face punishment are those "who do not abide by requests to cooperate" with the feds. Hey, idiots, if you can't say "no" without being fired, fined, and jailed, that ain't no request! Jeez, our corporate media stinks.

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