Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dogmatism Bites Man

Dogmatism in any form is dangerous. I think religion--as well as supernaturalism in general--is dangerous (in that it promotes false beliefs, etc.), but I would never argue that we shouldn't talk about religion or supernaturalism. As someone concerned primarily with truth, I don't think that suppressing the expression of any idea--no matter how absurd it might seem--is a good thing to do. That's why the recent exchange between secular activist Rob Sherman and Illinois State Representative Monique Davis (D-Chicago) is so appalling to me.

Rob Sherman is (apparently) rather well known in Illinois as the man who singlehandedly (well, pretty much) put a stop to the mandatory moment of prayer silence nonsense that the State Legislature tried to push on public schools last year. Well, he's back and rightfully pissed off once again. This time, he was testifying before the House State Government Administration Committee against Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's attempt to give a $1 million grant to Pilgrim Baptist Church (for "reconstruction of the historical landmark"). Unwilling to let things like Constitutionality and good sense get in the way of her beliefs, Rep. Davis had the following exchange with Mr. Sherman (emphasis mine):

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy -- it’s tragic -- when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.

I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous--

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court---

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.


And this from a Democrat! Some people (though not many) have called for Rep. Davis to publicly apologize, but I'm with Alonzo Fyfe in thinking that this isn't really enough; she needs to resign. She obviously has no regard for the separation of church and state--a fundamental part of our democracy--and, perhaps more fundamentally, she seems to hold the idea that those who disagree with her are dangerous and that their opinions need to be silenced. I'm all for disagreement, and I even suppose I might be OK with politicians saying things like "All atheists are immoral;" let the electorate see how ignorant they are, and they may not get reelected. It is, however, too much to tolerate when politicians begin to use their positions to bully people into silence.

The statement "it's dangerous for our children to even know your philosophy exists" shows not only a deep seated penchant for superstition, but also a pathological fear of putting the issue up for public debate--a fear that is fundamentally antithetical to her position as a democratic representative. If Ms. Davis believes her position to be the correct one, what could possibly be dangerous about giving kids all the facts?

Have you heard about this story before? I doubt it--though it happened over a week ago, it is only now being picked up (and pretty much only by blogs). Suppose, just for a moment, that the roles had been reversed here: suppose that it had been an atheist Representative browbeating and berating a Christian citizen in a public hearing. Do you think you would have heard about that? Is there something wrong with this picture?

1 comment:

Stephen Dedalus said...

"The statement "it's dangerous for our children to even know your philosophy exists" shows not only a deep seated penchant for superstition, but also a pathological fear of putting the issue up for public debate--a fear that is fundamentally antithetical to her position as a democratic representative. If Ms. Davis believes her position to be the correct one, what could possibly be dangerous about giving kids all the facts?"

In playing devil's advocate, I can see how she can think that. Independent thinking is not necessarily good for everyone, that is not to say that those who think independently are any better than those who don't. In some instances, common sense is the best sense, and non-atheism is what is common in our country.

On an unrelated note, I would like to see "Intelligent Design" taught in schools. It should be taught in a class separate from science and placed in the context of Leibniz, Voltaire's Candide, and Hume. I wonder if the fundies would accept those terms.