Monday, May 2, 2011

No, I'm not happy that bin Laden is dead.

I don't see death as a reason to be happy. I just don't.

And it remains to be seen whether his death will actually accomplish anything as far as reducing the threat of terrorism in the world. Movements are taken over by new leaders all the time. The death of Jesus didn't exactly wipe out Christianity. Same with Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Just sayin'.

This post on NPR's Being blog sums up my feelings pretty well, minus the religious specificity.

I saw a blog post titled "F*ck Respect" on Facebook this morning. A warning about language, not because I think the language the writer used is morally "wrong" any more than I think a product made from "cheez" is wrong; I just think it's cheap and gross. Basically, it's a rant saying, "Theists are stupid, so we don't have to respect them." For example:
Every so often some tree hugging l*beral stands on a soapbox and states how we should treat all people with respect; even those canine b*ll-licking theists... Pin headed pr*cks without one redeeming feature... What mind bending reason is there to not go to your local ch*rch on sunday and p*ss on its walls... Just because they haven't stoned anyone lately we should give the intellectually impaired a free ride? B*llshit, smack the b*tches whenever you get a chance, the only way to keep their smarmy *sses in line.
I commented, "I guess I'm a tree-hugging liberal." Responses: "Me too, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let religion invade the government." "Stupid beliefs are still stupid, even if the people who hold them are nice, and I'm not going to stop speaking out against them."

I don't have any problem with either of those comments (except for not being fond of the word "stupid"), except that wasn't what this post that they liked so much was about at all. I rarely take part in Facebook debates and am a little embarrassed that I'm actually blogging about it too, but this really got under my skin. This is how I responded:
Speaking out against stupid beliefs is still different from attacking people who hold them. An actual issue or point of disagreement, you can talk about. You just want to turn people who believe differently from you into caricatures (like this post does), you're accomplishing nothing. Outright attacks on religion are counterproductive. It makes zealots feel justified and gives them a cause to rally around. This post says nothing about keeping religion out of government or any actual threat. It's nothing but vulgar dehumanization, painting with a very wide brush to turn ALL theists into Other. It's useless, despicable, and ethically WRONG and I don't mind saying so. But your free speech does protect your right to get your kicks that way should you so choose.
If Facebook let you edit comments, I would add that this sort of attack also alienates moderates who would be your allies on issues like funding Planned Parenthood and keeping creationists out of science classrooms.

I have several atheist friends on Facebook. Some are the combative type, so I see these sorts of rants all the time. I think the reason it bothered me more than usual today was because it seems to me that the same sort of stereotyping that causes us to see others as Others--less than, not like us, inferior, inhuman--is the same sort of mentality that can desensitize us to the point that a person's death is a reason for celebration.

But I had another Facebook friend who came through with this status:
I'm going to celebrate by spreading some love and doing something nice for someone who is different from me today. Bin Laden would have hated that.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.


  1. So... are you saying you miss bin Laden?

  2. No, but there is a difference between not mourning someone's death and reacting with actual jubilation, as so many have done.

  3. Cognitive DissenterMay 2, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    It's analogous to the death penalty. There are people in this world who do horrific things. But celebrating anyone's death is also horrific.

    We all know what kind of man Osama bin Laden was and that he committed atrocities. What disturbs me more than anything about the jubilant celebration of his death -- indeed the party atmosphere -- is what it says about us.

  4. Oh, because I missed him. I guess now I can stop working on my aim...

    I deal with uncomfortable situations with humor (or pathetic attempts at it). I think it's creepy, all the "USA" chanting going on, but I'm just happy that there's no worry about a real challenge from Republicans in 2012. I feel like a Romney presidency would be... well, you know, you're a former Mormon.

    Plus, I'm so glad this swept the royal wedding stuff out of the news.

  5. I hope that it is lack of words when peeps say something like "I'm glad that he's dead." Really, that is so yucky. I'm glad that he can't give orders anymore or that he can't pull a trigger himself, but to be happy that someone died a violent (even tho it's deserved) death...that is not for me. Glad that, at least this part, it's over.


  6. Kriss, I feel the same way, glad he can't cause any more harm, but glad about death, just can't do it.

  7. Spot on, as usual, CD. It's the party atmosphere that disturbs me too. It seems a lot of the celebrators seem to think, "He was truly awful. Why can't we be just a little awful?" Well, you can, but why do you want to?

  8. I don't know if this makes Obama's reelection any more certain. I've already heard conservative rumors that he only did this for political reasons. Fox Fundies will believe whatever they want if they want to believe it hard enough.

    I liked Kate's dress.

  9. And, yeah, the "USA" chanting reminds me of a high school pep rally. I'll take an extravagant wedding over that.

  10. Do they realize that the hatred of the Other is pretty much exactly what leads religious people to hurt others in the first place?

  11. I am not celebrating his death neither do I mourn.

  12. Well. I'm in the thrilled-he's-dead camp. Thrilled. I'm *not* in the "we should've tortured the bastard" camp. I have my morals ;)

    I understand the other perspectives on the issue, I've thought about them a lot. Anyway.

    That said, that last bit about doing things that would piss bin Laden off--that's some kind of awesome.

  13. I think being kind and loving might be the best "revenge" of all in this case. :-)

  14. Macha, yes. Disidentification with other humans (regardless of religion or lack thereof) destroys empathy and compassion. Hatred is not far behind, and all too frequently violence.

  15. As someone who isn't American, is friends with both Muslims and with peeps from countries that have been bombed by the US, and who has been at the recieving end of the justice system... I think not only the celebrations but the killing itself is utterly appalling.

    I do not really doubt that Osama bin Laden was a criminal. Especially sceptics make a big thing of the value of the objectivity achieved by the scientific method. I think that Due Process is a civilisatory achievement designed to remove bias and with it revenge from a system meant to deliver justice. Just like with the Guantanamo bay prison, or the treatment of Bradley Manning, I cannot see any special circumstance in this that even begins to counterweight the casting aside of such a basic and important tool.

    It's not the gut feeling of revenge displayed by so many that frightens me - that I can understand - and I do not think that it is that in which we should differ from the unenlightened theoratic masses: Humans are human, and vengefulness is a common human trait. But the point of Enlightenment was that Government, to be of benefit to humanity, has to rise above this human irrationality. More important than the seperation of Church and State is the speration of Gut and State. And in a Democracy we, the people, are the appointed guardians of that achievement. To give up due process is a HUGE step towards true barbarism, in fact, it embodies barbarisms true soul. Allowing this, celebrating this, demonstrates our failure in this appointment.

    So in death Osama bin Laden is indeed victorious about the West. We HAVE become him.

  16. Hi Leah,
    You said ""Theists are stupid, so we don't have to respect them."

    I am in agreement with you on this issue. I really do miss the days when we, as a nation, could have a civil debate on the issues - (to disagree without being disagreeable). I have not seen our country so polarized since the Viet Nam days and I despise the direction we have taken. For instance, I have read the "new atheist" books and have enjoyed much of what they had to say; however, the way theists are treated is no different than the right-wing, evangelical crowd that attempts to ram their views down others throats. Rudeness does not convince ANYONE to change his or her mind.

  17. That's how I feel. You can't blame people for their gut feelings of revenge. Emotions and thoughts are not behaviors, and it's with our behavior that we show our humanity, by showing how we use our powers of reason to overcome our instinctive emotions if they are not beneficial.

    Humanity was trying to find ways to stop the cycle of violence long before the Enlightenment. The custom of wergild developed as a way to pay for a crime without perpetuating violence, by paying a set price for killing a person rather than being killed by the victim's kin.

    What does it say about us that the vikings found ways to avoid violence in situations where we are rejoicing in it?

  18. FreeFox, I too would have liked to have seen some sort of due process take place. You're very right that the desire for revenge is a very human thing to feel. What (should) separate us from the animals is our ability to see which instincts serve us and which don't, and use our powers of reason to rise above.

  19. Hi Louis,

    Just to be clear I didn't say "Theists are stupid." I was referring to someone else who had said that.

    I'm very much with you though on being civilized about our disagreements though. Part of what frustrates me about the New Atheist approach is that they really are right about so many things, but no one is going to listen to you if you start off by insulting their intelligence.

  20. Leah,
    I am so sorry for the terrible choice of words on my part. I was aware that those were not your words and the only excuse I can offer, as weak as it may sound, is I was in too big of a hurry [INSERT EMBARASSED GRIN HERE]. A much better starting point for your reference would have been "I guess I'm a tree-hugging liberal.” Perhaps I should get some sleep (as I am suffering from sleep deprivation) and end things here before I dig a deeper hole for myself. Once again, I am truly sorry for my mistake.

  21. In addition, I have no idea how my ugly, stretched out mug ended up at the bottom of my reply. Sheesh!

  22. Not a problem.

    Your mug isn't ugly. ;-)

    I hope you get some sleep. :-)


Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism