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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  10:53:18  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This relates to the thread: "A layman's look at the OK bill to destroy schools" in so much as it addresses the amount of freedom of expression students have in school when it comes to their religious beliefs. Or in this case, lack thereof.
Ripping into the Bible
by Maggie Ardiente
Published in the Humanist, March/April 2008

ON THE MORNING of December 7, 2007, Christopher Campbell walked into his English Honors class at Parker High School, prepared to tear out pages of the Bible.

Earlier that week his teacher had taped aphorisms by Ralph Waldo Emerson on the blackboard. Students were to select an aphorism of their choice, explain what they thought Emerson's words meant, and relate it to a personal experience, accompanied with a visual aid.

Campbell picked, “So far as a man thinks, he is free,” and spent the next few nights composing a rough draft in preparation for his speech.

On the day of his presentation, Campbell stood up in front of the class and said:


http://thehumanist.org/humanist/Ardiente.html

This is the letter in response that I'm sending to the Humanist editor:

Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to "Ripping Into the Bible." It would be wrong of the school to punish Christopher Campbell in any way for destroying his own property (a Bible) as a theatrical stunt to make his point. However, I'm inclined to think the Principal was honest when explaining that the punishment was for foul language and degrading insults against a religious group. Campbell argues that religion shouldn't be protected in the same way that race, ethnicity, nationality, and gender are. Given humanity's ugly history of religious persecutions, I and many other Humanists would disagree with him. People don't choose their beliefs. Anyone who thinks so, I challenge to choose to believe in a literal Santa Claus, just for 5 minutes. Had Campbell stuck to articulate and intellectually-backed arguments, I doubt he'd have been punished. But he resorted to demeaning insults, calling many of his audience members "simple-minded ignoramuses" and saying they had "tiny brains." Should a Christian student get a pass for saying such things about atheists or other religious minorities while giving a class presentation? Campbell's punishment – a day of in-school suspension and contacting his parents – was very mild; to regard it as some sort of atheist persecution would be an overreaction.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com


Edited by - marfknox on 03/20/2008 10:57:28

chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  11:20:56   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Kid's got a lot of guts.

-Chaloobi

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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  11:51:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Campbell argues that religion shouldn't be protected in the same way that race, ethnicity, nationality, and gender are. Given humanity's ugly history of religious persecutions, I and many other Humanists would disagree with him. People don't choose their beliefs.
But they can change them, making religion wholly unlike immutable characteristics like race, gender, or sexual persuasion. You'll have to do a lot more to explain to me why religious beliefs and ideas are so different from other beliefs and ideas that they deserve special protection under the law.

Anyone who thinks so, I challenge to choose to believe in a literal Santa Claus, just for 5 minutes.
Beliefs may not work like a light switch, with the ability to be turned on and off at will. However, that doesn't mean we are incapable of deciding which beliefs we choose to hold. Believing takes work. Religious beliefs exist in large part to the sheer amount of effort people put into maintaining them. The sermons they attend, the books they read, the people they choose to associate with. All these things are not merely a consequence of previously held beliefs, they maintain and reform existing beliefs. And all of these things are under people's control.

So do people choose their beliefs? You bet they do. Even deciding not to challenge your own personal beliefs is a choice. Incuriousness and intellectual lassitude are choices, and they don't need to be encouraged, defended or excused as unchosen, immutable states.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 03/20/2008 11:52:26
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  11:53:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by chaloobi

Kid's got a lot of guts.
....and my vote, should the time arrive.

The only fault I can find is, as mentioned, a few bits of vulgarity, but he's a smart kid & he'll outgrow that.

Did you know that the paper in Bible pages make pretty good rolling leaves for smokes? See, the Gospels have a practical value after all!




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  12:14:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The minor vulgarity was the only problem with the presentation. The kid's smart and courageous, though. His presentation was remarkably powerful for expressing his disgust with religion.

The real outrage was school's official, ham-handed, reaction. That was about what you'd expect, not from a secular public school, but from a fundy church, if the kid's presentation had been done there. (Compare this to this tolerant reaction from a Jewish congregation. HT to Abbie Smith.)


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 03/20/2008 12:19:45
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emsby
Skeptic Friend

76 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  12:16:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send emsby a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox
Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to "Ripping Into the Bible." It would be wrong of the school to punish Christopher Campbell in any way for destroying his own property (a Bible) as a theatrical stunt to make his point. However, I'm inclined to think the Principal was honest when explaining that the punishment was for foul language and degrading insults against a religious group. Campbell argues that religion shouldn't be protected in the same way that race, ethnicity, nationality, and gender are. Given humanity's ugly history of religious persecutions, I and many other Humanists would disagree with him. People don't choose their beliefs. Anyone who thinks so, I challenge to choose to believe in a literal Santa Claus, just for 5 minutes. Had Campbell stuck to articulate and intellectually-backed arguments, I doubt he'd have been punished. But he resorted to demeaning insults, calling many of his audience members "simple-minded ignoramuses" and saying they had "tiny brains." Should a Christian student get a pass for saying such things about atheists or other religious minorities while giving a class presentation? Campbell's punishment – a day of in-school suspension and contacting his parents – was very mild; to regard it as some sort of atheist persecution would be an overreaction.



First of all, I agree with you that "belief" is not a choice. You either believe or you don't, and it will take some measure of convincing to change that. It is a choice whether or not to challenge and be critical of your beliefs, but it's not a choice whether or not you are convinced of their validity or otherwise.

However, I completely disagree (and I consider myself a humanist) that religion holds the same special status as race, gender and sexual preference. These are things that cannot be changed whereas beliefs can, and should be changed, if they are wrong. There is a difference between the ability to change and the ability to choose. And that's the important distinction. If someone's belief is wrong, it should be pointed out to them, especially if that belief is harmful to others. It's not possible for someone's race, gender or sexual preference to be wrong, nor can it ever be changed by challenging, researching and learning.

I also wonder if this child was teased in school for being an atheist? Prior to this event, I mean. That may shed some light on why he was so angry.

Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  12:59:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
H.H. said:
So do people choose their beliefs? You bet they do. Even deciding not to challenge your own personal beliefs is a choice. Incuriousness and intellectual lassitude are choices, and they don't need to be encouraged, defended or excused as unchosen, immutable states.


Exactly!

Marf is just doing more of her religious cheerleading.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26009 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  13:10:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

People don't choose their beliefs. Anyone who thinks so, I challenge to choose to believe in a literal Santa Claus, just for 5 minutes.
The only thing I'd add to H.'s "light switch" is that the Santa Claus analogy is like challenging someone to gain 20 pounds for just five minutes. People can choose to change their beliefs, but it often takes a lot of hard work. Just like gaining 20 pounds can be done, but it'll take longer than five minutes to get there, and more than five minutes to lose it again.

Or are you saying, marf, that all religious conversions are either involuntary or coerced?
Had Campbell stuck to articulate and intellectually-backed arguments, I doubt he'd have been punished. But he resorted to demeaning insults, calling many of his audience members "simple-minded ignoramuses" and saying they had "tiny brains."
Yeah, the insults were unnecessary and childishly crude, and took away from what would otherwise have been a nifty presentation. That is the reason that those who mostly agree with Campbell should be frowning at what he did, and not because he was persecuting the tender majority unfairly. Even if he'd left out the direct insults and the "[expletive]," most people who hear the gist of his presentation - that the Bible enslaves people into not thinking - would still be insulted.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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emsby
Skeptic Friend

76 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  13:18:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send emsby a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.
The only thing I'd add to H.'s "light switch" is that the Santa Claus analogy is like challenging someone to gain 20 pounds for just five minutes. People can choose to change their beliefs, but it often takes a lot of hard work. Just like gaining 20 pounds can be done, but it'll take longer than five minutes to get there, and more than five minutes to lose it again.


But then isn't it more a matter of convincing yourself than "choosing" per se? The choice in that case is to work on convincing yourself of something, rather than choosing to believe something. If someone were to show me incontrovertable proof that God existed, I would believe in God. Not by any sort of "choice," but because I've finally been shown evidence that convinced me. Otherwise, there is no way, no matter how hard I tried, or how adamant I was about "choosing" to believe, I'd never genuinely be able to believe until I was properly convinced.

Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  13:57:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by emsby
But then isn't it more a matter of convincing yourself than "choosing" per se? The choice in that case is to work on convincing yourself of something, rather than choosing to believe something. If someone were to show me incontrovertable proof that God existed, I would believe in God. Not by any sort of "choice," but because I've finally been shown evidence that convinced me. Otherwise, there is no way, no matter how hard I tried, or how adamant I was about "choosing" to believe, I'd never genuinely be able to believe until I was properly convinced.
Back to the weight gain analogy, I see this as saying "No one can just decide to lose weight. Metabolism is not something people have conscious control over." While that may be true, we still decide what nutrition we put into our bodies or how much exercise we get. That's where choice comes into play. Our decisions still (literally) shape us.

By the same token, a sane mind will accept convincing ideas "on its own." It's a natural process that we do not have direct control over. But like our diet, we do control what ideas we are exposed to, what information makes it into our heads. We still have a choice in the matter.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26009 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  14:06:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by emsby

But then isn't it more a matter of convincing yourself than "choosing" per se? The choice in that case is to work on convincing yourself of something, rather than choosing to believe something. If someone were to show me incontrovertable proof that God existed, I would believe in God. Not by any sort of "choice," but because I've finally been shown evidence that convinced me. Otherwise, there is no way, no matter how hard I tried, or how adamant I was about "choosing" to believe, I'd never genuinely be able to believe until I was properly convinced.
Clearly, the ethical choice you've made is to allow yourself to be persuaded by evidence. Certainly you could choose to be an "I will never believe in God" sort of atheist, couldn't you?

Then again, how pedantic do we want to get over the word "choice?" Technically speaking, I have no real control over the way the chemicals in my brain shift back and forth, so do I ever have a choice? Going that far, of course, absolves everyone of everything. The "convinced by" argument, instead of shifting the focus all the way into ridiculousness, only moves it one step away, and we're at "can we choose to be convinced?"

The answer still seems to be "yes."

(Note that cognitive dissonance is what occurs when evidence is presented that one refuses to be convinced by.)

Okay, who wants to discuss, "can we choose which ethic to use when evaluating evidence?"

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  19:32:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by filthy

Originally posted by chaloobi

Kid's got a lot of guts.
....and my vote, should the time arrive.

The only fault I can find is, as mentioned, a few bits of vulgarity, but he's a smart kid & he'll outgrow that.

Did you know that the paper in Bible pages make pretty good rolling leaves for smokes? See, the Gospels have a practical value after all!




Inhaling burning ink can't be good for your lungs. Of course, probably neither is inhaling burning pot.

I'd be proud if that was my kid. He's thinking pretty big thoughts and taking pretty bold action at a pretty young age. I wonder if his parents knew what he was up to.

NOTE: There's no way I'd sit there and let my kid be intimidated the way his mother apparently did. Shame on her.

-Chaloobi

Edited by - chaloobi on 03/20/2008 19:33:48
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  19:34:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HalfMooner

The minor vulgarity was the only problem with the presentation. The kid's smart and courageous, though. His presentation was remarkably powerful for expressing his disgust with religion.

The real outrage was school's official, ham-handed, reaction. That was about what you'd expect, not from a secular public school, but from a fundy church, if the kid's presentation had been done there. (Compare this to this tolerant reaction from a Jewish congregation. HT to Abbie Smith.)


Again, shame on his mother for letting them kick her child around.

-Chaloobi

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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  19:41:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert
Back to the weight gain analogy, I see this as saying "No one can just decide to lose weight. Metabolism is not something people have conscious control over." While that may be true, we still decide what nutrition we put into our bodies or how much exercise we get. That's where choice comes into play. Our decisions still (literally) shape us.

By the same token, a sane mind will accept convincing ideas "on its own." It's a natural process that we do not have direct control over. But like our diet, we do control what ideas we are exposed to, what information makes it into our heads. We still have a choice in the matter.
I decided to lose weight, and I did. With time. What Dave said, in my mind, was only a matter of the ability to do it immediately vs. doing it over the time whatever the effort requires. I'm not so sure changing beliefs has to take time, though I confess in my own expereince major belief change does require a lot of time. On the other hand, while being indoctrinated in highschool religion class I heard stories of messed up individuals being saved by Jesus, that is aquiring strong belief, in a very short time. Anecdotal of course...

Also, liposuction allows you to lose weight speedy quick.

-Chaloobi

Edited by - chaloobi on 03/20/2008 19:43:05
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  20:48:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
chaloobi wrote:
Kid's got a lot of guts.
No more guts than a fundamentalist Christian who makes an equally public and passionate appeal to their religion in a mainstream school. They aren't just denounced as "Jesus freaks" by atheists. I can't commend guts by itself. When the kid called the writers of the Bible "old, smell Mesopotamians" I just rolled my eyes. I was a pretty radical and outspoken agnostic in HS, and I never would have stooped to that kind of empty rhetoric. Kid needs to read beyond Atlas Shrugged; free and critical thinking is about a lot more than atheism. Not to mention how to actually connect with an audience that you are trying to persuade.

Humbert wrote:
But they can change them, making religion wholly unlike immutable characteristics like race, gender, or sexual persuasion.
A person capable of high level logical/critical thinking (and I have no doubt many people of less than average intelligence are not capable of this) can extend their critical thinking skills enough to question and doubt their beliefs, enough to become humble rather than self-righteous about them, enough to support a secular and pluralistic society, but not to change them. Again, I challenge you to change your beliefs so that you believe in a literal Santa Clause.

Beliefs may not work like a light switch, with the ability to be turned on and off at will. However, that doesn't mean we are incapable of deciding which beliefs we choose to hold. Believing takes work. Religious beliefs exist in large part to the sheer amount of effort people put into maintaining them. The sermons they attend, the books they read, the people they choose to associate with. All these things are not merely a consequence of previously held beliefs, they maintain and reform existing beliefs. And all of these things are under people's control.

So do people choose their beliefs? You bet they do. Even deciding not to challenge your own personal beliefs is a choice. Incuriousness and intellectual lassitude are choices, and they don't need to be encouraged, defended or excused as unchosen, immutable states.
This assumes that deeply religious people don't question and challenge their beliefs. The most thoughtful of progressive religious clergy and adherents are champions of religious doubt. I've said this before many time; if skeptics bothered to educate themselves about progressive religiosity as much as they educated themselves about the dangers of fundamentalism, they'd learn all about how much progressive religionists value critical thinking and religious skepticism.

The people who are easily converted are people who never had a strong, thoughtful stance in the first place. I don't think that a highly educated Catholic theologian could choose to stop believing in a personal God any more than I could choose to believe in one.

Also, the kid didn't just compare religion to immutable characteristics. He said:
“I think it's [expletive] that religion is protected in this country. It's not like race, gender, ethnicity or nationality. People can't help those things. They can, however, help what they think.”
This shows to me that the kid isn't thinking through what he's saying – nationality can be changed. Also, while ethnic background can't be changed, people can and do decide to adopt a foreign ethnicity in practice all the time. Or by adoption; does child adopted from China but raised by white Americans have a Chinese or American ethnicity? As for gender, there

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

Edited by - marfknox on 03/20/2008 20:57:23
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2008 :  21:02:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dude wrote:
Marf is just doing more of her religious cheerleading.
I recall Penn and Teller saying they were cheerleaders for science since they are not scientists themselves but want science to happen and be accepted.

I am not a cheerleader for religion. I'm a player on a team fighting for a pluralistic, tolerant, ethically humanistic, and secular society.

So nyah.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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