The day started well and then got rockier. The pictures below are from earlier in the day, when we went to the park and decorated the cement with chalks and played and I worked on my laptop while Nefarious and her friends chased the pigeons. They’d splash water from the fountain, which the birds seemed to think was food and flock around, and then the girls would toss their jackets like a net to try and catch them. Unsuccessful, but tons of fun.
In later day news I got banned from BoingBoing today after posting in a series of conversations in my typical strongly-worded fashion about the burqa, which I said was a symbol of oppression and shouldn’t be held up as something “wonderful”. One of the Egyptian Muslims who posted explained that when men are exposed to an uncovered woman that they are unable to control themselves and rape is inevitable, and that since it’s harder for a man to control himself than it is for a woman to cover up, that a good woman covers up. No wonder we end up with societies than punish women who get raped. Another Muslim, who was actually featured by BoingBoing in a dedicated post holder her up wrote, with obvious arrogance, that she “chooses” to wear a head scarf before God says she has to, although she would not wear it if it weren’t for that. Doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me.
Oppressed people defending their oppressors is common — how many women have defended FGM, another example of a cultural institution that is problematic? How many abused wives are the most ardent defenders of their abusive husbands? Thankfully, here in Canada we have many groups that work to “rescue” immigrant women from abusive homes, a great many of them from homes that espouse the burqa — so don’t think this is some situation that’s isolated to places like Saudi Arabia. We have far too many honor killings, punishments for rape (for the one who was raped, not the rapist), and general inequality and repression of women in the name of Allah in Western nations… Not to say it doesn’t happen in Jesus’s name as well, but thankfully to a much lesser extent these days. But Christianity certainly has lots of blood on its hands as well.
Anyway, I took the stance that these things should not be held up as wonderful, and that we make a serious mistake when we blindly accept people’s religions in the name of avoiding being ethnocentric. Because BB tends to be supportive of things like the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which points out that all religion is an equal fallacy, and being “old” or having a lot of followers doesn’t give one validity), makes fun of Christians and Scientologists and other “uncool” religions constantly, and takes a strong atheist stance most of the time — I just picked up Sense and Goodness Without God based on their recommendation — I expected support. To my surprise there were a lot of people defending Muslim culture — even full-on burqa wearing — and I and others who took the same stance as me were attacked with strawmen arguments, mischaracterization, personal attacks. That said, a solid half of the posters — more than it appears since a number of posts were deleted — were not buying the “we need to accept and embrace people’s religions” meme.
It’s funny as well, because BoingBoing certainly takes the stance that you can’t torture, you can’t coerce people with threats of violence, and so on, yet that’s exactly what religions with a concept of hell — Islam and Christianity most obviously — do. How can you really have the free will to do something that’s opposed to your religion if you genuinely believe that you’ll suffer for all of eternity for it? I think as atheists we forget that, and we forget how hard it is for people to tear free of religion that they’re born into. In any case, religion by definition is coercive, and is the foundation for almost all of the inequality that history has seen, and for an awful lot of the violence as well. And to my thinking, once someone says “because God told me”, there’s no point in talking any more. It’s no more valid than “I know I need to wear this tinfoil hat because the voices in my head told me.”
Some of the BB staff was posting as well, attacking with strawman arguments and calling the atheist posters “very dull people”, “bores” and telling us to “put a sock in it” and even told me that “people like you are the reason the rest of the world sometimes wonders whether anyone in America ever opens a book or watches the news” which I thought a little off-base — although this person has a problematic track record; it’s actually quite amazing that Theresa Nielsen Hayden (who was a part of the run-in with Violet Blue, discussed to death on MeFi), the moderator in question hasn’t been banned herself given what a bad name she gives the site (not that Antinous is much better). BB would be doing themselves a big favor to fire them. Not only was I surprised to see BB staff take that view, but I was surprised to see them be so rude and closed-minded. Eventually Xeni stepped in and called people saying that all evil done in the name of religion needs to be pointed out racists and bigots (I don’t know if she meant me), which is funny coming from someone who’s been arguably cruel to American Christians (to say nothing of Scientologists) — but I think among white folks who seek out a “worldly” outlook that there’s a sort of self-loathing that combines an ass-kicking for things that are part of their own culture and a “noble savage” idolation of the rest of the world. I greatly enjoy Xeni’s posts and there is much we agree on, but I think she suffers from a sort of reverse racism that’s common among leftist intellectuals… And the sad truth is that this stance does a great deal of harm to women around the world by sustaining these cultures longer than they should be. I really feel strongly that we need to stand up against ignorance and take that huge evolutionary step away from the primitive fears and superstitions that have plagued us for too long.
Anyway, I was quite surprised to see BoingBoing, which has also argued strongly for free speech and a rational view of the future — a religion free view — actually censor me and lock or boot my account. I think more than being surprised I was disappointed. I’ve seen a lot of other people write that BoingBoing more and more is becoming a site that has heavy-handed moderators that are happy to push their own politics but censor those with other views, but this is the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of it. Hopefully my ban is temporary and I have not been martyred permanently. If you don’t want to live with just my one-sided view of what happened you can go read the lengthy discussions for yourself — although like I said some posts have been removed that change the flow and context a little.
Now I’m gonna watch Family Guy make fun of religion and feel validated.
*** Edit/update 1: Some posters at BB are saying “why can’t you just live and let live, they’re not hurting anyone” — a typical liberal response, that admittedly works for a great many differences in self-expression, but fails when it comes to religion. Outside of a general responsibility that we have to raise everyone up to a maximum level of civil rights and quality of life and so on (it’s not as if we don’t argue for freeing the slaves if their owner is kind), the issue is that the cultures are not just about the people involved currently as adults. They also force their children into the same problematic views (not that many don’t escape, but they escape primarily because we provide a safe alternative), sustaining this worldview that blocks progress. But more importantly, Christianity and Islam are proselytizing religions that have a deep desire to convert the world to their views — they want everyone to be Islamic or Christian, often by force and threat of death or violence. Even worse, for these religions, there is no distinction between politics and religion, and both faiths want to see the government and laws of the land be dictated by what their so-called “god” says. And that’s a big problem — look at Saudi Arabia, or even Kansas and other parts of America where Christianity has seeped into the law (anti-evolution and anti-gay laws being obvious US examples). So no, you can’t just “let them be”.
*** Edit/update 2: I’ve written BB staff asking if this is a permanent ban. Their moderator told me that I could only come back if I told him that I agreed that I didn’t think about my posts before writing them and [with the implication] that if I had thought about them I’d write something different [presumably something more in line with his opinions]… As I told him, I did think about my posts, I did read them over several times before writing them, and stand behind them. I think it’s more than a little insulting that I’d be expected to bow before him and “say uncle” to return.
Because I’ve seen folks like Hitchens and the FSM folks posted regularly enough on BB, I know that at least some of the BB staff must agree in general with me. For me to be banned from the site for repeating what’s often been held up on BB — and I have bought some of the books that push these same ideas on BB’s recommendation after they were featured — I think that’s quite surprising. I found it even more surprising when Xeni Jardin jumped in with low blow personal attacks, especially since I never resorted to personal attacks. I may have a strong atheist stance, but frankly that’s been a stance that BB has promoted quite often, and I was far from the only person saying it, and I see people continuing to say the same things. And as I said, BB has regularly said far worse things — deeply personally insulting things — about people of other faiths, most obviously Christianity and Scientology. When suddenly Islam is handled radically differently than other faiths, by those who as far as I know are not Muslims, I have to wonder who the real bigots are and what is driving the out of character behavior in these threads by the BB staff.
What makes the whole thing even sadder is that I was removed from the conversation without a warning, and without public comment stating I’d been banned or any sort of transparency. People have continued to respond to me, write about my posts, and ask me for follow-up, which I am unable to give, or even explain that I am unable to give. This type of heavy handed behavior is the sort of thing that BB has regularly spoken out against, and now, seeing it happen on BB, I have to wonder if it’s all just a game, a set of sham beliefs that aren’t really held but are simply marketing. I really hope that they write me back and tell me it’s not the case. I’ve been featured on the site numerous times, and up until now have been a big fan of the site, so it’s all very unfortunate…
*** Edit/update 3: I’ve still received no reply from anyone at BB (other than a brief letter from David, which I appreciated, letting me know he was traveling and that Teresa was not a BB employee, even though she says so on her website). The comment forum continues to be updated with direct replies to me and I have no way to reply and people have no ways of knowing I’m not able — real nice transparency from a site that so regularly criticizes other sites that do this. I am glad to see that there are a great many people saying the same thing I did, but it also makes me wonder more why I was singled out for banning. I’ve also been watching the discussion closely, and it’s been interesting to see comments getting deleted that take too strong an atheist stance, or more interestingly, object to the censorship and manipulation on the part of BB. I really continue to be surprised that a site with BB’s presumed politics would so aggressive engage in what’s essentially a psyop, trying to trick the public into thinking that the readership has a view that’s skewed to the particular pro-Muslim views of Xeni and the moderators and that there are less dissenting voices than there actually are. What an apparent fall from grace.