Saturday, April 05, 2008

Picketing the Pope

Hemant Mehta questions whether protests against the Pope will be effective. Effective at what? Hemant is (justifiably) cynical: "If there is any media about this, most people are just going to see it as atheists angry about religion (What’s new?, they’ll say) as opposed to angry with the Pope’s specific policies."

Well duh. And all the media about the women's suffrage, the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement, etc. portrayed protesters as criminals, shit-disturbers and freaks. And they'll portray atheists as angry about religion. The media are run by the powers-that-be, and they will portray any protest to the status quo unflatteringly. That's their job.

If you want to protest the Pope, do it because that's what you want to do. If you're not hurting anyone and you're staying within the law (at least the good laws), then I have nothing to say against whatever you want to do.

And, amazingly enough, many of us actually are angry about religion. We don't want a kinder, gentler religion any more than we want a benevolent tyrant. We want freedom, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, and freedom from religion, which is inherently authoritarian.

We will never rationally persuade the religious majority to let go of their hateful and fear-based superstitions. We will never rationally persuade them to abandon their desire to have everyone adhere to their ridiculous dogmas. They are not rational people, and when they say, "Every knee will bend," they really mean it.

Do what you want, but I will offer this observation: Every oppressed group has acquired civil rights because they made themselves so noisy and obnoxious that it became easier for the oppressors to recognize their rights than to continue to oppress them. No oppressed group has every achieved civil rights by rational argumentation and appeal to the "better" nature of the oppressors. No oppressed group has had a third party effectively grant them liberty.

We see the closest to "rational argument" and a third-party grant of rights in Roe v. Wade in the first instance (and 35 years later women are still fighting for their reproductive rights) and the Civil War in the second (freeing the slaves into Jim Crow, the KKK, indirect disenfranchisement, requiring the Civil Rights Movement a century later). Remember, Martin Luther King was assassinated, and civil rights for black people are still not fully established.

Atheist, freethinkers, skeptics and humanists are not going to throw off the yoke of oppressive dogmas and superstitions by being polite, moderate, measured or friendly. If you want to be friendly, that's fine, but remember that's what you want to do, and your preferences, your agenda, your beliefs have no more authority than the Pope's.

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