Leave the Goats Alone

by | June 30, 2016

Ages ago, when I had a crappy office temp job, the news reported a church arson. (Office chitchat was common but most people were polite enough to avoid politics and religion, in favour of sex and office gossip.) One of my coworkers reflexively blamed satanists and atheists for the arson. I didn’t say anything, but I think he noticed my “raised eyebrow”.

The very next day, the news was that it was a member of the church who was being charged as the arsonist. To his credit, without any prompting my coworker admitted his mistake.

As humans we are often disposed to make excuses for our own, while easily vilifying those who are not. Often the worst grudges are personal. We should be wary of goats.

“The politics that scapegoats others, the immigrant, the refugee, someone who seems different than us, we have to call what this mentality is,” Mr. Obama told a joint session of Parliament. “A threat to the values that we profess … we have to stand up to the slander and the hate.”

Of course sometimes we get what we deserve… we actually elected a prime minister who never learned how to shake hands properly. Hopefully, Obama set aside some time to help his protege with the whole shoe tying thing as well.

12 thoughts on “Leave the Goats Alone

  1. Randy

    At the same time, let’s not be afraid to call a spade a spade.

    Any set of values that welcome inclusion of other values that explicitly seek their destruction are no values worth having at all. Unlike characteristics like sex or race, religion is a set of ideas. And one religion in particular is in a global war against everyone else (including each other).

    Obama lost all credibility with his response to Orlando, the largest terror attack on US soil since 2001. Islam is what caused Omar’s homophobia. Islam is what offered Omar an Allah-approved way to deal with it. He called himself an Islamic warrior. He did it during Ramadan, as Islamic State requested. Islamic State took credit.

    It’s not scapegoating, when it’s reality.

    1. Indi

      Given that the “spade” you brought up as an example is an Islamic terrorist, I have to wonder who in the hell you think is afraid to call them out. Seriously, do you think there are actually people who are afraid to blame Mateen’s actions on his religious beliefs? (Other than Muslim apologists, naturally, but why would anyone take *them* seriously?) Who would those people be? Certainly not Obama, despite your dishonest insinuations to the contrary; he not only explicitly called out Islamic terrorism as the motivation, he even made the connection to its homophobia.

      At any rate, this is a non sequitur. What Joe is referring to is the way people demonize others merely for being “others”. This is becoming a *serious* problem in contemporary political dialogue. It was a favoured tactic of Harper, it was the key to Brexit, and – as per the article – it’s Trump’s bread and butter. Demonizing others merely for being “others” is entirely different from criticizing bad ideas – whether they’re bad ideas held by “others” or not. Obviously if some group has a terrible idea and you are critiquing the idea, there’s no problem. But if you are saying there’s something wrong with the *people*, rather than some idea they hold… and especially if you are just *ascribing* some idea to them (that is, *they* are not the ones claiming the idea; *you* are the one asserting they believe it), you are in problematic territory.

      Just read the comments on this blog and you’ll see plenty of examples of people railing against immigrants, etc. – often in astonishingly clueless ways. And there are depressingly too many commenters who just rant against “Muslims” (or “Islam” just as an identity that people claim) rather than any specific belief or claim – or, more often, who bring up complaints about Islam that are completely unrelated to the topic (and usually only applicable to radicals and extremists, rather than the vast majority of Muslims) as a pretext for their bigoted ranting.

      In fact, it’s rather troubling that you took the bait about “the immigrant, the refugee, someone who seems different than us” and made the leap immediately to a mass-murdering terrorist who was neither an immigrant nor a refugee, and who was not mentioned either in the post or the linked article. You might want to stop and think long and hard about your own biases and preconceptions.

      1. Tim Underwood

        “Islam is what caused Omar’s homophobia.”

        “Christianity is what caused George’s homophobia.”

        “Judaism is what caused Frank’s homophobia.”

        Politicians avoid stating these conclusions.

        1. Joe Post author

          Marc Lepine was an atheist, therefore atheism causes misogyny.
          Damn politicians.

          1. Tim Underwood

            You’re right about this. Remember atheism isn’t a set of morals. Humanists can be atheist or believer.

            His father was an enthusiastic woman disparager. This mindset probably links back to his upbringing in a Muslim household or community.

            The disrespect for women persisted, two generations after a lot of drifting away from the source culture. I don’t think this is particularly unusual. The conclusion was this was a hate crime, but even hate crimes require explanation.

        2. Indi

          Or because Joe’s comment probably isn’t clear enough: “Politicians” avoid stating those “conclusions” because they are reductionist, ill-informed, stupid, and ultimately either beside the point or flat-out wrong.

          For example: Mateen grew up in Florida. The governor of Florida – along with most previous governors and most of the government in general – is homophobic. However, the governor of Florida is not a Muslim. So the “conclusion” could be reached that Mateen’s homophobia was caused by Florida, not Islam.

          And that “conclusion” would be just as stupid as the one you want reached.

          If the problem is homophobia, the problem is homophobia. It makes no sense to change the target to Islam. Islam is not only far from the most virulent source of homophobia, it’s sometimes even an ally. If you want to criticize Islam, then criticize Islam, but don’t insult everyone’s intelligence by pretending you’re out for Islam because of its homophobia. By trying to shift the topic from homophobia to Islam, you are actually *distracting* from the problem of homophobia. You are making yourself part of the problem, not part of the solution.

          1. Indi

            > His father was an enthusiastic woman disparager. This mindset probably links back to his upbringing in a Muslim household or community.

            Do you not realize how astonishingly bigoted that comment is?

            Seriously, homophobia is hardly something uniquely Islamic. Practically everyone over the age of 60 is at least marginally homophobic. Practically *EVERYONE*, in the whole world. (And a massive chunk of those under 60, too.) You don’t need to look at the “source culture” of Mateen’s ancestors to find homophobia; just look at fucking Florida in general. You don’t need to assume his “mindset” came from “his upbringing in a Muslim household or community”; most households or communities in America would have inspired basically the same mindset. You just don’t need to assume Islam was the culprit to explain Mateen’s bigotry.

            (Same goes for misogyny. Also not the least bit uniquely Islamic.)

            If you don’t care about homophobia as a problem, fine. But what you’re doing – exploiting the issue of homophobia and the tragedy of the shooting merely as a pretext to take more cheap shots at Islam – is not helping. On any level.

            The explanation for homophobia is homophobia. That’s it. Case closed. There is no reason to look any further. Homophobia is the problem. What caused Mateen’s (presumed) homophobia? Doesn’t matter. In a culture as thick with homophobia as ours, it’s impossible to say anyway. Could’ve been Islam, but it also could’ve been the gun culture he was into, or the law enforcement culture he worshipped, or the work-out culture – all of which are virulently homophobic – or it could’ve been a combination of all of those things and more.

            But let’s face facts: You are not looking for an explanation for a hate crime. You are looking for an excuse to bash Islam. You have already decided on the culprit, and now all you’re doing is trying to twist the situation to justify ranting about it.

  2. Tim Underwood

    All the so called Abrahamic faiths preach antigay prohibitions. For a nonbeliever to be antigay, he or she, would have to be influenced by their community.

    Atheists have no, atheist based, issue with gay people or Semitic language people. We are bombarded, every bloody day, with anti-Semitic charges and anti-LGBT charges that have absolutely nothing to do with nonbelief. While I’m at it, all this crap about skin colour has nothing whatever to do with nonbelief.

    All these problems are vestigial remnants of faith based cultures. All these old story books, being memorized by the horny faithful, have ludicrous narratives about race, sexuality and language.

    These issues only impinge on our lives because we have to share the marketplace with these fucking nuts.

    1. Indi

      > All the so called Abrahamic faiths preach antigay prohibitions. For a nonbeliever to be antigay, he or she, would have to be influenced by their community.

      No one is saying that those religions – in fact, *most* religions – don’t preach homophobia. It is the second sentence where the fallacy lies.

      You seem to think that “community” is a passive receptacle of whatever religion puts in to it, and thus religion is ultimately to blame for anything the community believes. That’s obviously wrong. History is flush with cases of religions being influenced by social attitudes. Religion is a chameleon that adapts to reflect and amplify the cultures it exists in. Just take Christianity for example – depending on where or when you look, Christianity has been pro- and anti-slavery, “turn the other cheek” pacifist or Crusade violent, “live like a pauper” austere or Prosperity Gospel greedy, and so on.

      Consider that *all* religions preach truckloads of nonsense, but in practice their adherents only pick and choose the bits that they’re most comfortable with. What do you think that means? Why do you think (for example) Evangelical Christians are *fanatical* about the anti-gay bits of the Bible, but utterly uninterested in the bits that tell them to sell off their possessions or that women should keep their heads covered and stay silent? If religion is the ultimate influence, how do those facts make sense?

      Answer: they don’t. Thus it is *NOT* true that people are homophobic ultimately because of religion, but rather that their religions preach homophobia because they are homophobic. Among believers where homophobia is not rampant, those same religions *don’t* preach homophobia. There is a very complex symbiotic relationship between hatred of “others” and religion, and boiling it down to a simplistic jingo like you’re trying to do makes actually fighting *both* problems – the homophobia, and the religion – harder.

      When the topic is homophobia (or whatever) and you try to shift the blame to religion, you a) distract from the efforts at solving the actual problem (homophobia); b) create divisiveness between religions and non-religious people who otherwise would have been united in fighting homophobia; c) ignore, minimize, and disparage all the other causes of homophobia that *aren’t* religion; d) let *non*-religious homophobes largely off the hook; and e) force people who might have been your allies against religion to choose between criticizing religion or homophobia… and many of them will probably turn their back on criticizing religion in favour of going after homophobia. In other words, when you try to shoehorn efforts against one evil into efforts against your pet peeve evil, you weaken *both* efforts.

      There have been *plenty* of examples of unambiguously religious evil, and there *will* be more examples in the future. There’s no need to co-opt this particular case. For fuck’s sake, over a hundred gay people were murdered or hurt… just let the anti-homophobia activists have that one. Not everything needs about about religion.

  3. Joe Post author

    “All these problems are vestigial remnants of faith based cultures”

    I’d say you’re giving religion way too much credit.
    Ask yourself where did your “faith based cultures” get their hatred of gays?

    Unless you believe that there was a golden age of homoerotic acceptance until the demon Yahweh gave Adam the apple of homophobia….

    I mean, I like blaming the Jews… Er.. Uh…I mean…the Abrahamic religions… as much as the next goy, but there is no Yahweh, so ultimately this sort of thing arises from our own, very human, propensity to have gross and often erroneous ideas about ‘other’ people who are different or in competition with us.

    As an example, in my own youth, ‘gay’ was about the worst thing you could accuse someone of being. It wasn’t because faggots were sinful, the kids didn’t care about that, it was because getting fucked, either in the ass or the mouth, was a sign of weakness in ‘men’. Only sluts and sissy boy weaklings get fucked. Men do the fucking. Because reasons.

    No religion needed, just arbitrary macho bullshit.

    Add to that… Plato, not a bit Muslim, in his early writings supported the gay, but later wanted to prohibit it entirely.

    Has religion had an influence? Of course, but it was created by people, who love to make broad, often-wrong generalizations, and then turn around and claim them as fact.


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