Half Truths and No Questions Allowed

I’m going to take another brief break from my “Replacing Religion” series to talk about something I witnessed today that I found disturbing.

I was at a restaurant eating lunch when two men and three young boys (aged about 6 or 7) sat at the table next to mine. Something about the vapid smiles on the men’s faces set off my “Christer” radar – or maybe it was the school “uniforms” the boys were wearing. I looked carefully at the men and at the boys’ uniforms, but there were no crosses or other overt signs of Christianity. Figuring my radar had misfired, I returned to my lunch.

And then the men started talking to the boys. Loudly.

Something about their volume, tone, and the way they talked at and down to the boys, rather than engaging them in conversation, set my radar pinging again.

I managed to get a glimpse of the insignia on one of the boy’s shirts and was able to make out “St. James” something-or-other. Uh-huh.

I’d brought a book with me and had been reading when the men and boys arrived, so I tried to return to my reading, but these guys just couldn’t be ignored.

I could go on and on about all of the Christian/right-wing propaganda they were shoveling into these three young boys’ heads, but I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of it before.

At one point, the two men had a short discussion about the United States’ electoral college. One of the men then turned to the one black boy among the three children.

After working a bit to get the boy’s attention away from his lunch, the man said, “If you and I ran ten running races and I beat you each time by just one inch, who would get the prizes?”

“You would,” the boy answered.

“So,” the man went on, “if we ran ten running races and I beat you to the finish line every time by just one little inch, or by ten feet, or however much, I get all the prizes. Don’t you think that’s unfair?”

Before the boy could answer, the man delivered his lesson: “That’s how Mr. Obama got to be President.” (“Mr. Obama” was spoken in a very disdainful tone, and I could only imagine what sort of a message this was sending to a child who shared the President-Elect’s race, or at least half his race and a whole lot of his appearance.)

Did the man say anything to the boy about the fact that Mr. Bush got to be President in the same “unfair” way? Did he mention that Bush actually lost the popular vote (i.e., lost the real race) the first time he ran for President, or that his second race was basically a photo-finish and far closer than the race Obama ran against McCain? Of course not. But I sure wanted to.

Finally, I managed to swallow my disgust and return to my book, but as the boys were eating their desserts, one of the men took on that difficult-to-ignore “lesson” voice again. This time, he was speaking loudly to the other man, explaining how he had “deprived” one of the boys of some candy a few days earlier.

According to the man’s story, he’d had a chocolate bar for the boy. The boy had been playing, so the man told him to wash his hands before he got the treat. The boy asked why he needed to wash his hands before eating. Rather than answering the question, the man told him to wash his hands again. Again the boy asked why he needed to wash his hands before he ate. Again, the man’s only answer was that the boy had to wash his hands. Apparently this went on for some time and ended with the man eating the chocolate bar and the boy getting none. (And the man made a really big deal about how good the candy had been and just what the boy had missed.)

Now, this might sound like a story about a typical stubborn child refusing to do what he is told and paying the consequence by not getting a reward, but the way the man told the story made it clear that was not his point. His point was that he had not given the boy the chocolate because the boy had dared to ask a question, not because he hadn’t done as he was told.

Religion: half truths and no questions allowed…

Thanks for listening. I just had to get that off my chest.

4 Responses to “Half Truths and No Questions Allowed”

  1. I’m a random WordPress visitor, hope you don’t mind.

    Hmm, wouldn’t you say that perhaps that man’s asinine conduct and manner of addressing the child had more to do with racism, white privilege and fundamentalism than with religion per se?

    I respect a lot of your points, but from an outside perspective it seems as though you’re tending to set up a “straw man” concept of religion based on its most ignorant proponents and its most obvious weaknesses. Just a thought to consider.

    Also, your greyhounds are quite adorable.

  2. The Greytheist Says:

    Straw man? Maybe. But seeing as I’ve never met or heard of any nontheist racists, nontheist white supremacists, or nontheist fundamentalists, I’m going to stick with my idea that it all has a whole lot to do with religion and religious teachings/beliefs.

    As for basing my ideas on religion’s “ignorant proponents,” I’ve read a LOT of arguments by religion’s VERY well-educated proponents (and am continuing to read more), but I have yet to hear a single statement based on fact rather than faith. If I ever do come across any factual (provable) evidence to back up religion, I’d be happy to become a believer.

    And, no, I absolutely don’t mind random visitors. If I did, I wouldn’t have a public blog. ;-)

  3. Woah! We must have very different views on racism. In my view, it is a systematic problem in our society that stems from colonialism (powered by slavery), which is/was essentially profit-driven. It’s also a means by which to create an “other” who can be dehumanized for the sake of one’s own sense of group identity.

    Racism and colonialism have often exploited theistic terminology to serve their own aims and strengthen their perceived legitimacy, but racism definitely does not stem from original religious teachings (which are for the most part spirituality- and service-oriented), and is most certainly perpetuated by theists and non-theists alike who refuse to lend serious consideration to this social problem. I know plenty of people at my university who are not religious at all and they also feel free to repeat ethnic slurs.

  4. The Greytheist Says:

    Racism goes back *far* farther than colonialism, and it had a very strong religious component in those ancient times. Still, I pretty much agree with what you say in regard to racist *individuals*. However, what I’m talking about are organized groups (of racists, white supremacists, or fundamentalists), not individuals.

    I think our disagreement may be based on terminology. By “nontheists” I mean people who have deeply considered theism and rejected it – people who have actually heard of and know what the term “nontheist” means. ;)

    Whether it’s Odin, the Christian god, or some other supposed deity, racist groups very often use religion to support their beliefs. As you said, “racism and colonialism have often exploited theistic terminology to serve their own aims and strengthen their perceived legitimacy.” Such terminology – whether used in support of racism, white supremacy, fundamentalism, or some other social/cultural ill – doesn’t tend to appeal to or attract nontheists.

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