“Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him.
"And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot 'em and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, 'Isn't it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn't it great that there's nothing wrong with this? There's no right or wrong, now is it dude?'
“Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, 'Wouldn't it be something if this was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.
“If it happened to them, they would probably say ‘Something about this just ain't right.'"
I’ll skip past the issue of the fact that this little speech uses the suffering of the female characters as mere props to teach the atheist man a lesson – others have written more eloquently and knowledgeably on that point than I could - and just get right to the point of my writing this. What the hell is wrong with this man?! And why, oh why, does anyone think he’s some kind of hero? Why does anyone pay him to speak in public? Who actually takes pleasure in hearing this man spout deranged fantasies of horrific violence inflicted on people to make a bullshit point?
And yes, I get that he thinks he has a point. Of course, he only thinks he has a point because he couldn’t tell one from a duck call in the first place. He thinks he’s refuting the atheist position that “there’s nothing wrong with this,” with the claim that “But you’d sure think it was wrong if it happened to you.” Except that’s not the atheist position in the first place! And what drives it farther out from even being within shouting distance of a point, even if you accept his implication that the lack of a god renders his scenario more plausible than the presence of one, it has absolutely nothing to do with whether one actually exists.
But let’s clear something up right here, right now: he is damn right that atheists would think that situation “ain’t right,” if it happened to them. Most of us also think that situation “ain’t right,” if it happened to anyone. You’d be hard pressed to find the atheist who thinks the behavior of the attackers in Mister Robertson’s story is in any way acceptable, that it shouldn’t be prevented, or that it shouldn’t be punished if it does happen. And even if you could find that atheist, I can guarantee you that their views would not be welcomed or shared by the larger atheist community.
On the other hand, if you believe this fellow’s holy book, the being he worships has ordered actions at least as horrific as the ones Mr. Robertson describes. And the Bible lauds as heroes the men who carried them out, while absolutely condemning the men who failed to commit fully to perpetrating such crimes. Belief in Phil Robertson’s favorite fiction is no panacea against horrific acts, as history has shown us time and time again.
But the fact that he makes statements like these – and is applauded by certain segments of the population for making them – raises once again the serious concerns that atheists have about the outlook they evidence. Do Phil, and his coreligionists, really envision themselves as people who would indulge in pointless violence, rape, and murder if they didn’t have god beliefs restraining them? Is that why they make these claims – because belief in eternal punishment really is the only thing holding them in check? Or do they never seriously contemplate stooping to such behavior, but for some reason they assume themselves to be the exception while everyone outside their belief system may just be biding their time before unleashing this kind of screaming depravity on them? I hope you can see why all of those possibilities are unnerving to us on the outside.
Atheists do have moral beliefs. They just have different reasons than religious people for holding them (and yes, in many cases these do result in us reaching different moral conclusions, both from each other and from the religious). I’ve spoken about them in other posts, and no doubt I will speak of them again in the future. That’s not really the issue of this post. The issue is that the kind of “othering,” evidenced by these speeches – the treating of other people as if they were alien and dangerous simply because they are “the other,” – is harmful and dishonest. For all of our sakes, I hope that we can repudiate such views and remember that we’re all in this life together.