Shortly after succeeding in getting her school to take down its unconstitutional endorsement of religion, student Jessica Ahlquist was inundated with insults and harassment. Some of it she got from fellow students, but most of it came by way of the Internet. I’ve seen coverage of this all of the place and here are my issues with it:
First, it’s terrible that she is being persecuted for standing up for the separation of church and state. People who don’t recognize the greatness of what she did are blinded purely by their belief that Christianity is somehow supposed to be given uber-respect at every turn.
Second, most of the coverage I have seen criticizes the abusive Christians by saying something like, “Oh, how Christian of you.” Yeah. Yeah, it is Christian of them. The whole point of virtually every religion is to not accept the beliefs of others. The fact that Christianity, like Islam, Judaism, and most other religions, does not distinguish between non-acceptance and intolerance compounds the problem. This is exactly what we should expect of the religious, so let’s do away with the sarcasm, as if we actually think they should be held to a higher standard. We should be prepared for this sort of reaction. Always.
Third, some of the comments directed towards Jessica have been to say she will burn in hell. These are held up as if they are just the worst thing in the world. I’ve got to say to them, so what? Yes, people believe in magical places where our consciousness – ya know, that thing that is a product of the physical forces within our brains – will magically reassemble in some other, magical land, only to be tortured eternally by way of an evil-creating yet somehow loving, magical god. It would be dismissed as kook talk if it wasn’t so mainstream.
All that said, I’m not surprised at the reaction. Aside from Christians tending to do this sort of thing, I expect assholery on the Internet. People aren’t particularly accountable, and even when they forgo anonymity, they probably won’t have to face up to their bullshit unless they happen to have celebrity status. Or if they happen to be a state representative, such as Peter Palumbo:
In what many find to be an open display of bigotry, Rhode Island State Representative Peter Palumbo recently referred to teen atheist Jessica Ahlquist as “an evil little thing.”
In addition to calling Ahlquist an “evil little thing,” Palumbo also made the claim that “she (Ahlquist) is being coerced by evil people;” the implication being that atheists and other secular Americans are “evil.”
Palumbo made his offensive and insulting remarks late last week on the John DePetro Radio Show, a Rhode Island talk radio program.
I don’t know all the details of the interview, but from what I’ve read, this is not bigotry. It’s a stupid and wildly inappropriate thing to say about a high school student, but it isn’t bigotry.
Palumbo, presumably a wishful pal of Lieutenant Columbo, is doing little more than displaying his ignorance. He is so accustomed to being in the dominate group that when someone challenges his assumed superiority he can’t help but pull out every stereotype he has ever been taught. The guy needs a good education. My guess is he failed to receive one, in part, because until now it has been allowed to distract and indoctrinate students with religious drivel in Rhode Island.
At any rate, I hope Peter Palumbo burns in hell.