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Not All Atheists Against Mother Theresa Stamp

02.01.10

An atheist organization called the Freedom From Religion Foundation has come out against the US Postal Service’s new stamp commemorating the late Mother Teresa, because she is a religious figure.  Naturally, an uproar on the blogosphere has ensued and rightly so.  This type of inflammatory event is precisely what many bloggers – on both sides of the political divide – live for.

I have no real interest in treading the same territory that has already been well covered.  My issue is with the leap that many bloggers have taken in suggesting that one atheist group speaks for all atheists everywhere.

The main news article breaking the story that I found was from Fox News, which bore the title: “Atheist Group Blasts Postal Service for Mother Teresa Stamp.”  From what I’ve read about the event, this is true.  Unfortunately, many in the blogosphere have neglected to include the word “group,” suggesting that all atheists are in fact against this new, postage-related development:

Patrick Madrid: “Atheists ‘go postal’ over new Mother Teresa stamp”

Right Pundits: “Mother Teresa Stamps Spark Controversy with Atheists”

Belief.net: “Sticky problem: atheists slam Mother Teresa stamp”

World Net Daily: “Atheists attack Mother Teresa”

To be fair, these are all very right-leaning websites that cater to their American Conservative audience, which is comprised of a strong Christian base, so it shouldn’t be surprising then that they have lumped one atheist group into the entire population of all atheists.  But, it doesn’t make it right.  And not all conservative blogs make this error, either:  The Christian Post reports on this with the headline of “Anti-Religion Group Chides USPS Over Mother Teresa Stamp.”  (But the author wastes no time marginalizing the atheists and agnostics as “freethinkers,” complete with snarky quotes around the word, in the first line of the story.)

A simple omission of the word “group” with regard to this story changes the tone and substance drastically.  It also removes much of the author’s credibility by revealing a very obvious bias off the bat.  And given how ridiculous the opposition to a Mother Teresa stamp is to just about everyone not part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, it wouldn’t take much to show that they don’t have much credibility on these postage matters (given that they didn’t oppose MLK, Jr.’s stamp, apparently, because he was involved in civil rights and just-so-happened to be a minister).  But when it’s reduced to an attack on all atheists as a group, the retort fails as well.

When your opposition already makes themselves look ridiculous and marginalized, there’s no point in bringing yourself down with them.

(H/T Hot Air)

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8 comments

  1. Hi — former atheist here (now Catholic) and I’m just tracking down various stories about this stamp … enjoyed your post, and I like the name of your blog. Reasonable discourse on the internet is highly underrated … thanks. :)


    • Hi Karen –

      Thanks for stopping by and enjoying my post. I agree with you that reasonable discourse is sorely lacking in the political blogosphere. I’d like to think that it will become more prevalent if we keep at it.


  2. Hi, I’m also a former atheist, now Catholic, doing some research on this stamp controversy. I appreciate 100% with your complaint. There are many blogs that I don’t read, even though I generally agree with their conclusions, because I object to rhetorical excesses like the ones you point out. People who are confident in their position should support it on its own merits without vilifying or misrepresenting the opposition.


    • Hi, Greg. Glad your research brought you to my blog.

      I find it curious that you say you agree with some blogs’ conclusions despite not reading them because of their rhetorical excesses. To me, that dilutes their arguments and would make me question the validity of their conclusions. Many bloggers start with their conclusion first and adjust the argument to fit their already establishes stance, regardless of how difficult it may be to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. Not that we don’t write with intention and purpose, but only that if it doesn’t add up, does the answer hold much weight?


      • Rhetorical excess certainly dilutes an argument, but it doesn’t necessarily invalidate it. Also, someone can have an invalid argument that nevertheless reaches a true conclusion that could have been proven by a valid argument.

        For example, if I construct a faulty mathematical proof for 2+2=4, that does not mean that 2+24, but that I might not be good at mathematical proofs. Also, if I rant and rave about 2+2 being 4, I may sound like a fool, but it is nonetheless true.


        • I had an HTML error in my previous comment. I meant to include a not equals sign, but it didn’t work. So what appears as 2+24 should have been 2+2 does not equal 4.


        • Right, but if you also remember from those wonderful days in high school algebra — if you didn’t get the work right, you got points marked off (if not entirely wrong) even if you got the answer correct.

          You’re right in that the conclusion could still be correct. But in the political blogosphere, it’s not cut-and-dried like 2+2 = 4. It’s not always right and wrong. Most of the discussions and arguments lie in that gray area. Which means that if you don’t have a strong argument with logical support, how can you truly have a solid conclusion? Just because people agree with said conclusion doesn’t make it more valid if the way you got there doesn’t make much sense.


  3. […] A recent comment from one of my older posts began a conversation about this very topic that I thought it was worthy of its own post.  This notion of arguments and logic is something that I find extremely interesting and will be exploring even more in-depth on a consistent basis with a new project of mine coming soon (shameless teaser, I know — but get ready for it). […]



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