Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Smut for Smut

 A few years ago I heard about an event that a student atheist group was holding at a particular university. It was titled “Smut for Smut”. If you gave them a copy of some religious work, such as a Bible or Quran, they would give you a pornographic magazine in return. I cannot remember exactly what school this was at but I am fairly certain it is the University of Texas at San Antonio, because they are running the event again. The Atheist Agenda group is holding their “Smut for Smut” event from March 1st through the 3rd. And to no one’s surprise they have been met with opposition, from both theists and atheists.

I heard about this year’s event over at Friendly Atheist where Hemant Mehta said he considers the event to be a bad idea, and I can’t say I disagree. The whole thing is nothing but a bad publicity stunt that is going to do no favors to the public’s perception of atheists as a whole. But what I am interested in discussing is the exact reasoning for holding the event from one of the officers of the Atheist Agenda who submitted a guest post at Friendly Atheist.
When I read Hemant’s article, I wasn’t too surprised to see an atheist disagreeing with our campaign. We have found through doing this event that not everyone agrees with us, obviously. But to see atheists not agree with us does get our minds thinking. Many claim that they are ashamed to be affiliated as an atheist because of our campaign, and to that I must say that those people are damn cowards.

It may sound harsh, but if you are not ready to stand up for what YOU believe in, and defend yourself, then you are a coward and may as well go sit in a prayer circle with all the protesters.
The first thing I noticed was the immediate set up of a “you are either with us, or against us” mentality in an attempt to polarize the issue. Joe E., the author of the guest post, tries to give his group’s event legitimacy by trying to claim that all those atheists who disagree with it are, in reality, not standing up for what they believe in. Since when does standing up for what you believe in include running PR stunts intentionally meant to insult? I would hope his statement will cause other atheists to call out his “either or” fallacy. His next paragraph about standing up for what they believe in just further adds to the illogical reasoning.
How is Smut for Smut standing up for what we believe in? It’s simple. Attention. On the surface that may not sound like a good intention, but let me explain. Without the attention of the campaign, there is no way we could have had the opportunity for people to see that we do exist. We would not have the opportunity to have discussions about not only our beliefs but other people’s beliefs also.
So they believe in attention? It seems Joe E. is mixing the purpose of the event, getting attention in any way possible, with “standing up for what you believe in” to further try and give the event legitimacy by claiming the moral high ground. He continues with trying to legitimate their actions with a claim that is completely counter to the purpose of the event.
We are not here to disestablish any religion, and we are not here to tell someone that we are right and you are wrong and that’s the way it’s going to be. We are here to simply say, “Here’s what we have to say. I respect your opinion. I don’t believe it, but I hope you respect mine.”
This statement is hypocritical to the point of being inane. Where have they given any inkling to respecting those of differing belief? Joe already made it clear the group considers atheists who disagreed with the event to be “damn cowards”, what should make us believe their opinion of theists is going to be any better? He even gives a hint that it is not better when he said the “damn cowards” should go “join the prayer circle”.
The turnout of people from our Smut for Smut campaign only proves it’s working. Never have we had a response from the student body like this before. While it may seem like a lot of negative flack, sitting at the table I have talked to TONS of open minded people who are willing to listen if I’m ready to listen. And I’ve had EXTREMELY intelligent conversations with some. Now of course you get those people that first start off like they’re gonna be intelligent about it and then end up bible thumping you in the face. But it’s through Smut for Smut that we have had the opportunity to have our voices HEARD.
It is unclear exactly what he is referring to that is working. If he is referring to the idea of mutual respect he alluded to previously, then he is just delusional. Masses of people showing up to something proves nothing except they are good at media-whoring, which appears to be their real goal. All of the “standing up for what you believe in” seems to only be an afterthought as an attempt at legitimation.

If they think this is a good way to get their voices heard I think they really need ask themselves if this is exactly how they want to be heard. They are only further enforcing the negative stereotype of atheists and are now tying porn into it.
Too often are we as the minority overshadowed and undermined by the religious majority. Too often are we subjected to just listen to what the religious try to tell us is right without having a word to say back. Too often are we judged as immoral people because we don’t have faith in some God.
Is this supposed to make others pity them? The last line is especially ironic considering this event will only further cause the extreme Christians to consider atheists to be immoral while at the same time pushing away most of the moderate Christians who would otherwise be willing to listen.
I say to those against the campaign, you try finding a way to get HUNDREDS, possibly THOUSANDS of students to be willing to actually DISCUSS with you, in a way that isn’t going to offend someone.
Well this is not to difficult. I would hope just about any college student would be able to come up with an event that is not going to purposefully offend as many of the people they wish to discuss with as possible. I will admit that you will most likely always offend someone, but that is a far cry from attempting to offend everyone as the Atheist Agenda did.
We’ve tried. We’ve tried showing “The God Who Wasn’t There” with an open panel discussion. Again religious organizations tried to get us shut down because they were “offended.” But they can turn around and have bible study and show their religious stuff with no flack? No one showed up to the panel because we flaked out and hid our tails between our legs.
Sounds like the reason they failed was because they “flaked out”. Holding discussion such as the one they attempted is nearly always going to be met by opposition from certain extremist factions. Just push by it and continue with the event. What you should not do is just give up and instead decide to come up with the most controversial event you can think of just to grab the spotlight.
This time we stand strong in our mission statement. We stand as free thinking individuals with a mindset to listen and to express. We stand not to offend or change people’s minds (although we hope in the process they are able to question possibilities).
He never actually did make clear just exactly what their mission statement is. He also did not clarify exactly where “free thinking” had anything to do with this PR stunt, aside from the reasoning that if you do not think like they do you are a “damn coward”. He did, however, make it very clear that offense was meant to be given in the hopes that they could hog the spotlight.
We are here to tell the world that we are tired of being treated like misfits, and worthless humans with no sense of right or wrong.
And they do this by acting like a bunch of misfits, wonderful logic there.

It seems the Atheist Agenda, of the University of Texas at San Antonio, is just a group of people who lack the creativity to get their ideas out there in a legitimate and respectful manner. Thus, their only recourse is to revert to a childish attempt to piss off as many people as possible all at once in the hopes that they can somehow exploit the attention they receive from it.

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