Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's Safer Inside the Scare-Quotes

In her occasional scratchings for USA Today, Cathy Lynn Grossman is emerging as a leading light of missing the point (Cf.). Presently she has turned her tomato-sharp acumen to an American Humanist Association (AHA) advertising campaign she finds disagreeable:

[D]itching the thoughtful-alternative concept approach for an in-your-face aggressive one just in time for Hanukkah and Christmas may be less a call to "reason" than the kind of irrational annoyance of a Westboro Baptist Church demonstration.
I just want to pause the quotation briefly to admire the use of scare-quotes around the word reason -- always a canny rhetorical move -- so much so that I may well start perceiving the word as naked-looking without them.Grossman continues:
Those are the ones where the followers of Fred Phelps' twisted version Christianity march around the funerals for war veterans saying their deaths are God's retribution for society's acceptance of homosexuals. The distance between a hateful message from Phelps that "God is your enemy" isn't so far from saying God is hateful, is it?
Here I have to cede one, or maybe a half, to Grossman: when the AHA quotes a ghastly passage from Hosea, and when Phred Phelps cites a ghastly passage Leviticus, they're substantiating broadly compatible claims that the god of the Bible is a vindictive monster, one prepared to inflict profound suffering and death for what, in the eyes of reason, er, "reason," would seem to be minor transgressions.

Granted, it could be that the infants dashed against the stones in Hosea were, in a more complete version of the text now lost, described as having orchestrated dog-fighting rings, authorized torture, carried out some other filthy god's despicable commands, shielded child-rapists from legal accountability, or some such -- I'm just saying it's possible, or perhaps I should say "possible."

Even as Christmas and Hanukkah approach, the text of the Bible says what it says, and some of it holds large swaths of humankind in profound contempt. If Cathy Lynn Grossman's enjoyment of the holidays depends on a version of Christianity -- or maybe I should say "Judeo-Christianity" -- that freely purges its scriptures of all but the happy-talk, then it confirms that she should continue putting "reason" inside the scare-quotes.

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