Student tears pages out of Bible, and in so doing apparently tore out a weak young lady’s heart
Another hat-tip to PZ “Eagle Eyes” Myers, who has spotted another newsworthy story.
A classroom incident at a Janesville high school two weeks ago is sparking some concerns about freedom of speech and school safety.
The incident in question involved a male high school student in Janesville, Wisconsin and his rather unorthodox use of a Bible in his class presentation. According to the disillusioned girl alluded to in the title, the student referred to the Bible as a “piece of crap” and then told his peers that he is going to do something that their “stupid little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend”. He then proceeded to tear out pages from the “holy book”.
The girl, Elle Jacobson said that she felt quickly threatened. So threatened that she is no longer attending the school, nor is her sister. Their parents are enrolling them in a new high school.
The boy is protected under the consitution with regard to his act of tearing pages from the Bible. Thankfully so, I might add. The school has not stated whether or not the boy is being suspended. He did however receive some sort of punishment. Consequently, 3 other students at the high school wore T-shirts to the school asking for the student to be brought back from punishment. The students were ordered to change their clothing.
1) The disparaging act. I had to think about this for a few to get an idea of how I should evaluate it. Before engaging in too much thought I thought it was actually pretty cool, but at the same time I was iffy about it. On the one hand, I always love to see people with the courage and conviction to stand up and plainly say that this whole God thing is just patent absurdity. As Greydon Square has said in his raps, it’s Santa Claus for grown-ups. We’re living in a world in which hundreds of millions of adults stubbornly cling to fairy tales that are absolutely and completely beyond ridiculous.
On the other hand, though, thinking in terms of the Golden rule and just general compassion, I think that he may have gone to far. I say “may” because for all I know this is a community of Christian hard-liners in which many go around calling homosexuality sinful, view atheists as incarnations of the devil and Christian Conservatism as the only non-evil way to live. If that be the case then I may want to reconsider my position. But if they are more liberal Christians who are generally pretty accepting of other lifestyles and tend not to enforce their views on others, then I think that he probably was more than overly aggressive. Presenting your case for atheism and the irrationality and simply nonsensicality of religion is one thing. Pointing out the ridiculousness of the attempted defenses put forth is quite okay, too. But this is stretching it. I could see if his point was simply to demonstrate the genuineness of his lack of fear, but if this girl is being honest, it seems that he was deliberately trying to deeply offend people for its own sake.
2) This girl is being beyond ridiculous. She felt threatened? THREATENED? How does a person tearing pages out of a Bible threaten you? If this girl is so deeply attached to her mind-bendingly naive belief system that she feels a deep sense of threat at seeing someone brazenly mock her beliefs, there’s a problem. Something is wrong when a person reacts the way she did. I’m not endorsing the approach taken by the speaker, but this is not a proportional response of a person with a healthy mind. To be clear, I am not mocking her right now about mental health issues. Far from it. I am quite solemn in saying that something is wrong. When someone has been raised to believe wholeheartedly in patent absurdity and is so attached to these beliefs that attacks on them bring her to a state of fear or great anguish, something is wrong. A person like this is living their life in a state of constant vulnerability. To what lengths of self-deception and information filtering will she go to in her life to preserve her beliefs? What types of anxiety is she always prey to? And if she invests this much in her belief system and the system becomes rattled, what a horribly precarious psychological situation to find oneself in. To have to pit honesty and rationality against the perhaps the greatest fear she will ever face: acknowledging that much of the framework through which she interpreted life, morality, meaning, and purpose through may have all been based on what was all along rather transparent fiction. To have so much invested in just about any belief—so much that if the belief were threatened one could fall apart—is dangerous in itself. But for that belief to be one of irrationality, that’s could very well be a recipe for anguish. Now, am I saying that religious belief does this to all believers? No. But judging by her response to the event in question, it seems that her deep commitment to her faith may actually present a persistent threat of psychological instability.
I’ve been learning lately through meditation and a bit of Buddhist reading that becoming too invested in one’s beliefs (or possessions, other people, and so on) can be very risky and potentially destabilizing. I’m not saying not to have beliefs, things, or relationships. But for one to establish a deep sense of dependence on these, to invoke them strongly in their sense of personal identity, to the point where one cannot see oneself without them, that could be something worth avoiding.