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.

Analysis:

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.

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Comments
12 Responses to “Student tears pages out of Bible, and in so doing apparently tore out a weak young lady’s heart”
  1. Xander Legere says:

    This one is too simple for me. While I suppose I consider the bible ‘a stupid book’ this guy sounds like the biggest douche bag. I mean come on ‘stupid little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend’ has no relevant value in any argument on the book. Its only a step up from book burning, which I’m sure is the wrong message that the secular community is trying to send… correct?

    “Courage and Conviction” – Something that was painfully absent from this attempt at being either a jackass or simply wanting to destroy a book in school. Either way it was not classy, it was simply unnecessary.

    “it seems that he was deliberately trying to deeply offend people for its own sake.” – A shock value that to this one girl probably was second to none, and I’m pretty sure that was his intent.

    “How does a person tearing pages out of a Bible threaten you?” – While he didn’t burn the book in front of her, the use of force to destroy the book I would probably find a tad threatening if I had any faith or belief swirling inside my head. While you can make the argument that she is too invested in her beliefs and therefore to sensitive, this punk went over the top – yeah he’s a punk I said it, because this was a punk ass thing to do – verbally insulted her, made a threat and then followed through immediately. When she goes home, how is she not supposed to be affected by that ? I’m getting into what ifs, and I don’t know what is in her head, but suppose she got to wondering what this kid will do next.

    This guy sounds like the kind of person who would beat someone up and yell “Where is your god now!?”

    BTW Ron next time I see you, I’m going to beat you up and tell you “God sent me bitch!” lol jokes my friend!

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  3. ronbrown says:

    Xander: Agreement with much of what you said.

    The only thing is that I just don’t see how this is a threat/safety issue. I don’t see how someone can assume that tearing pages out of the Bible is a serious signal to oncoming violence. While Bible defacing and subsequent Christian-beating would be consistent with each other, I just don’t see how the former is a significant predictor of an impending Christian “witch hunt”.

    I don’t doubt the plausibility that tearing pages out of the Bible can elicit a psychological reaction in others. Perhaps this is a valid goal to pursue, not for its own sake but for giving a clear demonstration of a particular message, such as “I am not kidding you, I am not afraid in the slightest of ‘God’ because there is no good reason to believe in ‘God'”. This sort of thing is done constantly. Anti-abortion activists show pictures of aborted fetuses (is the plural of “fetus” “fetuses” or “feti”?), 3rd world charities show images and video of delapidated villages and emaciated children, animal rights activists show images of slaughtered animals, and so on. It is a common tactic in presenting a message pertaining to morality to try to activate people’s emotions and bring people into closer contact with the subject matter being addressed–to make it more real. Of course, I don’t support people being disingenuous in this process–e.g., comparing abortion to the holocaust (and for the record, I support the legality of abortion), but it can be a valid and relatively effective way of communicating a moral message.

  4. ronbrown says:

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  5. Colin says:

    You are right, Ron, activating people’s emotions is a valid goal in trying to convince someone of something. Advertisers use it ad nauseum, people who fought the slave trade used it successfully, people who wanted to stop the Holocaust used it successfully and now pro-lifers are using it successfully.

  6. Xander Legere says:

    This seems to be a post of general agreement.

    The only thing that I believe render comparison to third world charity’s and anti-abortion advocacy groups invalid is the fact that so far no one has convinced me that this guy was anything more than an asshole trying to push around other students.

    Don’t get me wrong, lets have dialog/debate to address the humiliating fervor of which hardcore religious zealots cast upon society. What we should not do, is applaud a jackass who is one step away from beating them up for believing in the stupid.

    I guess what I’m saying is: Being dismissive of religious ideas is fine and dandy, being a jerk and irrationally tearing pages out of a book is not conducive to public education. It only paints secularists as irrational because we get roped in to those who share our beliefs but have not presented it rationally.

    Rational: Starting a student group to raise awareness and educate the sheep about secular thought.

    Irrational: “Blowing their minds” by ripping up a book.

    South Park stating god is a fictional character who lives in Imagination land…

    “Priceless”

  7. Xander Legere says:

    I thought about joining that spam group for fun, so I could get some ‘sweet Christan ass’ but by the looks of them, the ass would not have been very sweet, so much as fattening.

  8. root says:

    My daughter, was carrying some material on Biblical verses in her binder during her math class. Another student found it, took it to the teacher. Next thing you know, she’s suspended for Bible verses in class. The verses represented depravity and contradictions in the Bible.
    If my 10th grade daughter can’t carry bible verses in her binder at school, what rights does anyone have to carry a bible in their bookbag.
    The school is a public school in SC.

  9. Stoobs says:

    Tearing up a bible is silly. If you want to get gods attention, you’ll have to do better than that! I mean, hell, god doesn’t even seem to notice when people tear up priests.

    Now, if he’d had gay sex with the bible…

  10. go go going says:

    hmm….a student is protected under the constitution of which this country is based upon by Christianity? yeah sure we can all say what we want to say or protest how we like to protest, but to literally rip the pages out of the bible, not only blasphemy, its just. what are you proving to any one by ripping them out? well obviously only one answer can lead to the fact of not understanding God. or believing in Him…to the girl who feel’s threaten, she has every right to feel threaten by some one who is taking her heart out..I not to judge any one but wow, how could some one present a speech of such anti-Christianity crap? doesn’t make much sense

  11. A. R. Fritz says:

    I agree with Xander when he said “this guy sounds like the biggest douche bag. I mean come on ’stupid little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend’ has no relevant value in any argument on the book.” If you want to argue against something you have to have a RATIONAL argument. Simply saying an idea is stupid and calling the people who believe in that idea are stupid, proves nothing just makes people mad. He did not bring up any reasons WHY he didn’t believe in the bible, he did not state any points that might cause anyone to think about what it is that they are putting their faith in and whether or not it is concrete. He just was like “YOUR STUPID and I’m going to rip up the Bible now” What? It is most likely that, besides the girl mentioned, any Christians present during this little outburst did not even so much budge away from their beliefs because there was nothing, no substance in the argument, to convince them, in fact the outburst probably strengthened some of their beliefs even more because the boy was shedding a negative light on atheism by showing what an ass he was. Nobody thinks “Oh this guy is an ass, I want to believe what he says”. If you are an ass, nobody is going to want to listen to you, even if you are intelligent and have grand ideas.

    Now, I know I have been totally blasting this boy, because what he did was irrational and unnecessary, but after thinking about it, maybe it would have been hard for him to produce a calm argument. This is because as soon as religion is mentioned in a public school, either for or against, everybody immediately tries to shut you up. Public schools don’t let students present arguments against or for religion because religion is a “touchy” subject and “People might get offended”. So when students feel it necessary to portray their feelings they have to do it in a brash manor because they don’t have enough time to put forth a well organized and supported argument. But even in a big outburst you CAN produce at least one valid point, so this doesn’t excuse the boy.

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  1. […] by ronbrown on January 2, 2008 A few days ago I posted a story on a high school student in Janesville, Wisconsin, who gave a fiercely anti-Christian class […]



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