The Problem of Silence

There is an activity popular amongst those who consider themselves tolerant or “enlightened” that occurs at meetings and gatherings both public and private.  This is is known as a “moment of silence.”  It takes place at the same time as what would traditionally be a prayer.  However, those demanding this moment of silence believe that a prayer to any particular god is an act of prejudice as there may well be those in attendance who worship a god other than the one to whom the majority would be praying.  In their benevolence and understanding, in their supreme tolerance of others, these people choose the moment of silence as a way to show their respect for all faiths.  I think this practice is at best foolish and at worst insulting.

This video should highlight the problem, but let me make it as clear as possible.  There is little in the way of “respect” shown to someone’s god when you 1) don’t let them say it’s name out loud, and 2) grant equal “respect” to other gods, you know, the ones who don’t exist for the believers.  All you can succeed in doing is belittling the beliefs of the devout, and this should not be surprising.  After all, how other than a veiled insult can someone take the suggestion that their god, the real one(s), is the same as all the false gods that adherents to other religions think exist?  It is ridiculous to think that anyone even could take such a situation any differently if they’re paying any attention at all to what’s happening.

Think about it.  Say that you’re a Muslim, and you believe Allah is the One True God.  What you have is a situation where the people leading the moment of silence saying both that it is appropriate for others to pray to false gods, to flaunt their status as an infidel in your face, and that you yourself should afford such behavior some measure of respect.  Who are these people to demand something so absurd of someone?  Of course, the same goes for an adherent to any religion that holds that it is wrong to worship false gods, that being most of them.  Certainly, Christianity is one of those religions, the first one, two, or three (depending on how you count them) of the Ten Commandments dealing with that very thing.  It is foolish to think that any Christian who takes the Ten Commandments seriously would be comfortable with this moment of silence that grants false gods the same respect as God.  I mean, duh.

Worse, the only people who might not be upset about this, the only people who might appreciate such a situation, are the very ones for whom such a demonstration of “respect” is wholly unnecessary.  That is, it is only those people who are comfortable with other people worshiping different gods, who take no offense at such activity, that would be okay with this generic “moment” in the first place.  I mean, if I don’t think it’s a big deal that everyone gives respect to my god, then I don’t think it’s a big deal that everyone gives respect to my god!  For that reason, this attempt at pacification and tolerance is pointless in relation to the only people for whom it might be acceptable.

Then we have the issue of non-believers and those who might believe in a god but just don’t like him.  For atheists, the demand that they take a moment to show respect for nothing is just strange.  What could the point of that be?  Surely it can’t be to show respect for gods they don’t think exist.  How insulting, how patronizing and condescending, it would be for an atheist to pat someone on the back and say, “You go ahead and pray to your imaginary friend.”  Even worse, if that’s possible, would be for the individual who believes but refuses to give respect to the deity.  Imagine someone who looks at the world with its various catastrophes, e.g. the floods, hurricanes, genocide, raping of babies, and the burying of women up to their necks in the sand for the purpose of crushing her skull with rocks until she is dead, out of “respect” for a god no less, and has concluded that no amount of evil could exist without a designer, an infinitely powerful fiend whose sole desire is to torment and cause suffering.  That person almost certainly has no desire to show respect for that god, and yet this is exactly what this moment of silence demands of her.  That’s absurdity of cosmic levels.

This demand for a moment of silence can only be made by those who are woefully ignorant or just jerks who don’t care about or respect the actual beliefs of others.  Let’s cut this crap out.

*Lest there is any confusion, I do not have in mind here anything like the similarly-called “moment of silence” used as an opportunity to remember the dead at funerals and memorial services or anything of that nature.

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7 Responses to “The Problem of Silence”

  1. James Gray Says:

    think the moment of silence could also refer to the common assumption that all religious deities and supernatural entities somehow refer to the same thing. “Let’s all pray to God even though we all understand God in differing ways.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment of silence, but weddings and funerals taking place at churches always request that everyone pray (implying that the prayer is to the official church God). I think that experience to a nonbeliever could be something like an anthropological experience seeing others in a differing cultural.

  2. Robert Stovold Says:

    I think the complaint about atheists having to use the silence to pay respect to nothing is a bit weak. We can, after all use silence to think about ideas rather than pay our respects. However, atheists can’t make themselves think creatively in the way that believers make themselves pray, so I agree that non-believers are still being short-changed! Better to skip the silence and get on wiht the job in hand!

  3. SkiffytheAndroidKangaroo Says:

    I find it kind of funny that an atheist is sitting around pontificating on how allowing a moment of silence for everyone to do their respective thing is really an insult to religious people because it allows for people to pray to different Gods.

    I don’t need to “Think about it”, I’m already a religious person and yes, I think it’s appropriate for other people to pray to false gods, and flaunt that in my face.

    “It is foolish to think that any Christian who takes the Ten Commandments seriously would be comfortable with this moment of silence that grants false gods the same respect as God.”

    No, your entire position is foolish. A moment of silence grants nonexistent Gods nothing. It grants people respect and dignity.
    I imagine that you consider yourself superior to the intolerant religious among us, yet you are here advocating stupid religious discrimination of the kind not advocated by all except the most extreme religious people – and suggesting that it is par for the course for most religious people!
    That may appear reasonable to you, but if that’s the case then you’ve been hanging around in your own bubble and echo chambers too long, religious people are not the way you are portraying them, they do not believe the things you are attributing to them here, and therefore the conclusions you draw are false and kind of stupid for the vast majority of religious people. (Had you stuck ‘I’m talking about hard-line nutters’ in your post it would have been magically made correct and much less stupid.)

    “For atheists, the demand that they take a moment to show respect for nothing is just strange.”

    You also don’t seem to understand what is happening at all. The atheists are not being asked to grant any respect for a being that doesn’t exist, it’s a matter of respect to the other human beings at the meeting! Surely you acknowledge that they exist?

  4. Robert Stovold Says:

    Skiffy, you’re correct to point out that silence can’t grant non-existent gods anything. However, it accords the same respect to believers of false faiths as it does to believers of the true one (if indeed there is a true one). It therefore legitimises false beliefs, and annoys atheists who don’t believe in any god at all – so the State is better off not bothering with it. I certainly respect the human rights of Christians, and can respect many aspects of the personality of some Christians. But I can’t respect the religious elements of their beliefs, any more than i can respect the belief in a flat earth.

    Perhaps many Christians can and do respect those who believe in other gods – but given that this flies in the face of certain biblical verses, it just shows how some Christians pick’n’mix.

  5. SkiffytheAndroidKangaroo Says:

    “However, it accords the same respect to believers of false faiths as it does to believers of the true one (if indeed there is a true one).”

    Sounds like the humanitarian and moral thing to do to me.
    Of course I’m a nice liberal type, perhaps you are not.

    “It therefore legitimises false beliefs, and annoys atheists who don’t believe in any god at all – so the State is better off not bothering with it.”

    It only annoys intolerant atheists who can’t bear to see someone else doing something that they personally see no value in. Frankly annoying intolerant atheists is not something we should be worried about and more than we should be worried about upsetting intolerant religious people. (For example those offended by other people celebrating religious festivals from faiths they don’t believe in)

    Hell, annoying them is probably a good thing, and the government should be out there pissing them off all the time. Waving banner in front of their face saying “We believe in shit you think is stupid. Suck it.”

    “I certainly respect the human rights of Christians, and can respect many aspects of the personality of some Christians. But I can’t respect the religious elements of their beliefs, any more than i can respect the belief in a flat earth.

    Possibly you are part of the problem then. I can respect people who believe all sorts of stupid shit, as long as it isn’t a- or immoral:-
    Respect here (defined by you in the OP) refers to the act of “Tolerating it happening in the same room as you without comment” which frankly is not a big thing to ask.
    If you cannot do that then you’re as bad as Jack Chick or the Wesborough Baptists.*

    “Perhaps many Christians can and do respect those who believe in other gods – but given that this flies in the face of certain biblical verses, it just shows how some Christians pick’n’mix.”

    Hmm. That could be true. However I find it hard to believe un-cited assertions about the content of religious beliefs from someone who hates religion so much that he will not tolerate a silent prayer to a God that doesn’t exist occuring in the same room as him.

    *This may be hyperbole

    • Jim Says:

      I had intended to respond to your issues, but this last comment is ridiculous, and it shows your true intent in posting here. Your assertion that someone suggesting that moments of silence might be exactly the wrong thing to promote if respect of individuals and their beliefs is the goal makes them an “intolerant atheist” is just as absurd as you claiming to be worried about respecting people while calling those with whom you disagree theologically “nutters.” Your wild intolerance is further demonstrated by your claimed desire that the government go out of its way to offend and marginalize some particular minority group. Your comparison of those you want ostracized to the Westborough Baptists, hyperbole or not, is particularly ironic in this context.
      You’re a lame troll.

  6. Robert Stovold Says:

    Skiffy, I’m not an intolerant atheist “who can’t bear to see someone else doing something that they personally see no value in”.

    I’m an atheist who can’t bear to be FORCED TO REMAIN SILENT IN A PUBLIC PLACE while seeing someone else doing something that I personally see no value in. If people want to be quiet, that’s none of my business. If people want to force me and the rest of the general public to be quiet, then clearly it is my business.

    It’s not that I “won’t tolerate a silent prayer”. It’s not even that “I won’t tolerate Christians forcing everybody to be quiet when they pray”. After all, whenever I’m asked to be quiet so that Christians can pray, I do!

    Let me spell it out for you.
    I tolerate a Christian’s right to force other people in a public place to be silent while they pray. However, I do npot agree that they should have this right. I therefore campaign against it by means of reasonable argument to try and change peoples minds. So I’m a good deal more tolerant than you seem to think.

    As for my unsourced comments about the Bible’s lack of respect for believers in other gods, how’s this for starters?

    Deuteronomy 13:6-10 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

    Deuteronomy 17:2 -5 If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.


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