17 October 2007

Ben Stein: was he born this ignorant, or does he have to put an effort into it?

OK, so I'm wandering around some Christian discussion groups, when I came across a copypasta job of an internet chain letter written by Ben Stein. Immediately my lip began to curl and a low guttural sound started emanating from my throat. The sheer idiocy! Not only of Stein but of the person who posted this with the topic title "Read This!" like it was somehow profound or insightful! I was so angry, I just HAD to respond, and I'll let you guys share in my righteous indignation. The letter is presented from start to finish, with my comments interspersed. Enjoy!

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a crche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away .

OK. No problem, right? Right.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

No one is trying to create an "atheist America" in any sense, whatever that would look like. Rather, the problem is that America *is secular* and religious zealots are trying to change that. Being secular does not necessarily equate with atheism. Under the secular Constitution, the government is forbidden from sanctioning any particular religion *so that* it may ensure that no religion is prevented from being practiced freely by those who choose to do so.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

I actually join Ben in lamenting the apparent obsession with vapid celebrities in the US, but who is preventing him from being allowed to "worship God as we understand him?" What kind of bullshit is that?

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

Apparently no one ever told Anne Graham that there were devastating hurricanes long before we supposedly "told God to get out." Indeed, we told God to get out the minute our Constitution was ratified.

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Shall I count the number of false correlations in this paragraph? Or shall I just laugh at Ben's implication that the Bible is the only thing that makes people act kindly toward others and prevents them from killing or stealing? Hmmm...I think I'll just laugh, if you don't mind! XD

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Yeah, it's all Dr. Spock's fault. It couldn't possibly be indifferent parenting or poverty or any other number of cultural/socio-economic ills, could it?

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."

Am I supposed to be impressed by this common trope?

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.

There is no hell, and the world isn't actually all that bad if you really think about it. This is not to say that there aren't problems, but Stein here seems to think that everything was all hunky-dory before we "told god to get out." There will *always* be problems, and two hands working accomplishes more than a million clasped in prayer! So quit your idle bitching Ben!

Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.

This is truly idiotic. I read newspapers with the same critical eye that I do with the Bible, as do most people.

Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.

Maybe most people are courteous and know that, while I appreciate a good joke, I'd rather not be sent something I did not solicit, and that includes prayer chain mails.

Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

This is a truly insidious statement. The reason that those pictures and articles can pass over the internet (and I would mention, briefly, that religious articles and pictures pass over this same internet unhindered as well) is because we have freedom of speech in this country. However, the reason we CANNOT allow Christianity or Judaism or any other religion in schools and the public square is because of a separate freedom: the freedom of religion If you promote one image of God in schools and the public square, you do so at the expense of all the others, essentially negating freedom of religion. Apparently, what Ben is saying here is that he does not like freedom of speech or freedom of religion, and that makes him a maliciously ignorant wretch.

Are you laughing?

Normally, I would be. But quite frankly, I'm too disgusted to laugh.

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

I can only hope they would be so courteous, but what I would really wish is that they would be smart enough to delete it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

It's a stupid statement, but I'll comment anyway: we should, to an extent, be worried about what others think of us. It is part of the metric by which we measure our own intelligence and character.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards .
Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein


There was nothing honest or respectful about this ridiculous rant, and I hope people who are thinking of forwarding this will stop to consider just how stupid they would make themselves to do so.


Brian said...

the thing is, most of that wasn't by ben stein (see http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/benstein2.asp).

as far as people worshiping celebrities, you haven't spent enough time at check out lines to see people fawning over the covers of celebrity magazines, but the fact that there are so many that thrive while other more intelligent publications die should give you an idea.

mostly, i think people should just learn to filter out things mentally that bother them. people that smoke bother me, but i am not in favor of outlawing smoking. my friends that smoke also have enough manners to limit their smoking around me. it's human beings living in proximity with respect for each other.

it's too bad more people don't think like this.

Anonymous said...

Ok, here's the thing William, I received this email too. I thought it might be someone shooting off using Ben Stein's name, So I decided to look on the net to verify. That's when I saw your post. Can I just say this, I don't know who you are, or what your background is, but Ben Stein is a well educated, highly intelligent man, who wrote speeches for, and served under two presidents. So if you're gonna rant online about how big of an idiot he is, you may want to hit the spell check first so you don't look like an illiterate idiot who misspells his own blog while calling someone else ignorant. Also, take the article at face value like it's intended. Stein was trying to convey an idea, which if your honest, you know is accurate. This article wasn't meant to be picked apart as you have done here in your blog. Have a great day man!

William Cowan said...

I generally don't like comments from people who don't identify themselves, especially critical ones who attack my allegedly poor spelling (where did I misspell?). I also don't like people who make a bland appeal to authority and expect that to be convincing without backing arguments, which is what you did by pointing out that Stein worked for Nixon and whatnot. So what? What about what he's saying?

Finally, I lol'd hard when I read your closing statement: honest? not meant to be picked apart? LOL!

I can see now why you posted as "anonymous," because if I had said the idiotic things you did I wouldn't want anyone knowing it was me either.

Have a nice day.

Sudhir said...

Hello there,
I genuinely doubt if Stein made these remarks.But rather a frustrated dude who shot himself in the foot with his mediocre argument.Most reasonable and intelligent religious people who I know wont subscribe to the second half of the crap.
Have a great day,