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April 21st, 2004 · No Comments

Kevin Drum and Amy Sullivan are wagging their finger at hosts on Air America for making fun of religion. They may be right that it’s politically counterproductive (though, as Matt Yglesias points out, talk radio isn’t primarily about outreach—Rush Limbaugh isn’t out to persuade swing voters). But then Kevin adds this:

My advice: the next time you’re tempted to mock somebody or something on religious grounds, just substitute “Hispanic,” or perhaps “Hindu,” and see how it sounds. If it sounds like something you probably shouldn’t say, then you probably shouldn’t say it.

Now, I realize most people do just keep whatever religion they’re “born into,” but the comparison strikes me as utterly inapt. A religion is a set of beliefs and practices people choose to accept or not. Like any set of beliefs, they’re capable of being true, false, or even silly. The fact that people who hold them take them seriously means it’s impolite to mock a religion to one of its adherents, but it certainly doesn’t mean the rest of us have to take them seriously too. I’m a big fan of respecting other people, but the lazy notion that you’ve got to “respect their beliefs” is just senseless: the silliness of a belief is not a function of the number of people who hold it, or how intensely it’s held. Largely, though, offense at poking fun at religion seems to be a numbers game. We don’t see this sort of cavilling at mockery of Moonies, Raelians, or Scientologists. If it’s fair game to joke about people’s political beliefs, also intensely and seriously held, why not religious ones? People would (justly) tell me to grow a freaking skin if I got all huffy at stuff like this:

Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department
CHEYENNE, WYĆ¢??After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. “Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist,” Jacobs said. “Also, my house was burning down.” Jacobs did not offer to pay firefighters for their service

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