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Machines Like Us

Offending religious people

Saturday, 12 May 2012
by Mano Singham

I think that the easiest job in the world is one that involves offending religious people. If such a job opens up, I will apply for it in a flash.

Recall the recent event in which some high school students at a journalism conference walked out on Dan Savage when he pointed out that the Bible was a major source of anti-gay sentiment. Savage later apologized for some of his language and for denigrating the students who walked out but not for the ideas expressed.

But religious people seem to be willing to walk out for the flimsiest of reasons. Another episode occurred in Waco, Texas when the audience booed and walked out on Bill Nye, of all people, known to many as ‘The Science Guy’, the genial host of a children’s television show who is nowhere close to being an in-your-face anti-religious speaker. I mean, he wears a bow tie, for crying out loud, which signals that you are about as square as can be.

What was Nye’s awful crime?

Nye was in town to participate in McLennan Community College’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He gave two lectures on such unfunny and adult topics as global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption.

But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.

At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled “We believe in God!” and left with three children, thus ensuring that people across America would read about the incident and conclude that Waco is as nutty as they’d always suspected.

I wonder about the future of that woman’s three children. They are going to have a tough time in school if even that basic level of science is seen as heretical. They are going to be left far behind by advancing modernity.

Interestingly, the Nye incident occurred in 2006 but interest was rekindled recently because the local paper that ran the story mysteriously pulled it from its website and only when some atheists pointed out this action did it mysteriously reappear. Now it seems to have disappeared again.

Maybe the paper was trying to spare its local citizens the embarrassment of being seen as crazy people.