Barnaby Joyce, at it again

By | 2011/12/23

A while ago, Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the LNP in the Australian Senate, said, when speaking of his daughters and the issue of same sex marriage:

“We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband and I want that to happen for them.

“I don’t want any legislator to take that right away from me.”

(“Gay marriage should be ridiculed, says Independent Bob Katter“, Mat Sadler, Perth Now, 16 August 2011)

Now, at the time, I said opponents such as Barnaby and Bob were coming across as batshit crazy, using stupid arguments about girls not being able to marry men if same-sex marriage were allowed, and (the horror!) “gay” being used to describe homosexuals rather than light happiness.

Wide eyed

As we hit the end of December, Barnaby has come out swinging again, this time against atheists. You see, he doesn’t like us, and says:

“My war is always against that religion called atheist extremism, that sneaky sect. Its advocates’ belief in nothing is more affirmed and uncompromising than just about anyone else’s belief in anything.”

(“The ‘sneaky sect’“, Barnaby Joyce, The Canberra Times, 22 December 2011.)

Whoa, Barnaby, starting by calling atheists a ‘sect’ is an interesting proposition, but you blew yourself out of the water when you said we believe in ‘nothing’.

You see, atheists actually believe in quite a lot. Now, I hate to fight fiction with fiction, but I’ll fall back to a quote from Stargate: The Ark Of Truth:

“We believe in the systematic understanding of the physical world through observation and experimentation, through argument and debate, but, most of all, freedom of will.”

You see, atheists aren’t non-believers, they’re generally very staunch believers – in things that can be seen, and proven. Now, I can’t speak for all atheists, but my take on the world is that I want explanations that have a firm basis in fact. It doesn’t mean that I personally have to see and experience it all, but it does mean that reputable scientists for instance, do. That’s why I believe climate change is real. (Barnaby, however, is an unbeliever on that front.)

Now, here’s where Barnaby gets down and dirty with his little rant:

Yes, this sect’s followers make their way on to your veranda then hold a righteous court of sneering indignation about the crib in the park. You can hear yourself muttering under your breath, ”I wish you would go drown yourself, you pseudo-intellectual Gucci flea.”

(“The ‘sneaky sect’“, Barnaby Joyce, The Canberra Times, 22 December 2011.)

An interesting turn of phrase, one has to admit. It kind of reminds me of:

“Put her in the same chaff bag as Julia Gillard and throw them both out to sea.”

(Alan Jones Breakfast Radio Show, 29th June 2011, as quoted on Media Watch.)

Unfortunately, this seems to be a fairly standard response from the extreme right wing. It’s a violent and nasty path to turn own.

Let’s take a catalogue of what I know I believe in, versus what I know Barnaby believes in, just for comparison here.

I believe:

  • In a world view based on details about the physical world which can be independently verified;
  • That people whom I’m debating a topic with still have a right to live, regardless of whether I agree with their belief;
  • That climate change is real, given the vast majority of the world’s scientists concur on it;
  • That the right for same-sex couples to marry will not impact the rights of heterosexual couples to marry.

On the other hand, Barnaby believes:

  • That the accumulated writings of dozens or more people from thousands of years ago represent the truth from an omnipotent deity who started the Universe from nothing and while seemingly all powerful and all-good allows terrible things to happen (well, except those bits that are no longer acceptable to believe in, such as slavery, killing people who work on Sunday, etc.)
  • That someone like him, in a situation being confronted by people who disagree with their world view, would wish those naysayers ill, or even death;
  • That all the scientists in the world can be part of some vast conspiracy (or a part of a “league of morons”, perhaps?) and be completely arse-up wrong about climate change;
  • That if same-sex couples can get married, his daughters may not be able to get married.

I’m going to do this not because I’m feeling smugly superior, but because I need to make the point:

Who is actually on the moral highground with their beliefs? Barnaby, or me?

Barnaby then desperately tries to scramble back onto some ground, let alone moral highground, by insisting of atheists:

“They write letters to complain about the incorrectness of carols at the school and picket the Christmas tree. To not insult their religion, you must no longer follow yours.”

(“The ‘sneaky sect’“, Barnaby Joyce, The Canberra Times, 22 December 2011.)

Interestingly in this, Barnaby seems to forget all the letter writing campaigns by christians in Australia over the years about a plethora of topics. Moral outrage accompanied by a pen and a sheet of paper has lead to untold numbers of letters to schools complaining about Catcher in the Rye, Sons and Lovers – even Harry Potter.

He seems to forget those christians who have been picketing abortion clinics for 20+ years, sometimes hurling vitriol at the people coming and going, or those christians who have been picketing funerals for the express purposes of spreading their hate speech further.

People in glass houses, Barnaby? Don’t start talking about letter writing and picketing as if it’s something atheists invented.

Barnaby fails to grasp the simple facts here – while some atheists undoubtedly would like to see religion made illegal, what people choose to believe in within the privacy of their own home or property is entirely their right. And equally, if people choose to congregate in a church to pray to something I equally believe doesn’t exist, then I may feel sorry for them, but I don’t run out screaming the church should be pulled down.

What I do object to though, and what so many other atheists object to, is the forced, public indoctrination of people into religion. Using Barnaby’s example, why should children be forced into singing christmas carols if either they, or their parents, aren’t religious? (If he thinks that’s OK, well let me tell you as a child who was forced to do that, it’s not. It’s not OK to have a religious teacher single you out as the kid who doesn’t want to sing along to a religious song and make you sing it in front of the entire class.)

Atheists are anything but sneaky. We’re open, and we’re often very up front about our belief in real evidence. We don’t use tomes written hundreds or thousands of years ago and undoubtedly modified countless times since to pick and choose our defences for bigoted world views from, and we don’t need said book to teach us a moral path in life. We also choose to live this life now for fulfilment and happiness, since there’s no evidence at all that there’s any form of life after death.

Barnaby insists that atheists should:

“all just remain at work while the rest of us go on holidays, and we can double the pleasure by knowing that, when we return, they can go on theirs. This doubles the time away from each other.”

(Ibid.)

The age old argument, “If you don’t believe in religion you shouldn’t go on federal instituted holidays that fall at religious times!” Cry me a river, Barnaby. After all, the timing hasn’t really got anything to do with the date of birth for … oh, wait, you’ve got something to add about that? Let’s hear it:

“The timing at the end of December has more to do with the celebration of the pagan festival of Saturnalia rather than when Christ was actually born. Those politically incorrect early Christians had the good sense to roll with the customs rather than to rage against them.”

(Ibid.)

Thanks for saving me the words, Barnaby! If you want to talk about traditions, christmas isn’t really christmas but a pagan festival. So why are so-called traditionalists getting hung up if some people would like to more generically call it a “festive season” or a “holiday season” so as to (a) still pay respect to those who see it as important, (b) recognise the social importance of the time of the year, and (c) not violate their own beliefs in doing so?

Sneaky is as sneaky does, and sneaky people write opinion pieces accusing atheists of being a religious sect so they supposedly have equal ground to argue on, or issue press releases stating that a world famous atheist, having recently died, would now be a believer.