I gets Ben Stein email!

Warning: this blog post will be quite very long. A Christian friend of mine sent me this. I’ve seen things like it before, lots of emails get sent around Christian circles and I’m privy to precious few. I suppose they help with the persecution complex. Anyway so it’s a piece written by Ben “science leads you to killing people” Stein in 2005, with a bit added on by someone else, apparently. I’m going to see if I can take it apart.

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.

That’s fine, I agree with him completely here, I have no problem with people saying Merry Christmas to me. Even if I did consider Christmas an explicitly Christian holiday (and I don’t), it’s the sentiment that counts. Similarly I have a friend who almost always says “goodnight and God bless” when he leaves, and most of the time he corrects himself and apologises to me. I don’t mind it at all and he doesn’t have to apologise, it’s the sentiment that counts.

But this is interesting. Here we have a Jew saying he doesn’t mind the season being called Christmas, a tolerant image. Presumably, since he then goes on to wonder when America became an atheist nation, he’s accusing atheists of being intolerant and waging a war on Christmas. The kind of people who do this usually have an issue with Christmas trees being referred to as ‘Holiday Trees’ and people saying ‘Happy Holidays’. There are countless videos of Bill O’Rly? bemoaning the fact that Christmas has now become secular in name as well as in substance. So it’s almost like Stein is saying he doesn’t mind it when it’s called something from a different religion, whilst presumably at the same time he’s siding with the Christians who do mind when it’s called something from a different religion.

But what is it that’s intolerant about the term holiday as opposed to Christmas? It’s not like atheists are going around forcing other people to replace the term Christmas with ‘holiday’. In reality all they’re doing is recognising that there are other holidays, religious and non-religious, happening at the same time, and that Christmas is no more important than any other. That’s no more offensive to Christians than recognising that Muslims exist. They really do whinge a lot more than they should when you think about it.

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 crèche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

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.

Erm, big straw man… noone claims that American is an explicitly atheist country. What they do say is that it is a secular country, where people are free to express their religious beliefs or lack thereof, without the government advocating any one of them. I also have no problem with people having a nativity scene or a Menorah, that’s their choice and it’s an expression of their beliefs, go ahead. I know very few atheists who would have a problem with such a private display.

I do know some atheists who have a problem with public nativity scenes (as in nativity scenes put up by the government), and I think they’re perfectly within their rights! The government is spending their money on explicitly religious displays. That is a clear violation of the separation of church and state, so they definitely have a case, especially in the States. Personally I’m not all that arsed about that either, they’re going to spend the money on some kind of decoration, I don’t care what it’s like, and I’d rather concentrate on infringements that actually matter, but I certainly understand why these people care.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities 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 these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

Woah woah, who said you’re not allowed to worship God? Noone who advocates a secular state (which includes many religious people) says that. Stop making stuff up to get offended about! And noone really says you should worship celebrities (if you’re wondering where the idea of celebrities came from, it’s at the start of the original version broadcast on CBS, which got edited out of this emailed version). I also think the celebrity culture that exists now is terrible. People get admired for things that aren’t all that admirable at all, and earn millions in the process, purely by luck of the draw rather than anything you could call work.

So, bear in mind that from here on, this isn’t Ben Stein writing as the piece that gets emailed around claims it to be, someone’s added it in. But I’ll treat it as it was when it was sent to me. I’m also going to miss a few bits out that aren’t at all that relevant or interesting, you can read the full version here (the part at the top and the part at the bottom together).

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?’

First of all, if the Bible is anything to go by, God is not a gent. If  you believe that God created everything, then you can’t say that he just ‘let’ this happen, as if Katrina was somehow an act of negligence. People certainly didn’t do it, he did, if he is responsible for the creation of the world. It was a natural disaster. I also question whether an all-loving God would leave the Katrina victims to the hurricane, even by their own wish. If someone told me they wanted me to leave them alone, and then I saw a car coming their way, there’s no way I’d just turn away and leave them to it. So it’s hardly ‘extremely profound’, seems to me like she’s barely thought about this at all.

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc..  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare [sic] (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) 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.

Actually, you didn’t say OK, you bitched about it for years and continue to do so. But I don’t think bad things suddenly started happening the day Maddy Murray O’Hair won the case (yes, it was a court case according to the Constitution, not that you’d know it from the way it’s described here) to have obligatory prayers banned. The history of bad stuff happening goes a lot further back than that. I’m not sure why they mention her murder here. Maybe they’re implying that God did it to her. That’s not true, a crazed lunatic did. I also think the way they cherry-pick what the Bible says, and then awkwardly shoe-horn it into this paragraph, is a bit pathetic. There are very few good moral teachings in the Bible, and they represent a very small proportion of its total content.

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.

How the hell did we get onto corporal punishment? Is this just a collection of right-wing agenda issues? Are we going to turn to gun ownership and the death penalty next? Whoever added this bit needs to wipe their mouth, they’re foaming a bit. Oh and, by the way, Dr B Spock’s children are both alive. One of his grandchildren did commit suicide, but he was apparently schizofrenic. Ironically that same article mentions how a psychologist who advocated corporal punishment had a son, who actually did commit suicide, not that it matters.

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.

Bloody hell, scaremongering much? Does this guy (I’m presuming it’s a guy, I don’t think the feminists will mind considering who it is)  think nutters didn’t exist in the past or something? Get him a job at the Mail!

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell.  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.  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.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

I believe certain newspapers more than the Bible because those newspapers and its writers have a history of being factually correct. They are also scrutinised and we can check what they say for ourselves, unlike the Bible. And there are plenty of stories of people being suspended or fired for sending obscene material whilst at work. Back in the real world where Christians aren’t being persecuted, people are often afraid of pulling their employees up on evangelising, in case the Christian Institute get on their backs.

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.

Oh here we go, the defining feature of all spam email. “Send this to 59 people in your contacts list in 43 seconds or a creepy swamp monster will crawl into your bed at night and shit on your face before slitting your throat!!!one!!”

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.

Right, that makes sense. Accept my batshit crazy argument that bad things happen because we told an invisible sky-fairy to fuck off, or you can’t comment on why bad things happen.

My Best Regards,  Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

Honestly? Respectfully? Ben Stein? None of thats true!

So a bit of a mix on the fictional War on Christmas, the problem of evil and lying for Jesus. Not bad for one email.


6 Responses to I gets Ben Stein email!

  1. grammarking says:

    Just a little note on how obvious it is that Ben Stein didn’t write the last part. Now he’s an ignorant fool in a lot of respects, but he can certainly write a lot better than this person can. He even mentions at the start of the piece that he’s a Jew, so whoever’s added this in has no excuse for mentioning the Bible in the later parts. And quite frankly I don’t think he would send that kind of spam email out, he’s more likely to make a crap film about it.

  2. Kirsty says:

    Hey buddy! I miss you. Just wanted to say that I do agree with you in regards to a lot of that. I hope you know that most Christians are not quite like that. Just one thing though. You said, “It’s not like atheists are going around forcing other people to replace the term Christmas with ‘holiday’.” I don’t know about in the States where Stein is from, but in my town a few years ago they did. There was a big fuss about banning stores from having signs saying Merry Christmas in favor of Happy Holidays, and staff in some of the stores were banned from wishing anyone a Merry Christmas. So I think it may have been partially in response to that. I think it’s interesting that in Britain kids actually learn about the nativity and do nativity plays in school. That is not permitted in schools in Canada, and I imagine the States as well. But then, we don’t have Religious Education as a subject either.

    As for the issue of the character of God and the content of the bible, you and I could go around in circles forever discussing some of that, so I won’t even go into it. Haha.

    Much love,

    Kirsty xx

  3. grammarking says:

    I miss you too Kirsty.

    I know, most Christians I know aren’t like that. Although I’ve caught a bit of Fox News (the largest news network in the States so it hardly represents a fringe view), and watching that it’s difficult not to believe that there are a lot of Christians out there who do think like that.

    About what happened in your town. Was this banning by the government? If the stores just chose not to use the term ‘Merry Christmas’ because they wanted to be inclusive of other religious groups, I have no problem with that and neither should Christians. They are after all included in the word ‘holiday’, and the only reason they’re getting upset is because they’ve enjoyed a privilege for so long.

    Also, this kind of thing often happens because people are afraid of offending minority groups, not because minority groups have complained. In the same way that (so people claim) the nursery rhyme ‘Baa baa black sheep’ got banned, it often has nothing to do with something actually offending anyone. Don’t get me wrong, there are hypersensitive arseholes here and there.

    I was watching a video from this year where a school has said it’s not going to celebrate any religious holiday this year, and Rick Warren was saying that they should do it because it’s a way to educate about different religions. I agreed but there’s a difference between celebrating it and learning about it. I didn’t realise they don’t have religious education, that seems really stupid, and doesn’t really help community cohesion all that much.

    Mike xx

  4. HobbeS says:

    Howdy Mike,

    Sure is a bit of a disjointed e-mail, eh? But it makes for good discussion fodder. I think the point about being tolerant of Christians is good and you seem to agree with that. Certainly there are a lot of jumps in logic in the original e-mail, though, and it makes for a good exercise in critical thinking.

    I’m not sure I agree with you on the hurricane Katrina bit. I think natural disasters are a consequence of us rejecting God as humankind. Yet, these consequences are also an opportunity for us to show love to our neighbour in trouble. Natural disasters also could be used to shake us up and remind us of our mortality and help us to focus on the question: what am I living for? God is not stupid: people in the Western society have all sorts of ways of rationalizing away good fortune, so why would He always rescue us and coddle us when we don’t care about Him? It is when trouble strikes that we ask “why me?”.

    Anyways, I’m glad you sifted out the illogic from that e-mail. Keep up the good work. 🙂


  5. […] I gets Ben Stein email! « The Not-Quite-So-Friendly Humanist […]

  6. Kirsty says:

    Man, I always forget when I write on one of these things. To clarify I can’t remember if it was the mall administration that was going to ban the stores or the city council. Either way, it was imposed, not up to the individual discretion of the stores.

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