Thursday, September 17, 2009

Steve Harvey Is An Arrogant Bigot

There have been several times in the last couple of years when I've been moved to write that atheists are the one group in America that it's still OK to hate. Steve Harvey, a guy who is a standup comedian who thinks he is qualified to be a relationships counselor, provided a prime example of this on CNN recently:

BEHAR: Which reminds me, speaking of God, you say in the book that you wouldn't go out with a woman, I guess, a woman should not go out with a man that doesn't believe in God.

HARVEY: No, I mean, why would you?

BEHAR: Do you believe that only people who are religious are ethical and moral?

HARVEY: No. I just believe if you don't believe in God, then where is your moral barometer? That's just me talking. You can believe what you want to believe. But if you're an atheist, you're basing the goodness and morality on what? I mean, but what is an atheist? I don't really get into that. I've talked the people all the time. I'm an atheist. I just walk away. I don't know what to say to you. BEHAR: Well, an atheist is someone that doesn't quite believe that there is somebody out there, some God out there.

HARVEY: Well then to me you're an idiot.

BEHAR: OK. Well ...

HARVEY: I'm cool with that. Probably not the right politically correct thing to say but if you don't believe in God, I mean, really, you have to have an explanation for this. You can't just tell me it spun out of a gastrous (ph) ball and then all of a sudden we were evolved from monkeys. Why we still got monkeys? There is too much open. I just believe that and if you don't believe that, then I don't like talking to you.

BEHAR: I see. OK. Listen. Listen. It's fine with me.

HARVEY: Can you say that on Larry King?

BEHAR: You can say it on any show. It is a free country.

Larry King Show Transcript: May 29, 2009

Yes, he's free to say that. A good question would be why you're free to say that on CNN. He's been on at least once since then. He wouldn't be free to say that about an ethnic minority. He sure wouldn't be free to say that about Christians, but he can say it about atheists.

Steve Harvey is a bigot. Anyone who is willing to believe such things, particularly without having spoken to the people he's disparaging or having read any of their opinions qualifies as one. He must certainly be aware that some of the world's most prominent scientists, who are among the world's smartest people, are atheists. In fact, scientists are far more likely to be atheists than the general population. Yet Harvey, who has never demonstrated an actual mastery of any subject more complicated than a one-liner, dismisses them as "idiots".

I've known some bigots in my life. I've also known people who were not terribly thoughtful. Yet even they, when they are saying things like this, at least have had the grace to sound apologetic or somewhat ashamed of their view. Does Harvey sound apologetic, or embarrassed? The only thing he seemed concerned about is that he wasn't allowed to say what he did on that show. That takes some arrogance.

Normally, I wouldn't bother writing about this bigoted clown. This interview was three months ago, after all. He made the same assertion on Tyra Banks' show a couple of months earlier. I can't find any statement of contrition, apology, or reconsideration on his part. What's more, the sad fact is that a lot of people seem to believe the nonsense Harvey does. Here's a letter someone blessed the Des Moines Register with a few weeks ago, during the controversy about the atheist bus ads:

Having read Rekha Basu's Aug. 12 column, "Culver Sends Message of Unacceptance," I am perplexed by the logical inconsistencies atheists habitually live with. The aggrieved tone of the atheists' letter to Gov. Chet Culver indicates that they believe he did something wrong.

What does that even mean to an atheist? If there is no God and no absolute moral standards, then right and wrong, good and bad, mean nothing but "things I like" and "things I don't like."

A logically consistent atheist cannot make moral judgments of any kind about anything.

Atheists Can't Make Moral Judgments

By way of background, I covered Culver's comments last month. This writer, as you may have observed, has no problems with logic. He simply hasn't offered any.

What's more, it's clear that he's stumped as to why people would be offended when the governor of their state takes offense at their announcing that they exist.

I have a suggestion for this guy, Steve Harvey, and any other pig-ignorant bigot who wants to assert something like this without a shred of proof. Go to college. A lot. Study biology, physics, mathematics, and cosmology. When you know biology as well as this guy, know physics as well as this guy, mathematics as well as this fellow, or the cosmos as well as this man did, then maybe you'll have learned enough to show why there's a physical or mathematical reason why people can't learn morality without believing in your god. Maybe you can tell all those other "idiots" who missed it what they were doing wrong. Personally, I think you have about as much chance of that as you do of being struck by lightning with a winning Powerball ticket in your hand. Maybe less.

Why do I write that they're "pig-ignorant"? It's because you don't really have to resort to physical or mathematical proofs to show that morality can exist without believing in a Christian god. Societies all over the world have managed to develop prohibitions against murder, theft, lying, and adultery, which are most of the things covered by the Ten Commandments that don't have to do with how to worship. Yes, they don't get all the details right, like whether one is allowed to drink alcohol or eat sausages and cheeseburgers, but they got the basics down without believing in the god of Jews, Christians, or Muslims. In fact some don't believe in gods at all.

So, whether you accept that there is no physical reason why people can't have morality without gods, there's clear empirical evidence that it isn't necessary. Maybe there's some innate morality we all have. Maybe there's an evolutionary pressure on societies that makes the unstable ones disappear. Maybe people just figure out one day that stoning people for eating cheeseburgers isn't a cool way to run a society. Whatever the reason, it clearly isn't belief in Steve Harvey's bearded guy in the sky.

So, the man is ignorant as well as a bigot. That doesn't stop television people from putting him on the air. As long as that continues to be true, I suppose the best thing is for more of us to write about what a tiresome asshole he is until he learns better.

As arrogant and ignorant as he is, my guess is that it will be a long, long time.

(h/t Greg Laden)


Emily S said...

My question is this: where is Harvey's so-called moral barometer? What he said in that interview is almost a contradiction in and of itself. He mouths off atheists, saying they have no grounds to base their morals on, which is something entirely stupid on its own and that even I could argue down, but what he doesn't seem to consider is that it's pretty wrong what he's doing. Badmouthing people he knows nothing of, taking no account of feelings or respect or 'goodwill towards fellow man'? I am not literate in Christian teachings, but isn't that part of that "moral barometer" he was blabbing about?

Unless he's under the impression atheists are exception. I'm not sure which is worse: his complete lack of respect for some people or his complete lack of basic evolutionary science.

Cujo359 said...

The great thing about the Bible is that there are plenty of opportunities to justify just about any philosophical position you want to hold. Genocide, filicide, germ warfare, capital punishment for a variety of petty crimes or even non-crimes, and slavery - these are all things that can be justified by selected biblical passages.

Perhaps Harvey is focusing on the passage that claims anyone who doesn't believe in their god (who, of course, are denying that this god exists) are fools:

14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

14:3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

There's some Old Testament love for you.

To me, Christianity's principal value is as a rorschach test - what believers get out of it tells you a whole lot more about them than it does about the religion. If anything, the majority of Christians who don't do these things are proof that there's something else besides belief in their god that accounts for morality.

george.w said...

If they accede to experimental results, (that there are plenty of moral nonbelievers out there) then they're in big trouble. Think what it would mean to the other tenets of Christianity! Letting the real, experimentally observable world be the final guide to what is and what ain't. Unthinkable.

Cujo359 said...

There are so many possible pitfalls to that approach that I can see why they'd avoid it, George.

BV said...

Why does anyone care what Steve Harvey says? He recently compared the repeated torture and deliberate killing of dogs to an incident where the police shot a man AFTER he was ordered to stop, and instead sped off, hitting an officer's leg with his car, while legally drunk.

Cujo359 said...

I wish I knew, BV. It makes no sense to me.