Nobody Cares What’s in Your Heart

We’re going to begin this day by looking at the stories of two awful people and figure out what they have in common.

The first you’ve probably heard of, Pastor Alois Bell. Pastor Bell decided that since she gives 10% of her income “to God” (read: to her church, which pays her to tell stories to her congregation every week, so to herself), then it doesn’t make sense to pay her server at an Applebee’s 18%. She further decided to write this horrible opinion down on her check. Well, we live on the internet and another server took a picture of this terrible woman’s terrible behavior, posted it on Reddit, and she got a whole lot of well-deserved criticism for it, which prompted her to turn around and get the server who posted the picture fired from her job.

Pastor Bell has this to say about the whole thing, “My heart is really broken…I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”

Now, let us look at Bob Grisham, psychology teacher for Lauderdale County Public Schools in Alabama. Grisham decided to go on a bit of a rant that one of his students caught on tape.

Grisham: Like those lunches — you get 600-calorie lunches — you know who’s behind that?

(Different voice: Michelle Obama)

Grisham: Fat butt Michelle Obama… and look… look at her. She looks like she weighs 185 or 190. She’s overweight… Big fat gorilla… I’m serious. Y’all, our country is, is, is going in the wrong direction… You better be aware of it.

And people running around like, oh, it’ll get better, it’ll get better. No, it ain’t gon’ get no better…

… Y’all can get pissed off at me or not. You can go tell the principal, you can call the superintendent and tell her. I don’t believe in queers, I don’t like queers. I don’t… I don’t hate them as a person but what they do is wrong. It’s an abomination against God. I don’t like being around queers.

So, Bob Grisham is a fat-shaming, misogynistic, homophobic, racist religious right asshole, but those all tend to go together, especially in parts of the South, so no big surprise. However, we don’t live in a world anymore where you can just get away with this sort of shit, and after being shamed to hell and back, this is what Grisham had to say, “I misspoke in a debate-type situation,” he said. “I have no hatred toward anyone or any group. People that know my heart, they know that.

What’s the connection? Both Bell and Grisham seem to think that anybody cares about what’s “in their heart.” Seriously, read over their “apologies” and you’ll see that in the former case, she tells us how hurt her heart is, which I’m sure is a great comfort to the newly unemployed server that she got fired because she was a horrible human being twice over. Grisham seems to think that despite his outword expressions of hatred, we’re supposed to believe that in his heart he really doesn’t hate anybody, he just occasionally “misspeaks” by talking about how much gay sex makes his pretend sky daddy want to throw up.

This is actually a fairly common new trope from the religious right on issues where their faith has prompted them to do or say something awful: that that’s not how they really feel. It’s not “hate” because they don’t feel active animosity toward any particular group or people, it’s just a “difference of opinion” and they actually feel love toward everybody.

Again, this is a classic case of elevating feelings over evidence, however.

I don’t much give a damn what you feel in your heart. You act like an asshole, so that’s what you are. If you behave like a bigot, you are a bigot, regardless of whether you think your personal fee-fees match the arbitrary standard for prejudice you’ve invented so you can be as terrible as you like without having to feel guilty about it.

The thing is, kids, we don’t get to decide what other people consider offensive, oppressive, or bigoted. Does that seem unfair? No, no it doesn’t, because offense is given and taken individually. It doesn’t matter if Bell had a bad day before taking it out on her server, twice, and now is doing a self-serving sermon on forgiveness and redemption. It doesn’t matter if Grisham has held his tongue so long about all these queers having the audacity to exist in his otherwise perfect, God-ordained world, and just finally burst. None of those things matter. All that matters is that they did terrible things and are now making excuses rather than actually owning up to them, telling us that that’s not actually how they feel.

Nobody cares how you actually feel. Talk to some people, learn a lesson, understand and express why what you did was wrong, don’t just insist that you aren’t really a selfish, bigoted jackwagon.

Let us also remember these two clearly devout people the next time somebody tells you that religion makes people better or more moral. While I’m not saying it universally makes people less moral, I am saying that the idea that belief in a deity imparts some sort of moral compass or necessarily promotes better behavior is demonstrably bogus, and it’s important that we break that particular myth in half whenever we hear it.

I have no doubt that religion can impart on people good intentions, but as we see from Grisham and Bell, those intentions are entirely meaningless. What’s “in their heart” will not make any gay kids (or black kids, or fat kids, or female kids) in Grisham’s class feel less threatened, nor will it get that server their job back.

If you’re acting like a complete asshole, you should be treated as one until your behavior changes, no matter if you think the details of your emotional state match the accusations against you. Period, end of chat.

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10 thoughts on “Nobody Cares What’s in Your Heart

  1. Those people are not an accurate view of Christians as a whole. For every Alois Bell and Bob Grisham there is someone who has done amazing good in the name of Christianity. The problem is…those aren’t the ones who get attention. The assholes are the ones in the media, so you see these douches, or the WBC. You don’t SEE any of the good things that people do.

    These people are assholes. But they aren’t assholes because of their religious beliefs. They’re just…assholes.

    • But that’s not the point. The argument is made, over and over, that religion makes people better, more compassionate, more moral. That’s clearly not the case. People may do good things for bad reasons (they think god wants them to rather than it’s just good to improve the lives of fellow human beings), but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s at least as likely that irrational belief will impel them to act like complete assholes. What I’m saying at the end is that we need to stop pretending that, for example, a person who attends church regularly is somehow more trustworthy or more compassionate than somebody who doesn’t. Or that the addition of “pastor” to the front of a name makes that person less likely to be lying through their teeth.

      As to the last part, I would argue that at least in Grisham’s case, yes, he is an asshole because of his religious beliefs. There is no rational, non-religious reason to feel that gay sex is a terrible thing. It takes absolute faith that there is a being in the sky who is heavily invested in who sleeps with whom to develop that, at least in the numbers that we see in America today. These are people who where actively and intentionally poisoned with terrible ideas. You can argue the theology, of course, but the fact is that the lessons that Bob Grisham learned in his church have made him a worse person than he might otherwise be. He’s wasn’t genetically born a bigot, he was taught it, and this statement indicates that at least some of those lessons came from his church.

      • And there ARE people who have found a moral compass through religion and have become better people thanks to the church. Obviously, those people have the capacity to be better without the church and without religion, but that is the community that found them and helped them.

        I don’t think that attending church makes a person better. I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to. I also don’t think that being a Christian inherently makes you a better person. There are some great morals in the Bible, but you don’t have to be Christian to follow them.

        And yes, there are churches that preach hate and intolerance. And there are churches that DON’T. And there are people that find both of these human beings absolutely disgusting. I started a discussion about Bell on my Pastor’s Wives group, and they were all equally appalled at this woman.

        So, yeah. Religion makes people bad and it also makes people good. Atheism makes people bad and also makes people good, too. There are assholes in every walk of life. Their particular brand of asshole may be affected by their religion, but I’ve known all kinds of assholes who aren’t Christians…

      • We’re saying the same thing, but I think you’re missing my perspective. As an atheist, I am consistently and repeatedly bombarded with the message that I cannot possibly be a good person because I lack faith and that people who are religious are automatically given more trust and leeway. It is a fact of life for open atheists that there is a general belief that being religious in some respect automatically makes you a better person. You may not specifically believe that, but I assure you that it is highly prevalent.

        For example, there are people who still will leave their children with a pastor or priest that they hardly know. Think about that: trusting your child to a stranger or near stranger in a profession rife with child abuse because they have “reverend” attached to their name. That’s ridiculous, yet it happens every day. When I was at that 8 hour school board meeting, so many people came up to identify themselves as pastors and ministers because they thought it would lend weight to their arguments, as if they are somehow more trustworthy despite being the biggest liars of the night.

        My point is not that religion necessary makes people good or bad (though in some cases it can do either), but rather that the perception that it automatically makes somebody good is both prevalent and provably false.

    • Every single time a christianist does something horrible, there’s always that one person that comes along and says “But we aren’t all like that! The good ones just get ignored! Don’t hate all of us!”

      Nobody cares. Really. I’m not saying this to be rude, I’m just saying it to make a point. If you dislike constantly seeing bad christianists in the news, get out there and do something about it. Don’t whine about how you’re hurt when people discuss the bad ones.

  2. Yes, we’re both saying the same thing. My point is that it doesn’t matter if these guys were Christians of Jewish if Atheists. They’re still assholes. These people are not an accurate picture of Christianity as a whole.

    At the school board meeting, were all of the people identifying their line of work? Were teachers going up and mentioning that they were teachers? MOST Christians are good people. MOST people in ministry are good people. But I feel like most of the time you focus on the assholes in the religion and not the good people. And trust me–it’s hard to NOT focus on the negative in Christianity. But there are amazing people too…they deserve a fair shake.

    • Most people didn’t mention their line of work, basically two teachers (out of several) and all of the pastors and ministers. They think it makes them more credible.

      And yes, I do focus on the assholes in religion. It’s a shame, but they’re the dangerous ones who need to be pointed out and shamed. Yes, most people regardless of faith are good people, which is a good thing, but we don’t need to worry about them. However, there are far too many people who think that people like Grisham and his ridiculous beliefs are harmless, it’s just their opinion, their beliefs don’t mean anything. They think that people like Bell, by virtue of being a pastor, is a good person, when it’s pretty clear that her occupation guiding the moral development of other people has not developed her moral code in any appreciable way.

      And far too often people think that beliefs have no consequences, but that’s not true. It’s pretty clear that people who believe terrible things will do terrible things. People are not good and bad by nature and develop religions around that, they are raised to believe certain things, and fear of eternal punishment for apostasy makes it much harder to get through to people that they happen to believe something horrendously inhuman.

  3. “While I’m not saying it universally makes people less moral, I am saying that the idea that belief in a deity imparts some sort of moral compass or necessarily promotes better behavior is demonstrably bogus, and it’s important that we break that particular myth in half whenever we hear it.”

    Yes, absolutely. Believing that it’s religion that makes a person moral means that it is only that belief that prevents the religious from doing something horrible like mass murder.

  4. Reblogged this on The Reluctant Lightworker and commented:
    I totally agree that your actions, not your beliefs make you a better person. Recently I revealed something about myself to people and while I was widely accepted by people of all and no faith, there are still people, family and former friend who gave me the I love you but God doesn’t like that schtick.

  5. Pingback: Lessons from #AtheismPlus | Reality Enthusiast

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