It is difficult to find out that someone you have great respect for is not perfect. Many of us found this out when Richard Dawkins made his “Dear Muslima” comments, and indeed more recently when he said in a speech that teaching a child about hellfire is worse than a child being sexually abused. Fewer, unfortunately, have found this out about Dan Savage, who, while famous for the “It Gets Better” campaign and catty comments about relationships, spends a lot of time saying appalling things about trans* people, black people, and anyone who doesn’t really fit his normative worldview. When this happens, we find our confidence shattered; we find particularly, as professed skeptics, that what we believed was a conclusion based on evidence has been complicated. This is a problem, and one that is not easy to fix.
Allow me to complicate your lives further, dear atheists, with Ayaan Hirsi Ali…
We want to think that Hirsi Ali is still a role model, someone to follow in our atheistic paths, a story to hold up as a warning against religious hatred and oppression. And indeed, she has faced great hardship in her life as a result of old patriarchal societies in which she had the misfortune to be raised. But this is not enough to earn our respect, or to hold someone up as a paragon of virtue. Any cursory student of history knows that many a freedom fighter has become a dictator upon gaining power.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not Stalin, but she is a person whose interests are not our own. Even for those of you reading this who think atheists should not be concerned with issues of social justice, I think that you still know that this woman is not your friend.
I admire a variety of people for a variety of reasons. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt crestfallen to realize that none of them were “perfect”. I can’t remember ever being concerned over whether I could think of them as my “friends”. And I really can’t imagine what it must be like to agonize over the “complication” of having to consider people as inconsistent, complex, fallible individuals.
I swear, some of these people seem like emotionally stunted children to me. Maybe they need to go back and nurse at the teat of religious belief for a while until they fully wean themselves off of the need for easy answers and two-dimensional role models.