Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Non-Controversy of Patrick Greene

I don't hang out at Ray Comfort's blog much these days - he posts about the same half dozen arguments with slightly different phrasing on a rotating basis and that gets old - but on my last trip over there I noticed that he was complaining about some mean atheist guy who was threatening to sue him. The gist of the story is that Ray's henchmen sell bumper stickers that say "National Atheists Day: April 1st" and an ill-humored atheist guy named Patrick Greene saw one, got offended, and made a bunch of noise about how he was going to sue Ray for libel (somehow).

In all honesty, I kind of assumed that the story was, shall we say, embellished. After all, my pal Ray has a story every couple of days about how fierce atheists chase him, yell at him, and occasionally slap him around for, well, being kind of an annoying guy. It seemed as likely as not that Patrick Greene was fictitious and Ray was just trying to sell more bumper stickers. Apparently, however, Greene's real and he's actually an ill-humored guy who complains a lot. I suppose that's egg on my face.

Greene has been grousing around some of the other atheist blogs out there, most prominently Atheist Experience, trying to garner support for his ill-conceived attempt to sue Ray. If he's been looking to muster a storm of righteous fury then he's looking in all the wrong places, because pretty much every atheist site that's mentioned him has done so in the context of "don't do this kind of stupid stuff". I mention him for the same reason: This kind of crybaby, litigious silliness is just plain asinine and gives Comfort and others like him the opportunity to paint atheists as a bunch of sniveling whiners. Ray is well within his rights to make backhanded bumper stickers, and there's no grounds to claim that it's libel because he's not really making any specific claims about anyone. The Constitution and common sense are both on Ray's side (That's a rare occurrence), and all Greene is doing is providing Ray with fodder for his voluminous claims of victimhood.

A few atheists, myself included, have even noted on Ray's blog that Greene's acting like a dingus. Freedom of speech either applies to everyone or it doesn't mean a thing, and going hand in hand with that is the understanding that no one has the right not to be offended. That applies to Ray, me, and everyone else. Disappointingly (though somewhat predictably), Ray has refused to acknowledge that a number of atheists have "crossed the lines" to stand beside him on this matter. Rather, he claims that other atheists "have turned on [Greene]" even though he "thought he was doing the right thing". That's wonderful, especially coming from someone who devoted a lengthy blog entry to mocking the guy - An atheist can either side with Greene, thereby proving that we're a bunch of humorless pricks who can't take a joke, or we can take Ray's side and prove that we're a pack of backbiting wolves who'll savage one of our own if bad publicity strikes. What a great choice.

So that's where it stands. Greene's behaving like a thin-skinned weenie and Ray, as usual, comes across like a smiling jerk...and the world spins on.

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