Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It was not an attack on a person, but rather an attach on an idea!

On March 17, 2010, Christopher Hitchens gave a honorarium at Miami University to a crowd that filled the Farmer Business School's Auditorium (both the main floor and balcony). Practically I was amazed by his eloquent speech on the No.1 New York Times Bestseller "God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." There was a question and answer period and it allowed Hitchens to discuss further why religion poisons everything, and people actually thought that it was an personal attach. He was attacking the idea that there is a God. People are so attached to there idea of a God, that they see it as an attack against people.

Afterward, he gave a book signing, where he sat a table and greeted people and let them speak there mind. You even had a chance to have a photo taken with him. He went out to have a smoke and a crowd followed. He talked with people throughout this time and people brought up there views. It was quite astounding. I felt that he smoked them along with his cigarette.

Later, there were many views in The Student, Miami University news paper. The Secular Student's of Miami had a response (bottom starting with "We, the Secular...") to the misguided person.

Later, a graduate student in the French Department wrote the Department Chairs telling them to stop funding hate (attached the letter here):

To the departments and programs that sponsored Christopher Hitchens' speech of 17 March:

I write to express my deep and sincere disappointment in your decision to sponsor Mr. Hitchens to speak on campus. I wish to make it perfectly clear I have no problem with Mr. Hitchens expressing his views. Freedom of speech is what makes this country great. My problem rests with the fact that your departments sponsored Mr. Hitchens, thereby sponsoring his hate speech.

Billed as an event to promote understanding, Mr. Hitchens' speech was nothing more than a tirade against all religion and its followers. Rather than embracing diversity, Mr. Hitchens preaches and practices intolerance of all faith. He elaborates on this point in his book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Keeping with this track record, Mr. Hitchens came to Miami under your sponsorship and spread his message of hate and intolerance on our campus. I am profoundly shocked your departments provided funding for this. Perhaps what is most troubling is the apparent double standard your departments have established in regards to religion.

Had Mr Hitchens written a book about homosexuality, African-Americans or any other minority in the same manner as he wrote How God is Not Great, he never would have been invited to campus and your departments certainly never would have sponsored him. Furthermore, if we replace the word "religion" with "homosexuality" in any of his attacks from his speech, I sincerely doubt any of your departments would have a problem classifying them as hate speech.

According to Miami's No Hate Initiative

"Many individuals become targets of hateful acts because others are unable to accept differences based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, ethnicity or disability. Miami University condemns such acts. At Miami, a hateful incident directed at an individual or group, owing to their difference, is viewed as an attack on the entire community."

A entire speech dedicated to explaining how religion "robs us of autonomy, independence and responsibility" and how it is "taught to kids who can't defend themselves" would seem to me a clear cut case of "a hateful incident directed at an individual or group owing to their difference." What I cannot understand is your department's failure to abide by the university's own No Hate Initiative.

According to Miami's mission statement

"As an inclusive community, Miami strives to cultivate an environment where diversity and difference are appreciated and respected."

How can the university make such a claim while sponsoring those who wish to destroy diversity? I fully realize that atheists and secularists are part of our community here at Miami. I think that's wonderful that they contribute to our diversity. I in no way wish to deny them a voice on campus; however, there are plenty of atheist or secularist authors who are not bigots and whose views still allow them to appreciate and respect others.

This entire incident has seriously shaken my confidence and my pride in my university. I believe nothing less than an official apology is due on the part of the university for sponsoring hate. If the university refuses to take this step it thereby affirms a double standard in regards to faith and suggests that bigotry - as long as it is directed towards the spiritual or religious - is acceptable at Miami University

Please feel free to contact me at any time by email or phone.


Alan Burke

Alan J. Burke '09 MA '11
French Graduate Assistant
Miami University
(216) 409-3022

First off, and I state this again - it was an attach on an idea, it was not a personal attack! If he were to say that all Christians need to be punished, then it would be hate a speech. Homosexuality and being an African-American is something a person is, religion is not something that you are born with. So I am posting this, just in case you want to write or call Alan Burke to express your views to him.

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