Atheist prank sadly tainted

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 17:05 EDT
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Oh man, when I first read this story at Majikthise, I was stoked. Ernie Chambers is suing God in the Nebraska courts for making terroristic threats.

The suit (.pdf), filed in a Nebraska district court, contends that God, along with his followers of all persuasions, “has made and continues to make terroristic threats of grave harm to innumerable persons.” Those threats are credible given God’s history, Chambers’ complaint says.

Chambers, in a fit of alliteration, also accuses God of causing “fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like.”

Likewise the suit accuses God of having his chroniclers “disseminate in written form, said admissions, throughout the Earth in order to inspire fear, dread, anxiety, terror and uncertainty, in order to coerce obedience to Defendant’s will.”

I’m big on pranks and performance art to argue for atheism, because cold logic is easier for believers to shut out. Explaining the problem of evil causes people’s eyes to close and cotton to grow in their ears. But suing God? Brilliant. A great way to get people to stop and consider that an all-loving, all-powerful god shouldn’t be randomly killing people with hurricanes, and nor should he allow Pat Robertson to use that as a threat against people for filling his fantasies with images of butt-fucking. Dry explanations of how the fear of god’s wrath is used to keep people subservient don’t do much, but toss a communion wafer in the trash with banana peels and coffee grounds and wait for the lightning strike that never comes, and you made the point clearly.

Unfortunately, it seems that Chambers isn’t making a point about religion and foolishness so much as he’s lashing out at a rape victim who sought redress through the courts for being restricted from using the word “rape” to describe what happened to her while she was on the witness bench.

Chambers said the lawsuit was triggered by a federal suit filed against a judge who recently barred words such as “rape” and “victim” from a sexual assault trial.

The accuser in the criminal case, Tory Bowen, sued Lancaster District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront, claiming that he violated her free speech rights.

Chambers said Bowen’s lawsuit is inappropriate because the Nebraska Supreme Court has already considered the case and federal courts follow the decisions of state supreme courts on state matters.

I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say if the judge’s decision was fair or not. The case was dismissed anyhow, and it’s too bad. Because the victim doesn’t seem to be given much redress in the courts, and the prosecution’s case against the alleged assailant keeps ending in mistrial. This problem of forcing or pressuring rape victims to describe the encounter as “sex”, or worse, “having sex” needs to be hashed out, as ugly as it is. From my perspective, rape is not “having sex”. Having sex is a mutually agreed upon and preferably mutually enjoyable event. You don’t describe being mugged as “making a financial transaction”, even though it technically is. But what do I know? Maybe mugging victims are required in court to say, “After the defendant pulled out the gun, I changed my mind and decided to complete the requested financial transaction.”

It’s really too bad to see a religious protester like Chambers tie what is otherwise an awesome prank to grand-standing against a rape victim’s attempts to get some kind of justice. Atheists and feminists are natural allies, and of course we’re often the same people. After all, religion is the favorite tool of misogynists everywhere, because it gives you a Get Out Of Logic Free card, which sexists need because logical attempts to argue that women are inferior to men and should be controlled (if not owned, symbolically or outright) by men tend to fall apart. In fact, I’d point out that the disheartening discourse around rape has its history in the belief that rape is a crime against other men—an unlicensed use of male property—which means that women aren’t traditionally considered the victims of rape. It’s more that women are guard dogs around the pussy, and therefore the question ends up being, “Did the woman guardian properly protect the property in question?” It’s hard for feminists to shake this line of attack against women, even though modern people contextualize the victim of rape as being the woman herself, not her father or husband. Religion’s part in this is to justify women’s oppression that makes it hard for people to think of rape as a crime. Religion has and continues to contextualize women as inferior to men and as male property, and they also fetishize women’s “purity”, both of which are attitudes that tend to work against rape victims getting justice.

Chambers’ lawsuit was thrown out because you can’t serve papers to god. Again, I’m sad that Chambers’ prank is tainted with this rape trial stuff, because his response is priceless as pure atheist pranking.

Chambers, who graduated from law school but never took the bar exam, thinks he’s found a hole in the judge’s ruling.

“The court itself acknowledges the existence of God,” Chambers said Wednesday. “A consequence of that acknowledgment is a recognition of God’s omniscience.”

Therefore, Chambers said, “Since God knows everything, God has notice of this lawsuit.”

Love it. Of course, the real reason you can’t serve papers to god is there is no god. You can no more serve him papers than you can serve the Tooth Fairy. But no way will the court say that; they’ll just dance around the issue.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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