September 2, 2006

The Wal-Mart Petition

A petitition asking Wal-Mart to stop selling the Christian bible is generating a great deal of attention on the atheist blogosphere. The basis of the request focuses on the obscenity of the bible, and the petition provides many excellent examples of such obscenity (additional examples can be found here).
We, the undersigned, recognize that any book which demands the death of innocent Wal-Mart employees, which commands sexual discrimination against women, which endorses slavery and the beating of slaves, which incites hate crimes against innocent citizens of the United States, and which demands the murder of people of other faiths, is so obscene that Wal-Mart should cease distribution of the book.
The petition also notes that asking Wal-Mart to stop selling obscene material has precedent, such as their refusal to sell Jon Stewart's America.
In Jon StewartÂ’s book, it is obvious that the intent is comedy. The Bible, on the other hand, is deadly serious and is frequently cited as an authoritative justification for discrimination and hatred.
In reading the petition, many may protest that it calls for exactly the same sort of censorship which freethinkers typically oppose. We can't very well blame Christians for censoring atheist material and then turn around and try to censor Christian material, can we? This is where the petition must be read carefully. Since Wal-Mart has a well-known and frequently used policy about not selling materials deemed obscene, the petitition is simply asking them to apply it consistently and not make a special exception for the Christian bible. Of course, an equally appealing alternative would be to drop the policy completely.

I encourage you to read this fascinating petition carefully. I will not advise you to sign it, and I will not discourage you from signing it. This is up to you. Personally, I think it would be great if something like this generated a public dialogue about religion. At the same time, I am sufficiently oriented to reality to predict that such publicity would consist of little more than a misleading attack on non-believers as trying to ban the bible.

For another opinion on this petition, see Kill The Afterlife.

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