Oh, there are plenty of things I could say here. Short, pithy, pointed. Angry. Satisfying…but unhelpful. So I’ll settle for this: Are you listening to yourselves?
I’m serious. Did you think for one brief minute before sharing your first half-formed thoughts on this?
Even among child abusers, people who think they’re doing something okay are not the rule. People fight pedophilia, even when they find it within themselves. Many who do act on it come up with elaborate stories to explain away what they’re doing. The monster who says, “Mine to do with as I please,” is not common. Why would you think we’re apathetic about it?
No, I don’t sit around saying, “Child sexual abuse is bad. It should stop.” I also don’t generally say, “Gravity pulls that way. It should stick around.” The reaction to child sexual abuse is so universal that I’ve been cautioned as a writer against using it as a cheap emotional device in stories. Some things are simply so self-evident that it is an insult to say them to anyone who’s been introduced to the concept. Some statements require an explanation justifying their utterance. This is one of them.
What is it that you think of us? Do we condone child abuse normally–until it’s done in the shadow of the cross or the crescent? Are we merely callous and insensitive? Frivolous? Self-absorbed? Blind to the problem?
While you’re thinking about the audience for your condescension, think about that last option a little harder. If you are so much more personally concerned with the problem of child sexual abuse than we are, you probably know that somewhere between 10% and 25% of children are estimated to be affected. Even given lower survival rates among those children, they still grow up to be a large percentage of the population.
How many of those people you’re accusing of jumping onto a trendy and politically expedient problem are survivors of child sexual abuse themselves?
No, I can’t tell you either. I can tell you that you’ve hit at least one. Me. I don’t spend a lot of time talking about it, but who does?
I participate in certain activities instead, activities directed at helping kids survive when they’re abused, activities directed at calming people down enough that pedophiles feel free to seek treatment and that fruitful research on the problem can take place. I could tell you what they are, but I won’t, because I decide when and where I talk about this, not you.
I didn’t go through what I did, mild as it is by some standards, to be put on trial by you to prove that I care about this issue enough to have an opinion on whether it’s a good thing to put pressure on the world’s largest central religious organization to change policies that perpetuate child sexual abuse. I didn’t survive to watch that piece of me be dismissed because you don’t like how I–or someone else–talks about religion, when we’re talking about systemic, organizational enabling of abuse.
Do you want to talk about other actions you think will be more effective than prosecution, to engage people who have always wanted to help but not known how to tackle problem this pervasive and diffuse? Great. If nothing else, I’m always up for a chat on changing clerical exemptions to mandatory reporting laws. Now seems like a great time to fix those. We’ll talk.
But if you come at this questioning my motivation, I have nothing to say to you, except to ask what kind of monster you think I am. There is no grounds for discussion. We’re done.
* Not a strawman and not limited to those who dislike atheists or, sadly, even to those who appear to be angry at one or two atheists in particular. I could point, but there are some discussions that should be staked through the heart and buried at a crossroads.