Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fired for Truth-Telling?

Yohir Akerman, ex-columnist. 
For years, Yohir Akerman wrote often polemical columns for Medellin's El Colombiano newspaper - columns often critical of religion and even of the newspaper's other columnists.

But when Akerman dared to suggest that the Good Lord could be - horrors of horrors - mistaken, he got ousted from the paper.

Akerman's latest and last column arose from the recent flap over the Universidad de la Sabana's opinion on the issue of adoption by same-sex couples. Sabana University, an elite private school located in north Bogotá, was founded by Opus Dei, the extremely conservative Catholic group. Predictably, the university's medical school recommended against permitting gay adoption. However, it went on to opine that homosexuals could be considered mentally ill, a position long since rejected by the medical establishment. The retrograde view on gay people brought the university so much criticism
that it issued a retraction.

In his newspaper columns, Akerman quoted Old Testament verses prescribing the
El Colombiano
death penalty - often by stoning - for adulterers, rebellious children, women who are not virgins at marriage and other 'wrongdoers.' He also also cited Bible verses endorsing slavery.

"All of these concepts are in the Bible," Akerman concluded, "and as history has demonstrated on these subjects, god was mistaken."

The newspaper appended this convoluted message to the column: 'Note from the directors: This newspaper promotes debate from respect and good arguments. We consider that this column strays from those principles. For the author, not publishing the column would mean his resignation. We publish it and accept his resignation.'

The directors did not explain why quoting the Bible constituted a lack or respect or good argument.

The Bible: Infallible?
Semana magazine quotes Akerman as saying that the paper's director criticized him particularly for not capitalizing the word 'god' and for asserting that God was mistaken.

In Sabana University's defense, it's not explicitly clear that its criticism of same-sex adoption was based on religious ideas. In fact, it doesn't seem unreasonable that growing up in a heterosexual family, which has been the norm for much of human and pre-human evolution, would be better for kids. But it also seems obvious that a loving, supportive family of any type is much better than an abusive one or being warehoused in an orphanage.

And the studies I've seen show that children of same-sex couples tend to out-perform those of heterosexual couples for a simple reason having little to do with the parents' gender or sexual orientation: they have highly-motivated parents who had to make lots of effort to have kids. In contrast, we all know that many heterosexual couples become parents by mistake.

For its part, Akerman's column seems to fall well within the spectrum of reasonable commentary. After all, he primarily quoted the Bible rather than attacking it.

Rather than summarily ousting Akerman, El Colombiano's editors might explain why the Bible is unerring, and therefore that death by stoning is a reasonable punishment for a range of moral 'lapses.'

But while they're at it, El Colombiano might also find itself endorsing a Christian version of the barbaric Islamic State.

As for the court, it ruled that, for now, same-sex couples could adopt only when the child was the biological offspring of one member of the couple, but that the legislature should regulate the issue.

Perhaps such an incremental decision is best in a highly-Catholic nation. In the U.S., when courts made rulings on controversial issues such as racial segregation and abortion it's led to years of conflict. Some things are best decided by the more democratic legislature.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

I agree with the valid statement of the paper.Promoteing debate from respect and good arguments. Atheists and such seem to virulently opposed to basic points they know next to nothing about. Quoting from the Bible without context and reason seems wholly unintellectual. Pity for this person. Someday he might just grow up.

Diego Cordoba said...

I don’t find anything questionable in Akerman’s article (I suggest following the link in the text to read it all). It’s Akerman’s opinion after all, and whether you agree with him or not, it’s just part of what’s known as freedom of speech. If you don’t agree with a person’s opinion, don’t read it, or disagree with it. People in our modern societies should be able to express their opinions against religion without fear of being condemned for it (just as the opposite is true). Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore…
By the way, who is quoting “out of context” here? If cherry-picking only the “good” parts in the bible and ignoring the facts that it also says (among many other outdated and inappropriate ideas encouraged therein), that homosexuals, adulterers (both male and female), and children who disobey their parents should be stoned to death, is, in fact, reading the book totally out of context. If it wasn’t meant to be taken literally or isn’t part of the “context”, why mention it?

Stuart Oswald said...

Oh dear. I never stated that his views shouldn't be expressed. This is not a Charlie Hebdo moment. That is to misslead my point. People who hold bigotted, prejudiced and ignorant views need to be challenged. I'm not going to get into a debate about versus in any religious context. The issue here why a supposedly professional individual could make such a poor quality argument. I personally think it must be some kind of attention seeking stunt. Many atheists in the relatively comfortable West feel a fashion to patronise a faith that has brought so much human advancement and is core to what defines our species as human to begin with. Shame.

Ally Brown said...

Correlation does not equal causation, Stuart. Civilisation would have advanced just as quickly, if not quicker, without centuries of oppression from men in power proferring answers and moral judgements based on a highly ignorant and morally abhorrent ancient book. But whatever, history can't be re-run. In the meantime I'd like to hear how you can possible deride his argument as being of such poor quality. Specifically.

It's very clear that the Bible promotes many abhorrent behaviours and should not be taken as infallible by any vaguely moral person in the 21st century (far less a journalist). Thankfully, Christianity went through an enlightenment that allowed for "creative interpretations" of the Bible, and for that reason Christianity doesn't have the violent extremism problem that Islam (which didn't have an enlightenment) is struggling with now. People of both faiths react badly to criticism because they simply can't rebut it.

The magazine sacking the journalist for this article is completely ridiculous. If the editors disagreed with it, they could have asked the author to edit it, refused to publish it, OR published an opposing opinion piece next to it. Instead of any of these three entirely reasonable options, they just sacked him. What a ludicrous way to treat an employee, and, sadly, it just adds to the climate of fear around journalism in Colombia, that's mostly based on fear of violent reprisals, but also fear of losing your job if you say something plainly sensible but contrary to the church.

Stuart Oswald said...

The weakness in your argument is that you compare different stages of human development against another. Something that's very easy for people to do whom are ignorant of reason. Just to remind you that the enlightenment was not an atheistic movement, they believed in God just as humans have at any other time.

You incorrectly attribute human suffering to religion. Yet we see what a world without faith does to human kind and human progress. Millions of unborn babies murdered. Millions of men, women and children murdered the world over indiscriminately in pursuit of an unachievable atheistic utopia. Empty soulless pursuing sexual gratification. Murdering and enslaveing after the greed, envy, lust and jealousy.

I think the newspaper acted in with utmost integrity. He threatened them and they turned around and published his stupidity and let him go. All credit to them.

We live in a free society, the onus of one's stupidity falls wholly upon the indvidual.

Thank you and have a good day,