Twice in the last three weeks I’ve been witness to two different Christians in group settings openly ridiculing atheists and science. I’ve also in the past seen believers ridicule other believers of a different sort, a double standard by my book.
The first was at my favorite coffee shop, I was there early in the morning and a group of 12 or so men were having a Bible study. I was a little early for work so I decided to sit down for a bit and finish reading The Blind Watchmaker. I overheard one particular gentleman comparing any non-christian with dogs by saying that he expected bad behavior from non-believers and other faiths because that’s just who they are just like he expected a dog to lick his behind. The same gentleman later said, “What takes more faith; believing that we crawled out of a swamp, or that god created us?” to much agreement from the group.
In this situation I patiently held my tongue, though I couldn’t help but shake my head in disgust. I did later send an email to one of the participants that I happened to know, and last week I attended the study myself. Turns out these guys are really nice, were open to my discussion points on the parts of the Bible they were discussing, and welcomed me into the group very openly. I’ll continue attending. (I do intend to discuss their offenses eventually and write about this entire experience here on the blog.)
The second offense was from a guest pastor that held a moment of reflection at an event I volunteer for every couple months, a live music show that benefits my local arts guild. The pastors first words were a quote of Psalms 14:1, “The Fool hath said in his heart, there is no god”. He continued to deliver a plea for salvation at a clearly secular event. I’ve yet to email this gentleman but I intend to explain that he need not pity this fool.
The point I’m trying to get to is that for some reason it’s ok to make fun of people and beliefs that aren’t your own in the Christian world and to even do so in a public setting, often with the assumption that those beliefs are so rare in your community that there won’t be anyone particularly offended by such things (and for those few that are, well – obviously they deserve it).
Were I to claim that I’ve never made a joke at the expense of Christians or the Christian faith I’d be a liar, but I don’t attack people based on whether or not they follow any particular faith and I’m not prejudiced against those that believe (except Scientologist…everyone can pick on Scientology). I am inclined and obligated to attack falsities promoted in the name of religion, in doing so I stand in opposition to a position or statement rather than against a person which allows the debate to fall into the realm of the intellectual and focus on the evidence – not the character of a person or group. There are a few exceptions to this rule of course; Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Fred Phelps, and anyone that has such glaring character flaws as these men should be questioned harshly by both Christians and non-believers.
Attacking people shouldn’t be normal, attacking positions should be. I want to see the Christian camp decide that it would rather participate in intelligent discussion and debate rather than playing to a crowd of people that agree with them while they insult a minority. I want Christians to embrace and encourage doubt and questioning rather than ensuring that believers are too afraid of hell to ask questions.
I want to see the New Atheists avoid gross generalizations against people that believe and to recognize that (I hope)most are good, kind, loving, and even intelligent people who don’t allow their faith or holy book to keep them from goodness. Let’s keep the discussion on the points, that’s where we win. I’ve not been perfect in any of these things, I intend to try to be in the future.
It’s not OK to call someone a fool because they don’t accept your faith even if the Bible says so. It’s not OK to ridicule a science you don’t understand even if the Bible says so. It’s not OK to call someone a dog (or swine) because they don’t share your faith even if the Bible says so. What is appropriate conduct is presenting your faith honestly, being prepared to answer critique, and giving those that disagree the opportunity to object and discuss the problems they find.
I’ll do my part. Will you?