How Tortured Atheists Agree
Have a Heart: Redux Times Two
If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to give my Have a Heart rant a look before proceeding. In short, an atheist friend of mine (Mason) was spiritually assaulted in an unsolicited manner by a bible-punching moron who tried to capitalize his perceived vulnerability. Mason’s cancer returned after two and a half years of remission, and an admittedly well-intentioned idiot took it upon himself to facilitate Mason’s divine healing without the aid of proven western medicine.
At any rate, I retold Mason’s story in my words, and ever since I’ve been (predictably) drawing hate mail from Christians who think that no real harm was done. To anyone with functioning brain this is a demonstrably false position which I rip to shreds in a subsequent commentary titled Stupid Is As Stupid Does.
But one would expect such knee-jerk panic fire from Christians. What is considerably rarer (but does happen from time to time) is a similar argument coming from tortured atheists who fundamentally agree with what I say, but they don’t care for the way I say it or that I even say it at all. No problem. I totally get that. It’s an intellect-saving thing. They try to diffuse our mutual agreement by playing the “why don’t you take the moral high-ground” card or suggesting that I become a “kinder gentler” godless bastard. Boo-fucking-hoo. Sorry, but I don’t roll that way. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em.
No One Likes to Agree with the Bastard (Even When They Really Do)
Below is an email I received from a very nice woman with whom I share a mutual acquaintance. It would appear that she has some sort of problem with me being irked by proxy. Please note my acknowledgment that her faulty logic and misguided assertions are largely the product of not having read all or enough of my website, having no clear understanding of what the site is about even though it’s clearly articulated on the very first page, and what appears to be some need for professional self-validation. (We’ll get to that in a bit.)
Her exact words are in white italics and my commentary is in [bracketed pale blue]:
My name is [withheld]. I’m a friend of [withheld] and being a philosopher [which is wholly irrelevant and carries no weight in a debate on faith], she thought I would find interest in your website.
First of all I must say I didn’t read everything [...understatement of the Millennium as you will see...] so I might have missed something that’s relevant to my remarks, but for what I read I have some thoughts/comments and I know you don’t mind them, so:
I don’t believe in god (or the god I was raised to believe in – the god of the sons of Israel), I guess you could call me agnostic. [No. If you don't believe in god then you, by definition, are an atheist. Agnostics claim that god can't be known.] I don’t accept anything as an axiom [...then you're a liar or in deep denial...], I keep asking a lot of questions to which I might never get answers, and it’s ok, it’s the journey that matters. So I’m not an advocate for god or anything BUT having read your words I think you mix a few things:
Your stories about hypocrisy and all your “accusations” refer to people not God – how people interpret god. Correct. [Good. You're paying attention.] I don’t accuse god of anything because he doesn’t exist. I also don’t blame Bugs Bunny for anything for the exact same reason. You don’t believe that god exists because Tim was being a hypocrite? I wonder. [Huh? That makes no sense. One has nothing to do with another. I don't believe in god because it's a patently silly concept. Tim's a hypocrite regardless of what I think or believe.]
You specifically talk about Jesus and the Evangelical Christians. [I think you mean to say that I talk specifically about Christians, but correct. I mentioned this on the very first page of this site. I also explained why I chose to focus on evangelicals. At least you're paying attention!] But the concept of god is way wider than this one person and his followers. [Really? I never knew that! I must have slept through all those years of Hebrew school.] As you well know, Jesus himself was Jewish. [Then why did his parents give him a Puerto Rican name?] He is supposedly the king Messiah, the son of god. Personally I see Jesus as a prophet, same as others throughout history, but only a specific group pf people see him as god. The Muslims and the Jews (and others) don’t, and yet they believe in god. So who is this god and does he exist? I’m not saying he does, I’m not saying he doesn’t. Some people feel safer in their faith that he exists and that’s fine for them. I don’t need him and his rules to lead my life. [Thank you for the lesson in theology and your personal take on matters of faith, but this has nothing to do with the topic at hand.]
You wrote about your sensations towards Tim and how furious you were. Why? [Well, I never used the word furious, but okay. I get furious (or irked or whatever other word makes you feel better about your argument) when foolish people do or say foolish things that involve me against my will. When I overhear some scumbag refer to a black person as a nigger I get furious too. And I respond accordingly. (Too bad you don't...or do you?) And in case you're inclined to tender a "Why can't you respond in a kinder, calmer tone and take the moral high-ground..." argument, it won't win any points with me. Subjectively harsh and offensive things sometimes demand and deserve an equally harsh and emphatic response. And I know you'd prove my assertion by personal demonstration given the proper stimulus. We'd just have to find and push the all the right buttons. FYI: This woman is Israeli, and anyone who knows one isn't buying her implied "why are you getting so worked up" criticality. Three Words: Pot...Kettle...Black.]
He believes in Jesus, you don’t. Period. Why did you let yourself be involved and vulnerable to his actions? [That's very faulty logic. Let's swap ideologies and remove Mason and Tim from the example. Take a meat eater and a vegan. One eats flesh, one doesn't. Period. So what? It's a pointless thing to point out. If the meat eater shoves a burger in the face of someone they know is a vegan and offers a bite, the offense to the vegan is extreme. Why don't you try it sometime and see how they respond? Tim's belief in Jesus (and my rejection of it) is completely incidental and, therefore, irrelevant. His act was offensive and repulsive to me. Forcing an offensive act upon another is worthy of an equally emphatic response. Let's see a racist lecture your child on the merits of ethnic cleansing (acceptable and benign to the racist, and offensive to you, I'm sure), and let's just see how benign your response is. Those who leave such offenses unchecked condone, enable, and guarantee perpetuation of them. I'd choose to give a harsh moment of pause. It's such a shame that you wouldn't do likewise. This is where you flip-flop and agree with me, or turn hypocrite and seek shelter behind the "that's not the same" mantra. Sorry, but it is the same.]
One of my professors has an interesting thing to say about offense which I would like to adapt to your situation. [Okay, I have to cut you off right here. He's a teacher. Throwing around the term "professor" doesn't make him an authority. Moreover, it says nothing about you and your qualifications or authority.] It’s not called “taking offense” for nothing. The offended person is an active participant in the act of offense. If someone says something to you that is supposedly offensive you have two choices: to take the offense and engage in this activity (of offending yourself), or to leave it untaken (by not being offended). [If your professor doesn't allow himself to "be offended" then he is a coward and an enabler. Physical pain tells your body to stop doing what it's doing. Likewise, "offense" tells your moral compass to do what's right (to you). The right thing would have been to give Tim a moment of pause and let him know that forcing an invocation of the spirit of Christ by the laying of hands upon a Jew is a profoundly offensive and inappropriate act, especially in light of the person having just received the news of a cancer relapse.]
I am sure that Tim really cared about Mason’s health [No, you're not...] and he did the only thing he knew (or thought he knew). [Wholly irrelevant. My response would be the same whether he was or wasn't.] Yes he was ignorant and narrow-minded [See? The naysayers agree with me. They just don't like admitting it, so they issue all these disclaimers.] but why should you care and let him get to you when you know your truth? [First, I didn't "let" him do anything. Again, would you just walk your child away from the racist (after he spewed his venom upon your child's ear) without offense, basking in the reality that you knew your truth. Would you just let it go? Any response other than "no" will be taken as a thoroughly disingenuous answer. No, you wouldn't. And you'd be a very bad parent if you did. It would get to you as any other offensive thing would.]
It is not my job to analyze your approach or your behavior [But you're doing so anyway...] but I must say that I sensed anger and frustration in your words. [Your powers of perception are quite amazing!] You strike me as an intelligent person [No, I'm fucking brilliant...] and you surely have a lot to say but have you ever stopped to think what your motivations were? [I know exactly what my motivations are, and I spelled them out explicitly on the very first page of this site. What, did you really think you were onto something that would nudge a moment of epiphany? Before you think yourself so insightful and clever, go back to Meet the Bastard, read, listen to what it clearly says, and then poke around for the hidden page. Perhaps you're in need of your own search for motive.] Being sarcastic is a virtue [It's also a talent...] but you have to examine where/what it stems from. [Again, if you actually read the site instead of just reacting to it you'd know exactly what it stems from, and you probably wouldn't have rambled on as you have for three pages now. But you didn't read the site; you merely reacted to what you expected to see. Instead you're allowing your motivations to guide your words. And if you really did read the site, then either your reading comprehension is very poor or you're hearing only what you want to hear. I'm aware of what you do for a living, so I'm certain there's confirmation bias and subconscious self-validation on your part are in play.]
You can convey the same message when it’s clear that it’s just an angry kid yelling all the no’s and do not’s or as someone who really examined and processed his thoughts so now others can get it, even if they don’t accept it. [Okay, so it's clear that you really haven't read the site and just don't "get" it. You are forgiven.]
Smell the Intellectual Dishonesty
You know, maybe it would be nice [calliope music playing in the background] if we all lived in this perfect little world where we all got along and treated each other nicely and with blind civility and respect for ideas and perspectives and blah, blah, blah…but we don’t. Truth is, we live in a world of idiots – many of which believe in, promote, enable, and perpetuate dangerous (as well as benign) acts and ideologies.
I don’t think that stupidity should receive a hall pass just because no one gets hurt. Even benign, well-intentioned stupidity hurts society in the long run. But well-intentioned or not, stupidity should be dealt with accordingly.
The hypocrisy from people who agree with me fundamentally but don’t care much for my delivery is staggering. When posed with the scenario of a racist who starts preaching (non-violent) viewpoints to their children, all of a sudden the “why can’t you just take the moral high-ground, ignore them, and walk away secure with your truth” fades into oblivion.