Sometimes I get a little steamed up. This morning on Facebook, one of my friends posted an item about the addition of the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. This led immediately to a diatribe from one of his Christian friends (whose name I will omit, because I’m a considerate person):
“I visited this site and I read all the comments regarding the pledge. You know full well that this nation was founded on religious principles…..specifically the principles of Jesus Christ. To deny that is foolish. All one has to do is read the writings of the founders to know their heart. I was deeply offended by the incredibly noxious comments and vicious screed directed at those of us that are followers of Christ. And all this from a crowd that preaches tolerance. I simply can’t believe that you could align yourself with something this low.”
Another friend of my friend responded to this ridiculous statement as follows:
“With all due respect, you do know that Thomas Jefferson had his own version of the Gospels. He took out all the voodoo and the Hocus Pocus and left the direct words of Christ. This country was not found on religious principles and most decidedly NOT on the principles of Jesus Christ. That is why the Constitution has a provision that mandates that NO RELIGIOUS TEST be required for ANY Constitutionally mandated position in our government.”
I then added my two cents’ worth:
“As a matter of historical fact, you’re wrong. The founding fathers were very careful to keep religion OUT of political life. The fact that you fail to understand this shows very clearly exactly WHY they chose that path. It should also suggest to you why people get a little testy on the subject. To be specific, the Christians in this country fucking don’t get it.”
The Christian guy then fired back with this:
“First of all, my comments were directed to [the original poster], not any of you. Your revisionist view of history is typical atheistic garbage. Jim, I don’t fail to understand anything. I have devoted most of my sixty years to intensely studying the Bible and history and all I can say is that you and your ilk have succeeded in turning this once great nation into a third world rat hole. By the way, don’t use that kind of offensive language when you address me.”
Of course, there are numerous deep-seated problems with this, most remarkably the bizarre notion that the United States would be a wonderful nation today if it weren’t for the atheists. Also, I find myself wondering whether this fellow has ever done a point-by-point comparison between, say, a nice clean suburb in Southern California and an actual “third world rat hole,” such as, oh, maybe Somalia or the slums of Bangladesh. Probably not. The supposed horrifying collapse of the United States is not entirely in his mind — things have gotten pretty bad around here, though they weren’t exactly great in the 1950s, were they? There’s also a whiff of racism about his phrase, isn’t there? Just a little whiff.
In any case, I lost it, okay? Here’s how I responded:
“So you’re an intolerant asshole and an ignorant schmuck. I might have expected better of a so-called ‘Christian,’ but I don’t, usually. And fuck yourself in the ass if you don’t like my language, you piece of dogshit.”
I’m afraid I’m just not very tolerant of religious people anymore. Religious patriots are worse. Ignorant religious patriots … well, that’s a redundant phrase. All religious patriots are ignorant, by definition.
I do think it’s charming that this guy is posting on Facebook and thinking he has the right or can expect to control other people’s use of words like “fuck.” That level of cluelessness is a highlight of the conversation.
But the underlying problem is not that the guy is ignorant. We’re all ignorant about various things. The underlying problem, and the reason I get so tweaked about his brand of idiocy, is this: His religion forces him to be ignorant. His religion is one-size-fits-all. There is no room in his world view for divergent opinions. As far as he can see, Christianity is the One Holy Truth, and because he loves his country (a separate failing, and a topic for another time) he cannot conceive that his country was founded on other than Christian principles.
The logic (if you want to call it that) seems to be this: All good things come from God. Therefore, anything that is not good is due to people’s failure to worship God.
Never mind that the God of the Old Testament was, according to the documentary evidence, a sadistic motherfucker. Pay no attention to the deity behind the curtain.
Last night I was part of a very interesting discussion about tolerance. It seems to me that tolerance is a two-way street. Religious people tend to expect (if not demand) tolerance for their views — but many of them fail to return the favor. Their dogmatic belief is that they’re right — and if they’re right, atheists must be wrong. The stakes being (in their pathetic little minds) very high, they have little hesitation in striding out forthrightly to smite and bring low the evils of atheism. Of course they’re quite willing to love you as an individual … but only after you become a convert to their brand of hoo-hah, whatever it happens to be.
Last night somebody said, “Tolerance is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t mean you have to put up with assholes.” If a religious person demands that you be respectful of their religion, while they’re refusing to be respectful of your secular values as an atheist, and then they accuse you of being intolerant because you ask them to hop off of their high horse and come down to earth — no. Fuck that.
I want to take some time to put together a comment on the Christian vs. Atheist question. It is tempting to respond with a visceral comment. If anyone has 26 minutes you can spare, find ‘Holy Horus’ in Google. Thanks for discussion! mz
I thought it through and ended up writing a lengthy response to the Christian/Atheist question. It is long and unemotional because I am not angry at theists. Atheists and theists are not going to run to the opposite camp because of a blog. As far as reading a lot of material, it would take a pretty broadminded person to read a great deal of the opposite opinion. Since it is such an important issue, try reading all sides. I, personally, find it fascinating.
Thanks, Jim, for keeping the subject going. Keep up the good work! mz
ps. Please remember the “Holy Horus” piece (26 min found on Google).
I don’t have the patience I’d need to wallow in Christian propaganda, but I have read bits and pieces of the Bible. It’s a rather horrifying document, on the whole. The Old Testament is full of God ordering the Israelites to butcher people, and they seem to have been enthusiastic about carrying out His orders. The parts with Jesus are somewhat better — but so what? Plato wrote some nice stuff about Socrates too. It’s all fiction.
Of course the Bible is a horrifying document in many places. It was needed to scare people into certain behaviors so they wouldn’t die from eating certain foods, would obey the right people, and would worship God in all the correct ways. I think many Christians (Islamists, Shintu, etc., after this just ‘Theists’) don’t rely on logic, reason, or even Biblical rhetoric for their beliefs. Their most important thing is to HAVE belief. That belief is their rock that keeps them grounded, sane, and somewhat calm. Christians do not go around killing 10,000 with the jawbone of an ass for not being polite to God. They will say something like it was in the Bible, but it was metaphorical. Or, if you believe it really DID happen, it was ONLY once and that was so generations after would GET it. One only needs to start with the concept of Death; if someone offered something comforting about that, it might get someone’s attention. Atheists aren’t overjoyed about Death; it’s just that buying the theist dogma isn’t comforting to everyone. Bob Hope said that he was open to many religions because he didn’t want to miss heaven on a technicality. So, Bob Hope was a Theist (at least publicly). Winston Churchill said that to understand the problems of Democracies, have a deep conversation with an average voter. The same could be said about the average Theist.
My wife’s childhood friend, a devout Catholic, visited us last year. I drove her and attended Mass with her. People were talking, not paying attention, and generally rude. But when Communion was offered, they pretty much all took it. So they were good to go for the coming week. After the Mass, she said that they should never have let the Mass revert to English, but to have kept it in Latin. I asked if she understood Latin, and she said no. Do most people? No. Do you know anyone who comprehends Latin? No. So why, I asked, did she want Mass said in Latin?? Answer: Because when Mass is said in English the meaning of theology is not clearly and thoroughly translated, and God, who is listening to that Mass, might not get it. No, I didn’t point out the absurdity of God getting languages mixed up (that He created!) or the fact that people who spoke only English and were already bored and tuned out would be even worse off in Latin. Remember, she was our guest!
Logic is needed for most atheists. Rejection of Theism often needs a lot of overwhelming facts. When information abounds, it is tough to let stories supplant fact. Humans have 46 chromosomes, and a close ape relative has 48. Before technology was available to see them, on scientist hypothesized that when the technology was available, we would be able to see two chromosomes with weakened structures showing the fusing from 48 to 46. He died, but someone saw it. To an atheist, or someone seeking to find some truth, this might sway them. For theists, first they probably wouldn’t seek this information out; but if they ran across it, their need for belief would overshadow it. Or, they may invoke a theistic hand by using chromosomes as the mechanism by which species are created.
Again, thank you for the platform for discussion. Keep it up!! mz