Hard as it may be to believe (particularly considering my erratic posting habits), this is my 1,000th post to this blog. To celebrate, I’d like to share an e-mail I received some time ago but have been saving because I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
Atheists are stewpid. Here are things that atheists believe: the wole world came from nothing, there is no such thing as good and bad, THERE IS NO GOD!! Atheists also believe other stewpid things like having faith in science instead of GOD and worshipping Darwin instead of JESUS our LORD and CHRIST. Here are things that science can’t explain: rainbows, how bees fly, why there are still monkeys, what the soul is made of, how GOD is perfect and good. GOD is kewl!
Repent now or burn in HELL for all eternity. You are an atheist and probably a SINNER and GAY but if you repent and accept Jesus into your heart you will be SAVED!
The e-mail was obviously a joke, meant to poke fun at uneducated Christians. I didn’t run it because it had nothing to say, was mean spirited, and wasn’t particularly clever or funny.
The reason I even kept the e-mail was that there’s a strange grain of truth in it — every one of the things the “Christian” who wrote the letter says is something that I’ve heard from a real Christian (although generally with much better spelling). And the person who said it to me seemed completely sincere — they honestly believed that God was the only possible explanation for how bees fly, or that the theory of evolution predicts that there should be no monkeys, or that rainbows must be scientifically inexplicable because the Bible says they were a miracle.
But even though the people believing these things were horribly misinformed, they weren’t stupid. In almost every case, it seemed to me that these people didn’t have incorrect beliefs because of a lack of intelligence, but because of a lack of knowledge, a lack of experience in how to examine their own beliefs, or a lack of skepticism about things that agreed with opinions they already had.
There are some atheists out there who say that I am wrong to treat religious people with respect, honestly answer their questions, and engage them in conversation. These atheists think that ridicule is the only appropriate response to religious thought, and that religious people aren’t going to change their minds, so there’s no reason to waste time on them. But a woman working in a large corporation who believes that women have more ribs than men because “that’s what the Bible says” isn’t an idiot — she’s just wrong. And isn’t it a greater kindness to try and show her where she’s made a mistake than to ridicule her? Isn’t it better to respect a person’s feelings and intelligence even if that person holds ideas that are not worthy of respect?
I have seen deeply religious people profoundly change their beliefs because I respected them enough to hear what they had to say and treat them like the intelligent human beings they are. Some of these people became atheists. Some remained religious but came to realize that the world was bigger than their religious community, and that not all unbelievers were immoral, hateful, or dangerous.
I have also seen people so set in their ways that they are, to my way of thinking, lost. I’ve seen people go so far as to say they wouldn’t agree that there’s something wrong with holding contradictory beliefs unless I could show them where in the Bible it said that contradicting yourself was wrong. But there are not nearly as many of these people as some atheists seem to believe.
But of all the people I have discussed religion and philosophy with, the ones that bother me the most are the bad atheists — the atheists whose arguments are just as bad as the worst fundamentalist Christian arguments, or who think that they don’t need to worry about their behavior because “morality’s a religious thing.” One of my first big shocks when I began this site was the number of e-mails — more than a dozen — I got from atheists vehemently criticizing me for saying that married atheists shouldn’t commit adultery. Some of these people honestly believed that, as an atheist, there was no problem with a man having an extramarital affair, just so long as his wife wouldn’t find out about it. It made me sad to think that someone who supposedly had thought so carefully about religion could have put so little thought into ethics.
Which brings me back to the e-mail from the “Christian.” There’s a lot of bad atheism beneath the surface in that e-mail, and a lot of bad Christianity on its face. In a way, it sort of sums up the problem we all face — there is misunderstanding, foolishness, ignorance, and boorishness everywhere. Not just in religion, not just in atheism, but everywhere. And before we can even think of trying to sort out who is right, we have to learn to share and examine ideas intelligently, respectfully, and with a desire to seek the truth, no matter where it might lie.
In: Bad atheists, Dealing with religious folks, Essay