In a piece on the Huffington Post, Sandra Charron says that an article she wrote on her faith got a lot of backlash from atheist commenters and she just can’t understand why believers and atheists can’t get along. She does correctly identify some of the problems but I don’t think she puts all of the pieces together well. For instance, she says that she gets trolled by atheists who use her words to fuel the fire of discord. She also says that some Christians are guilty of the same thing on atheist forums. Okay, I’ll let her in on a little secret, there are trolls in the Internet. There, I said it. I know it’s hard to believe, but there is a sizable population of people who just get off raining on people’s parade and if she hasn’t figured that out yet, she needs to turn in her Internet Access Card to her ISP. I find it funny that she recognizes that Christians troll atheist sites, but she doesn’t seem to understand that some atheists do the exact same thing to Christian sites. Further, she says that she doesn’t care what atheists talk about so, by extension, atheists shouldn’t care what Christians talk about. That seems a bit short-sighted, don’t you think? Her opinions are hers and extend to no one else. Personally, I don’t give a damn about sports at all, I don’t expect that to apply to everyone. I’d be pretty self-absorbed to think that everyone ought to do the same thing I do, simply because I do it.
Further, why shouldn’t atheists, the ones who are widely mistrusted because of Christian bigotry, not take out their frustration at Christians? Certainly, I’m not excusing rude, abusive or troll-like behavior from anyone, but shouldn’t Christians ask themselves if their religion, if not themselves, hasn’t earned a bit of derision? After all, it’s certainly been cruel and callous to everyone else over the years and fundamentalists continue to be driven by religiously-fueled hatred even today.
Charron says that, in her view, having a viewpoint that is fundamentally different than someone else paints a target on one’s head and declares open season on their ideas. That raises some questions so I went back to her original post and looked through the comments which she claimed were full of cries of indignation and mockery, but honestly I found no such thing. Granted, I only went through the first page of comments and found nothing whatsoever directed toward her personally. Some people criticized Christianity but no one that I saw criticized Sandra Charron for holding her beliefs. At best, I saw one that asked her why she held them and that’s a perfectly valid question.
This seems to be yet another example of “insult my religion, insult me” thinking, where a theist is incapable of separating their own self-worth from their religious beliefs. This is an issue for a lot of theists, not just Christians. Heck, look at how many Muslims riot whenever someone says something mean about Islam. However, it’s not a rational way to live one’s life. There are lots of things that are very important to me, yet I do not take any slight toward those things to be a personal insult toward myself. I think Charron needs to go back and look at those comments and realize that there is a big difference between “your religion is stupid” and “you are stupid”.
While there is plenty of possible common ground between atheists and theists, places that we ought to be able to rationally debate and come to an agreement, I don’t see that atheists and theists will ever agree on the subject of religion. It’s like asking parents and pedophiles to agree on the topic of child safety. You might argue that’s an extreme example but a lot of atheists and plenty of theists generally think in those terms. I think all theists, from the most liberal to the most fundamentalist, have something wrong with them upstairs. When I was a theist, many years ago, I was convinced that all atheists were going to their eternal damnation. I was wrong. I got better. I used to treat my religious beliefs as the most important thing in my life until I realized that such a belief was foolish. If you think your religion defines you, you’re doing it wrong.
So let’s revisit the issue here. You have Christians who are putting out a message that is offensive to a lot of non-Christians, not just atheists, just as many Christians find the messages displayed by atheists and Muslims and Buddhists, etc. to be offensive. If that wasn’t the case, people wouldn’t go ape-shit every time an atheist sign ends up on the side of a bus. The Christians, in particular, scream bloody murder because they take offense, yet they can’t understand that they’re just as guilty, they’re just blinded by their own rhetoric. So atheists, who have every bit as much right to be upset as theists do, respond to these posts and articles and pictures and somehow, Charron thinks she has a right to be offended by this? Does she think atheists ought to be offended by churches who put out pro-religious signage? There’s some pretty offensive stuff out there aimed straight at atheists, should we just not be bothered by it? How about a little equity?
If you want believers and non-believers to get along, both sides have to be willing to make compromises. It’s the Christian side which has traditionally been unwilling to budge even an inch. Maybe you ought to go talk to them first, then start playing the “don’t worry, be happy” card.