Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A brief tour of theist/atheist interaction

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Recently, I commented on another WordPress blog,   I thought I’d repost things here since it’s a great example on how atheists and theists often interact on the internet, all displayed in a few posts.     

This was my post in response to the blog entry linked to above:

“Mr. Poindexter, I’m an atheist. I have some observations. Your one comment “growing number of those who claim no faith or belief in God”. Your choice of words makes it sound like so many other theist claims that atheists simply can’t “really” have no faith or belief in their god. You may not have meant it that way but let me assure you, I do not simply claim to have no faith or belief in your god at all; I have none. I was a Presbyterian for decades; I’ve read the bible as believer and as not. I’ve looked closely at other religions and realized that atheism is the only thing that made sense with the evidence and lack thereof (I’d like to know these “philosophical troubles” you have with atheism). I am an atheist, not a “new” one or an old one. The only difference in atheists today and yesterday is the comfort they have in rejecting the baseless claims of religion. Robert Ingersoll would probably be called a “new atheist” today because of his outspokenness, but he was giving speeches back more than 100 years ago.

I also wonder about your claims to have changed your “understanding” of your god and your claim that this new understanding is more “grace-filled”, e.g. a more “true” understanding. I’m guessing that you would have claimed the same thing about your beliefs before your change of heart. Also, your opinion of what Jesus “really meant” is also full of the usual cherry picking I’ve seen. Christians of all types have vastly different opinions on what Jesus would have them do, and unfortunately I have not seen any of you have any better evidence of this than the next, be it you or Fred Phelps. Christianity *is* a belief system and a decision that there is one “right” way.

Atheists and theists can and do work together on many things, but at the base of it all is the claim by Christianity that anyone who does not believe is damned to eternal torture. Such belief isn’t exactly the best basis for understanding and friendship. I do have a wordpress blog of my own so I do invite there or anywhere to discuss the issues I’ve noted.”

There were no actual responses to my post, though some did refer to it.   This one has one of the usual attempts to claim that the reason that atheists are atheists is because they are “hurt and angry”.  Some atheists indeed are with good reason, considering what some Christians advocate.  But many of us aren’t, or at least have grown beyond that.

Steve DeFields-Gambrel posted: “As the above post indicates, there is more than one kind of atheist, as there is more than one kind of Christian. My friend Jerry is a former member of a congregation I used to pastor. Today he is what I call a fundamentalist atheist, by which I mean his atheism is rooted as much in hurt and anger at Christianity as it is rooted in his very rational, scientific brain. I don’t think Jerry can get past what he sees as his war against Christianity, nor can he get past his conviction that Christianity persecutes him, though he and I remain good friends and conversation partners. Is there room for Jerry in our community? Well, yes and no. His atheism does not automatically exclude him from being with people who follow the way of Jesus. I think it would be great to have him, or other atheists as part of our conversation. But we do follow the way of Jesus. Hard to imagine how he could feel himself to be part of our particular community if he sees himself as at war with Jesus.”

I wrote back:

“Steve, yes there are many reasons to be an atheist.  Has your friend said he feels hurt and angry at Christianity?  Can you imagine why he might feel that way?  I’d suggest that you actually ask him how he feels since it has been my experience that theists assume that atheists feel hurt and angry when many of us don’t.  It allows a theist to disregard our reasons by making them to be only emotional reactions.  I would also ask you what you think the “way of Jesus” really is?  How is it that your version is any more right than a Christian who follows the Jesus that said he would bring a sword, that those who do not accept him should be killed (Luke 19, a rarely mention parable called the ten minas), that says *all* of his father’s laws are to be followed, and that is evidently responsible for hell?  I do appreciate the more humane versions of Christianity, indeed my parents are this type of Christian, and I’m sure you could not pick me out of a crowd as being an atheist from my actions; but history shows that Christianity changes with humans, not the other way around. Your “way of Jesus” is quite different from the “way of Jesus” a hundred years ago or even a few hours ago comparing it to Christians who disagree with you that we can see every day on the television, web, etc.  Can you answer me, how do we know which version is the “right” one, not only the one we prefer due to being humans raised with a western Englightenment based education that decries slavery, sexism, etc?  That is often what atheists find offensive about Christianity and religion, those older viewpoints that have not been decryed by all those who follow Jesus Christ.”

I do hope to have a response to that, though I’m not holding my breath.  The questions I ask shouldn’t be that hard to respond to unless one hasn’t thought about why atheists are atheist and why Christianity has so many differences among its sects, some claims about what Jesus Christ wants being diametrically opposed to the next.  I was initially disgusted at the actions of Christians in my church.  That started me reading the bible to find the answer straight from the horse’s mouth, and looking at other religions.  I realized that no religion had any evidence to support its claims; they all could be seen as myths created by humans to explain the world and to declare themselves somehow special in it.  I was also interested in the sciences (thank you, Mr. Spock) which exposed me to how claims are proven to be true.  What I discovered is that the claims that the religions made had no evidence that those mythic events ever happened.  No magical floods, no divine fire from the sky, no superhuman beings, no miracles of healing, none of those had any evidence to support them, including those claimed by Christianity.  I no more believe in leprechauns, fairies, unicorns, mermaids, Odin, Tezcatlipoca, Amaterasu, Masauwu, etc, than I do Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah or Jesus Christ.

Unsuprisingly, someone else, “Noonenamed”, posted this in response to my post: “This post was snide and obviously so. questioning intent every sentence with quotations and comparing author to fred phelps is ill-intent in purpose, and the tone is hostile. You would be a reason not be able to have groups that have members co-existing and I believe you would be much the same level of destructive in relationships else…if not have so already.”

Like many theist who are unable to address the problems with religions, they baselessly claim that I was “snide”, a lovely excuse they’ve given themselves so they don’t have to think.  I am also bemused that someone who is evidently a Christian has decided that bearing false witness against me is a-OK. Alas, “noonenamed”, I am not being deceitful, false or disparaging. I suppose you might consider me not worthy of esteem but many theists have thought so when I’ve asked difficult questions that they were unable, or unwilling, to answer. That’s doesn’t bother me. Having been an atheist for more than a few years, I have seen theists use the same old and unsupported accusations against atheists again and again, that we’re angry, bitter, hurt, lonely, sad, only rebelling, know that their god really exists but not liking it, etc ad infinitum.  It does get a little boring, but in the case that they don’t realize what they are saying and how it could be interpreted, I point them out again. 

I’ve also seen many Christians claim to have philosophical troubles with atheism but when those troubles are examined, they often come from a misapprehension of what atheism is and who atheists are. I would welcome the chance to address Mr. Poindexter’s troubles to see if I could clear them up from an atheist’s point of view. This “noonenamed” is also confused when thye claim I compared the author of the original blog entry to Fred Phelps.  I said exactly this: “Christians of all types have vastly different opinions on what Jesus would have them do, and unfortunately I have not seen any of you have any better evidence of this than the next, be it you or Fred Phelps.”  There is no comparison made.  I have pointed out that they are indeed different, and pointed out how that is a problem when determining the validity of their individual claims. Mr. Phelps does give many Christians indigestion when he is brought up. In many years of debating Christians of various types, they have yet to show how I can tell that they are any more “right” about what their god wants than he is.  This is the problem with Christianity, there is no way to know, no divine approval written in the stars, etc.

Finally, we have one more by “jayepgreen”

“Hi folks, The God cell, atom or galaxy is what God wants. Through prayer and meditation on the word i find a disconnect with idolatry. When i muster my wits between 4:30 and feet on the floor coffee in hand time I know what waits daily. There is space hanging in the air here that i know must be filled with thanksgiving, supplication and confession. How in the world did God get a start? I have grown up deep in church. Ankles, knees, torso, head, under water and resurfaced. GOD starts willingly. Of my most uppermost decision about faith is that I am exclusive and my faith fights that for me. Mirrors of faith shine in my children and the harried, hapless, sheveled, disheveled and elated/sorrowful lives they choosel They have always been God’s. That was my conception of our fortunate pregnancies. None of them or their partners shelve easily…. Thank goodness. They are not easy to fit with their legacies of faith. lovable heirs that they all are. Thank you Holy God, Creator, Sustainer and Comforter. God blesses the children. Hold them from harm. Thank you for your seed article.”

It’s a pretty common variant of theism, the vague claims of one more Christian on what their god wants by declaring that the individual theist knows more than any established sect, which explains neatly where sects do come from, the disagreement on what is the “correct” interpretation of said deity. These often have some badly-written-to-the-point-it’s-incoherent word salad as this one does.  

That does it for the tour. For more like this at a much faster pace, visit places like the forum at Why Won’t God Heal Amputees.

Update: 9-24-12

The original post at dmergent has had all the comments stripped from it.  How unsuprising.  So much for those Christians being so concerned with atheists and supposedly wanting to understand atheists.  I guess one real one makes a problem for their baseless assumptions.

3 thoughts on “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A brief tour of theist/atheist interaction

  1. Perhaps that is how Romney got the idea of etch-a-sketching his way to election day. Too many comments of the wrong type? Just shake …


    1. Heh, I often wonder that myself. I find that when arguing with theists or other points, they seem to be all the more ready to convienently lie even when the subject isn’t about “Does God exist?” but on…say…the old “Hitler was as Theist or an Atheist?” question. I similarly note that why watching political debates that the side aligned with fundamental Christianity, Conservatives, are all the more willing to outright and blatently lie…even though the Liberals are willing to use vague or misdirectional language.


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