an atheist peace

A few days ago, I read They Don’t SPEAK for Me by Bruce Gerencser, as linked to by the awesome John Loftus, and my first reaction was that I objected rather strenuously to the notion that all believers share a certain guilt by association when one of their leaders says or does reprehensible things (ex: Pat Robertson). More specificallly:

I understand why you are upset. I used to get upset too when I was lumped together with people I despised or disagreed with.

However…when I join a group, church,political party or family I have to accept the baggage that comes with the association.

And I thought, wait, no, that’s not right, I can’t blame my Christian friends because some other random person representing themselves as the same religion is acting like a complete asshat. This actually kept me awake much longer than I expected it to — had I known, I would have just sat up right then and there and written this.

But the next day, I re-read the post and changed my mind, I think my first perception of it was colored by the title chosen by Mr. Loftus, as I was thinking along the lines of “lumping all Christians together” being the bad thing, but on that second read it became more clear that it was about urging Christians to take responsibility for their choice of associations. Taking responsibility is good, right?

And then I thought about it some more, and that first impression returned. So, am I saying that people of faith bear no responsibility for the actions of other with whom the voluntarily align themselves? No! Just wanted to make that clear, in case you think me an apologist of sorts. Not that I am free of apologist tendencies, but let’s not go off on that tangent right this moment, ok?

My disagreement comes from this: Telling all members of any faith that they must own the consequences of things done by extremists claiming the same religious label would only be fair if all members of that faith shared the same or even substantially similar sets of beliefs – but they don’t. There are such widely divergent views within the different factions of the major religions (let alone between the major religions themselves) that I am not comfortable with telling every Christian they must accept that they are connected directly to Scott Roeder, any more than I would tell every Muslim that they are connected directly to Umar Abdulmutallab. To identify everyone in a group as associates of its most infamous worst-case examples just seems unfair to me.

And when I look at these examples and reflect on the crazy huge number of completely different things a person might mean when they speak of their beliefs in a god or gods, it comforts me to contemplate an Atheist’s Peace (video & lyrics follow in the ‘more’ area)

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good news roundup

In the interest of peace on earth and goodwill toward everyone, I present to you four separate instances of religious people and atheists behaving decently toward one another:

In St. Helena, a devout Christian and an atheist met for the first time, talked nonstop over breakfast about their respective beliefs or lack thereof, and decided they had no reason to dislike one another:

Our views had almost nothing in common. We did not even agree on the nature of what is real. We did agree that there was no reason for ill will between us.

In Denver, sheriff Jim Alderden (aka, Balloon Boy Sheriff), invited some atheists to his annual “Politically Incorrect Christmas Party.”

Alderden invited two atheist groups to participate after they wrote him asking that he stop the display. He says he wants to be inclusive and told them he had a “big, empty spot for the atheists” at Saturday’s party.

The Colorado Coalition of Reason will erect a sign urging people to illuminate their minds with reason during the winter-solstice season.

In Baltimore, the Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton declared that atheists are no threat to religious leaders:

“As a follower of Christ, I would love for everyone to not only experience this yearning but to also know the creator who imbued us with it,” O’Brien said. “But, being part of a free, pluralistic society is living in community with people who have different faith commitments or no faith commitment at all and to work together to find common ground in working toward the common good.”

Independent Catholic News posted a fair and factual account of the recent intelligence² debate between Richard Dawkins, A C Grayling, Richard Harries and Charles Moore. Before the debate, 334 attendees voted in favor of the motion, with 675 against and 389 undecided. Afterward, 363 voted in favor of the motion, with 1070 against it and 85 undecided. One might find the ICN’s assertion that “While Harries and Moore lost the debate, they managed to persuade a good number of undecided attendees” to be a bit of a stretch — however upon further consideration and after watching the videos, an increase of 29 probably was a good number, all things considered.

See? We really can all just get along.

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lawlessness and godlessness

story number one:

My son’s bicycle was stolen this morning. He is a good, honest boy who’s never stolen a thing in his life, it’s not in his nature. He was devastated; it was a cool-looking bike, not expensive but with all the fancy things a tweenage boy loves in a bike. And it was his transportation home from school, two miles with a thirty pound backpack. He’s on a scooter until we replace the bike (soon, just not right this minute).

Now, the worthless sort of human vermin who steals slightly beat-up, inexpensive kids’ bikes is overwhelmingly likely to be incarcerated fairly regularly, and like most petty criminals, when he sobers up in jail, gets religious to pass the time and earn good points. And, if he does, and if accepts Christ and asks forgiveness for his crimes, according to the Christian rules, he gets to go to heaven. I’m not saying this is the case with the thief that took my boy’s fire-orange Mongoose, but there are good odds it is.

My son, the sweet, honest boy who is by choice, an atheist, would burn in eternal hell by those same rules.

story number two:

Years ago I knew a lovely woman, a devout Catholic. She lost her husband of some twenty-five years, and after an appropriate interval as a widow, met a nice man in the church. He was also a very devout, strict Catholic, a teacher of music at the local seminary, a tireless volunteer for Catholic youth groups.

You know where this is going, right?

The nice-seeming man raped the lovely woman’s grandson. The woman was, without question, the most forgiving person I have ever met; her forgiveness was based in her faith, and her faith was based in complex rituals which, if followed devoutly, guaranteed forgiveness. The rape devastated the victim and the family, and if the nice-seeming rapist was like virtually every other child rapist who volunteers for youth groups, there were many other children and families similarly devastated by this dried-up amoral pathetic excuse of a man.

The lovely woman forgave him, and the family never called the police; Catholics, as a group, have little use for the laws of man, and frequently go to great lengths to assure that they answer only to their religion’s sick ritualistic system, in which their sins are dealt with as a private matter between them and their god, a system in which the victim is largely overlooked.

The withered-up husk of a child-rapist went to his death in a state of grace, a priest by his side — according to the rules, he is now in heaven. The boy who was raped is now in his thirties. He spent years in therapy and his faith was permanently shattered; he is not now nor will he likely ever be in a state of grace, so when he passes away, according to those same rules, he will be cast mercilessly into the lake of fire.

and yes, i digress:

Any Christian will tell you that it’s not OK to commit sin knowing there is forgiveness available, but you cannot tell me that this aspect of their religion does not affect the decision process. How easy is it for someone who habitually steals or rapes to convince themselves that they are sick, pray for help, and when none comes, continue on their criminal path. By the rules, they get credit for that prayerful effort, and ascend into paradise when all’s said and done.

So when someone tells you their morals come from their faith, remember that in their ethical universe, they are virtually guaranteed to be forgiven by their god, even if no one else would even consider forgiving them. They have a get-out-of-hell free card, no matter how much sadness and ruin they leave behind. How could this not have an effect on their actions in this life?

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