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)