I have several times blogged on how christians and atheists relate to each other on the internet, because I think courtesy is better than rudeness, and attitudes on both sides can be improved.
So I was interested in christian author Benjamin Corey’s thoughts on this.
In a recent blog post (S%#t I Wish (Some) Atheists Would Stop Doing (And Saying)), Cory (pictured above, with his anonymous friend who is also pictured on Corey’s blog) outlined four statements he finds atheists often say that he thinks are both untrue and unproductive. He said he would prefer to build bridges than argue
He admitted that “My tribe makes bridge building hard because we’ve got a pretty decent sample size of obnoxious people.”, and said he spends a lot of his time “trying to clean house on my side of the fence”. But, he said, both sides have “rabid fundamentalists”.
Corey’s four wishes
Please stop saying or insinuating that we’re a bunch of uneducated or unenlightened idiots.
There are idiots in both camps, but calling all christians uneducated is as much a baseless assertion as christians saying all atheists have no morals. It is hard to respect people who make such sweeping and unjustified generalisations.
Please stop insisting that we read our Bible like right-wing fundamentalists.
Some christians and some atheists read the Bible with pedantic literalism, but many christians and most scholars don’t. Not understanding how scholars approach difficult passages and issues that we want to discuss is just ignorant.
Please stop referring to our belief system(s) as fairy tales.
Whatever you think about christian belief, it is obvious to anyone that it is in a different category than fairy tales. Atheists think both are untrue, but they are still very different.
Maybe lay off the whole, “religion hasn’t done any good for humanity” type of argument, because it’s obnoxiously untrue.
Corey, supported by many studies, points out that often religious people lead the way in social welfare. He says: “the idea that religion makes or has made no positive impact on society is ignorant and lazy thinking.”
Why be polite and reasonable?
Corey suggests finding common ground might be a more fruitful exercise than arguing, and may make for a better future for us all.
Get with the program?
Corey may be described as a “progressive” christian – one whose beliefs are “characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth.” (Wikipedia)
I don’t know if I’d call myself a “progressive christian” or not, but I tend to agree with Cory much more often than not. I agree with all his points here, but there is one aspect where we may not see things the same.
I am interested in discussing the evidence for, and truth of, christian belief – hence this blog. I’m not sure if Corey thinks this is important, and may prefer to find common ground on social justice issues rather than discuss evidence, arguments and truth claims, whereas I think both are important. Discussing of competing truth claims will likely have an edge to it, but that is when courtesy is most important.
But I still think he is right overall. The world would be a slightly better place if christians and atheists were more courteous on the internet, and in daily life.
Winning people by scorn?
I’ve heard both atheists and christians justify discourtesy on the grounds that scorn is more likely to help a person change sides that polite discussion of evidence.
But what is this saying about our commitment to truth and evidence?
Atheists generally pride themselves on rejecting beliefs not based on evidence, so how can they use other methods to try to sway people to their view? There is a contradiction here.
Christians using scorn is even more inconsistent. We are supposed to respect all people as being made in the image of God. We are commanded quite clearly in the New Testament to speak politely and gently to believers and unbelievers alike.
I suggest that if we rely on scorn and invective to try to persuade those holding opposing views, we are undermining what we supposedly stand for, whichever side we represent.
Do you agree?
The graphics are taken from Corey’s blog.