As an atheist I’ve been accused of thinking I’m better than believers. Well, when they act like this, I guess I am. Never have I wished for, written of, spoken aloud, or forwarded any email with this sort of sentiment about any person I’ve disagreed with, regardless of how much I may despise them or their views.
Nick Sementelli at Faith in Public Life notes that Psalm 109, which is a prayer for the death of a leader, became a popular conservative meme after Obama’s election. The “tongue-in-cheek” prayer for the president was seen on bumper stickers. The relevant part of the psalm reads:
Let his days be few; and let another take his office
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.
[Kansas GOP Speaker of the House Mike] O’Neal forwarded the prayer with his own message: “At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!”
O’Neal’s office refuses to apologize for the email, insisting that the message was only referring to Obama’s days in office.
But hey, let’s give O’Neal the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say this is meant to be a joke. That he didn’t really mean it. What does it say about his reverence for his faith that he is using his holy book to make this joke? Does he have so little respect for his beloved scripture that it is merely to be used as a punchline to a joke?
If he has so little respect for his own religion, tell me again why I, a non-believer, am expected by people like him to “respect” this thing called “faith?”
Wouldn’t it would have been better for him to forward this?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[f] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[i] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Moving on . . .
Perhaps you have heard of the case of Jessica Ahlquist, the 16-year-old high school student (and an atheist) who objected to the prayer banner hanging in her public high school gym and therefore sued to have it taken down. She won her lawsuit. So everything is okay now, right? The Christians have seen the error of their ways and have been in full-throated approval of the separation of church and state, right? Not so much. The vitriol and threats (up to and including posting her home address on the internet) that have rained down on this girl are beyond the pale. Here are just a couple.
Click on the link if you’d like to see more Christian compassion. You may want to make sure you have an empty stomach though. Here’s the irony. The “banner” that was taken down was all about “sportsmanship.” You know, losing gracefully and with honor.
JT Eberhard brings up a good point. If this is only the belief of the fundamentalist wing of Christianity, why aren’t the moderate Christians leaping to defend Jessica from this deluge of hate and standing up to defend one of the defining principles of the United States: the separation of Church and State?
. . . while there was a mountain of rebukes yesterday to the threats against Jessica, they were all coming from non-believers. The liberal, moderate Christians, the ones we are repeatedly told by the “let’s get along” archetypes of this movement are our allies, were conspicuous by their silence. When those made monsters by faith were relishing the suffering of 16-year-old girl, our allies were nowhere to be found. The only defenses can be that only the beasts of Christianity were aware of the RI decision or that only the beasts of Christianity were motivated to be vocal. The first is absurd, and the second is a problem.
There is a reason that the atheists are the ones who must police church/state violations. There is a reason we are the ones who must play watchdog against creationism in schools. There is a reason we are the ones to make a big stink over the Catholic church lending tacit endorsement to child rape. The reason we must rebuke and oppose these forms of religion-driven evil is the same reason we had to be the ones to go in yesterday and rebuke another series of religion-driven evil: because the moderates aren’t. Of course, I speak in generalities. One could point to oddball moderates who do speak up, but on the whole this is obviously the case and I don’t see how anybody can argue otherwise.
[ . . . ]
Many of these moderate have asked me (as I assume they ask others) why I care so much about religion if I don’t believe in god. What is happening to Jessica is one of the reasons why. Because so many use faith as a license to commit a wealth of their emotional resources to ludicrous ideas. This often results in behavior unfit for the company of two-year-olds, in behavior that is an affront to humanity, and/or behavior that destroys lives. And the moderates are powerless to say otherwise without invoking faith in something else. By keeping faith sacrosanct, they keep faith alive and, in doing so, keep the monsters it produces alive. Attachment to faith made none of those people from yesterday (and there were a lot of them) better. It made them worse. What’s more, it kept the moderates silent in the face of moral horrors committed by others driven by faith.
Regular readers know of my journey from faith to freethought as well as the recent imbroglio with my mother, which has opened a wide chasm between the two of us. Mother is angry with me, ostensibly because I do not believe in god and dare to vocalize my beliefs here. She accused me of disparaging the Bible. Nah…I just use it to point out religious hypocrisy (as I did above).
October 31, 2011 - Nevada Day © Carissa Snedeker
An innocent statement: ”Are you good without God? Millions are.” It says nothing about the morality of those who believe in God. It merely states that those who don’t can be good people too. But that’s not how my mother saw it. When she saw this banner she “knew” that I thought I was better than she and as a result she has chosen to reject me (and my gifts) because belief in her god is more important to her than loving and accepting me as I am. Does that sound harsh? It feels even worse.
We are estranged. I never in a million years could have thought that would be possible. I shared our email chain with Sweetie and Daughter. Sweetie was/is furious. Daughter was horrified and told me that as she read my mother’s words she imagined how hurt she would have been if those words had come from me. I may have totally misread my mother, but I don’t think so. Knowing how long she can hold onto a grudge doesn’t give me hope for our future.
And that breaks my heart.