Tired Christian Claim #4: Atheists are mean and offensive
In Grand Valley Texas, a group of atheists have been trying unsuccesfully to buy billboard space from a company called Lamar Advertising. It seems the owner finds the ads to be offensive and inappropriate, this despite the fact he’s recently allowed the escort service “MyPlayBunny.com” to broadcast their sleazy (and sexy) service.
The accusation that atheism is insulting and offensive is getting a lot more popular as a defense these days. Whether it’s a bunch of Fox News anchors complaining about how atheists are ruining Christmas, or a BBC special asking the question of Are Atheists Intolerant, I can’t help but feel all of this is because of the growing popularity of the atheist movement. Although we may be winning the debates on the existence of God, the media has decided the most important story is the one about how upset people are when told there is no Supreme Creator.
Atheism is a fairly recent phenomenon; not because humans don’t have a history of doubt (hey, even one of Jesus’ disciples doubted him), but because the punishment for undermining the authority of the Church was usually brutal and swift. Religions don’t tend to prosper very long when apostasy or dissent is tolerated. Atheism is nothing new: the Old Testament acknowledges nonbelievers, calling them fools for refusing to believe in their God. The fact this same book also suggests friends and family members who believe in something different should be stoned to death, makes me believe it was still quite rare for anyone to “come out” of the atheist closet very often. It would have been pretty foolish to tell anyone around you about how you really felt about God, especially if there were large rocks around.
The idea that anyone believing in God would need to defend their beliefs is such a recent phenomenon that many Christians are beginning to feel persecuted. This is not a faith accustomed to challenge. Even internal doctrinal conflicts usually resulted in deadly conflict, and any heretics would face severe punishment or death for even questioning the supremacy of the Church (they only recently pardoned Galileo for his crime of denying the Earth was the center of the universe, so one could say they tend to hold a bit of a grudge).
The fact these now more tolerant Christians are complaining about hurt feelings is a historically meek response when compared to what the reaction would have been if the Atheist Movement (as it exists now) had started a few decades ago. I suppose in this light, being told we are “mean” is such a measured response that we should feel lucky that we haven’t been tortured, burned alive, or killed for debating with these guys. Yet.
Of course, that doesn’t suddenly mean we should accept the accusation we are being intolerant for openly discussing religion. I haven’t met a single atheist who thought religion should be banned, or that anyone should be forced to abandon their most sacred beliefs. Our real dispute is with the religious right and their attempt to undermine scientific progress. It’s already plainly obvious to us most Christians will continue to believe what they do DESPITE any evidence to the contrary. If you want to live in a bubble of delusion, we really couldn’t care less. But when you start making claims we know are false, that’s when we atheists start getting fired up.
So stop trying to play the sympathy card, Christians; you don’t exactly have a history of being very open to discussion and debate. Sure, you may feel uncomfortable being told your beliefs are wrong (it must also burn pretty bad that the smartest guys seem to be on our side), but it doesn’t mean the people debating with you are doing so simply for the sake of hurting your feelings. Christians just have to get used to the fact they aren’t controlling the narrative anymore. Scary, isn’t it?