I've noticed a recent trend on Rants and Raves where certain Christian posters are attacking atheists while strangely choosing to ignore all other brands of non-Christians. Why is this? Are these armchair disciples more concerned about saving an atheist's soul than that of a Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, or Muslim? Sounds fairly selective to me.
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I think I know what's going on here...
These people aren't attacking all non-Christians because they can at least personally identify with somebody else's belief; regardless of whether or not they agree with it. They are allies in the same sense that members of two opposing armies can feel a comradery with one other.
Rather, it is the non-belief of atheists that bothers them. These people have faith so thoroughly engrained in their lives that to see somebody without a trace threatens them. They simply cannot conceive of somebody not believing in a deity of some sort. The idea is completely foreign to them, and therefore menacing. It forces them to evaluate their own beliefs. They become defensive and attack because the things they hold intrinsically and unquestionably sacred are being challenged by the mere philosophical position of another.
Most atheists do not "believe" that god does not exist. Rather, they dismiss it as a possibility due to a complete lack of evidence. Otherwise, they'd have to entertain the possibility of believing in anything and everything... which is the essential problem of agnosticism. Therefore, it does not take faith to be an atheist. If the evidence changes, then most would certainly be reasonable enough to revaluate their positions. Until then, the existence of god is simply a non-issue for them. Some theists have decried this materialistic position, but without much real avail. What possibilities are we losing if we only believe in things that leave evidence behind? Ghosts, leprechauns, fairies and gods... everything in the realm of the superstitious, but nothing else. I can comfortably live with that; just as a Christian can comfortably live with the idea of worshipping Jehovah but not Shiva.
They accuse atheists of leading selfish, corrupt, and immoral lives without fear of consequences. They accuse atheists of lacking moral codes. This is, of course, irrational, fear-mongering nonsense. Today's atheist is not a self-indulgent modern Caligula or a Stalin. Today's atheist is not a socially maladjusted anarchist who lives their lives without fear of retribution. According to a 1997 statistic, only 0.209% of prisoners incarcerated in the United States identify as atheists. Since atheists currently represent roughly 14% of the overall U.S. population, this is a significant indicator of the "morality" of the modern atheist. Today's atheist tends to be a well-educated, productive member of society who more often than not subscribes to the notions of moral relativism and secular humanism... which essentially means that we realize we're all stuck on this big ball together and we must work to set aside our differences and build a better future, because it's all that there is. That doesn't sound at all like the monstrous picture that's recently been smeared here by certain self-proclaimed loving Christians.
These rabid believers clash with atheists knowing perfectly well that they are helpless to alter the ideological perceptions of their perceived foe. Why then, do they choose to partake of this exchange of bad blood? Because they're angry and they're frightened. They're angry because we have the nerve to indirectly challenge their insecurely-held beliefs with our continued existence. They're frightened because they fear that they're losing their foothold on the theocratic monopolization of America (school prayer, Christian-oriented legislature, etc.)... an officially secular country, mind you.
Lashing out, spreading lies and misconceptions, and demonizing the enemy is a natural way to react to opposition; however contrary to the teachings of their professed lord and savior. Any anti-atheist backlash you're witnessing here is simply the result of reactionary mean-spiritedness, and nothing more. The misinformation is a sign of desperation. I suppose they believe what they're saying is true in the same sense that many Muslim fundamentalists believe that America is directly in league with the devil. Feeling "right" about the subjective tends to breed violent paranoia when challenged. Mind the danger in that whatever you choose to believe.
I can't say that some atheists aren't guilty of the same indiscretion, but it's a generalization to categorize all atheists this way just as it's a generalization to categorize all Christians as rabid fundamentalists. I've been careful to avoid doing so here, despite the disrespect shown us by some members of the Christian community.
Personally, I'm a firm believer in live-and-let-live. I believe Christ was too. I don't attack others for their beliefs. I don't even ask that others question their beliefs. Everyone has a right to decide what they hold dear. I don't write slanderous, inaccurate or inflammatory material about adherents of any religion. But I do defend my positions, because I hold them dear. I find it completely abhorrent that those who attack mine do so under the protective woolen guise of love and fellowship. It allows them to appear to hold the upper hand while hitting below the belt. The atheist in America is already a misunderstood and hated underdog, and people tend to ignore the callous disregard they are often shown by these "gentle lambs of God." Were it not for atheists being their current preferred cannon fodder, I'm certain these unyielding fanatics would be baring their claws and coming for you other non-Christians and moderates next. Watch your step.
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