h/t Ron Murphy
It is my perception that although we are striving to create links with different faith communities and create religious tolerance, believing that we live in a diverse society and people are entitled to their own points of view, there is a group that is becoming less tolerant and more militant, and they are a group of atheists, or perhaps anti-theists.
A friend sent me the link to the above talk here, and I was pretty much offended from start to finish by it. I felt it was a mixture of half-truths, ridicule, exaggeration and ignorance that was designed to increase disrespect and distrust of Christians. My friend was surprised at my strong reaction and took time to explain what he understood from the talk, and I do think I overreacted. However, I also think that if this treatment was applied to other groups it could be seen as racist or sexist or prejudiced in whatever way.
I am passionate about inclusivity; that we are all treated equally, and not prejudiced against as a result of our sexuality, our skin colour, our sex or our belief systems. I do think we can take issue with behaviours that are wrong, though, behaviours not beliefs. I assumed that atheists would also support the idea of a world that is becoming more tolerant.
It worries me, because I think history has taught us that if a group is specifically formed to destroy an ideology then it is a very dangerous and destructive force, from the crusades to the Nazis to the communists. I feel it is vital to respect the boundaries of another and to accept that others have different ideologies than our own.
However, all the atheists I have been chatting to aren't like this, they seem to have the following things in common (although they would deny that they are a 'group' in any real sense):
- They are very kind and reasonable and often very funny
- They care deeply about the plight of humanity
- They are interested and ask questions, genuinely trying to understand
- They assume that I read the Bible literally and am anti-science
- They assume that I am anti-gay
- They assume that I think my faith beliefs are superior to all other ones
- They seem to all be of a similar personality type - the Keirsey rationals
- They seem surprised and thankful that I engage with them - suggesting to me that people of faith are generally hostile..
I am hoping these generalisations don't offend.
I think atheists mainly take issue with fundamentalism, because it strangles science and threatens civil liberties, and I think it is this that perhaps fuels the more militant anti-theism. The massive challenge to me and indeed to the whole church is that if we (more moderate Christians that quietly share the same concerns about fundamentalism) don't defend the pursuit of honest science and don't call for equality, loudly and publicly, then are we complicit?