Hate Mail

Shane Harper

[Editor's note: This one is generally well-meaning, but he reacts rather defensively to my criticism of the Bible, assuming that it's an attack on Christianity "as a whole" even though most Christians have never read through the entire Bible, and would be just as horrified as an atheist to discover some of the things which lie within]

I was a little bothered though, by the long...hmmm, screed basically you have against Christianity as a whole. I waded through most of it and found myself disagreeing with you, and just wanted to toss some observations yer way.

[Editor's note: This kind of defensiveness is very common. He assumes that by attacking the creationist and fundamentalist subgroups of Christianity, I have attacked "Christianity as a whole". The fact that I repeatedly distinguish between the various sub-groups is ignored, because that's the nature of the defensive reaction. Once the red light goes on, it becomes harder to see what you're reading]

I think you are letting your anger at the Idjit Fallwell/Whackjob Right/Creationist wing of my religion get in yer way.

They're only following the Ten Commandments, which says that people who don't believe in God are evil. Didn't you read that part?

The big picture is that while some of the bozos wanna forcefeed Creationism down our kids' throats in class, Most don't. Heck I grew up in Northern Maine, pretty Catholic/Wasp, and the fundamentalist kids in school-they kinda stood out like sore thumbs. Most are more than willing to accept Evolution as fact and as readily as we do Gravity or the basic tenets of physics.

[Editor's note: Notice how he acts as though this should come as some sort of surprise to me. Obviously, Northern Maine is rather far from the Bible Belt, which is the source of creationist strength. Why should it come as a surprise that it isn't dominated by fundamentalists?]

Personally I was raised by a Biology Teacher. No Adam and Eve crap here past age 7 or whatever. I have always felt that God was much more impressive if thought of as a Being whom created the universe over eons, not a mere week like he was taking a Polaroid. Doesn't wash. Religion is a way of expressing the Inexpressable. I don't need Falwell doing that, thank you very much. Or James Randi, please.

[Editor's note: I'm not even sure what point he's trying to make here. If he's saying that he subscribes to theistic evolution, I don't have a problem with that, and I never did]

Hitler was about as much a Christian as Lincoln was an Atheist. No dice. Abe was Deist, perhaps. That was a creative use of quotes there guy. Hitler was a pure out and out demagogue who was quoted all over the place as being in complete contempt of the Church, Christ's teachings, etc.

Pure nonsense. You are trying to deny Hitler's own words with your unsupported evaluation of his behaviour. Why don't you try reading Mein Kampf, with its voluminous proclamations about his faith in the almighty Lord? As for Lincoln, it's not hard to read his writings either. You don't provide a shred of evidence that Hitler was not a Christian, or that Lincoln was not an atheist. You simply give me your conclusion and expect me to accept it, along with your vague accusation that my quotes are somehow misleading.

Your problem is that your pre-ordained conclusion overrides observation. Even if Hitler or Lincoln said things which confound your expectations, your conclusion is already fixed, and if there's a conflict, then it is the evidence which must be bad. That's a fundamentally flawed approach. If you have actual evidence to support your claims, then show it to me. Otherwise, your denial has no meaning or value.

[Editor's note: I like the way he claims that I'm using quotes in a misleading manner, but he doesn't bother providing any hard information to contradict the conclusions drawn from those quotes. He makes vague reference to Hitler being "quoted all over the place" as being anti-Christian, but he fails to provide a single example of one of these anti-Christian Hitler quotes. Moreover, he ignores Hitler's voluminous praise for Jesus in his public speeches, private writings, and even his infamous, widely published, and easily referenced "Mein Kampf" screed (which never made it onto the Catholic church's banned book list). As for Lincoln, he carefully kept his religious leanings private, and the only evidence we have about his true beliefs are the fact that his wife (who was a Christian) admitted that he was not a Christian, his friends compared his religious beliefs to those of Robert Ingersoll, and he once mischievously commented that "It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity". Many have written to "correct" me on my conclusions about Hitler's Christianity and Lincoln's lack thereof, but none so far have provided any evidence to support their claims]

Heck if most of Germany had been Taoists he woulda quoted them to further his ends.

[Editor's note: Notice how he assumes that if Germany had been dominated by Taoism, Hitler would have been able to pander to it in order to promote rabid anti-Semitism. But since Taoism has no history of anti-Semitism and its entire philosophy is based around non-action, non-violence, and balance rather than conflict, this is a plainly ridiculous argument.

The subject of balance in Taoism is an important one: the Judeo-Christian mindset is to visualize opposing forces as warring enemies, ie- God/Satan, Good/Evil, etc. However, Taoism visualizes opposing forces as forces in equilibrium, ie- Yin/Yang. The Judeo-Christian tendency to visualize opposing forces as warring parties is one of the reasons for the volatility of the religion throughout history, as well as the tendency toward hardline extremism and partisanship in American politics.

Back to the subject at hand, you may notice that he is actually sidestepping the original point, which was that a mostly Christian nation gleefully went along with Hitler's campaigns of hatred, despite the common belief that piety leads directly to morality. He assumes that a Taoist nation would have done the same, but he has no evidence whatsoever to support this assumption. Unlike Taoism, Christianity has a long and horrible history of attacking Jews, atheists, and other forms of "heathen". Moreover, Christianity incorporates the Ten Commandments, which enshrine religious bigotry into law. Its articles of faith explicitly encourage religious bigotry, so can anyone act as though it's mere coincidence that Christians have attacked "heathens" so aggressively throughout history, or that every other religion would do the same if given the chance?]

Heck -Mao and Stalin were athiests, they slaughtered Millions in the name of their Atheism every bit as bad's any Moslem(Tamerlane), Christian(Charles V), Animist(Ghengis Khan) or Athiest(Napoleon).

[Editor's note: Notice how he assumes that Mao and Stalin slew millions in the name of atheism. He has no evidence of this, and he won't find any. They slew others in the name of Marxism, and in the name of the Communist Party, but the principles of Marxism have nothing to do with atheism apart from the fact that Marxists accept atheism. They accept mathematics too; does this mean that they slew millions in the name of math?

This is completely different from the situation with Christian crusaders, inquisitioners, slave traders, or genocidal mass murderers throughout history, who did proudly kill in the name of God (the words of the Spanish "requiremento" are a good example of this phenomenon)].

Using Religion as an excuse for war is no excuse. Neither is using it as a convenient target-Paging Mao, Pol Pot-for genocide either. Evil is evil.

Yes, evil is evil. However, atheism does not encourage or condone such activity (and communist atrocities were committed in the name of communism, not atheism; your strawman is showing). On the other hand, the Bible does encourage such activity, with God repeatedly ordering the Jews to butcher their enemies. Moses butchers 3000 people for the crime of worshipping a golden calf, and he's God's chosen one!

In order to be fair, it's important to ask whether the core beliefs encourage such behaviour, rather than trying to compete with death counts. I made this exact point on my page already. I suggest you read it.

[Editor's note: Notice how he continues to ignore the fact that religion is not always a mere "excuse" for war. While that has been true in some cases, the historical fact is that religion has been far more than an excuse for war in many situations. The Crusades were motivated entirely by religion, as were the inquisitions (which were a campaign of exterminating and/or terrifying heathens into conversion rather than an actual war).

This is a common religionist trick: assume that since Christianity and Islam and Judaism have all motivated wars and atrocities in the past, that atheism and all other religions must have done the same thing. But unlike Judaism and its offshoots, atheism makes no recommendations about attacking others, or regarding them as evil, or classifying their beliefs as "sins". It says only one thing: there is no God. This only leads to atrocities if you are prone to assuming that disbelief in God leads to immorality (which would make you a fundamentalist hate-monger). As for the other religions, how many Buddhist inquisitions and crusades have you ever heard of? How many Taoist campaigns of conquest have you heard of? Doesn't it occur to the fundamentalists that maybe they're not typical of all religions?]

Secular Humanism is essentially seen by many as the front for ACLU types, here in the US aka Political Correctness. Everyone is allowed to express their opinions freely BUT Christians, Moslems, etc. You are then seen as having the Wrong opinions. It's thinking like that which makes me see visions of McCarthy. Pass. Narrow mindedness is simply that, be it on the part of the Pope or James Randi or any other idealogue.

You somehow think that public opposition to hateful fundamentalist rhetoric reminds you of McCarthyism, even though McCarthy was actually a devout Christian who painted all atheists as enemies of the state? That's quite an interesting delusion you have there.

The reality is that atheists are accused of immorality every week in this country, by hundreds of thousands of preachers in hundreds of thousands of chuches, speaking to millions of people. There are numerous Christian television shows on which blatant anti-atheist propaganda is broadcast across the land. Bush, Gore, and Lieberman all made incredible anti-atheist comments during the recent election (I don't know about Cheney, but he was probably too busy eating), and no one in the major media criticized them for it.

Where are the atheist conferences in which Christians are publicly attacked, or the atheist television shows in which Christians are demonized? Where are the atheist national politicians who tell people that they need to become atheists in order to be moral? You need to be seriously deranged in order to believe that Christians are under attack rather than atheists (particularly with that semi-literate Bible-thumping bigot George W. Bush in the White House).

Christian victimology has grown tiresome over the past 2000 years. It was reasonable back when Jesus' disciples were running around being persecuted, but the Christian persecution mentality is a joke today. Christians were the oppressors, not the oppressed, for more than 1500 years, and their behaviour didn't start to improve until very recently. They are certainly in no danger of being wiped out, or becoming a marginalized minority, and they are certainly not under attack in the media. I think that Christian persecution mentality is a comfortable self-delusion, designed to strengthen resolve against nonexistent oppressors.

The media attacks right-wing fundamentalist Christians, but frankly, they deserve it, and you know it. Anyone who subscribes to Biblical inerrancy and literal interpretation (a pre-requisite of fundamentalism) is subscribing to a whole litany of repugnant beliefs and values, not to mention a doctrine of scientific ignorance. Anyone who preaches the conversion of America into a Christian theocracy is arguing against the very concept of freedom, not to mention all international human rights conventions. What kind of person won't criticize that?

Most churches that I know of, be it the ones around me or the one I went to as a kid or now-are concerned with helping the sick, the elderly, the poor; or running Missions. Some get involved in such things as Martin Luther King's civil rights marches, or trying to end the arms race. I grew up with someone who is a minister in Boston-he spends most of his waking hours trying to help out street kids, getting'em off drugs, trying to help straighten their lives out, outta gangs, etc. His mission is kinda Salavation Army and out in the Mattapan area, basic nasty gang ridden neighborhoods. I like to think that there have been people like Richard all through my church's history. In fact I know it.

Of course there are nice Christians out there, and I never said there weren't. Again, your strawman is showing.

What I said was that Christians tend to equate humanism and atheism to immorality, which is a hateful and totally groundless attitude. Moreover, I said that the history of Christian intolerance is a long and horrifying one, and that the Bible encourages racial and religious intolerance, so moral Christians are the ones who are open-minded enough to embrace secular values instead of railing against them. And finally, I said that Christians who fight against AIDS prevention education are evil. You have utterly failed to address any of these points, in favour of your strawman claim that I think all Christians are evil.

[Editor's note: he seems to think that if nice Christians exist, then the Bible and all who would defend its numerous atrocities are somehow exonerated by association. He also ignores the question of whether these nice Christians are religious bigots. He points out that they engage in wonderful outreach programs, but does he mention whether they are accepting of Buddhists, or Hindus, or atheists? No. In fact, it is most likely that his minister friend routinely describes atheists in the most derogatory terms possible, and that he routinely points to secularism as the root cause of all the societal ills that he is trying to fight]

It's easy to fall into stereotyping those we don't like or agree with. Moslems are seen by most in the US and Canada, from what I see in the media at least, as a bunch of PLO/Taliban fundamentalist rag-heads forever on a Jihad and bent on turning back the clock to 632 AD. That is a Disgrace . Islam also has a terrific body of ethics, carried on science in the Middle ages (when outside of the Byzantine Empire, had pretty much vanished in Europe), a wonderful look at the human condition and some beautiful art. I think that Moslems are the most misunderstood people in America by and large.

Islam does not have a "terrific body of ethics". Like Judaism and Christianity, its holy documents openly preach that adherents to other religions are evil, thus enshrining religious hatred as one of its fundamental tenets. Like Judaism and Christianity, its history is full of bloodshed and hatred. However, it's certainly no worse than its siblings. Like the others, its fundamentalist adherents are full of hate, while the moderates (read: "those who temper their belief with secular values") can be nice people.

Point is that if you wish to hammer away at Christianity, you will certainly be able to stereotype it as Falwell, or the Inquisition, or the Crusades or European Colonialism. Def. Guilty. You can also bring in Thomas Acquinas, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Christ(of course), Newton, Billy Graham or St Francis of Assissi too.

No, the point is that you need to read before you vent. I never said that all Christians are evil. However, the good ones are the ones that are not strictly following the Bible, ie- the ones who don't subscribe to fundamentalism. I took pains to emphasize the fact that I am criticizing fundamentalists in particular, but you either didn't notice or didn't want to acknowledge the distinction. Once again, your strawman is showing.

[Editor's note: he should take care about the people he upholds as examples of good Christians:

So there we have it: there are certainly good Christians out there (I've met many of them over the years), but I can't help but be amused that Mr. Harper chose that particular group as his standard-bearers. The only one I can admire without reservation is Martin Luther King, and he only proves my point about fundamentalists versus liberal Christians]

So that's my screed back at ya. It's not the same as going after debating "Phasers vs. Blasters", religion being a world view and personal matter instead of cut and dried science-but I thought I would wing it and see how it sticks.

Perhaps the next time you "wing it", you should try to avoid the strawman attacks. A good argument is not based upon such things.

Last updated: August 5, 2001

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