I've been blogging for three years. In that time, I've received several thousand emails. Most could best be called "hate mail". They tend to come from three types of people, fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and militant atheists. I will not go into the militant atheist screeds here - it's pointless. The other hate mail often goes unread. You see, I am tied of hearing that I will be killed for criticizing Islam, and tired of hearing that I am going to hell (and many other variations on this theme) or that I can be saved. I rarely even read my mail, I have filters setup in Gmail which takes care of most it for me. I nerver post on about the hate mail - I don't like giving a voice to nutballs. Yet today, on Christmas eve, I received an email from Matt simply titled "Thanks". It made my day.
I'm a Christian, Catholic to be precise. Now before you start rolling your eyes I want you to know this isn't hate mail, far from it in fact. You see I belong to a little discussion board at http://www.venganza.org/forum/index.php
That’s right...the Flying Spaghetti monster. The board is a wonderful place where believers and Atheist alike are able to come together and are able to discuss and argue politics, religion and the like. Needless to say this board and my membership within it was the first time I've really encountered an Atheist. Being the curious sort I've found several atheist blogs and have read through them. What I found was...disheartening at best.
I'll freely admit that some of the complaints Atheist have are valid. Others I don't understand, while some I find to be ridiculous. No doubt the same can be said about us religious types and our grips. What upset me however was that instead of fighting for their position using intelligent, thoughtful and respectful arguing techniques, I've found blogs that seem to revel in the fact that just because the Bible, Koran, ETC isn't sacred to me, I have a right to rip it up in public and act shocked when someone complains about it, or how religion should be outlawed…
You sir, are the first blog that I can read and feel sympathy for. I can understand why Atheist's are having a hard time in this country. I can now appreciate the need for Tolerance, something these other blog I feel are missing. For the first time I can look at an Atheist point of view and not feel as if my Faith is being attacked.
I have only had a few hours time to read your site but I plan on reading it more regularly.
Despite our difference of religious opinion, I now believe that America should redouble its efforts in ensuring Freedom of and from religion for everyone.
I wrote to Matt. I thanked him privately, and now I am doing so publicly. He is right, tolerance is what is needed. I'll admit that at times I have not been the most tolerant blogger. In fact, at times, I've been anything but tolerant. However, I benefit from several close friends who read Deep Thoughts, know me well, and will not hesitate to hold me accountable for my intolerent words. I think of them as my informal content editors. They know that the one principle I hold sacred, that is to say, the one principle I believe in, is self determination. Calling for others to abandon their beliefs is an anathema to me.
Self determination drives my thinking towards tolerance, but tolerance with duty. The duty to confront polarizing positions, to confront fundamentalism, to confont hate, to protect the rights and beliefs of others - especially those in the minority, and most importantly (to me anyway), to protect the integrity of science.
I ate dinner with my two infromal content editors earlier in the week. One of my friends is a Christian pastor, the other a philosophical deists (and former atheist). I respect both men on many levels. We spoke at length about my complete lack of belief in anything beyond the physical world. My disbelief is total. Yet, I try hard to be honest about myself. for example, when asked who I thought was more dangerous, James Dobson (who I loath), and Richard Dawkins (who I deeply respect), I had to admit that I think Dawkins has the greater potential for harm. His core argument fails to recognized the importance of spirituality in the lives of millions of people. It is essentially intolerant - and therefor dangerous. While Dobson's sun has set, Dawkins's sun has just cleared the horizon.