Sunday, March 22, 2009

How does one impersonate an Atheist?

I found a disturbing story via Atheist Revolution. It seems that Baptist Pastor Chris Fox felt the need to impersonate an atheist in the comment threads of a post on Unreasonable Faith. He was attempting to build a dialog based on a lie. I put off posting because I needed to let my outrage build and then subside. You see, I don't dialog online much with Christians about religion or atheism, so when they do something stupid on an atheist blog, I write it off as conduct expected. I should know better.

I kept coming back to this story. There was something about the insipid artlessness of the impersonation that struck me as fundamentally tainted. It is difficult to believe that a person can be this ignorant.

What’s wrong with killing babies? I see no problem with it. I have enough mouths to feed. I don’t get the argument and I am an atheist. Since I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in anything characterized as good, bad / right, wrong. So, what’s the big deal?

The closest analogy is sports. I have no interest in mainstream sports. I don’t watch them, read about them, or go to many games. I play disc golf. When I tell a sports fan about disc golf, their response is typical, they think I’m a dope smoking hippy. In reality, I am a highly educated IT project manager with a knack for managing complexity that few people possess. I am as far from a dope smoking hippy as I am from an amoral baby eater, and so are the rest of my brethren.

So how does it get this bad? How does a Christian pastor develop such a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be an atheist? How do atheists develop the same bias? I think its obvious that ignorance and hasty generalizations promote the misunderstanding.

When I write about bad pastors, I don’t make the illogical leap of thinking that all pastors are bad. In fact, most pastors I know are good people who I am proud to call friends. The difference is in deeds. What people do is always more important than what people say. There are always outliers. The David Trotter's of the world are more than offset by the good of people like my friend Pastor Brad.

Vjack questioned his own motives in a post yesterday. He reads a few Christian blogs and takes the time to post comments, but wonders about the hostility of his iconic avatar. I know enough from my Christian friends to understand that simply asserting that there is no God is offensive to them. So yes, the image might offend. But the dialog is vital. And who better to do it? It is the rational dialog of the likes of vjack and Daniel Florien which present the best hope of offsetting our shared misconceptions.

Pastor Chris Fox apologized. His words were simple and honest. It could not have been easy.

I want to express to you how deeply sorry I am for coming on this site and making the remarks I did and violating my own faith. It was out of bounds. I allowed the “debater” part of me go too far. I messed up and I have come to ask for your forgiveness. Thank you for allowing me back on.

Daniel Florin graciously accepted the apology. Does Pastor Fox qualify for a profile on Hypocrisy Watch? I don’t think so. It comes back to my core value of acting on what people do, not what the say. When you own up to your mistakes you are not a hypocrite, you are simply human, just like the rest of us.

I don’t know how to impersonate a Christian. Nor do I think a Christian knows how to impersonate an atheist. The best we can do is try to understand each other.

Technorati tags: ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]