Are American Christians Really That Easily Offended?

From an article by the American Institute of Physics about yesterday’s Creation Museum field trip led by PZ Myers:

William Watkin, a chemist living in Indiana, challenged one exhibit’s suggestion that the Grand Canyon could have been carved in hours by a process similar to how volcanic mudslides can rapidly create canyons in softer rocks. “Everything they said about sediment deposition, about Mount St. Helens … anyone in first year geology would say ‘wrong from top to bottom,'” said Watkin.

The field trip featured PZ Myers, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He writes the blog Pharyngula, one of the most popular science blogs on the Internet, with over a million readers each month.

Over. A. Million.  Wow.

In the most noticeable moment of noticeable conflict, Derek Rogers, a computer science major at Dalhouise University in Nova Scotia, Canada, was detained by guards for wearing a shirt with a slogan recently plastered on buses by activist groups that read “there’s probably no God, so get over it.” He was escorted to the bathroom and ordered to flip the shirt inside-out.

“One family of religious people told me that I had ruined their trip, and they drove all the way from Virginia,” said Rogers.

The idea that someone else’s t-shirt disagreeing with you could “ruin your trip” somewhere is ridiculous.  How thin-skinned do you have to be?  It’s like the recent bus nonsense in Iowa.  When Marcus Brigst0cke laid into Christianity, Judaism, and Islam equally for each being filled with thin-skinned people,  I only thought that particular charge was fairly leveled against the Muslim world after its infamous persecution of cartoonists and more recently Indian editors who published a critique of religion, etc.  At the time, I focused only on the authoritarian dimensions of religious thought and practice when I piece piggy-backed on Brigstocke’s remarks to lay out my objections to religious moderates and intellectuals.

But these increasing reports of aversion by religious people to the mere existence of atheists is increasingly troubling me and heightening my awareness of the extent that there really is hostility to atheists out there.  And it makes me think that this is the real mindset behind charges of “militant atheism” which would label Daniel Dennett intolerant to believers for writing an article not to or about believers but specifically encouraging non-believers to embrace their unbelief, unafraid of injuring believers’ delicate minds and sensibilities. Apparently it is our very existence or our very articulation of disagreement that for a shockingly sizable portion of the populace is itself threatening.  I can see some of the reason for that in that atheism is inherently defined as an opposition to theism and so when we identify as atheists we are identifying ourselves, and finding commonality, precisely around the major point of disagreement with theists.  Therefore, no matter what we do constructively, it is viewed with suspicion as anti-theistic, even in those times when what we are doing is not at all limited to opposing anyone else, but about constructively doing something pro-atheist.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.