A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

A Christian friend from my college days read my latest installment of my series on my deconversion and thought she had finally figured out the problem that led me to atheism. And it’s so simple! Why hadn’t I thought of it in all these years! Why hadn’t I thought of trying this in my 10 years of fervent Christian commitment from when I was 11 years old until I was 21? If only I knew what I was getting wrong! Here’s the astounding insight I must have completely missed and never contemplated or implemented seriously enough which has now caused the scales to fall from my eyes:

Hi Dan! I read your article about how you deconverted. I just want to make one comment and I say this in love because we are friends and I am not judging you in any way. It sounds as if you were trying to get your faith from people and doing the legalistic things of Christianity and not relying on your relationship with Jesus and your love for Him and this is what made you lose your faith. But that’s not what being a Christian is about. Christianity, being a true Christian isn’t a religion, ultimately it’s a relationship with Jesus. The other things flow from that because you love Jesus.

That was it! I never knew I was supposed to love Jesus! Wow! It was right in front of me all that time! As you can imagine, I was surrounded by Christians who were telling me, “Whatever you do, remember this is a religion of rules, not loving Jesus! Whatever you do, don’t love Jesus!” And I foolishly listened to them!

And those hours and hours of intense prayer, all the Bible study, all the efforts to bring my friends to Jesus, all the worship services singing Jesus’s praises with shivers down my spine and sometimes tears in my eyes–I can’t believe that that whole time I never thought to just love Jesus.

Actually–wait a minute. I totally forgot. I did love Jesus. I loved Jesus enough to commit every fibre of my being to Jesus. I loved Jesus enough to do everything I thought was necessary to express my love for Him and to grow closer to Him. I went to a devoutly Christian university to study about Jesus and live with fellow Jesus-lovers, I devoted my heart, soul, and mind to figuring out how he could be known and how to convince others of His existence so that they could believe in His love and come to be saved. I kept myself sexually chaste as best as I could because it was what I thought Jesus wanted. I risked alienating friends and families by constantly making Jesus the central issue in our conversations.

And yet, I still came to believe Jesus was a fraud. And it ripped my guts out and terrified me and alienated me from the people I loved most, including my very self. But I had to stand on my conscience and say, No, I know longer believe this is true. And I came to realize, by my conscience, that loving truth and loving my fellow human beings meant putting my intellectual conscience above the love of Jesus that had defined me as a person and animated my entire life up until that point. I realized that sometimes people’s lives might even depend on all of us having that kind of a conscience.

And ever since that painful divorce from Jesus, nothing has infuriated me more than accusations that I just did not try hard enough or the right way or that I did not love Jesus enough.

How fucking dare you question my love of Jesus? Why don’t you, dear Christian, for once in your life, question your own goddamn intellectual conscience instead of other people’s commitments to Jesus.

Your Thoughts?

If you really don’t understand why I am quite so angry, read my more systematic explanation of my indignation, After I Deconverted: I Won’t Let Christians Judge Me, and my explanation of the problem of religious privilege, Have You Ever Thought About the OTHER Side?

If you are interested in discussing the anger in my reactions to this woman’s e-mail (and how it relates to my stances on civility), see my follow up posts: Should I Have Said “Fuck You” to the Woman Who Told Me I Lost My Faith Because I Didn’t Love Jesus Enough? and my fuller discussion of the value and limits of rage: After I Deconverted: Avoiding The Abuser’s Dialectic.

Any Christians out there who are interested in actually reaching out to atheists instead of merely trivializing our entire intellectual, moral, emotional, social, and spiritual lives with banal clichés would do well to read my post with my Top Ten Tips For Reaching Out To Atheists.

Read posts in my ongoing “deconversion series” in order to learn more about my experience as a Christian, how I deconverted, what it was like for me when I deconverted, and where my life and my thoughts went after I deconverted.

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

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.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

    Standing right there with you, Dan. I’ve gotten the same sort of comment plenty of times. It’s like the moment someone finds out I was once a Christian but no longer am, they immediately have to sort find some way to justify it – to figure out what you did wrong.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Thank you, Libby Anne. I usually know I’m on the right side when I see you standing there too.

    • Michael G

      … or they are your friends and want to help you in the only ways they know how. It might be misguided, but that doesn’t necessarily warrant such a harsh reaction.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Michael – Actually, I haven’t gotten it from friends, merely from random internet strangers. I think the issue is that most Christians – or at least most evangelicals – can’t fathom how someone could be a Christian, could truly know Jesus, and then fall away. That someone could leave the intense love of Jesus and the amazingness of personal salvation makes no sense to them. When I say they have to figure out what I – or any other deconvert – did wrong I don’t mean that they are automatically being malicious. Instead, they’re scrambling to figure out how you could have gone from where they are to where you are now, and since they can’t see any way that would be possible, they have to figure out what you were doing incorrectly when you were a Christian that would explain how you could end up not one now.

  • smrnda

    I never get the ‘this isn’t a religion it’s a personal relationship with Jesus.’ When I see Christians call what they have a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus I think they’ve gone insane.

    I grew up near my grandparents, and probably saw them at least 2 times a month. I never felt like we had a personal relationship since, despite all the contact, the generation gap was just too big for us to have much in common. Their lives didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and mine didn’t make sense to them. They tried to be supportive and I tried to be nice, but a real connection just never occurred.

    Friends, in my mind, are people who will respond to your phone calls or emails promptly, otherwise, it’s not much of a relationship. If you make a request, a person you have a real relationship with should give a clear yes or no so you can get on with life is they say no.

    So if I’m saying is what Christians are doing certainly does not count as a personal relationship. It’s talking to someone who doesn’t talk back, doesn’t provide straight answers. I don’t get how this is supposed to be a personal relationship.

  • Michael G

    Dan, I responded to you on reddit.

    While I support you on your journey (one all of us “deconverted” have been on), I am not sure I stand behind your vitriol. I get the anger, believe me. But turning on friends when they try to comfort you the only way they know how seems a little harsh. Have a conversation with her, and explain to her how you feel about her sentiments. Let her know the best way she can support you, instead of using her as an example in your article (which she will obviously see) and figuratively bashing her in the face.

    And ask yourself… what would Jesus do? Sorry, couldn’t resist ;)

    FSM Bless you on your journey.

    • kagekiri

      Yeah, as someone who got this crap from his family upon “confessing” my deconversion, I was angry and hurt as hell.

      Saying you didn’t love Jesus enough or just wanted to sin, it’s basically them saying that for all their personal knowledge of your life, and their previous relationship and knowledge of you, you’re a dirty liar who was always faking it or someone who just wants to sin because you’re a horrible person. That’s actually what my dad said when I told him: he couldn’t trust my love, and questioned my even being a good person. It was stunningly painful.

      Maybe if it was a stranger, you could pretend they weren’t dismissing every good thing you’d done or character you’d demonstrated throughout your Christian life (which was pretty much my entire life up to that point). But family and friends who’ve seen your walk for years? Who know you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible? Who know you’re not an idiot or someone prone to not thinking things through when it comes to scripture and theology?

      Those people saying your walk was obviously fake, your Biblical knowledge that they once praised and admired is obviously insufficient to understand utterly basic fundamentals of that religion you spend the vast majority of your youth pursuing with ridiculous fervor and faith in FRONT OF THEM?

      And this all comes after you’ve clearly laid out your real motives for deconversion and real problems with the religion as honestly as you could?

      “That list of problems with Christianity you have? Well, I have no response and admittedly haven’t thought it about it as deeply as you, but you’re still obviously wrong, and I’d like to question your goodness, love, honesty, desire for truth, and fundamental morality instead, because OBVIOUSLY, that’s REALLY why you’re not a Christian anymore, you sinner.”

      That’s the message that comes across. Dismissive, hurtful, condescending, tone-deaf, and horribly insulting.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Thanks kagekiri, you put it so well.

    • Josh, Official Spokesgay

      Dan, I hope you can now understand what makes others so very angry when they’re told to be “civil” in the face of outrageous insults and condescension about something very important to them. Your anger here is totally understandable and righteous. Michael G’s smarmy patronisation and tsk-tsking about how unhelpful your anger is is ridiculous. It’s just exactly how a lot of us felt when you told us we were out of line to have our own anger, and to throw around a few fucks.

      Please think about this and extend your empathy to others now that you’ve experienced it in a way that affects Dan Fincke. We’re all human too.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Routinized abusiveness is not tolerable, no matter how justifiable one’s anger. That applies to me as much as anyone. That’s why I apologized– not for getting angry and writing this post, I stand by this post and it’s consistent with my principles–but for privately telling the woman addressed in this post “fuck you”. Here is an explanation of my thinking on the matter.

      And, thanks for the condescension but Dan Fincke has been treated badly before and has been angry before. It does not change the correctness (or lackthereof) of his principles about how to engage in public dialogue.

  • Barbara_K

    Michael G – I don’t see an effort to comfort him anywhere in her comment. She’s being utterly dismissive and condescending to him, not to mention contemptuous of his work. It reads as a completely self serving statement meant to shame Dan into realizing that HE is the problem. The chocolate sprinkles of “I say this in love because we are friends and I am not judging you in any way” don’t change the fact that what they’re decorating is a cowpie.

    Dan, my first reaction was – wow, I’ve never heard you so angry. I love your writing, you are one of my favorite atheist bloggers precisely because you are so careful and thoughtful and put so much effort into being intellectually honest and in promoting discussion and reason without denigrating people. Your friends should extend the same courtesy and thoughtfulness to you.

    What some believers don’t understand is that the prime motivation for a chunk of us deconverted folk IS LOVE in the first place. It is the love and respect for Jesus that I was indoctrinated with that made being honest about my beliefs such a priority, which eventually led to my complete lack of belief. It is extremely disrespectful of your friend to ignore your efforts and think she can simply distill everything into such a trivial, pop psychology kind of solution as maybe you just didn’t love Jesus enough, as though none of the thinking and writing you’ve done, or the sacrifices you’ve had to make as a result of your conclusions, are worth anything and the problem just lies with you NOT DOING IT RIGHT. She’s basically saying that your underlying motivations for questioning your faith were wrong. There’s nothing friendly about that.

    You have every right to be insulted, because what she said was insulting, rude and condescending. As your friend, if she chooses to engage you in a conversation about your deconversion, it is her responsibility to take you more seriously. Hopefully she’ll give it some thought and show you, and your motivations, more respect in the future.

  • Mike aka MonolithTMA

    I totally understand, Dan. This is a reaction I’ve received frequently. I’ve come to accept it as a manifestation of their attempt to rationalize how someone who they viewed as a true, good, Christian, could leave the faith. It used to anger me, but not so much anymore.

  • Baal

    Michael G. – you can try to help and fail. It doesn’t necessarily excuse of the impact of your help.
    Dan’s outraged and angry but I don’t see vitriol. Vitriol is when you fall to name calling and heaping more negativity than is reasonable for the circumstance or demeaning someones humanity. Dan is reasonable here and did none of those.
    His most negative segment is sarcastic but telling someone to do something that they did is really off putting (ever have someone ask you to slow down when driving and you already were? or someone chide you for not checking you work but you in fact did and at length?).
    Lastly, Dan also includes the links to his other points at the end of the piece where he explains at length why it’s offensive to have someone do this to you.

  • Chris Buchholz

    So many Christians say things like we didn’t have enough faith, or didn’t love Jesus enough, or never really were Christian, it is the most insulting thing they can say. When I was a Christian, they also criticized me for studying too much, I wanted to learn too much Greek and biblical history and higher criticism! It’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (literally, in this case ;) )

    When Paul talked about spiritual armor, he talked about the “belt of truth”, and to me (and most people in bible studies I was in) thought that meant truth was the most important aspect of our lives. We must confront our own selves and beliefs and accept truth no matter where it leads us and no matter how much we don’t want to go there. To many of us, that means accepting there probably is no God, at least not the christian idea of God. For these people to take the 10 years of struggle and study and reaching out I went to, and brush it off and say I just need to pray more, is the kind of insult only a completely ignorant person can make, lacking in empathy, and is a confession that they themselves have not thought through or challenged their own beliefs. People that have may disagree with our conclusions, but at least don’t give the silly “pray more” or “love more” response.

    The funny thing is, I’ve known lots of Christians who studied theology at real colleges, as opposed to “bible colleges”, who ended up losing their faith precisely because of their studies, because they are taught truth, history, can compare religions, etc. The bible colleges and former bible colleges (like Liberty University, etc) specialize in obscuring truth – teaching people just enough to be dangerous.

    Actually it’s the same reason I don’t like many atheists blogs, especially certain books by Dawkins. I feel like the author is telling me what I think and feel, and it’s always some silly oversimplified idea they want to argue against.

    • Chris Buchholz

      “went through” not “went to” :)

    • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

      and to me (and most people in bible studies I was in) thought that meant truth was the most important aspect of our lives. We must confront our own selves and beliefs and accept truth no matter where it leads us and no matter how much we don’t want to go there.

      This. And looking back, it often seems to me that this is the crux of the disconnect between we apostates and our former brethren. Before, during and after my Christian phase, “truth” meant “the way the universe really is” — physically, metaphysically, whatever. A priori, there may or may not be a God; the Bible may or may not reveal God’s mind; Jesus was or was not the incarnation of God, etc. — with the answer to each of those questions presumably to be settled by some sort of rational argument based on evidence. And we are where we are today because, in the long run, honest engagement with the argument produced the answer “No” to each of those questions.

      But to many evangelicals, Truth a priori means asserting a “Yes” answer to all those questions; everything else must be rationalized to those as axioms (when explicitly articulated, this comes out as Presuppositionalism). Thus, there are no legitimate reasons for dissent; disbelief is never an intellectual issue, it is primarily a moral one.

      The only philosophy course I ever took (Elementary Logic) covered the common fallacies, obviously including the Argument Ad Hominem. Evangelicals, rather than reject it as an invalid and dishonest way to argue, baptize it and make it part of SOP.

  • A3Kr0n

    “constantly making Jesus the central issue in our conversations.”
    Its not that you didn’t love Jesus enough, you loved Jesus too much.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

    I want to add one more thing. Several commenters have mentioned how angry Dan sounds here. I can sympathize because I think what’s going on is that the “you just didn’t truly love Jesus” line or the “you were just being too legalistic” line is probably the most offensive thing a Christian can throw at me. Like Dan, I did love Jesus. Jesus was my best friend. I tried so very very hard to do everything “right,” and that included making sure to avoid legalism. Immersing yourself in prayer and the Bible, being sold out for Jesus, being on fire to convert those around you so that they can have what you have – that’s not legalism, and it’s certainly not failing to love Jesus. And so, when a Christian says that they’re basically denying everything that I, or Dan, went through, denying that we ever tried, denying that we were ever real, and boiling everything we went through down to a pithy saying. Sure, Dan could have used slightly less harsh language, but I at least understand where the anger comes from.

  • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

    Oh, good grief, Michael G: She’s “helping” with a problem Dan doesn’t have, with advice that ignores that he already tried all that. That’s pretty damn insulting.

    Dan: I saw your next post. To me, the f-bomb and similar language is the nuclear option. But that doesn’t mean you should never go there — IMHO, the only question you need to ask about your response is whether you are interested in a further relationship with this person.

  • veganatheist01

    Just yesterday, I got an e-mail from my grandmother telling me to pray and “just trust”…. as if the first 11/13 years of my life never existed, as if I had never been Christian in the first place. Now I’m trying to find an answer that doesn’t sound as angry as I am about this assumption, but still lets her know how I feel about it.
    Any suggestions? :/

    • ZenDruid

      These ‘love Jesus’-type clichés are designed to push our emotional buttons. It’s a damning indictment that religionists automatically resort to this sort of cheap trick.

      Dan, your friend is guilty of, at best, incredible shallowness in the face of what is obviously of major personal moment to you. Rest assured, she would have received much more than “Fuck you” from me, were I in your shoes. On the one hand, I think you’re much too hard on yourself here, and on the other I must thank you for setting it out plainly and honestly.

      @ Dan’s friend: I hope you’re following this. It’s clearly and deeply spelled out here what ‘fuck you’ means.

    • ZenDruid

      veganatheist01, I have no idea why the above comment nested here; I intended a root comment.

      Cheers.

  • Marcus

    That’s basically what I got from my family after my deconversion: I was trying too hard to follow the rules, and wasn’t focusing enough on loving and trusting God. In a matter of minutes the sincerity of my decade and a half of sincere Christianity was trivialized and explained away. Talk about getting kicked while you’re down.

  • Anonymous

    As the person who wrote that message to Dan that everyone on here is ripping apart. He only posted part of the message and not the whole thing. Also, what everyone thinks I meant is not what I meant. I’m sorry that my words came across wrong and that was not my intention at all. I have had many other messages back and forth with Dan explaining myself and apologizing that you also don’t know about. And before I wrote what I did, I didn’t know about his other posts, and I have since read many of them and understand better where he is coming from. I was just trying to understand and I am sorry that what I said didn’t come out the way I intended. I am not the best with my words and I am the first to admit it.

    • blotonthelandscape

      The internet is a cruel mistress. I think most of the people weren’t ripping apart “you” specifically, but the part of the response Dan shared with us is a common response from christian friends and family members in the wake of a deconversion. You became an avatar for that sentiment. I have to say though, it’s difficult to see what else you could have meant, even in another context.

    • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

      “And before I wrote what I did, I didn’t know about his other posts, and I have since read many of them and understand better where he is coming from.”

      Yes, and that’s exactly what is insulting. You made assumptions and gave advice without bothering to ask questions. You didn’t say, “I know you are so smart and committed and love Jesus — why isn’t that working for you the way it is for me?”

      Dan has hard-won experience and you showed no interest at all in what he had to say or in gaining insight from him. That’s really insulting.

      It’s true, I haven’t read your entire correspondence and I don’t know you personally. I have no reason to think that you are fundamentally an offensive person. But the small quote that Dan posted is patronizing and insulting and just about guaranteed to provoke violence no matter who it’s from or who it’s directed to. You have probably been spoken to that way; I know I have, and it’s a deeply painful and frustratingly common experience.

      You can be a good and well-intentioned person and still say something insulting. (At least I hope you can because I routinely say insulting things with the best of intentions.) The cure is to learn from the experience and grow as a person, that’s all.

  • Josh, Official Spokesgay

    “And, thanks for the condescension but Dan Fincke has been treated badly before and has been angry before. It does not change the correctness (or lackthereof) of his principles about how to engage in public dialogue.”

    I didn’t mean to be condescending.

    I wish you’d try a little harder not to maintain what looks like an artificial distance between your experience and that of others’. Just because an issue doesn’t grab you where YOU live doesn’t mean the response to it by others is routine abuse. Jesus, Dan.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      I didn’t mean to be condescending.

      I wish you’d try a little harder not to maintain what looks like an artificial distance between your experience and that of others’. Just because an issue doesn’t grab you where YOU live doesn’t mean the response to it by others is routine abuse. Jesus, Dan.

      I’m not maintaining an artificial distance. I wrote a previous post talking about my anger at precisely this kind of treatment from Christians and used that as a segue to explain and create empathy in atheists for the response of other marginalized groups (in that case women) who deal with maddening privilege. I aimed precisely to help guide atheists to grasp through their own experience with religious privilege how privilege works in general.

      But all of this is different than saying routinized abuse, by which I mean making it a standard operating, ethically approved, procedure to go around calling people abusive names like “stupid” or “douchebag” and constantly being in a self-righteous “we’re allowed to abuse you but you can never abuse us because we’re the oppressed so anything we say or do is fair game and nothing you say or do deserves any understanding” posture. Those are well beyond just harsh tone. You can be harsh but civil. The post above is harsh but still basically civil. My “fuck you” was excessively harsh. In the follow up post I don’t take back any of the anger that motivated but I take back the abusiveness of the “fuck you” because it was nastier than was necessary and crossed an ethical line, as I came to convince myself.

      Regularly calling people names and shouting “fuck you” at them and reading them almost always with an evil eye and almost never treating intellectual disputes as sincere and impersonal–these are unethical and irrational ways to be engaged in public discourse. I have never been against marginalized people being angry or expressing their anger. There are just civil and rational ways to do so and uncivil and irrationalistic ways to do so. I have argued for the civil and rational route and hold myself to that standard and am willing to apologize when I deviate from it. Again, the follow up post explains all of this and shows how much important anger and important ideas can be expressed without any name calling or malicious “fuck yous”. In fact, it accomplishes that while eventually apologizing for the superfluous indulgence of the “fuck you”.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    I fortunately only get this response from strangers. My family’s way is that I’m just being misled by my intellect and by atheists. As if I’m not smart enough on my own.

    I can totally understand your anger, though, from the times I’ve heard this.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      I fortunately only get this response from strangers.

      Yes, usually I only get it from strangers. I am better at blowing that off as their own ignorance.

      My family’s way is that I’m just being misled by my intellect and by atheists. As if I’m not smart enough on my own.

      You’re not the only smart person getting accused of being “misled”. I’ve never gotten it but some really smart friends of mine have. It must be particularly infuriating because they’ve basically disqualified your ability to reason for yourself and, thereby, your ability to say anything in your defense to them.

  • ZenDruid

    These ‘love Jesus’-type clichés are designed to push our emotional buttons. It’s a damning indictment that religionists automatically resort to this sort of cheap trick.

    Dan, your friend is guilty of, at best, incredible shallowness in the face of what is obviously of major personal moment to you. Rest assured, she would have received much more than “Fuck you” from me, were I in your shoes. On the one hand, I think you’re much too hard on yourself here, and on the other I must thank you for setting it out plainly and honestly.

    @ Dan’s friend: I hope you’re following this. It’s clearly and deeply spelled out here what ‘fuck you’ means.

  • http://reasondecrystallized.blogspot.com Andrew

    I hear you–I’m a fairly recent (2 years or so, depending how you count it) de-convert myself, and I get some of the same reaction, though not quite as much as you apparently.

    Epic response on your part.


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