Ask Richard: Struggling With an Impulsive Disrespect for Christians

Hi Richard,

I’m on the state board of a high school student organization. As a vice-chair I was in charge of an icebreaker and we did a series of questions. As an avid reader and always on the look out for good books, one of the questions was “what is your favorite book?”. We had a great discussion until one of our members stated that the bible is the greatest book ever written. My knee jerk reaction to that was to think “have you actually READ the bible?????!!!” Really??? I didn’t know what to say to that. The person in question is starting seminary in the fall and I think this was a way to work that into the conversation however I immediately lost all respect for this woman. I knew she was Christian but didn’t realize she was THAT Christian.

This was a really uncomfortable situation for me as the discussion leader. Do you have any sage words of advice on how to handle this in the future? I totally looked like an idiot, I couldn’t even comment and just moved on to the next person. I’m a non-believer and not out to anyone but my husband and son.

Speechless

Dear Speechless,

I’m glad that you remained silent. Maybe you looked like an idiot, but if you had blurted out your knee jerk reaction, you likely would have looked like a bigot. I don’t think that you’re either one, but your reflex disapproval of the woman’s position put you into that awkward predicament of looking like one or the other. I think that you’ll be much more comfortable when meeting people like her if you eliminate that automatic reaction and tension inside, so that you have more control and choice over your responses.

Please excuse me for talking at length about myself, but I think I may have something that could be helpful to you.

I live by the maxim, “You are what you do,” and I regard others according to that criteria. The reality of a person’s character, of their very life is in their actions, not in their thoughts, beliefs, self-image or self-description. For instance, if someone thinks of themselves as a kind and honest person, but they consistently act in unkind and dishonest ways, then they are not a kind and honest person.

I try very hard to treat everyone courteously, simply because they are human beings. As I get to know them and I see persistent patterns in their conduct, their actions, their behaviors, those patterns will cause me to respect them more or less than the initial level of respectfulness that I show to everyone.

When I first find out that someone is a Christian, my respect for them does not automatically go up or down. I will only be interested in how that fact affects what they do with other people. In their actual conduct are they tolerant or intolerant of people who see things differently? In concrete things they do are they compassionate or aloof to those who are suffering or struggling? In their observable behaviors are they open-hearted and fair-minded, or are they conceited and arrogant? Are they mindful and gentle with the environment, or are they wasteful and destructive in how they really live? Do they in fact practice honesty, fairness, kindness, responsibility and the encouragement of freedom?

I don’t look for perfect performance, just persistent patterns.

The same holds true when I meet an atheist or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist, or a person in any other such category. I look at how they treat people, how they live their ethics, what they do. If they practice those virtues I mentioned, I will hold them in greater esteem and even grow to like them, regardless of their religious opinions. There are some Christians whom I respect, admire and like. There are some atheists whom I disrespect, disapprove of and dislike, and all the other possible combinations. It all depends on what they do, not what they believe.

Now Speechless, for you too, what you DID is what counts. You did not blurt out all that disapproving stuff, you held it in check. Good for you. You were courteous in your conduct, or at least you were not discourteous. A challenge to her opinion of the Bible might have been completely appropriate in the proper setting such as a debate, but that icebreaker wasn’t it, and so you correctly held your tongue. Maybe it was awkward, so what? You commendably restrained your impulse to be antagonistic.

We all have such impulses, but with practice we can be relieved of them to the point that they hardly ever come up. Then we can be more relaxed and at ease with people who have different views, and not have to work so hard to mind our manners.

If you want this equanimity for yourself, you don’t have to change your opinion of the Bible, you only have to change your criteria for respecting people: Actions. Behaviors. Doings.

Look into yourself and find the Golden Rule. All normal, healthy people have it in them. You would not want someone else to “immediately lose all respect” for you just because you like something about a book, or just because you are in a category such as “atheist.” You’d want them to give you a fair chance to express yourself and to demonstrate your character in your actions. Simply do that for them. If you persistently do the Golden Rule outwardly, it will steadily become what you are inside. You are what you do.

So imagine a future interaction just like the one you described:

You: “And what is your favorite book?”

Her: “I think the Bible is the greatest book ever written.”

You: “Oh, that’s interesting. Can you tell me about how the Bible affects your actions and your conduct with other people? How does the Bible influence the ways you live and interact?”

Speechless, thoughts, beliefs and opinions are as insubstantial as morning mist. They are not what you are. If you consider this carefully enough, you’ll see that it is your actions and behaviors that make up the solid reality of your life. By seeing yourself as a set of actions and behaviors rather than a set of thoughts, beliefs and opinions, you’ll start to see other people that way too. As you talk with people, you’ll ask questions that guide them toward a discussion about their doings, and you’ll be more likely to find something interesting, and quite possibly something respectable, and maybe even something likable.

You’ll end up with friends in unexpected places.

Richard

You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. All questions will eventually be answered, but not all can be published. There is a large number of requests; please be patient.

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • http://www.weaseltrap.com marf

    This man is just so worthwhile. I will tattoo this message on my heart.

  • Shannon

    Thumbs up! :-D

  • Colin

    Speechless, thoughts, beliefs and opinions are as insubstantial as morning mist. They are not what you are.

    I like this answer.

    I’m also sure that Speechless wasn’t the only one made uncomfortable by the person’s response of “the bible”. You’re discussing books in an effort to get to know a group of people you don’t know well, and one person chooses to polarize the discussion by bringing up the bible, transforming a fun secular conversation into one where you are on the defensive.

    I’m reminded of GW Bush’s response to the question “who is your favorite political philosopher”. It’s an excellent question, and an honest answer would have given us great insights into each candidate’s view of government. But Bush had to answer “Jesus” (not really a political philosopher, but maybe this covered for him not being able to name any political philosophers, which is equally scary). Then on down the line, the rest of the republicans answered “Jesus” in lockstep, because no one wants the headline, “Candidate X prefers Edmund Burke to Jesus!”

  • http://lyonlegal.blogspot.com/ Vincent

    I think I would have said “well, that’s not fair, since the Bible had a ton of authors but Moby Dick only had one.”

  • Felix Bloomfield

    I argued pretty much the same thing here, although from a different angle. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=168363834044

  • http://www.flatustheelder.com/wordpress Cliff

    I’m a Christian in the old sense of the word. If there is a God in the alleged heaven then I believe he/she gave me life once and did a pretty good job of it. So, being born once was good enough. IMHO the bible is a history of an alleged creator trying to get the folks to live proper, healthy lives.
    “In the beginning there was the word and the word was God.” The word was the law as an oral tradition. But the word/law was a communicative concept, a thought process. I’m guessing that the folks couldn’t be controlled by laws so the guy in the sky tried another approach. “For God gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.”
    With Jesus on earth doing good deeds, an actual example was set to show how to live a proper life, heel the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give your money to the poor. We all know what happened to Jesus, God’s flesh and blood golden rule.
    But wait there’s more. Jesus was crucified but on the third day he rose from the dead. (Funny how the number three always creeps into the discussion.)
    The people’s connection to Jesus becomes emotional. We no longer have a living person being a good example. All we have to do is feel Jesus Christ as our lord and savior and all is right with the world. Oh and by the way, if you don’t accept JC as your L&S then you will certainly burn in hell with the others left behind. So for me the bible is the history of the process through thoughts, deeds, and emotions.
    For me the essence of Christianity is in the parable of the good Samaritan. Our actions are far more important than our thoughts or feelings. I was once asked if I believed that the bible was the word of God. Like speechless I had no good response. There is so much cruelty, so many contradictions, and so much that is simply incomprehensible, that trying to digest and understand it would be a life time’s occupation. To make a long story short, I’m pretty happy with my life so far, I try to think both ways before I speak, and I’m not so sure I’m interested in everlasting life cause I’m not sure my Medicare will last that that long.

  • Ron in Houston

    I don’t get why it would make someone uncomfortable if some else says the Bible is their favorite book. I understand that as a discussion leader you don’t want the topic to get onto religion so to me just smile, nod, say “thanks for sharing” and move on.

    I think the writer should realize they probably didn’t look like and idiot and really did the right thing just moving on.

  • Sackbut

    Richard wrote:

    You: “And what is your favorite book?”

    Her: “I think the Bible is the greatest book ever written.”

    You: “Oh, that’s interesting. Can you tell me about how the Bible affects your actions and your conduct with other people? How does the Bible influence the ways you live and interact?”

    I don’t think that’s an appropriate response. If she had said “Moby Dick”, I don’t think it would be reasonable to ask how “Moby Dick” affected her actions and conduct with other people. It’s even possible that the bible has not influenced this person’s actions, but rather that she considers the bible a profound and influential book full of entertaining stories. Don’t presume what place literature has in a person’s life.

    I don’t, however, know what I might have said to that person with the goal of keeping the discussion about literature rather than religion. Perhaps: “Oh, really? Fascinating! I’m rather fond of the Greek myths, myself; have you read the Bulfinch version?” Or something about science fiction, or murder mysteries, or classic literature, or popular sociology, anything.

    The concern I have about people who name the bible as their favorite book, or Jesus as their favorite philosopher, is that they may not be capable of or interested in discussing anything other than religion; more specifically, their religion. My gut reaction is to move the topic back away from religion as soon as possible.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    To summarize Richard’s first paragraph quite nicely:

    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

    -Abraham Lincoln

    I usually don’t say anything, but I do have this same reflexive response at times. I suppose that, for me, it comes from knowing the kind of nonsense I used to believe it, and generalizing that nonsense to all varieties of Christians. Something I know I ought not do, but it’s an emotionally-charged subject and it’s difficult to control.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    I wouldn’t have voiced the knee jerk reaction either but I would have asked her to defend that choice. Why? Is such a short and sweet but effective question.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Since practically ALL politicians will say “the bible” when asked for their most influential book, recent debates have qualified the question as “Besides the bible, what has been your most influential book?” That might preemptively keep the conversation within the world of secular literature.

    P.S. Of course if I remember correctly, in recent debates, the politicians still said the bible even when asked to pick a book besides the bible. Always be prepared for that.

  • http://www.wordpress.com/thegodless T Mackiewicz

    Personally, my biggest challenge in dealing with religionists, is forcing myself to admit they have any intellect. I see that they have made such an intellectual blunder and begin questioning their judgment regarding the rest of their life choices. I don’t see any way for me to escape this way of thinking, as it a rational concern.

  • Shannon

    I don’t see what she did as being wrong. If it’s truly her favorite book why shouldn’t she say so just because it’s religious? If someone else has The God Delusion as their favorite, should they not say that for fear of offending someone else?

  • Aj

    Ignoring them was probably the best option, anyone who says the Bible is their favourite book is probably worth ignoring. I don’t see what the problem is. You were given the answer “the Bible”, it would be incredibly hard to look stupid in that situation.

  • nan

    The lady stated “the bible is the greastest book ever written”. That stating is an action from which I would glean some info. The “greatest”? Either she said that when she really hadn’t read the whole thing making her a self-righteous liar or she has read it and STILL thinks that. That makes her…..hmm…someone I don’t think I would want to know more of. Either way,I still wouldn’t have said anything at that point.

  • Sackbut

    Shannon wrote:

    I don’t see what she did as being wrong. If it’s truly her favorite book why shouldn’t she say so just because it’s religious?

    I don’t think she did anything wrong by being honest. The problem isn’t so much with what she did as with how to react to someone who feels that way.

    I have some (perhaps unjustified) expectations of the nature of conversation with people who says the bible is “the greatest book ever written”. Ask why, and I expect it won’t be a discussion of literary merit or historical influence, but rather a religious justification, god’s word, and so on, in a direction that can only lead to a discussion of religion, not literature.

  • Shannon

    Sackbut, I was reacting to some of the comments, not to the post. I should have stated that, sorry!

  • ChameleonDave

    Gak. This is why Richard is an idiot. He actually just said that exclaiming about how bad a choice the Bible was would have been a bigoted thing to do. I just couldn’t read him past that point.

    Someone who pulls out the Bible, or Mein Kampf, or something (ghostwritten) by Sarah Palin as their favourite book deserves instant, harsh scorn. If you’re in the mood to express that scorn, go right ahead.

    The Golden Rule is a completely stupid thing to bring up here. Just because you wouldn’t want someone to lose respect for you for being a good and intelligent person doesn’t mean you have to refrain from losing respect for someone for being an evil and foolish person.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Someone who pulls out the Bible, or Mein Kampf, or something (ghostwritten) by Sarah Palin as their favourite book deserves instant, harsh scorn.

    Really? Are you saying this because of a theological/moral/intellectual stance or a literary one?

    A book that says repulsive things can still be a good piece of literature. I’m not arguing that the Bible actually is a good piece of literature, but you’re simply passing instantaneous judgment about a person’s choices without determining their reason for making the choice.

    I would not say that anyone deserved instant, harsh scorn for saying that any book was their favorite.

  • Pseudonym

    Mike:

    I would not say that anyone deserved instant, harsh scorn for saying that any book was their favorite.

    But what about if they said that a certain book was the greatest ever written? That’s certainly a different answer.

    But you’re right; perhaps this is splitting hairs. We’re assuming that the individual in question put a lot of thought into the answer and that meant precisely the wording that she said.

  • Shannon

    Well, the instant scorn would certainly make the “icebreaker” interesting.

  • ChameleonDave
    Someone who pulls out the Bible, or Mein Kampf, or something (ghostwritten) by Sarah Palin as their favourite book deserves instant, harsh scorn.

    Really? Are you saying this because of a theological/moral/intellectual stance or a literary one?

    Moral and intellectual, obviously. I deliberately chose examples of works that are not (intended to be) fiction, so that it was clear that I was talking about the factual content and the ideology contained within. I could have picked some work of literature that was merely badly written, or tangentially supported unethical stuff, but I didn’t. This is also in the context of a story about something saying the Bible was ‘the greatest book ever written’.

    Incidentally, a person would also be stupid to think any of those was an artistic masterpiece.

    This is all obvious, so I presume you were just being politically correct.

  • Linda

    Incidentally, a person would also be stupid to think any of those was an artistic masterpiece.

    This is all obvious, so I presume you were just being politically correct.

    Obvious to whom? Just because you have your opinions about things, don’t assume that is how others see it.

    From where I sit, you look like an immature, close-minded, judgmental ass, but that’s just one person’s perspective based on one small glimpse of you. I’m sure (I hope) it’s far from the truth of who you actually are.

  • vee

    Just the advice I’ve been needing to hear. I have the same problem as Speechless.
    It’s something I’ve been trying to work on.

  • JulietEcho

    Some of you seem to have forgotten (or missed) the fact that this was an icebreaker that involved more people than just “Speechless” and the Bible-fan. Turning the situation into a conversation, or expressing scorn, would have been inappropriate in the situation.

    If you were having a private conversation with someone, then scorn could very well be a fine response to such a proclamation. The question, however, was about dealing with kneejerk reactions in settings where expressing them is inappropriate or counter-productive.

  • AxeGrrl

    JulietEcho wrote:

    If you were having a private conversation with someone, then scorn could very well be a fine response to such a proclamation.

    Why?

    why respond with scorn at the mere ‘proclamation’? wouldn’t it be more prudent/fair to wait to hear why they think it’s the ‘greatest book every written’?

    I think only at that point would it be fair to respond with scorn if their reason(s) deserves it.

  • ChameleonDave

    I’ll ignore Linda’s trolling.

    AxeGrrl Says:

    why respond with scorn at the mere ‘proclamation’? wouldn’t it be more prudent/fair to wait to hear why they think it’s the ‘greatest book every written’?

    I think only at that point would it be fair to respond with scorn if their reason(s) deserves it.

    Because there is no reason for saying that the Bible is the greatest book ever written. Such a comment would deserve a snort of derision. The whole thing could possibly develop into a debate into what the worst parts of the book are, what ‘great’ means, etc., but from the beginning (and probably to the end), scorn would be an appropriate attitude towards such a foolish person.

    It’s up to the listener to decide how to express it. It might be a raised eyebrow, with some silent musings about how the person manages to have the mental capacity to tie their shoelaces in the mornings.

  • Staceyjw

    I have fought knee jerk reactions to xtianity lately. I got a new MD and saw Catholic/xtian books on his shelf, in his office across from the patients seat. My first reaction was “damn, gotta find another new MD, anyone that still believes the bible w/ 10yrs of school scares me.”

    But- I told myself that he could practice his job without overt religion, or maybe he was just showing the books to make the majority feel comfortable. I do my job without proclaiming atheism, I wanted to extend him this. I was still pretty uncomfortable, and felt like a creepy xtaian that is disgusted by free thinkers because of it. (BTW- He was very stupid in the end.)

    I think that its normal to feel derision when presented by a belief that you think is ridiculous. Xtians feel the same way about us, the only difference is that we have fact and they have faith. But in their eyes, we are the ultimate fools that “just dont get it”…..sound familiar? We both claim to be right (we are though, but still…….)

    This is why Richard is right- it can go both ways and get us nowhere positive,if we treat others poorly only because of their superstition, we are missing the chance know someone for what they DO not what they believe.

    Too bad it seems that religious followers don’t have that desire for courtesy in similar situations. While many atheists step over themselves to be open and polite (while ignoring the negative), I don’t have this expierence with xtians, who generally go gung-ho trying to convert me as soon as they get the faintest idea that Im a non-believer. I got followed around the airport for HOLDING God Delusion……

    Sometimes I get tired of being “the better person” when religion shows up, and just want to tell every xtian off somedays.

    Staceyjw

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    It is understandable that a secular person could be momentarily at a loss for words if someone unexpectedly introduces religion into a conversation. For the secular mind, the supernatural (God) is a non sequitur for the topic at hand and its introduction serves only as a distraction. For the religious mind, EVERYTHING is about serving God (the supernatural). The religious evangelist will try to introduce God to every conversation to reach out to the “unsaved”. The secular person will try to keep religious discourse off the table so other topics can intelligently be discussed. In my view a secular person should have two strategies for dealing with these competing interests. 1. try to set the ground-rules up front in a discussion not to evangelize or insert one’s religion in a conversation. 2. Always be prepared for the event that someone will introduce religion into the conversation. If you have thought through what you might say, then the words will come. As a secular role-model, it is best not to be condescending or mean. Always take the high-road.

  • Linda

    I’ll ignore Linda’s trolling.

    I was only trying to demonstrate how silly it sounds to pass unfair judgments about a person without knowing all the facts.

    As to someone stating that the Bible is the greatest book ever written… I don’t understand why you can’t just accept it as someone’s opinion. It could be a great opportunity for some fascinating discussions if you approached them with respect and genuine curiosity.

    I really think if speechless would have given it more thought beyond her knee-jerk reaction and asked some honest, non-judgmental questions, she would have had great results. She stated that the original question was posed to the group as an ice-breaker. The purpose of an ice-breaker is to get to know each other a little better, no?

  • http://www.tumblr.com/zerodark Kam

    Richard’s advice on how to act is sound; but I disagree with the philosophy behind it. Even though this icebreaker was not a proper forum to question someone’s beliefs, I don’t think Christians should get a pass because our observations of them don’t reveal any immorality.

    Now Richard, you are a more tolerant person than I, and maybe you subscribe to a different brand of atheism, but it seems that Speechless and I may be on the same page in our view towards Christianity. As Speechless said, that woman’s claim that the bible is the greatest book ever written probably comes from a place of ignorance, bias, and hipocrisy.

    I doubt that anyone who actually reads the bible cover-to-cover will share her sentiment. The bible is excessively long and boring, now matter what you think of its veracity (the book of Numbers is essentially a census). As a work of non-fiction it is of questionable factual accuracy, I won’t bother preaching to the choir by going into detail on this. Even as a work of fiction the story is convoluted and contradictory, different books give drastically different accounts of the same supposed events. No storywriter today would take proud in such a poorly thought-out tale.

    So, when we approach the situation from the assumption that this board member’s “opinion” is disingenous, we have to wonder why she answered the way she did. In one way or another, it must have been a ploy for her to share her beliefs with the group, this is where the problem in all this lies.

    In today’s society, it is inappropriate to question someone’s beliefs. We are expected to allow people like this woman to speak hypocrises and falsehoods and remain silent because we, as atheists, are evil and wrong and should be ashamed. There is no such thing as a closet Christian, but Speechless herself admits to being a closet atheist.

    Why? Because while we adopt this meek attitude towards the hypocrisy of religion, even those who pay lame lip-service to religion help establish their views as the normal, controlling, and appropriate view. As a result, Christian politicians rise to office on the promise to enforce the insane commands of the bible on all people.

    Any atheist uncomfortable with the religious status quo should make a point to speak out against it. We could benefit from taking a page from the playbook of the people that belief in magic and angels and space wizards. We should not feel shame about our beliefs, especially given that ours is the rational belief.

    So, Speechless, questioning this woman’s beliefs at a work-related event is probably not wise. She is with the status quo and doing so may harm your career, and we definitely need reasonable, rational people in every stage of the education system. That said, you should feel free (if not obligated, like some Christians) to voice your opinion when something like this happens in a purely social setting.

    I’m glad to see the recent increased visibility of the atheist community, and I think we can all play a part in moving our beliefs out of the fringes of society. That will never happen if we spend our lives avoiding telling the emperor that he is naked.

  • Richard Wade

    Sackbut,

    I don’t think that’s an appropriate response. If she had said “Moby Dick”, I don’t think it would be reasonable to ask how “Moby Dick” affected her actions and conduct with other people. It’s even possible that the bible has not influenced this person’s actions, but rather that she considers the bible a profound and influential book full of entertaining stories. Don’t presume what place literature has in a person’s life.

    Speechless asked for a suggestion of how to respond to a similar situation in the future. It’s something to have in her back pocket if she feels nonplussed again. I was not implying that she should respond to all “favorite books” with those suggested questions, it’s just one way to get past her awkwardness and perhaps avoid or minimize a tedious testamonial about the person’s religion.

    As you say, we should not presume things about single-sentence responses to “What is your favorite book?” until we have taken the time and effort to ask for more information. The action-oriented questions are just one framework for starting that dialogue. With a book that didn’t push Speechless’s buttons, asking “Oh? Tell me why?” might have worked out just fine for the purposes of the icebreaker.

    When playing music, middle C is a useful note, but of course it is not the only note to play.

  • Richard Wade

    ChameleonDave

    Gak. This is why Richard is an idiot. He actually just said that exclaiming about how bad a choice the Bible was would have been a bigoted thing to do. I just couldn’t read him past that point.

    I did not say that nor did I mean that. I said that Speechless likely would have looked like a bigot. I immediately followed by saying that I don’t think she is a bigot. As I stress in the rest of my remarks, she would have to do bigoted things over and over to qualify as a bigot. She was concerned with how she looked to the others in that awkward silence. I’m sorry that this distinction was apparently not clear.

    Since you also commented on the Golden Rule, you apparently did read past that point, and I’m grateful that you did.

    The Golden Rule is a completely stupid thing to bring up here. Just because you wouldn’t want someone to lose respect for you for being a good and intelligent person doesn’t mean you have to refrain from losing respect for someone for being an evil and foolish person.

    This is about our differences in what criteria we use to make judgments about people. You seem to focus on their thoughts, opinions and beliefs. I focus on their persistent behaviors. You seem to dislike or despise them if their thoughts, opinions and beliefs differ from yours. I will dislike or despise them if they frequently do dislikable or despicable things.

    The two most common ways the Golden Rule is expressed is: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” and “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”

    Either way, it’s about doing things. I never heard a version that says, “Think about others as you would have them think about you.”

    Think about them whatever you please. But how you treat them, your behavior is seen by others almost immediately as what you are, and gradually, with repetition actually becomes part of what you are.

    Sometimes when I talk about treating Christians respectfully, some atheists seem to confuse that with respecting their beliefs. No, those are two very different things. I can think their beliefs are absurd and still treat them respectfully. I can even, when the situation is appropriate tell them that I think their beliefs are absurd and why, and still do it in a way that does not unnecessarily humiliate, belittle or insult them. I think doing so is counter-productive.

    It all depends on what kind of outcome you want from such interactions. If you want them to feel humiliated and mortified, if you want them to feel threatened, if you want them to become even more entrenched in their suspicion and hatred of you or of rational thinkers in general, if, in short, you want another dedicated enemy, then yes, eagerly jump on them at the first mention of the Bible or whatever pushes your buttons and don’t bother finding out the details of where they’re coming from. Use your intellect for creating clever put-downs and insults. Don’t waste your brain power constructing subtly persuasive arguments that might get them to start thinking and questioning. No, just enjoy the sheer pleasure and self aggrandizement of your sadistic taunting and tormenting of them.

    Is that really what you’re about, ChameleonDave? I hope not, and I’m still holding out an open mind that you’re not.

    Just be aware of one thing. The feelings that you repeatedly act upon begin to permeate your personality. Bitterness, hostility, truculence and cruelty will not stay isolated in the one part of your mind where you deal with Christians. They will spread into the rest of your disposition and temperament and pollute your interactions with others for whom you don’t have such enmity. They will become what you are, through and through.

    Please consider my appeal to you. I really think that you have much more to offer the world around you, and much more to offer yourself. Also, please do not read any insult or animosity into my words. That is not my intention. If I have misinterpreted your comments here, then please help me to clearly understand you. I think you’re worth understanding.