You can be skeptical and friendly at the same time.
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She didn’t vandalize the American Atheists bench in Bradford County, Florida, but I thought this was a wonderful gesture from a Christian:
What a simple yet sweet thing to do. American Atheists appreciated it, too.
Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.
We should never spurn a gesture of peace, or an offer of friendship or civility. Thank you to this gentle young woman whose heart is in the right place. She might face some disapproval from some of her peers and fellow Christians for even making such a gesture to those ugh, atheists. We should appreciate her courage as well as her graciousness.
I sent her a nice tweet thanking her for her kindness. When someone reaches out with kindness it’s better to shake hands and make a friend, imo.
More wagging, less barking, as it were.
Very well said Mr. Wade. I don’t care what her faith is. One human being, acting with a bit of compassion to other human beings. There are worse things in this world.
“She might face some disapproval from some of her peers and fellow Christians”
I suspect she would find no more than she finds everyday from those “skeptical and friendly” atheists.
Perhaps, I hope not. The sampling in the comments here might show that there’s quite a supply of resentment and suspicion, but I’m not going to be discouraged. This endless cycle of acrimony is what I’m working to change, but make no mistake, it is not about “appeasement.” It’s about positive engagement and building mutual accurate understanding. Any change I want to see has to start with me. Waiting for the “them.” the “they,” the “other side” to start first means sitting in the communal pool of everyone’s crap forever.
Funny how you don’t see Joe Klein apologizing for the vandalism of an atheist monument. Your slipping, Richard ; )
She doesn’t speak for the vandals and the vandals aren’t sorry. What a lame apology. Is it a nice thought? Sure. It is pointless and empty? Absolutely.
I was going to write something similar. Can a person apologize for someone else? While researching it, I found a comment “I think we apologize for others because we are apologizing to ourselves….I am sorry that I am associated with certain Christians will you forgive me. “
Hi Fake Name,
Actually the vandal does feel sorry, as he expressed in a decent apology which you can read in the second link in the original post above, “American Atheists bench.” No, she doesn’t speak for the vandal, she speaks for herself, and she’s hoping that she speaks for many of her fellow Christians. She wants to say that not all Christians feel the animosity and hostility that spurred the young man to commit impulsive vandalism. I don’t think that is pointless and empty or lame at all. It shows maturity and good will.
Reward constructive behavior. Don’t punish or dismiss it with derision.
Well put. ‘Apology’ perhaps has the wrong connotation, as she did not do anything wrong. — but it is important to remember that the Vandal does not speak for all Christians, and to another commenter on this post – one can stay Christian, and not be Evangelical, or coercively proselytizing. — i.e. Accepting of others religious beliefs, and lack of beliefs.
Let’s reward her by making her an honorary atheist for a day.
I frequently feel compelled to apologize on behalf of my boorish gender, or my over-privileged race, even though I’m not responsible for any sexism or racism (at least, I hope not). I understand the urge to apologize for a member of one’s group, even though, no, it does not atone for the actual perpetrators. At the very least, it lets others know that not everyone in the group behaves the same way, and that such behavior should not be expected as a general quality of members. As effective as the actual person apologizing? No, of course not. But pointless and empty? Not at all.
It can also serve to shame others in the group who support the perpetrators…Do I want to be on the side of the jerk or on the side of the person who doesn’t condone the jerk’s behaviour?
It’s why we want bystanders to harassment and racism/sexism etc. and bullying to stand up and speak out and say what’s going on is not okay with them.
As a man, I feel in no way compelled to apologize for other men, white or otherwise. I may condemn certain actions of certain men, but I refuse to condemn the male half of the human race as “boorish gender”, and I likewise refuse to apologize to anyone for actions that are not my own.
If she had nothing to do with it then she has nothing to apologize for. Thinking seriously and critically about her faith and why she’s a Christian in the first place would impress me more.
That comes, but slowly, quietly, and privately. Her good will makes it possible.
Some very nice comments here from you Mr. Wade, Very well said sir.
I hope so.
Saying you are sorry isn’t necessarily the same as apologizing. It is also a way of expressing regret that something happened… regret that can be perfectly genuine even if you had no direct responsibility for that thing. And it’s a way of showing that she does not condone what was done by somebody she has some association with by belief.
If you need further proof that “I apologize” and “I’m sorry,” are different, try saying both at a funeral.
(With credit to Demitri Martin).
Her whole religion is based on someone else paying for your mistakes, so I can understand that she thinks her apology will help. Whether we all agree with it or not, I think it was a good gesture.
A very thoughtful gesture from a kind young woman. I certainly appreciate it.
That’s mighty nice of you, ma’am. This atheist appreciates the gesture and thanks you.
I accept her vicarious apology only on the condition that she sacrifices a goat with it.
But she still thinks we’re all going to hell – and that we deserve it.
Not being psychic, I can’t pretend to know what any individual thinks, nor can I assume what one specifically thinks just because they are in a broad and highly varied category such as “Christian.” This young woman is demonstrating that wide variety of thoughts and attitudes right here.
If you don’t like the blanket assumptions about the ugly things that atheists are reputed to think, feel, and do, then don’t practice that bad habit on others. Give each individual a fair chance. That takes time, patience, and an open heart.
“But she still thinks we’re all going to hell – and that we deserve it.”
You don’t know that. A few years from now she could be one of us.
She’s like the Schroedinger’s Cat of belief. We won’t know what she believes until we look.
We really can’t know what anyone really “believes”. There’s just what people say, do, and how they react, which can change over time, and whatever can be reliably deduced from all that.
Heh…I was waiting for someone to accuse you of being unfair for presuming that a Christian believes a major piece of Christian doctrine just because their messiah, holy book, and church all say they should believe it. Took longer than I thought.
There are over 33,000 denominations of Christianity. Yes, it is unfair to presume that all Christians universally weigh different concepts in their doctrine the way you think they do.
The point I’m trying to make is to ask some people to stop and look at their eagerness to find something, even something irrelevant to the issue at hand, for an excuse to spit in the face of someone who is extending her hand.
He didn’t spit in anyone’s face and it’s not unfair to presume that by virtue of calling yourself a Christian that you think there is a post-mortem penalty for the crime of apostasy…for the crime of not believing in the blood sacrifice and resurrection of the son of God…the one and only unforgivable sin. I understand that some get really ambiguous about it so that it doesn’t sound so immoral but that’s kind of a deal breaker, despite your particular denomination.
I agree with you though that it doesn’t make a nice gesture any less nice and I’m sure she’s a wonderful person but if you’re going to reap the advantages of calling yourself a Christian in this country, there are certain things that you have to own, despite how illogical or unfair they may be. I don’t even think it’s an insult to Christians.
Would you have to be psychic to presume that if someone calls themselves a carpenter, it means that they use wood to construct things or can we water that down to mean that you could be an olympic figure skater?
I agree with you both. Christians need to own the negative parts of their religion and deal with it, but right now? No. Let’s just take her apology in the spirit it was offered, ‘kay?
(Seriously…she seems like a sweet kid)
Not an apt analogy. It would be presumptuous to assume that a carpenter is skilled in hardwood finished cabinet making using intricate joinery. Refraining from that assumption until more information is available would not be the absurd watering down of the definition of “carpenter” that you suggest, and the analogy does not apply to refraining from assuming each and every Christian’s ideas about damnation and hell until more information is available.
Perhaps I’m misreading you, but you seem to be clinging to the assertion that you have all Christians pegged. If so, no, you don’t, no more than any one Christian has all atheists pegged. I know several Christians who completely reject the idea of hell and damnation, and they still call themselves Christians without any hesitation. So I think you will have to accept that not all Christians hold all the beliefs you assume they do, and you don’t know what the percentages are who hold a particular belief. If you were to use the “not a true Christian” argument that some Christians use against each other for one doctrinal disagreement or another, big or small, you would sound just as absurd as they do, so I’m going to assume and hope you won’t do that.
If my analogy of spitting in her face is too strongly worded, okay, how about brushing aside her extended hand? Mick definitely did not welcome her effort at all, and he used an irrelevant issue to discredit and dismiss her.
Regardless of analogies, I still repeat my point that we should not look for irrelevant reasons to justify rejecting, or dismissing, or minimizing, or disregarding a gesture of conciliation. Clinging to our resentment only fosters more resentment coming back at us.
We must rise above the endless and infantile feedback loop of cynicism, antagonism, and enmity. I think we are up to the task. We just have to encourage that within our own ranks as well in the theists.
I know several Christians who completely reject the idea of hell and damnation, and they still call themselves Christians without any hesitation.
Absoutely. I know people that call themselves Christians that don’t even think Jesus was God. The word has so many meanings that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Your definition of a Christian just seems to be “Someone who calls themself a Christian.”
Mick definitely did not welcome her effort at all, and he used an irrelevant issue to discredit and dismiss her.
I can’t speak for Mick but I thought he was just trying to be funny. Like, there’s a way to derive humor out of it and still think the kid is being sincere.
“We are sorry…but stop, drop, and roll won’t work in hell, heathens.”
Almost certainly not an accurate characterization of this particular kid…but still funny in a semi-ironic sort of way.
If he really is dismissing her sentiment, then I don’t agree with that. I’m with you there.
I appreciate your thoughtful and nuanced view on this. Yeah, my definition of a Christian is just someone who says they are, because beyond that, they’re all over the map. As an outsider, I don’t think I have any authority to say what their criteria should or should not be, so I just have to take their word for it. Also, the possibility that Mick was trying to be funny is worth considering and hoping for. Thank you for that. Even if he wasn’t, it’s not like some terrible (ahem) sin.
*offers up the bong*
I’m not sure google translates to “Bogus”
*snorfle* That guy? Soooooo stoned.
What…I don’t get a hit?
Well, get in the circle!
She probably thinks Jesus existed and the gospels describe him. It’s a delusion, but she is nice about it so I’d give her a pass.
Good kid, that one.
A nice gesture. I hope she doesn’t get any flack.
I am all for the nice Christians going public with what they think of the noisy bullies. If more Christians spoke up like her, the bullies would be less empowered to behave as though the word Christian necessarily means someone who thinks like them.
She must have a good role model. Dawkins or Jesus Christ?
Well, How many times has Jesus apologized in the bible?
Right, because those are the only choices.
As far as I’m concerned it’s not genuine. She’s trying to earn points towards getting into heaven.
The self-defeating error of a cynic is to assume that everyone else is secretly cynical too.
She could just as easily be genuine. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt. There are Christians that have innate goodness and just overlay their own version of Christianity based on that. I’d give her some points for that.
They should hire her to do their signs for them! Great job.
So I figured I read the comments to see if there really are all those atheist a-holes I am always expected to apologize for….
I am sorry.
I’m sorry too, but you’re no more equipped to apologize on behalf of all atheists than she is to apologize on behalf of all Christians. While I appreciate her gesture, I dislike it when anyone apologizes on behalf of an entire group. It strikes me as presumptuous, especially when there are many members of the group in question who are not sorry at all.
Oh, I am not apologizing, I am just sorry.
Now I’m just waiting for Hemant to apologize for spewing his hatred towards religions in general and people specifically. He has been vandalizing the Christian faith for years now.
But of course he won’t. He doesn’t know how to. Look through his blog. I challenge anyone to find a post in which he apologizes for what he says.
There isn’t. He’s like a god.
Yes, because writing words on his personal blog is exactly the same as defacing someone else’s physical property.
I’m basically pissing on people’s houses with words every day.
Whose property is a monument? I find this argument from personal propertay (read in Cartman voice) soooo annoying. Not everything that is wrong has to be argued from property rights.
You know, I don’t know who would be considered to be the owner of the monument. American Atheists? The town? Does it matter? It doesn’t change the fact that what Hemant does is not remotely akin to vandalism as our trollish friend has claimed.
Perhaps it would be better to just take care of your own apologies, whatever they might be, rather than grumble about the apologies that you unilaterally decide that someone else should make. Once you’re focused on that, you might have less interest in nurturing your resentment and self-righteous blaming of others, others, others, and be more interested in simply making situations better. We need more problem solvers, and less finger pointers.
I’m sorry you’re an idiot.
Thought that was a more appropriate apology for you to be waiting for. Why must he apologise for what he writes in his own blog? Because you don’t like it?
Now I’m sorry I insulted idiots.
You’ve obviously never read another atheist blog because Hemant is overwhelmingly fair to Christians and any other believers, relative to a lot of his peers.
You can’t vandalize something that isn’t worth a shit.
While I appreciate the gesture, I find that I have difficulty with the sentiment behind it. The only person or persons to offer an apology should be those who did the deed. Otherwise, you’re talking about collective guilt. As a Jew, I want to be better than the millions of Christians who have blamed all the Jews since Jesus for his death. Her apology makes it seem like she now has blood guilt, as the Christians like to call it, Original Sin. It also sounds too much like “I’ll pray for you” and not enough like “I feel bad about it, would you like any help?”
We are not Klingons.
Sorry, but I’m not a Christian so I don’t believe in vicarious forgiveness. Still, I’m going to go ahead an apologize to all the people who have ever been harmed by an atheist. I’m sorry even though I personally never harmed anyone. Where’s my monument?
*hands you a cupcake*
A lot of us atheists often ask, “So when are the moderate ‘insert religion here’ going to start speaking out against the bad their group does?”
Now someone has made a step in the right direction and it’s not good enough for some of us. Collectively we’re no better than any other group.
Is anyone really saying that or are a few people just noting that although it’s a nice sentiment, she doesn’t really owe us an apology? I doubt any atheist was even offended by it let alone felt that the moderate Christians should apologize for it.
everyone has their own opinion and a right to gauge their own standards.
i’m glad to see this nice young woman do this. do i think she’s going to bring down the hater church organizations single handedly? of course not. she’s one woman and it’s one gesture specific to one situation. if some people wat to continue to say “moderate Christians need to speak up more, even beyond this” i’m ok with that. there are always more than ‘two side’ to ever issue.
Aw that’s nice of her
So what, just another Christian apologist.
The back of the card reads “That you are all going to Hell!”
That’s not even what “Christian apologist” means.
Sorry, I guess my sarcasm wasn’t thick enough.
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