Atheists Could Learn a Lesson from These Christians

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses how atheists could (seriously) learn a lesson from a group of forgiving conservative Christians:

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • EmmittBrownBTTF1

    Sadly, the reasons are usually all too clear.

  • Yuvraj Bajaj

    I really hope,that the group in regard is not being hypocritic and they really dont have intentions of revenge/forced apology from the vandalizer ,because if that person appears ,maybe for a conversation with the group -nobody ,could stop the group from filing a cse and getting him arrested.It really depends on their true self.

  • Leigh

    I doubt the groups sincerity. Should anyone come forward, their arrest is certain.

  • The_Physeter

    I don’t doubt it. Forgiving your enemies is one of the biggest teachings in Christianity. They presumably haven’t forgotten that.

  • The_Physeter

    I don’t see that anointing places is harmful. It looks a little weird to some, but to them it makes sense. If you’re trying to anoint PEOPLE, or pray in their faces or whatever, that’s bad, but if you are just annointing the places they will be in the hope that God will be active there, that seems harmless.

    My group did similar stuff when I was a Christian training to be a missionary. We would pray over buildings and stuff. It’s a good conversation starter.

  • Bitter Lizard

    I think they’d probably do what they say they would do, if only because it would hurt their PR if they reneged, but for fuck’s sake, this? Christianity has been slaughtering not only its enemies but countless other people for no good reason at all for two millenia. The idea that Christians are especially tolerant or forgiving people is nothing more than the product of Christians talking about how great they think they are and has nothing to do with how they actually behave.

  • Michael

    Kinda like how the guy who vandalised the atheist bench got asked to clean it and let off?

  • Rationalist1

    I agree with Hemant that this group Faith in Action came out looking very good. Most people out there assume it was an atheist but even God doesn’t know who did it and probably we never will either. But I think the best message for the atheist cause is to be (not just appear) to be civil, forgiving and moral. From the public media to a post on a blog, we need to be better than the religious and without being too smug that often (but not always) is not too hard.

  • Rationalist1

    The anointing, while it may appeal to the true believers, just makes people who are on the fence very uneasy. ‘m a former Catholic and I know many people who are still Catholic try to distant themselves from all the borderline superstitious practices of many of the faithful. The best one I saw was after the economic crash of 2008 a group of Christians was praying around the bronze bull that adorns New York’s financial district. That amused me for weeks, Christians praying around a modern “golden calf”.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Exactly. This was AA’s response…

    The vandal is just a teenager and he made a mistake. We ask
    people NOT to call or text him (his phone number has been leaked); two
    wrongs don’t make a right and this is not appropriate, either. Thank you
    for understanding.

    Where’s the video about how Christians could learn a little something from Atheists?

  • brianmacker

    I don’t agree that it is a generous offer. They are apparently working from a weak hand. If they had the culprit and then let them off without requiring an explanation or any punishment then that would be a generous offer. What they are doing is grandstanding to try to make themselves look better than others. For all we know it was someone in their own group who knocked it down.

    I don’t even see their “forgiveness” as a good thing. The person who did this should have some form of punishment, whatever the reasons. Of course one can take circumstances into account with regards to the punishment. Heck, it might have been some kid who got the reverse and forward gears mixed up in their car, in which case the punishment is for the act of not reporting the incident, and not the accident itself.

    The 911 attackers (including their accomplices) provided an explanation for why they did what they did. Should they have been left with no punishment? Is the expectation now that anyone can knock over signs and monuments just so long as they leave a note explaining why?

    Maybe someone should knock it over when they put it back up again and leave a note saying “I knocked it down to see if the group would do nothing in the event they had been given a reason.” One should then expect the group to make a public announcement that they were not seeking the individual and only wanted to thank them for leaving the note.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I agree. First of all, I could have put that statue back in place in the time it took me to watch that video but this guy knows damn well that there’s no real justification for the vandalism. Whoever did it isn’t going to meet him and say something super profound in defense of their actions that would win over the hearts of those condemning the action. He’s not looking for any intelligent discourse…he’s just looking for a way to publicize his perceived moral superiority. I agree with Hemant just about all the time but this one has me scratching my head. Hemant even admits that it’s probably a publicity stunt and still can’t stop the adulation for this cat. I don’t get it.

    Know what I would have done if someone knocked a statue over in my yard? I would have picked it up. That’s it. I wouldn’t have taken a picture of me lamenting over it and released a statement to the press so that everyone can see how super awesome I am. I just would have picked it up and carried on with the understanding that sometimes people just act like dicks. The only lesson that I could learn from the good reverend is a lesson in shameless grandstanding.

  • islandbrewer

    Could explain why, when I read this, whether true or not, it’s not particularly surprising?

  • Jasper

    It goes back to the contention that, no, we have nothing to learn from the religious. Anything they do is either plagiarized, or horribly contaminated, and needs a redo anyway.

  • Tonya Powell

    That’s why they call you the friendly atheist, because you are kind and seeing both sides. In answer to their question, I didn’t vandalize the monument, but I can think of a million reasons why I would if I were like that. But I agree that it would be nice for more groups to speak kindly to one another. We have a ways to go. :)

  • Bdole

    I think you’re making too big a fuss about this rather insignificant act of “generosity.” A toppled monument that shouldn’t have been there in the first place is hardly the crime of the century.

  • S Cruise

    I’ve always been an atheist and I’ve forgiven numerous people on numerous occasions for some of the things they’ve done to me. So I can’t see what lesson I’d learn from those particular Christians.

  • brianmacker

    I doubt it. Once they publicly say they are not going to press charges they’d look like hypocrites if they did, and the ploy would never work a second time. Heck, it won’t work the first time.

  • brianmacker

    I don’t view that as the kind of irrational unqualified forgiveness that some Christians espouse, and which I think is in fact a bad lesson to be learned. The next time their monument is vandalized they’d look like hypocrites for reporting it to the police. Why go to the expense of adding a security camera as the article states they plan if they are just going to let the culprits go?

  • brianmacker

    Forgiveness as a gesture towards another is something that has to be earned, and should not be given out at the drop of a hat, since that cheapens the gesture. What value does the forgiveness of the Amish have when within a few hours they have granted it to a guy who mass murders their children. Seems like a debased currency to me. Part of forgiveness is in trusting a person again as one did before, and it seems particularly stupid to put your trust in someone who just got done murdering your family and hasn’t even had time to apologize.

    Letting go of a grudge that is eating at you is an entirely different subject. Sometimes you have to forgive because the cost in personal effort involved in trying to get justice outweighs the insignificant recompense one gets by catching the culprit. Such an act has little to do with sacrifice to another, and everything to do with self interest. If you could easily get justice then the smart avenue would be to do so, and not to forgive. It would not only give you some for of restitution but also the psychic value of know the person was caught and is less likely to do it again to you or someone else.

    What is always wrong is to hold a grudge against others who are not responsible for an act. However in that case there is really nothing to forgive. In this case, for example, there is no reason to hold a grudge against atheists in general, and so the act really isn’t about forgiving atheists. That would be true even if an atheist did the crime. I’m glad to see they didn’t make that mistake.

  • Michael Walsh

    Liked what you had to say. MJW

  • brianmacker

    I think fixing the monument involves more than placing it upright. A metal bar holding it in place was bent. They will need to cut it with a torch, file it down, drill new holes and add a new bar. Working with an 800 pound slab like this isn’t easy. Could cost them $500 or so.

    I agree with you otherwise, although I’m more of a mind that I need to report small crimes in order to save others from being victims too. Someone stole $40 in driveway markers from my yard and I reported it to the police. That $40 was less than the effort I put into reporting it, and also less the cost of the police driving out, but stopping the small stuff often prevents the bigger stuff from happening. To someone else the $40 might be a bigger deal, plus for all I know this happened to 20 people. The dramatic drop in crime in recent years was in part attributed to a crackdown on small crime like turn style jumping. When they are catching you for the little stuff you think twice before the big crime.

    So I don’t blame them for reporting it. Just find it hypocritical to be so forgiving. Why bother reporting it then?

  • Cattleya1

    At some point we need to start having civil discourse. The bulk of their followers are not coming over to our side and the bulk of atheists are not becoming fundamentalist christians. Whoever knocked over their tablet needs to come to realize that destructive behavior only makes the committed more resolute. Can you imagine the response if Matt Staver, Bryan Fisher, or Scott Lively owned that tablet? We have nt even been implicated. Maybe it was a couple of drunk followers of Odin.

  • Cailrea

    Oh come on. As atheists, we KNOW why our stuff gets vandalized. I’m on my fourth Flying Spaghetti Monster car decal (and my third T-Rex-eating-icthus; I live in Houston), but fortunately my dad keeps sending me new ones.