Tony Jones the internet and reality TV

reality tv internet cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
I get challenged enough online to know what it’s like. It’s not easy. So, I’ll admit that when someone else gets challenged online it’s kind of like watching an accident. I just can’t help it. I want everyone to be okay. Honestly. But I just can’t seem to avert my eyes.

So yesterday when Tony Jones posted “Why Are You Still a Christian?” and proceeded to give his reasons, I couldn’t help but watch. I’m not an accident scene expert, but I can propose theories as to why it happened.

  1. Wrong signal: He signaled that it had to do with Jesus of Nazareth but went in a totally different direction.
  2. False sense of immunity: He said that “well over 95%” of people believe in God, so he will too as an act of solidarity. To say that atheism is “almost exclusively the purview of educated, white elites” and that’s why you remain a Christian, when in fact you are an educated, white elite, is like presuming your vehicle gives you immunity on the road. Rather, your vehicle is a weapon that needs to be driven with great care. The chances of you hurting others and yourself dramatically increase just by getting into your vehicle and getting on the road.
  3. Followed others into the accident: Saying that most people believe in God is the reason you do, even for the sake of solidarity, isn’t really the best reason to believe. One. But not a good one. Why does this remind me of this multi-car pileup in Wisconsin this year?
  4. Driving too fast: He also seemed to be in a bit of a hurry, as many of his commenters noted. The post seems to have been written in haste, and from my own experience that usually leads to trouble.

Jones tweeted during the aftermath of the accident:

“Today’s pst = When Atheists Attack. And here I was simply trying to be honest and a bit vulnerable.”

Peter Rollins responded:

“maybe it was when you called atheists a bunch of privileged white guys who are detached from the concerns of the world?”

Again, I somewhat sympathize with Jones because I have experienced this same thing. I, like Jones, try to be honest and vulnerable on the internet.

So this is how I approach it: the internet is like a reality TV show that anybody or everybody is watching and I’m one of the actors. If I want to be on the show, I’m exposing myself to the opinions of others. I positively know that I am going to get love and hate directed at me. I am going to be either ignored, praised or ridiculed. When you’re on the show, honesty and vulnerability are not only crucial, but inevitable. And the various responses of the audience are just as crucial and inevitable. This is the nature of reality TV.

We signed up for this.

(*** edited an hour after the original posting for tidiness’ sake)

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.kinnon Bill Kinnon

    You are waaaaaaay more honest and vulnerable than TJ will ever be. One of the many reasons you have my love and respect. (The honest and vulnerable part — not the comparison to TJ.)

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Hey thanks Bill!

  • R Vogel

    You are too kind and very charitable. It seems clear to me in the last few months that stunts like this, and his previous one, are likely calculated. It’s all about the numbers, isn’t it? Tony is a smart guy and for him to pretend to not be aware of the subtext of what he wrote is somewhat laughable. He basically said atheists are bunch of privileged, white guys (read affluenza) and I’m a man of the people. A nice little us vs. them paradigm with Atheists as the Them. His bait and switch about Jesus of Nazareth is just too obvious to overlook. He didn’t even answer his own question, he just threw atheists under the bus. This is ironic since he has been called to the carpet as a privileged, white guy in several of his posts, to which he replied with testy petulance. So he has absolute knowledge what the reaction would be. Nice way to start the year, from a numbers perspective though, don’t ya think?

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    I wondered why it was such a badly written post, but I didn’t guess it was calculated.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    As i already said, there are too many reactionary, white, privileged men in the atheist community who make it a point to attack, rather than criticize religion. However, when people like Tony Jones and others decide that the only proper thing to do to an atheist with a moral life is either to pull and Oprah Winfrey and suggest that they can’t be moral without believing in a god or to do the usual and just scream that they’re damned, it’s only fair to point out, even within the community of theologians, that someone is making an extremely shitty argument to begin with.

  • Al Cruise

    I agree with Bill Kinnon. Reading TJ you sense something but you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s like he’s a poser or something, trying to be something he’s not.

  • klhayes

    I wonder how Christians would feel about him if the majority of people were atheists and he decided to become an atheist in solidarity with the majority?

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    This white, privileged, highly educated, smug, slightly arrogant atheist had to Google search Tony Jones to figure out who he is – emerging church and post-modern Christianity bigshot. OK now I know who he is…

    Back to being white, privileged, highly educated, smug, and slightly arrogant…

  • wanderer

    If he’s down to “I believe because almost everyone else does”, then I think it’s a sign that he’s desperately trying to hold onto christian faith, but it’s not making sense anymore.

  • R Vogel

    Mission accomplished. :)

  • R Vogel

    Perhaps you are right and I am being uncharitable.

  • Sven2547

    Seems to be a pretty good summary of the situation.
    Also: love the cartoon.

  • http://www.evolvingchristianfaith.net irreverance

    The comments…wow. But I’m still trying to figure out why he went there. I mean, what does believing in God have to do with answering the question “why Christian?” Why not Muslim? Or Pagan? I’m chalking it up to #4 for now.

  • fojap

    Very few people follow my blog, but like anyone who blogs I’ve had the occasional tempest in a teapot. When I write about subjective issues, I almost always focus on myself. Things that I find have gotten me in trouble:
    Making sweeping generalizations.
    Dismissing individuals as unimportant.
    Projecting my own feelings onto others.
    Telling other people what they feel.

    It didn’t occur to me at the time that he might just be trolling atheists to get his page views up. I’m not a professional blogger and I don’t care about page views… much. This was my first exposure to him and it may very well be my last. I don’t consider myself an “anti-theist” and I was never a Christian, so I didn’t “deconvert,” therefore I find I have little reason to argue with Christians at length on the internet. I don’t even know much about the religion. I would have never gone to his blog from the Friendly Atheist’s blog. I got there through another route. As bad as some people think his reasoning for being a Christian is, he would have never gotten the amount of push-back he did if people hadn’t felt hurt. Dragging atheists into the argument was entirely gratuitous.

    He also avoided, in the comments, what everyone made clear, that atheists feel marginalized. Whatever other people may think of atheists, many atheists feel marginalized. Not me, of course, unless I open a newspaper or look at the internet.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a Christian. I even once had the congregation picked out. Mainly, so I would be less of an outsider. The congregation could be called progressive, it had a nice history, it was even the same sect in which my father had been raised. I’m sure it would have been very nice to belong. The only problem is that it would require one too many lies.

    He found a vulnerable group, a group despised by the respectable people in society, and he kicked them for his own pleasure or profit. If he had a caring heart he would apologize. He is a bad person.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Interesting fojap. Thanks for that thoughtful comment.

  • Mark

    Wow! That’s about the biggest train wreck I’ve seen in a long time. He never even addressed why Christian and not something else. And, I believe because it’s very popular to believe, is just such a total crock. He must have been sleep walking. Either that or… I don’t like to call people idiots, so I’ll stop here.

  • kemalettin

    Where will the Great Gathering and Last Judgement take place?

    The Answer: The knowledge is with God alone. The elevated instances of wisdom the All-Wise Creator displays in all things, and His even attaching vast instances of wisdom to a single insignificant thing, suggests to the point of being plain that the globe does not revolve in a circle aimlessly and pointlessly, but revolves around something important; it depicts the circumference of a vast arena. It travels around a huge place of exhibition and hands over its immaterial produce to it; because in the future the produce will be displayed there before the gazes of men. That is to say, it will fill the circle, the circumference of which is a distance of approximately twenty-five thousand years. Syria will be like a seed, according to one narration;[3] the arena of the Great Gathering will be expanded out of that region. All the immaterial produce of the earth is for now sent to the notebooks and tablets of the arena which is beneath the veil of the Unseen, and in the future when the arena is opened up, the earth will pour its inhabitants into it too. Its immaterial produce will also be transposed to the Manifest Realm from that of the Unseen. Yes, as though it were an arable field, a spring, or a measure, the earth has produced crops enough to fill that vast arena, and the creatures that will occupy it have flowed on from the earth; the beings to fill it have departed from the earth. That is to say, the globe is a seed, and the arena of the Great Gathering and what it holds, a tree, a shoot, and a store. Just as a point of light becomes a luminous line or circle on moving at speed, so with its rapid, purposeful motion, the earth describes a circle of existence, and together with that circle of existence and its produce, gives rise to the arena of the Great Gathering.

    http://www.nur.gen.tr/en.html#leftmenu=Home&maincontent=Risale&islem=read&KitapId=499&BolumId=8770&KitapAd=Letters+(+revised+)&Page=54


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