If You Want to Convert People, Don’t Throw Dirt in Their Eggs

Eagle’s Nest, New Mexico, before it was trendy.

Long before New Mexico was a playground for the rich and famous, it was a playground for my family.

My Daddy’s family hailed from there, going back to before statehood, when it was a dangerous and unsettled wilderness. Edward Arlington Robinson’s line “We count our past backwards by the gravestones and the apple trees” fits my feelings about New Mexico perfectly. All I have to do is change “apple trees” to cacti.

My Daddy’s family liked to go camping, again long before camping was an in thing to do. It was a time when the mountain roads were not paved and the winter air was so pure and cold you could see all the way to tomorrow.

The whole bunch of us — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — went on one of these camping trips when I was a toddler. I have no memory of this event, but I’ve been told they cooked breakfast. I have experienced a lot of these campfire breakfasts, eating scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon, all cooked over a propane stove. The taste of food like that, when you’re shaking with the bone-numbing morning cold and your family is all about you, surpasses any other gastronomic delight I have ever experienced.

Even though I have no memory of what happened that day, I’ve heard about it often enough to feel as if I remember it. Right in the middle of the cooking and laughing and sleepy-morning good times, I picked up a handful of gravel and tossed it onto the cooking eggs.

Fortunately for me, my family wasn’t prone to spank children. The adult consensus was that I had gotten tired of not being the center of attention and made a move to focus attention on myself. So, they picked me up and laughed about it, tossed the eggs and had a breakfast of hash browns and bacon, instead.

That was also the camping trip in which my cousin, who was six months older than me, fell into the ice-encrusted mountain stream and had to be rescued and cuddled for warmth. There was evidently a lot of baby cuddling and laughter on that trip and it was the beginning of glorious memories of the mountains before they were trendy for both my cousin and I.

I’m telling you this story, not to confirm your suspicions that I was an indulged and adored child (I was) but to point out that two-year-olds behave a certain way, and when they behave that way, it’s ok … for two-year-olds. Anyone with half a brain knows that baby people act out the primitive cravings for attention that never leave any of us in primitive, baby people, ways.

Anyone with half a brain also knows that certain maladjusted people, who maybe didn’t get their fair share of cuddling and adoration when they were babies, don’t grow out of this. Back before the internet, these jerks (there is no better word) visited their boorish behavior on those long suffering souls who had to work with them or have them over for Thanksgiving dinner. In short, the same families who’d messed them up in the first place had to pay the price of putting up with them for life.

But family fracturing and social isolation has deprived these folks of their traditional outlet. At the same time, the internet has given them another one. Far from being isolated on line, they’ve formed themselves into virtual clubs for the socially inept. They hang self-congratulatory monikers on themselves and spend a lot of time telling each other how special they are and how totally second-rate the rest of the world is.

But this constant verbal back-slapping and repetitive proclaiming of their own superiority to one another doesn’t give them enough attention from the larger world. Staying in their own little clubhouse and high-fiving one another until their palms bleed doesn’t — nothing can — satisfy their hunger for attention. They need more.

They sally forth from their little enclaves to toss verbal sand into everyone else’s eggs. Then they go hopping home to brag about their exploits.

One of their members recently wrote an accidental confession of sorts, based on his astounding discovery that you can’t get people to dine with you if you throw sand in their eggs. What worked for me when I was two, just doesn’t get the same loving tolerance from people who aren’t your adoring family and who are operating under the (evidently inaccurate) assumption that you are an adult.

This little essay, titled “Why I’m quitting the online atheism community,” is one atheist’s discussion about how he has learned that he can’t “convert” those “morons” who believe in God to his way of thinking by dashing onto our blogs and inserting himself into our conversations and calling us, well, morons.

I don’t know exactly what led this young man to this flash of astounding social enlightenment, but, to be honest, I am more than a little amused by his belief that he’s had some sort of interpersonal epiphany. I keep wanting to ask: Who raised you fella?

This atheist’s essay interested me for a couple of reasons, other than the fact that it’s accidentally funny.

First, it is a frank admission of what I think most of us already know. These clumsy trolls are trying to convert us to their way of thinking.

Second, these clumsy trolls actually think that their insults and tiresome verbal wanderings are some sort of discussion rather than an affliction and an intrusion.

I imagine that the idiotic billboards they hang up at Christmas fall into the same kind of activity. They think billboards with insults on them are saying something to people of faith. For our part, all we see are a bunch of adult two-year-olds, running around, pulling their pants down and tossing sand in our eggs.

When they cross the line from insults and adolescent grandiosity into coercion and discrimination, the laugh track dies. But that is a discussion for another post. Right now, I’ll confine myself to the question of questionable behavior by those who are so lacking in social grace that they think yelling insults and annoying people will appeal to and “convert” them.

The moral of this story is that if you want to convert people, don’t throw dirt, including verbal dirt, in their eggs. It applies to rude Christians as well as atheist trolls.

If you didn’t get your loving as a child and feel an aching need for it that won’t fill, turn to Jesus. His love is the love you were made for. Everything else is a faint copy.

 

  • Bill S

    If I could, I would convert people from trying to impose their morality on others to minding their own business. I would impress upon them that some of their most valued beliefs are considered to be flat out wrong by others who have every right to their opinions as they do to theirs. I would have them rely on the civil authorities to administer and enforce the rules that we all must follow to get along in this life. Atheists tend to be rude to believers and I try not to be too much like the more ignorant ones. But I feel their frustration with some moralistic, judgmental and religious types.

    • peggy-o

      Bill, sometimes I think you might be confusing expression with imposition. I know there are obnoxious behaving Christians and they do frustrate I agree. Maya Angelou was talking about her poem for Mandela’s passing and said she was trying to be a Christian because she thought others called themselves such but didn’t act like it. I felt like that at the beginning of my return, but realized there should be no shame in the name because others missed the point publicly. Good Christian expression has done so much good in our nation and world.

      • Bill S

        Peggy,

        No one can dispute the contribution of Christianity to the western world. But if the atheists are right, the Catholics are way out of line when they discriminate against gays by refusing to provide goods and services for their weddings and when they try to deny their employees complete health care coverage because they are not allowed to use contraceptives. Other than that, I recognize that Catholics are good for society even if what they believe could possibly be absolutely wrong.

        • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com/ D. A. Christianson

          Bill, I pretty much agree with you except for this. Why exactly should a business be forced to deal with anyone. I’m an electrician, why should I have to rewire a house knee deep in cat-poo, for instance. It’s their business, if they want to forego paying customers, that is their privilege, if you want them to have that service, start a business to provide it.

          As for contraception, last time I looked, it’s cheap, by your own, or don’t have sex, that works every time (but one).

        • AnneG

          Bill S, I know facts are important to you. So, a couple corrections: employees of Catholic institutions are not “denied” contraceptives. They and a number of other things are not covered by insurance. Your salary you can spend any way you want. If you are a faithful Catholic, you try to live by all the moral teachings of the Church. Second, marriage and other sacraments are not “services,” they are an essential part of Faith, Worship and belief. No one can demand a sacrament as a service from the Catholic Church.

  • peggy-o

    Another good reason to like you… New Mexico…my most favorite state. I have camped and hiked all over… Especially around Bandelier and Jemez! I have Dirt from there too… But for healing not throwing…from Chimayo…a beautiful mission Church… known as the Lourdes of the west. So colorful and cultural and flavorful! We should all be like New Mexico and the world would be a better place! Thanks for taking me back!

    • hamiltonr

      I don’t have dirt from Chimayo, but the next time I go to Santa Fe, I want to stop by there and get some.

      • peggy-o

        Plan to spend some time there for sure it’s very spiritual. I won’t get this right but the reredos in the old church are amazing… There’s a clear stream behind, cool shrines, alters and art… The gift shop has nice containers for the dirt. The outer room is full of crutches and thankful letters from those who were healed. The whole story of the place is amazing!

        • hamiltonr

          I’m aiming for next summer, Peggy. You’ve made me even more anxious to go. :-)

          • peggy-o

            I went in the summer too… after you explore take time to chill in or by the stream in the back by the shrines!

            • hamiltonr

              You make me wish I was there now. :-)

  • FW Ken

    Atheist Internet Trolls need to learn two things: they are making a faith-statement no more provable than that of Christians. In fact, since they are proving a negative – or would by if they bothered to try – their task is all the harder. Second, treating Christians as superstitious morons is itself a type of superstition. The contributions of theists to science, culture, and community development are enormous. It takes a specific kind of arrogance to dismiss Gregor Mendel as a fool. I’m assuming the AIT knows who Mendel was.

    As to the side issue: I’m sure New Mexico had its charms, but all I could ever see in it was a great place for the aliens to land. :-)

    • peggy-o

      or crash…Mendel, good one.

    • Bill S

      Proof is allusive. I can’t prove that God doesn’t exist but I can suspend judgments of people accused of disobeying God. For example, I can ignore any absurd beliefs about homosexuality and contraception offending this God and I can rely on civil authorities to maintain proper law and order necessary for the good of society.

      • hamiltonr

        So … are you back being an atheist again Bill?

        • Bill S

          Rebecca,

          I really tried to accept Catholicism but I found myself picking and choosing what I could or could not believe. I found myself pushed into being all in or all out. I had to choose all out.

          • hamiltonr

            You know Bill, there are a lot of other denominations out there. The important thing is to have a relationship with Christ. You need that as much as anyone I know. Also, don’t be so hard on yourself. Who told you that you have to agree right down to the ground or opt out? Whoever it was, I’m here to tell you that not even St Peter and the Apostles came out of the box agreeing with everything. Just trust God and let Him love you Bill. He’ll take care of all the rest in His own good time.

            • Sus_1

              Admitting to my Priest that I was dragging my feet with conversion because I can’t reconcile every Church teaching was the best thing I’ve done in a long time. His first words to me was “Me either”.

              • Bill S

                Me either. All the good in my life has come from Catholics. Some people insist that you are with us or against us to which I reply that I am against them if they are going to be like that.

      • FW Ken

        Working as a civil authority who tries to maintain law and order (to a minor degree), I can say that you are naive. Anyway, human history is replete with examples of civil authorities who destroyed law and order.

        You are correct. You can’t prove that god doesn’t exist, andyou are certainly harsh in your judgments of those who seek to follow him.

        • Bill S

          So, Ken, you think that Catholic morality is essential for the good of society. I think that we can be good and orderly without the Church dictating to us how to live our lives. I’m sure you see a lot and think how much better off these people would be if they would just listen to the Church. But they would be if they would just listen to their conscience.

          • FW Ken

            You are going down a road towards which my comment doesn’t point.

            But I see a lot of people who have destroyed their lives, not to mention the lives of their families and victims. So if the Church, or some other entity, can guide them to stop killing, dealing drugs, and raping women/children, I’m good with that.

            • FW Ken

              BTW, since a huge proportion of crime is drug-related, I would say that if more people worked a twelve step program, this really would be a better society. Even atheists have gotten and stayed sober without a transcendent higher power. I don’t recommend it, but any kind of authority or “power” that leads us away from “self-will run rampant” will make us happier as individuals and more positive members of the community.

              • Bill S

                I agree that the discipline in Catholicism changes most people’s lives for the better. I should just leave it at that.

                • FW Ken

                  Bill,

                  I just caught this . The twelve steps off Alcoholics Anonymous have nothing to do with the Catholic Faith. Bill Wilson wag influenced early on by a protestant g Anglican, I think)

                • FW Ken

                  Bill, I just caught this and want to make something clear.

                  The Twelve Steps have nothing to do with the Catholic Faith and Alcoholics Anonymous has nothing to do with the Catholic Church. Bill Wilson was influenced early on by a protestant (Anglican, I think) movement, but very quickly decided that the purpose of sobriety was not served by close ties to any particular theology. A nun and a priest were also helpful to the program early on, but again, without ties to the Church. In your part of the world, AA groups may meet in Catholic Churches, but here, they mmostly have their own building or meet in protestant churches.

                  The Twelve Steps are, of course, compatible with with any theology, even atheism, as I note above. However, there are also secular programs completely devoid of the concept of a higher power. I found one for a client of mine who objected to the god-talk in AA, but he eventually went to AA. Go figure.

            • Bill S

              I’m good with that too, Ken. People need self discipline and many find it in Catholicism. Whether it is true or a delusion, believing gives people’s lives meaning, purpose and hope. I shouldn’t knock it since I have nothing better to offer.

      • George.a.da.Jungle

        To what does it allude?

        • Bill S

          Make that “elusive” as Ken has pointed out.

      • FW Ken

        Don’t worry, Bill. I just figured out you meant “elusive”. Well, I knew what you meant, just couldn’t remember the right word. :-)

    • AshleyWB

      Christian Internet Trolls need to learn only one thing: all the things you accuse atheists of doing, you do yourself, with equal arrogance, nastiness, and lack of self-awareness. This isn’t an atheist problem, it’s a people problem, and millennia of religion hasn’t made a dent in it.

      • hamiltonr

        I agree that some Christians can be quite disagreeable. But I’ve also glanced at the atheist blogs — usually when they’ve zeroed me personally for insults and name-calling — and I can tell you that unless they are deleting hundreds of profane, insulting and totally non-sequitur comments from nutty Christians, you don’t have the first clue what you are talking about Ashley. Not even close.

      • FW Ken

        Such as? Examples, please.

        Also, the definition of an internet troll it’s one who invades a blog and imposes a contrary viewpoint aggressively. I’ve never commented on an atheist blog, and whereas Rebecca might privately think I’m a troll, she had my email address and can certainly let me know.

        • hamiltonr

          You are definitely not a troll Ken. :-)

    • GordonHide

      One of the reasons that atheists are moved to make comments on-line is to correct misunderstandings and generalisations about themselves. In your case it’s the idea that atheism, a lack of belief in gods, is in some way a faith.

      • FW Ken

        I said it’s a faith-statement. That there is no God is a statement of faith, not a provable fact.

      • peggy-o

        Corrections of misunderstandings and respectful dialogue is fair… but by accident, I came across the blog attacking Rebecca and I was shocked…long on attacks and short on facts.. devoid actually. It was a typical Rush Limbaugh style straw man rant…on and on ad nauseum.. and then included her pic and location…inciting hostility and pinpointing a target…who does that? Neither my atheist or Christian friends.

  • michicatholic

    Trolls need to learn this, but so do Catholics. We do a lot of throwing sand ourselves.

  • GordonHide

    I would like to correct your generalisation about atheists that make on-line comments. I have never heard of a theist being converted to atheism on-line and I don’t suppose you have either. You might have considered this before using the generalisation: “These clumsy trolls are trying to convert us to their way of thinking.”
    Your generalisation is an example of what causes me to comment on-line not any desire to convert anyone.

    • hamiltonr

      If I emptied my delete file into this reply, I think you’d be “converted” to the idea that when I call these folks “clumsy trolls” I’m being kind. Pun intended. :-)

      • GordonHide

        So you feel it’s OK or you to be as insulting as possible to all atheists who comment on-line? Seems you can dish it out but you can’t take it.

        • hamiltonr

          You think this post is being as insulting as possible?

          You are seriously equating this mild bit of teasing (which mentions no individual person and does not even attempt to harm or defame any person at all) with the personal attacks and vendettas on the atheist blogs?

          I don’t believe you’re serious. I think you’re just taking a position … and it’s a position that is without merit by any objective criteria I know.

        • Bill S

          I don’t take offense to anything said on this blog. When I argue with Rebecca and her faithful readers, it is like arguing with the Catholic Church itself. Since the Church condemns dissent and sees it as sin and insubordination, blogs like this are the only safe places for meaningful dialogue.

          • hamiltonr

            Bill, your view of the Catholic Church is rather fanciful. Catholics argue all the time, and there is certainly no penalty for it. I think what you are referring to here is your own personal life. You are hiding from your family and friends and this blog is your outlet for your anger because of that.

            • Bill S

              Actually, those closest to me know where I stand. But there is a better chance of being convinced that I am wrong (which I would welcome) here. My wife tries to scare me into believing. My sons don’t care what I believe. My close friends accept it and it is nobody else’s business.

              • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

                ….er, actually, Bill, you have this funny tendency to MAKE IT everyone else’s business….

                • Bill S

                  No. I’m not making it everyone’s business by discussing it anonymously. I’m not prepared to make it known to anyone who knows me other than my immediate family and a few close friends with whom I can discuss it in confidence.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    Aha, another lover of the mountains. And yours are probably even more beautiful than mine, but some of my best childhood experiences are of summer in the Alps, and my dream is to go back there before I die. And that actually has something to do with my response to trolls. There was a time when my blog was a battleground of sorts, and while I most often answered back in kind, in the end I always found myself asking the opposition: “Why on Earth do you insist on doing this? Attacking someone who has no power whatever, whom nobody knows, and who does not really care two bits for your views? Aren’t you wasting your time? Aren’t there beautiful mountains out there, or white sandy beaches if you like that sort of thing, to go to, green fields handsome towns to visit, museums, cinemas, dancing places, sports to watch – anything, any amount of things to do you would enjoy more than having to swallow answer nineteen hundred and thirty-two from me and knowing you are going nowhere? Get out! Live a life! Even watching raisins dry would have more point than what you are doing now.” After a while, it seemed to work.

    • Bill S

      That’s an awesome comment. I enjoy reading what you have to say. You are comfortable in your own skin. And in your faith. I envy that.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X