Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta published a post concerning a couple of ominous notes received by an atheist leader at an “atheist church.” Public Catholic reader Lark brought this to my attention and asked me to comment on it.
I have zero problems saying that the nutso practice of putting threatening letters in people’s mailboxes is not only a federal crime, it is wrong.
There’s a lot I don’t know about this note-in-the-mailbox scenario. According to Mr Mehta’s post, the recipients of these missives are leaders in a local Louisiana “atheist church.” Leaving aside the whole question of “atheist church,” which, to be honest, sounds more like a community gathering than a church, let’s take up the two notes.
So far as I can tell from Mr Mehta’s post, these notes were placed anonymously in the family’s mailbox. The photos of the notes show them to be typewritten. I can see how someone who hasn’t experienced this before might find them threatening. Evidently, the family in question is taking them very seriously indeed. Most of the family has been moved “somewhere safe.”
Speaking as someone who has been a public figure for a long, long time, I can tell you that morons say a lot of moronic things, and that a good number of those moronic things are threatening.
Looking at the photos of these notes, I can make all sorts of conjectures about where they came from, ranging from teens playing a joke to a seriously disturbed nut, to — and this is reaching, but it could be true — a small group of militia types. That’s how vague my understanding of this is.
Frankly, I think our society gives people far too much leeway for inflicting their inner crazy on the people around them. I have a file on my hard drive, called the Crazy People file, where I put the threats and insults I got from the public (never from the district I represented) during my tenure as a legislator.
I’ve had people follow me around the state, showing up at every speaking engagement to heckle me. I’ve had my house broken into and my political records riffled through. Some idiot even stole my garbage right out of the can. I’ve had my tires slashed — repeatedly — and my brake lines cut. They even killed my dog.
My delete file here at Patheos gets steady incoming from the moron side of every issue we discuss. Most of these are just snipes and barbs and nutty diatribes. I get batches of the same insult that come in waves, which are obviously the result of a post by another blogger out there somewhere, flogging me for my opinions. After public office, this is pretty tame stuff. Blogging doesn’t seem to raise the same level of hate as political office.
I mention all this because I think we need a bit of perspective in the matter of these two notes. I don’t know if the notes were the only thing that happened, or if there have been other things, as well. Assuming that the notes are the whole deal, I repeat: They were wrong. Placing them in a mailbox is a federal crime.
If someone who claims to be following Christ put them there, they’ve got their heads on backwards. Hatred and attacking other people is sinful. It can keep you from going to heaven.
I think the solution to this situation is for both sides to try a dose of live and let live. Atheists have every right to think as they think and believe (or disbelieve) as they believe. However, that does not include the practice of continuously attacking, insulting and badgering other people. It’s wrong for everybody, including atheists, to behave this way.
Hopefully, these notes were a prank of some sort. If they were not, I hope that the perpetrators are found and punished.
Public life has good things about it, not the least of which being the many wonderful people you meet.
But the morons are out there.
And they say and do moronic things.
My advice to everyone, whether they are atheist or people of faith or just done care, is to stop inflicting your inner crazy on other people.
Don’t give yourself permission to be a jerk.
In the circular cobweb of bizarro accusations, obfuscations, dissimulations and dead flat lies that pass for commentary coming from Christian bashers, there is a surprising bottom line.
That bottom line has nothing to do with reason, rationality, right or moral/intellectual integrity. In fact, this particular bottom line is the opposite of those things. It is a claim by these people that they can do whatever they want, say whatever they want, and when they do, it is the fault of those they do it to and and say it about.
You may have encountered this line of reasoning in other parts of life. My most frequent encounter with it is among the perpetrators of violence against women. She asked for it, and Look what you made me do, are the commonplaces of excuse-giving among rapists and batterers.
It is, you see, the fault of those we are raping, battering, bashing that we do these things. We have no responsibility for our own tawdry behavior. The fault, dear horatio, lies in in the victim.
I see a lot of this bullying reasoning in the comments that show up here on Public Catholic. Every time I write something about (1) Christian persecution, (2) Christian bashing, (3) attempts to silence Christians and drive them from the public square, or (4) attempts to use government to coerce Christians to violate their beliefs, I know — know — that all I have to do is sit back and wait a few minutes before the abusive rebuts start pouring in.
Most of these abusive rebuts end up sleeping in the delete file. That leads to more abusive rebuts accusing me of all sorts of unsavory character and moral defects, which in turn, sleep in the delete file. This is followed by a good old fashioned thrashing of my intelligence (or lack thereof) morality, womanhood, professional standing and heritage on various Christian-bashing blogs.
Does any of this idiotic aggression prove that Christians are not subjected to bashing/hazing/attempts to silence them/persecution/and a newfound totalitarianism directed at their freedoms?
On the contrary, this name-calling, attempted character assassination, bombast and bullying are all manifestations of precisely and exactly those things.
Aside from the predictability and profanity involved, the paucity of thinking that goes into the attacks from these people who claim that their thinking is “rational” is rather stark.
The lines of argument they use are usually a circular apologetic for two things: Use of government force to coerce Christians to violate their beliefs, and the attempts to drive Christians from the public square. The excuses for this are flat-liner simple.
Here’s how it works.
First, they say they don’t do it.
Gay marriage (as a for instance) will not affect anyone except people who are getting gay married.
If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have an abortion.
When they are confronted with the uncomfortable facts that
People are being taken to court all over this country as well as other countries to force them to participate in gay marriages,
Christians have lost their jobs because of it,
Catholic adoption services and Catholic Charities’ ministries have been forced to close because they won’t refer for abortions or provide children for adoptions to same-sex couples,
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been sued by the ACLU for teaching 2,000-year-old Catholic teachings,
They don’t back down.
Instead, they go on the attack. “You make us do it,” they claim in an eery echo of the batterer’s look what you made me do! Christians try to force their beliefs on others, the set-piece story goes, and thus they deserve to be pushed from the public square, called ugly names and hazed, both personally and by a deluge of anti-Christian rhetoric, television programming and other media attacks. As for me and my behavior, everything I do and say is justified because Christians are trying to force people to live by their morality.
This confabulated excuse for tawdry behavior ignores the plain fact that this Christian “force” they claim justifies any and all attacks on Christians and Christianity is the exercise of the same Constitutional rights that are available to all Americans.
They are trying to claim with a straight face that demonizing, hazing and constantly attacking a whole group of people is justified because those people (1) vote according to their own beliefs, (2) speak to their elected officials on behalf of their own beliefs, and (3) seek redress in the courts.
These activities are guaranteed rights of every American. You can find them in the First Amendment. They are, ironically, the same freedoms being used to advance the viewpoints these Christian bashers espouse. What these Christian bashers are objecting to is that all Americans, including Christians, have the same rights as they do. They are trying to use personal attacks, hazing and propaganda to batter Christians into acceding their rights as free Americans.
Raise this point, and the resulting cacophony of personal attacks would drown out a full orchestra playing the 1812 Overture.
The reason for these personal attacks are obvious. There is no just reason why Christians should be deprived of their freedom as American citizens to vote according to their beliefs, participate in the political process on behalf of those beliefs or seek redress through the courts. These are among the basic freedoms of American citizens, guaranteed by the First Amendment. The abusive yelling and screaming is a bullying attempt to avoid admitting that forcing Christians to forfeit their rights is, in fact, tyranny.
The interesting thing is that at the same time that Christian bashers are giving loud and verbally abusive explanations as to why the First Amendment does not apply to Christians, they are denying vociferously that they attack Christians unfairly.
When, as always happens on this blog, their abusive behavior nets them a zero, they move to cloying manipulation. The comments shift to feigned civility and syrupy compliments, based on the totally wrong assumption that nobody has ever tried to flatter or manipulate their way past me before.
There is an element of echo-chamber thinking in these attacks. Going back to the virtual clubhouse and counting coup, then trying to outdo one another in how they insult Christians seems to convince Christian bashers that people of faith really are as stupid as they tell each other. I don’t have any other explanation for the sudden turn to obviously manipulative niceness by the same people who’ve been calling me everything but a nice person otherwise.
We don’t do it, they tell us at the outset.
You make us do it, they reply to direct citations of their behavior.
It’s our right to do it, they say when you shut them down and refuse to give them a platform to attack Christians at will.
But we don’t do it, they circle back and proclaim, after their personal attacks don’t bully you into doing what they are demanding.
This is standard stuff in the Christian-bashing blogosphere. I’m writing about it here so that Public Catholic readers will understand it and not be overawed by it.
The first time a jerk throws a pie in your face, it will leave you stunned and speechless. But when the jerks just keep throwing those pies, you’ve got to learn how to stand up for yourself.
Ravi Zacharias describes an interview where Richard Dawkins overstepped a bit in his never-ending battle against Christianity. He ended up looking almost as foolish as he says Christians are.
Stay with the video to the end. Ravi runs the audio of the interview he’s describing.
The Cheyennes and other plains tribes had a practice called counting coup.
Counting coup, Cheyenne style, meant taking a life-threatening risk to dash up to a bear or a rival tribe member and touch them, then dash back to your fellows to get well-earned kudos for your bravery. The essential component to counting coup, Cheyenne style, was that it took actual guts to do it.
I never understood this before I began blogging, but evidently counting coup has moved forward into the tribal rites of various on-line social clubs. At least on this blog, atheist trolls are the ones who seem to practice it.
For reasons I don’t fully get, the atheist bloggers on Patheos have zeroed Public Catholic in general and little ole me in particular, for their disdain. According to them, we’re all crazy over here on the Catholic portal and need a good dressing down from time to time.
I come in for more than my share of this rhubarb. It’s the usual stuff about how I’m a politician who’s writing all this religious stuff for political gain and I’m a religious fanatic with an IQ about three points above asphalt. That sort of thing.
What interests me are the coup-counters. They come dashing in here and drop off a random insult in what is usually a totally non sequitur fashion and then dash back to the Spanky and Our Gang Christian-Haters Clubhouse to tell the tale of their courage.
The Cheyennes risked their lives when they counted coup. It took both intelligence and actual courage for them to do it. Since almost all these insult-dropping dive-bombers from the atheist zone arrive under cover of pseudonym, they aren’t even risking their reputations. It also doesn’t take a whole boatload of intelligence to type some version of “sez you, you piece of dirt” and then go running off.
It’s kind of fun to watch this spectacle. And when its not kind of fun, I just delete.
It is interesting though, how people who say they don’t believe in God also can’t say it enough times to feel good about themselves. They really do protest too much. When tasked on this point, they usually come up with an explanation about how they aren’t obsessed with God. It’s just us Christians who force them to behave as if they were obsessed with God because they can’t, well, live in a world where people believe things that they don’t believe.
I pray for them. And I want them to know that God loves them as much as He loves any of His children. Anytime they decide to stop running around waving their arms and pulling their pants down, they are always welcome at His table. They are my lost and somewhat ditzy brothers.
In the meantime, I get a kind of there-they-go-again amusement from their coup-counting. As for the insults, I’m still waiting for them to come up with one I haven’t already heard a few thousand times before.
Let’s look at the arguments we’ve seen against the faith here on Public Catholic. They tend to fall into categories.
By far the largest category is the Dawkins without attribution crowd. These people repeat arguments Dr Richard Dawkins has made in his popular books, usually without adding a single thought of their own. But they don’t attribute them to Dr Dawkins. There are so many of these it would be worthless to try to list them. Here is one recent example.
A reader made the statement (I’m paraphrasing) that the reason we live in a universe that appears to be tuned for life, at least life here on Earth, is that, well, however improbable, that’s the universe we live in. This is from Dr Dawkins’ runaway best seller The God Delusion.
Obviously, this doesn’t answer anything. It simply sidesteps it. Also obviously, it wasn’t the reader’s own thought.
There are a large number of pretend Dawkins commenters on this blog. Except for one time, I’ve let every single one of them pass through without calling them on their failure to say that they are quoting someone else.
What is interesting is that they don’t seem to be able to think past quoting Dawkins without attribution. I don’t remember one of these people adding anything to Dr Dawkins’ thinking when they slap these things down in the combox.
I don’t know for sure of course, but I’m guessing most of them haven’t thought all that deeply about what they’re quoting. If they had, they would probably have decided it isn’t worth repeating, as it doesn’t hold water.
God-is-evil commenters are another large group. They have picked up out-of-context Bible verses and stories, sometimes from Dawkins, but I think mostly from Christian-bashing blogs. They come swooping in here with their Bible verse or story and throw it down with an almost audible There! Take that!
I’ve noticed that Public Catholic readers aren’t so good at answering this tripe. Our religious education has not taught us to look at the Bible from a viewpoint of defending God Himself in disputation.
Protestants are good at seeing specific verses because that is the way they have been taught. They are much more adept than Catholics at picking out a verse anywhere. I know Protestants who can recite whole chapters of the Bible. I can give them a word or two of a verse and they will tell me immediately where it is in the Bible by Chapter and verse.
Catholics are good at seeing the overarching story of the Scriptures, because that is the way they have been taught. Every Sunday we hear an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a reading from an Epistle and a reading from the Gospels. Catholics who go to daily mass will hear almost the whole Bible read to them this way in a three year cycle. These readings are chosen so that New Testament fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy or foreshadowing is placed side by side, along with an Apostolic interpretation of these same things from one of the Epistles.
Catholics come away from this with a good understanding of how the Bible fits together to tell one, single story of our salvation.
However, neither Protestants nor Catholics have been trained to deal with the dubious “scholarship” of highly aggressive Christian bashers. These people are cult-like followers of leaders who earn their living by attacking Christ, Christianity, the Church and God. Many of the Christian-bashing blogs are over the top with followers. Hate expressed in anti-intellectual shibboleths is popular with certain types of people. It always has been.
These leaders comb the Scriptures looking for stories or single verses that they can manipulate to support their contentions. They studiously overlook the vast bulk of Scripture that abrogates their prejudices so clearly that even they cannot twist it into meaning something else. They then reinterpret their gleanings according to their own malice in order to judge both God and Christians by the obnoxious standards of 21st century self-righteous nihilism.
This whole practice of pulling things out of context and ignoring all scholarship to reframe them according to your propaganda is intellectually bogus. It is not a sign of intelligence, especially since the people who come on this blog to throw these things down are just parroting what someone else has said or written without any real understanding.
I haven’t been trained in dealing with this. So far as I know, nobody has. After all, those of us who follow Christ are more intent on learning what the Bible actually teaches than mining it for gotcha verses and stories to use against God.
However, a lot of dumb clucks are buying it as if it meant something. I don’t mean Public Catholic readers. I mean your friends and mine. I mean our kids and the family we see once a year at Thanksgiving. People who have not studied the Bible in an intelligent and informed way are sitting ducks for this sort of anti-intellectual approach to Scripture.
From what little I have read and seen in this area, every single one of these accusations is answered by simply learning why and what the Scriptures are actually saying. I haven’t read one attack on the faith from Scripture that didn’t fall down dead by simply knowing what the Scriptures actually mean.
The problem is that these understandings don’t fit in a combox. In fact, they would only fit in a full post if you take them one at a time, and that would be an entire blog of its own. They require what these anti-intellectual propagandists claim for themselves but don’t demonstrate: A certain amount of intellectual gravitas.
In this post Christian world, we’re all going to have to become apologists, each in our own little world. The time when we could devote our studies to personal piety has ended. We are in a battle and we must, as St Paul said, “take on the whole armor of faith.” That includes an understanding of how and why these attacks on Christians and on God Himself through Scripture are both anti-intellectual in their methodology and untrue in their facts.
The result for us as individuals will be a greatly strengthened faith that “needs not be ashamed.”
Faith grows when you step out on it, and that’s a fact.
What kind of “men” kidnap young girls as a means of waging a “holy” war?
The video below is difficult to watch, but then the reality of what is happening to Christians in Egypt and elsewhere is far more difficult.
The practice of kidnapping Christian girls, raping them and forcing them to “convert” to Islam appears to be widespread throughout the Middle East. There’s not much to say about men who do cowardly things like this to women and young girls except that their “manhood” isn’t all that manly.
One of the more disgusting things about this is the silence from feminists. Where is the outrage about this outrage?
On a side note, I repeat Ravi Zacharias’ reaction when he heard Dr. Richard Dawkins’ incitement of his followers concerning people of faith to “mock them; ridicule them; in public; with contempt.” Dr Dawkins and his crowd should book flights to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc, and try this there.
They could also do similar experiments with the Hindus of India. I’ve got videos of what can happen. Or, they might try ridiculing the faux religion of statism that is practiced in the various atheist paradises.
In truth and in fact, the only societies in the world where they have the freedom to behave like this are those that are informed by Christian values. You know: The terrible, horrible Christian morality that says that all human beings matter, no matter their stage of life or level of health, and that every person has certain inherent rights that come from God.
God help us all if the Christian bashers of the world succeed in wiping that morality out of public discourse and civil society.
How do we respond to people who follow Dr Dawkins’ advice to mock and ridicule us with contempt and in public?
One reaction is to try to reason with the mockers and ridiculers.
Another would be to mock and ridicule back.
A third might be to invite them to, as we say here in Oklahoma, “take it outside.”
The problem with all these responses is that people who deliberately and with malice of forethought single out a group of people for public mockery and ridicule have, by their actions, placed themselves beyond the pale of civil society. Their behavior is reprehensible. So long as they continue to engage in it, they do not deserve the courtesy of either replies or engagement of any sort.
I posted Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt with the expectation that I would get a flurry of idiotic comments from atheist provocateurs, trying to engage the readers of this blog in verbal mud wrestling. I was not disappointed. I deleted all but two of these which I let through because they were the least offensive. I wanted to make them available as an educational exercise for the Christians who read Public Catholic.
I think we need to become aware of this asinine behavior and decide how to handle it.
Two of Public Catholic’s regular readers tried to answer these comments. One reader went the way of giving the commenter the benefit of the doubt and trying to answer it intelligently. The other reader replied with anger.
Neither response was wrong.
But it is interesting that one of the atheist provocateurs immediately pounced on the angry response with an ad hominem attack on Catholics. It was actually a comic pose for this individual to take, considering the spate of claptrap — all insulting — he had tried to post on this blog. It is also interesting that he did not want to answer the more measured reply. He went instead for the response he had been trying to provoke, which was anger.
Now, I’m sure he’ll re-tell this tale of his daring assault on the Catholics — with himself as the hero — to his fellow atheist provocateurs.
Do I hear the word “childish?” How about the phrase “grade school?”
They both fit.
And that is the point.
It doesn’t make any difference what you say to people like this. Anger is as good as reason. They aren’t trying to engage in legitimate discussion. They are trying to provoke, so they can count coup when they get back to their den.
This is what their leader, Dr Dawkins, has taught them to do.
The entire edifice of their tawdry behavior is based on a pretense they pretend that they are intellectually superior. This pose is something that Dr Dawkins and many of the other “new atheists” have used to peddle their worn-out arguments to impressionable and desperately insecure people who want above all things to be different, special and superior. They tell these people that all they have to do to prove their intelligence is take a pose of unbelief and behave like a pack of hounds on the verbal attack.
Of course, anyone who buys this pandering sell-job is unlikely to be all that canny. But that’s another issue for another post.
The reason they come over here and behave like trolls is that this behavior gives them something to brag about later.
Not all atheists behave like this. But there are enough of them who do to make life miserable for everybody else.
Unfortunately, not every obnoxious atheist you will meet in your life is going to fall into the braggadocio category. Some of them are genuinely hate-filled jerks who get a kick out of hurting other people. Our society has decided that race baiting and gay baiting are no longer acceptable sports. It has replaced it with Christian-baiting. Especially in our institutions of higher learning and in certain parts of the country, it is socially acceptable to publicly mock, ridicule and treat Christians with contempt. It is certainly acceptable to do so in our movies and on made for cable television.
So what’s a Christian to do?
Let’s focus today on the online atheist trolls who come onto blogs and take over the discussion. These fall into two types. The first just argues in an endless circle. They can go all day and never say one original thing, and they are unashamed to repeat themselves over and over. They never stop making their argumentative comments. These people seem to have a goal of taking over other people’s conversations and focusing them on themselves and their agendas.
You’ll notice that I made a statement in the blog rules here that I don’t allow people to take over this blog with their agendas. That statement is there for people like this.
This isn’t discussion. It’s bullying.
I’ve seen it at public meetings when a group comes in and begins yelling and taking over the mike. They can effectively end all discourse and shut down the meeting. This is not free speech. It is something quite the opposite of free speech, since it has the effect of keeping others from joining into discussion. It also serves the purpose of ending public meetings. I’ve seen many groups just decide to end public discussion because they could not handle the disruptive bullies who show up.
In an online forum like this one, their behavior is easy to stop, if the person who’s running the blog has the will. All I have to do to shut them down and allow others to speak is delete their blasts of 20 hateful comments, or, as I often do, allow the most thoughtful of their blast of twenty comments through and delete the rest. If I didn’t, the nice people who enjoy this blog would end up leaving and all I would have left would be the trashy trolls and their hate-filled, bullying agenda.
Another tactic I’ve seen is to make comments like the two that I let through on the Dawkins post. These aren’t anything even vaguely resembling an attempt at discussion. They are nonsensical little barbs designed to provoke. I would guess that what they are hoping to provoke is something they can use to brag about later.
I think these kinds of comments come from the lower end of the atheist spectrum; the mentally — if not chronologically — adolescent members of the atheist group who are total and absolute followers of their leadership. These is a certain swagger to their behavior, but certainly nothing that is recognizable as intellectual gravitas.
I almost never let these kinds of things through to the Public Catholic board. When I do, it’s always for illustrative purposes.
There is a lot of this tripe out there in the blogosphere, so what’s a Christian to do when he or she encounters it?
My feeling is that if a blog is run for the entertainment of this type of person and they tend to dominate the discussion, your peace of mind requires that you shun that blog. Why go through trying to talk to people who have such aggressively closed minds? They need prayer more than they need argument.
It’s all right to practice on the few of these that I let through on Public Catholic. That’s usually why I let them through. So you can have a go at them and learn from the experience.
One thing I have observed: Nothing makes atheist trolls more upset than being ignored. When I delete them, they respond with snotty comments directed at me personally. These can get quite ugly, but they don’t bother me. Rather, they confirm my original decision to delete their earlier comments. I didn’t create this blog to provide a forum for atheists. That’s not its purpose. I also didn’t create it to attract as much traffic of any sort that I could get.
Public Catholic is here to help Christians stand for Jesus in a post-Christian world. I range all over the map with the topics I cover, but all of them are in some way connected (at least in my mind) with that one goal. One of the most important facets of standing for Jesus in a post Christian world is learning the mental trick of standing a bit apart from that world and thinking things through for yourself. You cannot follow Christ and be swept up by the gods of this world, or their many memes.
Every so often I put up a post dealing with the new atheism and its vitriol. I never do this to annoy the new atheists. I always do it to help you learn how to deal with them.
We’ll talk later about the much more serious attacks that come against Christians in our real lives. For now, let’s try to discern how to handle the internet atheist trolls.
If you have a blog of your own, how do you handle them there?
Do any of them manage to shake your faith?
Do they make you want to hide your faith when you go online to avoid attack?
Do they overwhelm you?
Can you answer them, or do you just want to leave the premises when they start their stuff?
These are all questions we need to explore. They are part of what it means to be a Christian today.