Turn the Other Check

Just in from Friendly Atheist: apparently some folks have graffitied two Oregon churches with multiple pro-Flying Spaghetti Monster slogans and images.  It’s the second time these churches have been defaced in this way in the last six months.

Just yesterday, I expressed my frustration and anger with Christians who deface and vandalize atheist and secular billboards, so I’m not happy to see anyone on our team letting the side down.  I don’t mean to draw a false equivalence here and lend any support to the idea that this incident proves that Christians have it just as hard as atheists.  Show me the state where churches are banned from opening because they are an inducement to vandalism and terrorism, and then we’ll talk. (This was the actual rationale behind the Arkansas ban of billboards promoting atheist groups).

But, as Hermant Mehta said, if we want Christians to back us up when our signs are defaced, let’s model the behavior we seek.  I’ve given $10 toward the clean-up costs for the churches through the chip-in widget below.  Mehta will pass these donations to the affected churches, and any money collected that exceeds the cost of clean-up will go to the Foundation Beyond Belief (a charity that bundles atheist money for secular causes), so you’re not subsidizing religion.  You’re just helping return to the status quo ante scriptum.

But perhaps you’re remembering that you don’t give as much as you ought to charitable and activist groups already, and, if you’re behind, you don’t want to waste your donations on this cause.  In that case, let me suggest you do what I did and match your donation to the churches with an equal donation to a group you know you ought to do more to support.  Don’t kid yourself you were going to send it in anyway; this way a group you like benefits from your choice to help make things right for this church.  (I picked the ACLU).

So chip in above if you like.  And as a reminder of how much this stuff sucks when it’s done to us, I’ve pasted images of just a few of the vandalized atheist billboards across the country.  If you disapprove then, you disapprove now.<

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Patrick

    Its kind of sad that, human nature being what it is, growing political equality for atheists will result in an equality of harassment, rather than a reduction in its overall amount.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07535825702078498433 Darksmiles

    I have to agree with Patrick, but even more important I want to paraphrase a comment at Friendly Atheist:Even if I had extra cash, I’d have to decline this one. After finding out that 1) the pastor threatened the vandals with eternal damnation (for a few hundred dollars of damage ffs), 2) the church is state-of-the-art and flush with $$, and 3) the church has a pray-the-gay-away program I have zero desire to help them.I grew up gay in Arkansas with threats of hell drilled into me my entire childhood. That many of the slogans were Harry Potter quotes and bible verses about violence to children(is that true?) points to someone young. If that kid had to endure being threatened with hell I can understand his/her anger. Doesn’t excuse the deed, but no way will I enable such hatred.Can we donate to an LGBT youth cause in the church’s name instead? That would send a message just as loudly as donating to a church, and it would have a much more positive impact.Churches cause real harm, and we've already done far more than we owe by paying taxes that subsidize churches. A denunciation is generous, though at least it is the right thing to do. Reducing the costs to a church is a step too far and it is NOT ethically generous, it is unethical. It is a slap in the face to gays and it is sneering at those who could be saved the indignity and terror that indoctrination with hell brings.Shame. Shame on you Leah.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    Darksmiles, I think that is a fair objection to donation and individuals should balance how much they are repulsed by the actions of the church vs how much they want to take a stand against vandalism regardless of the target.I certainly don't want to line this church's coffers, but I wouldn't endorse illegal action or harassment that managed to drain their funds. I don't want to benefit from the action taken against them, so I donated to help return to the pre-graffiti status, and donated to the ACLU to try to balance the negative impact of the church not losing the money to criminals. If you think the danger posed by the church is too large to be offset by a separate donation to Lambda Legal or the It Gets Better Project, then you're right not to donate. The impact is hard to estimate, but I feel comfortable with my choice.

  • Anonymous

    If you are donating to this church, which really does promote a pray-the-gay-away, I don't care how much vandalism was done.They cause gay teen suicides. Their action causes people I cared for to die. I want them gone from public discourse. Screw them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07535825702078498433 Darksmiles

    It sounds like the point is moot in this case, but if it ever comes up again, I don't think you should feel comfortable making the same choice again, Leah. I think most people have become so used to bible-based discrimination that they can't recognize how awful it is anymore – after all it is hard to live day in and day out with the knowledge that many of your friends and neighbors have some truly evil thoughts in their hearts.Take "pray-away-the-gay" programs and conflation of innocent sexual practices with "sin" on most Sundays and replace it with "cleanse-your-blood-of-Jewishness" and anti-Jewish sermons most Sundays and set it against a backdrop of widespread anti-Jewish social stigma and legal discrimination. It is horrifying, is it not? Fixing what doesn't need to be fixed and trampling on human rights in the process is not an organization that deserves respect even when lying on the ground. At most don't kick them, but don't help them back up either.I'm for the rule of law as well, but there are limits to which organizations anyone of conscience should help (although everyone already subsidizes churches in the U.S.). One simply does not help neo-nazis repaint after someone paints a rainbow on their building.


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