Faith-based opposition doesn't help

This letter has been floating around the tubes.  It was sent to the home of Jessica Ahlquist.

How evil does she have to be for these people to be the good guys?

We’ve seen the pages upon pages of threats Jessica has received.  There are plenty of Christians out there who have been wishing harm on Jessica for daring to insist that their religion is not above the law.

Faith does not make people better.  In fact, in cases like these, it empowers the worst of humanity by allowing people to think god endorses their beliefs and behavior.

The irony is that there will be Christians who wax passionately that those wishing harm on Jessica are wrong, not because sending threats to a sixteen year-old is immoral on its own merit, but because god endorses their kinder beliefs and behaviors instead.

But neither get faith right, because it is impossible to get faith right.  There is not a single position for which the best defense is faith that is not utterly ridiculous.  Faith is a bad reason for the nice Christians just as it’s a bad reason for the monsters.  The message is not “You’re wrong because those other believers have a better case,” the message is, “You’re both wrong because faith is a shitty reason to believe anything.”  God endorses neither the niceness of some or the malice of others because god does not exist.

We cannot say it to the villains of faith without also saying it to the saints.  But make no mistake: it’s time we started saying it plainly without worrying about offending the nicer Christians who reinforce the idea that faith is a suitable defense for beliefs/behaviors by expecting people to buy into their faith-based protestations.

Yes, the authors of this letter are Christians.  Yes, they believe passionately in Jesus.  Yes, the people grateful to the authors of this letter are Christians who also believe passionately in Jesus.  Nicer Christians, who also believe in Jesus, will oppose the authors of this letter, and I have no problem saying those Christians are nicer.  What I will not say is that the nice Christians are more likely to be right.  They’re not.  And we should convey that when they tell us that the mean Christians get faith wrong, as if the nice Christians have some better reason to believe god exists and supports them.  This is important, because if you cannot tell someone that you are more likely to be right then you’re relegated to telling them, at best, only that they are different, which is both an obvious and impotent statement.

We’re on our own down here, all playing for team humanity.  We should oppose things like this because they are malicious, and malice is not conducive to our collective happiness.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/against-the-new-taboo TauriqM

    Beautifully put, JT. You continually impress me.

  • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/ Markita Lynda—it’s Spring after the Winter that wasn’t

    The police asked Jessica to take down her image of the note, so maybe you should too–although it seems to be going viral anyway. And I’m not sure how the note circulating could damage a case against the threateners.

    • Mike D

      As I understand it, they don’t want this to instigate more. If anything, I’d think making it public would make people less likely to do this.

    • John Horstman

      Oh good, victim-blaming by the police for the win! See, if Jessica keeps the letter up, it’s totally her fault for more being sent. Assholes.

  • Drakk

    Feel the Christian Love.

    • Drakk

      Fuck, you know what? I need to get all the pithy one liner comments out of my system right now.

      In no particular order:

      Religion of peace !!
      More moral Christians practicing what they’ve learned from the banner !!
      Christianity is the source of morality !!
      God is love !!
      This is your brain on religion.

      I miss anything?

  • baal

    Assuming the police are actually investigating, having the note go viral can cause at least three sorts of problems. The perp could see the spamming, go “ut oh” and set up an alibi. There could also be a bit of an “open season” effect. One person sends nasty note, 13 bullies hear about it and decide to pile on. Lastly, 3rd parties who find the note offensive (heh all of FTB except probably that one right winger who trolls X-blog) might go a investigating on their own. Cops don’t like it when civilians go a snooping.

    I could think of more but it’s normal for cops to want to keep things quiet.

  • Mark

    “Yes, the authors of this letter are Christians. Yes, they believe passionately in Jesus.”

    Interestingly, there is nothing in the letter as presented here relating to Christianity, faith, religion, school prayer banners, etc. Apparently the author(s) of the letter believe soooo passionately in Jesus that they did not include His name or aliases anywhere in the letter.

    You are taking a much larger leap than I would expect from someone who embraces logic and reason.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Yes, maybe it was all the atheists who are pissed at Jessica who sent it.

      • Mark

        For people who believe the ends justifies the means, framing a letter like this may not be beyond them. When the culprit(s) is found, can we count on a follow up blog regardless of who it is?

    • Marshall

      Oh please.

      Interestingly, there is nothing in the letter as presented here relating to Christianity, faith, religion

      “Crusaders”.

      school prayer banners

      The reason she’s under police protection.

      Well that was easy. See, if you had said that the letter doesn’t EXPLICITLY mention those things, you would have had a point, but to say that there is NOTHING RELATING to those things in this letter is simply factually wrong.

      Mark, you’re not very good at this whole ‘trolling’ thing. Maybe you need a hobby.

      • Mark

        “Crusaders” has become fairly derogatory. Would a Christian group self-identify with a term modern Christianity is trying to distance itself from? Something to think about.

        • JSC_ltd

          “Crusaders” has become fairly derogatory.

          Citation needed.

          Would a Christian group self-identify with a term modern Christianity is trying to distance itself from?

          Yes, leaving aside for a moment your unfounded assertion that modern Christianity is trying to distance itself from the term: http://www.campuscrusadeforchrist.com

          Something to think about.

          Here’s something to think about: Jessica Ahlquist is well-known for one reason, and one reason only: acting as plaintiff in a case that ultimately upheld the First Amendment, much to the chagrin and ire of Christians who are unwilling to accept the superiority of the Constitution to their faith. These Christians have been conducting themselves abhorrently since the case was filed, making a variety of similar statements and threats online and in person. So what we have in the form of this letter is a bird that waddles, quacks, flies and swims. Holding out from calling it a duck is the definition of obtuseness. Suggesting some kind of atheist conspiracy to make Christians look even worse than they already have succeeded in doing to themselves merits a cut from Occam’s Razor. Insinuating that deductive reasoning is tatamount to faith makes you look desperate to convince those who know better that faith is reasonable, or that lack of faith is unreasonable. I hope the author of this letter is discovered and revealed, and I look forward to your use of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy when the author’s Christianity is brought to light.

          • Mark

            Innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt? Or does that not really fly anymore?

            As far as No True Scotsman goes, I would be interested in knowing how you think a letter like this personifies Jesus as presented in the Bible. Matthew 5:22, Matthew 26:52, Luke 6:31

            I will not deny the possibility that the author of the letter might claim to be a Christian. But, if a Christian is instructed never to lie, who is more likely to lie about being a Christian?

          • Marshall

            Innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt? Or does that not really fly anymore?

            “Sir, we’ve found evidence that we think could help in your investigation!”

            “What is it?”

            “Well, it seems that the target of this letter has received a substantial number of similar threats in the past, and almost all of those threats came from Christians who were upset about a legal ruling ordering that a prayer banner be removed from a local high school!”

            “I see.”

            “Yeah, so we think that this letter most likely continues that pattern, and so we’ve constructed a profile. The author is most likely a Christia-”

            “NO!”

            “What’s wrong?”

            “IN THIS COUNTRY PEOPLE ARE INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY! How DARE you suggest that the author of this letter was a Christian? What if it was an atheist trying to make Christians look bad, or a loan shark trying to collect on a loan?”

            “What? Sir, that’s not what ‘innocent until proven guilty means’!”

            “DON’T TALK BACK TO ME DETECTIVE, we will draw NO conclusions about the author until that person is in custody!”

            “Then how do you expect us to investi-”

            “YOU’RE FIRED, ROBINSON! Have your desk cleaned out by the end of the day!”

          • JSC_ltd

            Innocent until proven guilty…

            First, nobody has been accused, let alone put up for trial. Second, innocence or guilt–even in the context of a legal proceeding–are not necessarily congruent with reality. A person convicted of a crime didn’t necessarily commit the crime, any more than a person acquitted of a crime necessarily didn’t do it.

            beyond a shadow of a doubt

            You obviously have no idea about evidentiary standards.

            As for the rest of your idiotic babbling, how amazing that you couldn’t even wait until the Christian who wrote that filth was caught out before pulling out “No True Scotsman.”

    • Drakk

      Yeah, we atheists totally call ourselves crusaders. Mmhm.

      Try some intellectual honesty for a second. Which group is it that has been the most vocal in their expressions of hatred for Ahlquist? Who are the ones who’ve made the most threats and used the most insults?

      Induction was never a valid process for supporting scientific theories, but it works a treat for forming hypotheses, and I’m going to do one right now:

      Hypothesis: The asshole that wrote this deplorable letter is a Christian.

      Open to evidence, confirmatory or contrary.

      • Mark

        I know nothing of Jessica other than what I have read on this blog. For all I know, she could owe someone a large sum of money. I am just pointing out a bit of faith it takes to ascribe this letter to a certain group of people.

        • GC

          Mark,

          She could owe someone a huge sum of money? And they didn’t mention it? And they are telling her to get out of Rhode Island? Which would likely make paying back the money really hard. What does crusader have to do with owing money? She is well known and hated for one reason. And that is winning a legal challenge against a prayer banner that many people wanted to keep up in a public school in defiance of the law. If everyone else who has threatened her has done so based on this, I think we can safely assume the letter is based on this as well.

          • Mark

            So, faith based on experience?

          • Marshall

            FAITH IS BELIEVING SOMETHING WITHOUT A GOOD REASON. There are GOOD REASONS to think that this letter came from a Christian. What is so damn hard to understand here?

        • Marshall

          Given that the author(s) call themselves “crusaders”, and given that there have been a substantial number of threats from Christians right from the beginning of this whole ordeal, which of these three scenarios do you think is most likely based on the evidence available?

          1: That Jessica owes someone a large amount of money and the person(s) she owes it to have decided to cut their losses and run her out of town.

          2: That atheists have concocted a scheme to make Christians look worse than they’ve already made themselves look.

          OR

          3: That this is a continuation of the preexisting pattern of Christians making threats against Jessica.

          THIS LETTER DOES NOT EXIST IN A VACUUM. To pretend that this letter is not part of a preexisting pattern and it is therefore unreasonable to assume that the author(s) is/are Christian(s) is ludicrous. Do we know with CERTAINTY that this letter was sent by a Christian? No, but we do have a pattern against which to compare it, and it fits into that pattern. What you are doing is similar to saying “how do you KNOW that when you drop the rock it will fall to the floor?”

          You’re reaching. I think you KNOW that you’re reaching. If you don’t want to face the uncomfortable fact that it is VERY LIKELY that the author was a Christian, then that would simply fit in quite well with the pattern YOU’VE displayed of denying reality.

          But you know what REALLY pisses me off? A teenage girl who is an atheist received a threatening letter in the mail, likely from a Christian, and instead of denouncing the author no matter WHAT their faith or offering any words of support, you’ve decided that THIS is your opportunity to show us all how irrational we really are. Great job, dumbass, you’ve attempted to turn THIS into a thread about how the poor Christians are being irrationally attacked by those mean, heartless atheists. Only problem is, that’s utter bullshit.

          Do you not see the problem with this at all? Did you ever even CONSIDER that although you disagree with us on the question of whether or not God exists, maybe this really IS a case of an atheist being attacked by Christians and not the other way around, and maybe this isn’t the right thing to act like an obnoxious jackass over? Are you running so fucking short on things to feel persecuted about that you have to turn THIS into a cross to climb up on? Then FUCK YOU.

          • John Eberhard

            Summed it up nicely. Well said. Mark presents a great example of Christians as a preemptive victim searching for a persecutor.

          • Marshall

            Ah, thank you! For a moment I was worried that I was just being belligerent and reading too much into this. After a second reading of this thread? No, Mark really IS just that much of an ass.

  • Sam

    It’s a terrible letter, but still, transcript for screen readers:

    [on notebook paper]

    The Cops will not watch you forever
    we will get you good
    tell your little asshole sister to watch her back
    there are many of us “crusaders”, we have a betting pool going to see who gets you first!
    Your fuckin old man better move or keep you locked up if you know what’s good for you. We know where he works, what kind of cars you have & the plate numbers of the cars. Get the fuck out of RI. You bitchin whore. You are nothing more than a sex-toy of a slut. maybe you will gang-banged before we throw you out of one of our cars.

    WE WILL GET YOU-LOOK OUT!

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

    @ Mark:

    Being a sceptic doesn’t entail refraining from ever drawing conclusions based on the evidence, it means using all the information one has available to form a reasonable conclusion subject to Occam’s Razor, and being open to change that conclusion based on new evidence.

    • Mark

      No true skeptic.

      • Drakk

        Pull your fucking fingers out of your ears and stop singing la-la-la, you idiotic, insufferable troll. There are good reasons to believe that a christian wrote this letter, namely, they’ve written fucktons of stuff that sounds just the same. There is not any evidence to indicate that the letter was written by someone Jessica might owe money to, or that it is a framing device.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1698151270 John-Henry Beck

        Also a failure to understand the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy.

  • carpenterman

    Actually, the person who wrote that letter is absolutely not a christian.
    He just thinks he is.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Nicer Christians, who also believe in Jesus, will oppose the authors of this letter, and I have no problem saying those Christians are nicer. What I will not say is that the nice Christians are more likely to be right. They’re not. And we should convey that when they tell us that the mean Christians get faith wrong, as if the nice Christians have some better reason to believe god exists and supports them. This is important, because if you cannot tell someone that you are more likely to be right then you’re relegated to telling them, at best, only that they are different, which is both an obvious and impotent statement.

      Read the fucking post before you comment.

  • Mark

    Whenever I hear about the Christians whining about the banner, I always think about this clip from the Chef Aid episode of South Park:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-jXe0x4YdM


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