Memo to the Blog-o-sphere: Saying Atheists R Stoopid is Lame

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that witnessing to atheists, at least in the manner that seems to be popular in the Catholic blog-o-sphere nowadays, is in a sad state of affairs.

Posts thumbing our noses at atheists, posts basically saying that atheists are idiots, and posts attempting to stick their noses in what some believe to be atheist formed pools of pee-pee (I reckon), is pretty much de rigueur.

Oh, it looks like a lot of victory laps, and high fives are being exchanged everywhere in Catholic bubbleland when a good, snarky, post sticking it to the atheists is published. Don’t it feel so goooood y’all? But although folks may think you showed ‘em up, and all, it’s not *cough* sharing the Good News. Nor will it ever be perceived as such.

Full Disclosure: I’ve never been an atheist, so I honestly have no idea what standing in their shoes is like. I doubt I’ll ever write a post with “but the modern day atheist thinks…” as a line ever. 932 posts into my blogging career so far, and I’ve yet to do it. Because if faith is a gift, then I received it at an early age. And as for manners, well, my mamma taught me right.

After I was all growed up, and well into my sojourn on planet Earth, in both the military and in the civilian worlds, I’ve had to lead people in my avocations. Both male and female, from various races, and creeds, with various and sundry backgrounds, all joined together striving towards the completion of goals and missions, most of which I had no say so in deciding upon.

Guess what? Never once was I taught, either by example, in a classroom setting, or by experience, that the most effective way to lead folks is to make fun of them. Shocking, huh?

In fact, I learned plenty from “leaders” who tried that approach and failed miserably, both in the military, and in the business world. They were called bullies. You know the type. You’ve worked for them, and you’ve suffered under them, but you never, ever, wanted to follow them anywhere. Unless it was into a dark alley, and you had a baseball bat at the ready.

I was always taught that the best leaders lead by example. And all leaders lead in that manner, even when they haven’t got a clue. I gained just as much knowledge of leadership from serving under poor leaders, on how not to be a leader, as I did from serving under good ones. Someone somewhere wrote a post recently about how Christ does not call us to be leaders, but to be followers (I can’t find it, but share it if you know the one I mean). Leadership that ignores the importance of followership in the service of Our Lord and King is doomed to fail.

“But Frank, the atheist’s arguments are ridiculous, man. Besides, they seem so full of themselves. I gotta do something about it.”

Yes you do, but I doubt it can be done in a combox, or in a blog post, or in a YouTube video. But if it can be done in those ways, it can’t be done by trying to “one up” atheists in a game of I’m smarter than you are, nanny-nanny boo-boo. The clash of cold steel in the combox during The Reasoning Wars may feel right, but it rarely leads would-be evangelists to the prize. Showing how you can out smart the atheists by calling attention to their one dimensional arguments, or whatever? No joy, mon ami.

In a play to beat the bully, see, you become the bully. That is whacked, folks. Don’t be a Catholic troll.

I’ll be honest with folks here and note that I’m not all that fired up to get into knock-down, drag-out apologetic wars between atheists, agnostics, or anyone else, for that matter. Jerks, misanthropes, and meanies of any stripe, rarely make it into the combox here at YIMCatholic. Heck, it’s rare that anyone comments on my stuff as it is. Across the spectrum from the Atheist from Hell to the Super Dooper Catholic Who Should Be Pope, though, neither one or any variation in between, are welcome around here. Unless they mind their manners, and play well with others.

It’s pretty easy, actually. Be “of goodwill,” and you’re welcome here.

“Frank, it’s all about fraternal correction, see? We gotta tell them what is up, man, especially if it stings them a little! I mean, we gotta have some fun here.”

Yes, but by gleefully doing so it seems we completely turn a blind eye to the dignity of their personages, doesn’t it? When administering correctives to them also results in uncharitable rants that fulfill the unbelievers worst nightmares about Christians, and all the atta-boys and back-slapping in the blog-o-sphere does just that, you don’t grow the faith as a result. You’re just spreading seeds on hardened soil, after packing it down further by stomping it with your boots.

Surely I don’t have to convince folks that Christians, Like a Boss (and a Bad One), isn’t exactly the message that Catholics should be putting out there. Stop with the grandstanding, already.

“Frank, what are we to do then? Ignore them?” No siree. Love them.

Love the atheists in the same manner that you want to be loved. Think, “Hmmm, would I appreciate pitch-fork and torch waving atheists crashing a Mass at our Church, or a Catholic Blogger convention I’m attending?” And then don’t be the crasher. Pray for them. Until it hurts. And it may hurt, there little pilgrim. In fact, it may get you killed.

God gave us life by suffering death, so we cannot keep this life except by dying to ourselves; and since our reward is to be eternal, why fear constant suffering on earth? —St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen.

As a jarhead, I gotta admit that I love a saint named Fidelis from a town that sounds like Marine. Especially when they say, “stop fearing suffering.”

So love and pray for the atheists, and (possibly) die trying. Why? Because what we are called to do is witness the truth and beauty of the faith to everyone, unto martyrdom if necessary. Not just to atheists, but to the whole world. Ragging on atheists, or for that matter homosexuals, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Hindis, Buddhists, etc., etc, doesn’t prove to any of them that Christianity is the Way, or that they are loved.

And this we know is the truth. They are loved by God. And by means of his grace, they must be loved by you and me too.

The Bride of Christ says,

We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8).

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to “maintain good fellowship among the nations” (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men,(Cf. Rom. 12:18) so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven (Cf. Matt. 5:45).

I am certainly an alien, a weirdo, and a contrarian. I believe everything the Church proclaims to be true. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. But I certainly never want to be accused of being “foreign to the mind of Christ,” by way of either my words or actions that are directed towards the estranged sons and daughters of God, or anyone else.

Somehow I doubt that “well done, my good and faithful servant” will be the words I’ll hear if I bust on “the haters.”

For even if the lost don’t know who their Father, Brother, and Mother are, see, I do know. As Catholics and Christians, we can’t help them find their way home if we are the very same stumbling blocks tripping them up along the pathway.

We are the Body of Christ. We are his hands, etc, like St. Teresa of Avila noted. What if God was one of us? He is one of us.

But even scarier is the the notion that we must try to be Christ too. Gulp! Pray for me, will ya?

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  • Sandy

    I love you, Frank. Well done, my good and faithful servant. Soldier. Erm…

    (See, all that time with athiests does pay off.)

    • Frank Weathers

      “Friend” is good. A friend who has his fair share of Romans 7:15 moments.

  • Brian Sullivan

    Amen, Frank. With gentleness and reverence as Pope St. Peter I said.

    • Frank Weathers

      Kerraazzyy like Kephas, aye!

  • leahlibresco

    Very much appreciated.

  • Joanne K McPortland

    Your best post ever, I think. And right up there with anybody else’s best.

  • VTA

    I see derision, labeling, judging, etc., everywhere on the web. It’s sad to see from in discussions abt religion, esp from Christians. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they “don’t get it”. Can a Christian who derides an atheist really be a Christian? If you raise this question in some web forum, you too will probably be derided!

  • Sasha

    Frank, are you the originator of the ‘Ten Ways to Love’ with Scripture references? I am printing it and hanging it up on my fridge. Actually, I might do up a fancy version and frame it. I want that where I can see it every day.

    • Frank Weathers

      No I am not. And I couldn’t find out who to attribute it to. If anyone knows, I’d be glad to acknowledge it.

  • Eric Bailey

    You are so right, brother. No one was ever coverted with condemnation.

  • anitalounurse

    Frank…A must read for all. You say so much in this post and the video is the frosting on the cake. God created all men/woman equal. All our hearts are the same color. Each one of us is on a different path, but we are headed in the same direction. Judge and be judged. Love and be loved. Love never fails. Keep ‘em comin, Frank. You are one of my heroes. <3

  • Rachel M.

    Great post…and something I have to be reminded of. So tempting to always want to explain my “right-ness” to someone on the interwebs. Lately, God has really been pushing me to LOVE people, all people. It’s so difficult. God is pretty amazing to love all of us, when it’s hard for me to even love someone that disagrees with me.

  • Carlos Urrutia

    ” Super Dooper Catholic Who Should Be Pope” LOL, best thing I have read today!

  • Silo Mowbray

    Speaking as an atheist here, who only speaks for himself and not all atheists…
    I appreciate the approach you advocate, sir, as well as your advocacy. Mockery brings no understanding to the mocked; at best, it serves as satire to be enjoyed by those who are in the same club as you.
    I would suggest that much of the bullying exists because it serves the purposes of many theist leaders in the U.S. – they understand that demonizing and marginalizing ‘the enemy’ gives them votes, money and influence. Fear of the different is the lynchpin of many political strategies.
    It is heartening to see that at least one theist leader (yourself) refuses to resort to that kind of political dishonesty. It was even more heartening to see other theists laud you for your position in the comments. It is nice to have one’s perception of humanity restored from time to time.

    • Frank Weathers

      I’m not sure if it is just the “theist leaders” who fall prey to this. Indeed, it seems that once someone, or a group, or a sect, political party, etc., is proclaimed “enemy,” the stripping away of their humanity begins.

  • Emily

    Hi! I was pointed here from the Friendly Atheist blog, and I wanted to thank you for the “don’t be a jerk” message you’re spreading here :) I’m not sure if you’re taking leadership ideas, but speaking as an atheist, we’re much more impressed by religious folks who go out and do actual, tangible good works (cleaning up litter, donating books – lower-case b – to literacy programs, that sort of thing) than pray. Not that I mind prayers I don’t have to be involved in. Doing both at the same time works just fine afaic. Being a good person who does good things is the best way to live – thank you for encouraging people to go that way by not being bullies.

    • Frank Weathers

      Good point, which St. James reminds of to do as well,

      What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
      If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?

      So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

  • GordonHide

    Well Frank, nine out of ten I’d say. But you still seem to think it’s your job to convert people. I suppose that’s yet another burden of being a Christian. If you could limit yourself to just trying to understand the other guy and using what you learn to help him understand you, then you might get a winning score. Of course such an approach could be dangerous to your “spiritual health”.

    • Frank Weathers

      I think that in this case, and most, it’s sort of like St. Francis of Assisi says: “Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary.” Which is why I mentioned the near impossibility of witnessing using the media (new or old.)

  • Michelle

    As an atheist who frequents Catholic blog comboxes, thank you! I like arguing ideas with people who disagree with me, and I like working on better defending my positions. But it’s rare that I leave a discussion feeling respected – I almost invariably end up being made to feel as though I’m an illogical monster. A friend who also comments was once told that, if our worldview were true, the blogger would commit suicide. I was recently told “that’s BS and you know it!” regarding one of my points. From comments like those, I don’t get the sense that Catholics are loving people. I get the sense that I’m being mocked and that they’re all clapping each other on the back congratulating themselves for “winning” the conversation.

    And then there are the people who offer suggestions, who offer their ideas in a way that doesn’t say “how can you possibly believe that?! Are you a Nazi?!” and instead says “here’s a perspective you maybe hadn’t thought of.” Does it convert me? No, but it makes me think, and it’s a good way for all of us to approach people we disagree with, no matter what side of the debate we’re on. Ridicule and shock and shaming is no way to convince anyone of anything.

    Great post! :)

  • Korou

    Just gotta say…I like this comments system SO much more than Disqus, which seems to be giving me such a lot of trouble lately…

    Anyway – Thank you, Frank; a call to civility is a great idea.
    I would enjoy reading these civil arguments between atheists and Catholics, but I wonder if the Catholics would be willing to concede if they lose one of them?
    Or, to be fair, the atheists?

    But seriously – if we did stay civil, and we did out-argue you, what would you do?

  • Mika

    Thank you for this post.

  • articulett

    As a former Catholic (and current atheist) I think this is an excellent post– Frank Weathers sounds like an awesome guy who doesn’t think “do unto others” just applies to “others” who believe as he does.

    The truth is, atheists are not really any more interested in being converted to your religion than you are being converted to some other faith– in fact, we probably feel similarly towards your religion as you feel towards wrong religions and would prefer that you be as private with your beliefs as you’d like Scientologists, Mormons, and Muslims to be with theirs.

    Myself, I would need evidence that a soul exists before I’d care what anyone had to say about gods and purported afterlives. I think if there was ever any real evidence for souls, scientists would be testing and refining the evidence for their own benefit, as well as for the benefit of humanity. And if scientists cannot really “know” about invisible beings (whether souls, gods, demons, or angels), I don’t believe anyone else really “knows” either– even if they believe they do.

    Certainly, you can trust that if there is an omnipotent god, he would know exactly what is needed to convince each person of whatever it was he desired them to believe (assuming he had such desires) and would not need human help or manipulations in achieving any goals. Moreover, an omniscient god would already know the outcome of all conversion attempts done in his name.

    Rather than trying to convert others to share in your supernatural beliefs that there is a god who wants people to believe as you believe, a better goal might be to mold yourself into a person others want to be more like.

  • Bill Peters

    Thank you Frank, I have been struggling with this for some time with an old friend who is very angry with Christianity and the Church. My wife (who is always right echos what you said about civility and love) tells me I should put aside my normal reaction which is to fix bayonettes and charge and perhaps use a bit of humility and love. After 30 some years being a Christian I still have difficulty with this whole Love thing. Pray for me.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    “Pray for them. Until it hurts. And it may hurt, there little pilgrim. In fact, it may get you killed.”

    You can’t mean that as a concern, not literally. Praying won’t get you killed, unless you choose some very unwise places to do it. In all the time I’ve seen theists post their opinions on blogs, I’ve never come across someone who feared for their life because they witnessed to an atheist. Maybe I’ve just been inattentive.

    I do know that the opposite is true. Atheists who upset some Christians get very threatening responses. The recent experiences of an “evil little thing” comes to mind.

    I don’t mind so much that some theists like to crow about their self declared ‘victories’ in verbal battles. What bothers me is when you insist on applying your rules to others, to their detriment.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Friar Francisco Vera was executed, it says, because he celebrated the Mass, presumably in defiance of political authority. That’s not just praying. Certainly not according to Matthew 6:5-6 which is more what I had in mind.
    He must have willingly risked the martyrdom he found. That, or he made an unwise choice.

    When the church seeks and allies itself with political power, it sometimes happens that when opponents to that power arise then the church becomes a target as well. Jesus is supposed to have had something to say about concerning yourself with worldly power, no?

  • Fortuna Veritas

    Well, I doubt you could say that “X is what the modern day atheist thinks” even if you were an atheist or had been one.

    I’m given to understand that they’re not exactly a group of people that’s easy to form into a bloc.

  • Kristen indallas

    LoLed at “That is whacked, folks. Don’t be a Catholic troll.” :)
    Appriciate this article on so many levels Frank!
    I think where many of us go wrong is in letting that pride thing take over, we fixate on a particular person (or combo-boxer) and try to argue them into the faith. I *try* to remind myself that all that rationality that won me over came from God, and can only be understood when the mind is open to God. Ultimately, it was a friend who I held in very high esteem, who was always so humble and sure that there was something, bigger, stronger, smarter out there… that ultimately convinced me. (People I know are smarter than me knowing there is someone way smarter than them, as opposed to people who think they’re smarter than me telling me I’m not). Well that and a bottle of wine with CS Lewis, but only after I had seen that the whole Christian thing could be done without having to be a jerk.

  • Mark

    I too was directed here by The Friendly Atheist. Thanks so much for the “don’t be a jerk” argument. It is our only commandment, and we strive to live by it daily. We are not so different, you and I, Mr Bond.

  • Pat Gohn

    I salute you, Frank. Charity in all things.

  • John N. Roberts

    Thank you Frank for this post I have to say I have never felt the power of our Lord more! It is obvious that you have been given a gift to speak the word. I try and fail to be as faithful as you are! One day I hope to say that I’ve found the peace you have with your life. Keep the faith and always remember we are brothers in Christ always.

    • Frank Weathers

      Just keep in mind that I fall down too (a lot…feet of clay are like that), brother.

  • Jose D. Pinell

    Great post! I agree with you! Yes we must give reasons for our hope, but we must not quarrel.any of us say that “we hate the sin but love the sinner” but we can love from a distance. How many homosexuals, prostitutes, or other kind of sinners do we have as friends? Share a meal with?

  • Kat Carney

    Amen. We are supposed to be known by our love. It’s about time we started loving and living the full truth of the Church as a witness to all-not “just” atheists.

  • Bob Seidensticker

    I’m an atheist. I blog here at Patheos at Cross Examined.

    I appreciate your sentiment. My online conversations with Christians are too often acrimonious.