So…Benjamin Corey, what’s up?
Anyways…yeah…having recently said that I’m not concentrating on fulfilling an anti-theistic role anymore, but rather concentrating on preventing harm perpetuated by religion, I went over to your Progressive Christian Channel on Patheos for some…inspiration. Can we work together? I was interesting in the possibility.
But I have to admit…there are things I’m seeing there that are pretty disturbing. Very harmful. And I think you might want to work on prompting Christians to think harder about how harmful some of these stances are.
Take your recent post, Benjamin Corey, that asks atheists to stop “doing and saying” certain things.
It gets off to an awkward start between us right off the bat, when you tell us to “please stop saying or insinuating that we’re a bunch of uneducated or unenlightened idiots.”
I don’t have a problem with the “uneducated” part. Yeah, there are some educated Christians out there. I don’t have a problem with your statement against the “idiot” part — I think using that term might be insulting to those struggling with mental health. But the “unenlightened” part…um, sorry, but if you’re Christian and I’m an atheist, I’m going to think you’re unenlightened. You’re going to think I’m unenlightened. That goes with the territory of having a different position. And there are reasons we think, in each of our minds, that we come to differing conclusions. So I’m partially in agreement with you. But…you slightly lose me.
If you’re wrong about the best course of action for humanity, you’re unenlightened. Same goes for me. Preventing that insinuation may have the end result of silencing people who have very real grievances about how progressive Christianity works that, if you listened to them, could actually make the world a better place.
Here’s my counter-request: Don’t get so concentrated on whether or not my view that you are “unenlightened” is offensive that you miss the question of whether or not my argument could actually make the world a better place.
Second, you state, “Please stop insisting that we read our Bible like right-wing fundamentalists.”
Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
You’ve got to stop the brakes here and think about this reaaaaal carefully. Calm down. And…………realize that a straightforward reading of the Bible has problems. It just does. Now, I’m sure you can chop it and dice it and make it sound better. But you have to realize that some of the Bible licenses some really disturbing views. Because if you don’t, you’re holding up a book that is going to, and is, doing real damage in the world. Open your mind to the fact that right-wing fundamentalists might be getting their message from the same Bible you’re reading, and question the use of those verses.
It is amazing to me the way both conservative fundamentalists and many atheists insist on reading and interpreting the Bible with the same rigid literalism that takes into account almost nothing regarding literary genre, authorial intent, context, original languages, etc.
With all due respect, Benjamin Corey — and this is not a personal attack on you….I gotta call it like I see it.
This. Is. Bullshit.
Literary genre is a matter of debate. And most Christians — progressive and non — don’t think about it until a non-Christian points out what, exactly, their Bible says. What are the Gospels, for example? Are they a myth? Are they history? Are they informal accounts that got changed through the generations? Etc. These questions are not easily answered, and you’ll find widespread disagreement over them. Same with the Old Testament, with the laws from God. Are they accounts of laws from God? Or did Moses make them up to keep the Israelites in line? Or was there ever even a Moses? Etc. Like…the literary genre thing is filled with debate. My own take is that the Bible is a record of people’s attempts to organize their world using the God-concept. With that viewpoint, it behooves us to be honest about how they failed, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.
Now, you may have figured out a way to twist the scripture so that it doesn’t say, for example, that same-sex marriage is a sin (although the gymnastics you use to do this are astounding, and tend to say that the good of love outweighs the sin of same-sex marriage, or that gay marriage is a sin just like other sins so that it’s a wash, without roundly and unequivocally saying straight out that same-sex marriage is a personal decision that has no sinful elements at all and is cause for celebration). Congratulations. And a part of me wants to ensure that you don’t convert over the the Westboro Baptist Church’s interpretation.
But a major part of me also wants to underline that these parts are in your book — that most translations of the Bible do have a God who once commanded stoning for men who had sex with men, and mention homosexuality as one of many sins. And it looks really, really, really dishonest for you to pretend that it’s not there when those verses are actually hurting people. Could you, at the least, rip them out of your Bibles, maybe? Just have that nice stuff about love and stuff, and take out the whole Old Testament? Or just say that those people got it wrong? Or ban certain passages of the Bible from being transported from the west to third-world countries, perhaps looking at the good science and values like “love one another” without the hellfire verses can do instead?
And authorial intent…is difficult to ascertain, and is a direct appeal to the intentional fallacy. What matters are the words on the page and their impact on culture. If you think that the author meant something else, you’re going to have to drastically change the wording of many religious texts. Like Exodus 22:18, a verse that is literally resulting in the death and horrendous torture of thousands of children.
What we’re tired of you doing is rationalizing away the most disturbing parts in the Bible and thus insulating the texts that are causing a great deal of harm around their world, due to their rather clear, straightforward readings. You need to realize the damage you are doing by exalting these verses and sending them out as-is, instead of joining us in tearing them down, along with all their disturbing implications.
Next on the list, “Please stop referring to our belief system(s) as fairy tales.”
Look, I’m gonna be real with you real quick: honestly, I think your belief system is a fairy tale. What? Do you want me to lie? The beliefs often function in your church as nontrue moralistic tales meant to help you live better lives. I mean, I’m an atheist. Do you really think I’m gonna believe that when the Bible talks about people going to hell for, among other sins, homosexuality unless they believe that some guy rose from the dead 2000 years ago to take away sin (as the Old Testament defines it), I’m gonna think it’s anything but a fairy tale?
I mean, in looking at the value of that honesty…here’s what you need to understand, Benjamin, with all due respect: Your Bible’s “fairy tales” hurt people. They have caused trauma in people. They have caused PTSD in people. They have resulted in the deaths of millions and the psychological devastation of millions more. These are facts.
So…us referring to these tales as “fairy tales” remind us that these things that harmed us so badly aren’t real. Is that really so bad? Can you get over it? If you really think God is real, maybe you can go to him with those grievances, but leave those hurt by religion alone. Try to explain to them how it’s not a fairy tale, instead of just declaring it’s not. Start opening up your ears a listening a bit more.
Do you realize, Benjamin, that as nonbelievers we get attacked by friends and family oftentimes as not part of a celestial country club and thus likely going to hell for eternity because of something that sounds patently ridiculous to us? Just try to look at it from our perspective for a moment. Imagine the rage. We can be told that we’re going to hell for eternity, and when we fight back with the much more inferior attack that those beliefs are “fairy tales,” we’re the ones that get raked over the coals by most of culture.
It’s time for you to try to stop making us look so bad, Ben. And I think you have a good heart, and could represent us here. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt. Start thinking about why we might read the Bible we were often brainwashed by or have to fight so hard against and come away calling it a “fairy tale.” I don’t think you get it. But if you tried, I think you could. And honestly — c’mon, Ben. We both know that some beliefs based on the Bible are really harmful to human progress, as you demean fundamentalist Christians. So…try to advocate using rational thinking for our own good and the good of humanity as much as you can, and we’ll do the same. Sometimes, we’ll both find that this requires calling out false beliefs for what they are — especially if they are hurting people.
Then you say, “Maybe lay off the whole, “religion hasn’t done any good for humanity” type of argument, because it’s obnoxiously untrue.”
I would never argue that religious people haven’t done any good for humanity. I’ll even say that I’ve seen religion make various people’s lives better. But Ben…what’s frustrating us is that so many people ignore the bad that’s happened through religion. It’s important to pay attention to that so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes. And further, so many people (including you, in this post) ignore so much of the bad that religious organizations are doing now. I think that’s why we bring up the bad so much — religious people aren’t talking about it, giving people the false impression that religion does good when, oftentimes, it doesn’t. And when the bad things religion does to people’s lives are ignored, that hurts actual people. That’s not healthy, Ben. It’s not good. What you should do is be honest about the terrible things religious beliefs do to people, because your side often ignores that. It’d be appreciated much more than you joining the billions of religious people telling us “obnoxiously” to shut up about it.
Anyways, those are the high points. Good talk, Ben. Catch ya on the flip side, and thanks for reading y’all.
P.S. I have a Patreon, in case you want to help me keep doing what I’m doing.