Thursday, August 5, 2010

Extreme Examples

Randy Olds told me today about an excellent article on things that Christians and atheists can agree upon. See here. It’s lengthy, but it’s well worth the read. I identified with the author’s statement that Christians and atheists tend to defend the extreme version of their positions when someone from the other side gets in their face.

For example, if an atheist tells a Christian that the Bible is a bunch of fairy-tales, the Christian might respond that every word of Scripture is true—no ifs, ands, or buts. The Christian will act like she has never had a doubt in her life, when she most likely has, since she’s (well) human. If a Christian gets in an atheist’s face, the atheist might reply that Christians are stupid and are looking for a security blanket to get through life. The atheist may sometimes see value in religion—or at least understand why there are people who are religious. But if he’s confronted by a militant Christian, his understanding attitude goes out the window.

This describes how I have been in the past (“past” meaning up to right now). In rigidly liberal environments, I tend to be a firebrand conservative, even though I personally may see value in all sorts of perspectives, on the left and the right. But there have also been times when I have agreed with people to keep the peace. And then there are times when I feel as if I have to stand up against a person’s beliefs, because that person is being a bully. I may see some value in that person’s viewpoint, but I feel that appearing open-minded will show weakness, or allow the fanatic to shove her ideas down my throat. And so I act more dogmatic than I actually am.

The article also notes that Christians and atheists tend to attack the extreme examples of their opponents. For instance, Fred Phelp’s church is small, including primarily his family and friends. Yet, atheists act like Fred Phelps is the official spokesperson for Christianity.

I wonder myself if I stereotype. When I criticize the behavior of certain Christians in my “Oh Brother” posts, don’t I realize that there are good Christians in the world? Yes. But the behavior I’m criticizing pops up on numerous occasions, so I feel a need to mention it and express my disapproval (as if anyone cares).

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