18 August 2008

Sheep vs Wolves

It's Monday evening and I've just finished watching Yul Brynner in Invitation to a Gunfighter (I'm on a Yul western kick as of late)--I'm sort of bored, although I have tons to do, I just don't feel like doing any of it at this time of evening. So, I'm clicking random atheist-type links and I wind up on a Modesto Bee headline: Modesto-area Atheists Speak Up, Seek Tolerance.

Nothing particularly mind-blowing about the article--atheists want to be treated with respect...we know that. Maybe it was mildly interesting to me to think of California atheists being so put-upon, but then, religious folk really are everywhere. There's a matter of the polls quoted, but whatever. I might have also been a little confused over one self-proclaimed atheist/practicing pagan--maybe I just don't know much about paganism. That's worthy of discussion, but that's not what I want to discuss here. I want to discuss the comments attached to this article.

After reading these, I suspect, like me, you will hardly know where to begin.

Tortie says:
I am an atheist. Every day I seek to make life better for other living creatures, humans, animals, or plants. 2 years ago I took a local homeless family of 3 and paid for 6 months apartment rent and cosigned the lease. I also furnished the apartment and bought them a car. This cost me $25,000 in all, and I am not even remotely a millionaire. I don't buy jewelry, I don't go to the movies or travel, I buy clothes on sale. I use what money I have to make life better for others and to make the world a better and happier place.
To which rivvet retorts:
So...are we supposed to think more of you because you just came on here and bragged about how generous you are? What good does your giving do if it only serves in the end to make your world better? You're giving because ultimately you believe it will make YOU more comfortable. That's not selfless. That's selfish. Giving is a good thing. No doubt. But to what end? The only selfless giving is that which only you and your Creator know about. But then again, you don't believe He exists. Good thing He doesn't think that about you. *POOF*
Are you like 'wow?' I was like 'wow.' Here we have an article about how atheists generally feel uncomfortable about coming out about their atheism because of how badly we are perceived--a perception, mind you, based on absolutely nothing but bigoted vitriol. It begins:
Some local atheists who replied to an invitation in The Bee were afraid of adverse reactions at their places of work. Others worried about being flooded "with unwanted attention from zealots," and two were protective of neighbors and spouses. One hesitated to talk on the record, but then said, "If I don't speak up, who will?"
Who will indeed? Then you have an example of extreme Christian intolerance in response. If we are to believe tortie, and I see no real reason not to, he or she just gave $25,000 to some folks who didn't have it. And how much you want to bet tortie didn't once say to those people 'I'll give you all this, but you have to renounce your god or gods and become an atheist.' Somehow I doubt that's how it went down. One would call this a wonderful example of altruistic giving, and, oh no, it came from one of us godless heathens.

Of course, for rivvet, tortie's giving wasn't altruistic at all. Rivvet believes that tortie only gave to serve his or her own needs. "You're giving because ultimately you believe it will make YOU more comfortable" says rivvet. Rivvet calls tortie selfish, saying the only selfless giving is "that which only you and your Creator know about."

I don't even know what that means. What I do know is that, the way I see it, Christians generally don't give or do good works because they simply want to help their fellow man. Unlike atheists (who don't do good based on a rewards system), Christians labor under the impression that the more good they do, the better chance they have of slipping past St. Peter at the pearly gates; the less good they do, well, we know what happens there. Talk about selfish? They don't help people because it's good to help people; they help people because 1) they make more Christians that way (you can have this if you pray to my God) and 2) to save their own asses in the so-called afterlife. Again, atheists don't need some promise of eternal life on fluffy clouds drinking Virgin Marys. Atheists do good because it's good to do good.

And that's all the Modesto-area atheists want people to know. We do good. Rivvet's comment made it very clear that it may very well not matter how much good we do. We could save the world from hunger and suffering, and as long as an atheist was resonsible for the good, they will find a way to demonize us anyway. We can probably never appear to be average, easy-going folks who are as inclined to charity as anyone else--the more good we do, the more suspicious they will be.

To quote a quoting Christian I've come across recently on a fellow atheist's blog: 'Jesus said: I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye, therefore, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.' He didn't actually add the 'wise as serpents' or 'harmless as doves' part. But it was clear that Christains were the sheep and we atheists were the wolves. We are wolves and will always be wolves. Even when we are clearly happy, innocuous sheep bleating cheerily to our neighbors, we will only really be wolves in sheep's clothing. And they will always have to be wise as serpents, which, in the case of rivvet, actually means to be suspicous and insulting, assuming the worst. Rivvet also decided to forgo being as harmless as a dove. They always forget that part.


  1. Ignorance, that's all I see it coming down to.

    I made the point my Nexus blog about people fearing what they consider a threat and I think that applies here.

    Yul is THE man!

    "Where's your moses now?" was never uttered with such an awesome accent and never will.

  2. If I was a guy in an old west town, I would hire Yul Brynner to take out rivvet for being such a ball bag.

    I feel it's more than fear. Everyone fears. I fear lots of things, but that doesn't mean I lash out at those very things. I fear things and people that are different than me--that's natural. The difference between me and many Christians like this is that I am more than happy to confront that fear, vault it, and come down on the other side willing to learn. For someone like rivvet, it's fear, but also a heaping helping of hostility and the need to express their unfounded superiority complex.

    I'm willing to bet they reject Yul as well. Bastards. YUL!

  3. We see eye to eye on the fear thing, I failed to elaborate as much as I probably should have. It's the irrational fear response to the imagined threat, the general 'holier than thou' mentality and the sheer jackassery of some bible wielding folks coming down on otherwise nice people.

    Imagined threat...that's poorly worded. I do think as more atheists become vocal, as many are, we will become something of a social (not militant) threat to the comfy-cozy lifestyle they'd like us to all prescribe to.

    Militant sounds interesting though too, to be honest. There's nothing hotter than a godless woman in uniform ;)

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