Poe’s Law: Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.
I knew about it before it appeared on Pharyngula, but someone has been posing as an atheist muttering some decidedly unatheist remarks. You know the ones, where we atheists supposedly have no morals and do whatever we want because we aren’t held to account. As Penn Jillett would say, “What a motherfucker.”
No atheist would say such nonsense as the following –
What’s wrong with killing babies? I see no problem with it. I have enough mouths to feed. I don’t get the argument and I am an atheist. Since I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in anything characterized as good, bad / right, wrong. So, what’s the big deal?
Or this –
If a man wants to make a women his b****, so be it? So what if you don’t like it, what if I do?
If I want to do something, and my conscience is cool with it, then I can do it. If it’s feed a homeless person, so be it. If it’s kill my neighbor, so be it. I am not bound to any morals.
These comments have all the hallmarks of coming from someone who thought that’s what an atheist thinks. Indeed, it was such cartoonish remarks which initiated an excellent bit of detective work by Unreasonable Faith in finding out who the culprit was: Chris Fox, pastor of Kendall’s Baptist Church in North Carolina. Shame on him!
We atheists do indeed have only ourselves and those around us to keep us in check. It’s all that is necessary, too. It is because we are accountable to ourselves, and that we are our own harshest critics, that we are moral and ethical. We have no need to act good through fear of punishment/expectation of reward from an external source – we’re hard enough on ourselves as it is. Let me say to those that are skeptical of this: because we have only ourselves that can give forgiveness, the shame in owning up to our own acts is much harder than for those who can arbitrarily shed their built by imagining that there is a higher power that forgives us making it all the more easy to perform the same bad acts again and again.
I sent the not-so-sly Fox an email conveying my outrage and they must have someone full time replying using a cut-and-paste system because it was only mere seconds later that I got a response:
Let me share that when I recently came across the UF website, I browsed through the posts and wanted to share ideas and give opinions. I am in no way a fundie or anti-atheist/non-believing. But, I got wrapped up in some of the topics and posts and wanted to share, and I allowed it to step over the line. I did not opine to antagonize or “win souls” – in fact, I am quite moderate in my beliefs. I didn’t personally attack anyone. I don’t characterize all atheists as immoral or amoral. In fact, there are believers who do immoral things. I was indeed hypocritical. My intentions were not to be deceiving. I wanted to ask questions that would allow others to think and bring out their thoughts. I am deeply sorry for my actions. As I have pondered and prayed over the past few days, it was not the right way. It may be my naivete, but I wanted to speak from my experience with people of all walks of life and actual thoughts and conversations I have had. I never intended the thoughts to characterize all atheists/non-believers. In conversations with my atheist/non-believing friends, we share openly and candidly and give permission to speak bluntly about things, often using hypotheticals and hyberbole. I see that some of the posts have characterized me as a fundie and extreme, an idiot, and worse, but I am anything but. I don’t know what your beliefs are, but please don’t let this alone form an opinion about my character or heart. I am truly sorry and am learning from this.
I’d be impressed except that he misrepresented himself as being an atheist and at no time did he identify himself or indicate that he was presenting a caricature of atheism, which is how he was exposed to begin with. Maybe the misrepresentation was unintended and he was just doing a thought experiment and thinking aloud. But he the fact that he hid behind various monikers suggests that this would be naive in the extreme. It’s not like we haven’t seen this thoroughly debunked moral argument that simple facts like how underrepresented atheists are in prison populations for instance hasn’t demolished. And while he says he didn’t personally attack anyone, he certainly personally insulted every atheist that read the comments. If he really had atheist friends with which he discussed such matters, he would have known this and never made the comments to begin with because he would have an understanding of why such a caricature is ludicrous.
How should he atone for this? First, apologize to the atheist community publicly, not just to individuals that email their disgust to him. And own up to the parishioners. They have a right to know what it is that the person they look to for guidance has been up to and apologize to them as well. That would go a long way to demonstrating true atonement. But note also that no such regret was forthcoming before he was caught, which does tarnish the apology somewhat. But it would be a start.
And, more importantly, maybe he really has learned something important from the debacle. I can only hope.