Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the Flame War - part two: Blowback.

Blow Back

So, after my less than cordial response, the Spouse and I went out to do our grocery shopping, get some lunch etc. After a few hours we were back home, and I noticed that I had a few e-mails. Uh oh, I thought...

The first response was from my Cousin.


You know, I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion when it comes to politics, religion etc….I do respect your opinion regardless whether I agree or disagree. I am not one to debate or get confrontational when it comes to these topics.  I have my beliefs and I will leave it at that.   My problem is why would you be so mean as to send your opinion to everybody that mom sent this to.  If you disagreed, by all means, email her and her alone. All you had to do was let her know you don’t want these kind of emails. I think this was a mean spirited thing you did and it really hurt my mother.  When it comes to my mother and her feelings, yes, I will get confrontational!!  This was a very callous thing you did. The woman is 68 years old and deserves respect regardless of the fact you disagree with her.


She was right about one thing; my response was mean spirited. My Aunt and Cousins are really lovely people, even if they are 100% wrong about religion and politics, and I really didn't want to hurt anyones feelings. The only thing I disagreed with in my Cousins letter was the idea that I shouldn't have responded to everyone. That was the one thing I did right. Since the e-mail was sent using an open distribution list, everyone on it saw who received it. I needed to make sure that everyone knew that I did not agree with this message in any way shape or form. I just should have been more tactful. The next message is from my Aunt.

From: [the Relative in Question]
Sent: Sunday, October 04, 2009 2:15 PM
To: [the Lazy Atheist]
Cc: And everyone else again 

Subject: Re: I scored 0, like all good Americans

Lazy Atheist,

I certainly didn’t mean to make anyone angry.  Disagreement is one thing, but to be deliberately nasty and condescending to a member of your own family just because you got a harmless email is a bit surprising to me.  I know that being a Christian is certainly “out of vogue” these days, but it’s attitudes like yours that make us see that even the mere mention of Jesus seems to set off a tirade.

Calling people names and looking down on them doesn’t help your case.  But maybe you don’t have a case.  Maybe you just get a kick out of “putting us ignorant Christians in our place.”  What a lofty and admirable goal.  Perhaps you can actually destroy someone’s faith with those tactics.  Bravo!!

By the way, I won’t bother to send you the proof, but you don’t know your history.  Even a cursory study of the quotations from all of the founding fathers reveals numerous references to Jesus Christ, the Christian religion, prayer, the Bible, and God as the creator of the universe.  They were deeply committed to the freedom of all people and they plainly stated in the Declaration Of Independence that all are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  Individual liberty was unheard of until Jesus, and the founding fathers knew that in order to be a free people, they must be free to choose any religion, or no religion at all.   But when God was mentioned in those days, everyone knew who they were talking about and it wasn’t “sky pixies.”

But what do they know, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc.    Just a bunch of “lunatic right wing” nut cases , right?

Congratulations on being such a good American.

Your Aunt   

Well, now I felt pretty bad. In hindsight, you can see that we are actually talking past one another here. My relative is putting words in my mouth with the remarks about “out of vogue" and "putting us Christians in our place”, and I was heaping my visceral response to this e-mail all upon my Aunt, along with my feelings about the wonderfully Christian government we enjoyed in the past Presidential administration. In my defense, however, I will say that the e-mail was in no way a celebration of the Deist or Christian influence of the Founding Fathers. It was a call to create a Christian government out of our secular government. The last line of the e-mail says it all.

Here's my response to my Aunt:

Hello Everyone,

First of all, i did not mean to insult or wound anyone by my reply. If I anyone was insulted I apologize.  However, when you send out a blanket e-mail with a (and some of you might want to stop reading now) silly statement like "In removing God, it is no longer America", this is the kind of reply you are going to get from some people. Like me. As far as destroying someone's faith with these tactics, I wish! Unfortunately, people become wedded to their ideas, and even something as patently absurd as fundamentalist Christianity, Islam or Judaism has millions of rabid followers.

By the way, this is one founding fathers idea of religion. Looks pretty different from today's Christianity, at the way Republicans seem to practice it. 

With love (And I mean that),

Lazy Atheist

The link is to the article in Wikipedia about the Jefferson bible. If you don't know about this, take a minute and read it - it is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the great men of the 18th Century. Go ahead, I'll wait.  Now, on with the (rapidly cooling) flames. This was my response to my Cousin: 

Hello Cousin,

I agree that the tone of my reply was not civil, and I am sorry if I hurt anyones feelings. By now you have probably read my reply to your Mother and the rest of the list. I will say however that if you send out a blanket e-mail, especially one as (and I will say this again) silly as this one was, you'd better expect some heat. And I wanted to make very sure that everyone on this distribution list knows my feelings on the matter. The last thing I want is to be associated with this kind of nonsense.

That being said, I do love you, your Mother, and the rest of your family, political beliefs aside. You are all among the sweetest people I know. And no e-mail, from either side, is going to change that.


Lazy Atheist

Next, the final two. 

1 comment:

  1. Among the places that (re)reading about the Treaty of Tripoli led me to, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050221/allen/print stuck out as particularly relevant.

    With regard to making my attitudes, doubts and beliefs clear to more than a few of the people around me. . .http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050221/allen/print stuck out as particularly relevant (literal repetition intentional).

    I'm not running for office, so I don't have to be careful in that sense. But I'm not interested in pushing people farther into entrenched positions (not that I'm smart and perceptive enough to avoid this, but when I'm thinking and I can figure it out, I do try to avoid it).

    As a pluralist, I appreciate the necessity for Dawkins and his crowd. But I still think he's a jerk. Specifically, a jerk who takes a quasi-religious approach to his beliefs and pursues them with religious fervor.

    For anyone whose idea of religious practice is behaving well and helping people, I say have at it. As for the rest of what passes for religious behavior, I'm less fond of it. But I hardly think it's going away tomorrow. I think there are elements of the way the brain works that encourage religious belief.

    I also think the religion means so many things to people that it flies apart on close inspection. So I avoid that kind of close inspection with friends and family who I know or suspect to have religious faith.