I want to pick up on a response I made in a thread over at the NakedPastor. The original post made this statement:
But I’m also convinced that it is not simply by believing a certain truth that leads one to harm another, but the disdain that it potentially leads to. Frankly, I think it is hatred of another person or group that leads to its persecution.
I replied, in a comment, that I thought the writer conflated hatred with ridicule. He seemed to me to make a huge jump in logic. I would agree with the first sentence above, that disdain for someone who holds opposing beliefs is not conducive to civil discourse. But in the atheist/theist debate, it is not disdain for the person, it is disdain for the belief that motivates opposition.
I have more Christian friends than atheist. Many more. Simple demographics dictates that. Without exception, I like, and even love, all of them. Because they happen to believe in something which I find to be total nonsense doesn’t change that. I certainly do not hate them.
Even someone like Jerry Falwell, who I find reprehensible, may be a lot of fun, a fine human being, one on one. I suspect he is. Really. But I don’t know, because I don’t know him. I am not in position to judge him. I am in position to judge his beliefs. I certainly don’t hate him. I do, however, hate what he believes, and how he acts on those beliefs.
But as I mentioned in the comment, it is my experience that when a Christian hears me say”I think your belief is…questionable, unsupportable, or without evidence” I suspect that he hears “I hate you because of what you believe”. To read some of the reviews of the recent Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens books, it is easy to come to that very conclusion. This is entirely frustrating.
What is wrong with ridiculing nonsense? If a good friend came to you and said he wanted to invest his life savings in a perpetual motion machine that some guy on the ‘Net talked him into, if it took a lot of ridicule of the proposed investment to talk him out of it, wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you think that was important enough to warrant ridicule, disdain, maybe even a fleeting hint of arrogance? And don’t you think he’d be grateful once he came to his senses? (And, incidentally, I would venture to say that it is the rare, even non-existent, atheist who was angry about being convinced of the rectitude of atheism, who pined for his fantasy days immersed in belief.)
Why do you (theists) think that when Richard Dawkins writes a book called The God Delusion, he’s spouting hatred? Why can it not just be accepted for what it is: a heartfelt, sometimes caustic, but always logical and supportable, indictment of a belief system, not a testament of personal hatred for those who hold those beliefs.
If you want hatred, check out fundamental religions that believe that violence is acceptable to spread their beliefs, and to punish the unbelievers. As Dawkins so eloquently said,
“I might retort that such hostility as I or other theists voice towards religion is limited to words. I am not going to bomb anybody, behead them, stone them, burn them at the stake, crucify them, or fly planes into their skyscrapers, just because of a theological argument.” TGD, p. 281 (US) (Emphasis mine)
Over at the NakedPastor, ttm replied to my comment by raising the ultimate argument stopper, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He/she’s probably right about that set of circumstances, that the road to mass extermination of a race began with disdain, ridicule, scorn and contempt for Jews. But the comparison is being made to atheists who speak up about an irrational belief system. The point I’m trying to make is clearly underscored with this analogy. Anti-Semites, by definition, hated the person, not the belief. Only the opposite can be observed about atheists.