Monday, October 19, 2009

Atheists Enjoying Good Clean Fun

Below is a letter I wrote to the Center for Inquiry, an atheist group, which had been sponsoring a “Blasphemy Contest” in conjunction with other atheist groups. This had followed a first letter in which I had challenged that if they are truly the free-thinkers, who they claim to be, let them sponsor a debate or forum instead of a “blasphemy contest.”

I deeply respect your willingness to discuss and even to debate some of the issues that divide us. This represents a vast improvement over a “blasphemy contest!” You might be pleasantly surprised to find that we share some common concerns and that the exchange of ideas will prove to be a healthy exercise for all of us.

Freedom of thought and of speech is something that Christians greatly cherish. This should be apparent, because our cherished freedom-of-religion rests upon these. Therefore, we take it very seriously when someone’s freedom of speech is circumscribed. Consequently, I think you will agree that those countries that have best protected these liberties are the countries that have emerged from a Christian heritage. Of course, you can point to many abuses and anomalies, but when you compare the Christian West with Islamic nations or even with Communist (atheistic) nations, profound differences emerge.

There are other reasons for this. The Bible is replete with instructions to love our enemies and to show respect to all people. The Bible also has a lot to say about being “light” rather than suppressing light. Consequently, we believe that the light we have is not threatened by those who oppose us. I think that this has often translated into a spirit of graciousness towards the opposition. Of course, there have also been those who have instead appropriated the model of theocratic Israel, where free speech was curtailed. However, we understand that those Biblical instructions pertained only to a particular people, time and place.

On the other hand, Peter (not the true name), you seem to justify denying us a seat at the public conversational table for various pragmatic reasons. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of your convictions, I would encourage you to consider whether this is the best posture to take. Perhaps the best way to insure your own access is to champion access for all?

Meanwhile Christians are discriminated against in many ways. TV and film only present negative portrayals of Christians. We are consistently presented as ignorant, narrow-minded bigots. Universities will not hire anyone who claims to be a creationist. IDers are disdained in the
Sciences, while the disdainers hypocritically preach pluralism and the acceptance of others.

Although I want to address all your challenges, I feel I have space only for one more. One of you charged that Christians are narrow and alienated from reality because we have placed the Bible between ourselves and the rest of the world. Let me therefore resort to the analogy of my eyeglasses. They too are positioned between me and the rest of the world, but it’s these lenses that enable me to see the world clearly. The same is true for the Bible.

Before you all jump on my analogy, I’d like you to consider the fact that we are all products of our social/cultural situation. As such, we are all wearing lenses consisting of language and other conceptual factors. None of us engage reality in an unmediated manner.

If this is the case, the question should not be whether or not we wear a lens, but rather, “Do our lenses distort reality or bring it into focus!”

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