There's a lot of words and ideas that people associate with atheism, and most of us have encountered these opinions at one time or another (directly or indirectly). A while back, I encountered a post on facebook by a priest (well a guy who I dated briefly in high school and is now a priest) that purported to know what atheism is. His post was no doubt a response to some of the more vocal members of the atheist community and it was riddled with anecdotes and fallacies.

He claimed that all atheists think that they are automatically more intelligent and rational, when in fact catholicism is a more "wholistic" approach to life making it the more intelligent and rational position. He goes on to prove the points that atheism is easier, less intelligent, and less rational with anecdotes and metaphors. He uses the same arguments that we've all heard before - moral agency, denial of an immeasurable god, and an appeal to popularity.

He baited atheists by saying that all atheists should be able to respond to these points (and trust me we can with our eyes closed and our hands tied behind our backs). I decided to take a different approach. His bait was clear and obvious, and he was waiting for an atheist to jump at the chance to debate - to give his message meaning. I mean, "if they jump, I've really got something here right?"

I instead messaged him privately and asked him about the intent of the post. I apologized for those who had perhaps hurt him by calling him less intelligent and rational, but asked why he thought that returning the favor was any better. I told him that his insults were likely very effective at rallying other believers around him (which was clear from the comments by his congregation), but also a great way to put even a greater divide between them and those "others." I gave atheism a face, and told him about my life and my values.

He entertained me for a response or two, and then stopped - BUT he did modify his post. These edits weren't much better - simple disclaimers that he didn't mean all atheists, that theists don't have a monopoly on intelligence and reason, etc. I wasn't expecting much. He's a new priest and he's getting a ton of support and social praise for saying what he's saying. I'm surprised I had any visible effect at all. In any case, I was happy that the discussion did not devolve into pointing and name-calling. Maybe, just maybe, we can stand up united without tearing our neighbors down.

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Comment by Angela Bradbury on March 31, 2012 at 1:22pm

Great post! It is always soooo easy to argue and prove others wrong, what's difficult is to talk calmly and deal with it the way you did. I am sure it was a better outcome for both of you!



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