I recently made a status update on my Facebook wall which mocked Christianity. As sometimes happened, it soon gathered together a small chorus of people who feel nothing mean should be said about religion. “Why, live and let live, Michael!”, they will say. Of course, then we get faith healing laws in the U.S. and imprisonment of gays in Christian Uganda. For that sort of reason (and more), I think it’s perfectly reasonable to mock religion; it is a hell of a force for evil in the world. (In democratic nations where the populace has been able to rid itself of most of the religious nutbags – our mainstream – life is far, far better on the whole.) I would love to see religion go away.
But out of that status update came a common cowardly Christian. Instead of diving into the discussion, he went to his own wall and made a passive-aggressive response. (In terms of my own status, it was probably for the best. My wall actually fostered (and is still doing so) a pretty good discussion amongst a number of intelligent individuals.) First let me show the comment that spurred the passive-aggressiveness. This was made by a friend of mine:
1.) Respect for beliefs and respect for the people who hold them are often confused with each other. Demanding that we respect each other’s beliefs is silly. I respect my room mate. However, I don’t respect his belief that it’s ok to leave the bread bag open. Similarly, I respect my girlfriend. But I don’t respect her belief in God. To ask someone to respect a belief with which they disagree is essentially asking them to agree with it. The very reason people disagree with something is because they don’t respect it.
2.) Religious beliefs often bring with them the encroachment of others’ rights. It’s the belief of many that gays shouldn’t be able to marry. And you think that deserves respect?
3.) Condoning such wide-scale subscription to superstition is a huge impediment to progress.
That was a response to a variety of points, but the part which caught the attention of the cowardly Christian was number 1. Here is his passive-aggressive status update:
Evidently I’m supposed to tolerate your beliefs but mine are to be mocked.
Rather than explain the rather simple distinctions between toleration, acceptance, and respect of beliefs, I decided to point out that he was being passive-aggressive. If he wants to respond to what he sees on my wall, he should grow a pair and make a post in the proper, adult location. (It’s like all those Christian blogs that make response posts but refuse to link back to the original posts because they come from atheist blogs.) This then turned to another Christian saying I was passive-aggressive. It was a stupid reflection of my rhetoric and it had no basis; people may think what they wish about me, but imagining that I’m passive-aggressive is just silly. I quickly dispelled the notion:
[Name of Second Christian], I think you are a genuinely stupid person who cannot understand the majority of arguments you hear. I think your anti-science bend comes from your quack of a mother, and I sometimes pity your ignorance.
(That person is a creationist and his mother is an alternative ‘medicine’ practitioner.)
Well, you can imagine how that went over. “Why, you, sir, have insulted a person’s mother! That’s just awful!” It’s a silly complaint, really. I insulted her ‘profession’ and used her as a proxy to do so. Since the attack portion of my comment is hardly that specific to her, it’s just people having a knee-jerk reaction. It’s like getting upset over “Yo momma” jokes, except the momma in this case really is a quack.
But I’m used to whines about tone. People who can’t argue their points bring it up as if it’s legitimate. Sometimes it’s because of thin-skin. Most of the time it’s a way to demand respect. If it is off-limits to be disrespectful towards something, whether it be religion or quackery, then it will quickly appear as if that something is worthy of an academic or intellectual discussion. And so whines about tone are aplenty. Of course, that gets boring pretty quickly. Just about the only thing that can make those whines worth reading is when they come with a splash of irony. That happened about 50 comments into the status update with this gem:
Ok ‘michael hawkins’, you dont have to believe anything you dont want to, and im not trying to convince you because frankly, from the things you have said in this entire blog, you should burn in hell because its EXTREMELY disrespectful how you are talking to us.
I imagine if this person recounted the Facebook comments to a friend of hers, it would go something like this. (Let’s call her Suzy.):
Suzy: So yeah, this guy called a person’s mother a quack.
Suzy’s Friend: Whoa! Someone’s mom?
Suzy: Yeah, I couldn’t believe it!
Suzy’s Friend: So what did you say?
Suzy: Oh, I told him to go to hell…out of respect, of course.
Suzy’s Friend: Of course.
(I realize that by not naming names, it may seem as though I am ironically being passive-aggressive. If these comments came from a public page, I would post names. Given that I know this person’s Facebook page is only visible to his friends, it would be wrong for me to say who said what. But worry not, each party involved will get the message.)