Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Atheist, Christian.... Must We Fight?

CNN posted an article today about a sort of "Twitter War" between Christians using the hashtag #PrayForOklahoma and Atheists who, in protest began using the hashtag #ActuallyDoSomethingForOklahoma. The link to the article is here if you want to read the whole thing. There were comments about keeping your prayers to yourself because if prayer really worked there wouldn't be disasters like this anyway." Now, I've posted before about my thoughts about God and tragedies and that isn't the purpose of this post (but if you want to read my blog on that you can read it here. Someone else said, "“If they are praying and donating to the Red Cross, that’s more like it.” Now don't get me started on this comment - some people are barely scraping by themselves and may not be able to afford to give monetarily. But they can still pray for those who are helping for strength and wisdom, for those affected for peace and comfort - they don't have to do both in order to do something. But, I digress...

The purpose of this blog came out of a post a friend of mine put on Facebook this morning. He said: "Laughing at the atheists who are offended at 'pray for OK' talk about 'easily offended' and 'shoving your religion down people's throats.' Lol"

Following is the Facebook interaction, although I've changed the names.

Ben: I don't get it. As a proud atheist I am annoyed by people who do that. We should be standing as one to support these victims of thee tragedies in every way possible. Supporting each other in a time of need is what we, as human beings, should be doing instead of bickering over small things. If this is how Christians want to present unity and solidarity, then we should support them. Tell your cranky atheist friends to chill out and think of the victims, and the bigger picture - and that You don't have to be Christian to love and respect people.

Jane: You know it's just people that want to complain and make a stink about stuff. I'm a Christian  and I have some friends that consider themselves atheist or even agnostic but if something is going on and I make the comment of "I'll pray for whatever." they just say "thank you".

Ben: Exactly Jane. It used to bother me when someone would say "I will pray for you" or "god bless you." But when you look at the big picture, someone's faith is very important to them. They are extending you a kindness and consideration in their heart. It may not be meaningful to you, but the act of the kindness they are extending is what matters. Say "thank you" Plain and simple.

Mary: I don't personally pray, but I send warm thoughts or well wishes, and I feel that others who do pray are doing so with the best of intentions and love in their hearts. Nothing wrong there. Let's get some perspective people.

Stacie: I don't understand why a person of any religion or non religion would get offended by someone saying something nice. Id doesn't bother me to hear Happy Holidays OR Merry Christmas OR Happy Kwanza or Hanukkah during the season.

Peter:  Obviously I am a Christian. When I pray for someone, I am of the opinion that this is one of the kindest things I can do for them. So, when I read a news article about the (subset of) atheists all up in arms about this, I think to myself, "So, now they DON'T want me to be nice?" If a Muslim offers to pray for me, I'm not offended. When an atheist sends warm thoughts/positive vibes my way, I don't mock them. I assume they are operating within what is meaningful given their metaphysical understanding and I appreciate the gesture (my personal estimations of the efficacy of such gestures being completely irrelevant). My faith/positions are strong enough that I don't need everyone to agree with me. I am not threatened by diversity of opinion on prayer. I chuckle because I have to ask, are their positions so unstable that they can't handle diversity or deep down do they really believe in prayer so much that it frightens them?

Peter: and Ben if more atheists had your spirit, I would have much more enlightening conversations and we might actually achieve some REAL diversity in this country... instead of the superficial "no one offend anyone but we don't have any real understanding/appreciation of each other either" that passes for tolerance these days.

Ben: I got rid of the whole "most christians hate gays" attitude a long time ago. I don't think it is healthy to hang onto anger. Most Christians are about love- that is something i can support and appreciate. I'm not going to let a bunch of crazy fundamentalists make a whole group of people look bad. It would make me just as bad as them. I wish more people would let go and just love and be kind.

Peter: Agreed. Some of the best things for my faith have been rational dialogue with people who don't share my positions. We don't have to agree to be friends and love each other. And I can love people that I disagree with and hopefully they can love me. Superficial acceptance leads to superficial love. Honest and loving (which is usually messy and difficult) dialogue leads to real and authentic love between people. Isn't that the REAL goal of diversity? Not that we all agree but we all agree people have value even when we disagree with them?

I have to admit, I have had more than my fill of arguments between people of faith or no faith or different faith. In a situation where there is a tragedy such as in Oklahoma or last month in Boston or whatever - however we choose to express our love should be embraced, not argued about. This exchange on my friend's Facebook post honestly did my heart good this morning and I thought it was worth sharing.

That being said...

Praying for Oklahoma,