Monday, May 22, 2006

Could have fooled me

Elsewhere I watched an interesting dynamic take place.

A Christian used a variety of names in describing an atheist.
A person questioned “why the name-calling?”
Other Christians indicated that since the Bible calls atheists “Fools,” they were entitled to do so.

First, I question whether Psalms 14, or its parallel, Psalms 53 (used to justify the claim of the right to call atheists “Fools”) were being used correctly. Paul, when referring to these Psalms in Rom. 3:9-18, seems to indicate that the Psalmist is referring to ALL humans not searching for God, and ALL humans commit bad acts. Basically, that anyone who is evil is a “Fool.”

This is supported by the numerous times in the New Testament that “foolishness” is equated to “sinfulness.” See Mt. 7:26, Mark 7:22, Luke 11:40, Rom: 1:20-23, Gal. 3:1, Eph 5:4, Eph. 5:15, and Titus 3:3.

There are, however, other instances where foolishness is NOT necessarily equated to sinfulness. 1 Cor. 1:18-25, 1 Cor. 3:19, and Titus 3:9. Paul calls himself foolish (and I seriously doubt Christians would associate atheism with Paul!) 1 Cor. 1:18-25, 1 Cor. 3:19, and Titus 3:9

The way I figure it, according to the Bible, we are all fools at one point.

But that is not what fascinated me. What did was the claim to a right to call atheists fools, and a God-given mandate to use that right!

Just because you have a right, does not mean you have to exercise it. I recognize that within the Christian worldview, my wisdom would be considered “foolish.” That my claiming there is no God is “foolish.” That my saying there is no God is “foolish.” Does it help a Christian’s position—exercising that right?

To me it makes little difference. I exist in a world where I am called much harsher names by clients, judges, and especially by other attorneys. Being just a “fool” is almost a relief.

Further, I obtain a perverse irony out of the fact that most Christians using the tern “fool” toward me, yet know less about the establishment of Christianity, and next to nothing about the process of deconverting to atheism.

I once had a “red-light” case. A car collision in which both drivers claim the other ran a red light. My client was severely injured, and did not recall the color of the light. The defendant insisted my client ran a red light. An independent witness thought they remembered my client had a yellow (caution) light.

The attorney for the other side was a flaming jerk. Throughout the case he derided me, as to my inability to practice law, my outstanding ignorance, and my ineptitude of everything, up to and including ability to dress myself.

The day before trial, I contacted the independent witness, to confirm his testimony. He said, “You know, I have been thinking real hard about that day. The more I think about it, the more confirmed I am that your client ran the red light. I am sorry, but that is how I will testify.” My case was sunk!

Right before trial, we were able to settle it. The other attorney continued to mock me, telling me it was good I was afraid to go to trial, because he would have kicked my butt. If he only knew how close to the truth he was! Of course, I could not say anything, because had he known, he would never have agreed to pay as much as he did.

As his client was writing a check for a substantial sum, I had the same sense of perverse irony as I do when someone who has never even heard of the Synoptic problem is calling me a “fool.”

There are times I don’t mind Christianity. It provides a person with hope for an afterlife, and a paradigm by which a person can live a moral life. Hey, “Love your neighbor” no matter WHO frames it, is a good thing. Christianity can provide much needed socialization for some, an avenue to receive help for others and a means in which charitable giving can be easily provided.

And then there are times like this. Where the person claims that God Himself, in a very special and limited-edition written form gave the person not only the permission, but the actual obligation to call another person a fool.

It is such a small, stupid thing, yet I get this sense it is the tip of a very scary iceberg. There is this permeation of self-satisfaction as to the ability to call another person “Fool” with not only no twinge of reflection, but that God is smiling down and nodding His head in approval.

What else does the Christian believe God is actively smiling at?

Christian: God, that guy is an atheist, He’s a fool, right? Right?
God: Right you are. Tell ‘im again. Makes me laugh.

Christian: God, that guy is a Pharisee. Can I call him names and treat him with disgust?
God: Oh, you go right ahead. Gives me a chuckle every time.

Christian: That guy is a fag. God, Can I stone him?
God: Weeeellll.. That sort of thing (to my chagrin) is no longer permitted. *sigh* Tell you what, though. If you make his life miserable, that’s just as good.

Christian: God, that guy is not a ‘True’ Christian.
God: You just do what you think is right. You know God’s got your back.

One of the freeing things about being an atheist is that we are not obligated by what some human told us God says we have to do. We can make the determination, not on beliefs, but on actions, words and statements as to whether a person is a fool or not. Whether name-calling is appropriate or not.

If it makes you feel better (or if you think it gets you in good with your God) to call me a “Fool” knock yourself out. I am not bound by such mandates. If I call you a “fool” you can be happy in the fact that you earned it all on your own. No mandate about it.

All I ask is that you really, REALLY think about what makes your God happy or not. If it stopped at “fool” we could all have a laugh. But I fear it is only the beginning. The beginning of a long laundry list of things the Christian is aching to do and say to non-believers with the firm conviction that God is smiling and cheering them on.


  1. Dagoods, I am of the opinion that you are one of the wisest and most articulate atheists on the internet!

    Moreover, I think you should consider publishing some of your writings.

  2. Steve and Zoe. Thank you for the VERY kind words.

    I just call ‘em as I see ‘em.

  3. Just came across your weblog for the first time.

    Honestly, Dagoods, and with due respect, I think you're reading far more into what I (or perhaps others, though obviously I can't speak for them) asserted when I cited the "fool" passages. I mean, I do think you're overstating the case that Christians feel obligated or even entitled, that they have some sort of a "right," divine or church mandated or otherwise, to call non-Christians "fools." And certainly I don't get any sort of [perverse] satisfaction or delight let alone actually believe "God is smiling down and nodding His head in approval" over calling someone (an atheist, non-Christian, or whomever else) a fool.

    Nevertheless, I do apologize if that's how I came across to you.

    And you're right: I'll be the first to admit that you've got a better handle on many aspects of Christianity than I do. So, if my understanding of the relevant passages is indeed wrong, I do humbly take back what I said.

    However, it's been a little while, and I forget quite a lot of what I said, so please forgive me if I'm remembering incorrectly, or God forbid, revising the events in my mind. But I think what I perhaps meant at the time, and certainly what I mean now if it wasn't the case then, is simply that atheism, or at least living as if no God existed while professing a belief in God, is foolish from the Bible's perspective. But I suppose this is presupposing a Biblical worldview, which the modern day atheist would of course not do.

    On the other hand, I'm sure an atheist could state that theists such as Christians are foolish for believing that a "God" exists, for instance.

    At any rate, all this aside, I did want to apologize to you.

  4. Patrick Chan, thank you for the apology.

    Unfortunately, in watching this played out, I respectfully disagree with your indication this is not a mandate.

    For more explicit details, I was called a “buffoon,” an “ignoramus” and an “idiot.” Curiously, the one thing I was NOT called was “a fool.”

    If you knew what I was called in real life, you would understand why I smile at such name-calling. It means I am getting to my opponent. My friends don’t call me names. Attorneys that can best me in legal battles don’t bother with it. Only those that have no better recourse resort to name-calling.

    Another person felt that it was rude and offensive and took the time to write out a post in that regard. It is always interesting to me what people will take time out of very busy schedules and, with just the few moments and words they have, write what they think is most significant.

    And what was the defense immediately raised as to why it was justified to call me a “buffoon”? Why, good ol’ Psalm 53. Frankly, that sounds like a mandate to me.

    Funny how even Christians pick and choose what parts of the Bible are mandates or not. Of course, Christ warned against calling your brother a fool. But since I am not a “brother,” apparently favoritism towards believers is acceptable. Just like any other religion.

    No, I do not find Christians foolish. In fact, coming here, and being forth-right, regardless of your belief, places you far from foolish in my book.