Should Christians Support an Atheist Website?

Over at Daylight Atheism, which once hosted a beautifully-written (by both participants) Dialogue with Quixote, Adam Lee has put out a call for “Christians to do the right thing.

The case in question is the Secular Students’ Association website, which was subject to denial-of-service attacks and has incurred web security upgrade costs of $200 per month.

Adam points out that at another atheist blog, The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta has raised funds to remove pro-atheism graffiti from churches, making the point that law-breaking is never an acceptable way to express a viewpoint. Adam suggests that perhaps Christians should step forward to demonstrate their commitment to the principles of free expression and lawful dialogue and dissent, and donate to the SSA’s hosting costs.

Although there’s a fine roundup of unpleasant commenters on Adam’s post, I don’t happen to think atheism does a lick of harm to Christianity. It helps.

Christianity in North America needs vigorous intellectual challenge. Its most prominent representatives may be the better for some task-taking on little matters like logic, consistency, and a large infectious rash of pontifical soundbites put forth for fun and profit by pop theologians and cult theologians alike.

Can Christians do that for themselves? Yes. And some of us do. And I enjoy being part of that.

But we’re also the better for outside critique. It adds valuable dimensions to the discussion and is unquestionably worthy of consideration. It can be a game-changer when a community gets stalled by blindness to its own presuppositions. We need that.

But it’s not a comfortable cause. A number of the commenters made a farce of the value of civil and lawful dialogue and dissent. Obviously, I distinguish that from illegal expressions and actions, but I’d fully understand if most of my friends considered this good-faith venture a pointless exercise on that basis alone.

However, before we leap to that, it helps to understand the other side. Via Peter Hurford at GreatPlay.net:

We can’t really build bridges till we understand the perceptions involved.

I’m glad that the SSA has had Adam teaching young people to be better thinkers and to develop grounded principles.

An atheist spent a lot of time doing that for me when I was young.

If you’ve appreciated ScitaScienda’s cultural analyses, or the reasoning underpinning the expressions of faith–well, it’s worth mentioning that I learned to think like that from someone like Adam.

That person is my grandmother.

Bridges lead places. I am here, and better for it, because I have such bridges in my life. If something I’ve written has been useful to you, then you’ve felt the benefit of those bridges as well.

Adam is someone whose writing and thinking I respect. Right now I have multiple friends and acquaintances struggling with underemployment, unexpected family deaths and major health crises. That takes priority for me. But this, too, has a place in the picture.

So, my money’s on the table, to the extent I can at the moment.

“Not much” can add up. So if you can spare some and want to, I encourage you to go for it. I would appreciate the gesture.

–Click here to go to Adam’s site and donate using PayPal.

–If you can’t donate right now, or if you disagree with giving money but feel that others should have the chance to make up their own minds, there’s also blogging, tweeting or Facebooking about it. Should make for an interesting conversation, at least.

–In my experience, most Christian giving is on a personal, grassroots basis. However, Adam specifically mentioned interest in hearing from institutions–churches or organizations willing to make a public gesture. I can’t say whether your church or Bible study or homeschool group (or blogging crowd, etc etc) would be such an organization, but I leave that in your hands also.

As always, thanks for reading and considering these things with me.

Scienda

About these ads

8 comments

  1. Amen times ten.

    This is a consistent practice of the Christian worldview — the same one from which atheists must borrow in order to get any good done. In their accidental honoring of God and His standards, we can rejoice, even while graciously yet wryly reminding our atheist friends that they must import!

    1. So…let’s rejoice by passing on the spare change in our PayPal accounts. ;)

      There is a fair bit of work being done by atheist thinkers on objective morality derived from observed (human) nature, actually. I tend to say atheism is the worldview closest to Christianity, because it doesn’t automatically subscribe to postmodern morality and ethics. And to a huge degree, if we think about it, our source of practical morality is the same: Much of the Bible’s ethical teaching is principle-based, and it’s up to us as individuals to use observation, logic and plain old common sense to determine how to apply ethics in daily life.

      The problem arises, of course, when absolutes are invoked where nature shows no clear grounds for absolutism. :)

      So I wouldn’t go so far as to say atheists *have* to borrow from the Christian worldview in order to do good, especially considering the ethical mess that is American Christianity–no thinking person would borrow from that in a lot of cases. But there is a natural overlap between the two worldviews because we live in the same world, deal with the same issues of individual responsibility, and (sometimes) are more likely to reject relativism as a basis for decision-making. I find that a very interesting phenomenon.

      1. I think that’s a genuine compliment from Grundy, because, IIRC, his mantra is “I’m an atheist because I like to win arguments.” :)

        Thanks for the shout out, CD.

        1. It is one benefit of being an educated atheist. :)

          YW–the email birdies tell me a little more went in the collection jar as a result of this post, so I figure it was worth it.

  2. I feel your honesty and integrity from your article, but feel manipulated by the other. I do agree that it could be a good cause; however, I wish it hadn’t come with an unhealthy dose of emotional manipulation, which will likely turn Christians off from supporting the cause, or conversely cause them to give for the wrong reasons. It would have been better for this organization to privately approach Christian bloggers they are friendly with and ask them to plead the cause for them.

    1. Yeah, they don’t really know how to talk to Christians, and I have to forgive them for that–I still don’t either, after 17 years in the culture. :)

      I think there’s a flawed outsider perception among atheists that Christians are easily gulled by such stuff (not that I think Adam is gulling for this one, just testing the waters), and it’s the language we naturally speak. Rather, the majority of Christians I know are *more* sensitive to that kind of language because of its prevalence in prosperity-huckster religion and the hard-sell marketing adopted by far too many ministries. For average Joe/Jane Christian, it’s something we have to wade past all the darn time in order to function as an extended community, not something we love to embrace. I can only guess Adam wasn’t thinking of that communication obstacle.

      “It would have been better for this organization to privately approach Christian bloggers they are friendly with and ask them to plead the cause for them.”

      I kind of tend to agree, but I don’t know whether they have many such inroads to a Christian audience, particularly with higher-profile theist bloggers (which I am obviously not). It’s hard to overestimate the hostility that flies between the two communities online. Lots of noise and cynicism.

Comments are closed.