The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Atheism and Christianity

Ric Anderson of the Topeka Capital-Journal has an interesting column on Nate Phelps, estranged son of pastor Fred Phelps. (Wikipedia bio of pastor Fred Phelps is here.) Nate Phelps, after growing up with one of the craziest of religious crazies, has embraced atheism while acknowledging the good religious people do in our society. Read Anderson's column here.

Anderson's column makes the important point that the country would do well if the societal chasm existing between the radical religious right and those from the left who ridicule them were filled with good old American tolerance for each point of view and all those in between.

Nate Phelps grew up with the most hateful man in religion. Fred Phelps is the "God Hates Fags,"-"God Hates Soldiers,"-"God Hates Jews,"-"God Hates America" steaming pile who pickets the funerals of fallen soldiers. He is the extreme's most extreme.

His son's views, as an atheist, are among the more sane I've seen in print. Republicans who believe they've lost control of this country because they aren't conservative enough take note of these words from a cab driver now living in Canada:
“The only issue I have with organized religion goes something like this: As long as a society says it is okay to suspend reason and logic to embrace an idea on faith alone, they are providing the framework and justification for extreme, destructive systems to develop that have no accountability to society for the damage they do,” he said. “Religion gets a free pass in society and we find our hands tied, even espouse keeping them tied, whenever evil is exhibited in the name of a god.”
The reason Republicans lost the election is that many were weary of the two-note song the religious conservatives in this country have sung to the point of driving true fiscal conservatives and new, younger voters away from the party. And, until they realize that those young voters and fiscal conservatives are not coming back into such a restrictive fold, they will continue to wallow in the gooey defeat for which they are responsible.


Bill Fleming said...

For sanity's sake I wish everyone would read Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" if for no other reason than to at least put everyone's cards out on the table. This thing has to reach closure sooner or later for better or worse. But until we get some deeper insight into ourselves, there's no way in hell we can have a sane conversation with the Muslim fanatics.

Michael Sanborn said...

The problem with fanatics – Muslim, Christian, Atheists – is that by definition one can't have a sane conversation with them.

Bill Fleming said...

I wouldn't say that about Dawkins. He's about as sane as it gets. Super rational, like Bertrand Russell. Now granted, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris are a bit strident...

Michael Sanborn said...


I probably should not have included atheists in the list. Hitchens and Harris may be more strident than Dawkins (I haven't read his book yet), but none of them appear to be trying to force their views upon others.

The same can't be said of Christian and Muslim fanatics (your word). Muslim fanatics want to kill everyone while Christian fanatics in the last century have toned it down a bit and now say they just want to jail those who choose a different path. History, however, (The Inquisition; The Crusades) would indicate that death is the preferred manner of converting those who stubbornly choose not to convert.

Bill Fleming said...

I'd say Harris is probably the most militant of the bunch. And yeah, he's not going to cut anyone's extremities off.

Bob Newland said...

It's nice to have a quiet little room where just the three of us can talk, isn't it?

Regarding the gentle persuasion so peculiar to religious folks, you might like to read "Ines of My Soul" by Isabel Allende.

Aside from being a terrific adventure story, it includes much nearly unknown history of Chile and a lot of proselytism as only the Spaniards knew how to practice it.

Michael Sanborn said...


I'm not getting a lot of comments. But folks are stopping by in greater numbers each day.

I'm trying to avoid rambling and barking.

Opinion pages in print newspapers get a lot less attention than the columnists think they do. And, their web versions get even less. In other words, we're not nearly as important as we think we are.

When the Journal chose to quit posting local columnists on their website, only Alan Aker had more page views than I did among columnists, Followed by Sam Hurst and Jim Kent, respectively.

But the papers' blogs generate a lot more interest, which with time, so will this one.

LeFort shared some interesting page view numbers for the week of Oct. 1-14, 2007:

Aker: 105
Sanborn: 86
Hurst: 75
Aker: 55
Mount Blogmore: 16,492
Sturgis street Blog: 8,692

I think if I were to start flame-throwing, I'd have more visitors. I'm going to try to avoid torching anyone and allow the blog to grow at a respectable pace, if possible.

Bob Newland said...

What do you think the Rapid Reply and similar comments-on-news-stories sections tell editors?

Harlan said he loved that feature, but he never said why.

I am kind of amused by the sequential non-sequitur character of it, but the only value I see is in the self-evident comment on the quality of reader who uses the feature.