Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Atheists Behaving Stupidly

I know that I often present a split personality in my blog posts. On theological matters I am conservative to the core. By that I mean that I both accept and defend both biblical infallibility and inerrancy. I am also about 95% Reformed by the measure of, say, the Westminster Confession. But when it comes to political matters I am lunatic fringe in the other direction—alienating some of my Christian friends. I am strongly in favor of separation of church and state (being a Baptist I recall how we invented it, having fared poorly under both Catholic and Presbyterian theocracies.) I don't get riled up by political issues. Does a state want to make gay marriage legal? I don't care, arguing that the New Testament gives us no charge to make Christian morals the law of the land—only the law of our hearts and the guidelines for our behavior. "In God We Trust" on the coinage? "One nation under God" in the Pledge? I could not care less—it's probably better to remove the lie. Evolution vs. ID? The former is science even though a) it doesn't have all the answers and b) it is certainly wrong in the sense that further research will result in some of its present teachings requiring modification, while the latter (ID) isn't—so teach the former in science class. War on Christmas? What do I care if a clerk in a store says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? We are not even told to celebrate Christ's birth—but even as we do, it does not call for a habitual echoing of a phrase—instead it should be about a solemn, thankful, and yes joyful remembrance, among Christians, of the first advent. The new atheists? While I am disappointed that their leaders present such infantile arguments—they are generally on the level of Ann Coulter articles—they are rabble-rousing and choir-preaching rather than informative, educational, challenging, thought-provoking or enlightening-- I generally applaud the fact that they are making atheism more acceptable. After all, they cannot detract from the number saved, so the only effect they can have, if any, is to make atheists come out of the closet. Since I see only negative potential of atheists claiming (from peer and societal pressure) to be Christians, I think this is ultimately a good thing.

Well, just to show that I am not always on the side of the bad guys, I will tell you that I think the atheists fighting the Utah Crosses are just as dumb as rocks.

I can sense, regardless of my position, the significance of debates on prayer in public schools, or ID in the science curriculum, or gay marriage, or abortion rights. These are substantive issues, and I can understand how many people on both sides want to dive into the debate and make a difference.

The Utah Cross case is not. The atheists fighting the crosses are engaged in nit-picking, and nit-picking tends to make the pickers look dumb and ultimately to hurt their cause.

The crosses are not an infringement of the separation of church and state. They are privately funded memorials for State Troopers who were killed in the line of duty. They were placed, with permission, on state land. They certainly do not establish any religion. They do not evangelize or proselytize. They are a modest acknowledgment of service, and therapeutic for the families left behind. A reasonable use of small patches of state land—not harmful to anyone except the hypersensitive but beneficial to some. And the cross, while a symbol of Christianity (though not of Mormonism, the religion of the majority of the troopers being memorialized), is also a universally recognized symbol of something else: someone died. More accurately, someone died and we want to take note of the fact. When I see a cross on the side of the road, I do not immediately think of Jesus, or the Crucifixion—I think: somebody died, right there, as the result of a car crash.

This is a stupid fight for the atheists. It is a waste of political capital. It is analogous to the anti-evolution stickers placed in text books—a fight over a non-substantive issue that isn't worth the consequence of seriously pissing people off. It's just a vulgar display of power. This doesn't matter, but we might just pull it off, so let's try. Dumb. Really dumb. In small matters it is always better to compromise, to take the high road, to be gracious, to be accommodating. The proponents of text book stickers didn't understand that, and their intellectual cousins, the atheists fighting the Utah crosses, don't either.

No comments:

Post a Comment