I had a most interesting, and unsettling, experience this weekend – I joined a Facebook group. The aim of this group was to promote “… friendly dialogues and debates…”, with a further comment that dialogues and debates “ are expected and encouraged between members of all faiths including all the Islamic, all the Christians, and the Judaic among other faiths regarding the deity of Jesus Christ as found in the Bible.” The Rules followed – all good, wholesome stuff about not being rude, derogatory, treating others, and their beliefs, with respect…with a warning that should you transgress these Rules, you will be warned, then banned. Fair enough, I thought.
Having read the aim of the Group, I joined, hoping to get some insight into how other religions debate, think, the nitty-gritty of their beliefs – in other words, I was there to (hopefully) learn something new. I thought that “friendly dialogue and debate” meant talking nicely to one another, no name calling, no attacks on other religions – just civil discourse, polite exchanges of ideas and beliefs. I thought this would be a real treat, having people talk nicely to one another even though their beliefs were presumably vastly different. (One does become somewhat weary of all the name-calling and slanging matches that happen on News24.)
I was wrong. Give me News24 any day…
It seems that some folk are simply unable to debate “nicely”. From the exchanges I read, and the exchanges in which I participated, the aim had very little to do with “friendly dialogues and debates” and everything to do with ramming personal (Christian fundamentalist) beliefs down everyone’s throats, and, as an added bonus, bashing Islam whenever a Muslim dared to comment. For those who worry that the Christians come off second best against the Atheists on News 24, do yourselves a favour and join a group such as the one I joined. The Christians win. Always. By fair means or foul. If you do not agree with them, and their version of the Bible, you simply get thrown out. Booted. If you gently point out that one of their comments is not quite true, you get labelled an atheist. (Just as a matter of interest, why do Christians assume that this is a derogatory term?)
An example of this – the topic was Canaan, and a comment was made that “God has NEVER punished the innocent. NEVER EVER”. I gently pointed out that that was not quite true – after all, babies and little children were slaughtered at Canaan, along with men, women and anything and everything else, supposedly (if you are going to believe every literal word in the Bible) on God’s instruction. I added that I presumed God (if it were indeed an instruction from God) must have had His reasons. Most reasonable people would consider babies and little children to be “innocent”, regardless of the behaviour of the parents. (I cannot see any reason to slaughter babies and innocent children, and I personally find the whole Canaan-epic absolutely repugnant, but hey, that is just me).
I immediately received the verse about being “punished yea until the seventh generation” flung back at me, like this somehow made babies evil and wicked and worthy of slaughter. I again pointed out that I still did not understand how anyone could possibly consider babies wicked and evil, and more to the point, how could anyone, in all seriousness, transfer the “sins of the fathers” to innocent children – that, in my opinion, is real wickedness. I suggested that perhaps the whole Canaan affair was done at the instigation of MAN, not God, and merely attributed to God to make it appear to be “somehow OK”.
ATHEIST!!!!! The charge came loud and clear. I was informed that I am a sinner, I apparently enjoy sinning, and then came the death-knell – Hell awaits me. Armageddon is coming.
Wow – all that on the basis of a gentle reminder that innocents were slaughtered?
But if I thought I had it rough, it was nothing on the treatment meted out to the poor Muslims who had the misfortune to take the “friendly dialogue and debate” bit seriously. I was utterly horrified and repulsed – cartoons/posters were put up the minute any Muslim commented, or questioned anything. Really revolting stuff – pictures of Muslim women who had had acid thrown on their faces, totally disrespectful cartoons about their Prophet. And none of these postings were on topic. Not one. It was just as if someone had declared an open-day against Islam in general. I am not defending Islam here, but if one’s rules say that everyone should be treated with respect, then why allow such disrespectful and hateful postings?
Needless to say, I have booted myself out of the group. I felt dirty, sullied and tainted by the so-called Christian taunting and bullying. If that group is an example of Christian Love at work, I do not wish to be part of it.
I have (uncharitably, I admit) at times felt that “our” News 24 atheists make much unwarranted noise about fundamentalists, and the “evils” that can accompany such fundamentalism. I have changed my mind – their “noise” is warranted, decidedly so. The comments in that group were more than nasty. They were hateful, they incited hate, deliberately. They were bigoted. Obnoxious. Sadistic. Abusive. Having experienced this first-hand, my opinion is that they should not go unchallenged. “Our” atheists are merely doing that which we ALL should be doing – challenging bigotry and hatred wherever we see it.
NO-ONE has the right to incite hatred. Particularly not under the guise of “friendly dialogue and debate”.
No wonder we cannot attain world peace. We never will attain world peace until we all learn some tolerance, until we learn what “friendly debate and dialogue” actually means. And then, having learned the meaning, put it into practice.
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