Monday, November 30, 2009

"Toto, We Aren't in Kansas Anymore."

Part 2 in this story series ...

It really is like entering the land of Oz, this realm of Christian debate with atheists. None of the rules to which you are accustomed apply. In one instant, you become Dorothy, swept away to a place where questions swirl like the tornado that brought you there.

This is especially true when you're dealing with a category of atheists who I deem, "The Enemies."

What's the difference between an atheist who is a "Friendly" and that who is "Enemy?"

This actually crystallized for me a little more this morning, when one atheist "Friendly" named Jason sent me a short description, taken from Hey Jason, you were right on the money when you assumed this is what I was referring to!

Here's what Jason wrote:

"Austin Cane of has written a little on this. He says, "Atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods; anti-theism is a conscious and deliberate opposition to theism. People who are indifferent to the existence of alleged gods are atheists because they don't believe in the existence of any gods, but at the same time this indifference prevents them from being anti-theists as well. To a degree, this describes many if not most atheists because there are plenty of alleged gods they simply don't care about and, therefore, also don't care enough to attack belief in such gods. Anti-theism requires a couple of specific and additional beliefs: first, that theism is harmful to the believer, harmful to society, harmful to politics, harmful, to culture, etc.; second, that theism can and should be countered in order to reduce the harm it causes. If a person believes these things, then they will likely be anti-theists who work against theism by arguing that it be abandoned, promoting alternatives, or perhaps even supporting measures to suppress it."

So ... what are some real-life examples I can give you? Here's a comparison, based on my short time with them on Twitter and via email:

Atheist Friendlies will ask if you are willing to debate them. They are courteous and polite. They don't pull any punches. They wait for you to state what you believe, then follow up each of your statements with questions, asking you to qualify each explanation in more detail. Some will hear you and then disengage immediately. Others will ask for a continuation of the debate.

They also are interested in you as a person. At heart, we're all people, all seeking out new friendships and relationships that will also boost our businesses or allow us to chat about other matters, like parenting, schools, political views.

What's the best way to deal with an "Atheist Friendly?" Put on your friendship hat. Be a friend first. Jesus was a friend to those who didn't believe in Him before He tried to convince them of His love: Nicodemus. The Samaritan Woman. Even the disciple Peter.

Give them that courtesy. You will be surprised at the richness of the relationship that follows.

Atheist Enemies are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. These are people who become easily offended by anything you say. Recently I engaged in a four-day chat marathon with someone who would fall into this category. He was very angry at one point in the discussion. So to demonstrate that I wasn't deliberately trying to anger him, I asked if he liked cheese cake.

That's a pretty innocuous question, don't you think?

This person ignored the question or the attempt to humanize the discussion in any way. In fact, when I checked out his Twitter timeline later, where you can view discussions between him and other atheists, I found that he was referring to me as "it" and was advising the others not to engage me on a personal level, because, "don't forget it is not human." The exchanges reminded me of a Nazi film I saw in high school, referring to Jewish people as rats.

Atheist Enemies will also espouse Biblical villains as their own heroes. This same person has a tagline on his Twitter home page that announces he is "a King Herod appreciator." For those of you who don't know, King Herod was the one who tried to kill the infant Jesus by slaughtering all boys ages newborn to 2 years in Bethlehem.

And of course, during their discussion with you, Atheist Enemies use various tactics to throw you off course. They will twist your verbiage, take your thoughts out of context, reapply Scripture in the way that suits them most, infer that your motives are not pure ... and in extreme cases, they will ridicule you, call you names, publicly make fun of you to others and may directly threaten you and your family with bodily harm.

So, at Priscilla's & Aquila's Place, what is our response supposed to be to both the Friendlies and the Enemies? Tune in tomorrow, and we'll discuss!

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