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Should the religious enjoy immunity to excoriate non-believers in any way they wish?
Listen as Richard Dawkins reads his hate mail. Sam Harris notes that he receives emails and hate mail that is brutal in its wording, and that he knows it is from Christians because they quote chapter and verse of the New Testament in their scathing, profanity-filled condemnation of him. Listen to this hate email Mikey Weinstein of the Milatry Religious Freedom Foundation has received.
I’ve had my own brushes with ugly critics here on Fluther. I’ve been called arrogant, pig-headed, blind, stupid, immoral, incapable of reading, and unable to understand simple English. Somehow, this is all OK but my objecting to such labeling as unfair and unsupported by my actions—objections posted without resorting to any such name calling—once won me a whole cabal of Fluther members who all adopted the avatar of their name-calling sister to show solidarity with her. It seems the rationale is that any manner of insult is OK as long as it’s one’s own ingroup leveling it, but the most reasoned, mildly worded defense is worthy of unmitigated outrage.
I recently got a PM. I will not say from whom, and rules prohibit my posting it even though there is nothing in it to identify the sender. But trust me, it was a string of insults and even included the imagined joy the sender would receive if they were able to physically attack me. I am flattered. That rivals the hate mail that Dawkins and Harris often receive.
Mind you, if we were a largely Muslim group, or a collection of Ultra Orthodox Jews, nothing would change except the verse and chapter being quoted in the scathing, hate-dripping verbal attacks. Also, in fairness, there are a handful of aggressive atheists who are equally over the top in their criticism of religion. They are pretty rare, and the only ones that come to mind are all comedians using their spicy language to grab attention and build comedic effect. I’d defend it as nothing more than fair play for a religionist to debate them with the same colorful terms they employ. But most atheists, myself included, are relatively gentle souls. Why do the religious find it so necessary to fly into fits of rage when their beliefs are questioned, and yet expect atheists to respond with quiet reason when they question our beliefs, and even get outraged at that? One would think that if, as they claim; they worship a god that is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and eternal; he would be perfectly capable of defending himself.
I am not posting this as flamebait, and I will flag flamers whether they be religious or secular. I’m posting this question in hopes we can give this a moment of honest reflection, and keep our discussions of theism versus atheism civil going forward.