Sometimes I get angry. . .

Yesterday, after work, I did something awesome. I volunteered at a kitchen that feeds the homeless. On the first Thursday of every month, Hillside Church volunteers at the Union Gospel Mission, which is just down the block from the church. Some friends from church were there, and I met some new people, saw some adorable kids, and helped feed people who needed that meal.

This was especially poignant to me because I’ve been there. After my youngest son was born, my wife was unable to find work, and we were forced to get boxes of food from a local charity to get by. One year, for Christmas, my family was chosen by one of those holiday charities that give presents to a family in need. It was the only reason my kids had presents that year. While I have never been homeless, I have been pretty damn close to it, once or twice. While some people might say, “If it weren’t for God, I would be in line getting one of these meals,” I can say, “Yeah, I remember when we had to get that box of non-perishable canned items in order to feed the kids.”

So yeah, I felt pretty good about helping out.

Then this morning, I read some articles on CNN’s faith blog, which I check out on occasion. The “blog” is really just a place for any articles written by CNN contributors about faith in any way, so it has articles about atheism, theism, and all the religions you can think of. It’s kind of a melting pot, and coming from a background where I was exposed to lots of different religions, I appreciate that about CNN. But as I was reading these articles, I made the mistake of reading the comments section.

Without actually copying and pasting these comments, let me sum up the three ideas I saw most often in those comments.

1)      “Can you believe people still believe in this stuff? What are we, cavemen?”

2)      “Religion is the worst thing to happen to the human race! All the good things that religion has done are dwarfed by the evils carried out in its name!”

3)      “Spirituality is awesome, but religion is for superstitious mouth-breathers!”

You might be asking, “Well, Dan, what were the articles that these comments appeared on about? Are these people just anti-Christian?”

No. These comments were on all articles. They were on all articles regardless of the article’s content. Seriously. These commenters literally just saw the article talked about faith in one way or another, and then went to town.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know that trolls exist – that’s why I didn’t comment on the articles themselves.

Now, because this is my blog, and nobody can tell me what to do with it, I’d like to take this opportunity to address those people, none of whom will read my blog because “faith” is in the title.

I will also do so sarcastically.

Point One

 “Can you believe people still believe in this stuff? What are we, cavemen?”

 Rebuttal

Well, holy shit. Wow, dude. You got me. You’re so right – the only reason I believe in God is because I’m an ignorant savage. That is also why I believe the earth is flat, AIDS is a curse from Yahweh because of homosexual feminist commies, and that thunder is just God’s farts. Thank you so much for pointing that out to me. I thought I’d based my faith on years of intense introspection, an honest, fearless attempt to communicate with any creator that might exist, and a comparable amount of time spent exploring the possibility that the universe was the result of cosmic accidents. Thank God – I mean, Not God – that a 20-year-old sociology 101 student like yourself was around to point out my knuckle-dragging stupidity.

And also that I need some serious manscaping.

Point Two

 “Religion is the worst thing to happen to the human race! All the good things that religion has done are dwarfed by the evils carried out in its name!”

 Rebuttal

Tell me about it. You know what I hate most about religion? The way it was solely responsible for the way that any literacy, arts, medicine, or social consciousness survived the fall of the Roman Empire. Or charity! Promoting that idea that we should take care of the poor, the sick, or the old just gets my dander up every time I think about it.

Oh, and let me anticipate your response to what I just said. . .

“What do you mean? The ‘Dark Ages’ was the most backward period in western history! Every illness was blamed on evil spirits, and how many Jews were persecuted by Christians? Oh, and the Crusades – are you saying those were a good thing?”

Those things happened. Yes, the Dark Ages sucked. But that’s not the fault of religion, or Christianity (feel free to blame Christendom, though), or Jesus. That’s the fault of the people who weren’t living up the ideals that Christianity put forward. Don’t blame religion for those things – blame the assholes who did that stuff. I’m pretty sure Jesus facepalmed his fingerprints into his forehead for about a thousand years there, but damn it all, he tried.

Ever seen the HBO show Rome? Aside from being awesome, it’s also a pretty accurate portrayal of what society was like before the ideas Jesus put forward entered the zeitgeist. There’s one part in the first season where a main character finds out that his wife had an affair while he was in the military. He’s in a rage, and when his wife finds out, she kills herself – but first urges him to leave the son of that adultery alive, because he’d done nothing wrong. Why did she do this? Because the main character otherwise would have killed her and her son, and it was perfectly frakkin’ legal – and ethical – in that society. Not only would the law have let the guy go, his neighbors would have said, “Well, yeah. Obviously.”

But no, man, you’re spot-on. Jesus had no right to introduce – introduce  the idea of the value of every human life. What a tool.

Friggin' TYPICAL Jesus, dude!

Point Three

 “Spirituality is awesome, but religion is for superstitious mouth-breathers!”

Clearly this person has a better grip on reality than I have.

Rebuttal

You. Shut. Right. The hell. Up. You ignorant turd.

I’ve done both, buddy. I’ve been spiritual for decades. I’ve done the New Age thing, I’ve done the Neo-pagan thing, I’ve done the humanist philosophy thing, I’ve done the agnostic thing. I’ve also done the Buddhist thing.

Do you know how many times my New Age Book Club said, “Hey guys, instead of talking about our auras, let’s go feed the poor!” None times. Do you know how many times my Wiccan coven said, “Let’s pray for the needy”?  That never happened. When I’ve spoken with groups of like-minded agnostics, nobody ever said, “Oh, and by the way, I’m collecting clothes, formula, and diapers for an orphanage in Africa, could you please contribute?”

Now all of these groups were full of people who would agree that everything I mentioned above were good things – all pagans recognize that we need to help the poor. But none of those groups ever took the idea of charity and turned into actual charity.

The exception to that was the Buddhists I met, who were actually very charitable. But ohhhhh right, Buddhism is a religion, so. . . they must be mouth-breathers, right?

“Look at this bunch of chumps! They aren’t even smart enough to GROW HAIR!”

The real difference between “spirituality” and “religion” is that “spirituality” is for people who want to justify what they already believe and who they already are. Spirituality encourages things like self-awareness and personal growth. Cool. I’m all for that stuff. But the difference is that religion also endorses self-control, moral action, submitting to higher authority, and charity. Religion challenges you (if it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong) and supports you, while spirituality just supports you – “You’re doing just great, buddy! Enlightenment is just around the corner!”

Just About Ready to Shut Up Now

 The reason I volunteered yesterday evening is because I got a church that mentions the Union Gospel Mission every Sunday. Our pastors not only realize that helping people is a good idea, but they a) do it themselves, and b) encourage us to do it all the time. Now I’m aware that there are non-churches that do charitable giving. Of course there are. My point isn’t that charity is a trait that is exclusive to religion. But religion does make a point of always encouraging people to be charitable, to the point of taking action. None of the book clubs or covens I’ve frequented over the years has ever done that.

“Does tipping the barrista count as helping the poor?”

One Last Thing

 Speaking of religion, tradition holds that today is the anniversary of the day that a little dude named Yeshua was crucified. Traditional also holds that he did that for every person who has ever lived. As it happens, I believe this to be the truth.

Awwww. . . CLASSIC Jesus! <3

Happy Good Friday, folks.

About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

16 responses to “Sometimes I get angry. . .

  • DB Beem

    I do my best to ignore those commenters, but part of me wonders about the source of those angry comments. Do these people hate everyone, or just religious people?

    I think part of the reason why people make these comments, is because they have experienced pain and hurt at the receiving end of faith and because it’s so darn easy. You have a moment of rage and anger. You type off an angry response. You feel good. You feel empowered. You may have felt weak, helpless or ignored, but now by writing your comments you feel powerful.

    I am sure that you will agree that it seems as if there are so many angry people on the internet. Where does all this anger come from?

    I guess, if I could talk to those people who wrote those comments (that you quoted), I would ask them, “It seems that you’re pretty angry and you have been pretty disappointed by religion, would you like to talk about it? I would like to understand your anger.”

    The sad thing about the internet is these people can remain in their darkened rooms, safe from the world and they may never be question their own anger. The anonymity of the internet allows them to stay safe in their anger and rage, in perpetuity. Whatever your beliefs on hell, this seems pretty hellish to me.

    • DB Beem

      Hey Dan:

      Just a followup. Please understand that I was talking about the people who troll the internet just being angry. I wasn’t talking about you. I get your frustration and have probably at least thought, much of what you mentioned in your post.

      Yet, I also find myself wondering how we can maybe create a conversation.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hi Darren! Sorry about the delay in responding – Easter weekend was super busy.

      I think a part of it is that the internet provides both a) a guaranteed audience, and b) anonymity, which allows people to act like completely buttholes whenever they want! So I’m sure that some of the comments are made just to get an argument going.

      But for the people who legitimately feel that way, I can’t say that I blame them, per se. . . I’ve certainly expressed similar sentiments in the past. My problem is necessarily with skepticism, so much as it’s with UNTHINKING skepticism. People who reject anything religious right off the bat aren’t using their brains. I was as skeptical a person as can be, and it’s not like I turned my brain off when I went to Jesus. In fact, the story of Thomas (one of my biblical heroes) at the resurrection of Jesus points out that God welcomes doubts and skepticism, as long as we’re willing to accept the proof that He gives us.

  • Jennwith2ns

    This post was/is AWESOME. Even though I can’t make my own blog do this, I’m totally going to make yours go viral. Just watch.

    (Just kidding. Probably.)

    But seriously though: I agree. I’ve lived in some version of religious-land my whole life, but I gravitate to skeptics and I’ve seen plenty of reasons for people to be angry and skeptical about religion. However, I do feel that the ones who post most of that kind of comment or that kind of article have gotten stuck there and, as you say, shut off their brains. They’ve taken on blind faith in . . . of all things . . . skepticism. A woman at my church just YESTERDAY sent me an internet article by a guy who basically took those three points, made them into ten, and made each one about ten times longer. She and I then had this conversation (I mean, a conversation-version of the monologue you wrote above :-) ), but yours is a lot better articulated.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      That’s very kind of you to say, Jenn with 2 “n”‘s! And “blind faith in skepticism” is a great way to put it. I don’t put stock in blind faith in ANYTHING – and holy crap YES I am also including Christianity in that. Faith in Jesus has, if anything, caused me to question things more intently than I did previously. When you assume that the answer to the mysteries in life will always be “that which can be empirically proven,” you automatically stop questioning.

      • Jennwith2ns

        Will you please come and preach a sermon to New England?

        Thank you.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Considering that I am 100% unqualified to preach a sermon, I have to say yes, of course I will! After all, when will such an opportunity present itself again! :D

        On a more serious note, for a great church that does very well in an extremely secular part of the country (that happens to be in New England), I might suggest the Greater Boston Vineyard, led by a cool ex-atheist like myself named Dave Schmelzer. He seems to have a way of getting the message to skeptics without resorting to washing down the scriptures (a la liberal Christianity.)

      • Jennwith2ns

        Thanks for the tip. Somehow I never managed to make it out there to visit that church, even before I was employed by one, even though it has been recommended to me once or twice before. I’ll have to make more of an effort . . .

      • Daniel Mitchell

        I’ve never been to the church myself, but that pastor (Dave Schmelzer, who I mentioned) has been to a Vineyard conference I attended. I’ve chatted with him a few times, he’s a pretty cool guy. Also, for a blog of like-minded people, check out the blog for his organization, http://notreligious.typepad.com/.

  • Jennwith2ns

    Reblogged this on That's a Jenn Story and commented:
    This is a blog by a couple I just cyber-met, which I’m completely enthralled by already. Warning to those with verbal censors/sensors: some not-G-Rated language here. But this post is funny and completely says what I was trying to say to someone from church this week already. Also, it’s a good filler while I gear up to talk about why it matters whether Jesus was alive or not.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey, thanks! Also great of you to point out the language thing – Brandi and I do use some very adult language here, partially because we’re hoping to make the blog welcoming to snarky skeptics like we used to be, and partially because we have no class.

      • Jennwith2ns

        Just perfect. :-)

        I would love to have snarky skeptics reading my blog, too, but mostly they’re just Christians from about five different types of churches so . . . I go with warning labels and self-editing when necessary.

  • Jennwith2ns

    NOT, I should hasten to add, that I don’t love my Christian readers. I do!

    • Daniel Mitchell

      As has rightly been pointed out to me in the past, my blog can have a somewhat confrontational spirit toward some Christians! I don’t do this to create a scandal, but having spent the first 32 years of my life in a very “anti-Christian” mindset, and then coming to Jesus like crazy, I sometimes feel a need to challenge the status quo. Where “Christianity as a culture” seems to divert from the scripture, or maybe take it in a way that I think is “too far”, I tend to feel an itch to shout out my unsolicited opinion. ;)

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