Then something had to go and ruin everything, and it reminded me of what's lurking beneath even some of the most productive conversations.
Before I get to that, let me pick on the nonbelievers first in the interest of fairness. There's always going to be something lurking in the back of the mind of every nonbeliever, and that is: "That stuff you think is real? It ain't." I suppose that there are probably a lot of nonbelievers out there who will say that they respect everyone's beliefs, but you'll never hear me say that. I respect people, and I respect their right to believe whatever they want. I might even respect how their beliefs shape their behavior, but I'll never say that I "respect" the idea that some dude died a couple thousand years ago and came back to life and all the trappings that go with it. I think that Patton Oswalt said it best:
"You’ve gotta respect everyone’s beliefs.” No, you don’t. That’s what gets us in trouble. Look, you have to acknowledge everyone’s beliefs, and then you have to reserve the right to go: “That is fucking stupid. Are you kidding me?” I acknowledge that you believe that, that’s great, but I’m not going to respect it. I have an uncle that believes he saw Sasquatch. We do not believe him, nor do we respect him!If you want to hear the whole thing in context:
I realize that some people might think that I'm being arrogant or intolerant even for saying this, but personally I think that it would be condescending of me to nod my head and say, "Yeah, well, maybe Jesus really did walk on water." I've known some nonbelievers who think that you need to just "let people believe", which I think is even more insulting, as you're treating the believer like a child who isn't ready to let go of Santa Claus yet. For me, I'd prefer it that people know where I stand.
So, if you're a believer, realize that I might genuinely think that you're a terrific person - and I really can say that about a lot of believers I've known - but do I respect those beliefs? No, I'm sorry, but I don't. I should point out though that there are some beliefs that I respect far less than others. I don't respect the belief in the Jesus story, but I have outright contempt for something like Scientology.
But don't get all smug there, theists, 'cause now I'm gonna turn the tables. Before I do, I need to point out that I'm going to be generalizing here, and I know that these particular beliefs do not apply to ALL believers, or even all Christians.
With that said, Christianity just had to go and piss me off again this week. I learned about a couple of kids whose church teaches them that nonbelievers are going to burn in hell for eternity. Guess who happens to be a nonbeliever who's important in their lives? One of their parents. So, basically, these kids are being taught that their beloved parent is going to suffer eternal torment for not believing the right thing. I was going to write a blog about how that's psychological abuse, but maybe I'll have to get to that another time.
Because this is the thing that sticks in the back of my mind, and one of the reasons why I absolutely CANNOT respect many forms of Christianity. Christians think that since I don't believe the same thing as them, I'm going to be tortured forever. Am I supposed to just grin and go, "Yeah, well, maybe that is going to happen to me. We'll see!"
What makes it bad is that for Christians who believe in an everlasting punishment (and I realize that there are many who don't) is that on some level, they not only think that this will happen, but they think that I deserve it. Of course, when you talk to most Christians, they're far too decent to actually say those words, because actually putting those thoughts into their head is too barbaric for them to deal with. They'll give you some runaround about how God is the judge, etc. That doesn't get a pass as far as I'm concerned though because if you believe in God, then you believe that he's the one who makes the decisions and ultimately is the one who determines who "deserves" what.
So, you can't get around it. Yeah, I might think of Jesus as being on the same level on the veracity scale as Santa Claus, but believers think that I deserve to be tortured endlessly. And not just me, most of humanity. If that's not an impasse, I don't know what is.
Note: Please don't go into what The Bible really says about hell and everlasting torment and all that. I don't care what it says. It's the fact that people believe that which is the point.