Positive Atheism Forum
Accused Of Hypocrisy

Jeremy Biffert

We received from Jeremy Biffert three letters at the same time, and respond to them separately. These files are not themselves dialogue, although subsequent dialogue ensued on this thread.

From: “Jeremy Biffert”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2001

Dear people,

I am writing this after an hour of browsing your sight. I must say that it seems quite ridiculous to me that you would make statements indicating that Atheists as a whole are often misrepresented, misunderstood and harmfully slandered by Christians and then turn around and do exactly what you would have us not do. As a Bible studying Christian of five years I found your abuse of scripture to be absolutely appalling. Please extend the same respect to others that you expect for yourself. If people are erroneously slandering you why not simply correct them and leave it at that. Instead you go on the attack and make yourself a fool by misinterpreting a book that is meant for people who are searching for truth, not simply digging up mud to sling at their enemies. Please grow up.

Love in Christ,
Jeremy Biffert

p.s. It is every persons right to express their personal and religious beliefs however they choose. Should a group of Christians decide to do this by praying for you it simply means that they care about you. Yes they think that your beliefs are wrong and that by rejecting the truth you may end up in hell, SO WHAT... I am a Christian and my mother is a professing atheist. She knows I pray for her and she doesn’t mind it. She’s a mature woman. People do not have to agree to be able to love each other. This is not a difficult concept. Peace be with you.

 

From: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
To: “Jeremy Biffert”
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2001

As a Bible studying Christian of five years I found your abuse of scripture to be absolutely appalling.

It’s easy to log on to a website designed by and for atheists and to jump up and down with empty accusations cloaked in emotionally charged language, in your attempt to paint us as hypocritical, dishonest, slanderous, abusive, or otherwise irresponsible. This behavior is cheap in that it exempts you from the real responsibility of backing up your rage with real examples.

Yes, it’s another thing altogether to actually describe where we have engaged in the “abuse of scripture” that you find so “absolutely appauling.”

Unless you can give us examples of where we have engaged in dishonesty, we will be forced to assume that you are merely venting your spleen rather than exercising sound judgement, and will chalk your letter up as yet another slander of atheists.

Had you bothered to give examples of where you think I’ve been dishonest, I’d either be defending my position or changing my web site. I am a man who submits to liberal scientific method. As such, it was possible, at one point, for you to engage in a thoughtful discussion with me.
 

If people are erroneously slandering you why not simply correct them and leave it at that.

I really have nothing to say to those who do this except to point out to my fellow-atheists, through my dialogs with these cretins, that this behavior goes on, and to try to show, through these dialogues, that as atheists we have no business tolerating this behavior.

Way too many atheists have been intimidated for way too long, and have accepted the bigotry we endure as par for the course. One of my goals in hosting a website for atheists is to encourage atheists to get off their asses and work to put a stop to the indignity, the abuse, and the flat-out cruelty that we everywhere endure.
 

Instead you go on the attack and make yourself a fool by misinterpreting a book that is meant for people who are searching for truth, not simply digging up mud to sling at their enemies. Please grow up.

Once again: it is real cheap to simply state that I have misrepresented anybody or that I’m staging a mudfest. It’s another thing altogether to demonstrate your credibility by giving us some actual examples and showing precisely why we ought to assent to your interpretation of the situation. What you have done here, in fact, is indistinguishable from misrepresenting me and slinging mud simply because you (conveniently) omit anything remotely resembling actual examples of me misrepresenting someone or slinging mud.

And I won’t call you a fool: I think very carefully about everything I write on this Forum and elsewhere on this website, and I feel that nothing I’ve said needs to be bolstered through my calling my ideological opponents names such as “fool” or by implying that my philosophical opponent ought to “grow up” (as if I even care what they do with their lives — it’s what they do with my life that interests me).

Most of our readers are pretty sharp, and so I’ll simply let this dialogue stand on its own merits.
 

Love in Christ,

My e-mail Inbox is a great learning experience. In it, I daily receive very powerful demonstrations about the many differences between the “Love” that fundamentalist Bible-believing Christians talk about and the purely human emotion known as love — the vrey same human emotion that so many Evangelical Christians who write to our Forum seem to have “seared as with a hot iron.”
 

It is every persons right to express their personal and religious beliefs however they choose.

You have the right to express your bigotry against atheists, and I have the right to showcase this bigotry to my fellow-atheists.
 

Should a group of Christians decide to do this by praying for you it simply means that they care about you.

For a group of Christians to pray for me in the privacy of their prayer closets is a benign activity.

For a member of that group to announce to a known atheist that she or he is praying for the atheist — especially if the only thing the Christian knows about the other person is that she or he is an atheist — is condescending at best and is, in my opinion, an act of self-flattering bigotry. Such announcements send the message that the Christian pretends to be somehow superior to atheists, or that the Christian somehow thinks atheists to be incomplete or otherwise inferior humans.

And I have the right to show this bigotry to my fellow-atheists.
 

Yes they think that your beliefs are wrong and that by rejecting the truth you may end up in hell, SO WHAT

So, you’re entitled to this belief about me.

However, when you put your belief about me into words and then announce it to me, you do so in condescension, sending the message that is not unlike telling me that you’re a member of the Master Race and that I am just another one of the Mud People.
 

I am a Christian and my mother is a professing atheist.

Good for her! She has not been intimidated by the likes of her son into cowering behind the hypocrisy into which the prevalence of Christian bigotry drives most atheists.
 

She knows I pray for her and she doesn’t mind it. She’s a mature woman.

She knows that your praying for her will not change anything, because she knows that there is no power in prayer.

Words, however, are a different matter. The constant reminders that atheists are somehow inferior to Christians can sometimes get to a person after a while, and can do a great deal of damage to the less mature and less formidable among us.

Meanwhile, the constant reminders that atheists are somehow inferior to Christians are inappropriate and are entirely unnecessary.

Many of us learn that we’d better be polite, at least when it comes to close family members, because we know all too well that there might come a point when all we have is our families. I don’t currently know anybody in Portland that I’ve known for longer than four years. But I still have my extended family, and may some day need to be with the one of the more religious (and possibly one of the more bigoted) family units in order to get by. Where will I be if I’ve responded members of my extended family the way I’ve responded to some of the people who’ve written to this forum? It’s one thing to note that you disagree, it’s another altogether to go into great detail. I reserve the latter behavior for this forum, which is, to me, the proper outlet for it.

So I suspect that your mother is more than simply mature: I suggest that she is perhaps being polite to you in the interest of maintaining peace within the family. If you treat your mother like you’ve treated me, a case can be made that you deserve to be severely scolded, at minimum. I’ve known people to disassociate with family members who continually pester them to join a religious cult.
 

People do not have to agree to be able to love each other.

This is true for the purely human emotion of love.

I doubt that the same does holds for the uniquely Christian “Love” that so many people write to our Forum and express to us “sinners.”
 

This is not a difficult concept.

I know that. My question is, why do so many Christians log on to a website for atheists and try to set us straight?

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

 

From: “Jeremy Biffert”
To: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2001

Dear Cliff,

Please accept my apologies. Your comments about how I speak about my faith to my mother and how I spoke about it to you are right on the money. My mother and I exchange ideas, thoughts and advice for living knowing that our core beliefs are different and we do it politely and lovingly. I don’t know you but you do deserve the same respect. Respect as a human being and respect for your choice in regards to your non-belief. My faith actually prohibits me from treating you in any other way. If I honestly believe what I read in the Word then I must treat you as I would be treated myself. It is sad how far away from this simple teaching many professing Christians (myself included) have at times gone. We both know what the worst cases of this looks like. Your letter actually reminded me that I have recently offended my own Grandmother by enquiring (no pun intended) about her faith. OK, that was a bad joke, these are obviously very serious matters. I am interested in corresponding with you in a civil and respectful manner. I hope that you will accept my apology and forgive my initial overreaction to your site.

If we are to discuss the misrepresentation of the Bible on your site then we need to know which translation or translations we are quoting. I understand now that the quotes on the sight are as found in the King James version. Please accept my apology. You will see below how it was easy to jump to the wrong conclusions.

Copied exactly from the web-site and pasted into this letter:

  

King James:
And he (David) brought out the people that were in it and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes. Even so dealt David with all the cities of the children of Ammon.
— 1 Chronicles 20:3.

  

New King James
And he brought out the people who were in it, and put them to work with saws, with iron picks, and with axes. So David did to all the cities of the people of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.
— 1 Chronicles 20:3.

  

So an obvious discrepancy exists. Yet I believe that this is true, that one portion of scripture dissected out of the middle of a book cannot possibly reveal the whole message of the book or adequately represent the truth the book was meant to reveal in regards to God’s character. I hope you will agree with me here. Were one to take a sentence or two paraphrased out of any book or speech for that matter it would be very easy to misrepresent that book or speaker. I think in the case of the quotes on your site that you paint a picture of God that is quite inaccurate. God did not allow David to build a house for him because the blood shed by David’s hands did not please Him. I will admit that there are portions of scripture that leave me troubled, thinking, why did God lead his people in such ways? Upon closer examination though the root of the problem is most often human error. To discuss these things is almost silly though because neither of us can be absolutely sure what people were actually doing thousands of years ago. I think that it would be much more helpful for both of us if we simple discussed what we can know for sure. Certainly there is no point in me trying to prove the validity or authenticity of God’s word because it seems that you have based your conclusions on careful and unbiased observation and I must respect that. If you are interested I will write you back and outline the basis of my faith which has grown out of personal experience, study of the Bible and reflection with believing and non-believing, friends.

Yours truly,
Jeremy Biffert

ps. I am still unsure how scientific reasoning can reconcile the existence of love. More than anything I am interested in you definition of love and what part it plays in your belief system, if I may call it that.

 

From: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
To: “Jeremy Biffert”
Date: Friday, April 13, 2001

There are much greater problems with the Bible than whether a passage is so vague that various translators cannot agree as to whether David was a butcher or a slave driver.

I use the word love only in a very casual context (“I love you, Mom!”) and try not to analyze it or attach an “official” meaning to it. The emotion we describe with the word love is complex and very personal, and no two people would describe it the same way (unless they were both members of the same totalitarian cult). So, to base a claim on “love” or to make an argument by mystifying this human emotion does not carry much weight with me.

Here is my challenge to you: Please describe five examples of human love, as you understand human love. Don’t just give me descriptions, but give real-life examples of things that have happened to you or to people you have known well enough to call up on the telephone (no deities; no mythical or literary characters; no historical figures). Your best bet will be to try to find examples that I and the other readers can relate to, examples similar to experiences we’ve probably encountered. Describe the situation or tell us what happened, and then explain how this constitutes love.

I ask this because I have experienced the full range of emotions that many people would call “love” but I cannot tell you what the word love really means because that word has been sorely abused and carries much baggage. If you can show me what you mean when you use the word love, then I can address your question based upon your descriptions.

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe