This Love, Like All
The Others, Is Cheap
Steve Branks

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Steve Branks"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, December 27, 2000 5:08 AM

I set aside my other work to format and post that dialogue precisely because it is so important to give bigots all the bandwidth they need: we must hear them and we must watch them in action if we ever hope to reduce its incidence (or at least figure out how to protect ourselves from it). I've heard that bank tellers can detect a phony bill the instant they touch it because they are so used to handling the real thing all day long. I do this with bigots, and can usually detect one before I've finished reading the first few lines of their letter. (I'd have said "before I've finished reading the first sentence," except that many of these people never learned how to subdivide their tirades into sentences and paragraphs.)

In his book The Mind of the Bible Believer, Edmund Cohen shows that to the fundamentalist Christian, "love" -- what he calls love' ("love-prime") and what the fundamentalists call agape -- is not the same emotion that comes naturally to all healthy humans. The Christian love' is, rather, a form of obedience, and is steeped in what I have called tribal totem loyalism. This exclusivistic loyalism is meticulously introduced into the Bible believer and, in some believers, eventually overrides even the innately human emotion of love. Once this is done, says Richard Dawkins,

"Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them against fear, if they honestly believe that a martyr's death will send them straight to heaven."
     -- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

In my response to Jeff, I tried to distinguish between the "true" Jesus (true according to Jeff), who is every bit the exclusivist Jeff is, and the "false" Jesus -- that warm-and-fuzzy God-is-love Jesus of the Jesus Freaks and the Ecumenical movement and much of the "What Would Jesus Do?" crowd. But if I had to choose, I'd take the warm-and-fuzzy Jesus any day, because believers tend to emulate the god in which they believe (or they believe in a god who suffers from the personality quirks they have). And the New Testament describes enough different Jesuses (Jesi?) to please almost anybody.

Unfortunately for us, Jeff has admitted to being dishonest with us, trying to "bait" us; thus, we cannot really know where he is coming from. He could be one of the Christians described in Cohen's book (likely) or he could be a Discordian pretending to be an unreasonable Christian. (Discordians worship Eris, the goddess of chaos and confusion. They like to try to pull fast ones on James Randi and the rest of us skeptical types, and espouse a fundamentalistic brand of "Aggravated Agnosticism" as described by Robert Anton Wilson.)

I learned early in childhood never to trust someone who says something like, "Aha! I got you good, didn't I?" This is exactly what Jeff did, and so I cannot say that I've learned anything -- besides being reminded that people like Jeff (and my cousin Billy) still exist.

I certainly didn't learn anything about Christianity in all this, because most Christians are much more sincere in their faith than Jeff appears to be. At least, most Christians act more sincere than Jeff has acted; all we really have to go on is behavior, don't we? We cannot really know a person's motives, such as sincerity.

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

Graphic Rule

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