Recently, I had a troubling conversation with a long time friend. This friend is very religious and we have had many interesting debates and discussion regarding God, faith, etc. However, when this friend visited my Facebook page, she wrote to me to tell me how offended she was by the posts. I believe that she was genuinely offended -- and for that I was honestly sorry. However, I could not back off of my positions. Ultimately, this whole incident threatened to end our friendship. I finally had to write this response to her:
Hmmmm . . . I think I touched a nerve . . .
I debated long and hard about how to answer your last note. I don't believe there is any right answer or any answer that would satisfy you. So, I am at a bit of a loss here. I thought about dealing with your note point by point -- but I realized that this may only exacerbate the whole situation. Soooo, here goes.
I fully understand where you are coming from. I get it. Don't believe for a moment that I am not aware that some of the content on my FB page is offensive. In fact, I selected some of it just for that purpose. Again, I don't agree with everything I post or suggest -- but I do believe that sometime hitting on nerves can be a positive thing. You ask why I should offend people. While I may have the right to do so, why should I? Why would I want to intentionally hurt so many people by mocking their most cherished beliefs?
I guess this is my best answer:I have some questions to ask you. (I know, I know -- answering a question with a question is poor form. But my answer will follow.)
1. The Catholic Church recently excommunicated a Brazilian woman and her doctor for allowing her 9 year old daughter to abort the twins she was pregnant with. However, the Church declined to excommunicate the girl's father who impregnated her. I understand the Church's stance on abortion. Why, however, should I respect an institution which time and time again has given a pass to child rapists?
2. Recently, a Hindu family married their young son to a dog to help their village ward off "evil spirits." Is this something that I should find acceptable? Is this something that is in any way rational?
3. Each year, thousands of women are brutally beaten, raped, and murdered in Islamic countries for offenses as simple as having bread delivered to their homes by men who are not male relatives or attending school, or driving. Am I to stand by and not be outraged by this nonsensical behavior?
4. The Pope recently decreed that condom use in Africa would further the spread of AIDS. Africa faces a catastrophic epidemic of AIDS. Conservative estimates suggest that over 100 million people will die from the disease in the next decade. Why is it that I should stand by and accept 100 million deaths? Why should I support an institution which has time and again blocked the only thing that will effectively stem the tide of this disease?
5. Each year, thousands of young women in Islamic countries have their clitoris ripped from their bodies and their vaginal opening brutally sewn shut (except for a small opening to allow fluids to pass). It is the husband's right to tear open this "gift" from his wife on their wedding night. Am I to accept this level of brutality against women? Should I just shut up and allow this sort of de-humanizing behavior?
6. Benny Hinn is currently under investigation by the IRS for fraud. He drives a fleet of Bentleys (at $450,000 apiece), wears $2000 custom suits, and lives in a palatial mansion all while many of his congregants are poor, under-educated, and easily duped into giving his "ministry" money. May I not mock this? May I not speak out against such things? At what point did Christ command his followers to fleece the poor and live large off of that money?
The list can go on and on and on . . .
Exactly how many people must die before I speak out? How many more must suffer before I am allowed to "offend" those who share these repulsive beliefs? What exactly is the threshold of death and destruction which will allow me to speak my mind and possibly offend those of faith? 150 million? 200 million? 1 billion? Must I just shut up and live and let live? I cannot. I will not.
You asked how I would respond if someone were to attack my family as I have attacked religion. This is exactly how I respond. My family is attacked by these things. All of humanity is attacked and disparaged by these things. I cannot stand by and allow my girls to grow up in a world where most religions consider them a second class citizen. You may (and likely will) argue that this is not representative of all peoples of faith. I may be likely to agree. However, when the "moderates" refuse to aggressively speak out against these injustices, they tacitly approve of them. When people try to defend these actions -- they only demonstrate that they would rather side with injustice and evil than side with improving the human condition.
You posed Pascal's wager in your past note. What if I am wrong? Let us assume that I am. Let us assume that I will face God and have to answer for myself. If God is merciful, if God is a God of justice, if God truly loves his human creation (as is posited by the Church), I am not afraid to answer to Him -- because I will have fought for mercy, justice, and an improvement of the human condition against those who would rather brutalize their fellow humans in the name of God. My guess is that I'll be okay.
I am truly sorry that you were deeply offended by my FB page. I hesitated to let you in because I was afraid that this would happen. But it has. The person on FB is no different that the one you have always known. I have always stood on the side of goodness and justice. However, I cannot stand on the side of religion when it does not promote these things. You have always known that about me. Finally, I will not "unfriend" you. If you choose to terminate our friendship because of this, I will understand. However, I have no intention of doing so. While we disagree -- I am always willing to hear your point of view and give it a fair hearing. Again, I am sorry that this has hurt you so much.
I hope you and the family are doing well -- and I hope to continue this discussion.
We'll see what happens from this. However, I cannot stand by and let religion destroy the world. I am willing to turn my back on old friends if they choose to side with those who would rather see most of the world burning in hell than help us all live a better life. It's a no-brainer for me.
Talk to you all later!