Some years ago while on a walking pilgrimage through Ontario I stopped in a small city. I had walked hundreds of miles to get there and hadn’t spoken to more than a person or two in three days. Unwary of where anything was in the city, I approached a man and his son at a nearby park. I asked him for directions to the city center. He supplied me with some directions and I said, “Thanks, God bless you my friend.”
He replied curtly, “I don’t believe in God.”
Taken aback, I decided it needed no further comment and departed. This man’s reply represents something I’ve been trying to put my finger on for some time. If we observe the conversation closely we can see the deeper underlying messages. By outright stating that he didn’t believe in God when I wished him to be blessed, he was not making a unbiased statement in response to a question. He made a verbal attack on my beliefs. When someone wishes me a happy Hanukkah, I do not turn around and slap away their well wishing and tell them their belief is wrong. No, I accept their gift with an open heart and say thank you. I seek to understand the true intent of the statement.
I realise this man does not represent all atheists, but he does represent a recurring pattern in our society: atheism advocating intolerance, in the name of “tolerance”.
Some groups, in the name of atheism, are wielding lawsuits in order to push around schools. Most schools, lacking adequate funding for lengthy legal battles, are incapable of fighting back and thus crumble under the pressure.
One such example was when a school was forced to remove a painting of a shepherd with his sheep from it’s walls due to legal action. Please help me understand something: how does an innocuous painting of a shepherd and his sheep, if God does not exist, pose such a threat to these apparently deeply threatened atheists?
Another recent example is how the American Humanist Association closed down a schools Christmas box drive because of its affiliation with a religious group. Again, using the threat of legal action, the school was forced to give in, not having the funds to fight back, and the box drive was canceled. There has been no reports of the atheists filling the gap and supplying the toys and school supplies to the children who will now receive nothing. Merry Christmas.
Such lawsuits are on par with Russia’s draconian laws enacted towards homosexuality.
They are acts of intolerance, plain and simple. Some groups of atheists are beginning to rival extreme fundamentalist Christians in the propagation of their beliefs. Much like these Christian groups, the atheists’ proselytization is coming at the cost of tolerance and respect. You need only hear a reference to “fairies in the garden” or other popular atheistic rhetoric to know what I mean. There is a tone in such language that is unavoidable and intentional: your beliefs are stupid and irrational. This is tolerance?
Just as the man I met in the park completely missed my intention to wish him well, so these atheists are missing the point altogether. If atheists want the freedom to express their beliefs “outside of their homes”, then it behooves them to start respecting the rights of believers to express their beliefs. Catholicism represents and defends religious freedom. It recognizes the fact that in order to ensure human freedom, religious freedom is necessary. To allow such freedoms means to allow public display, education, and celebration of religious practices and belief. Catholics work to ensure the freedom of believers and non-believers alike, atheists included.
Outfits like the Freedom From Religion Foundation are dogmatic institutions with the goal of eradicating religion. The battlefront today is our schools, but they won’t stop there. Here’s a direct quote from their “winter solstice sign”: “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds”. This was written by a softened, compassionate heart? The statement lacks insight, maturity, and respect. It shows no indication of a person who is “enlightened” or overflowing with kindness. For a foundation that represents free thought, they seem to have closed their minds to particular subjects.
True tolerance is always filled with respect.
Underlying all tolerance needs to be a deep love for the other. If any Christian hates or rejects someone because they choose a homosexual lifestyle, then they have failed in tolerance. Likewise, anyone who attacks or belittles someone with religious belief, have failed to be tolerant. Neither side of this struggle is without error. If life giving dialogue is going to exist, then both sides need to analyze their usage of language and their motives. Without respect we will only slide deeper into childish ravings and bullying tactics.
Good Shepherd painting: http://www.whiznews.com/content/news/local/2013/11/15/decision-made-regarding-jesus-painting