Skye Jethani is an ordained pastor and author who wrote a recent article on Huffington Post titled “What Evangelicals and Atheists Have in Common” that shows us how a Christian apologist can marginalize atheists or other religious minorities and frame a “concern” into a positive spin about one’s own religion.
Jethani gets right to the point:
For example, some within New Atheism are proselytizing their beliefs with the fervor, and in come cases anger, more often associated with evangelicals. From an international ad campaign on buses dismissing belief in God, to rallies at universities inviting students to exchange their Bibles for pornography, atheists are no longer content with a live-and-let-live approach to those adhering to religion. Instead, they are actively trying to convert (or is the word un-convert?) the masses.
He forwards a false notion that atheists not remaining the submissive quiet doormats he is use to is some how “new”. He also believes that atheists speaking out and using some of the same techniques that Christian believers use to advance their religion is some how against our atheist beliefs.
Christians like Skye Jethani typically miss the forest for the trees and that is understandable when one is in the dominate religion in the country. It is much like how many white men never seem to understand how their male privilege hurts women and other minorities in society. When one is on “top” it is hard to see or understand those under you.
To me Jethani’s remarks are just like if he had said “look at those black people using advertising and publicity stunts to get noticed. Who do they think they are?”
In another part of his essay he complains about Christopher Hitchens’ fiery comments about religion – which again isn’t new. Jethani tries again to draw a false parallel with loud mouth evangelicals:
Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, one evangelical leader made the following statement, for which he subsequently apologized:
I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, “You helped this happen.”
Sadly, these kinds of judgments are not uncommon. Other church leaders made similar remarks after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and following the earthquake in Haiti. Presumably, according to the logic within these proclamations, the way to prevent terrorist attacks and natural disasters in one’s country is by earning the Almighty’s affection and protection through moral behavior, adherence to prayer, traditional family values, and frequent worship.
While I applaud the effort to acknowledge that some on his side are butt-heads, notice how Jethani doesn’t NAME the person who said any of the nasty things he complains about? He is quick to point the finger at Hitchens and Richard Dawkins but when it comes to naming those on the evangelical side Jethani is mum.
Any atheist who is worth their salt KNOWS who said the quote Jethani mentions and not naming the guy is an effort – as happens most often when direct names aren’t used – to minimize what was said.
What really is new about these so-called “New Atheists” is we are finally tired of the expectation that we remain silent and deferential to Christian privilege. It isn’t harming Christians to point out their privilege and we get tired of their constant whining about being a victim.
If and when people like Skye Jethani start calling out their brothers and sisters and stop rationalizing their privilege then maybe we atheists won’t seem so loud and hurtful to them.