Tuesday, November 28, 2006

How Atheists & Christians Can Constructively Dialogue, With Mutual Respect (+ Related Censorship, Free Speech, Ethics & "Legalism" Issues)

Benjamin Scott Cheek ("soulster"): a Christian doing a great job in trying to bring about more fruitful Christian-atheist discourse. May his tribe mightily increase!

The following exchange began when I discovered a new blog, called philaletheia ("love of truth"). It is a joint project by a Christian ("soulster") and an atheist ("drunkentune"), intended to bring about more fruitful discussion between the two parties. In accordance with that goal, it began with the twin posts: How to Talk to Atheists, and How to Talk to Believers. I then joined into the conversation about the rhetorically-titled post, Can Atheists be Good? "Drunkentune's" words will be in blue; [atheist] "beepbeepitsme" in green, and soulster's in purple. I've edited the posts somewhat, to remove more personally-directed observations and to keep the flow of the conversation strictly on-topic (those who want to see the originals can follow the link above and read the comments).

* * * * *

I always DID think atheists could be good. That's why I have posted a paper:

Are all Atheists Utterly "Wicked and Evil"? The Multiple Complex Causes of Atheist Disbelief, Romans 1 and 2, and the Possibility of Atheists' Salvation

I have immensely enjoyed the majority of my dialogues with atheists through the years. Others have been a pain in the butt and obnoxious.

On his own blog, e.g., drunkentune posts a picture of "p%#&Christ", the marvelous, artsy depiction of a crucifix in urine. All we need now (for us Catholics) is the other "work of art" (I forget the name) where Mary is covered with feces. Ah, the wonders of some of the more famous and notorious examples of the anti-Christian "aesthetic" imagination!

That's eminently designed to endear Christians to him, isn't it, and to cause them to desire interacting with him in intelligent, amiable discourse?

. . . One can search far and wide on my blog and never find anything remotely that insulting to an atheist - and much quite to the contrary. See, e.g.,:

"Secular Humanism and Christian Humanism: Seeking After Common Ground" (written with atheist Sue Strandberg)

The closest I come to a possible "insult," I suppose, would be a Malcolm Muggeridge-type parody on atheist materialism that is, I would contend, far milder in possible offensiveness than 1001 condescending atheist critiques of Christianity as infantile, identical to belief in Santa Claus, the opiate of the masses, etc. , etc. ad nauseum. See: "The Atheist's Boundless Faith in Deo-Atomism ('The Atom-as-God')".

I made it very clear that this website would be different from my personal website. I said

While there, I'll be leaving my condescending tone and insular streak behind me: Philaletheia is well-mannered dialogue; Drunken Tune is insane rants. I'll cross-post occasionally, but it will be primarily a dialogue between us - anyone that wishes to comment may do so.

I'm done with insulting people that are genuinely concerned about my future.

You have reservations. That's fine with me. However, asking me to remove something from a rant site when we are having a discussion on a separate site is confounding. If I posted such a picture here, then your words would carry weight, because I would be at fault. If you examine the post in question, a poem [link] accompanies it. Reading it is on par with watching The Last Temptation of Christ: it's a different look at Jesus - a look at the human side to a god. Of course the picture is offensive. However, I did not attempt to use it for shock value.

If he has, alas, undergone a radical transformation of attitude, then let him renounce that "work of art" and remove it! Simple enough, one would think.

I am no different in my attitude. I still preemptively consider many Christians to be ignorant, or in some cases, just plain wrong. Yet, here I swallow my pride and attempt to talk and work around my biases. This site in part is to help clear up misconceptions and enable dialogue. If you go to my personal website, however, you will not receive any kid gloves. I hope you come back some time. Your views would be very interesting to hear.

* * *

I would point out to Christians that drunkentune, in his first post took a confessional attitude and said:

I have debated informally with many believers for years, and it's time for a watershed moment. I'm done with haughty debate, with inane arguments and ridiculous presuppositions. I'm done with insulting people that are genuinely concerned about my future. It is time that atheists and theists alike flense our argumentative shells and have honest conversations without the ad hominem attacks so common today.

This comes as close to repentance (the change of heart and mind we claim to value so much) as you can in cyberspace, so I intend to accept it. There may be slip ups, etc. What we are trying to do is hard and seldom done. We may, at times, lose restraint and say (or more likely type) something offensive. But, if we exhibit the best of possible human-to-human behavior - patience, listening, openness, honesty, appology, concern - I think there is a chance that we will leave this conversation changed for the better.

Likewise, I want to respect drunkentune's freedom of speech on his own blog space because I have my own. I have exercised my freedom of speach by saying I find that picture offensive in the comments to said post, but I have also made it a point not to demand he does anything with his own blog or end this important dialogue over it. If everything else is being censored by someone, let the blogosphere be free.

While I do not generally attack atheism in my own space, I may debunk it, which to some may be offensive. Likewise, I tend, in that space, to talk of Christianity's impulse to be universal or its exclusivity, which some atheists might find highly offensive. I reserve the right to write for a particular readership, as my religious sites are intended for certain readers and may be exited with a click. Just because I might say one offensive thing (or several) somewhere does not mean that anything I say is worthless. Simply take what you can and spit out the rest. In my opinion, that should be our attitude with anything in cyberspace, otherwise we will continue the flaming, the cultures wars, the verbal abuse, and the blog smearing indefinitely. Snore!

I've read drunkentune's blog, and have chosen to dialogue with him because I have (uh, what's the right word . . . oh, yeah) faith in him. I hope many of our readers will do the same. Of course, you may decide not to. But please try to help our project and do what is ultimately helpful to its stated ends, which might not include dragging in past cyber-misbehaviour. I certainly would not want people dragging the darker side of my e-self into this blog.

Dave, please feel free to ask questions or make further comments. I agree that a Catholic apologist would be a great addition to the conversation. Maybe a good place to start would be to check my comments and see if there is anything you would agree with or have a different perspective, us both being believers.

I submit that soulster may want to consider adding another point to his magnificent post, "How to Talk to Believers":


10. Don't mock or belittle sacred elements of Christianity, if you desire to have mutually-respectful discussions with Christians (examples: the crucifix of Christ in a bottle of urine or Mary covered in feces, or presenting same with approval on one's blog).

Personally, I find it virtually irrelevant that drunkentune posted it on his "rant" site rather than here. The fact of its posting (wherever it is) remains offensive to most Christians, and that is a disconnect with his stated intention to have better dialogue (the sincerity of which I don't deny), because he is not a divided person.

He may try to divide his behavior on a pragmatic or methodological basis, but it doesn't follow that his opinion is schizoid. It is what it is.

It's cognitive dissonance in the same sense that Michael Richards' racist tirade (complete with a reference to lynching, of all things!) is dissonant with his claim to not be a racist (whether he is in actuality or not). Even he recognized that he had a problem and that his behavior and his stated non-racist worldview are at odds.

Likewise with someone who says he wants respectful discussion with Christians, yet posts this sort of thing. People (Christians and fair-minded atheists) don't care that it is in a separate venue; they think it is despicable that it was posted at all.

A word to the wise is sufficient . . .

I don't see this as even arguable, but if someone thinks it is, I'd love to see their reasoning for that.

* * *

Hi soulster,

I think your comments are great; those that I have seen. Yours is an impressive, praiseworthy Christian mind and disposition indeed. Kudos! It's good to see that atheists seem to think so as well. This is a wonderful goal that you have here (and I include drunkentune in that appraisal as well).

I agree that drunkentune's statement you cite above is an admirable effort and I am perfectly willing to accept that he is making a good faith attempt to improve in that regard. I have no problem with that at all.

But it doesn't affect my point that posting the crucifix-in-urine is at cross-purposes to what he wants to do here, even though it isn't posted here. HE posted it. That is the point; not WHERE it was posted. The fact itself of posting such a thing sends a clear message to Christians that they will be mocked and have even their most sacred visual representations dragged through the mud . . . er, pee. We're sick to death of that, needless to say.

Likewise, I want to respect drunkentune's freedom of speech on his own blog space because I have my own. I have exercised my freedom of speach by saying I find that picture offensive in the comments to said post, but I have also made it a point not to demand he does anything with his own blog or end this important dialogue over it. If everything else is being censored by someone, let the blogosphere be free.

I'm a complete advocate of freedom of speech (I've only banned one person from my blog in almost three years, and that was a notorious anti-Catholic troll so offensive that even many prominent anti-Catholic blogs have also banned her). Even so, she was allowed to rant and put me down for over a year, even against the will of many of my vistors, before I and everyone else had had enough and she was banned.

When I moderated my own ecumenical discussion board in the late 90s (I've been online since March 1996), I only banned one person, too, and that was a "traditionalist" Catholic who insisted on running down Protestants. Even he parted on friendly terms!

So that is my record. I have consistently lived by my belief on this, and have literally more than 350 dialogues posted where the opposing view gets vigorously aired on my blog, as well as my own. I believe people should see both sides of an argument presented, and then make up their mind with the best available data on both sides.

Nor have I made any "demand" (rightly-understood). I would say that my present concern completely bypasses the freedom of speech issue. The debate isn't over whether speech should be free and uncensored, but over the quality and constructive or non-constructive nature of free speech (per your goals on this very blog). That can't be forced legally; it can only be voluntarily offered, intellectually and ethically.

It goes beyond mere legalism and coercion, to mutually agreed-upon atheist/Christian ethics in conduct towards one another. I would say it even has a pragmatic, "supra-ethical" element:

1. An atheist desires mutually-respectful, constructive discourse with Christians.

2. Christians (in this instance, you and I both) have made it clear that certain images deliberately or arguably mocking and belittling their most secredly-held beliefs and symbols are offensive and "below the belt."

3. The atheist then has a decision to make:

A. He can stand on an absolutist principle of "free speech" and absolutely refuse to remove the offensive article in question, no matter how it makes Christians react.


B. He can recognize that talking [to Christians] in a constructive, charitable manner is at cross-purposes with continuing to post such an offending thing, and voluntarily remove it, as a good faith gesture, thus supporting his stated sincere attempts to talk in a constructive, charitable manner.

4. 3B is not, therefore, done because of coercion and suppression of free speech in a legalistic sense, but rather:

A. Out of either an ethical concern, in charity, for the feelings of those he is trying to dialogue with,


B. At the very least a pragmatic effort to do those things which sensibly and in great likelihood improve the prospects at success of said endeavors.

5. None of the foregoing, therefore, entails any denial or denigration of the right of free speech in the least. Rather, it transcends that consideration and is simply submitting what are sensible and ethical things to do, given certain other related desires and goals.

6. It's the same as saying that you don't use the "n" word if you want to get along with black people, or deny the Holocaust if you want to get along with Jewish people or continually make fun of menstruation or menopause if you want to get along with women or say that Arabs or Muslims are inherently terrorist supporters or anti-democratic, if you want to get along with them. There are lines not to be crossed. We all have them and we all exercise them; it is only a matter of where and when (and why).

7. Likewise, if you want to get along with Christians, you don't make fun of beliefs that they hold sacred, under the tired justification of "free speech," as good discussion always (I would even say, necessarily) transcends the ultimately arbitrary limits that mere, bald legal-type conceptions involve.


You have the right to go to my personal website. You also have the right not to visit, or to write what you wish about my website here. However, even if a post offends you, I should remind you that my blog is full of such offending statements, ad hominem attacks, and general meanness. Should I remove all of which that offends you?

I don't try to hide my animosity. It is commentary, an editorializing of the world around us. I thought I made it clear that the picture, in conjunction to the poem, was something other than mere baiting. The rest of the post details the dangers I see when some forms of Christianity claim dominion over others, influencing public policy. All this time, Christ's image is used for an agenda that he may not have stood for. Religion should never get special treatment.

Please understand that from my position, I cannot remove the image. I stand in opposition to political correctness, but I do not actively engage in attempting to offend. It may have offended you, but the image is not pertinent to this website or its content. If soulster asked me before we began Philaletheia to remove the image, I would have considered doing so.

For example: If soulster had images of Darwin on his website that he Photoshopped in an inappropriate manner, I wouldn't find it necessary for him to remove the offending picture. To me, at least, this website is the equivalent of a church: anything you may have done outside is of no importance; what matters is that while you are here, you will be safe from personal attacks. Outside of this website, no promises of the sort can be made.

soulster again puts it into better words than I could:

But please try to help our project and do what is ultimately helpful to its stated ends, which might not include dragging in past cyber-misbehaviour. I certainly would not want people dragging the darker side of my e-self into this blog.

While it is not a slippery-slope argument, consider for a minute that a young-earth creationist commented here, asking on good terms with excellent prose and wit for me to remove content pertaining to evolution or cosmology. The creationist may find the content offensive, but it is mere editorializing on an altogether different website. I run a small website, read by a small group of acquaintances. It is for "insane rants." You've written your letter to the editor, and I understand your objection to the content, but the picture will stay.

. . . And again, I reiterate: my objection has nothing to do with free speech. I don't censor. I don't even demand removal. I try to persuade others that some things may not be conducive to other goals that said person is trying to achieve. A word to the wise . . .

What are you trying to accomplish?

Constructive discussion between Christians and atheists, of course, just like you and soulster.

Are you asking me to remove the picture, acknowledge this division inherent, or shut down my website?

I've explained my purpose in these comments more than adequately. I'm trying to help you fulfill your stated goal.

I recognize that these are two different websites, and if an idiot comments on my blog, I'm going to give him Hell and send him on his way. If he's a Christian that wishes to engage in dialogue, his time may be better spent here.

So you have a blog for idiots and one for good discussion. I see.

. . . I could be wrong, but it feels like you're trying to poison the well from the start.

You can think what you will, and so can others. This is what free speech and rational discussion is about. Reason and persuasion are utilized. Far from trying to poison any well, I'm trying to make it clean so the highest possible amount of people can enjoy the well and drink from it.

Remember, the post under which this discussion is occurring has to do with how atheists are shabbily treated by some (probably many) Christians.

I am simply dealing with the related problem on the other end of the spectrum (just as you and soulster did when you began this blog): how I feel that Christians are shabbily treated by some (probably many) atheists.

I offered the offensive photograph as an example. You think it is better to leave the picture up. So there is nowhere else to go with this. I thought it was good and helpful advice. You didn't. We (and our fellow atheists and Christians at large) still have to learn to accept each other on a personal level and learn how to intelligently interact despite that disagreement and many others, right?


You're correct, of course. It's a difficult process, but I believe it is the process itself that matters.

Seeing it from your side, it does make sense, and I recognize this. It's an excellent example, but I believe that we're going to have to learn to work around it.

Far from trying to poison any well, I'm trying to make it clean so the highest possible amount of people can enjoy the well and drink from it.

While I may still have reservations, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I do feel that you entered this discussion with an axe to grind as large as mine when we first met, but you are willing to dialogue. This can hopefully be only for the best.

[the following is referring back to soulster's paper, "Can Atheists Be Good?"]:

So, the question seems to be one of: "I believe that only theists can be good, but I am willing to let atheists provide an argument for their ability to be good, which I can reject if it doesn't comply with premise number 1.

(Premise number 1 states that only believers can be "good.")

In other words, the framing of the question has an inbuilt bias.

I didn't see it that way at all. Soulster is obviously making an attempt to counter certain false and widespread Christian assumptions about atheists. The title was rhetorical and directed against those falsehoods, not intended to agree with them (as the paper itself shows beyond doubt).

To me, as I read it, the implied rhetorical reply would be, "yes, of course." In similar fashion, the title of my paper was "Are all Atheists Utterly 'Wicked and Evil'?" The implied rhetorical reply was, "no, of course NOT." The titles themselves are intended as exercises in reductio ad absurdum and comments on the false notions unfortunately prevalent.

Soulster can speak for himself, as to his intent and meaning, but I think he would agree with what I've written here, and I'm trying to show how another Christian perceived his title and what he was trying to get at.

He thinks that the denial that atheists can be good is a "fallacy" - as he stated in the post itself in the third paragraph (second quote box).

Or, more specifically, he declared as a "fallacy" your statement describing the belief of some Christians, which included the following:

". . . therefore those who do not believe in god, must be immoral evidenced by their stated lack of belief."

He denies this; so do I, and I would go further and say it is self-evidently false, both from the Bible itself and observation.

There are further discussions, from a theological standpoint as to what exactly being "good" entails and so forth, but I don't want to get into that. I think we are all assuming for our purposes here, a general viewpoint of the "good" and "bad" human being, based on common (not technically theological) usage. The Bible itself habitually does this, by the way, in its wisdom and poetic literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, etc.).

None of us have a right NOT to be insulted. I recognise this. You might consider this yourself.

I don't have to consider it because it's already what I believe. I made it very clear that my comments transcended the mere legalistic framework of "rights" and "coercion" and so forth.

That said, it remains relevant (particularly in a discussion of how atheists and Christians can best get along and converse) that certain things are insulting and not conducive to such desired harmonious relations.

If you can't see that as anything beyond the usual politico-legal language and discussion of rights and victims and all that, then the fault lies in your limited paradigm, not my point as it stands.

Good discussion, like good marriage, is not governed by lawyers and legal rights and detailed regulations, but by freely-offered love towards the other, or in discussion, the charity of the benefit of the doubt and accorded minimal respect to the other for the sake of peace and progress. Putting a crucifix in urine doesn't fulfill that end; sorry.

There is no equivalent that a Christian can do to an atheist, because you have no sacred symbols that I am aware of. What would they be? Desecration of a statue of Thomas Paine (who was a deist, not an atheist)? It's silly to even think about. But the Christian is an easy target because we have many well-known sacred symbols. Indeed, we worship Jesus Christ. You guys don't worship anything (except perhaps reason, in an "Enlightenment" sense), so we can't mock you in this way.

I realise that religion and god belief has received special privileges over the centuries where to question the existence of a god, or the words of scripture, or religion, have been met with decisive and exacting punishment.

There's the legal language again. You can't get beyond that: "privileges" / "punishment."

Certainly blasphemy laws were enacted for this very purpose, so that criticism of religious beliefs would be curtailed.

What does that remotely have to do with anything I wrote, pray tell?

I don't see this as intellectually or morally healthy as beliefs, even religious ones, should be open to discussion and enquiry.

And what did I write that remotely disagrees with that? Or are you not talking specifically to me here?

I don't accept that any belief is sacrosanct. (free from enquiry or criticism)

Good; me neither. I fail to see how putting a crucifix in human waste and taking a picture and pretending that this is "art" has anything to do with "enquiry" or "criticism." I fail to see or comprehend how any atheist could possibly think that this would promote better, mutually-respectful discussion between atheists and Christians.

But, I do think that how we question beliefs is important. So, it might be preferred that we act with sensitivity concerning other people's beliefs, but it is not mandatory that we do so.

"Mandatory" is again the language of legalism and rights. I am going beyond that to ethics or even simple prgmatism.

If you find something offensive, you may claim it as your right to complain about it.

I said nothing about rights. This gets so wearisome! We're discussing how Christians and atheists can best get along. If you care little about what offends us, then chances are you're not the type of person who will likely have constructive discussions with us. That's just how reality works; like it or not.

But don't forget that the same right can be enacted by anyone who does not agree with your beliefs as well.

You're free to critique anything I've written that you think harms Christian-atheist dialogue. If you said it was offensive or potentially offensive to you and by extension possibly many atheists, I would probably remove it, since I recognize that turning people off and offending them will not lead to the good discussion that I desire. That's not a matter of "rights" but of rudimentary respect one toward another, regardless of creed, color, etc.

Thousands of Muslims have complained bitterly that they were insulted by various satirical cartoons which depicted their god in a less than favourable light.

Yes; and I would take exactly the same position: those who do this ought to voluntarily refrain from it (as opposed to passing laws of censorship), just as everyone recognizes it as inappropriate for someone to, e.g., engage in sexual acts [on the stage] during a movie in a theatre or some such (even if all adults were present), or defecate on the stage, or other similarly ridiculous act (in that context). Certain things are inappropriate, and this can change according to the audience or recipient. Is this not utterly obvious?

It may be counter-productive to deliberately insult people, but I do not agree that by default, beliefs should be granted immunity from insult.

Great; I get that. I'm talking much more about "counter-productive" acts, arguments, and strategies. On that we can, if nothing else, hopefully agree.

* * *

Exactly Dave. By the way, it's Benjamin Scott Cheek. [his name]

I do think it's true that

[C]ertain things are inappropriate, and this can change according to the audience or recipient. Is this not utterly obvious?

However, when one does not speak out of a fear of offending someone else, then we are reduced to self-censorship and extreme political correctness. Not all ideas are equal, and political correctness and its counterpart of cultural relativism imply that you cannot poke fun of Islam, or even make an argument against a false claim without all manner of people raising a stink.

I do believe that we must reach a point where we recognize that from the atheist's standpoint, the earth isn't flat, it's sad that it offends people, but we need to move to a different level of discussion.

Although I admit, while poking fun of flat-earthers doesn't help solve the problem, it can be very satisfying.

You mean the earth ain't flat????!!!!!!


Hah! I'm sorry I was the one to break it to you, Dave.

Does this question have an inbuilt bias?

"Can theists be good?"

How about this? -

"Can theists ever be expected to join the real world?"

(Get my drift?)

No; obviously you don't get mine, either. The proper rhetorical question from an atheist designed to puncture through certain tendencies in atheist criticism of Christians, is:

"Can theists be smart?"

[your second proposed statement more closely approaches this]

It's exactly the same dynamic. Many atheists think not, and so the question draws them in, out of curiosity if nothing else, to see how any atheist could possibly think a theist was smart.

The same dynamic applies to political conservatives and pro-lifers and creationists: all are fashionably considered dumb and clueless simply by virtue of having these beliefs.


If you believe as you espoused, that no one has the right to NOT be insulted, I really don't know what you are going on about. I may find religious people bashing at my door trying to convert me to the worship of the almightly "holy grail and holy python" to be insulting, but I usually deal with them in a polite manner.

I may find "in god we trust" to be insulting. Especially on money. Ugghh. That an omnipotent being would be happy advertising money, shampoo or garden equipment is beyond me. However, I am under no obligation to treat people politely as long as my actions do not contravene law.

I am only obligated in a legal sense AND according to what benefit I may perceive if I respect the other person's position, or how much empathy I may feel for the other person's feelings. Frankly, I am insulted every day by what some people do according to their religious beliefs. Or according to what they believe their religion espouses. But, I do not have a right to be protected to NOT be insulted by this.

* * *

I would prefer a question without prejudice or bias. Especially if people are intent on conducting their discussions in goodwill.

Ok. So the question sucks. It has an inbuilt bias because I was trying to use the inbuilt bias of some theists to get them to read this post. Notice, however, that my actual questions at the end of the post are descriptive and do not hold a bias (I think), but rather are intended to debunk a common fallacy (namely the fallacy of condemnation by association and the assumption that atheist are, by definition immoral) through description rather than argument. This is how I really feel about the question as posted on the "How to Talk to Atheists" post:

I'm glad if beepbeep wasn't offended. I'm trying to be as sensitive as possible about the topic, but it seems from comments on the new article that I have offended some anyway. Oh well.

I do agree that many Christians think atheism is a precursor to all sorts of corruption personal and social. I think both "Can Atheist be Good?" and "Can Theists be Good?" are silly questions. Of course they can using the conventionaly idea of "a basically good person".

Given the doctrine of the Fall prevalent in Christianity, I should wonder why believers even ask this question. They should, from our own doctrines, simply assume no one can be totally good, even ourselves (and especially ourselves, given our call for authenticity). I will go on record here as saying I do not think I am a good person, so there is no point in me condeming anyone else for not being good. Absent grace and later perfection, isn't everyone "sinner" and "saint" to some degree? If such is true, there is no value in proving our faith or the condemning others based on ethics or morality.

And then there are all these other questions: What do we mean by good? Is there any promise that they will always be good? How can I make sure others around me are also trying to be good? Etc.

But the conversation [here] promises to be good, and might unearth some understanding in the process, so it was worth asking a silly question to do some digging.

Perhaps it's time to talk about renaming the post if it's still a problem. My intent has never been to answer such a stupid question as "can atheists be good", but use it as a hook of sorts like any newpaper headline so the real questions could be asked.

Dave Armstrong and beepbeep both brought up important issues in their own right, soulster and I have both addressed them, . . .

I find it interesting that soulster is willing to change the title of his post on the grounds that an atheist finds it offensive (even on grounds that I think are highly questionable because it greatly misunderstands soulster's intent).

The main critic of his title (beepbeep) takes pains to argue that no one has the "right" to be offended. Yet he keeps being offended by the title (and, I think, on unreasonable grounds). Both soulster and myself have, I think, adequately explained why the title was used.

On the other hand, drunkentune is unwilling to remove the picture that both soulster and I have argued is severely offensive to Christians, because it mocks one of our sacred symbols.

Takes two parties cooperating in the effort to achieve mutual respect, dontcha think?

No need to revive some huge controversy. I'm just rendering my opinion. And with that, I'll cease on this topic.

Overall, I do think it's very good that we talk and even disagree vigorously. Better to talk about things, even if they can't be totally resolved to everyone's satisfaction, than not to talk at all. It's a beginning. We can't expect to split the atom on the first day of trying to do so. The effort and willingness are the most important things at this early stage.


CD-Host said...

Andres Serrano (Piss Christ) is a latin American Catholic. Chris Ofili (The Holy Virgin Mary) is an African Catholic. Neither one is an atheist.

Elephant dung in Nigeria is considered a ritualistic substance with positive connotations. The image of Mary was done in a Nigerian style. The controversy was Rudy Giuliani (an Italian Catholic) strongly disapproving of Nigerian Catholicism. This was a culture clash within Catholicism, nothing to do with atheist intolerance.

Dave Armstrong said...

Serrano calls himself a former Catholic.

Dave Armstrong said...

I didn't claim that Serrano or Ofili were atheists, anyway, in the article. My objection was that atheists displaying such "art" were being counter-productive of atheist-Christian discussion. I wrote:

* * *

On his own blog, e.g., drunkentune posts a picture of "p%#&Christ", the marvelous, artsy depiction of a crucifix in urine. All we need now (for us Catholics) is the other "work of art" (I forget the name) where Mary is covered with feces. Ah, the wonders of some of the more famous and notorious examples of the anti-Christian "aesthetic" imagination!

That's eminently designed to endear Christians to him, isn't it, and to cause them to desire interacting with him in intelligent, amiable discourse?

. . . One can search far and wide on my blog and never find anything remotely that insulting to an atheist - and much quite to the contrary.

* * *

Thus you entirely miss the point.