All across the nautical and terrestrial world, humans delight in laying forth opinions, which are fated to blow away and disintegrate within a moment after their utterance. Opinions about atheism are like – no, not that body part usually referenced ( the anus), which all of us have only one of – hairs, capable of growing just about anywhere, and ready to snap into nothingness.
In that spirit, believers should sleep more comfortably knowing that there is some disagreement within the atheist “community” over the practice of “firebrand” (in David Silverman’s overused phrase) blasphemy. This has taken the shape of direct, intense mocking of important religious symbols, such as the anti-Islamic drawing contests, the wafer kidnapping caper, and the Pussy Riot takeover of the Russian Orthodox. None of these escapades should have resulted in murder, horrific imprisonment, and Internet flame wars, but atheists, many of whom grew up in religion-infected households, should understand the intensity of religious adherents who take exception to their cherished icons being singled out by non-believers for sport.
Say, for example, that a believer would write a lengthy post about raping somebody’s life partner – free speech, right? No harm, no foul, just words, right? Of course not – that’s incendiary, rude, disgusting. Most blasphemy is not even close to that kind of direct immoral attack, but atheists might consider keeping some of their more outre invasions of religious ideology private, saving the cracker fun for the atheist club, letting the oldsters of the Russian Orthodox church have their own practices without invasion.
There are stalwart atheist groups attacking state expression of religion in the US, but not all campaigns are equal. Should crosses be allowed to be placed on state property to commemorate the site of victims meeting their untimely deaths? Again, not an earth-shattering decision either way – the cross is about the only symbol of death understood in America – a vertical stick to anchor in the ground, a horizontal stick to catch the eye. Is this proselytizing? That could be, but we have made no competing secular symbol for the site of death. The numerous memorials on our highways ion bad taste, of course – are we living commuters supposed to have boundless sympathy for these unknown deathbound drivers, some of whom may have been intoxicated? Are we supposed to imagine their deaths, over and over? For what purpose?
This is not accommadationism – atheists should be rationalists capable of basic empathy, but there is also a basic right to practice satire against the powers-that-should-not be. When’ the next internet kerfuffle going to drop?