Sunday, April 7, 2013

An Open Letter To Some Atheists

My love for table top gaming has its roots with my father. I don't recall ever engaging in the stereotypical father-son bonding experience, playing catch in the yard. Our version of that was games like Risk & Trivial Pursuit.

It was through this experience where I learned a great number of things. It was there I learned how to lose gracefully. He never let me win these games, and the way I knew he never let me win was because I never won. He had confidence in my ability to know the value of earning your own victories and trusted that I wouldn't like it if I he let me win and that I could learn from defeat.

The reason we[1] couldn't beat him in strategy games was because of his intelligence. He was a computer programmer in the 80s, before GUIs or the Internet. Before being a nerd was popularized and was closer to the characters portrayed in Revenge of the Nerds than Chris Hardwick[2]. Closer to Bill Gates than Mark Cuban.

When I was 4, he left that career to join the Air Force, who eventually sent him to the Naval Post Graduate School to earn a Masters degree in an area where even the title of the degree was confusing to me. I never fully knew what he did in the Air Force because the half of his job that wasn't classified was over my head. I know that he did something with communications and once got a process that took 12 hours down to a few minutes.

I've aced nearly every math class I've ever taken, without even trying. But after my father died, I found some of his math text books and they were ridiculously complex and confusing.

I got a great deal of my ability to think analytically from my father.  Some was certainly genetically inherited, but it also came from him teaching us to think critically. We didn't play games labeled as "educational", but we did play games that required thinking strategically.  My thought process often thinks several steps ahead of the present. I'm confident that I have my father to thank for that.

He's been gone nearly 4 years and I still find myself wanting his opinion on things. I never got to see his reaction to things like the Tea Party, our first Black President, or the former's insane reaction to the latter.

I've since evolved to slightly more complicated games like Settlers of Catan[3], Puerto Rico[4], Twilight Imperium[5], etc.  It makes me sad that I'll never be able to share most of these games with him.  Especially Catan, as I think I could actually beat him in it.  Probably not Puerto Rico though, as I did get the chance to lose to him in that.

My father was one of the smartest people I've ever known. And he was a Christian.

I frequently see atheists making blanket statements about Christians, saying they're all stupid. And even when challenged on it, they often stick by the generalization. If that is you, then you're my target audience for this letter.

When you do that, you hurt the cause. Calling them all stupid does nothing to convince those on the fence that there's something worthwhile on our side of the fence. All you accomplish with that behavior is the creation & reinforcement of the negative stereotype about us that we're all arrogant dicks.

By treating them all like shit, you alienate potential Christian allies like my father would have been. Not only that, but you offend people like me, who have had Christians in our lives who we loved and respected, who we wish were still here.

You make my job as an activist more difficult. Christians are the majority.  We cannot preserve things like the Separation of Church and State without their help.

Please stop calling them all stupid.  Go ahead and call individuals stupid when they are, or point out trends if they're valid.  Go ahead and criticize the beliefs as irrational, as they typically are. But it's important that we don't alienate ourselves from a large portion of the population when we have giant hurdles to cross to even be accepted as normal or trustworthy.  They could just as easily take the side of the Fundamentalists they share a holy book with. Let's show them our side is the right one and not give them any more reason to hate us than the Fundamentalists already do.

Plus, saying they're all stupid is flat out not true[6][7].

The "TL;DR" version of the above is:  Please stop calling all Christians stupid.  It's not true, and saying it makes us look like assholes.
1.  My brother couldn't beat him either.
6.  Francis Collins believes in a god.
7.  Isaac Newton


  1. This is a wonderful letter. I am not opposed to the idea that not all Christians are stupid. In fact, I love the fact that smart and scientific Christians can have the faith necessary to believe and the smarts strong enough to understand their physical surroundings and the sciences.

    As an atheist, I do my best not to alienate, and get rather angry at those that do. I think atheists need to grow up and start with the live and let live philosophy. Those that do their best to preach atheism are doing just that: preaching. Making atheism into a religion, sure, based in science and a disbelief in what we see as an illogical metaphysical being is basically falling into the same pitfalls that religions have.

    Be a Christian, please. And when we have a discussion about faith and religion, please stick to your convictions! I have much more respect for a Christian who doesn't preach and can't be swayed than I do for an atheist that believes we should force everyone to believe what we believe.

    Stay strong in your faith and know that not all atheists are idiots either... (yup, you called us out... "some atheists" in the title of your letter)

  2. dont put too much stock into what atheists say on reddit.

    1. It's not just Reddit atheists, despite r/atheism's reputation.

  3. I am increasingly convinced that the strength of one's stated metaphysical position has less to do with the rational likelihood of being correct than with the psychological need to be correct. - c emerson said that. Very nice thought process here. Congratulations.

    So what brought you to the decision to support atheism ? (My first visit here, so if that is already outlined I'll find it).

    1. I've always been atheist. My parents may have been Christian, but they valued critical thinking and passed it on to their sons.