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Changed perspective on atheists- yes, this is a rant

Discussion in 'Christianity and World Religion' started by TG123, Aug 24, 2014.

  1. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    When I was in Palestine and Israel this year, I have to admit that my perspective changed a lot, not on atheism, but atheists.

    Atheists are people I used to look down upon and believe that they are less moral than believers. I have had some negative experiences with atheists in Canada, many of them arrogant and scoffing at people who believe in God. Most of the ones I know from Canada are pretty materialist driven and though they are nice people, they wouldn't go out of their way to place themselves in danger if it meant helping others.

    The ISMers I met in Hebron were totally the opposite of that. I was the only Christian on the team, and the one of 2 people who believed in God (the other guy said he believes in God, but does not follow any religion). Everyone else was a disbeliever. Yet they were some of the kindest and most friendly people I met. They knew I am a Christian, but no one mocked my beliefs. We had some great debates about the existence of God and creationism vs evolution, but they were very respectful. I went to church every Sunday, and no one had a problem with that.

    More importantly, these were people who cared about the Palestinian people we worked with, and they were people who not only cared, but who actually were willing to put themselves on the line. We would confront the soldiers together, were teargassed together, would rush out the door together at 1 in the morning after hearing there was yet another settler attack or army attack- not knowing what to expect when we got there, had the police and army threaten all of us, dodged rocks and bottles thrown by Israeli settlers together. Some of our group members were shot at when they were close to clashes, and one of them, a girl from Iceland, was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet. She had an enormous bruise for a few weeks, but didn't let that stop her work, though her parents when they heard about it were begging and then demanding that she come home immediately.

    I seriously consider these people to be some of my closest friends, closer even than some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and my other Muslim and Jewish God-fearing friends. I know what they are like when things get really really really bad, and I know they always have my back and I have theirs.

    It is disappointing that the ranks of groups like ISM and NMD (No More Deaths- who help migrants in the desert in Arizona and confront the Border Patrol when they are abusing people and who I volunteered with in 2011) are made up mostly of atheists and agnostics and non-religious people. They take some of the biggest risks, yet the absence of Muslims and Christians and Jews (there are actually many Jews in ISM, though many of them are not religious) and others who believe in God in such groups is depressingly noticeable. ****

    Where are the Christians and the other monotheists? Giving money and running soup kitchens is great, but why is it when it comes to taking physical risks and risking the possibility of arrest or a beating or worse, at least in these groups, the non-believers step up more quickly than those of us who believe?

    I believe atheism is wrong- the argument that there is no God is impossible to hold up in my opinion, and is deepky flawed and mistaken. I don't see how people can deny God's existence.

    However, although atheists I believe are wrong in their worldview, a lot of them are following Jesus' commands to love the poor and work for justice a lot better than many Christians are, as well as a lot better than many Muslims and Jews.

    Just some of my thoughts. Thank you for reading my rant.

    **** In Palestine/Israel, there is Christian Peacemaker Teams who are made up mostly of Christians, but they are a small group and it is hard to get in- several weeks of training and a tough selection process- whereas to join ISM or NMD you literally just need to show up for a 2 day training and you are on your way. CPTers take the same risks that ISM takes.
    In Arizona, there are Christian groups that help migrants, but most of them will not camp out in the potentially dangerous environment of the desert to set up a 24 hour aid station and confront the Border Patrol when they are hurting migrants.
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  2. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist I believe in life before death!

    I'm a little disturbed that it is specifically battlefield virtues that convinced you that atheists can be virtuous people, but I'm happy that you see the diversity among atheists, and that atheists can be just as principled as anyone else.


  3. Senator Cheese

    Senator Cheese Master of Cheese

    In Relationship
    I believe that may be a misconception. You have been to two grounds in which you risked your life (for which I have much respect). More than these two grounds exist. Christian missionaries (missionaries of any religion, for that matter) risk their lives and face constant persecution whenever working in an Islamic country - is that not risking ones life? Christian doctors who work towards treating the sick from Ebola can also get the disease - is that not risking ones life?

    To be fair, I think that Atheists and Christians both, to similar percentages, work for and contribute to charities. And I also believe that the percentage of those willing to risk their own lives will be similar, because this is human nature.

    The fact that not many Christians may be joining your quest in Palestine may be due to the fact that governmental actions and extremist actions in Palestine have led many to believe that support for the populace there might result in more death and more injustice towards Israel. Reports of Muslims rejoicing at the death of innocents will fuel prejudice and will reduce those willing to see the Palestinian people as a legitimate victim and as a people demanding of international support - you would certainly agree that the situation is complex and cannot be accurately described by someone from abroad, or not?

    Either way, though I admire your courage, I do not believe that you can demand the same level of courage from every Christian. And I also do not believe that the fight in Palestine is the only or even the most dangerous place in which Christians work for the will of God under the threat of death.

    Jesus wrote he has written himself into our hearts. That means the humanist approach that God wishes us to employ is written into every human being on the planet, including every Atheist, Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist. :) Loving your neighbor and showing compassion is as universal as it gets.
  4. RayJeena

    RayJeena Humble and proud of it. Supporter

    United States
    I'd love to see the official stats on that.

    What you're seeing is what I've stated in the past here on CF, which
    is that God works through whomever He pleases without waiting
    first for an official statement of faith on their part. I've constantly
    come across the Christian's question, "where's the atheist's basis of
    morality?", asked by those looking for a creed on the atheist's
    part (one which would, preferably, line right up with their own ;) ).

    That basis is not in a creed, but in the power of God manifesting
    through any sentient being He so chooses.

    All imo, of course. :)

    I agree.

    This is reminiscent of what felt like the prevailing mindset when
    missions-week came around in a church I used to attend. Forget
    blooming where you were planted—if you weren't lining up to be
    shipped Somewhere Else to do missions work, then you likely
    would come away feeling worthless as a Christian because of it. It
    was pretty messed-up.

    I think it should also be remembered that contributions on the part
    of anyone—Christian or otherwise—don't derive their meaning
    solely from how much of a threat of death they carry. Life itself
    comes with that already—and it's not just a threat, but a
    promise ;)—it carries a 100% chance of death. We all live with
    that every day of our lives.

    Therefore, I see just as much value in those supposedly "lesser"
    contributions already being made which have prevented dangerous
    (i.e. war-zone-grade) environments from becoming more
    widespread than they already are. Those contributions may not be
    as prominent, but they're apparently just as potent.

    For myself, I see little point in waiting for things around me to
    deteriorate into a war-zone before letting the whole peace-on-
    earth-goodwill-toward-men thing kick in. So, of course, folks like
    me will likely never be decorated up one side and down the other
    with medals, nor will we get the spotlight at the next missions-
    conference. We just follow where we sense the Spirit is leading us.
    The reward and the joy comes from serving The Beloved.

    I like how John Greenleaf Whittier put it (apologies in advance to
    any war-fans reading this): "Peace hath higher tests of manhood,
    than battle ever knew."

  5. Aryeh Jay

    Aryeh Jay Veteran Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

    United States
    " God works through whomever He pleases without waiting
    first for an official statement of faith on their part."

    So the gist is, God uses atheists to do his work for Him because true believers are too busy protecting their assets and tending their faith then to be bothered with doing Works?

    It reminds me of one of my Christian friend’s mother in law; “Joyful Joyce” is what everyone calls her. She has been on three missions for her Church (Wesleyan) to bring the gospel to the uninformed non-Christians of the earth. Glasgow, Scotland; Berlin, Germany; and currently Rome, Italy.
  6. dazed

    dazed Newbie

    Careful there, TG! That's a slippery slope to atheism. :)
  7. LoveBeingAMuslimah

    LoveBeingAMuslimah Newbie

    Hi TG, welcome back.

    I don't know how many Muslims there are with ISM, but it seems according to this video that there are at least 2 (the woman with the scarf on and the man making the video) in Gaza.

    This is a video where Salem Shamaly was shot and killed by Israeli snipers while searching for his loved ones during a ceasefire:


    Maybe there aren't a lot in ISM, but I know a lot of Muslims went on the Freedom Flotilla in 2011 (I believe all of those who were killed that day were Muslim) and have been active with other aid convoys. Many are in Gaza as part of charities.

    Dr. Abbas Khan was a British surgeon who went to Syria to volunteer at a hospital before he was detained, tortured, and eventually killed. His story is just one of many. It might not be Gaza, but I don't think it's accurate to say that there aren't a lot of Muslims putting their lives at risk.
  8. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    Hi Senator Cheese and Chaela,

    Thanks so much for your responses. I knew I forgot to include something important, namely, that the lack of Christian involvement in the relatively high-risk (in the West Bank yes, in Arizona a lot less) work we were involved in applied only to the groups I served with.

    Christian missionaries and aid workers do a lot of great work in other countries, and in conditions far more dangerous than the ones I was in. I know a person who served with Mennonite Central Committee in Northern Uganda, and he would go out into the bush and risk LRA attacks with people he was accompanying who were local Ugandans working for a peace agreement. Like me, he was badly beaten up. Unlike me, it happened to him twice. People from my church do ministry on the streets, and my pastor once lost a few of his teeth one night doing that.

    I didn't say that Christians are not involved in important ministry, and even high-risk ministry. I meant to say that I wished there were more Christians in the groups I worked with in the West Bank and Arizona.

    I didn't do a good job in expressing myself, and I probably made it sound like Christians don't put themselves on the line to work for justice. Thank you so much for your responses, they have definitely made me reclarify what I was saying.

    Take care and God bless you.

    Thank you also Dazed and Eudaimonist and LoveBeingAMuslimah and AryehJay for your responses. I have to rush now, but will respond later to what you wrote.

    God bless you also.

  9. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    Hi LoveBeingAMuslimah.

    Salaam Alaikum. Like I wrote to the Christian posters who commented on this thread, I was referring to the absence of Christians and Muslims (there are many Jews in ISM, so with them it is a bit different, even if many of them are not religious) in the groups I worked with, not being active in the struggle against injustice in general, even when it involves taking risks. I know that there are Muslims, as well as Christians and Jews who go out of their way to help others-regardless of religion- and sometimes suffer a lot as consequence.

    Thank you for sharing the story of Dr. Abbas Khan. The man in my opinion was a hero.

    In some ways, he was not different than Sister Dorothy Stang, an American nun who went to the Amazon and stood by the native peoples there in their opposition to illegal logging. Her brave work resulted in several death threats, until one day she was shot with a pistol by some men who ambushed her. She saw them coming and knew what they were going to do, so she opened her Bible and read the Beatitudes to them. They asked her if she had a weapon, she replied that her weapon is her Bible. She was gunned down.
    UDHR - Heroes

    We didn't meet the team in Gaza. The man on the video who was shot was a Palestinian and not a member of ISM. The woman in the headscarf could have been Muslim.

    In ISM, there are at times Christian and Muslim volunteers, but they make up the definite minority- although Jews, both Israeli and international- make up at least one third of our group. The majority of the activists are atheists and people who do not follow any religion.

    The same is true in the Sonora Desert in Arizona, with No More Deaths.

    I am not saying that Christians and Muslims do not do good and brave things, many do. However, it is sad that in these groups I worked with, religious people in general and monotheists in particular, are a minority.
  10. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    I did know that atheists can be good and self-sacrificial people before going to Palestine and Arizona, but all of those whom I met before these trips (Palestine in particular) were materialists who would act arrogantly towards Christians and others who believe in God- this was sometimes a problem in Arizona in No More Deaths also, though we talked it over and they stopped. In Palestine with ISM, we all respected each other and again, these people are some of my best friends and always will be, God willing.
  11. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    I like that statement and don't disagree with it.
    There are "true believers" in groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams and Islamic Aid and Rabbis for Human Rights and Mennonite Central Committee, to name only a few. There are also Muslims and Christians and Jews- though few and far between, in groups like International Solidarity Movement* and No More Deaths, and others.

    There are also many others who do not do risky things but are involved in less "noticeable" but no less important things- being foster parents, helping in drop-in centres and soup kitchens, raising money to give to local groups in developing countries that do international development, spending time with the sick, teaching English to newcomers, volunteering their time as nurses... they care no less.

    There are many ways to work for the Kingdom of God. Standing up to soldiers and documenting their crimes or running a refugee camp in the middle of the desert are only some examples of what can be done. You don't need to go halfway across the world or risk getting arrested or shot to help others. Yes, that is part of what I do- I do things locally also- but it is in no way better or more important than the things others do.

    I want to very sincerely apologize to everyone if I mistakenly gave that impression.

    According to the Bible, doing good works is tending one's faith- without good works, faith is dead. I would argue that those who do not do good works are the one neglecting their faith.

    *ISM may not be the best example, given that about 1/3 of our members are Jewish

    Interesting. I think there is definitely room and a need for missions trips. I personally don't go on them, but try to be a witness to my faith wherever I am.
  12. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    LOL sorry dazed, never going to happen. My perspective on atheists changed, my perspective on atheism remains the same. :)
  13. Zoness

    Zoness 667, neighbor of the beast Supporter

    United States
    I'm not sure what to make of it except to say that your [former] beliefs are standard fare for Christians; inferring that the rest of us are less moral because we don't believe in God. We're pretty used to that.

    I'm glad that's changed.
  14. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    Thanks, Zoness. I wanted to maybe clarify a bit what I said- while I didn't believe that all atheists are immoral and self-centered and materialist people, the ones I knew in Canada for the most part all fit that perception. The first ones I met who were not like that were during my summer "vacations" in Palestine, also Arizona- though even there (Arizona), there was lot of arrogance towards Christians and our beliefs, which I really didn't appreciate. The people I worked with in Palestine had none of that and always had my back.

    Not only that, but a lot of them were more caring and courageous people than many of my Christian- and also Muslim and Jewish- friends.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2014
  15. Zeek

    Zeek Follower of Messiah, Israel advocate and Zionist

    Interestingly you cannot have a Christian Atheist or a Moslem Atheist, but I have a number of friends who are Jewish Atheists...and also while I think of it you can be born a Jew and born a Moslem but you have to be 'born again' to be a Christian, but you can't be born an Atheist.

    By the way some of the worse things said to me have been by ISM and PSC members and other BDS supporters when they found out I was a Christian and mocked my faith relentlessly...not a single one ever sprang to my defence...probably because I am perceived as a Zionist and therefore anything goes.....not complaining as I have rhino hide skin...but just to show that in different situations you see things in people that may not always be apparent.
  16. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    That is quite interesting.

    I'm sorry to hear that, Zeek. That was wrong of those who did so to do to you.
  17. Zeek

    Zeek Follower of Messiah, Israel advocate and Zionist

    I know you know that TG...I wonder what would have transpired if you had been in their ranks...could have made for some interesting dialogue....not least for you when you went back to the cafe with them afterwards to discuss how the protest went. ;)
  18. LoAmmi

    LoAmmi Dispassionate

    Well, I've put myself in harms way to help others. I'll probably never be an activist anywhere because I need to work to support my family and there's not a lot of money in taking off to go do that, but I've been in real, physical fights in order to stop people from being hurt.
  19. BaconWizard

    BaconWizard Regular Member

    There's already quite a bit to discuss on this thread. But first let me welcome anyone who understands that atheists can be extremely moral people, and proactively so.

    They can also be utter [bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse]s, and stupider than a lobotomized jellyfish.

    Not everyone you meet who is an atheist is fit to represent the atheist position (not that there IS one...)

    Just as not every self-proclaimed Christian is at all Christ-like.
  20. LoAmmi

    LoAmmi Dispassionate

    You don't mean that different groups are different?