Should we be rude to hostile atheists?
I would like to ask the Fisheaters my question in the subject title.

Yes, yes, this topic has gotten me banned from a Traditional Catholic forum.  I can't imagine why exploring this question is such a hot topic, since we are supposed to be evangelizing people in the first place.  But I never really reached a conclusion.  I still desire to know how we should approach hostile atheists in the online social spaces.  I know a lot of thin-skinned Trads fear talking about this and want to shut out the conversation if possible, but I am confident that people here will be able to openly consider, ponder, and address my queries on this matter. 

Now, for the topic at hand.  Admittedly, I have become more aware and robust in situations when I find myself in an atheist's midst. 

When I think of different saints, I feel as though I'm in good company.  Consider St. Francis of Assisi, who once boldly told the Muslims "I am sent by the Most High God, to show you and your people the way of salvation by announcing to you the truths of the Gospel."  Can you imagine saying that to a gaggle of atheists who despise you?  To think that a man would have the nerve to come to an entire collection of people who believe something different, and then telling them that they are wrong in their ways an need to convert.

Or, consider St. Francis' five Franciscan Friars who went to Morocco to convert the infidels.  They preached in the streets and marched right into a mosque and denounced Mohammed right then and there.  When they were imprizoned and tortured, they tried converting the jailers.  According to a Father Cuthbert, "[T]he five Friars knew nothing of diplomacy and had not the temper to live and let live. Mohammed was, in their eyes, the enemy of Christ, and the souls of this people were rightful spoils for their Divine Redeemer.  To go back upon their mission would be a traitorus backsliding from their fealty to their Savior."

St. Augustine of Hippo once said of the Pelagians: "There is an opinion that calls for sharp and vehment resistence -- I mean the belief that the power of the human will can of itself, without the help of God, either achieve perfect righteousness or advance steadily towards it."

Consider when St. Cyril of Alexandria once stated: "Truth reveals herself plain to those who love her."  Do you know what that implies?  It means that those who do not know the truth do not love truth, but they love deception.  How passive aggressive.  Such a statement's tone could be seen as very hostile to those who didn't agree with St. Cyril.

And then, check out the audacious tone of St. Thomas Aquinas: "This then is what we have written to destroy the error mentioned [Latin Averroism], using the arguments and teachings of the philosophers themselves, not the documents of faith.  If anyone glorying in the name of false science wishes to say anything in reply to what we have written, let him not speak in corners nor to boys who cannot judge of such arduous matters, but reply to this in writing, if he dares.  He will find that not only I, who am the least of men, but many other zealous for the truth, will resist his error and correct his ignorance."

One of my favorite quotes, which happened to aid me in getting the boot from The Echo Chamber, comes from Santa Clause.  When confronted by a cult of Artemis, St. Nicholas said: "Go to Hell's fire, which has been lit for you by the Devil."  Of St. Nicholas' war against that cult, the St. Nicholas Center says the following: "Legends tell of fierce warfare between Nicholas and Artemis, conflict which lasted all of the saint's life and even beyond. Nicholas attacked this great temple with tremendous might and vigor, absolutely determined to bring about its total ruin. The very foundations were uprooted from the ground, so complete was the destruction. It is said that the fleeing demons inspired the people's awe of God."

Has anyone read the account of St. Catherine of Sienna, who was quite blunt in speaking to people?  Once, when addressing three Italian Cardinals who supported the anti-pope, she called them a "stench that makes the whole world reek."

I hear that St. Jerome was quite a firebrand as well. 

Heck, even Michael Voris--who certainly has mixed reviews from people here in the Traditional Catholic circles--thinks that men in the Church need to be more masculine. 

Why am I bringing this up again?  I suppose it stems from Vox Day's latest blog post today, titled: Punch Harder.  In his latest post, he talks about the trials and travails of dealing with online Social Justice Warriors.  Vox said the following:

Quote:The thing is, if you're going to be a public figure and express your opinion on the Internet, you are going to upset a subset of the people who encounter it. A subset of that subset are going to respond by attacking you using nothing but rhetoric. I've had people calling me nearly every name in the book on the Internet since 2001. So what? It clearly hasn't harmed me in the slightest. I quite like that it also gives me complete carte blanche to call everyone else anything I please since it seems to bother most of them considerably more than it bothers me.

The first rule of dealing with SJWs is Andrew Breitbart's: always punch back twice as hard. The second rule is this: keep punching. Women are particularly susceptible to attacks on their appearance and their sexual behavior, so those are the most effective subjects to target with rhetoric. Once it is clear that they're not engaging in honest dialectic or rational discourse, your best bet is to either ignore them or nuke them rhetorically.

The third rule is this: quote them and quote them ruthlessly. Patrick Nielsen Hayden is a self-admitted racist. John Scalzi is a self-admitted rapist. NK Jemisin is a self-admitted savage... and proud of it.

The SJWs have to choose. Either they can engage in rational discourse or they can accept being called sluts and savages and racists and evil, ugly feminists on a regular basis. What is not on the table is one-way communication where they attack and lecture us and we humbly accept it in dutiful silence.

Admittedly, I do like Vox Day's approach here.  I feel as though Christians have been flacid and ineffective in the last century in holding their own fort and successfully combating the encroaching societal evils.  We can spend all day navel gazing how we got here.  But the fact is, we need field officers.  We need people unafraid to do field work.  And, we need people fighting in the field.  We need to send our troops out there.  I'm unsure hunkering down in enclaves is going to be an effective defense against Satan in the 21st Century. 

With Vox's approach, we can put on our swords, keep loaded pistols in our holsters, and ride out onto the battlefield ready for action. 

But, I am a little conflicted, which is why I created this thread today, and which is why I created that thread over at Suscipe Domine last year--which ultimately got me booted from the site.  I hope that bringing this up will not get me ostracized in the same way, as I am only looking for an answer here.  Please consider my question that I posed to Vox Day this afternoon:

Quote:Vox, about punching harder, I have this question in relation to other online opponents, the atheists.

I truly enjoy watching our side get ruthless with the other side.

I've been at it with atheists online lately. They can be pretty vile. However, as I read different apologists, they state that we are to be humble and respectful.

Here is an excerpt from Trent Horn's book, Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God With Logic and Charity.

"Theists do their cause a great disservice by ridiculing atheists or saying that it is obvious atheism is false. If atheism were simply irrational, then why would believers have to guard against being 'drowned' by unbelief? Likewise, atheists should know that many people have wrestled and struggled with the question of God's existence before they converted to religious faith. Both sides should accept each other's doubts and journey toward the truth together in a spirit of mutual humility."

The above passage comes from a section called "Getting Rid of Bad Attitudes."

I have not been completely kind. On occasion I return their hostility. Not in a boisterous explosive and emotional way. But sort of in a straight matter of fact way. And I feel heartened when I see people from my side pull out their stilletos and take charge against ruthless hostile ridicule.

Ought we be more pleasant and just take the hits? I'm a little divided on this one.

If it is one thing that Catholic Answers has going for it, it is that they have Trent Horn.  His book Answering Atheism is a real gem of a tool in figuring out how to deal with the rise of faithlessness in our culture.  I assure you all, atheism and agnosticism will be very large problems for all believing Catholics 25 years from now.  If you have babies and toddlers, then by the time your children are grown adults, they could be facing the open persecution that we only read about when we read of the Vendee in France, persecuted Catholics in Vietnam, or the Christeros in FreeMasonic Mexico.  Horn's book is a good beginning. 

Yet, is Horn completely correct?  Do we truly need to get rid of bad attitudes?  Are we truly doing ourselves a disservice by ridiculing atheists?  Should Horn time travel back to the outspoken saints who combatted the heresies and cults of their times?  In my mind, on this point, it looks like it is the 21st Century Trent Horn vs St. Francis and his Friars, St. Augustine, St. Cyril, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, and St. Nicholas.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.  I have addressed this before elsewhere. I trust that the question will be reasonably recieved here. 


Here is Vox's reply to my questions:

Quote:Here is an excerpt from Trent Horn's book, Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God With Logic and Charity.

I don't have to read any more than that to know he's an ineffective and quite possibly a jackass to boot. Christians who talk about charity in that sense are like liberals who talk about being thoughtful.

Ought we be more pleasant and just take the hits? I'm a little divided on this one.

No. If they are taking shots like that, their issue is pride in their pseudo-reason. Break it with the real thing.

I will forward this question of mine to other Catholic forums, as I want to hear other Catholics' opinions on this matter. 

We probably shouldn't be rude, I find it nearly impossible to be civil with obnoxious fedora tipping atheists. Anyway, there's no convincing them. They need to be broken and start over.

Besides, it's not like civility automatically works.

I really do not think we are very good witnesses of Christ when we are rude. Personally I can't say I have never been rude because I have but most recently I have just tried to answer their questions and then move on and let God handle the rest. I think a lot of atheists try to get Christians to be rude just so they can say, see that Catholic isn't so loving or Christ following.

I recently started reading The Victories of the Martyrs by Saint Alphonsus De Liguori and I have to say their attacks were a lot worse and I haven't come across where they were rude. Of course, they might have been, it just doesn't say that in the book. They were grateful to suffer for Christ.

So, I say, no. Don't be rude.
(03-28-2015, 05:55 PM)Ave Castitatis Lilium Wrote: We probably shouldn't be rude, I find it nearly impossible to be civil with obnoxious fedora tipping atheists. Anyway, there's no convincing them. They need to be broken and start over.

Besides, it's not like civility automatically works.

Okay, then.  Well, I certainly agree civility doesn't always work but I am glad the Christian stayed calm.
Atheism forever, you dirty goyim!
This is a somewhat tough issue because it is easy to conflate different things, so a proper answer requires clarity firstly.

Nice/mean (or rude) is a secularization of the Christian concepts of charity/hate. I cannot prove this historically to be the case, but I see an analogous case in how Marxian utopias are the secular counterpart to the Christian Kingdom of God. I think Karl Löwith's Meaning in History demonstrates this point pretty well. Even atheists, such as Marx, Nietzsche, and more recently, Hitchens, and Protestants, such as Kierkegaard, understood the socio-economic implications of Christian doctrines far better than many Christians have.

But just because nice/mean may (or may not) be the secular counterpart to charity/hate, that does not mean the two spheres may not overlap. Sometimes (or rather oftentimes) charity expresses itself in secular niceness and civility. Recall St. Thomas's discussion on the importance of modesty and decorum in speech and action; these clearly encompass common courtesy, local etiquette, etc.

But sometimes charity expresses itself in what will commonly be interpreted as rude or even hateful. Even the most innocuous suggestion that gay marriage is a metaphysical impossibility and a contradiction in terms will evoke startlingly violent reactions. Thus, rudeness is not logically contrary to charity.

But another problem enters in: our intentions and motivations. Sometimes we may be "nice" precisely because we lack the courage to be charitable, and where charity would demand that we say something that may very likely result in "unpleasant" reactions, we back off. Here we can apply the words of Christ, "But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 10:33). Such a denial is not simply an explicit, spoken rejection of God's sovereignty, but also the refusal to act as we ought according to justice and charity.

Sometimes we are rude, mean, or even cruel out of motivations of hatred, but we all know that we have tried to justify our actions by calling it "righteous anger," as though righteous anger ever needs to try to justify itself. Christ did not need to justify himself, which gets to the core of charity: charity never needs to justify itself, but despite that, it often condescends (in the good sense of the word) to do so anyway.

So even though rudeness may be the correct application of a charitable act in certain circumstances, our improper motivations and dispositions may actually destroy the act of charity that ought to have been there. And actually, most people can sense this intuitively. I think it's fair to say that the stereotype of Christians who say they are trying to love sinners while condemning the sin but are actually just hateful—is true!

One of the most psychologically astute explorations of this topic that I've read is on this page:

Hope that helps. God bless!
I think ridicule is a very useful rhetorical tactic in response to hostility, but only when well used. It can backfire if you're just being bluntly rude. Remember that your main goal in a debate is to convince the audience, not the opponent.
On a more humorous note, CAF removed my duplicate post of the OP.  They wouldn't even let me ask the question!  I even gave Catholic Answers kudos for employing Trent Horn.  Ha!  Ridiculous.
I think I gave up on that forum when someone unironically called St. Francis's Canticle of the Sun "new age."
As a 'cradle atheist' myself, I can attest to the fact that rude Christians lowered my opinion of Christianity. It was a simple correlation: "what sort of 'Good News' is this, if it makes them just like the rest of this crappy world?".

My bitterness against Christianity was very intense for many years. Different factors applied: I thought it was a religion only consisting of the Westboro Baptist Church, Communist-leaning Episcopalians, and dotty, boring old Catholics. The biggest influence was Westboro types, though. Real, self-righteous "God-botherers".

It was only when I met an extremely gentle soul that my opinion of the religion was radically changed. I met a Franciscan brother who never engaged my cynicism, always embraced me, and never offered a single ill word.

Without my friar-friend, I would never have become even slightly interested in true Faith.

Users browsing this thread: 2 Guest(s)