Saturday, May 26, 2007

Contrasting Christian responses to Clark Adams' death

When I wrote my tribute to Clark Adams, I included this paragraph:
Suicide always provokes questions about the cause. Given Clark's activism in support of atheism, I won't be surprised to see opportunistic speculation on the part of some advocates of religion that Clark's atheism was why he killed himself, but there's no evidence to support that.
Patrick Trotter has now commented on Clark's death, exemplifying exactly what I was referring to, under the heading "When One has no Hope...":
This is what happens when someone has no hope or faith. Nothing to Believe in...Nothing or No one to turn to. It's a shame that a life this young was wasted. It's also a shame that he spent his whole life, dedicated to waging war against God.

I hope he found peace and salvation before he went.....but with his resume, I doubt it.
Patrick, who I'm sure never met Clark, is making a number of erroneous assumptions--that Clark believed in nothing, that Clark had no support, that his life was "wasted," and that he was "waging war against God." He's made no attempt to find out anything about Clark, what his life was like, what he thought, what he did, or the effects he's had on other people. Patrick Trotter here demonstrates the offensiveness of a religious bigot who has no interest in understanding, and who can't resist making the suggestion that Clark is now burning in hell for his disbelief, an argumentum ad baculum to try to keep his fellow believers in line.

Clark believed in many things--he was a fan of science, of magic, of comedy, of music, of a good argument and a good joke. He was a funny man who had many friends. He lived a productive life that had positive impact on everyone around him. And he didn't believe God existed--he no more waged war on God than on Santa Claus. He opposed religion and didn't care for religious ritual (even in secular form)--his statement that has been most repeatedly quoted is "If atheism is a religion, then health is a disease."

A contrasting Christian commentary on Clark's death comes from Anne Jackson, who ponders the extent to which Christian stigmatization of atheists helps reinforce their negative impressions of Christianity:
Aside from the extreme “turn or burn” preachers in our day, we “modern, contemporary” Christians probably do an equal part of stigmatizing those of different (or no) faiths. The “unchurched”…the “lost souls we must save!!”…I have far too often encountered the almost immediate and disapproving looks and attitude that so many of us habitually carry around when discussing someone who is a “wayward child” or “bless his heart, he’s just so lost.”

I am ashamed that I have not made it a bigger priority in my own life to be more sensitive and less prideful in my faith. And as the title of this post says, I pray for mercy and forgiveness because we know not what we do.

The only thing is…we should.

We should know. And we should love.

Anne shows herself to be a more thoughtful and open-minded person than Patrick--somebody that an atheist could possibly even productively interact with, to gain mutual understanding.

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