I have often heard the aphorism to the effect that “it’s hard to be angry when you’re thankful.” And I think there’s a lot of truth to this. Moreover, many religious people in my experience have touted the virtues of gratefulness and thanksgiving, and many have demonstrated remarkable patience and humbleness along with their thankfulness. It’s quite therapeutic in fact, but I’ve never supposed that such virtues were reserved only for the believer. Nor have I ever been effectively persuaded that belief in invisible magic beings is a necessary precondition for the positive orientation to life to which many religious people I’ve known have paid ample lip service.
When I read apologetic screeds like Hays’ blog entry, dripping – as many I’ve read – with spite and venom, I don’t find a man who is thankful or grateful, humble or patient; rather, I see someone who has allowed himself to build up a rage for people he’s never even met, for people that are simply a figment of his own fantasies, people who ironically he likely wishes never existed in the first place. It’s quite easy to make imaginary people the scapegoat of our ire, but when you have a scapegoat, you have no mirror. And maybe that’s the whole point to Hays’ numerous posts excoriating non-believers. A proud Darth Vader might say, “the displeasure is strong with this one.”
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I have it all backwards. Maybe I as an atheist am the real villain in this screenplay. Maybe I’m the one who has made a scapegoat of Hays and other apologists in spite of their displays of scorn for non-believers and, even worse, individuals who were devoted Christians at one point in their lives, but then departed from the fold and found a new direction in life. I don’t think this is the case, but if it’s true that I am in the wrong here, I want to know and I want to correct my ways. So in the interest of discovering whether or not I’m wrong in either measure, let’s explore Hays’ post and find what we can learn.