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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Angry Christians

I was brought up Catholic so I know something about Angry Christians. It's something to do with absolute moral rights, the certainty that there is a right and a wrong and God is on your side. It's harder and takes more moral rigour I think to believe that the world is several shades of gray. I've only ever met one truly Christian person in my life - her name was Meg and I went to college with her. She was gentle, non-judgemental, kind and forgiving. Proper Christian virtues that are sadly lacking in far too many God loving people. Instead they seem full of rigid
self-righteousness and sometimes downright hatred of anyone who thinks differently. Their spelling usually stinks too.

When I worked at Random House we got a lot of manuscripts from religious people who wanted to spread the word through children's books. They were all terrible, all of them. I suppose if one of the central tenets of Christian faith is conversion, the poor children are a target audience, and alas, too many people think that a preachy book is perfect for children. But nobody wants to be preached at, especially children. We used to get tomes with titles like:

Jesus Bear
Hell and Damnation (Illustrated)
Does Fluffy Have a Soul?

I used to get hate mail occasionally from disgruntled authors. I was going to hell, I was the 'hore of babbylon' and a 'f***ing bitch c***' (I kid you not) for not publishing their books. All were written in the kind of crabbed, obsessive hand that makes you think of an unshaven middle age man with a twitch in a tiny cellar and the dead body of the last woman who said no to him, rotting in the next room. No that's not fair - one of them was from a woman (I think) who said she was a 'devotid momma of Kymmie the beauty queen' but I was still going to burn in hell for not wanting to publish her book on cosmetics for toddlers.

What is it about Christians and hate mail? They seem to think that with God being on their side they have the right to send vile, abusive letters to people, littered with horrible grammar and bad spelling to anyone who doesn't agree with their world view. Or swears. Or is David Attenborough. Can you believe that this lovely man, who makes the best programmes in the history of the world gets hate mail from Christians?

Atheists don't behave like this. You don't get Christian groups complaining about being deluged in green inked moronically spelled missives accusing them of being thickoes because they happen to believe that the world was created in 6 days and God says in the Old Testament that anyone who works on Sunday should be stoned to death?
Exodus 31:13-15 (Six days my work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.)

However, since the Pope has un-excommunicated Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier who remains firmly convinced that feminism is linked to witchcraft, and trouser wearing (oh and women shouldn't be allowed to go to university) it must be a bit embarrassing for God. I mean who is really on his side? Fat, red faced Neo-Cons, hate mail senders, Holocaust deniers and George W.Bush. I'd be well embarrassed if this was the calibre of my fan base.


Helen P said...

I know, I was brought up a catholic myself and now, for some reason, live in a street that has a ridiculous proportion of active church-going Christians. When the bells ring on a Sunday they troop out one after the other to the church round the corner to attend a service that always ends with hugging, clapping and chatting; total ananthema to someone brought up on the concept of speaking to the priest only if he is behind a screen.
I prefer the gentle atheist approach: 'God probably doesn't exist.'

Jane said...

Ooh Helen we lapsies must stick together. The hugging and shouting is bad enough but what about the glazed smile they all have, as though they've fallen face down in a vat of prozac?


Kit Courteney said...

I was brought up to 'decide for yourself who or what you want to believe in'.

So I decided to believe in myself as the rest seemed mighty iffy to me.

As it turns out, re the whole 'Christian values' thing, I totally agree with you. Mr KC and I do not have children through choice. The only people who have had a go at us/about us (I kid you not) are those who said it was our God-given right to procreate and therefore we SHOULD.


Jane said...

Ah well Kit you see that means you and Mr KC are having sex FOR FUN. And that won't do!!

Ruth Moss said...

I was brought up a bible thumping evolution denying fundamentalist evangelical Christian. I now prefer the gentle atheist approach also.

I remember Jeanette Winterson once saying that her mother would have happily blown herself up if it would have brought about the second coming. Mine too.

The Dotterel said...

With you all the way regarding 'shades of grey'. But not all Christians are so sure they're right; indeed, like your friend, the very best type seem only too aware of the vaguaries of human thought and actions, and adopt a non-judgemental stance throughout. (The Church of England, perchance?) Oh, and I count myself as just the average atheist.

Jane Smith said...

Your post brings to mind the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its congregation of Pastafarians: if I weren't so slack I would probably sign up or something but as it is, I know that His Noodly Magnificence is watching over me. You can read more about him here:

My brother is a gay Catholic priest, and has faced just a little discrimination (as you might imagine). It's a difficult thing to cope with: especially when the discrimination comes from people who are meant to believe in a god who loves us all.

Nik's Blog said...

Brilliant post! Glad I stumbled over here.


Jane said...

Thank you Nik. Most kind.

Jane said...

Dotterel you're right - there are probably millions of kind, compassionate Christians out there. Of course there are. It's just sad that the only ones we tend to hear about (as with most things) are the extremists, not the measured, thoughtful ones.

EvilClanger said...

The Vatican have a Department of Un-excommunication? That must be a cushy job. Still using the same forms from the batch you purchased in 1830. Never running out of paperclips. I bet when they go to the elastic band drawer, they have all perished. I hope they don't swear. I mean it would be a bugger to be sacked from the Department of Un-excommunication. Especially in a credit crunch. And you'd miss the Christmas party. Faxing an un-excommunication notice to Ian Paisley welcoming him back to the fold. Playing pin the arrow on the St. Sebastian. Ah, innocent pleasures.

The main difference between atheists and Christians, aside from all the minor details about crosses, hymns and Santa, is that atheists such as myself need to do all of our living in our lifetimes whilst the Christians don't need to bother too much about the day-to-day stuff before they pop their clogs and ascend (is that Christianity or Stargate? Hey, you get the idea). For Christians, all the important stuff comes after they are dead. Citing Marx on need, I think that is a suitable rationale for atheists to claim all the chocolate.

Exodus is clearly strong on Sundays. Does it have anything to say about 8am starts because I'm really not a morning person.

As for being stoned 'to death', you should stop when things go a bit woozy and not continue until you are dead whatever the Bible says.

Jane said...

Blimey EvilClanger when I first saw your post I thought: 'Ah here comes my first really truly angry Christian - but no! Good name by the way. Hard to ignore!

Juxtabook said...

The sad thing is that all Christians get tarred by the same brush. Those who don't shout it from the roof tops, or who are not on a mission to convert, get tipped into the same soupy mess as the dizzier end of creationists and other fundamentalists. It is possible to be normal and a Christian. Bishop Richard Williamson is not someone with whom I would like to be associated but then, talking of the holocaust, neither was Hitler and he was an atheist. There are idiots (and worse) on all sides.

I ummed and ahhed about whether to say anything here, as I rarely saying anything publically about my faith but I guess I was a bit bewildered by the stereotyping. Especially when, moving into the comments, for some even smiling and hugging are cause for derrision. I would hope that I 'adopt a non-judgemental stance'. We're all shades of grey.

Jane said...

Ah well Juxtabook, I knew I would eventually post something that would upset someone. I certainly didn't mean to upset or offend you. As I mentioned earlier in these comments (To Dott) there are millions of kind and compassionate Christians - we just don't tend to hear from the measured and thoughtful ones. My point was really rooted in David Attenborough getting hate mail for not acknowledging God in his nature programmes. He responded by saying that there is a worm in some part of Africa (?) that can only live by burrowing through a child's eyeball and he found that hard to reconcile with the idea of a merciful God.

My parents are both strict Catholics, both kind and compassionate people, and have never lectured me on not getting married in church or not having my children baptized becuase I don't believe in Original Sin. I on the other hand never point out that the Pope they consider to be infallible was directly behind the Latin document in the 60s that threatened anyone who spoke out about child abuse in the church would be excommunicated. Shades of grey as you say.

Juxtabook said...

Not so much offended or upset as bewildered! I guess I forget the contempt with which we're held in some parts of the country! I do think it is a regional thing.

Totally agree that the mail David Attenborough gets is nasty and uncalled for. It would not have occurred to me that he should mention God in a programme on animals! I am a woolly Anglican not a Catholic but we all must guard against hypocracy and I am very against additional religious 'laws' that are really laws of man - rules on contraception for example. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger.

All the best, Catherine