Most of us think of those who proselytize as religious fundamentalists. Many of us have experienced the knock at the door and upon opening it we see two well-groomed young men, white shirts and ties wanting to talk to us about God -- Mormons. Or we are greeted by young women, modestly dressed who want to come in and share the good news as understood by the Jehovah's Witnesses.
These are Christians who believe so strongly in their understanding of God they want to convert us to save our souls. There are many Muslims who hold the same desire.
There is another group, Jews for Jesus. They proselytize to Jews to convince Jews you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. That story is for another day.
I'm adamantly opposed to proselytizing. There are 91 different names for God in the Bible. I take that to mean that there are multiple ways of thinking of God, of connecting to His teachings. Different paths, same destination. With the advent of the Internet we've been given the gift of information at our fingertips. Telling another or even suggesting that their way of believing is wrong is to attack their identity, their very essence.
There's another group who proselytize whom I find just as objectionable: Atheists. From the New Atheists to Militant Atheists.
Let's start with Bill Maher "...we are all atheists [referring to Dawkins, Hitchens, and himself], which means we don't believe in a deity, we don't believe in a magic spaceman, and we think people that do, have a neurological disorder and they need help."
I'm looking forward to Maher's retort to Matthew McConaughey's Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech:
"First off, I want to thank God, 'cause that's who I look up to. He's graced my life with opportunities that I know is not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it's a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates."
The late Christopher Hitchens, and the lively Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins attack people who believe in God with impunity. Harris wrote in his book End of Faith that religion represents "the most potent source of human conflict, past and present."
Daniel Dennett philosopher and prominent non-believer declared, "I'm really very proud to say that New Atheism has changed the face of America as far as expression of religious belief or disbelief."
Richard Dawkins said "I am a fairly militant atheist, with a fair degree of active hostility toward religion. I certainly was hostile toward it at school, from the age of about sixteen onwards. I mellowed a bit in my twenties and thirties. But I'm getting more militant again now." He encourages people to not only challenge religious people but to "ridicule and show contempt" for their doctrines and sacraments.
How liberal, how open-minded of him.
I've also lost track of the number of times I've heard religion is the greatest cause of war and death. A lie that is used to denigrate billions of people.
Greg Austin, Todd Kranock and Thom Oommen compiled an audit "God and War." Matt J. Rossano, Professor and Department Head of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University summarized their work:
"The majority of all wars (44/73 or 60 percent) had no religious motivation whatsoever...Only three wars -- the Arab conquests of 632-732, the much ballyhooed Crusades, and the Reformation Wars of the 16th and 17th centuries... were thus considered to be truly religious wars...the vast majority of all wars involved either no religious motivation or only a modest one."
He said the authors concluded "there have been few genuinely religious wars in the last 100 years."
Rabbi Alan Lurie wrote, "History simply does not support the hypothesis that religion is the major cause of conflict."
Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod authors ofEncyclopedia of Wars also concluded that religion isn't the primary cause of war. Of 1,763 wars, they wrote, only 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7 per cent of all wars and less than 2 per cent of all people killed in warfare.
Contrary to the declarations of these atheists, of the more than 160-million civilians killed in genocides in the 20th century, 50 to 70 million were killed in non-religious WWII and nearly 100 million were killed by Communist states, from the USSR to Latin America.
There are many stories about the persecution of Jews in the USSR but only recently have I learned about the persecution of Christians.
Martyred in the USSR, a documentary in production, directed by Kevin Gonzales, of Twelve Points Productions takes us to the old USSR, to eastern bloc countries where religion was attacked under communism. An attempt was made to wipe out believers that led to multi-million deaths including 1.9-million Polish civilians, mostly Christians. More than three-million Soviet prisoners of war died and more than two-million Soviet civilians, mostly Christians, were killed.
The need for this documentary comes from the desire to bear witness before memories are lost. Witness names must be attached to accounts so years from now when one asks about the martyrs to religion in Russia, martyred because they believed in God, in a state culture of atheism, there will be an historic account.
John Das, a medical student, took an interest in the history of the Eastern bloc and became the Lead Archivist for the film. He says:
"The documentary is not meant to be a political film, but rather one that documents history. However, we do hope that it will cause people to think about selectively targeting religion as the scapegoat of the ills of society and that it will encourage people to stand against similar movements of militant atheism in the present, as well as in the future."
There have been many studies and mega studies that speak to the importance of religion in one's life. From Herbert Benson to Lionel Tiger, Canadian Dr. Marilyn Baetz and the latest research from the University of British Columbia regarding religion and the homeless.
But that isn't the point. It's the idea that it's considered acceptable, even fashionable to attack people who believe in God because in the eyes of atheists, there's something wrong with us. It's just as objectionable as proselytizing a particular religious belief.
Let's all agree to respect the beliefs (theist, deist, atheist, agnostic) of others, as long as those beliefs are compatible with Western Culture.
As John Das astutely pointed out "We know from history that the mockery of certain ethnic and religious groups often led to their persecution."
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