Friday, March 21, 2014

We are better than this.

Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps died the other day.

Since the word he was near death came out a few days before that, numerous posts on Facebook were published, some excoriating him, and others taking a more measured approach.  I saw one taking a very reasonable approach, refusing to say anything bad about him, and merely expressing sympathy for his family.

Needless to say, the comments were mixed, but largely tilted towards expressing a real hatred for the man.  Some bordered on the truly extreme end of the spectrum, even going so far as to use some very regrettable language.  There were a few echoing the more reasonable approach, though.

Come on, folks, aren't we better than that?  We are supposed to be skeptical, reasonable, and open to a better moral compass, informed by that which is better for the larger social group.  Hatred, people, is not better for the welfare of the larger social group.  It is corrosive and lowers the level of discourse, and truly puts us on the same level with the hatred the man founded and expressed publicly.

Is that how we wish to be seen?  Really?

Yes, eventually, his hatred came back and bit him on the ass, as he got tossed out by his own people, ironically, for trying to dial back the enthusiasm his own followers brought to his teachings!  There is, I think, a lesson there for anybody who tries to use hatred and the darker side of human emotions for building an empire.

But is that a reason for us to lower ourselves to his level?  I would argue not.  Our own problem in becoming more accepted by the general American population is to rebrand ourselves from the unfortunate nastiness formerly stuck to us by Christian churches in the past.

That will not be helped by images of atheists expressing hatred for people like him in the same terms (or worse) than Phelps himself used against his self-assigned enemies.  That, my friends, is counter-productive, as it perfectly illustrates us as exactly what theists have tried to paint us as in the past.

We really don't want to reinforce that image.

Much better is an expression of sympathy for his surviving family, no matter what they personally may think of him.  

Let history be the real judge.

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