Hi! My name is Chana Messinger, and I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in any god or gods, and I scrutinize all claims through the lens of rationality: does the claim make sense? If so, does it have sufficient evidence? I’ve been an atheist for a while, at least since 8th grade, and began to be vocal about it in high school. I have been a part of the Secular Alliance at the University of Chicago for three years, as a member, then secretary, then president, and I’ll be president again next year. You’d think my atheist credentials wouldn’t be in question. And yet! Two anecdotes for your amusement.
Story 1: In blog comments at the Friendly Atheist. Disclaimer: I write for the Friendly Atheist.
So I’m reading the Friendly Atheist, like I do, and I happen upon this post, in which a campus secular group chalked super problematic Bible verses on their campus as a response to the Christians chalking only the nice parts. I’m totally in favor of this, since the Bible (Old+New Testament, here) does indeed call for the stoning of adulteresses just as much as for all to turn in love to Christ. But I’m a Bible nerd, and I hang with an intellectual Jewish crowd, so I decide to point out that some of the verses are out of context. I say:
To be fair (and this applies to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Bible verses alike), it often is ‘twisting scripture’ to quote without context. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, if only to point out the danger in quoting selectively, but if we’re going to be intellectually honest, that should definitely be acknowledged. For example, the issue with the rapist marrying the victim is actually a matter of protecting the victim. That’s not true now, of course, but in the historical context, a woman who was raped would be an unmarriageable outcast, and so this, while immensely problematic, is actually protecting the social and economic status of the victim and her family. That’s why men like this (http://rejectapathy.com/news/2… are so awesome, even if we wish they weren’t necessary. I’m not sure about this next point, but I’m also fairly certain that this has been interpreted, at least in Jewish law, as obligatory on the part of the rapist, but not on the part of the rape victim, meaning that she can reject him if she wishes (though of course she would be under huge pressure to accept).
To which the response is:
“To be fair (and this applies to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Bible verses alike), it often is ‘twisting scripture’ to quote without context.” Wow. Just wow . . . I’ve heard this argument for years. When Christians quote the bible, they are sharing God’s word. When skeptics quote it, theyare taking the quotations out-of-context and twisting the meaning. Proving once again, you just cannot win with a Christian.”
Friend: Chana, I’m confused. What do you fast for if not the remnants of a millenia-old desert cult? For someone who claims to be sans-religion, it sure does manage to intrude into your life.
Me: I’ve never claimed to be sans-religion. I am very with a religion. I am religious. (more on this later in Blogathon, perhaps?)
Friend: So, why are you hosting Ask An Atheist day? Is this some “Ally” thing? if you are not without a theism, then how are you an atheist?
Me: I don’t believe in god. I don’t believe everything in the bible happened. I believe some forms of religious practice can be fun/meaningful/interesting/enjoyable/beautiful, and the way I practice is all of those things for me, and if others feel that way about their religion or whatever else they spend their time on, then they should do that. The truth claims are still wrong, I’m still an atheist, and atheist activism is still important to me.
Friend: Chana, maybe you aren’t actually an atheist?
Friend: Especially since you say thing [sic] like “I am religious.”
Friend: which is kinda a big red flag.