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article imageOp-Ed: 'Loving Christians' threaten atheist family in Louisiana Special

By Megan Hamilton     Oct 11, 2014 in World
Lake Charles - While the majority of religious people don't threaten atheists, there are a few who do. When this happens, it can be a worrisome and scary problem for those of us who are non-believers.
Jon Jeffels and his family attend the Community Mission Chapel an "atheist church" in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Hemant Mehta points out in The Friendly Atheist. The church draws a reasonably large number of atheists, who appreciate the camraderie.
Lately, however, there is at least one person who apparently doesn't appreciate the camraderie and that person or persons has sent menacing letters to the family.
This is the first message sent to the Jeffels family.
This is the first message sent to the Jeffels family.
Courtesy of Jon Jeffels
This is the second threatening message sent to the Jeffels family.
This is the second threatening message sent to the Jeffels family.
Courtesy of Jon Jeffels
Some of the ‘loving words’ in the messages:
“To deny His word to your children is abuse, and if you do not learn to love Him and His word then we will have no choice but to take action to protect your children from your devil-enabling ways,” according to the message. “Do not even try to report this to the police—we are every where [sic] and His work will be done in His name thru [sic] us, the true beleivers [sic].
“You could not keep away from it, could you? You and your group are infecting this area and driving THE ONE TRUE GOD out. We have warned you before. We are warning you again. We will stop you any way we have too [sic]. He has misterious [sic] ways. Keep you’re [sic] family close."
Initially, Jeffels said he was shocked by the threatening messages.
"Then, as part of that reaction my brain suddenly noticed all the typographical errors. I tried to make fun of it because I didn't know how else to react," he said. "I was filled with confusion as to why it was levelled at us out of everyone in the group."
He added:
"I felt a little panic, huge concern over my family's safety, and I wanted us to run away from this unknown source of threat. My wife and two small children are my world. I moved from England to be with her seven years ago."
The threats engendered a steely resolve in Jeffels.
"I knew that running away was not an option and wouldn't solve the issue. Plus, what if it happened to others? he said. "If we didn't make a stand with reason, we would let fear win."
If atheists were the ones who were sending the threatening messages, Jeffels said he would remind them that spreading hate and fear is never the answer.
"We use reason, not emotion," he said.
So what causes some Christians to fire up the vitriol?
The human brain is wired to be tribal, and that's unfortunate, said philosophy professor Dan Fincke, because "fear and prejudice of people in the outgroup is a natural flip side of having groups. It's something we all need to work to combat because we need to have groups for larger goods."
This isn't unique to Christians, he noted.
"Christianity just gives one way to form and exacerbate these ugly tendencies. Several aggravating aspects of the christian is the way that it inculcates a notion that there is only one God and the adherents of other religions or no religions deserve to go to hell," he said. "It's got an exclusivist structure that way."
He also added:
"Its pretensions to universalism ('we're all sinners,' God wants all nations to be saved') are bogus because at the end of the day, salvation hinges on belonging to this one group. There will always be those outside the group to be damned," he said. "And even once you get inside the group people start determining who are the true believers who really love God and which ones are just nominal Christians."
So atheists, like the Jeffels family, and like this reporter, are the outsiders, and are considered to have fallen from grace. When someone threatens us, we might be nervous at first, but we dig in our heels because we have had to. We rely on ourselves instead of on a belief in something for which there is no truly credible evidence to believe in.
A strong authoritarian tendency runs like an undercurrent in Christianity, as well. "...typically Christians see God as both all powerful and as giving moral precepts by fiat," said Fincke, who left university teaching last year and now teaches via his own online business. In reference to Romans 9 in the bible, he notes that Paul says that "...God could create us with the purpose of simply destroying us if he wanted and we can't talk back."
Some liberal Christians will successfully renounce the wicked parts of the Bible as wicked, Fincke noted, but many Christians will continue to justify whatever the Bible ascribes to God no matter how inhumane it is.
"They may say 'might does not make right,'" but they sure are hell-bent on making sure whatever the most powerful being they believe in does is morally perfect no matter how manifestly evil it is," he said, adding:
"So, among the broad array of people who are Christians there will be inevitably be a subset that is implicitly motivated by fear, implicitly thinks in might makes right terms, and on behalf of what they see to be the vital order necessary to save souls and keep themselves and those they love from God's wrath, they will in good conscience set themselves up as God's bullying enforcers."
Fortunately Christians who engage in this sort of behavior are reasonably few and far between, but atheist activists bump into one every now and then. When that happens, we pay attention.
Jeffels has moved his family to a safe location and has reported the messages to the police. He notes that he believes this is the work of only one or two people, at most. He has written this letter to the perpetrator(s) in the hopes of turning this negative and scary situation into a positive one.
Perhaps the hateful messages will be replaced with understanding ones instead. We atheists can only hope.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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