Monday, June 11, 2012

"Pastor in Houston Publicly Comes Out as Atheist" - News Coverage Displays a Amazing Lack of Empathy

I just read the story about the Houston Pastor who publicly came out as an atheist. If you haven't yet, the link can be found here. The story doesn't provide his reasons - neither for losing his faith, nor for making this public - but of course they interview plenty of churchy people who are, of course, all shocked and disgusted. So far, nothing out of the ordinary. But around the 2:30 min. mark of the video they interview some Keith Jenkins, who is described as a "Former School of Theology President". And he gives us his opinion on those still-in-closet-atheists who still serve as Pastors:

"They need to move on. They don't need to stay within the church. And especially use their position to try to take others with them."

(emphasis mine)

I find this quite sickening, for what it reveals about the speaker. The moment these people were described as "atheists", they stopped being humans to him. They became evil things, dangers that every good christian needs to be protected against. His conclusion is clear: They need to leave the church. Now. He fails to make even the most basic connection, fails to see any implication of the situation at all. Somehow he jumped to his conclusion so quickly that he forgot that a pastor, every pastor, is somebody who has made a decision. He is somebody who based his entire life on his church. Clergy who lose their faith stand to lose it all: Not just their job (that part's for sure), but likely also both their friends and their family. Worse, they never learned anything that might be even remotely useful for a different job. What are you going to do with a degree in theology when no church will hire you? But this doesn't even enter good Keith's equation; it doesn't even cross his mind. To him, atheists are evil destructive elements, which need to be kept away from church. And of course the only reason an atheist might stay in the church at all is to "[ab]use his position to try and take others with him." For the sheer hell of it, supposedly. You know, simply because that's what we atheists do: Destroying other people's faith and eating babies.

I can think of no more obvious "no way out" scenario than a priest without faith. Such a person may pretty much write a book or go hungry - there is almost no imaginable employment. There is also an enormous loss of trust by friends and family who will all feel betrayed when he tells them that he's been living a lie for who knows how many years.
Again, the fact that they are literally no options for somebody faced with this scenario is glaringly obvious. But not to the likes of Keith Jenkins. He doesn't see the obvious - he only sees evil that needs to go away.

There are very few things in the world today that I find more scary than the fact that this kind of Person earns his money preaching "love thy neighbor" but is unable to see anything but evil when faced with personal tragedy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why I Regret My Last Post

So, it turns out that the last story I commented on was complete and utter bullshit. I failed to do some basic fact-checking before I eagerly pointed my finger, and for that I'd like to apologize.

To those who don't know what I'm talking about: There was a talk about income equality at the latest TED conference, which wasn't posted to the TED homepage. And I hastily jumped the bandwagon, adding my voice to the public outcry at this oh-so-unfair censorship.
Luckily for all of us, TED-Curator Chris Anderson has written a blog post at TED setting the record straight regarding this story. I suggest that anybody who reads this head over there now and read what he has to say, even if you were already doubting the story, or hadn't even heard about the whole deal.

Because there is a lesson here.

A lesson about PR, about public opinion, about uninformed outrage and demonization, about being quick to accuse, and most of all, about the importance of basic fact-checking before forming an opinion on any topic of controversy.

The truth is that in this case, I seized on a cheap opportunity. For once I was among the early ones hearing about a story, and since I felt bad for neglecting the blog these past few months, I took the shot at writing a quick and effortless post that had the potential to harvest some traffic from google.

The upside is, I learned something today. I realized that even though I'd like to post more often, and even though I don't do that for there exist more pressing matters in my private life that need my undivided attention at the moment, lowering the quality of my posts is not the way I want to choose for mending this situation. The situation I'm in won't change for a few more weeks - perhaps even months. I'll graduate as a Technical Assistant for Biolabs in a few days, and from there it's off to finding a place at uni, hopefully studying Molecular Biomedicine; with all the adjustments that entails. Perhaps bridging the time in between with another internship. Who knows?

So I will keep neglecting this blog a little longer. As much as I love writing, and even though my head is full to the brim with posts I'd like to write, this can't be my priority right now.

But rest assured, I will be back. As soon as the changes are done and I have some routine and security, I shall start publishing my stuff regularly again. Until then, there will be little - but at least the quality of content will not suffer for it. And if that decision will cost me what few subscribers I have, then so be it.