If you don't believe in God, then "Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!"

Peggy’s cousin, Lynn, is a practicing Catholics and the mother of a serviceman who recently returned from Afghanistan. She often forwards ultra-conservative e-mails to me. I don’t like getting these emails because they argue from authority or pander to emotion, yet I don’t want to offend Lynn by asking her to not send them. Instead, I try to dialogue with her. Perhaps, my belief that I am her intellectual superior shows and discourages her from responding, or maybe she is like most people and simply wants to have her beliefs affirmed rather than challenged. In any event, my attempts at communication don’t appear useful.

I will only share the conclusion of Lynn’s last email. Preceding the conclusion was a list of public buildings on which the Ten Commandments are inscribed, quotations by three of the Founding Fathers in support of religion, a mention of religious references on money and in the Pledge of Allegiance, and a reference to the fact that Congress pays someone to open each session with prayer. Following Lynn’s conclusion is my response. Before I wrote it, I asked her if she would be willing to dialogue, and she implied that she would. A month has passed, and I haven’t heard from her.

…“It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, it is very hard to understand why there is such a mess about having the Ten Commandments on display or ‘In God We Trust’ on our money and having God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why don't we just tell the other 14% to Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!”

Dear Lynn,

The conclusion of the argument you offer is that, on this issue at least, people who hold a minority opinion should “Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!” in deference to the majority. To begin with, did all those Americans who died for freedom of speech only die so that the majority could speak freely? Would not such a belief abolish any concept of equality before the law? And how about those Christians who were in the minority in their own eras and areas, do you believe they too should have kept silent in deference to the majority? If they had, how would you have Christianity?

Indeed, how could society advance if no one dared oppose the majority? The majority of Americans once supported slavery and the theft of Indian lands. More recently, the majority of Americans opposed equality for women and black people. By the free exchange of ideas, people can grow; without such freedom, society stagnates. Such was the situation in the Dark Ages, and such is it today in many Moslem lands.

You can pull out many quotes to support religion, but quotes can be pulled out to support pretty much any view. For instance, Jefferson also wrote, “In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to Liberty.” What matters is not what any given individual said, but what the founding documents say. Even so, I would be astounded if you can point to any quotes by any of these men to support your belief that the minority should “Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!” Most of our forbearers opposed the American Revolution, and this can only mean that the war that won our independence was conducted by the minority.

Last, but certainly not least, what do you propose to do with those in the minority who insist on speaking after they’ve been told to “Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!”? It is only by the visible presence of dissent that we know our democracy is working.


Bill said...

"Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!"

Well that certainly seems like a good way to get others to see your point of view, all while spreading the abundant love of Christ. Not. And they wonder why Christianity gets a bad rap in some circles. I hate e-mails like that, too. Not just because of the content, but because they are so annoying in their own right.

Maya said...

Me thinks thou is wasting thou time arguing with someone who may be at best narrow minded.

I agree with your sentiment, but don't believe she wants a dialogue, only confirmation that she is right, no matter what she says to the contrary. Your response left her with nothing to say and probably made her angry.

Snowbrush said...

Maya, you are entirely right on both counts. If I had ever really thought she was open to dialogue, maybe I would have written differently. My numerous questions made statements more than they encouraged answers. However, this was a situation in which I couldn't find an approach to the problem that would work both for me and for the other person, and if I have inspired her to stop sending such things, I will be content.
What might you have done differently, if anything?

All Consuming said...

Well said that man, as usual. A very eloquent and measured response to her apparently blinkered view. It's a great shame she hasn't decided to debate with you on the subject, as she needs to understand, as you say, about others rights to disagree. A minority view does not become invalid simply because it is just that. Hope your comp is better soon! Take care :)

Maya said...

Laugh, being the direct person I am, I would have sent her a response probably really pissing her off, such as...

Your beliefs are yours and mine are mine and never the twain shall meet. Refrain from offending me, cease the conversion stuff immediately and I will not attempt to convert you.

Or just blocked any further emails. I really do not like someone trying to stuff their stuff down my throat.