- "By criticizing President Obama, you are just helping the Republicans out to destroy him."
- "You should be nicer to Christians on your blog because mocking them is only going to make them hate atheists more."
- "If you aren't absolutely convinced that it is wrong for a man to ask a woman back to his room for coffee in an elevator, you are a misogynist."
- "Forming third parties or activist movements is a waste of time. We should just work within the existing system or wait for things to change."
- "Even if you do not share someones's religious beliefs, you should respect them because they clearly mean a great deal to him or her."
- "You are wasting your time criticizing atheists when they behave badly; the religious are the problem."
These are all claims I have heard and rejected during 2012. I recognize that I could be wrong about any or all of them, but each is something I have considered and then rejected. I do think that any of them are likely to be accurate.
More than that, I have found that each of these claims gets under my skin a little. I think this is because I see them as both incorrect and potentially harmful. What I see them as having in common is that they are designed to silence criticism and stifle action. They each imply that I should change my behavior to conform to someone else's ideas, regardless of whether I share such ideas. It does not matter what I think of President Obama; I should withhold my criticism because it might help Republicans. Despite the manner in which many Christians demonize atheists, I should pretend that playing nice will lead them to hate us a little less. And I should hold my tongue when it comes to a handful of atheist bloggers and their supporters, no matter how atrociously some behave because I ought to be more of a team player and avoid conflict.
I recognize that others have a right to hold these opinions. I also recognize that I have the right to reject them. And I reject each, in part, because to do otherwise would be hypocritical. I am not going to look the other way when President Obama does some of the same things President Bush did and for which I rightly criticized him. I am not going to respect beliefs that others insist are "sacred" but which result in real harm to my neighbors. I am not going to ignore behavior coming from within the atheist community that none of us would ignore if it came from outside.
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