|A sign posted by the Connecticut Valley Atheists in Rockville's Central Park in December 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Among atheists, one will find bad apples too. It is inevitable that some atheists will commit crimes and other acts which are inconsistent with the values held by the vast majority of the atheist community. We should not be surprised when this happens, and we should not be reluctant to disown those who engage in such behavior.
When a member of a group commits a bad act, we should be on the lookout for three things about how the group responds.
- Does the group clearly articulate that the individual's behavior is reprehensible and in no way reflects the values of the group? This is a positive sign, indicating that the group will not tolerate the behavior and will not hesitate to disown one who engages in it.
- Does the group defend the indefensible merely because one of their own is involved? This would be a negative sign, indicating that the individual's behavior is not deemed unacceptable by the group.
- Does the group engage in a form of magical thinking in which they claim that the individual, as a function of his or her bad acts, suddenly ceases to be a member of their group? This is an extremely bad sign, suggesting that the group will do go so far as to distort reality to protect its image.
I would very much like to see Christians stop using the "not a real Christian" sort of response when a Christian commits a bad act and instead wrestle with the question of whether or not the act is something they want to defend or oppose. Some Christians do awful things, and this does not make them any less Christian. Claiming that someone who commits a crime suddenly ceases to be a Christian is ridiculous and reveals a willingness to engage in gross distortions of reality.
If other Christians decide that they oppose a particular sort of bad act, I hope they will speak out and let others know in much the same way atheists did in this recent example. I have to think this would be a far more effective way of discouraging others from doing similar things than resorting to denial.
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