How Worried Should We Be About Offending Christians?

choose civility

First there was the "don't be a dick" debate, and then we heard a lot about civility following the attempted assassination in Arizona. Many atheists are reflecting on these issues and asking themselves whether civility is a goal to which they should aspire. Assuming that we decide that civility is indeed a positive goal, it makes sense that we would consider the nature of our interactions with the religious.

So, how concerned should we atheists be about whether we are offending Christians? Is this something we should seek to minimize in our interactions with Christians?

Here is what I would like to interject into this discussion:

As long as Christians continue to insist that a book commanding them to kill me is "holy," I am going to have a difficult time worrying too much about whether I offend them.

I am well aware that many modern-day Christians will ignore these passages in their bible or attempt to reinterpret them in such a way that they no longer mean what they say. Perhaps they will suggest that this instruction referred to a specific place and time and that it is not intended to apply today. Maybe I shouldn't complain about this. After all, I'd prefer that they reinterpret their "holy" book if the alternative would be murder me as it instructs. But if any god had anything to do with the words we find in this book, I am still left with many questions about how they could possibly worship this particular god.

What do you think? How worried should we atheists be about offending Christians, and should their praise of an ancient book that instructs them to kill us be a relevant consideration here? Or perhaps their desire to elevate that particular book into something far more than any other book should be a source of concern.

An early version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2011. It was revised and expanded in 2020.