Whatever. Just don’t rub my nose in it!
From time to time, my readers object to what I write, not with reasoned arguments, but with emotion. They just don’t like it for some reason. More than that, they feel violated, as if I’ve assaulted them somehow. In a recent conversation, a fellow atheist said:
“Right now, as I see it, you simply want to…rub their noses into the problem of pain.”
This is an odd objection. I didn’t start the conversation about pain. Without Christian claims that their god is perfectly loving, I’d simply work alongside them to alleviate suffering. But they do make that claim. Why should I be silent about such a radical view? And, despite its ubiquity, it is a radical view. The idea that this world was made on purpose, or that God would stand by while it goes so far off the rails, is horrifying.
So I post on facebook that there are problems with the idea of divine omnibenevolence. I don’t accost anyone, direct mail or email them. I post on facebook. Anyone who sees my posts subscribed to me at some point. They can hide me or unfriend me at any time. Yet this guy isn’t the first to say that I am rubbing people’s noses in something.
Suppose I claimed that I am worth a billion dollars. I go into a bank and ask for a loan to buy a superyacht. The bank runs a credit check and looks at my balance sheet and sees that my net worth is in the single digits. They have seen a discrepancy between what I have claimed and what seems to be the case by their lights.
Next, they tell me about the discrepancy they see. They don’t agree that I’m worth a billion dollars. Are they rubbing my nose in ‘the problem of low net worth’? No, they just see it differently. And I came to see them!
This whole attitude is bewildering. It seems whiney and irrelevant. We’re talking about God’s character and the fact of human suffering. This is a gigantic issue that every thoughtful, compassionate believer must face. If discussing that issue makes you feel that your nose is being rubbed into something, I don’t know what to tell you. Except “ignore my posts, as you already do with most of the internet. Your discomfort is entirely optional.” It is bizarre I have to remind people of this. Perhaps people just aren’t used to the facebook medium yet.
This whole syndrome makes me suspicious that such people aren’t really saying what they mean. It’s as if they’re trying to save face, only with themselves. How could a post that is mute and invisible (like most of the internet until you subscribe to it) possibly force any view on you? Where is your responsibility? Why are you assigning blame to the author? Why don’t you just change the channel?
One part of the problem is the fact that we can’t know whether we like something until we try it. Suppose your wife makes some cookies, but they’re terrible. She leaves them on the counter and goes to work out. You come home and grab a cookie. Yech. Who is to blame? You ate the damn cookie, but who would make such awful cookies?
This seems to be how people feel when they read a post that makes them uncomfortable. The ideas leap off the page into their head and, shit, it’s too late. They might be a little mad at themselves that they read the post. But blaming themselves only makes them more uncomfortable, so they shift all the blame for their discomfort to the person who baked the cookies.
It gets weirder. 3 days later, you come home and there are cookies on the counter. Of course you take a bite. You’re curious. And what are the chances that every batch of cookies is terrible?
Because I dislike things many people love, this happens to me all the time. I had to unfriend a guy who only complained about my posts, but wouldn’t stop reading them. He didn’t address the topic; he objected to it being discussed. Here’s the deal: I welcome any discussion about the topics I raise. But your emotional state is your business and your problem. And I won’t participate in my own discrimination by being silent in the hope that you won’t be offended. I am not trying to be offensive, but I won’t ignore an important topic to avoid offending passersby.
People have things to say. I prefer a vibrant, raucous and open environment. If you want something safer, please go find it.