It’s pretty impressive to see what Hemant Mehta, known as The Friendly Atheist, has done with his public relation efforts and charitable giving (not to mention PZ Meyers). He really means it when he says he’s “The Friendly Atheist” and was disgusted like many atheists were to see someone spray painting FSM on two church buildings in Oregon. FSM, if you don’t know, stands for Flying Spaghetti Monster and is meant to be a satirical god of sorts parodying religion in general. It’s pretty well known within the atheist community. Why anyone would think it is cool to do that I don’t know? It shows immaturity. The majority of atheists I know encourage satire, activism, forum discussion and even some heated debate, but not destruction of property.
So Hemant Mehta “stepped up to the plate” as the Fox News anchor suggested and raised $3000 towards cleaning up the tagging. Pastor John Bluebaugh got it right when he said there are nonfriendly atheists and there are nonfriendly Christians, but in this case friendly people of belief and nonbelief rose above that nonsense. For Hemant, it was not so much about donating to the church, it was about righting a wrong.
Hemant did get the last word in on the Fox story saying that there is not a need for Jesus in order to be good and his website and the people who donated to the cause are proof of that. I think Christians are realizing this more and more and getting back to their theological roots that being good doesn’t make you saved, belief in Christ does (does depend on what sect you are though). Therefore, the moral argument continues to fail if there is no difference between the goodness of believers and the goodness of nonbelievers. If you want to argue moral authority–well, that’s where the “heated debate” comes in. All in good fun.
I’m glad to see that there was no bitterness on the part of Pastor John Bluebaugh. He could have taken advantage of the situation due to FSM being in the tagging, but he was a better man for not going there. I hope atheists can find areas to compromise and concede where necessary too. Hemant is setting the bar for media relations between atheists and believers. It doesn’t mean both atheists and Christians should shy away from criticism of each other–perish the thought–but it does mean when a line is crossed we make it right. It’s the same reason a majority of Christians disapprove of Westboro Church and their God Hates Fags campaign–a line has been crossed. Our society’s moral progress sometimes seems slow but we’re getting there…