Sometimes, atheist comments on religious blogs get deleted. I understand that. Sometimes atheist comments on atheist blogs get deleted. Comments sometimes get deleted, period. It’s a webmaster’s prerogative to shape their site into whatever sort of community they want. I try to keep my comments topical and civil in order to contribute to a conversation without being inflammatory, but sometimes it’s simply the content itself that’s perceived as inflammatory. I get it. Usually I just chuckle and move on. But this incident was weird enough that I thought a wee bit of public shaming was in order.
I followed a link to the Prodigal Magazine article, “My Divorce and the Lies I Believed.” Prodigal is an online collection of personal stories written by Christians, intended to demonstrate “that every story, everywhere, has the fingerprint of a God who loves His sons and daughters so much that He shows up, even when they aren’t looking.”
Now, if you’re writing from a religious perspective and you open with a title about believing lies, you’ve got my attention instantly. The story is about the author’s feeling unworthy and unlovable when she went through a divorce. Here’s how the piece ended. Formatting is all original.
In order to talk myself out of the lies, I have to start telling myself the truth again.
I am the reason Jesus had to die. I am loved.
My sins nailed him to the cross 2000 years ago. I am loved.
He died for me before I even existed. I am loved.
And he died so I would be free. I am loved.
So I would be forgiven. I am loved.
So God would look on me and see the righteousness of his perfect son. I am loved.
So I would not have to live in a spirit of condemnation. I am loved.
This is my identity. This is the truth of who I am in Christ.
I thought this was unfortunate, because the emotional suffering she was writing about is real and fairly common in any kind of rejection situation, but she had to go and act like the only solution to that grief was to be found in Christian mythology. So now, if some atheist tells her that belief in Christianity is baseless, it feels like they’re saying that she should feel worthless and awful — although of course we’re not saying that at all. To top it all off, these kind of statements sound to me like they tear down self-esteem, rather than build it back up. I wrote a comment saying as much.
“I am the reason Jesus had to die. I am loved.”
Whoa, what? Normally, “Because of you, someone had to die” is not really a happy, comforting, loving thing to say. If anything, *this* is the message that you are unworthy and terrible. Honestly … no one had to die because of you. No one was punished on your behalf, just because you are the way you are. That is a horrific, emotionally abusive message, and I dream of a world when people stop sending it as though it is a way to express love.
I know that that’s exactly what my comment said, and that it went through their system successfully, because it was emailed to me along with this message:
Thank you for your comment on Prodigal Magazine! You are so valuable to us, especially when you engage with the conversation. Without you, we’re just a group of people telling stories, but when you read and participate with us we believe that the stories we tell have the ability to change lives.
The email went on to list some links and other ways I could “stay connected” — follow them on Facebook, subscribe to their RSS feed, and so on and so forth. I thought that was really nice! A little cheesy, and obviously a form letter, but a nice gesture. I thought it was especially nice of them to extend it to me, even though my comment came right out and said I didn’t think Christianity was true. (But I suppose Prodigal Magazine would be uniquely able to look past that and welcome even apparently unwise and disobedient children into the fold. Right?) I clicked the link back to my comment, to see if anyone had responded to me, and …
… it had been deleted. Really? You email me about how much you value my participation, and then you excise my participation? I would think that at least you’d want to keep me around as an object lesson on your “ability to change lives.” I’m an evangelism opportunity, aren’t I? Surely, a community devoted to sharing the “good news” would be willing and eminently able to correct my perception that the message of atonement by crucifixion is gruesome and manipulative.
But no. Apparently my comment of less than 100 words was too much for this fragile community to handle. Couldn’t have anyone here be reminded that some people don’t believe these fairy tales! Better to silence the dissent rather than let the website attempt to function as it claims to. Sigh. Like I said, it’s totally within their rights to delete my comment. I just wish they’d at least decide which comments are getting deleted before sending the “You are so valuable to us” email.