by Ruth Preston

apologetics quotesHave you ever been in discussion with someone who holds a different opinion to you, on a subject that you are both are passionate about? Perhaps this conversation has taken place on the internet? Or by text? Have you ever had your friend or acquaintance pass on some quotes that contradict your position by way of end note to the discussion? I have.

Being a Christian, I have had people sending me quotes saying that ‘religion is evil’ or ‘those who have faith throw away their intelligence’. When this has happened they have been very nice about it. Usually they are sending me something they think I would find interesting, or they are highlighting the fact that an intelligent and influential person agrees with them. As a result these questions occur to me: do they agree with the sentiment of the quotes? And, are the quotes meant to aid their argument? I’ll ask these questions about a few quotes that can often find their way to Christians:    

  1. ‘Faith means not wanting to know what is true.’ — Friedrich Nietzsche
  2. ‘Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.’ – Robert Anton Wilson
  3. ‘Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.’ — Kurt Vonnegut
  4. ‘Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses.’ – Arthur C. Clarke

Do they agree with the sentiment of the quotes?

This question makes me laugh, because these quotes can come across so harsh when I don’t think it is normally (I hope) meant by the sender. Even if a friend or acquaintance is violently anti-belief they are usually respectful and value me as a person. Therefore they will find ways of saying things that are not harsh or offensive. For example, a friend might say to me ‘I think religion causes wars’. Fair enough, I can engage with that. But I wouldn’t expect a friend or acquaintance to say ‘I think you are more likely to cause a war because you are religious.’ That’s quite harsh and extremely judgmental. (I have never been told the latter, thankfully!)

When I am sent quotes like these, however, it gives you the harsh side of someone’s opinion. It is evident that the sender agrees with the quotes, and so, from looking at the above I can deduce that the sender believes I, a) don’t want to know the truth, b) I have put to death my intelligence, c) I am ‘terrifying and absolutely vile, and, d) have contracted a malevolent mind virus.

Flattering isn’t it?

That’s why it makes me laugh, because put like that it sounds almost ridiculous because it’s so insulting. And it’s also funny because often I don’t think the sender ever has the intention to insult! Therefore, I think we must remember to take this into account and not allow ourselves to get hot under the collar.

Although I would say to potential readers who are prone to quoting their favourite authors, celebrities and scholars, try and be sensitive and consider how you might come across…


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