This message exchange was sparked by a poem I wrote around Christmas time 2018, publishing the poem on Christmas day itself. To get the best out of this debate and follow up article I strongly recommend reading the poem before continuing on to the email exchange below. The poem and quotations from the atheist Vel are sometimes accompanied by a small blue cross to show I've uploaded related content elsewhere on the website.
clubschadenfreude: does it make you feel good to pretend that no one else feels love? Unfortunately for you, humans of many religions and none at all love and are loved. You aren’t special, and your need to pretend that anyone who doesn’t agree with you are unhappy, lonely, angry, etc is pitiful. It does support the idea that a happy content non-Christian is a conservative Christian’s greatest fear.
OSC: I can’t say I’ve ever thought that. Happy new year. :)
clubschadenfreude: well, being that is what you claim about anyone who doesn’t agree with you, it is rather evident that you thought that.
OSC: Could you quote the portion which you think says that nobody else feels love? That would be very helpful.
clubschadenfreude: All of it, but we can start with this “And so I continue a two year tradition, to write rhymes to my friends about the Love they’ve been missing.”
oh and this “Whilst I ride royal coattails making nary a fuss, as you slander His love making it as the dust. Still, you won’t ask I forgive you all of your cursing, nor would you even think to ’til for love you’re thirsting.”
Now, since you seem to be adamant to say you are not saying other people can’t feel love, what is the meaning of your poem about, hmmm, oh yes… the love we’ve been missing?
OSC: If you feel bothered by the earlier portions of the poem, that’s a personification of love my friend. The caps are a clarifier there, like names of people and place names, think of the classic “God is love” verse in the Bible, or think John 1, in the beginning was the Word. So I’m not trying to say the rest of the world can’t love in that portion. I mean, me saying those aren’t my thoughts should be enough, but you didn’t want to accept my word on it.
Even without the qualifiers you could have taken it as a reading which said between these two characters one was missing out on love, like an Ebenezer Scrooge type character. None of those quotes imply universality. It wouldn’t be universal even if you missed out on the personification of love as “Love” the person. Think about this clarifier: “You make Love’s name a cursing and say it in jest, making less of THE PERSON who loves you the best.” So Love is a person in this poem, I hope this is helpful.
Hopefully another point, just as one character tells the other that their loves were bad, they were selfish, that shows that BOTH characters can and do love. Saying in my poem that someone’s love was rotten or selfish or anything else, that would mean they can love, you can’t have tainted love without it being some variety of love.
As for the portion which says that one character won’t ask the other for forgiveness until he’s “thirsting” for love, again that doesn’t mean that he isn’t loving or can’t love, it’s not universal or even singular. You can love and not be thirsting for love, it’s a matter of degrees here, not about having it at all.
If I drift off before you reply God bless you, I hope you’ve had a lovely Christmas, fingers crossed some of this was helpful to you.
clubschadenfreude: Yes, I know that your poem is about your god being “love”. This contains the assumption that only Christians then have love. Happily, your god isn’t love and no one needs it to have love. and yes, I could have assumed it was a singular character being spoken too. That doesn’t work when you say this, osc. “to write rhymes to my friends about the Love they’ve been missing.” and when you tag your post with the term atheism. if you weren’t meaning all atheists, why use that term?
I’ve also looked at your past posts. Hmmm, for someone who makes the claims you have, that you supposedly aren’t intending to mean all non-christians, we have nonsense like this from you “What do Atheists, Muslims and try-hard Christians have in common? They’re all hatin’ on Christmas! Who’s gonna defend the humble holiday?”
and someone’s love being “rotten”? that’s quite arrogant that you think you can say someone’s love is wrong in some manner. Again, osc, you seem to think you have the only “right” kind of love. How very Christian of you.
and hmmm, God bless me? How so? What am I lacking that this god can provide? hmmm, it is love?
OSC: If you knew that there was this distinction going on in the use of Love as a proper noun and love as simply the feeling and ability to act lovingly in the poem then why would you quote the first portion of my poem to back up your accusation? It seems as if you couldn’t identify the use of a noun despite the context saying that that’s how the word Love is being used.
Remember you insisted that I was arguing for loveless Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, everybody really. In your earlier criticism you were offended because you believed I was writing that nobody felt love but myself, for which you enlisted two quotations in an attempt to prove your point. The problem is that neither quotation reads how you would like it to read. Saying “Y does not have Love” isn’t the same thing as saying “Y cannot feel love.”
Well, it contains the assumption that only Christians have God, Jesus. Only who we might describe as a born again Christian has “Love” as in the person of Christ, that’s not an uncommon belief that Christians hold. I don’t know anyone who isn’t a Christian who would be annoyed or want a piece of that action, and if they do they’re welcome to go to a nearby church or pick up a Bible and read about Jesus.
About the point where you wrote you couldn’t assume the claims in the poem were related to a single character to character situation because of my opening line, that’s slightly confused my friend. Hopefully this is gonna help you.
The opener explained writing rhymes to my friends about the Love they’ve been missing, that’s a preface to the content of the poem, like an outside perspective, which again is using love as a noun (meaning Love). So the preface is written as a nod to another poem shared with readers the previous year roundabout Christmas time.
You’ve got to parse the material carefully so you’ll see the gear shift from what’s being written about actions in the storytelling and the audience, since in my earlier message I’m not insisting the poem isn’t shared with a wider audience, but rather that in the character exchange (which clearly takes place after the preface) there’s material which explicitly teaches that others can feel love. How you’ve read the material after the preface is clearly confused because you’ve enlisted the use of Love as a noun in the preface to argue that the author, namely me, is against the idea of others feeling love.
Still none of those lines disqualify “love” from anybody, rather they make distinctions between Christians indwelt by Christ and people who aren’t. So you could read the poem as everybody having “love” in some sense, or as only one character lacking love in both senses, while the preface (which is clearly for another audience) could contain Love as being attached or unattached to only certain people. The preface doesn’t have to touch upon the content of the poem or of the characters, for which you could’ve read as I’ve written earlier, an overview style preface shouldn’t creep into the content of the characters of the poem.
Some of the readers of the preface would be born again and not lacking Christ, whereas others could be of any variety of person. Still none of those people would be without love, rather the poem is partly for my friends who’re yet lacking “Love” as personified. More than one quotation in my poem explains how many people without Love are capable of loving, for which you’re drifting from one outrage to another. Your first objection is a flop, if you’d asked me my views or trusted in my initial response you could’ve saved us both a lot of time.
It’s tagged with atheism because one of the characters in the poem is an atheist.
So you’re attempting to interpret a stand-alone poem based upon other things you’ve read on a blog that’s been running for over four years? Really even drawing from another blog article written a week ago could be bad enough depending on the content of the other blog post, nevertheless hopefully the four year point drives home how most people would feel reading your new argument. You’ve got to draw from the immediate context. Drawing other points from other articles makes you appear desperate. I don’t know how else to reply to something like that without being playful and teasing you, I’m sorry. :)
It’s arrogant of me to write about fictitious characters having rotten love for one another? Again this kind of writing, especially shared with my unbelieving friends, is an act of love to me. So is it not arrogant of you to insist my love is “wrong” in some manner? Just turn the claim upon itself. The big difference is I’m writing fiction, whereas you seem to be doing less than stellar things to real life people.
How very Christian of me? Well, to be honest without being rude I hope, I don’t normally consider atheists like yourself to be an authority of how to define a Christian. I teach on the Bible and have a decent grasp of many different communities which are considered under the umbrella of Christian practice. I know my church history pretty well. You on the other hand try to interpret lone poems by drawing on anything I’ve written in the history of forever, so it’s not really up to you to decide what’s Christian on anybody else’s behalf.
Not that you’re deciding for me, but you’re sending me these things, for which I’m assuming you think I should have this information. Still you’ve just been volunteering things which nobody is asking for, bless your cotton socks.
God bless you, how so? On a personal level now, God could bless you and I with many things, it’s a common expression and I didn’t have anything in particular in mind. Wishing you well and happy new year and merry Christmas is just something that people do, it’s kind and normally cheers people up.
Obviously it’s not going to cheer everyone up, I mean you’ve got those content non-Christians who are just so happy and full of joy and they’re just at the absolute limit of fun. How could they possibly have any more fun than they’re having right now misreading poems and scrambling for a comeback, any comeback. You just sound so happy. . . 0;)
clubschadenfreude: Because, my dear, it is pertinent. You claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with can’t have love or “Love” because you do your darndest to try to conflate love and your god, which fails at love even if we just go with what the “love is…” verses say. But nice try, OSC. It is kind of fun to watch you backpedal when called on your silliness. And wonderful that now you are trying to insist that you are now supposedly only saying people can’t have love. Funny how that’s wrong too. Everyone can have and feel love, not just people who agree with you.
Yep, I know you assume that only Christians have god or “Love” as you want to falsely call it. And again, you fail with the claim that your god is “love”. I wonder, how does murdering all non-christians, and then allowing satan to corrupt the Christians left work with the idea of “love” or “Love”, unless you go with anything god does is “love”, which bastardizes the word, yet one more circular argument offered by a Christian along the lines of “god is good is god is good….”. All we have is OSC having a might equals right morality.
As for who you do and don’t know, an appeal to your personal ignorance doesn’t help your claims.
But thanks for admitting that I’m right about your claims that no one but you knows “love” or “Love”. And no, I don’t have to “parse” anything. It’s great to see you now insisting that you didn’t mean what you wrote, and now “interpretation” is magically in play. Yep, you do make a great attempt to make distinctions between Christians and non-Christians, exactly what I said. And hilarious that you don’t want you preface of your own poem to be considered when reading the poem.
That’s rather amazing, and shows you have no idea what a preface is for, or that now you don’t like what it shows you are claiming. And I know not to trust you at all, OSC, for you run from one excuse to another. I know one of the characters in the poem is an atheist, and that you try you best to make believe that this character can’t know love or Love. But let’s cut to the point here: is your God love? And is your god Love, a meaningless word simply given to a magical being? If it is not “love”, then why use the term Love to name it?
I do love how you are now indignant that I dare read something you wrote in context. Oh my, that’s lovely for a Christian. And it’s great to see you try to claim that your false claims are somehow “playful and teasing”. Does that feel better to claim just like now claiming that I should read the preface with the poem? You know, the “immediate context”? :)
Many Christians claim that they are being “loving” when lying to others. Most curious. And funny how you have yet to show any love at all, or Love. You also don’t appear to be writing “fiction” which isn’t a poem clearly intended to be a metaphor/allegory. But if you want to keep calling it fiction, sure. We then both known the claims in it are not true by definition. No “Love” at all and the characterization of your other characters aren’t accurate either.
And what are these less than stellar things you want to accuse me of, OSC?
Well, since I was a Christian and know other Christians who aren’t like you, so I’m a pretty good authority on Christians and how to define them. I do know that they don’t agree on much and often hate each other, insisting that anyone who doesn’t agree with their sect. I’ve read the bible as a believer and as not, and have plenty of exposure to various sects. I know church history very well, and I look at your poem in context, a context you evidently don’t like anyone looking into. It seems that Christians claim that their bible should be taken in context literally drawing on all of it, so again, we seem to have a Christian who wants to claim that his version is the only right one.
And nice to know that willful ignorance is your forte, OSC. And funny how your god blesses no one at all. Note one prayer answered. And of course you had nothing in mind, since you know it doesn’t happen. It’s a thoughtless thing that Christians say to feel like they’ve done something.
And here we go again, with a Christian who need to imagine that no one have Love or love, or fun except him. And sorry dear, more false claims about “misreading” and “scrambling” don’t exactly reflect well on your claims about how loving you are. Wishful thinking doesn’t work well :)
For Christian readers it's good to break down a reply into sections so that the points being made don't bleed into each other. Hopefully by the end of this reply it'll be plain to see why continuing a conversation with this kind of new atheist beyond a certain point is so unhelpful and so toxic for everyone involved. Beginning in their reply.
Because, my dear, it is pertinent. You claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with can’t have love or “Love” because you do your darndest to try to conflate love and your god,
Without using a quotation of where in my earlier message they're replying to it might be tricky for an honest conversation depending on the circumstances. Still as a first reply it's safest to assume that Vel wanted to reply to what I wrote from the outset of my message:
If you knew that there was this distinction going on in the use of Love as a proper noun and love as simply the feeling and ability to act lovingly in the poem then why would you quote the first portion of my poem to back up your accusation?
Vel insists they used this early portion of the poem because “it's pertinent.” Meaning it's relevant to her accusation, but what's her accusation again?
The argument was that I don't like or approve of the idea that other people are able to feel love. But notice almost right away she won't hold to the Christian position and wrote “You claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with can’t have love or “Love” because. . .”
Now it's really up to you as a Christian to decide for yourself how many times you're going to correct this misstating of your views. Not only is the argument being tabled on my behalf not one I'm making, but by adding that lower case l onto love Vel is once again holding to her failed argument for so long as she can. I normally judge how long to stay in conversation based upon how hardhearted the unbeliever appears to be.
I don't feel the Lord's called me to a ministry of hardening hearts and unless you hear this from God in an audible way, I'd say play it safe and don't help people do that to themselves. Remember scripture teaches:
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Hb 12:14-15).
In the same way Romans teaches: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rm 12:18).
You might reply “Well, how do I know when an unbeliever is hardened against me?” To that I can only reply practice, that's how you'll know. From message one I knew Vel wasn't an open hearted conversation partner for two reasons, firstly they refused to accept an explanation of something I'd written myself, which is like telling J. K. Rowling what her books really said, or like telling Stephen King he's not really writing horror. Arguing from such an absurd starting point is an example of Psalm two verse one in action (e.g. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?”)
Secondly (on a more subtle level) she refused to return my new year's well wishing, so what we're reading here is a blind hostility which can't be appeased by kindness or logic, largely because it's raw bitterness. When Vel later writes “Now I know I can't trust you” it's an odd thing because we read this intense distrust from message one. Still let's try and get through their entire reply. . .
It is kind of fun to watch you backpedal when called on your silliness. And wonderful that now you are trying to insist that you are now supposedly only saying people can’t have love. Funny how that’s wrong too. Everyone can have and feel love, not just people who agree with you.
It's hard to say whether Vel is forgetting her use of proper nouns here or if she's simply been confusing herself further, but by not capping her use of love I can only suppose she's doggedly holding onto her old failed argument. The added portion about everybody being able to feel love confirms my worry that she's continuing on this one-sided conversation with herself.
I've seen Christians continue conversations like this and honestly I consider it a kind of bullying, it's like picking on atheists. Or it's trolling on the part of the atheist, neither are very healthy. I take a lot of comfort in the fact that most atheists aren't so poorly behaved in the real world as they are online, it's just a persona or something wacky they're trying out and it doesn't bleed into their face to face interactions. Anyway, when people in the unbelieving community can't move on from something they want to believe it's kinder on them (and healthier for our spiritual growth) to just let them go their own way after a gentle correction.
After refusing the simple correction don't feel obligated to continue on. Vel continues by insisting that to describe God as “love” is wrong because of the fall of man into sin and Satan and other extremely emotional points, after which they complain about circularity. By this point she's way off and no longer defending her earlier accusation.
So you've got this volley of upset: “What about death?”, “What about hell?” “What about the devil, how's that love?” Ideas like this. And this is in reply to Vel having to defend her own failed accusation. Remember “it's pertinent” to their accusation against me, but that's followed up by a collection of unrelated accusations against God and my definition of love (even brand new accusations). Remember her accusation was to do with my own views, but after her quotations failed to prove the claim it's off to somewhere new. A sure sign of a failed argument.
It's like a man calling you a thief, for which you ask him to explain himself, what did I steal, from where did I steal it, to which he replies that a third man outside of the conversation is also an adulterer. The new complaint doesn't vindicate the old one, if anything it just goes to show that the old complaint was indefensible (due to which the atheist moves into something else).
The ugly error that Vel made here is that she assumed I'm calling God not just Love but love, rather I've been writing God's the epitome of love, the standard bearer, not love itself, to say what Vel thinks would be to say “love is God” but scripture flips the script on her, teaching God is love (1 Jn 4:8). Love is God would be to make love into God, but that's not what Christians believe. The atheist continues. . .
All we have is OSC having a might equals right morality.
Vel (despite writing to me) begins addressing an invisible base of atheists she believes are reading from her. I'm sure she doesn't realize she's doing this, which adds to the sadness of it all. It's not the kind of thing we as Christians should be replying to honestly. This next portion of her message is very interesting though. . .
As for who you do and don’t know, an appeal to your personal ignorance doesn’t help your claims.
Now again without the quotation it's hard to guess where she's picking from, and when a person is in this mode where she's having a conversation with herself, “calling out” people, replying to me but not really talking with me, I can't say she'd be open to telling me what portion of my old message she's replying to.
Still I imagine she's annoyed by my message saying that “I don't know anyone who would be angry or want a piece of that action.” That action being to know Jesus Christ personally, now my message here was so casual and innocent I'm surprised Vel wanted to try disproving it, because trying to only makes herself look worse. Think about what's being shared.
I was sharing I don't know anyone who would be angry at the idea of Christians knowing God personally, or holding the view that they know God. By which I mean I don't know anyone reasonable who would hate that, obviously there are crazies out there, they're mostly on my blog or on the streets and we have conversations together. Vel replies my ignorance is no defence, for which she's saying either her or unbelievers that she knows want a piece of that action (which I highly doubt), or she's defending the idea that people are angry at Christians on account of their relationship with God (which I can believe because she's so angry about it). The conversation continues. . .
“And no, I don’t have to “parse” anything.” It's hard to say whether the atheist is just stomping her feet at this point or if this is her way of saying she intentionally won't read my material properly. When I write a person has to “be careful to parse” I'm saying there's danger here, we've got to be careful to parse a sentence properly or we're going to come away thinking the author's written something they haven't. So I'm saying you have to parse or else you're likely to end up misunderstanding the material, however, the atheist takes this as some kind of power struggle. If they refuse to parse the first section there's no correction to that because they'll refuse to parse every clarification thereafter.
You can almost hear the childlike foot stomp, “no I don't have to do that!” Well, nobody's going to force an atheist to carefully parse somebody else's word, but when they don't they wind up in a conversation against only themselves. They move on to write about interpretation “magically” being involved.
Perhaps interpreting is a kind of magic to atheists, I mean many (not all but a significant increase from the rest of the population) land high on the autistic spectrum and find things like metaphor, interpretation etc very difficult to grasp. They lack reading comprehension. So they can read a word and write words, they just have trouble comprehending. They can interpret themselves but are easily frustrated by complex plots, subplots, hyperbole and many other writing styles we read and enjoy intuitively. Vel moves on: “It’s great to see you now insisting that you didn’t mean what you wrote,” this is illustrative of simply not reading. I'll do my best to skip beyond some portions of the reply just because they're very weak or have been addressed before.
And it’s great to see you try to claim that your false claims are somehow playful and teasing.
Now Vel references me as using the words “playful” and “teasing” in quotations, for which we can draw from my previous message to see exactly what she's referring to. . .
I wrote “Drawing other points from other articles makes you appear desperate. I don’t know how else to reply to something like that without being playful and teasing you, I’m sorry.” So this is in reference to Vel when she tried to use old blog posts of mine to interpret my poem.
I pointed out I don't know how else to reply to such a poor argument without teasing her. No playful teasing was actually done, rather I explained I couldn't go on addressing that point without poking fun. Vel at seeing the words playful and teasing has attached them to an answer she feels comfortable with, but she can't seem to reply to the actual point I'm communicating with her. Online people just dismiss this as a strawman, which I could do but hopefully I'm being more generous in saying there might be a deeper problem here.
Vel interprets this as me trying to excuse my “false claims” as playful, but no claims are being made in reference to the joke about playfully teasing her. It's just another misreading. Afterwards there's an accusation that many Christians are liars, which again doesn't need going into because it's name calling. The atheist continues:
But if you want to keep calling it fiction, sure. We then both known the claims in it are not true by definition. No “Love” at all and the characterization of your other characters aren’t accurate either.
Very easy to clarify this complaint. Picture a book like Lord of the Rings, which is clearly fiction. Now let's say the author uses a character to describe water as wet, is the claim that water is wet fictitious “by definition” because it's appeared in the Lord of the Rings? Clearly not. We write fiction stories about real places, people and things everyday. They're often the inspiration behind many of our stories.
The atheist continues by an assortment of things they feel qualifies them to define what is and what is not Christian behaviour, mostly mimicking things I've already written. Mimicry is a strong sign you're not writing to an engaged person. If you end by sharing an emoji and they do likewise, if they use your phraseology, that's normally a bad sign.
Afterwards they move on into accusing me of thinking I'm the only one that's got the right “version” (it's a double standard they don't realize they've fallen into repeatedly). Like with their claim that it's wrong to comment negatively on other people's love (while she's commenting negatively on my act of love) Vel challenges me for being so arrogant as to think only I've gotten it right (while insisting she's the only one in the conversation getting it right). Not only is the atheist challenging a claim I haven't made (which would be another strawman), they do so in the most self refuting way possible.
They continue by writing they know Christians hate each other. As always for my Christian readers: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” (1 Jn 3:15). Sadly Vel was raised in an unhappy situation, having to be around many hateful people who mistakenly defined themselves as born again Christians, even Vel mistakenly defined herself as a Christian. I'm not meaning to discount the faith of anyone except the person who says they're Christian while they yet hate people in the Christian community (as Vel claims people around her do).
As we know from scripture hateful people who are against the community aren't indwelt by God's spirit, sadly atheists who don't have God's word or His spirit as a standard for definitions come away from a spiritless church environment believing everybody who claimed to be Christian was Christian.
I don't want this to be too focused on the atheist's history but this section of their reply is very typical of someone who's been upset by the shared dramas of a very unchristian community. It's not a thinking person's defence (it's raw hurt lashing out).
There was this incredible moment a day ago when I realized despite the length of her reply, Vel had literally ran out of arguments. This doesn't mean that she didn't have other beefs she wanted to air (e.g. miracles, the devil, permissive will), rather I mean to say that the argument that brought her to the dance, the topic I choose to engage her on, she had simply ran out of steam. Vel continued. . .
And nice to know that willful ignorance is your forte, OSC.
And don't we all need a forte. ;) Although to write that to someone like Vel, they'd probably reply “Aha! He confesses. Look how OSC has confessed, the liar! The liar he agrees with me!” Humour isn't very helpful if the person you're writing to is particularly humourless. Humour is wasted on the humourless.
After this complaint they moved on to yet another pet peeve of theirs, they bemoaned miracles, insisting the reason I didn't ask the Lord to give her a specific blessing was because she knows that I know deep (deep!) down that God doesn't bless people. To repeat, Vel knows that I know that God doesn't bless people. She knows about my secret unbelief in miracles which I've never written about, talked about or even conceived of. No eye has seen, no ear has heard.
Perhaps in many parts of the world it's a mercy ministry to exchange with these people for thousands upon thousands of hours, a way to lessen their burden, and of course we each have burdens, but as Christians what we suffer is significantly lessened by having God in our lives, by having Love as our constant companion. Cats and online exchanges written out in anger can't compete.
Still I think a big take away from this lengthy exchange is to say that atheists (some atheists) come with baggage, heavy baggage. The kind of past pain which keeps an ominous prison around them and any conversations about freedom which they might have. They can't enter conversations from a place of neutrality, meaning from the get go there's an awkward tension in their messages and an anxious combativeness, something like an upset as if you (though a total stranger) has caused them hurt on a personal level.
The charge and tone isn't one of personal rudeness or of Christians being meanies, rather it's as if these exchanges or just holding Christian beliefs are an insult personally. Atheists feel upset when Christians hold to Christian beliefs. Believing in Christianity and loosing the culture's chains of silence by writing poetry, film scripts or tabling an opinion on a stray message board offends many atheists. These chains and bars aren't for our protection since the atheists lash out routinely, they're crafted to protect the atheist.
A self-inflicted wound like the one Vel has caused herself here is a sort of pre hell torment. Writing something so incredible as that without explanation would justly bring fire from both my Christian and atheist friends (so let's go into that in a stand-alone article which I'm going to name “By the brightness of His coming”). God bless brothers and sisters and everyone outside of the church, hopefully you've read these things with an interested mind and an open-heart.
― Tyrone Cormack