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Atheist family receive threatening letters from ‘beleivers’ – but could the letters be fakes?

October 13, 2014

I was shocked over the weekend when I learned of some threatening letters placed in the mailbox of some attending an atheist ‘church’ in Louisiana in the USA. I read about it on the Richard Dawkins website and also on the friendly atheist blog.

This incident reminded me of a post I wrote a couple of years ago about atheist billboards which needed to be taken down following violent threats by so-called ‘Christians’. I’ll make similar points now as I respond.

Even though I disagree with the assertions of the atheist ‘church’, there is no place in the Christian faith to threaten violence.

Jesus said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:43). Jesus never advocated violent threats to those who disagreed with the Christian message. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the way a Christian believer should live, includes ‘peace, kindness, goodness, and gentleness’, none of which I see in a threat of violence. And the Apostle Paul, who encountered much opposition to his message, never responded with violence. After outlining all the opposition and setbacks he’d experienced in his life, he concluded that he delighted in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions and in difficulties for Christ’s sake, ‘for when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor 12:10).

The threat of violence in response to opposition is the response associated with Christendom and the ’religious’ who are more concerned with power and influence than the Christian faith. So I cannot endorse what those ‘beleivers’ who can’t even spell the name, have threatened to those ‘neighbours’ they live with whom they disagree. The point of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, was that we should love those with whom we disagree. Hence these letters and deeply hypocritical and deeply disappoint me.

The pastor of the atheist “church” made this statement in response:

You may not agree with our lack of belief in the supernatural but I’m hopeful that you do believe in our right to assemble peacefully and to proclaim a message of community, tolerance and love without fear of physical harm.

So I’m asking each of you to take the following four actions:

1. Publicly condemn this kind of behavior.
2. Extend a hand of friendship and encouragement to the Jeffels family.
3. Help us identify the author(s) of these letters so that they can be helped.
4. Share this message with everyone that you know.

I do not agree with the beliefs of the atheist church, but I do agree with their right to assemble and proclaim their message (and I’d be very happy to engage their message in a non-violent and intelligent way). So I am happy to endorse the proposed actions:

1. I publicly condemn this kind of behaviour from “Christian” people. It is completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

2. I extend a hand of friendship to the Jeffels family (and to all atheists). I wish to love all of my neighbours.

3. I am happy to help identify the author of these letters (see below).

4. Am sharing this with everyone I know – hence publishing this on this blog.

Identifying the authors – are they really Christians?

Now, after rebuking these so called “Christian” beleivers, more controversially, I now  want to question the authenticity of the letters. I’m content to be wrong about this (and this blog post will still be worthwhile), but I do wonder if the authors of these two letters were really Christians at all?

Could the authors instead be atheists intent on impersonating Christians and reinforcing a stereotype of Christians as uneducated, bigoted and violent in order to make a point and gain publicity?

The reason my suspicions are roused is that these letters were both typed using a word processor, yet two very obvious spelling mistakes remain in both letters: ‘beleivers’ in the first and ‘misterious’ in the second. Given the auto-correct software in all modern software, the author of this particular note would almost certainly have wanted there to be spelling mistakes on it. These spelling mistakes would have stood out as much as a porcupine in a nudist colony because great red lines would have appeared underneath both words which would have made the spelling mistakes obvious. The rest of both letters (apart from misplaced ‘you’re) have no spelling mistakes on them at all. Only words in the last lines of each letter. In fact when I typed misterious on Microsoft Word, it automatically corrected the word to mysterious.

There appear to be two realistic options for why someone would have wanted there to be spelling mistakes on these letters.

1. They really were Christians who really were so stupid that they misunderstood and ignored auto correct. They were so stupid that they in fact changed the auto-corrected version of misterious.

2. They were atheists intent on characterising and stereotyping Christians as stupid, violent and hypocritical. Perhaps to raise the issues of the marginalisation of atheists in the USA, raise the profile of the atheist church and get lots of shares from high profile atheists like Richard Dawkins and Hemant Mehta.

As I said, I’m content to be wrong about this, but if the letters indeed were forgeries, well, that would also be disappointing.

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From → Comment, Jesus

19 Comments
  1. I would be inclined to suspect fakery with or without the obvious spelling errors.

    Consider the inherent unlikelihood of a Christian threatening violence and *knowing* that it would be made public. Then consider the likelihood of anyone faking unjust hostility to their cause to gain sympathy. If you spend enough time in student politics (as I once did) you see it a lot.

    I’m surprised – but at the same time not surprised – that the atheists commenting on this are not more sceptical.

    • ‘Consider the inherent unlikelihood of a Christian threatening violence…;

      Is it about time to reshow that video of the different Christian factions having a big punch up in a church where Jesus was allegedly born?

      The most amusing thing is that the police sent to break up this brawl between 100 committed Christians had to enter the church through ‘the door of humility’.

  2. Would Jesus ever dictate a threatening letter or would a Christian ever lie and claim that Jesus commanded him to write a threatening letter?

    Revelation 2

    “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:……I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead.’

    According to the Bible, Jesus actually dictated what words should be put into a threatening letter.He dictated a letter threatening a church with violence.

    Unless, (and this is a long shot), a New Testament author lied about what Jesus commanded him to do….

  3. Steven, it’s interesting where you chose to cut the quote from me off. Probably intentional too.

    But nooooo. Surely not. 🙂 My comparison of likelihoods is evidently correct, and the fact that you resort to dishonest half-quoting to muddy the waters pretty much confirms that there isn’t a better response you can make. I suppose that deserves thanks. 🙂

    • Glenn can’t actually respond to the quote from the Bible so decides to shower me with Christian love.

      But he is rtotally right!

      I really can’t make a better response to the original post than by quoting from your Holy Book which has a letter threatening people with suffering and violence – the exact thing that it is claimed a Christian would never write.

  4. To recap – and I think Stephen knows this – If the two possibilities are 1) A Christian deliberately handed an atheist a threat of violence knowing that they would gleefully make it public, or 2) a vocal atheist faked unkind opposition to bolster his cause and demonise those he disagrees with….

    2) is more likely. Don’t pretend you don’t agree.

    • No, there are so many Christians in America that it is likely that one of them is a violent person.

      How many Christians in America have a gun? Or resort to calling people dishonest, when they quote from the Bible in context?

      Glenn is not a Christian. A Christian does not react to a quote from the Bible by calling somebody ‘;dishonest;

      Revelation records a Christian claiming Jesus dictated a threatening letter, threatening a church and its followers with violence.

      This is the truth, Christians are supposed to love the truth, and not call the truth lies.

      • “No, there are so many Christians in America that it is likely that one of them is a violent person.”

        I’m going to assume that you know how this shifts the goalposts. Which claim is this responding to? None that I’ve made. And remember, if you’re going to quote, no naughty sentence cutting. 🙂

      • Whoops, sorry, I should also have added that you comment is incomplete. Given the size of America, is it likely that there are liars or people who would fake this sort of thing to bolster their cause?

        It’s a bit telling that you chopped out this possibility from consideration altogether, wouldn’t you say, Stephen?

      • Hi Glenn,
        You can’t be a Christian, because you are obviously an atheist trying to make Christians look bad.

        You are doing a great job!

      • Hey guys. I realise that this thread is a bit old now (I was busy with a conference last week and didn’t get to participate in the fun). Just a bit concerned about the ‘tone’ of the conversation. I want this place to be a forum of intelligent discussion. Please be passionate but be pleasant! Thanks.

      • You mean, your first reaction to an atheist receiving threatening letters shouldn’t be ‘Atheists probably forged it’, and you shouldn’t refer to atheists as ‘enemies’?

        Christians love their enemies, so they love atheists, while I ,as an atheist, can’t love my enemies, because I don’t regard people as enemies.

      • Not quite sure what you’re talking about here. It wasn’t my first reaction to the letters was ‘atheists must have forged it’, it was on the conclusion based on reasoning. I take your point about loving ‘enemies’, but my point is that it is within the Christian framework to love those you disagree with ie those not your friends

      • But if people disagreed with Jesus, he called them ‘hypocrites’, ‘sons of the devil’, ‘blind fools’.

        Surely no Christian reading Matthew 23-24 would be inspired to behave like Jesus.

        Surely Paul’s words in Ephesians are what you ought to be following – not the words of Jesus.

      • No. Jesus called people hypocrites because they were inconsistent, not because they disagreed with Jesus. This is what Matthew 23 is about.

      • So you have no objection to Christians using the kind of language Jesus used in Matthew 23-24, or Jesus allegedly dictating letters threatening members of a church with death and suffering?

        Jesus said these people in Matthew 23 were descendants of murderers because they decorated the graves of the righteous.

        What is wrong with being the descendant of a murderer?

        Nobody can read Matthew 23-24 and not be filled with outrage at the sheer hatred , bile,pomposity, arrogance that comes from the mouth of the Jesus character,

      • Steven, you’ve misunderstood the correct probability question. The question is not “what is the likelihood that there is some Christian who would threaten or commit violence?” To see why this is pointless, consider this: “What is the likelihood that there is an atheist who would forge the material?” The chances of both are overwhelmingly probable. Rather, the right question to ask with respect to probability is “What is the likelihood that a Christian did this vs. the likelihood that an atheist did this?” The answer to this question depends on a number of factors of prior knowledge about both groups. First, we should probably consider more than just nominal Christians (that is, cultural Christians who don’t actually practice the religion). Reduced to standards of practice, the number drops to perhaps a third of the population (or less). Let’s also consider atheists as about 10% of the population. Now let’s tell a story about the Christian who did this. Plausibly, he/she: was too stupid to notice a spelling error correction, knew the atheist in question in some manner, knew the negative backlash Christianity would receive, knew the potential for positive atheist press, but did it anyway. Let’s call this the Angry Christian hypothesis (ACH). Now let’s look at the atheist. Plausibly, he/she: knew the negative backlash Christianity would receive, knew the potential for positive atheist press, deliberately “corrected” a spelling error correction. Let’s call this the Fraudulent Atheist hypothesis (FAH). So, which is more likely–ACH or FAH? ACH involves the supposition that the Christian is both stupid and angry. FAH just involves the supposition that an atheist isn’t opposed to bending the truth. ACH acts in discord with Christian tenets, while FAH doesn’t act contrary to atheism simpliciter. On just prior probabilities, FAH is more plausible than ACH.

        As to your last bit, Jesus is speaking in judgment language toward Jezebel (a symbol, as Jezebel is an OT figure, not alive in the late first century) and her “children” (those who align themselves with the Jezebel-like actions). In Christianity, Jesus is God. What is supposed to be the problem with Jesus bringing judgment on sinners who reject God, again? Surely you don’t think Jesus is a Christian, right? A Christian is a “follower of Christ.” But there’s a fundamental difference between a follower of x and x (where x=Christ). Nor does being his follower entail that we have all of the rights, responsibilities, or properties of Christ. Good luck finding that in Christian theology. And, lastly, no one here is concerned whether or not *you* think they’re a true Christian, I can tell you that.

  5. So you agree that Jesus dictated a letter claiming he would make members of a Christian church suffer? (Unless you think I am an imbecile , who can be taken in by a claim that the people in that church in Thyatira were not alive in the first century)

    So how can you claim a Christian would not send a letter threatening people with violence? He just has to ask himself ‘What would Jesus do?’

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