My first thought, upon seeing the horrific comments Fox News viewers claiming to be Christians posted on news channel's Facebook page in the wake of an appearance by American Atheists spokesman Blair Scott, was that they were really written by agents provocateurs-anti-Christians posing as believers. But it would take some pretty elaborate planning to create scores of Facebook personalities crafted to appear as Christians in all their particularities. That's not impossible, of course, but it seems unlikely.
Which leaves the unsavory alternative, namely that there are more than a few people who find no conflict between believing in a loving God and declaring their hope that atheists are raped, or crucified, or have their heads blown off with shotguns.
To be sure, I've seen ample hate on atheist websites-and even been subjected to it-but not this kind of bloodlust. Perhaps I could find it if I looked harder, but it's small consolation to learn that the angry atheist fringe is just as bloodthirsty as the angry Christian fringe.
It's easy-and tempting-to spout stupidity from a keyboard, and I doubt any of the vile commenters on Fox's Facebook page are actually planning violence. Still, the sad effect of their angry lack of self-control reinforces, in the eyes of thousands of atheists, a perception that the people of God are hate-filled. My experience with more than a few atheists is that this is the conceptualization of God they were given at an early age, an angry and vengeful Being. And His followers, to them, are hypocrites who talk a lot about loving their neighbors, but in reality are consumed with judgment and gossip toward them.
All of which makes me think, especially in the wake of Anders Breivik's atrocities in Norway, that we might benefit from more aggressive discipline, in Christian churches, of anger. Wrath is certainly one of the seven deadly sins of old, but not one addressed from the pulpit-in my experience, anyway-nearly as often as lust, say, or pride.
It would be something laudable, I think, if elders and pastors combed the list of Facebook entries on Fox News' page and, should they spy any of their congregants among the hateful, hold them accountable. Even if it had no effect on the opinions of atheists, it could well be beneficial to the souls of the offenders. I don't know what Heaven is like, but I'm pretty sure none of us will fare well if we arrive at the gate boiling over with anger.