Telling a suicidal Marine Corps veteran that she must “return to the light” and that her friends are “still in darkness and going to hell” is one of those lines.
This, in a nutshell, is why I am a New Atheist. I haven’t got a problem with religion, not as such. If that’s what you need to get you through your life, if you can’t give up the idea of god either singular or plural, I find it rather silly and sad, but that’s fine. Whatever floats your boat. Believe if you must.
But when those beliefs cross the line from personal to public, there’s a huge problem. And Christianity (amongst others) has a very hard time staying private. Far too many believers believe their way is the only way, that all of the rest of us are going to be condemned to eternal suffering if we don’t bow down to your sadistic little “loving god,” and then you do remarkably damaging things like trying to legislate your morality, and pushing a suicidal Marine very nearly over the edge.
When you cross that line from personal belief to public crusade, you demonstrate why your beliefs can’t be treated gently, but must be fought. You don’t understand how much suffering you cause, because you think you’re preventing suffering in the life to come. You harm people because of a myth. And then you scream persecution at the least little criticism. You demand your dreadful, damaging beliefs be shielded, uniquely respected, while you strip the shields away from good and hurting people and disrespect them in the name of god.
You don’t get to have it that way.
You can have your faith. But if you think that gives you a free license to bully, berate, and belittle people, if you believe the rules of your profession don’t apply to you, you’ll have consequences to face. And there will be people there, some atheists, some more compassionate and tolerant believers, who will confront you, criticize you, and if you have broken the law, ensure you face the penalty.
And those of you who have asked me why I speak out, why I can’t just leave well enough alone, what’s the harm if people believe, this is part of the answer.
This is the harm.
And when we set religion apart as something we cannot criticize, we perpetuate that harm.