When I was a child, my father decided to buy his own chickens. In his opinion, it was better than buying them from the grocery store. This way, he could control what they ate, how they lived their lives, and how they ended them.
We bought seed and heat lamps and itty bitty baby eggies that would turn into full grown chickens. We guarded them from the cold, gave them plenty of room to move around, protected the other chickens from ones that were too aggressive, and when it came time to kill them, we made sure that our axes were sharp and our swings sure, to end their lives as quickly as possible.
We made sure that our axes were sharp and our swings sure, to end their lives as quickly as possible.
After my childhood, I carried around this picture of meat production, the rosy one of my youth. There was no needless suffering, no ineffective bolts to the head, no unnecessary growth hormones to keep up with demand, no undocumented workers being taken advantage of in extremely low-paying jobs, nothing. There was just the coop that my father used to supply his family with meat for the winter.
This is what I call The Good Version Fallacy.
That childhood experience actually inoculated me from having to take stock of reality. The reality: Almost none of the meat that I eat is produced that way.
Because of that perfect picture of meat production, I was able to ignore the fact that what was on my pizza, what was in my taco, what was on my plate was not the product of that golden standard of animal husbandry. Unfortunately, any critiques of eating meat that I was confronted with would more easily slide away, because I could simply revert to that perfect picture of what I’d known.
The Good Version of Religion
Christians suffer from this, too, and that’s why it’s not surprising that Christians and atheists often end up talking past each other. The critiques of religion offered up by so many variations of non-believers throughout the centuries have simply slid off the shoulders of the religious, because they understand only the good.
Listen, I’m an atheist. That means that I don’t believe this stuff is literally true. That doesn’t mean there’s no value whatsoever in lovely passages like, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy…does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.”
But it also means that I find no reasonable justification for drowning everyone on earth. Or mauling 42 boys with bears. Or testing someone by telling them to sacrifice their son. Or telling African countries ravaged with AIDS not to wear condoms (jeez, Francis.)
The point is that it is never good to drown everyone. Or burn everyone. Or crucify your Son/Self. And I understand that many Christians are deeply faithful and would not like to give that up. You don’t have to, but the point of this is to say that you need to use these critiques to have a more complicated relationship with this thing that you love, because people get hurt when you don’t.
Listening to the secular community and what it says about the God that you worship can help you have a more rounded and thorough perspective of what your faith is about.
You cannot pretend that God is solely portrayed as good in the Bible when that is objectively not the case. Or that religion is only a force for good. And it’s completely patronizing to answer the critiques offered by non-believers with weak apologetic nonsense, as if we’re just too dense to be able to read the “real” meaning of fairly explicit texts.
Listening to the secular community and what it says about the God that you worship can help you have a more rounded and thorough perspective of what your faith is about and might even help you more adequately answer larger questions about faith that the doubting in your pews already have (they’re there, I promise.)
But if you continue to ignore it, and commit only to the good side of God/Jesus/The Bible/etc, you’re gonna end up thinking that your hamburger came from heaven when it actually came from hell.
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