Edwin Lyngar promotes a new book in a blog entry entitled “Christian right’s rage problem: how white fundamentalists are roiling America.” The book being promoted actually has the following title: To the Far Right Christian Hater … You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both: Official Hate Mail, Threats, and Criticism From the Archives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.”
Yes, that is a real book title. 😉
The book was written by Bonnie Weinstein. Lyngar explains it as follows:
Married to Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the author has collected and annotated a sampling of the hate mail the foundation has received over the past few years. This hate mail is not trolling or anonymous “Internet comments.” The letters are specific and threatening and most often include a return address or email. The Weinsteins’ home has been vandalized — many times — and the family has had to take serious and expensive security measures. It’s no joke. As I read the book, curled up on my couch, my wife kept asking if I was OK. My face was fixed in an expression of horror and disbelief as I read the rage, hate and cruelty cataloged on every page. Bonnie has uncovered a shocking reality: Self-professed Christians deny the fundamental humanity of other people they don’t even know.
Oh my. A book, from an activist organization, filled with hate mail from “Christians.” Lyngar informs us about this hate mail:
I will spare you, dear reader, actual excerpts from the book. Instead I will summarize almost every letter: The MRFF hates America, Weinstein is a dirty Jew who deserves to be raped / murdered / skull-fucked, some truly awful sexual filth directed at Bonnie, fuck-shit-fuck, cocksucker, and Jesus is Lord. Frankly, I’m downplaying it a lot. Bonnie adds commentary and worked with an artist to create some fun illustrations to give the book structure, and the letters get worse as toward the end of a book, reflecting real life.
As we might expect, atheist activist Jerry Coyne is helping to promote the book:
And they call atheists “strident” and “militant”! How many atheists have written hate mail en masse to religious figures like Joel Osteen, William Lane Craig, or even Pat Robertson? I venture to say that none of those people could compile a book like this one. There is no hater like a Christian.
I have a problem with all of this. As one who values critical and scientific thinking, I cannot get past the simple fact that there is no evidence all of this hate mail, or even most of this hate mail, came from people who would call themselves Christians. The only evidence to support this hypothesis is the wording of the letters themselves. In other words, the letters are supposed to sound like they came from raging, ignorant, foul-mouthed Christians. Yet this sliver of evidence only exists if we have the willingness to take these letters at face value; we must accept on faith that the letters are legitimate. Yet there is an equally plausible alternative explanation – most of this hate mail comes from atheists trying to sound like raging, ignorant, foul-mouthed Christians. In other words, street theater to help further their agenda by a) making atheists look like victims and b) reinforcing their negative stereotypes and portrayals of Christians.
Since the wording of the letters can be explained by real raging, ignorant, foul-mouthed Christians or atheists pretending to be raging, ignorant, foul-mouthed Christians, we need independent, supportive evidence.
Lyngar is clearly not much of a journalist, as he never asks for such supporting evidence, thus has none to offer. The very best he had was this:
This hate mail is not trolling or anonymous “Internet comments.” The letters are specific and threatening and most often include a return address or email.
That the letters are “specific and threatening” tells us nothing about their legitimacy, as hoaxsters can easily send “specific and threatening” letters. That most often include a return address or email again is meaningless. Lyngar does not tell us if any of these return addresses or emails are legitimate. A hoaxster can easily make up a fake email address or fake real-world address. A hoaxster can even put someone else’s real-world address on an envelope. So none of this counts as evidence.
Given there is no evidence that the majority of this hate mail is coming from people who consider themselves to be theists/religious, we should consider the equally plausible alternative explanation whereby most of the mail comes from a community of atheist trolls and activists.