I want to make clear that I am not attacking daniel and that this isn’t an attack article, it’s an article about a clear example of religious extremism taken to the point where it can become very destructive, but in ways the person at the center doesn’t realise. So I explain some backstory and then interactions that happened between us that lead us to the conclusion that religious extremism in many ways like a cult, can separate people who have been friends for a very long time.
**Also, daniel has an open invitation to make any ammendments which are supportive by the facts that he wants to make, if he contacts me to correct something he disagrees with.**
Yesterday I lost a friend,
Not just any friend, but someone I considered to be my friend for about 15 years, I haven’t had much contact with him in recent years, but when I was 18 or so I used to talk to this person almost every day and I spent a great deal at their home and I would like to think that I was welcome there. Why else would I be asked to come so many times.
The friend I mention is Daniel, his family are Christians and we often had very heated and intricate discussions about religion, life, the universe and everything. Those days were very good days to be in. I used to remember those days fondly and how great it was to simply sit and discuss issues openly without fear of being told an issue is not up for discussion, even though I knew that I would not ultimately change anyones mind. Which was never the point, but just to explore the issues and find what people believed and how it would affect them. Never have I had any issue with discussing any issue, regardless of how sensitive it was.
His father, Mike, was gracious, patient and calm, he’s a very friendly man with a bushy beard who has a great sense of humour and was, as I remember it, friendly even talking about issues where we strongly disagreed, never was I removed from his home for being a “heathen” or disbeliever, in fact, he seemed perfectly happy with our presence (our being his other friends who were similarily disbelievers). It seemed that his attitude was that you should never close the door on somebody, regardless of the reason, as it was not polite and even though you disagree, it’s natural and just carry on with life, perhaps he also thought that if he closed the door, he would lose the ability to try and challenge me into a situation where I would never accept what he believed, so better to keep the door open and discuss, rather than get annoyed and close it.
All of his family was always a nice family to know, daniel back in those days, could hold his temper and hold his ground without resorting to pettiness, because he always told me that it’s fine that I disagree and he actually accepted that I would never convert to his religion, but that it wasn’t important, only that I kept myself open to the possibility that daniel was right.
Which I have always done, even though I’m a heavy believer in evolution, I always keep the door ajar slightly, because really, I’m like everyone else, I BELIEVE in evolution, but I can’t be stupid enough to completely discount something I cannot possibly know, even though this won’t get me into the kingdom of heaven, because ultimately to do that, you must accept jesus into your life, etc, etc. I refuse to close the door, even though I think it’s completely impossible.
So close was daniel and myself that it was me who convinced daniel to goto university in the first place, he at first wasn’t going to go, he was working at a computer shop in a small town called Buckley and he was one of the technicians who fixed computers and helped customers, he was really good at it and I remember the conversation that started it, I was asking why he wasn’t going to go, that really, he should go because if he doesn’t, perhaps he will regret it, perhaps one day he’ll want that degree and he’ll have to work double if at a later date he changed his mind. He went downstairs, spoke with his father, came back upstairs about 1 hour later, saying he was going and he was actually going to the same university that I was going to join. So myself and daniel are not strangers. Although I’m not trying to take responsibility for his success, right now, daniel is a chief architect in a very successful company and is very successful, has money, a great life, a beautiful wife, children and everything that I am sure came from that very conversation about university.
The first battle
Skipping forward a few years after we went to university, I met a spanish girl and moved to barcelona to make my career take off, which it has done so, but I remember one night, we chatted on msn about things and the topic of evolution appeared again, although I don’t know the reason why and I think the conversation has gotten lost in the sands of time, or at least, it stored someplace in my archive (which has grown quite a lot, I should put effort to organising that, perhaps it would make finding things a lot easier). I remember it was in september/october 2006, but anyway. We spoke cordially at first, but then, daniel started to suggest that the reason I didn’t agree with him was that I didn’t understand him, that I lacked the necessary mentality that I needed to understand and that actually, I was just incapable. I should point out that I’m an intelligent, successful programmer who has worked in barcelona for the last 4 years gaining clients and acceptance. I’m not a chav/shmuck/idiot from Connah’s Quay who can’t spell his own name.
Over the duration of that conversation, more and more “slightly” insulting back handed comments came over, although I have my own sarcastic manner of speaking, I normally reserve it for people who treat me with equal temperament. So if daniel was hearing sarcasm, you can imagine what I was hearing and how it was provoked. He mentioned the scientist Micheal Behe, who has been discredited and debunked many times, even by the university that he worked at, even accepted in a court case that his examples of “irreductable complexity” was in fact, out of date and needed revising. I refuted daniels points in a sarcastic manner that the conversation was taking on both sides and daniel went very very very out of control, he started to get very insulting and tell me that if I was too thick to listen to people, then perhaps I should stop talking, etc. You can imagine, this is all over chat, so we don’t know if those smiley faces are really smiles, or just hiding the insults behind a smile so to reduce the impact the insult has on the other. The daniel disconnected in a very unpleasant manner and left me feeling that it was him not wanting to continue to be in contact with me. Daniel disappeared and I never spoke to him again. That was until I added him on facebook last year (2009). So the signs of extremism were appearing, even if they never surfaced that often.
The quiet before the storm
At first, we did the normal friend things, comments and stuff, he was never a facebook person (like his brother, nathan, who is equally disconnected, unless he has another account I dont know and twitters, etc, but I don’t think so). So we only spoke sometimes.
The second act
Recently (june->august 2010) we started to talk on articles that he put up about religion and some of those topics spoke about evolution. As before, in order to provide a balance in the discussion, I added my points about evolution and spoke directly to some of his friends. To the point where a couple of his friends added me to their facebook, because we shared a similar attitude, or perhaps because we got along and it’s just the “facebook” think to do.
Regardless of those things, I started to find messages being deleted from threads I was commenting on and it was daniel who was deleting them, I challenged him to explain why he was censoring my comments and he replied that I was insulting people and it was unacceptable, that he was deleteing the comments because it was not fair to people I didn’t know that they have to read insults because of a thread that daniel has written. That it was daniel’s facebook and ultimately, he has responsibility to moderate what people say and cannot say.
However much you feel about censorship, he is right, however, moderating away comments which don’t have insults in them, or which were perfectly reasonable, is not moderation, it’s censorship. I challenged him again and he repeated himself. I asked him explicitly to name and shame the comments I made which were insulting, he never replied. But did reply to another point, so obviously he ignored the question. That made me determined to put back the comment, so I did, we then have a huge facebook email thread between us where we discuss various insults I may have said and issues that he brought up and how I wanted him to point them out, explicitly, I challenged him to reveal the “universally accepted principle of information from intelligence” which again, he ignored.
To anyone reading, there *IS* no universally accepted principe of information from intelligence, it’s just something daniel and his friends have made up to back up his believe in Intelligent Design and probably comes from the group supported by Micheal Behe, the disgraced and discredited scientist from america
All of this led to him deleting the note on facebook and recreating it and trying to get me to agree that I should move this to a facebook forum to discuss it (which I’m unsure of where it is, I think he didnt create it like he promised). Then he opened a facebook chat and spoke to me and I voiced my opinion that I disagreed with him, saying that deleting it would be an act of censorship, he shrugged and said that it was his facebook, so he can do what he wants. That was the end of the issue, I cannot do anything, except voice my disagreement
Signs of extremism
The second time, which happened a few days ago (10/08/2010) was an equal discussion, but this time, there was no insults made, in fact, one of daniels friends was making some very very harsh comments, swearing and generally having a laugh, I thought he was hilarious. His comments still exists, it is not deleted, however, the following comment was deleted. It goes like this
“I still think people with a rudimentary level of scientific knowledge can answer the question correctly mwhahahha, everyone else is a religious person (yay! another lolfest!)”
The comment is made very lightheartedly and poking fun at daniel. But the comment with all the swearing and bad mouthing, still remains. I will make a mental note of the irony.
About 2 minutes afterwards, he replied saying that he agrees, but wants to keep the conversation “friendly”
I replied to him saying that we were keeping the conversation friendly.
Little did I realise that to daniel friendly means, he will delete my comment, his comment about being friendly, then he will remove me from his facebook friends. All because of that comment.
I quickly emailed him over facebook asking WTF? I have reproduced the email thread here:
To daniel: (09 August at 19:45) ->
“? are you seriously going to kill our friendship after how many years over this issue? you removed me from facebook?
you really have turned into a christian nutcase. I’m very disappointed in you. how far you have fallen. from intelligent and open minded, to closed minded and bitter.
enjoy your aids.”
To chris: (09 August at 20:03) ->
“Don’t be ridiculous bro. It’s just Facebook
I enjoy your spirit. I always have – it’s one of the things that sets you apart. I’d rather not have removed you from my Facebook, but you seemed to keep crossing that boundary on my Notes. Why oh why can’t you give a little credit to others instead of just running others down and giving credit to yourself?
Strangely, I am not the guy I used to be. I’m actually far more patient and tolerant now. Which is why I see more clearly when you are running others down. I used to do it, but I grew up. Take some advice from an old friend who genuinely cares for you, as I do. Learn how to speak with a little graciousness.”
Apparently daniel thinks that deleting a friend he’s had for about 15 years from facebook is patient and tolerant, I would say that it’s actually the opposite. That it’s demonstrating a complete lack of tolerance of another opinion. he also has a very short memory, I can quote him from the first occurance, we also had a lot of facebook emails, one of them goes like this
To chris: (08 July at 09:54) ->
“And you know what, the reason I’m less tolerant now is because I used to be just like you, upsetting people with insensitive comments. But I’ve grown up a bit, and now I’m more aware of it.”
So I suppose you can’t be LESS tolerant and MORE tolerant at the same time, can you?? But for daniel, it makes COMPLETE SENSE!
To daniel: (09 August at 20:19) ->
“Unfortunately for you daniel, facebook is documented everything that was said and your further baseless idiotic claims against me, run against you, you can’t hide from the truth and the truth is, you removed me from facebook because you cannot tolerate anyone elses opinion other than you own.
it’s a sad day, because I lost a friend, but a good day, that you were revealed for being the closed minded fool you turned into.
sorry to see you go daniel, I hope that one day, you come back to sanity and realise your mistake and how stupid you were.”
So you can see I’m angry and not helping the situation much by what I said, I’m angry because I can’t believe that daniel will ruin our friendship over a stupid issue that can be ignored by any other intelligent person, but for daniel, disagreeing with him, is enough to make him want to break friends with that person, however much he spouts that it’s “just facebook”.
To chris: (09 August at 20:33) ->
“I may be a fool. But I am God’s fool. Not my own.
So now you can see that daniel isn’t interested in explaining himself, or saving our friendship, he is actually pushing the buttons, he seems to WANT to break our friendship up, over a simple comment that was pretty innocent to be honest.
The reason to explain all this in so much detail, if that it documents how a open minded, bright and intelligent person, can become corrupted by religion to such a point that outside opinion is excised, removed and unwelcome, that any attempt to put on a level playing field a scientific opinion, is howled down with ridicule and insults, however ironic it maybe coming from someone emailing you that you are insulting.
The dangers of insular communities with religion
I spoke with some friends about the issue and they gave me an enlightening opinion on Daniels current state of mind. It was mentioned that where he lives, you have a very extremist version of Christianity that equals that of central america, shotgun territory. That if you don’t understand, it’s because you are simple minded and stupid, that you shouldn’t question things that are obvious, because God explained them to us in the bible, which now apparently cannot be dissected and learned from, but must be read and understood AS IT IS WRITTEN. That the community in his surrounding area, is very insular and therefore becomes disconnected with the outside world physically, this leads people to enter a positive reinforcement loop where the only opinion they regularly hear is the opinion they already hold, therefore hearing an opinion which they disagree with, leads to a very extreme reaction where ultimately you are cast out and villified for your transgressions against the lord.
This is the danger of religious extremism, the danger that can remove you from rational thought, that can ultimately lead you down a path where you have no choices, because they are all made, why would you choose, your friends and family agree, so there is no need to question.
Another friend, explained to me that perhaps it was an illusion the friendship between myself and daniel, that it was all smiles on the surface, but below, it was never a friendship to begin with, it was merely an acquaintence like friendship, where we know each other, we sit and talk to each other, but really, are not good friends. The reasoning for this was that if a simple, nonsensical argument can be enough to destroy a friendship, then it was a weak, unstable friendship to begin with.
I hope that he was wrong, but the more time I take to reflect, the more I realise that perhaps he was right.
There you have it: the dangers of religious extremism.