Three Obligations I Have as a Faith Blogger

Today atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists, and all kinds of other non-religious folks are organizing to protest the imprisonment of three atheist bloggers in Bangladesh. They could face up to 10 years in prison, or potentially the death penalty.

For blogging.Bangladesh bloggers

They are not alone. Alexander Aan is an Indonesian atheist who was arrested for admitting on Facebook that he was an atheist. Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed and then arrested for his lack of faith. Sanal Edamaruku is an Indian atheist who is living in exile to avoid arrest for explaining that a weeping statue was caused by leaky pipes.

Now I recognize that these countries are not the United States. I know that we do not send people to jail for writing harshly about religion. I am deeply grateful for the freedoms that I enjoy every day as a faith blogger.

But I also believe that as a faith blogger, I have a couple of obligations.

I can’t flippantly use words like “persecuted” or “attacked” when someone voices disagreement with what I have written. I try very hard to write things that I will stand by even when people push back. I don’t always succeed at this, and I have amended posts when people have suggested that I wasn’t clear. But sometimes I write things that others simply disagree with, and that’s okay. Disagreement, even strong disagreement, is not akin to persecution and it is important, especially when people experience actual persecution for writing about their faith or lack thereof. I can (and do) feel bad when people don’t like me because of something that I’ve written. However, it’s important for me to remember that disagreement is not an attack and that if I feel as if I am attacked, I have options on how to respond. Someone who is genuinely persecuted is without those options.

I need to stand with those who are persecuted or attacked. I am not able to attend any of the protests today for the jailed bloggers in Bangladesh. But I can certainly let you know about them and others who experience actual repercussions for sharing their viewpoints. Part of my obligation as someone who enjoys free speech is to look for constructive ways to exercise it, and I believe that as more of us, both Christians and atheists, join our voices together, we can begin to bring about change in some small ways. And when I see someone being treated unjustly, even if it’s just a mean comment, I can still gently suggest that there are better ways to engage.

I need to remember that because someone’s voice is oppressed it does not mean that they are voiceless. As someone who cares about those who experience this persecution or attacks, it can be very easy for me to assume the mantel of “voice for the voiceless.” This turns into a whole other way of denying them their personhood. These three bloggers have been silenced by their government. But their words still exist. They are not without a voice. And their community is not without a voice. I always want to be mindful to speak with people, not to speak for people.

I often hear that the Christian faith is a relationship, not a religion, and while I think it’s a bit of an “and” proposition (I believe that my faith is based both on relationship and religious ritual and that the two are difficult to separate), I see some value in that statement. However, I have also often observed that when aspects of the religion are challenged, we have a tendency to abandon any kind of relationship that might exist here. We use battle language to describe disagreement. We stop listening. We say one thing, but our actions show something completely different.

Today I’m standing with my atheist writing friends and saying that questions and criticisms should be allowed, even of things that I hold dear. And while this may not do much to help those who have been imprisoned for those questions or criticisms, it may begin to blur some of the battle lines that are drawn between our communities.

Today, my obligation as a faith blogger is to pursue relationship.

  • Emily Phoenix

    Thanks you for this post. As someone who is married to an atheist, I have come to respect and converse often about the differences in views, even though, I too, hold my faith very dearly. I am thankful to live in a country where those discussions can happen freely, as difficult as they can be. I would rather experience it in that way and I pray for those who are captured and in danger overseas.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Indeed. I think we usually know about Christians who are imprisoned due to their faith, but we often forget that lack of faith also carries with it some potentially harsh penalties as well. I don’t want let that go under the radar either.

  • http://www.hillsideslide.blogspot.com hillsideslide

    While I’m sorry to hear this news, I appreciate you shining your spotlight on it. Thanks for raising awareness & for sharing your perspective & insight. Our words are important. You make good use of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dawn.paoletta1 Dawn St Amand Paoletta

    These are important, valid points for those of us who hold dear the freedom to speak freely for better or worse. Thank you for speaking out and sharing – I would have not known otherwise.

  • http://www.joyinthisjourney.com Joy in this Journey

    HEAR HEAR!

  • http://www.facebook.com/caryn.j.christensen Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    Excellent points you make Joy. Thank you for distinguishing between the ‘oppressed’ and the ‘voiceless’. I sometimes assume they are one in the same. Thanks for sharing your convictions.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Honestly, there are very few who are truly “voiceless.” Some may not have found their voice and some may have their voice silenced, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Hard to remember that sometimes!

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    Great distinction on your third point. It always killed me that people said I “gave” women a voice with the Women in Ministry series on my blog. I just gave those voices a different audience.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Seriously. It’s a super easy trap to fall into, and it feels very benevolent, but yeah. It’s not great.

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com/ Matt Appling

    Very well spoken, Alise. We don’t have much of a concept of being “persecuted,” or “silenced” over here.

  • Jess

    As an atheist I want to thank you for your respect and your kindness and your humanism because that is what you are displaying. Concern and care for humanity. So thank you.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thank you, Jess, for taking the time to comment. That means a lot to me. I hope you have a great day!

  • JoniG

    I absolutely agree that “questions and criticisms should be allowed”. If not for the questions, how would we truly be able to sort out what we believe? If God allows questions and I choose to allow His control in my life, then certainly I will also allow the questions. Even especially hard ones.

    • sheila0405

      True, JoniG; if I am certain about why I have faith, why would I be afraid of questioning from those who do not?

  • Tamara Rice

    Thanks for bringing attention to Bangladesh, Alise. I lived there as a child, so it has a special place in my heart. It is a beautiful country, but is not without tremendous problems. I hadn’t heard about the bloggers. What a reminder of how blessed we are with freedom.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

    great post.

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  • sheila0405

    Thank you for this! As a Catholic Christian, I am often dismayed at the battle type responses by Christians towards atheists. And, of course, atheists are sometimes unkind in their responses. Both sides need to remain civil, or how else can we really learn about each other and our differing views?

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  • http://worldsandtime.blogspot.com/ sphericaltime

    Thank you for your first obligation. It’s always shocking to find someone that understands that.