Goodbye, for all the wrong reasons

I don’t know if you’ve heard of VenomFangX – depending on one’s particular stance in the theist/atheist debates, he is either one to greatly admire or greatly disdain (respectively). I personally find the boy willfully ignorant, smug and juvenile. I don’t think I can make that clear enough. I am not a fan.

Yesterday, Shawn (aka VenomFangX) posted a video on YouTube simply titled “Goodbye.” In it, he describes death threats from someone or some people who have specific enough details about his life/home to make the threats a real concern. So for the sake of his family, he is choosing to shut his YouTube ministry down.

I admit it – I’m not entirely convinced this is not just a brilliant attempt at martyrdom. But the scary thing is, I would be completely unsurprised if his claims are true, and I’m inclined to believe that it is. There are some crazy-ass people in this world. So I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. If nothing else, he is passionate about his message, and it’s hard to imagine he would walk away out of boredom, or in the face of adversity – he’s been experiencing that pretty much since he started getting noticed on YouTube.

So here’s the deal – I get why atheists and scientists are frustrated with this guy. He refuses to listen to reason, he dismisses evidence against his claims because they don’t support his own personal views, and he continues to propagate erroneous scientific and historical facts to “prove” that God exists. But no person, regardless of creed, regardless of whether they are right or wrong, should be subjected to violence or the threat of such, when his or her message is peaceful and non-threatening to the safety of others. It is disgusting that this is happening, that Shawn and his family are having to experience this. And it does nothing to debate him or disprove his points.

I wish Shawn and his family the best, and I acknowledge that he has to do what he feels necessary to protect himself. I would have preferred to see him shut down his ministry because he finally opened his mind and eyes to reason, logic and science, and not because some Neanderthal bully couldn’t think of words intelligent enough to attempt that, so stooped to swinging his club.

I tried to post a comment on Shawn’s video to tell him that I wished him well, even though I’d never agreed with his videos, but because dissenters are the work of Satan, non-worshiping posters don’t make it to his boards. I hope he took a moment to read the full comment before dismissing it, because I meant it sincerely.

So I’m asking – begging – people to have some common sense. There are things like this flying on both sides of the fence now. PZ Myers has received several death threats from Catholics and other Christians in response to Wafergate, and PZ’s followers have responded to some of the worst of them in kind, much to PZ’s chagrin.

Do people not realize that these threats and vituperations accomplish nothing? They’re cancer and poison and only serve to highlight the other side’s point about overreaction and thuggery. If we’re in this debate, we’re passionate about protecting what we perceive to be the truth, and sometimes it can be like we’re banging our head on a sharp pointy stick over and over again. But there are better solutions that abusing or killing the opposition. That won’t stop their message, it only hurts yours.

So, please grow up, and learn to cope with anger and frustration with more intelligent mechanisms. Don’t spew your venom onto everyone else. Go sweat it out in a rigorous kickboxing routine and let it evaporate.

Giving away crazy

What do you make of a church – or any organization, really – that makes the decision to give away a free semiautomatic assault rifle? Oh… and they planned to give it some lucky young person who decides to attend a weekend youth conference.

Before I get going… I just have to say I’m completely ignorant when it comes to guns. Even though I grew up in Texas… can you believe it? But I’ve heard that “semiautomatic assault rifle” is an oxymoron. If this is true, should there be some concern that adults who apparently don’t know enough about the gun to term it properly are going to hand it off to a young person who may or may not know anything about it either?

Anyway, I get that this is Oklahoma – there’s probably a decent chance the gun will find its way to someone who maybe likes to hunt, or at least understands guns… But really? At best, you’re opening yourself up to some serious liability challenges. At worst, you’re taking one step closer to indoctrinating some youth’s mind into a violent and overreactive religion, and outfitting them to carry it forward.

The church’s youth pastor, Bob Ross (apparently not as peaceful as the Bob Ross from The Joy of Painting fame), had this to say:

“I don’t want people thinking ‘My goodness, we’re putting a weapon in the hand of somebody that doesn’t respect it who are then going to go out and kill,’” said Ross. “That’s not at all what we’re trying to do.”

Really? Can you elaborate on what exactly you are trying to do? Or better yet, what steps you’re taking to prevent exactly that from happening?

The truly scary thing is that this event was canceled – not because someone finally came to their senses. No:

Pastor emeritus Jim Vineyard, who ran the event, injured his foot and wouldn’t be able to attend.

I’m sorry.. I can’t help but wonder exactly how this vague foot injury happened – sure, I’m jumping to conclusions, but the old saying, “shot himself in the foot” just won’t leave my head.

Finally, just as they gave away the gun at an event last year, they fully intend to do so at next year’s youth conference. In a nation that is an estimated 74% Christian, yet still regularly experiences school shootings, gang violence, and teen suicide, perhaps this is not the wisest course of action. Can’t they shell out the $800 bucks to get a safer raffle prize? I hear the kids are into some wacky things nowadays – like Playstation 3s or Xbox 360s..