© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

So…who’s your Russ?

Let me introducing you to Russ:

russRuss is a theology prof and a dear friend of mine who represents for me all that is good and noble in the faithful. He is a force for good in the world, a kind, gentle and admirable man. If all believers were like Russ, I’d be thrilled. They’re not, of course, but neither is he unique. And whenever I find myself ready to make a categorical statement about the faithful, Russ’s face pops up before me — and he usually looks plenty hurt, because he himself rarely deserves what I’m serving up.

Russ complicates my life in a good way. I’m convinced he’s got it factually wrong, and that he, like most moderate believers, does too little to acknowledge the genuine harm that religion does, but he is a deeply good guy. As a result of knowing Russ, and dozens like him, I avoid generalizations. I cannot oppose an idea just because it is Christian. I’m forced to actually look at it and think about it, to assess it on its merits, because it may be just as good as Russ. I still make critiques — boy howdy, do I — but they are smarter, more accurate, and more on-target because of Russ. I paint just as vividly, but with a narrower brush. That’s a very good thing.

Russes work both ways — all ways. A Russ is someone you know and love who is on the opposite side of any line of difference. The Cheneys got themselves a Russ when their daughter came out as a lesbian. Those Christians who might be angry at the inclusion of a PBB review in their favorite parenting magazine would be opposing something without thinking, just because it is associated with disbelief. I’d guess they don’t have a Russ on that issue, someone they know who would make it tougher to hate and fear nonbelievers indiscriminately. They need to know a good, decent atheist. Fortunately there are millions of them. Of us, I mean.

And they probably already do know some, of course — but the irony is that the very same hatred and fear that can be cured by knowing each other keeps us from revealing ourselves. And on spins the wheel. Once you know a “gay Russ,” why, it’s a hell of a lot harder to hate and fear gays. Same with a black Russ or an Iraqi Russ. Slurs and stereotypes start sticking in the throat. This is why it’s so important for members of marginalized groups to be out.

One of the purposes of the book is to normalize disbelief so that, in the future, everyone will have an atheist Russ in their lives. At which point a book on secular parenting might get about the same reception as one on vegetarian parenting. Parenting Beyond Beef, perhaps.

I’m the humanist/atheist Russ in the lives of many Christians I know. I complicate things for them. My face floats before them and they put away the broad brush. So, nonbelievers: Do you have a Russ? And believers, how about you? I’m available. We won’t always agree, but who needs that? If we can just keep each other’s humanity in sight, we’ll do fine.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Comments

comments

This was written on Friday, 30. March 2007 at 15:54 and was filed under belief and believers, nonbelief and nonbelievers. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

You can leave a Comment, or Trackback.

«  –  »

Comments »

  1. I am lucky to have many Russes, in different religions, and at various levels of religiosity. One of the best ones I can think of is my husband’s aunt who is a Benedictine nun. We get along great, despite her knowing what infidels we are.

    More than once have I heard from people who are immersed in their own religion and its worldview that my husband and I present a challenge to them — being so wholly unreligious, and yet generous, loving, and family-centered. I’m not trying to toot our own horns here. What we give to the world comes easily for us, but for some reason certain people are surprised that we manage to give and love at all, without religion.

    Live and learn …

    Comment: meg – 30. March 2007 @ 4:29 pm

  2. […] First of all, please go back and reread my blog entry titled Who’s Your Russ?. […]

    Pingback: The Meming of Life » the old broad brush question Parenting Beyond Belief …’cause there’s bugger-all down here on Earth – 15. June 2007 @ 5:31 pm

  3. … [Trackback]…

    […] Read More: parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=10 […]…

    Trackback: my homepage – 17. January 2012 @ 11:05 pm

  4. … [Trackback]…

    […] There you will find 66912 more Infos: parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=10 […]…

    Trackback: adult adhd – 18. January 2012 @ 12:30 pm

  5. … [Trackback]…

    […] Informations on that Topic: parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=10 […]…

    Trackback: Online Games – 18. January 2012 @ 12:53 pm

  6. The Meming of Life…

    Hey excellent website! Does running a blog like this take a large amount of work? I’ve virtually no understanding of computer programming however I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyway, if you have any ideas or tips for new blog owners please …

    Trackback: bolsas de papel – 18. February 2012 @ 1:00 am

  7. …Recent Blogroll Additions…

    […]you made running a blog glance[…]…

    Trackback: Aliou – 18. March 2012 @ 11:34 pm

  8. …Websites you should visit…

    […] What web host are you the usage of? Can I get affiliate hyperlink to your host? I wish web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol[…]…

    Trackback: mannequin homme photos – 23. March 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  9. Cheers for this content, guys, continue to keep up the good perform….

    I wants to thank you to the endeavors you could have produced in publishing this content. I’m trusting the exact same ideal perform from you inside long term too. Actually your fanciful writing abilities has inspired me to begin my very own web site n…

    Trackback: Cheap Jordans For Sale – 19. April 2012 @ 10:25 pm

  10. As usual this was a thoughtful submit today. You make me wish to retain coming back and forwarding it my followers��….

    Funny, I had been discussing this point with my older sister the other day, now I will have 1 a lot more argument in my hand when it��ll arrive to confrontation when once again….

    Trackback: Bose In Ear – 20. April 2012 @ 2:12 am

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.