their protestations of faith that we feel the need to, as one person recently put it, "pull the chains" in a simple discussion?
Proselytizing is an element of piety, a sacred duty, in many denominations of Christianity. They call it sharing the good news, which should offer a clue to the true motivation of asking questions like, "do you believe in God?" To their way of thinking, they are offering you a chance to avoid the torments of hell. So you don't believe in hell or salvation or anything else that's part of their religion. Cool, you don't have to. But attempting to talk to you about it is part of what their religion tells them is the right thing to do. I am, generally, OK with folks performing the acts their faith tells them they should. I am grateful to live in a country where we are free to participate in the religion of our choice and we are also free to speak on *almost* any topic we choose, including religion. Why should I be offended by someone wishing to share their religion with me? I am not obligated to listen.
The level of snark I recently witnessed when Pagans offered their favorite responses when asked if believe in God was overwhelming--and I dearly love a good snark. There seemed to be a desire to goad and shock the hypothetical questioner. There was also an unattractive sheen of smugness and superiority in the proffered responses, as if belief in a multiplicity of gods makes one more clever than the poor simpleton who has faith in but one god.
At rituals and festivals, Pagans are forever trying to smudge me--the smell of sage nauseates me and I do not belong to a faith that requires smudging. Bunches of Pagans consider it a kindness to offer that kind of purification and it never occurs to them that I might not subscribe to their set of beliefs or appreciate the act. To my way of thinking, there isn't much difference between a Wiccan coming at me with a reeking, wafting sage bundle or a Baptist asking me if I've accepted Jesus into my heart. It is exactly the same thing--an attempt to improve my spiritual life. I consider both the smudge-happy Pagan and the Christian as well-meaning.
I belong to several Druid discussion lists and one currently sports a thread which is a smorgasbord of anti-Christian rhetoric and faith-baiting comments. Somehow we Pagans consider ourselves experts on what Christianity "really" is or what Christ "really" taught and we enjoy railing against the ignorant Christians who don't know anything about their faith. It is not surprising to me that many Pagans would have read extensively about Christianity--we tend to be people who are drawn to elaborate mythological systems and who enjoy pairing myths with an understanding of the secular culture surrounding and informing them---it is part of what draws us to our own religions. So there is a possibility that Penny Pagan could be more widely-read about Christian theology than the run-of-the-mill Chick-tract distributor. However, I do not think that gives Penny Pagan the right to mock Barry the Baptist's faith. And that, ultimately, is what these Christian-bashing threads are doing--making fun of people because of their religion.
We Pagans crave acceptance of our religions. We desire to not be judged or scorned (or fired) because of our faith. We want the legitimacy of our creeds and beliefs to be acknowledged. Perhaps a useful step along that road would be to stop criticizing the faith of others. There are surely rude, and ignorant, and even bigoted Christians, I mean Pagans...no, wait, I mean Hindus, wait......ok, there are lots of asshats out there and they are found in every single religion. Asshats are often loud about their views and assured of the superiority of their beliefs. So, if you find yourself being antagonistic in a religious discussion, do a double-check to make sure you aren't the asshat.