So, I recently wrote an article for my school paper about why you shouldn't donate to the Salvation Army. It got responses. It got the first responses this paper has got this semester not directly from a current or former staff member. (If I remember correctly.) The responders were angry. One claimed that I do not have a soul. My favorite argument came up, in a letter preemptively insisting that free speech guaranteed my obligation to print their letter.
I don't intend to address the attacks on my character in my response (which will follow the printed letters, unedited) because it's irrelevant and I don't want to waste page space validating their attacks. But the comment about my soul really bothered me.
I don't have a soul. Neither does the letter-writer. Souls don't exist.
But even if you disagree, it's illustrative of the predominant view in the United States that not being religious makes you evil that people consider it an insult on the very core of one's ability to be moral to claim that a person "doesn't have a soul."
Beyond that, though, I've noticed more and more that people seem to defend much more vehemently and with much more emotion and energy positions they don't really believe are true than positions they are firm in. With the one exception of the civil rights movement, in which both sides fight bitterly, but only one tends to be on shaky ground, the other motivated by outrage at the massive dissonance between the obviously immoral reality and the incredibly clear solution of not marginalizing people based on irrelevant qualities.
I'm guilty of it, myself -- it's not a quality I'm particularly proud of, but I don't think anyone reading this could honestly argue that they don't feel that impulse.
It's not something you simply lack, if you're a good person. It's a tendency one has to be mindful of. I try to develop checks to confirm with myself whether I'm irrationally defending a position I don't really stand behind, because I feel I've been backed into a corner.
I don't think that's the case with the Salvation Army piece, and I intend to calmly defend my article in a follow-up response to the letters. But, while I understand the motivation that lead the writers to respond, I don't respect or admire it.
Just because an orginazation calls themselves a charity doesn't mean they can't be assholes.