L. L. Barkat doesn't usually post about political happenings. She's more interested in personal growth and morality and how to live well; in spirituality, I guess I may freely say, since LL is a Christian blogger.
"I don't claim to understand it." In a recent post on Senator John Edwards' recently-revealed affair, LL quotes this response and then looks more deeply at the matter at hand. Do we really not understand how an illicit love affair could start? LL is willing to try, and I say brava!
"I don't claim to understand it" is the easiest response to an action or a viewpoint that you disagree with. It stops you from having to confront your own fallibility. To 'understand' in this sense is to identify the impulses that you, too, have which could in other circumstances prompt you to act that way. Claiming not to understand how someone could, say, have an extramarital affair is a way of claiming that you are innocent of all such deplorable impulses.
Having established that whatever prompted this action could not have been anything that you feel leaves you free to make the imagined motives as unpleasant as you like. LL herself notes that the picture she can imagine "is a radically different frame than that of the 'lurid affair' that the media loves to paint". Yes, it is. Similarly, the motivations of most atheists are radically different to the picture sometimes painted by apologists of people who simply don't want to obey God, being an anti-abortion activist doesn't actually mean that you hate women, and some "family" activists really need to learn that the sexual feelings of homosexuals do not consist entirely of 'lurid affairs' either.
Atheists are as guilty as anyone of painting an unrealistic picture of their opponents. I wince, sometimes, at the swiftness with which certain sections of the online atheist community will give up the attempt to explain religion in terms of anything that we feel and instead impute it to stupidity and smallmindedness, to greed and fear. Stupidity, smallmindedness, greed and fear are real phenomena, it's true, but if you choose to see those motives at the expense of others, you are showing a smallmindedness of your own.
The truth is, there are reasons to show compassion to others that even extend beyond the way it can help us to get along. If you truly want to understand the world, and if you truly want to understand yourself, then showing humility about your own motives and compassion about the motives of others is the only way to reach a semblance of truth.