Dear Angry Atheist,
I’ve been meaning to write to you for quite a while now. I’ve heard your feelings about my beliefs quite clearly – from your Facebook posts, your arguments in person, and your comments on some of my own articles and blogs. I realize that not all atheists are angry, but the level of aggression you exude makes it quite clear you are.
You communicate your feelings about “people of faith” pretty clearly. And I have resisted the urge to respond to them…until now. But at the risk of sounding harsh, I think you deserve a little pushback.
So to make sure I’m reading you loud and clear, the following is what I’ve learned from you about “all Christians”, followed by what many Christians wish you understood. I apologize ahead of time, as I’m quite sure you will find much of it offensive. That’s not my intention, but it is hard to answer…forgive me…rather ignorant attacks without making your attacker sound ignorant. Again, I apologize (we Christians tend to do that a lot, I guess).
I did try to write in a language most atheists would understand – Contemporary Snark. Once more, I apologize.
Here’s what I have learned about Christians from your comments…
“We’re all hypocrites”
You seem to take particular glee in pointing out how imperfect we people of faith are. You mention that we don’t live up to everything we say we believe. You perceive this as a flaw, but I see it as quite noble.
It’s easy not to be a hypocrite if you don’t stand for anything lofty in the first place. If you aim at nothing, you’re very likely to hit it on a consistent basis. When your goal in life is to be a scoundrel, you’ll probably never be accused of being a hypocrite. Congrats.
Most Christians would be the first person to tell you they’re not perfect. The fact they are shooting for a higher goal than a base, hedonistic existence does not make them hypocrites. It simply means they want to be better than what others settle for.
So yeah, I strive to be morally good even though we obviously aren’t perfect. Sue me.
Sorry, but I’d rather try to be like Jesus and fail than never try at all.
“We’re dumb as rocks”
It seems you’ve made the presumption Christians are against education. Many of your replies to me imply that I must know nothing of science, history, literature, the Arts, etc. The fact I had to go to an accredited university and seminary to get my degrees (like most pastors) means nothing, I guess.
I suppose you think Christians spent all our time at Bible camp or Toby Mac concerts and have never read the opinions of those critical of our faith. Funny thing, in preparation for my ministry, I was required to read works by Freud, Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche, and many others. And as astounding as you might find this, most ministers I know had to do the same as well.
Many Christians know very well what the arguments are against faith. It’s not that we’re ignorant of them – it’s simply that we don’t think they stand up all that well.
I distinctly remember picking up Bertrand Russell’s “Why I Am Not A Christian” with great fear and trembling. An atheist professor challenged me to read it, claiming it would utterly wreck my faith (what a coincidence…another arrogant atheist!). How stunned I was to find myself giggling with delight as I finished it, realizing how very weak his arguments were. To this day, I keep the book in my library as a kind of faith trophy.
Though I know you’d like to think we believe only out of ignorance, the truth is often the opposite. Many of us came to Christ PRECISELY BY LOOKING AT THE FACTS, not by looking away from them! The scenario of the atheist who sets out to disprove Christianity only to end up coming to Christ is almost a cliche now. That’s because it’s been repeated in the lives of so many doubters who eventually ended up believers (C.S. Lewis and Christopher Hitchens own brother come screamingly to mind, among many others).
But I understand there’s comfort in believing you’re just too smart to be a Christian. How many times have I heard you say, “I wish I could believe your religious fairy tales, but I just can’t bring myself to it”? I would pose that it’s not your intellectual honesty keeping you at bay, it is your stomach for true adventure. Because risking this whole cosmic existence on the truth of God is actually the ride of a lifetime!
I’ve heard the stories of people who’ve been hurt by churches. They’re legion and legend. I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty painful stuff myself, and even have had my own children attacked by supposed “believers” who used them to pay back a grudge against me.
So I do not deny that cruelty exists in the church. But does it not exist outside the church as well? Is not your work place and beauty salon just as gossipy and judgmental, if not more so?
But that’s the problem. You’re expecting the church to be perfect, even though it is populated by admittedly imperfect people reaching toward a uniquely perfect God. As soon as the first human shows up, church ceases to be perfect and somebody gets hurt. Since God has never been that choosy about whom He lets in, we seem to think an “open door policy” is good for the church as well.
So yes, if you come to a place populated by lots of imperfect humans, someone will eventually tick you off, hurt your feelings, step on your toes, or not kiss your boo boo. Buck up, buttercup and rejoice in this: if they made it in, there’s a good chance there’s room for one more jerk like me or you.
You grouse that we’re unwilling to change our cherished beliefs held for over 2000 years now to fit into your current social climate. You are shocked…yes, SHOCKED that we don’t see the wisdom in (INSERT LATEST CULTURAL FAD HERE), and that we refuse to get with it and sell out everything we believe in hopes of gaining your fleeting approval…which you wouldn’t give us anyway.
Most Christians are not trying to take away your rights, but are simply standing for what they believe. When you stand for your beliefs, we do not call you “hateful”. But before you’ll be happy, we not only have to tolerate your beliefs, we must proclaim your beliefs are just as right as our own or else we’re intolerant…
That’s not tolerance – it’s tyranny.
Ironically, Christianity is the “genesis” of most true tolerance we know today. Jesus broke with the custom of His day and spoke to women with respect as equals. Paul argued with Philemon to set free a runaway slave who had come to Christ. He also taught in Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, male nor female…all are one!
Without the tolerance that Christianity first taught, I doubt some of you would be able to speak your minds in these political columns and blogs without endangering your lives…
What you miss is that the beliefs which are not being tolerated today are, most often, the Judeo-Christian ones. To hold onto these is somehow seen as bigoted, hateful, and intolerant. What’s truly shocking is you don’t see the brazen irony in your being “intolerant to our tolerance” and then calling yourself “tolerant”. Brilliant.
“We believe fairy tales”
After what probably amounts to ten to twenty minutes of Google and Wikipedia research, you’re pleased to have found several arguments against the veracity of the Bible and Christianity in general. And of course we all know anything printed on the Internet is “Gospel Truth” (pardon the expression).
What you don’t realize is that most of these arguments take a verse of Scripture and jump to an erroneous conclusion about it’s original meaning, historic context or application. Then you flaunt your erroneous conclusion in the face of believers with a brash “whaddaya think about them apples” bravado.
Seriously, do you really think no one else in the past 2000+ years has asked those questions before? And do you really think that no one else, out of all the great minds of Christendom, has come up with a sufficient answer?
If Christianity were that easy to topple, don’t you think someone would have done it by now?
But Christianity has held up quite nicely to the honest questions of believers and doubters alike for a couple of thousand years now, thank you very much. And when you quote verses out of context or completely misrepresent their meaning, or ignore other parts of Scripture which explain or qualify the passage further, you actually betray how little you understand about history, archeology, or textual criticism at all.
Are there valid questions? Of course, there are. Are there reasonable answers? Yes, quite reasonable ones. Just because your western civ. professor snarkily told your class the Bible was junk doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Of course, Christians are completely biased in their beliefs, unlike professors in liberal arts universities, right? Oh, please.
And while you love to make fun of the kosher laws against pork and shellfish in the Old Testament, you ignore the fact that thousands of years before Louis Pasteur the Jews knew how to stay healthy and live sanitary lifestyles. As unscientific as you say the Bible is, it somehow managed to see the danger of germs and disease without benefit of the first microscope! It somehow saw the earth was a ball hung in space thousands of years before the first telescope!
Wow, you’d need great faith to believe all that was just a coincidence. Oh, the irony…
OK, my little rant has now come to an end. I apologize if my tone has seemed snarky at times, but just consider it a verbal “eye for an eye”. After years of Bill Maher and Jon Stewart making fun of us, maybe it’s finally time the Christians had a little good-natured fun of our own!
But I hope I haven’t caused you to question any of your own cherished beliefs against God. Far be it from me to cause anyone to doubt (“snort”).