Dear “Christian” Nation:
Please pay attention: You are not being persecuted if people hate you because you’re a jerk.
Almost daily, as I visit the blogs of Christians and Atheists, scan and delete e-mails, and read the occasional Christian newsletter, I see examples of obvious stupidity on the parts of Christians. It is, it seems, rampant in American Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, and other para-Christian isms. If you’ve taken a look at Sam Harris’ $16.95 Letter To a Christian Nation, you’ll have seen that it was prompted by the large amount of “hate” mail he received, much of it from folks claiming to be Christians.
Since the publication of my first book, The End of Faith, I have received thousands of letters and e-mails from religious believers insisting that I am wrong not to believe in God. Invariably, the most unpleasant of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally believe that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. Please accept this for what it is: the testimony of a man who is in a position to observe how people behave when their faith is challenged. Many who claim to have been transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While you may ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that the hatred these people feel comes directly from the Bible. How do I know this? Because the most deranged of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.
Harris has a good point. However, it must also be pointed out that anti-Christians are even worse… All you have to do is visit the same atheist / Darwinist blogs to see how absolutely vicious, obnoxious and stupid some (not all, or even most) atheists can be. (And, of course, Harris doesn’t appear to be bothered by viciousness when it’s directed toward Christians.) Self-righteousness is an ugly thing, whether it’s an atheistic self-righteousness or a pseudo-Christian self-righteousness.
You may note that I said “pseudo-Christian self-righteousness.” The reason is simply this: self-righteousness is simply the antithesis of Jesus’ teachings, his example and of the Christian Gospel itself. Remember things like “love your enemies,” “bless those who curse you,” and “turn the other cheek?” Remember also “take heed, he who thinks he stands, lest he fall?” What about “without love, you are as irritating as off-beat tambourine” (my interpretation). Do you understand that if you fall into any sort of self-righteousness you have, at that point, completely lost the Gospel? All of your foolish, arrogant, stupid “you atheists should rot in hell” comments are in a very real sense, un-Christian.
But wait, there’s more: Pithy sayings are an embarrassment to thinking people everywhere.
You can’t impress people with a smug, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” In fact, it’s my guess that there’s a very good chance that you’d completely embarrass yourself in any intelligent conversation with a non-Christian. Now, I have nothing against someone with a quiet, simple faith; some of these are, in fact, some of my favorite people and I don’t mean to offend them. But, a simple faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster won’t do anyone any good; faith must be based in Truth as Paul points out:
For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Romans 10:2,3
Again, we find ourselves back to self-righteousness.
The people I am really speaking to are the smug, obnoxious folks who think that a bumper-sticker slogan is a great thing to yell at an atheist. A month or so ago an atheist friend of mine was confronted by a number of these obnoxious folks, who uses such witticisms as:
1. “Thank God for the Atheists!”
2. “I’ll pray for you!”
3. “I don’t believe in atheists!”
4. “God bless you!”
5. “So, do you, like, believe that the world just poofed itself into existence with no Creator?”
To you, I ask simply that you please shut up and start trying to use that brain (and heart) that God gave you.
Now, I know that there are stupid people everywhere, and that stupid Christians are no more stupid than stupid non-Christians (I mean, after all, you do believe in God, so I give you credit for that). But seriously, go back to my first point (about the persecution of jerks) and give it some thought. If an atheist is a stupid jerk, it’s nothing to me. However, if you say you’re a Christian and you’re a stupid, loud-mouthed jerk, it embarrasses all of us, and just gives a sense of credibility to people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and others who hold you up as the example of the social devolution that religion causes.
From what does McGrath draw that conclusion? I understand that there is a resurgence in former communist countries; it has been a re-emergence of religion which was not discarded by the populace but instead suppressed by authoritarian regimes which tried to supplant it with a different fervor for socialism. And the resurgence is proving rather convenient for a new authoritarian, Vladimir Putin.
But the final sentence is either out of context or poorly supported and I don’t see where he is drawing that conclusion.
😉 indeed… I had to laugh, as I had just read this:
I have to chime in and say that yes, sometimes atheists embarrass me as well; but I don’t feel responsible for them. However, I do resent your expectation that atheists are any more/less nasty than Christians. The whole topic touches deeply on most people’s emotions, even those of us who claim to be purely “rational.”
I think that, without touching on the whole “tolerance/timidity” issue, there is a decided lack of empathy towards people whose deeply held beliefs are opposed to others. There is a great deal of explanation, and discussion that is possible between atheists and Christians. We can coexist, although with that being sad, I think that within the next millenium religion will be studied as a historical artifact. 🙂 (That wasn’t meant to be nasty, btw.)
I know that this is your blog and all, but I must give kudos to Brother Quixote for his comment. Let me just say this, I am grateful that I didn’t have any liquid in my mouth or my Dell would have needed some serious cleaning. What you have so eloquently described here is something that is discussed in my network ocasionally. It’s this. People almost definitely know what Christians stand against, but rarely do they really know what we stand for.
And the theory that one bad apple spoils the who bunch definitely is in full force. If I attended a “sermon” that was specifically telling people to “shut up” in this context, I think I would be like David, “singing & dancing, with no restraint”. Great stuff!
What about “without love, you are as irritating as off-beat tambourine”. That line made me laugh out loud. Thanks, I was needing to laugh. As a Christian, there’s a lot of truth to it. Good observations, you had some Christian insights I don’t always see actual Christians making.
A voice of reason – I love it
The Apostle Don Rickles?