Michael Spencer, a.k.a. the Internet Monk, is a Baptist pastor and blogger who doesn’t think like a Baptist (I think he considers himself post-evangelical). I think he has some interesting perspectives on things, but I often don’t agree with him. Today, I do. He’s written a very interesting post on the standard evangelical attitudes toward atheism. I think it’s worth reading, and I think many atheists would also agree with some of what he says. Or maybe not… it’s hard to tell.
Our team looks good to us. Trust me, they don’t look that good to atheists. If you applaud the point-scoring at debates, you’re missing the point entirely. The fact that someone like Dan Barker (and there are dozens more) is out there at all, making it plain that the Christian journey has brought a crowd of people just like YOU to the point where atheism looked far, far better than what you were hearing in church and trying to live is all the ammunition that’s needed for thousands of people.
You see, evangelicals have made such outrageous assumptions and promises about happiness, healing, everything working out, knowing God, answered prayer, loving one another and so on that proving us to be liars isn’t even a real job. It’s just a matter of tuning in to an increasing number of voices who say “It’s OK to not believe. Give yourself a break. Stop tormenting yourself trying to believe. Stop propping up your belief with more and more complex arguments. Just let go of God.”
Read the rest here.
If the “Spirit of God” condemns me to Hell because he chooses when and where he Will,” I will organize Local 666, and go on strike in Hell.
Capricious Gods, so loving and righteous that they create faggots and then tell them not to have sex.
I don’t think so, Steve. Yours is just like any other created god, whose words happen to correspond with justifying your own belief. Do you really think that if not for your Christianity you would be okay with gays getting married?
I doubt it, but you can correct me.
The Spirit of God opens hearts and minds, “when and where He will.”
Becoming a believer is not something that we can do. (Jesus to Niccodemus)
Seeing examples of Christian love may help soften the ground for the hearing of the gospel (I don’t know)but it boils down to the proclamation of God’s Law and His Gospel.
Many churches have thrown this proclamation right out the window in favor of a
new word’ of their own making (works – social gospel – or rigid legalism).
My own church denomination has done that recently by approving homosexual conduct in the church.
If they feel they are being compassionate and showing God’s love by throwing out the very means by which God brings people to faith (His Word, His Law and Gospel)then they are sorely mistaken and are putting the opinions of man above the Word of God.
While I think I like the attempt iMonk/Michael makes, I do have reservations…perhaps of the same kind that Mike Haubrich has (e.g., a variation of the claim that atheists are leaving religion to avoid moral judgment.) For example, he emphasizes the whole “occam’s razor” aspect of it. WHILE atheism may be easier (as a result of its openness — obviously, atheism has no creeds, even if some theists may think it does), this isn’t the major attraction of it. The major attraction of it is personal integrity. For some, they just don’t belief. They can’t fake it. They can’t fake making the world and universe “fit” into theological models that don’t make sense. iMonk HINTED at this, but he seemed to imply that IF atheists could only meet the right person and hear the right sermon, then they would join religion again.
I disagree. I think the problem is worse.
If Christians begin to live in a more humble, loving, charitable way, then this will do WONDERS to help people see Christians and other theists in a better light. HOWEVER, it doesn’t make the case for God. It doesn’t make the case for a need for salvation. So, an atheist could simply “export” all the niceness and good behavior, and still conclude that the God stuff and the Jesus stuff and the salvation are superfluous.
Unfortunately, Christians aren’t very able at “living” the Holy Spirit. And I dunno…maybe the Holy Spirit is on bathroom break or something, but he does not manifest himself to everyone in the same fashion — so this is why there are nonbelievers. They don’t have a witness to the supernatural. Natural good deeds and good attitudes would help the image of Christians, but they don’t help the image of the supernatural.
One correction. I am a campus minister, not a pastor.
Michael, Sorry for the error (it still qualifies as a pastor in my book, but I understand the difference).
Mike, “Intellectual” Christians do denounce garbage Christianity, all the time. You just need to hang out where they are to hear it.
Oh, and I forgot to mention such preachers as this. A large scale denunciation on the part of intellectual Christians against this sort of hatred would do well to lessen the divide between doubters and believers. The fact that the Bible can be so easily used to justify bigotry and hatred (whether through quote-mining or any other misuse) leads to a distrust of authoritative interpretation.
The underlying base of the argument is still a more complex version of the claim that atheists are leaving religion to avoid moral judgment, when in fact it is more complex.
The radical forms of religion are only a part of the factor, and terrorist organizations such as Operation Rescue, hypocritical hucksters such as Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson (who used religion to sell vitamins for crying out loud!) and the distortion of American history by the David Barton and Peter Marshall advisory panel to the SBOE are not helpful in reaching to atheists who have doubts, but they are not the reason we are atheists.
Perhaps the Internet Monk, rather than projecting, would find out more by actually asking us why we are atheists.