Friday, 13 January 2012

Christian hate and the impotence of the Gospel

I just read about the case of a brave 16 year old atheist that went to court to have a prayer banner removed from her school, and won.  (see The Friendly Atheist for details).  In response, social media erupted with comments from Christians - many of them also high school students - that were full of hate, threats of violence, wishes for the girl to burn in hell and other unfortunately all too typical Christian responses to atheist activism.  Followed by the inevitable apologies from the kinder Christians distancing themselves from the "haters" using the no true Scotsman argument, which should probably be renamed the "no true Christian" argument since it is used in that context more than any other.  Basically, anytime a Christian misbehaves in public or does anything to show a poor example of Christian behavior, other Christians are quick to claim that the person's actions demonstrate that they are not a "true" Christian.  If they were a "true" Christian, they wouldn't do that, they say.

Now, it has been pointed out quite often, and by more talented writers than I, that this pretty much means there is no such thing as a "true" Christian, because everyone who claims to be a Christian believes something or does something that some other Christians will brand as not "true" Christianity.  Since there are over 33,000 different denominations of Christianity, plus millions of personal and private interpretations of Christianity that don't fall into the category of a denomination, it's pretty much impossible to even define what Christianity is, let alone to identify who is and who isn't a "true" Christian.

What I would like to point out is something that all the people crying about the poser un-"true" Christians seem to miss.  That is how the incredibly commonplace occurrence of Christians - true or not - showing evidence of being hateful, bigoted, unforgiving and violent throughout their history including in the present is a convincing demonstration of just how weak Christ's message of peace and love is!  Now, right about this point Christians will scurry to their other go-to defense and argue that Christians are only human and they are sinful, so you can't blame Christ for what fallible humans do in his name.  Fine, Christians are "sinners", too.  Unless someone has been operating under the misapprehension that us heathens think Christians are supposed to behave perfectly, my response to that is "so what?"  Sure they may still be subject to sin, but shouldn't they be less so, seeing as they have the grace of god helping them to be more loving and to resist temptation?

One of my favorite songs when I was a Christian was "They'll know we are Christians by our love".  This was a reflection of the oft repeated biblical idea that Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit and the grace of Jesus their Savior, should be filled with love, unlike the "pagans" who are portrayed as selfish and vile.  But even as a Christian I was troubled by the obvious fact that acting "Christlike" was not only not exclusive to Christians, but isn't even that common among Christians, and not even among those of us who took our religion seriously and tried our best to be "true" Christians.  Jesus' message of redemption, forgiveness and love is supposed to be a powerful motivator for goodness and charity.  It's a message from god, after all, isn't it?  But the evidence presented by the actions of Christians around the world now and throughout history shows us that its success rate at delivering on that is sadly pathetic.  The gospels have inspired far more hatred and violence than they have love and forgiveness.  This very obvious fact is evidence that there is no supernatural power or loving grace of god filling the hearts of Christians.  Even as a purely human message, absent the supposed supernatural powerful to lift humankind from its sinful nature, it fails miserably at delivering peace and love among humans.  Hell, it even fails at delivering peace among Christians!

Of course there are Christians who truly are good and loving people and who draw their inspiration for their goodness from their faith.  Many of these people, I contend, are simply good people and could have been equally loving and charitable had they been raised as Hindus, Buddhists, or any other religion - or even as atheists.  It's also equally true that some people have had their lives "turned around" by the Christian message, and it has made them better people.  Again, the same can be said of both other religions as well as non-religious philosophies, or help from ordinary people, or secular organizations.  This is all just human.  There is no evidence that the gospel message has any power, whether supernatural or natural, that sets it apart as a superior vehicle for inspiring peaceful, loving behavior.  If it really had that power, we would see unity among Christians, peaceful and loving behavior would be obviously more commonplace among them than any other group, and history, as well as current statistics, would show that areas where there is a higher concentration of Christians are remarkably more peaceful than other places.  In fact, the opposite seems to be true.

This will, of course, lead to some Christians presenting the next familiar refrain: it is the influence of Satan working to counter Christ.  Whatever!

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