Who or what is best at inspiring atheism?

I recently read (maybe reread) this 2017 blog post from liberal Christian John Pavolitz titled, “Christians making atheists.

I admit. I can side with “liberal” Christianity, because I think I rode that horse for a while before abandoning the faith. It’s maybe why I held on a little longer than I should’ve.

I also know that adding the title “liberal” to the word Christian pretty much means that he’s discredited by any so-called “conservative”. So there’s that.

But Pavolitz opens with:

Growing-up in the Church, I was taught that the worst thing one could be was a non-believer; that nothing was as tragic as a doomed soul that condemned itself by rejecting God. The religion of my childhood drew a sharp, clear line between the saved and the damned. All that mattered was making sure someone found themselves on the better side of this line—and the Atheists and Humanists didn’t have a shot.

In light of this supposed truth, the heart of the faith (I was told), was to live in a way that reflected the character and love of Jesus so vividly, so beautifully, that others were compelled to follow after him; that a Christian’s living testimony might be the catalyst for someone’s conversion. The Bible called it “making disciples” and it was the heart of our tradition. As the venerable hymn declared, we Jesus people were to be known by our love.

I had a very similar upbringing. Atheists be damned! Live like a little Christ and it will influence others to the faith! 

Pavolitz continues to basically throw the behavior of Christians under the bus for pushing people away from the church.

Just ask around. People outside the Church will tell you: love is no longer our calling card. It is now condemnation, bigotry, judgment and hypocrisy.In fact, the Christianity prevalent in so much of America right now isn’t just failing to draw others to Christ, it is actively repelling them from him. By operating in a way that is in full opposition to the life and ministry of Jesus—it is understandably producing people fully opposed to the faith that bears his name.

In record numbers, the Conservative American Church is consistently and surely making Atheists—or at the very least it is making former Christians; people who no longer consider organized religion an option because the Jesus they recognize is absent. With its sky-is-falling hand-wringing, its political bed-making, and its constant venom toward diversity, it is giving people no alternative but to conclude, that based on the evidence of people professing to be Godly—that God is of little use. In fact, this God may be toxic.

I’m not going to disagree completely. I found many church leaders and teachers to be the greatest encouragers to let go of faith. The youth pastor that played favorites and totally shat on my personal request to give me extra time to raise money to go on a missions trip. The teacher who shoved anti-science, anti-humanism, anti-everything so far down my throat that the only place for it to go was projectile vomiting it as far from my brain as possible. The family members who so egregiously paraded infidelity as a proud shield of honor while also claiming moral superiority.

Those kinds of witnesses tend to be great billboards for living an opposing way.

But I disagree with Pavolitz. It’s not only Christians making atheists or former Christians, it’s a whole slew of things. One need not go any further than the Bible itself. Or I could cite many aspects of Jesus’ message itself.

Or take into account other faiths. There are many different organized religions, why name Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism or anything else as being the “one” true religion. That alone is an easily identifiable way of letting go of faith. Once I met a variety of different people with different belief sets, it became impossible for me to declare mine the superior one. Or even a good one.

Then you have academia, science, critical thought. Just the simple mind bend not to agree that a 500+ year old man built an ark, populated it with two of all the animals of the world and used it as his savior for himself, his wife, his children and their wives while the rest of the world drowned to death … then those old fuckers repopulated the entire earth. Or that a man with long hair had extreme strength could topple buildings and defeat armies with a donkey jaw.

Or that GRAND idea that a celibate, perfect man entered the Middle East from heaven through a virgin’s birth canal, lived, preached a bunch of confusing stories, was murdered (for you!), rose from the dead and then ascended up into the clouds, disappeared, and will return someday to take you and your kiddies back to heaven for EVER.

If Yeshua Christ would have offered one iota of an understanding of, say, germ theory … I might think of him as a possible gifted person with a penchant for “knowing it all” like you’d expect of a god. But all he gave us were beatitudes and justifications for sexism and racism and division.

I get why there are so many people who love and adore their biblical heritage, tradition, connection to the universe and God as the best thing in their lives. And I get that Pavolitz wants to appeal to a liberal crowd who still hold on to their faiths with a seemingly more acute awareness of love and Jesus.

But, man, throwing the immoral behavior of the majority of Christians under the bus as the biggest advocate for atheism is probably a bit harsh. It’s actually a little offensive, even for me.

When I agreed with Christianity, my foundation was built on biblical truthiness. There was a foundation of, “the Bible has to be true, and therefore it’s good and wise to be called a Christian.” If that foundation crumbled, then perhaps Satan won and a person might walk away.

I often try to make a correlation of: If science crumbled, would my lack of faith be demolished. Or if suddenly all Christians started acting a certain way, would I be like, “Damn, I gotta rejoin that club!”

And the answer isn’t clear, but it’s not yes. My atheism isn’t sitting on a bedrock of ideas, like, say, evolution. Or liberalism. Or humanism. Or communism or socialism.

The whole of Christianity could be given great legs should some tangible proof come to light. I’m not talking being in awe of nature and saying, “There’s proof of god.” I’m talking real live Jesus, wrist and feet scarred, making television appearances walking on water and curing the sick … And I’d still be like, “Man, that just isn’t for me.”

Or I’d at least have to have the opportunity to evaluate it once those revelations became possible.

So Pavolitz is partially correct. Christians make up a huge billboard atheism. But to disregard so many other billboards splattered up and down the highway, it’s not fair.

You could start with the ones that say, “Hell is real.” Or how about: “Know God, Know Peace.”

Barf.

Besides, if you declare that Christians are the biggest reason people are pushed away from faith, then you can declare atheists are the biggest reason people are pushed away from Atheism. Atheists are assholes with huge superiority complexes. They’re know it alls and evil satanist parade poopers.

But that’s a whole different post. 😘

Pavolitz wrote a recent piece called, “Christians supporting Trump aren’t Christians.” 

Now that’s a post I couldn’t agree with more!

3 thoughts on “Who or what is best at inspiring atheism?

  1. I do agree somewhat that it is not entirely Christians to blame. There are other beliefs systems like Communism that outlawed Christianity and other factors that cause people to leave the faith. But like you I am somewhat mixed. Perhaps I blame Christians a bit more.

    I noticed that lots of the problems you say are not caused by Christians, seem to be caused by Christian teaching. Teaching literalism (Noah’s ark) and suggesting that Jesus was here to teach science seem to be views that certain Christians push. It seems very odd to my ears to say Jesus should have taught about germs or science. But certain Christians do push that view so perhaps I should not be surprised that you think his failure to teach science would be a reason to give up Christianity.

    If you have read the gospels, it is not hard to see that the central focus of Jesus’s teaching was a message of love. He is beating us over the head with that. But then we get Christians who say no no no love isn’t so important, it’s important that you believe noah literally put 2 of each animal on the ark, or you are doomed. Or we must believe the mustard seed is the smallest seed, or you are doomed. It is so odd to me. Yet I see so many atheists talk about science and mention this sort of stuff.

    “Or take into account other faiths. There are many different organized religions, why name Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism or anything else as being the “one” true religion. That alone is an easily identifiable way of letting go of faith. Once I met a variety of different people with different belief sets, it became impossible for me to declare mine the superior one. Or even a good one.”

    I did a blog post on this here:
    https://trueandreasonable.co/2019/04/10/answering-the-many-gods-problem/

    1. Hi Joe,

      I certainly appreciate your response and link to your post. As well as your candid opinion on who is to blame.

      My evangelical background and education on the entirety of the Bible — not just the Gospels — would agree with your statement that the central focus of Jesus’s teaching was a message of love. However, the perversion of the message of love is a driving force for non-belief. While I continue to herald a version of Jesus’s love in my everyday life, discipline, and approach to my love life, family and business … the overall concepts; damnation and judgmental “love”, do not buttress the crux of the Gospel message.

      Supposedly, Jesus came not to bring peace but the sword, as well. Division, not cohesion. But that contradicts so many of Jesus’s words and actions.

      Your response to “germs and science” is a throwaway at best. The god of the universe could/should have been able to provide a message of love that included rudimentary understanding and teaching — not of science per se — but of a love that extends beyond certain actions toward God, friends, enemies and neighbors. It could have shown a general knowledge of science beyond what was common at the time. I can see your point, though, and if you think that’s not a sticky point, so be it. It could be a common talking point that I’ve repeated. And if it is seen as such, I’ll toss that as well. I mean, Jesus did wash his disciples feet. And absolution rituals might indicate a rudimentary knowledge of the necessity of cleanliness … So I argue myself into a corner.

      I sped-read through your linked post, and I really didn’t gather too much from it. The section on miracles was the most damning. If there’s anything that makes Jesus not great, it’s miracles. I’ve known many who claim the veracity of miracles and use it as “evidence” for faith. There is no evidence for miracles, or they wouldn’t be miracles. There are only claims. Even if I experienced an inexplicable phenomenon, it would only be a claim, not a truth. If everyone claims miracles as truth, and truth is true only to him/her and those who believe him/her … yawn.

      You also claimed rationality to faith, which invalidates reason. If your faith brings you a truth. And my faith brings me an opposing truth. Then there is no basis for truth save personal experience. That’s incredibly simplistic response. I realize. And I’m sure we could beat horses to pulp over this, but, man … I see lots of reason in your writing, peppered with not-so-reasoned reason.

      I don’t have time this morning for all I’d like to write. But I thought I’d whip up some initial thoughts.

      Best,
      J

      1. Hi Jeremy thanks for the thoughtful response. I never understood Jesus as teaching us how to live longer but rather focused on what we should do while alive. Now maybe he was teaching science and it wasn’t recorded because no one knew what he was even talking about – but that just seems out of place to me. It seems if he wanted us to live longer God could do that.

        I think something is true if it accords with reality. So if in reality God acted in the world suspending the laws of nature then a miracle claim is true. If in reality that did not happen then the miracle claim is false. I don’t think it is true for some but not others that Jesus rose from the dead. Others may believe or not believe but truth isn’t concerned with what we believe.

        It seems to me that if we are going to say give me “evidence your God exists” then we would like some sort of miracle or wonder right? If not that then what do you think would be evidence God exists? Or evidence that one God versus another exists?

        I am not sure why you think rationality leading to belief and trust in God (for me “faith” is belief and trust in God maybe we disagree) invalidates reason.
        I did a blog on what faith is here:
        https://trueandreasonable.co/2018/07/23/faith-defined/

        Your saying there is no evidence of miracles or they wouldn’t be miracles seems hard to justify. A miracle would be God acting in the world in a way that suspends the normal laws of nature. So walking on water or raising the dead if done by God’s power would be a miracle. So if we see someone do something that seems to violate the laws of nature right after they say they will do this by God’s power – well that seems like evidence to me. I use take “relevant evidence” as defined by the United states rules of evidence.
        ““Relevant evidence” means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.”

        I go in more depth about that here:
        https://trueandreasonable.co/2014/12/23/no-evidence/

        Anyway yes we are sort of at the tip of the iceberg of a discussion and perhaps understand some terms differently.

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