Why this is dangerous and what Christians can do about itLast week I was at Starbucks having coffee with a friend when she mentioned that she didn’t like to associate with her husband’s family anymore. “They’re atheists,” she said. “And they’re always lambasting me about my faith. Telling me how dumb I am to believe in God.
Her statement confirmed something I’ve noticed lately. Unbelievers are growing more hostile to faith, and it’s become more acceptable to express that hostility openly. I’m seeing a lot of articles with anti-Christian sentiments. When I venture beyond my Christian community of friends, I run into people who blame everything from politics to capitalism on Christians.
In trying to understand why I decided to look more closely at the most common arguments people make against faith.
The Objection that Christians are Judgmental
One of the most common allegations is that Christians are judgmental. And yes, there are judgmental Christians. I run across them every week, along with judgmental atheists, judgmental agnostics and judgmental people who profess other beliefs. But the majority of my Christian friends are compassionate and tolerant. They are all over the political spectrum, representing as many different viewpoints and opinions as any other group.
I’ve encountered unbelievers who paint all people of faith with the same broad, critical brush, which eliminates any possibility of dialogue, friendship or understanding.
A Reason.com article, Atheism is a Religion,pointed out, “When atheists rail against theists, they are using the same fervor the religious use when making their claims against secular society.”
In the end, whether we believe in God or not, we are all just people. We want to be loved, find significance, live a life of purpose and meaning and achieve our potential.
The Objection that Christians Are Intolerant
I’ve heard Christians described as intolerant, narrow-minded, and intent on inflicting their world view on everyone else. One writer put it this way: “I think people are hostile to Christians in the U.S. because Christians can’t keep their noses out of other people’s business.”
But the reverse, to me, appears to be true. The intolerant ones are those who oppose free religious expression.
A group of American atheists launched a billboard campaign last Christmas with the slogan, “Just skip church; it’s all fake news.” Why do unbelievers care if Christians go to church?
Atheists, objecting to a Christian cross erected nearly a century ago as a memorial to soldiers lost in World War 1, demanded the cross be removed. (This case went to the Supreme Court, which subsequently ruled the cross did not violate the Constitution).
Incidences like these are increasingly common as unbelievers take offense at Christian expressions of faith.
“I’ve Been Hurt by the Church”
Those who have experienced abuse or pain at the hands of the church are understandably bitter and hurt. They are victims of people who perpetrate evil in the name of religion and who don’t reflect the true tenets of Christianity or any other faith.
Abuse is also rampant outside the church. My daughter has fostered children for years, and those children are in the foster care system because of abusive or drug-addicted parents. None of those parents claimed a religious reason for their abuse, and none of the parents were affiliated with a church. Yet my daughter’s decision to make the sacrifices necessary to nurture these children was a decision that stems from her Christian faith.
Whether in church or out, abuse is something Christians and atheists should join hands in combatting. The church needs to do everything possible to demand accountability and teach the truth that abuse has nothing to do with true faith. As Russell More wrote in The Gospel Coalition, “God doesn’t turn a blind eye to abuse; neither should the church.”
The Claim that Christianity is Responsible for War
The claim that most wars are fought because of religion is something I hear over and over again, but it’s false. Only 6.98 percent of all wars from 8000 B.C. to the present time were religious in nature, and the other 96 percent were due to worldly (Philip Axelrod’s Encyclopedia of Wars.)
In the past 100 years, 360 million people have been killed by governments led by atheist leaders like Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot. Hitler stated in his private diaries, “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity.”
Far from having a detrimental or negative influence in the world, religious faith has been a major force for good.
The church is the largest single provider of health care and education in the world, especially in some of the world’s poorest countries where there is no other care available. (from Role of the Catholic Church in Western Civilization)
Compassion International, a child advocacy ministry, is a Christian humanitarian and child sponsorship organization dedicated to helping children living in poverty around the world.
Food for the Poor, one of the largest international relief organizations in the world, is an ecumenical Christian nonprofit that provides food, medicine and shelter to the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) provides humanitarian relief and disaster response to people around the world.
And the list goes on! These are just a few of the many nonprofits around the world begun by Christians who took to heart Jesus’s instructions to feed the hungry and take care of the poor.
Rather than being responsible for most major wars, religious people are responsible for a large portion of the world’s humanitarian outreach.
To be fair, all atheists don’t view Christianity in a negative light. Matthew Parris, writing in Timesonline, said, “It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God. Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”
I believe, as the atheist Matthew Parris believes, that Christianity changes people’s hearts. I don’t want to see anti-Christian sentiment normalized in our society. This normalization can happen slowly, creeping up on us until it becomes a tidal wave sweeping away the bridges of rational communication.
One of the messages of the New York Historical Society exhibit, Anti-Semitism 1915–1939, is that the Holocaust didn’t arise out of nothing; it grew from long European hatred of Jews.
Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New York Historical Society, remarked on “the ease with which the rhetoric of hatred, directed against a particular group, in this case, of course, the Jews, can permeate a national discourse and become normal for ordinary people.”
In our increasingly polarized world, we need dialogue. Neither Christians nor atheists can afford to allow the rhetoric of hatred against any group to permeate our society and become the new normal.
More than ever, we need to engage with, not remove ourselves from opposing points of view. Christians should be well-versed in our reasons for believing. But more importantly, we must practice the compassion and love that are the true tenets of Christianity.
I encouraged the friend I mentioned at the beginning of this article to associate with her husband’s family. When they criticize her faith, she can show them the love and tolerance they are not showing her. After all, this is what true Christianity is all about.
Source: Medium/Bebe Nicholson