On Dogmatism, Re: UnChristian is Bogus

I know I shouldn’t do it.  I mean, I know it is a bad idea, but I just can’t seem to help myself.  From time to time, while surfing through the blogs of atheists, I find (by accident, mind you) blogs about atheists written by Christians.  Sometimes they have insightful things to say, sometimes they don’t.  Usually I read it and move on, but sometimes I leave a comment.  And that’s what I did when I read this little piece by Bill Phillips.

Some of what he says in the post is fine and dandy, subjects to be debated among Christians.  But he did make two assertions that I thought were odd, and I was unable to resist commenting on them.  First, he says “There are so many false converts in Christianity that it’s nearly impossible to tell who really is a Christian and who isn’t.”  Also, he says, “Who cares what non-Christians think? Non-Christians are enemies with God, dead in their transgressions, and children of the devil.”

As a former Christian, I couldn’t help but drop my jaw at these two statements.  This is in no way the first time I have stumbled upon such sentiment (both during and after my stint as a Christian). As both a Christian and an atheist this kind of thought has struck me as both (a) arrogant and (b) detrimental to Christianity itself.  I suppose in light of (b) I should have just allowed it to slide, but I couldn’t help myself.  When people make such irrational claims I just can’t help myself.

And so I responded.  I left a message sharing my thoughts, to which Bill responded.  In his response, Bill asked several questions.  That was an indicator to me that there was an opening for a cordial, if not friendly, conversation.  Wrong.  I attempted to answer most of his questions (though admittedly I did not get around to answering every single one).  On the other hand, he responded to very little of what I had to say.

I believe it is fair to say that I went out of my way to convey that my intention was friendly discussion.  In the end; however, his words became rather accusatory: “I would be willing to bet you’ve never told a lie to save someone’s life; you lied to protect yourself.  You can’t even keep your own moral code, much less God’s.  You’ve broken His law, and you will give an account for every single lie you’ve ever told.  All liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).”  Later, “You’ve taken a leap of faith to believe in impossible things, because you hate God so much.” Luckily, in the end it was revealed that his words of venom were merely to indicate to me God’s love: “I take zero pleasure in pointing out your destination if you stay on your current path…. Please for the sake of your eternity, turn back.”

I’d like to take the time to respond to some of the attitudes and statements in more depth than a simple comment on his blog would allow me to do.

First, on the topic of ethics.  I dare not spend the rest of this post talking about the potential for an ethical lifestyle without the need for a divinely mandated law. But, I can’t pass up this commonly held misconception: “If there is no definition for right and wrong from God, there is no valid way to determine right and wrong, and anything goes.” *yawn*  I suggested a few other ethical theories and places to begin looking, if only to understand the positions of those who disagreed with him, to which I received the typical “someone can kill you and it be perfectly valid.”  Right, because atheists are all a bunch of lying, stealing, cheating, murderers.  That’s the way we like it. J

“You’re reasoning using your fallen intellect.  It’s fooling you.”  I hesitate to say this, but come on, any Christian with cognitive skills is a believer because they have used their intellect.  Now, I might think they have incredibly misused said intellect, but they have used it.  The intellect is good as long as it leads you to Christ, but it is bad if it doesn’t.  Makes perfect sense to me.

“There are no absolutes or ways to tell for sure what is right and wrong without God.” Ohhhh, that’s why Christians have so overwhelmingly agreed on morality over the past two thousand years.  I’m glad God made sure the Bible wasn’t incredibly ambiguous about matters of morality such as slavery, abortion and civil rights. 

“You’ve broken his law, and you will give an account for every single lie you’ve ever told.  All liars will have their part in the lake of fire.”  What a great tool of evangelism.  I know I sure feel convicted of my sin now.   “I take zero pleasure in pointing out your destination if you stay on your current path.”  You know, I beg to differ.  On the subject of hell, I have time and again found evangelicals to thirst for the eventual and eternal punishment of their detractors.  Quite to the contrary, I imagine that he and others like him take a sadistic, if unconscious pleasure at the thought of my demise.

And my personal favorite, “You’ve taken a leap of faith to believe in impossible things, because you hate God so much.” Oh, really?  It never ceases to amaze me when Christians are convinced that anyone who is not a Christian is pissed off at Jesus.  While my de-conversion came because of the overwhelming evidence pointing away from Christianity, I would point out that if God did exist, I most likely would end up hating him.  I would hate him on behalf of the nations he ordered to be wiped out via genocide and the men he ordered into slavery and the women he allowed to be captured and taken as concubines for conquering Israeli armies.   

Basically, what I find so distasteful is the attitude that comes along with such an avid display of dogmatism.  Invincibility of your own tightly held belief, certainty that all others are wrong, delight in your eternal reward in light of other’s eternal punishment.  These attitudes are not only infuriating, they are frightening.  What is particularly frustrating to me is that I am sure that Bill Phillips is a perfectly nice guy.  Were it not for religious belief, I would not think twice about an interaction with him at the supermarket or on a blog.  But because of such dogmatism, people become venomous, rude and vindictive.  Luckily, there are many religious and nonreligious people who have managed to escape from such dogmatism.

3 Responses to “On Dogmatism, Re: UnChristian is Bogus”

  1. “Ohhhh, that’s why Christians have so overwhelmingly agreed on morality over the past two thousand years” = Nicely said. It really is frustrating how bad arguments like Mr Phillips’ persist, especially the supposed connection between atheists and anger at God/Jesus–I wouldn’t be surprised if more atheists are angry at the misconception than at God.

  2. I’m seeing more of this “write them off” attitude among Christians–and I believe it to be a good sign because it shows that Christianity is increasingly on the defensive. If they’re bunkering down, they’re not proselytizing. It also shows their real colors (I believe Christians are far less “Christ-like” than they make themselves out to be). Ultimately, I’d like to see Christianity take the place of where Scientology is now: a laughingstock of a belief.

  3. The whole hell-and-brimstone technique was most popular in the 1800s during the Second Awakening, and the ironic thing it drew crowds. Too bad these people believed out of fear rather than compassion.

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