Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.
Go to any message board on the Internet. Stand in the hallway of your local high school. Sit at a random coffee shop in any city in America and just observe. You can’t miss it. The obnoxious, holier-than-thou strains of the pious Christians, waxing to other pious Christians about the Grace of God and the wonders of salvation. “We are saved,” they tell each other, “and so we must save others.” Their chorus is drowned out only by the pseudo-intellectual colloquy of the cerebral academics. “There is no God” they declare. “He is but a medieval fairytale, the opiate of the masses.” Then they pat each other on the backs and depart, comforted by their own smug sense of superiority.
Ad interim, the ignoble barbarians caught in the middle roll their eyes as they go about their day, wholly unenlightened by the wit and wisdom of those before them. They can’t help but wonder at the animosity of the two groups, each wasting their own time and energy in pointless endeavors. Yet, it is human nature to divide ourselves into tribes. The ‘love’ hormone oxytocin, which facilitates bonding, is linked to pretty much all of the goodness within us: trust, empathy, love, generosity, and cooperation. Yet this wonderful hormone has a dark side. Playing the role of Mr. Hyde to Oxytocin’s Dr. Jekyll is racism and bias. Oxytocin can strengthen cooperation yet at the same time, pit “us” against “them.” The Packers are good, therefore the Cowboys are bad. Germans make the best automobiles, so Korean cars must be terrible. My political party is more righteous than your political party. My beliefs about religion are better than your beliefs. The evolutionary benefit of such tribal closeness is obvious; tribes who stick together will be stronger than those who don’t. Of course, knowing what’s responsible for our prejudices doesn’t absolve us of having them. In a global community, we must always remember that we are one tribe. “Us” vs. “them” destroys the unity of the human race.
The Christian View of Religion
Oxytocin may account for the superficial reasons why there is such a rift amongst the religious and irreligious in America. But nothing in this world is simple. Why does a Christian care whether or not an atheist believes in the same God that they do? Christians believe that all humans sin. Regardless of your religious beliefs, we all know this statement to be true. Whether you are atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or one of the hundreds of other major and minor religious groups that cover the world, we all know that none of us are perfect. All religions have their own way of dealing with that. For Christians, it’s the belief that a loving God will forgive them. By Grace, not by deeds and by mercy, not by works, does God forgive sins. Christians do not live for this world, they live for the next world.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wrote that “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men…..the body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in Glory; it is sown in weakness it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” To the evangelical, it is their Christian duty to spread the holy word of God to the ends of the earth.
Does this mean that we are to excuse their obnoxiousness? Perhaps. If nothing else, for the sake of our own souls and sanity we should at least not get dragged down into petty behavior. If a Christian is sincere in their beliefs and earnest in their zeal, are they wrong? If they are doing it for the glory of God and compassion for the sinner, maybe we can all overlook their clumsiness and embrace them as a fellow human, and not as a “them.”
But oh, may God help those Christians who have lost their way. Are they fighting for the 10 commandments to remain on the Alabama courthouse because they believe those rules will help the state’s fight for justice? Or are they fighting merely because it gives them something to fight about? At the end of the day does it matter that a Starbucks barista wished you a merry Christmas, or that the cup doesn’t have a nativity scene printed on the side? Will America spin into moral decline if a baker sells a cake to a gay couple? Is a football player kneeling for the flag worse than an entire nation who lets it’s veterans go homeless?
Read More From Soapboxie
2,000 years ago Jesus saved his harshest words for the Pharisees, the religious leaders who followed the letter of the law, but lost sight of the sentence. The driving force behind the law of the prophets was love. The greatest commandment is love. If a Christian is proselytizing, but their motivation is their own superiority, pride, or glory, then they are on the wrong path. God alone will deal with their hypocrisy. How do we know if a Christian is motivated by love? We don’t. But God knows.
Atheist View of Religion
Stephen Roberts famously said that “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer God than you do.” Atheists believe that they have examined all the evidence, and find no proof in the existence of a god or gods. Some atheists see themselves on the defense against the attacks of Christians; and in fairness, some have very good reasons to feel that way. It is understandable that a Presbyterian child in a public school might not want to hear the Muslim call to prayer, so why would an atheist wish to hear the Lord’s Prayer? If a Christian doesn’t want the Noble Eightfold Path to be engraved on a two ton slab of rock in front of the county courthouse, maybe we can forgive an atheist for not wanting the 10 commandments. At the end of the day, most atheists just want to be left alone with their beliefs, or lack thereof.
As a group, atheists aren’t bad people. 23% of atheists surveyed by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, have a strong sense of morality and social justice. They seek to make the world a better and more egalitarian place. Environmental protection, gay rights, equality for minorities, and feminism drive these atheists to improve their own corner of the world. Whether or not you profess religion, it is difficult to find fault with atheists like these.
In 2014, the Religious Landscape Study found that 65% of atheists say that they rarely ever discuss religion with other people. But what about the 35% of atheists who do? The Christopher Hitchenses, Bill Mahers, and Richard Dawkinses of the world who vocally disavow any form of religion as the opposite of progress. The anti-theists around the globe who actively search for religious people and badger them on their beliefs.
While some atheists may feel that they are put on the defense against Christians, these anti-theists, the militant and dogmatic atheists, go on the offense. They are the ones joining Christian message boards only to post about how there is no evidence for the existence of Christ. They insert themselves into discussions about how science is superior to religion, yet when pressed, they know little of science. They base their beliefs on a system they don’t understand, and they do so with no less faith in their own beliefs than a Christian.
What drives them? If there is no God then the Christians are to be pitied. Why kick them when they’re down? If there is a God then what is the purpose of your attacks? Does a Christian who believes in God cause an atheist any more pain than a Hindu who believes in over 300 million gods? And if one sincerely believes that there is no God, of what benefit does one derive in removing said God from those who believe, just as sincerely, that he is there? C.S. Lewis once said that “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.” If an atheist believes that there is no God, why spend time and energy attacking what is not there, attacking something of no importance. I believe that gravity causes object to fall down instead of up. I spend no time thinking about anybody who believes otherwise.
So it continues, the militant Christians against the militant atheists. Each locked in battle until the last trumpet sounds and God alone will sort them out. In the meantime, the rest of us can do nothing more than try not to get caught in the crossfire.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Anna Watson