MANY PEOPLE WOULD RATHER DIE THAN THINK; IN FACT, MOST DO. — BERTRAND RUSSELL

Atheists: Baby eaters, angry, hateful and generally unpleasant folks!

I’m always surprised by a Christian’s basic lack of understanding when it comes to their perceptions about just what it is we unbelievers think about God and religion. They often paint atheists as angry or filled to the brim with hate. How they come to this conclusion is beyond me, but take this guy:

Although I came to faith at an early age, I nearly lost my faith due to doubt in my mid-20s. However, I too had a grand transformation when I was influenced by the evidence presented by those who also had grand transformations such as Strobel, McDowell, Craig, Habermas, and others. These individuals were open to the truth wherever it led. [I highly doubt that.]  The truth in fact led them to the throne of God…

atheists

It could be that many who are angry atheists now will become the leaders of the church tomorrow.  This is well within the realm of possibility.  God can transform a heart that is bitter and fill it with forgiveness.  God can transform a heart that knows only hate to a heart that is open to love.  This is well within the power of God.  So for the Christian, I would simply say: don’t become angry with those who are antagonists to the faith.  Pray for them.  They may very well be your colleagues in the faith very soon.  It could be that the next great evangelist, like Billy Graham, has not come to faith yet. — Brian Chilton (from the essay, Could the Church of the Future Be Constituted by the Atheists of Today?)

Chilton here assumes, without of course actually naming any nonbelievers who might be consumed by anger, that at least “many” or perhaps all atheists in his mind are angry and presumably filled with bitterness and hate. But atheists aren’t the only angry ones. Apparently, Chilton knows some Christians who are angry, in turn, at people who are antagonistic toward the faith. Who needs good Christian love with so much hate to spread around?

First — and this is the most obvious point — it’s an absurdity to suggest that atheists are angry at God. Atheists can’t be angry at that which they deny. Now, a former believer can be frustrated with the stupendous lack of evidence emanating from Christianity, or say, from her inability to hear God or sense his presence. She then may decide on this lack of theoretical or practical evidence to deny God and leave the faith. Up until that point, we might reasonably say that a believer may be angry at the being she still thinks of as God. But once she crosses the threshold into unbelief, she has no more anger because she has simply ceased believing, just as she formerly didn’t believe and had no feelings one way or the other for Zeus, Thor, Wotan or any number of gods man has invented for himself.

Second, the large majority of nonbelievers that I know are caring people who want to leave the world a better place than they left it, which is more than I can say for most Christians, whose main purposes in life are a) to worship God, first and foremost, and b) to win disciples for Christ as per the Great Commission. For the Christian who wants to get really busy winning souls for the kingdom, this leaves little room for ministering to the community, feeding and caring for famine stricken people overseas or giving to charity, although more thoughtful Christians volunteer locally or in other nations in spite of the expressed and rather narrow life purposes laid out by their ancient religion.

So, at best, it’s a misunderstanding to characterize atheists as hate-filled, and at worst, it’s a straight up hatefully reciprocated accusation to make against a fellow human being on no evidence whatsoever. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to name anyone on the planet who I dislike enough to throw out the word “hate.” I’m not a fan of people who willfully proliferate half-truths and distortions, but even then, “dislike” is strong enough. I don’t even hate religion. But if Chilton insists, here are some things I do actually hate:  irrationality, willful ignorance, cancer, AIDS, racism and bigotry, illiteracy, fanatical religion, tyranny and oppression.

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About the Author

Jeremy Styron
Jeremy Styron
I am a newspaper editor, op-ed columnist and reporter working in the greater Knoxville area. This is a personal blog. Views expressed here are mine and mine alone.

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