Over the past few weeks I’ve had a vigorous e-mail conversation with Brad, a determined atheist who is not so much angry at the God he does not believe in as he is at the Church, especially the old Mainline Church, that purports to believe in and follow God in Christ Jesus. For what it’s worth, he holds the “fundiegelicals” in even greater contempt.
I’ve gone through our correspondence and pulled out his main arguments, not always in his exact words but close. Take a look. There is some truth in them, and the image in the mirror is not an attractive one. To be sure, you and I can easily come to a quick defense, but that’s not the point. The point is that our defenses, however brilliant, are not believed because too many of our own public actions have got in the way. I wonder how you might consider using some of Brad’s objections to underwrite a renewal of spiritual strength lived out in our cities and towns by congregations of intentional discipleship?
- Preaching one thing but living another makes it legitimate to call you a hypocrite.
- Churches are the most segregated institutions in the country so how can you say you are antiracist. You lie.
- You support equal rights for everyone else but belong to exclusive clubs and send your kids to private schools.
- You cheer the revitalization of the inner city but live in the suburbs, as far away as possible from the poor and minorities.
- You preach family values but have higher divorce, alcohol abuse and domestic violence rates than atheists.
- Look at the poor sections of cities with store front churches in every third building. What good to they do?
- The inherent ambiguity of Christianity is a programming bug, not a feature to be proud of.
- Churches listen to the poor except for their theology, lifestyles, and views on the roles of the sexes.
- If you are so sure you are on the “right road” why have you made so little progress? Shouldn’t I be able to see a difference in who you are? It looks to me like you are running twice as fast as atheists but going backwards.
- The Mainline churches are a bunch of out of date leftists.
- If one’s own politics are discoverable without he aid of revealed texts or any sort of hierarchy, what good is religion in the first place?
- Nobody listens to you anymore. You do not represent the majority of Americans. You just dress people up in fancy costumes and pretend.
- You are arrogant beyond belief. Butler Bass recently wrote that the Mainline is the conscience of America. Does that mean no one else can be trusted?
- I don’t believe in religion because its adherents don’t.
- Religion (Christian) is most clearly defined by its vitriol and self-absorbed idiocy.
- If a goal can be reached without religion, what good is religion?
- Why should I pay money every week to support someone when I’m perfectly able to be moral without his help?
- What religions assert without proof, I will ignore without hesitation.