From an Anti-Theist to Christians: Is it possible to hate Christianity while loving you?
Although Christians often invoke Gandhi’s words, “Hate the sin, not the sin, not the sinner" repeatedly, they seem to have trouble when I and many other "militant" atheists say we hate Christianity, not Christians. How is it possible, they ask, for me to love them when I hate something that is so foundational to their sense of worth, to their definition as a human being? Because, fundamentally, they see themselves as children of God. And, I have to admit, when I visit a church these days, I realize that the word “Christ” represents a connection people have to themselves, to each other, and to the world around them that often represents a deep sense of empathy (although that empathy is tarnished by the Bible, Christian teaching, and Christian practice). So why would I want to destroy that?
To be honest, this has not been an easy question for me. There’s a line in the Fun song “Some Nights” – a song that perfectly details initial feelings after deconversion -- that says, “Some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle/ sometimes I wish they’d just fall off.” I can relate. There are times when I’m furious at what I see Christian teachings doing and how I see they are represented, and I have absolutely no respect for the Bible. Then I see who the ranting and railing hurts, and I get sad. Not regretful about what I said, just sad that people are hurt by what needs to be said -- and in those times I often take a break...and then a couple days later, I'm back to ranting again.
Let me try to build a bridge. Imagine, Christian, what it must be like to think that Christianity isn’t true, or pretend for a moment that Christianity isn’t true. What commentary would that HAVE to make on the Bible? Well, for one, it would mean that the Bible is full of dogma that is outdated. It might mean that the Old Testament was made up by homophobic men who enjoyed war and were misogynistic towards women, for example. Now, on the one hand, I KNOW that is offensive, because for Christians the Old Testament has what seem to them to be wonderful passages, like Psalm 23, that have helped them when they went through a major illness, or when they lost their job, or when their child got ran over. I acknowledge that; I feel that. But…at the same time, if Christianity is not true, this is EXACTLY what you would expect. You would find things in the Old Testament that helped people get through their everyday lives in the midst of hardship – indeed, you find features like these in every religion (and, I may add, anti-religion). So when I say that the Old Testament would have been made up by homophobic men who enjoyed war and were misogynistic, I’m not saying that the Old Testament has not been useful for people’s lives. I mean, the fact that it HAS been seen as useful in some instances is even more of a reason to examine it and critique it.
Christianity is a bit like an out-of-date computer. Now, I know that sounds derogatory, and yes, it is...but still, if Christianity is, indeed, wrong all the way through, it would have to be the case. True, it worked for some things in its day, and sure, it can do a few things every once in a while. But a lot of the new software won’t run on it without severe tweaking. And it has fatal errors that come up when it tries to run the “program” of society. And it makes mistakes in calculations that simply are fatal to the goals most people using its system ultimately want to accomplish.
Now, imagine you were saying to someone who had been using the same computer in their company for forty years, “You need to get a new computer.” What if the person said, “I like my computer. Do you realize how much history it has? Do you realize how much it has done for my business? Do you have any idea how many wonderful memories I had with it? Why would you take something so precious away from me?” You would probably understand the connection, but at the same time, many of the reasons they used the old computer make getting a new computer MORE, not less important. And the more you cared about the business, the more you cared about the future of the company, the more you cared about the person’s ability to do his work, the more insistent you would be about that person getting a more modern computer. That’s doesn’t mean you hate the person. But you are angry, understandably, about the old computer’s incapabilities, its frequent crashes, and very serious errors. So the system needs to be fixed. The person is not your target – the system he is using simply needs updating.
If you pay attention to what I write, most, if not all, of what I say is to that effect. Yes, there is some “counseling” and advice and support for those “updating” their “systems” of viewing the world after deconverting from Christianity. Yes, there is a sense of nostalgia for the old “system” at times. But at its base, what I’m trying to say is, “You’re running on 2500-2000 year old software, and a lot of that stuff has fundamental flaws and errors.” I’m not saying we’ve got things perfect now. But I do think that the Bible is a terrible, outdated system to run society on. It was not accurate to begin with, it had major flaws even for its time, and it fails to take into account all the advances in understanding our surroundings that we have made in the last 2000 years.
So, in that sense, I hate Christianity. I hate it like an old, flawed computer that is ruining a company I dearly love. I try to point out a zillion places where I see it failing, where I see it not working, where I see it flawed beyond hope of repair and resting on fundamentally unproven and outright false assumptions. And I’m there, not because I hate the people working with society via the Christian system, but because I care so much about them and what we are trying to do together here on earth, in this existence we all take part in. We’re all trapped in the same existence, so it’s really in everyone’s best interest to work it out.
Hopefully that clarifies things. I know it hurts Christians when people rail against Christianity; sometimes it hurts me, too. I was in the church for 28 years, and I know a lot about what it’s like, and sometimes it did make me feel very fulfilled and happy. I do get nostalgic every once in a while, and for the sake of talking to people sensitively, I still go to church once in a while and listen to Christian music at times so I never forget what it feels like to be Christian. But it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as seeing how flawed the Christian system is and doing nothing about it.
And whether you are a Christian or not, you may find yourself in a similar situation. You may be in a place where you KNOW that an organization you dearly love is doing something factually flawed, and have the choice between allowing the flaws to ruin the organization because you don't want to make waves, and speaking up. I've chosen the latter; what you chose now and what you will choose then is up to you.But now, hopefully, you understand a bit more, even if you don't agree.
THANKS FOR READING!
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