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In Defense of "Cheap" Attacks Against Christianity

Updated on April 22, 2016
Image via Alan Turkus under CCL 2.0
Image via Alan Turkus under CCL 2.0 | Source

I've been hearing something fairly disturbing, lately.

Apparently, we shouldn't call the Bible out for obvious things that it's wrong about quite so often. Christians roll their eyes and say that I'm taking an uneducated, easy pot-shot when I make fun of Jesus turning water into wine, or Paul talking about how women shouldn't speak in church. Long time atheists seem to roll their eyes in boredom. "Oh, we've heard that before. It's kind of a cheap shot -- teenage atheist stuff. Let's be a bit more mature."

It reminds me, largely, of that famous story where there was an emperor who was told that he was receiving clothes that could only be seen if you were a worthy, intelligent individual, supposedly. Afraid of being seen as stupid, immature, or juvenile, people talked about the clothes in hallowed terms -- the intricacies of the silk, the color, the merits, etc. And all the while, there was the elephant in the room -- the emporer was naked.

But no one dared say so, for fear of looking bad. Instead, they talked around it.

Until a child shouted out and taught the crowd that sometimes you need someone to say that the emperor has no clothes.

Chock-Full Of "Cheap" Attacks. You're Welcome.

To be honest, that's something Christopher Hitchens did for me. I was caught in webs of arguments from apologists trying to excuse Christianity, but the stark nakedness of the religion in the absence of God became increasingly apparent to me. People told me I wasn't allowed to have that thought. I didn't have a doctorate in theology. I hadn't read every apologetics book and book of theology under the sun. I hadn't gone to enough debates, I didn't know enough to reject God; I wasn't sophisticated enough.

I had studied atheism before; it wasn't just Hitchens, or even primarily Hitchens, who introduced me to atheism. But he did uncomplicate things for me, with his guts to stand up, under strong censure, and say what I had suspected -- the emperor had no clothes. Like the child in the fairy tale, he gave me the guts to say it.

Now, I've been an atheist for awhile, so the initial shock of "God doesn't exist" has more-or-less worn off and I've gotten around to the "now what?" phase of life, more or less.

But there's still a problem.

Slavoj Zizek has this story that illustrates it well:

A man who believes himself to be a grain of seed is taken to the mental institution where the doctors do their best to finally convince him that he is not a grain but a man; however, when he is cured (convinced that he is not a grain of seed but a man) and allowed to leave the hospital, he immediately comes back very trembling of scare - there is a chicken outside the door and that he is afraid that it would eat him.

"Dear fellow," says his doctor, "you know very well that you are not a grain of seed but a man."

"Of course I know that," replies the patient, "but does the chicken know it?"

The reality for us is that we know God doesn't exist. We atheists have largely been disabused of that notion. But we live in a world in which people not only think God exists, still -- they treat us as if God exists -- from the family and friends who disown us, to the laws discriminating against lgbt people who contradict "the god-ordained order," to violations of women's rights.

We don't need to keep talking about it because we still believe it, but because they do, and if we stop talking about it, we might allow them to forget. And while there might be some value in adjusting thinking carefully here or there in nuanced ways, the cold, hard fact is that all this discrimination happens because some misogynistic, homophobic men made up a concept of God.

And I know that's offensive. It offended me, when I was a Christian. It hurt to hear it, but it was true.

And then -- here's the thing that really bothers me -- if it's so obvious that some of the "cheap shots" are things that are obviously disturbing, why are people still in the religion? Why haven't they left, if the stories and commandments in the Bible are so clearly ridiculous?

If it's really disturbing to you that God drowned the whole world save 9 people, for example, and you're still worshipping that God, you don't get to roll your eyes and tell me that's a cheap shot when I bring it up again for the thousandth time. No.

I'm not going to let you forget, so easily, the evil of the phantom you proudly worship. I'll repeat it again, and again, and again as long as I need to, like the pick-axe steadily swinging into the wall, in the hopes that finally something will break through, as it did for me.

As long as people believe these horrors and fantastic stories in the Bible and affect other people's lives negatively with those beliefs, showing how those beliefs are ridiculous and obviously disturbing is not being immature; it's necessary.

If you're a Christian who doesn't like it, leave the religion.

If you're an atheist who doesn't like it, I don't care. People are still believing this nonsense and it's negatively affecting too many lives for me to give a damn about your self-centered, made-up elitism.

Gravy?

Thanks for reading.

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    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 14 months ago from Michigan, USA

      I'm a firm believer that, in the war against superstition and ignorance, there is a place for all sorts of approaches -- from respectful discourse to outright ridicule. Naturally, reasonable people (atheist and believer alike) gravitate toward the former, but some (like the late, great Hitchens) are masters of the latter, and one should play to one's talents.

      For many of us, it also depends largely upon the style and character of the person with whom we're interacting. Some engender a more civil discussion, while others behave like two-year olds, which tends to draw out the snark in even the most patient debater.

      In the final analysis, you've made a very important point. Whatever style we atheists employ, believers DO need to hear the contrary point of view -- at the very least, to plant the seeds of doubt which, as they grow, will ultimately help them free themselves from their indoctrination. If we don't plant those seeds, who will?

    • Misfit Chick profile image

      Catherine Mostly 14 months ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

      I've never heard this perspective before, but I like it. Who else aside from 'former-believers' can help bring drowning Christians out of the muck? I'd say it is as important as teaching children to read and write. But, being in the middle - instead of at the tale end of this debate - means that we kind of have to pace ourselves or get lost in the seemingly neverending arguments. Plus, atheists and agnostic folks (that would be me) don't have nearly as much support or backup. We have to pick our battles and hope that the ones we choose to fight do a little toward helping to break open all the maddening lies.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 14 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      If someone is using his or her religion to do or to support doing harm use whatever tool you need for the situation. Different tools work for different people and situations. I wouldn't recommend pulling the cheap shots out of your toolbox if you have other, better tools at hand, but that's just my personal taste.

      I've come to believe that if I get down that far in my hierarchy of tools, I've chosen to interact with someone so locked-down in his or her beliefs that I'm just wasting my time trying to change his or her religiously-motivated actions.

    • profile image

      Wild Bill 12 months ago

      Usually the outspoken atheists were once outspoken religionists. It seems to me it is the person who is extreme, not the ideology.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 9 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Barrierbreaker, this is an interesting article. I at one time and for a VERY brief moment was agnostic. I did not declare a god did not exist but thought that if there is one, no one would know because it did not care for its creations.

      I have since found God and shamelessly know that He lives and is very involved in every life. However, I get your point. If it is all a farce, why don't more people see it? For me, it is the opposite. If it is true, Christianity, why don't more people follow it?

      Insert any religion there. Psychologically, human beings have a need to believe in something larger than reality. It is an arrogant act of self-delusion for some who worship themselves, their accomplishments, religion, a book, a house, a car, etc.

      They do not worship this god that many of them claim to worship. Or, I should say they worship the god of their making. Because of our innate desire to hold something supreme, we worship anything that makes us feel good--ideas.

      I do not believe in truth that people are atheists. It makes no logical sense to me. As a lover of science, there are many unknown things in the world. We mistake common or familiar with fact. Because I cannot prove it, does not mean that it is false. It means It is not proven.

      The problem with declaring that we know things about things we cannot prove is that it is just an opinion because the scientific method cannot be used to verify. I accept that about my experience with God. Most, Christians let alone non-God fearing people, would call me delusional because I speak to God, and He speaks back.

      He usually does it in my own voice and in my mind. I am told this is me giving myself the psychological stability I need to cope with life because I am afraid to accept the reality that this life is all there is. People say that. I used to think that. It is not true.

      It is easy to say something does not exist because it does not behave the way I want it too or think that it should. I think that is what you did. I am not sure, however. I just assume.

      I will read more of your writings, though. When we write, we put ourselves on display psychologically. Some of us are writing fiction to incite drama. Some of us are being open and genuine. Some of us are just good writers but confused. Some of us are what we present.

      Most of us are not sure of who or what we are; we just try to fit what we think we should be.

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