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In Defense of "Cheap" Attacks Against Christianity
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.
Thanks for reading.