Sugar-coating religion: You're either Christian, or you aren't.

Inspired by this article posted in the Atheist News group, and its opening excerpt:

IN 1910, A COHORT of ultra-conservative American Protestants drew up a list of non-negotiable beliefs they insisted any genuine Christian must subscribe to. They published these “fundamentals” in a series of widely distributed pamphlets over the next five years. Their catalog featured doctrines such as the virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Christ, and his imminent second coming. The cornerstone, though, was a belief in the literal inerrancy of every syllable of the Bible, including in matters of geology, paleontology, and secular history.

I've pondered this question for some time now. E.g.; I don't agree with everything Keith Olbermann says, but I like him and his approach enough to call myself a solid fan. I have little problem with pick-and-choose Christians who at least admit they pick and choose, though I also believe that gives them zero right to tell me something is true "because it's in the bible." But that's a different post.

My query here: At what point does a Christian censor so much of their own history and doctrine that they are absurd to call themselves "Christian?" I get really tired of people who say, "Oh I'm a Christian, but I don't believe in tenants X, Y, or Z (which are tantamount to Christianity). But really, praise Jesus!" On my list of must-haves:

1) Literal belief in one true god and that the Judeo-Christian bible at least comes closer than any other doctrine to describing the nature of that god.

2) Literal belief that Jesus existed, is the son of said god, and that the cannon New Testament is at least largely (if not fully) representative of Jesus' biography and teachings.

3) Literal belief that adhering to tenants 1 and 2 make you at the very least more favored in the eyes of God (if not completely necessary to not end up in hell).

That third one is the bit that I find makes most touchy-feely Xians twitch. It's why I make hefty use of the word 'Literal' in my must-have list. More and more I see Christians trying to worm their way out of the xenophobic and silly-superstition nature of their faith by saying "Oh I totally respect your beliefs and I think God loves everyone equally so long as you're a good person ... All religions are ok, I just personally find that Christianity works for me."

To which I say, "Bullshit." It's like saying "I think Jews are awesome people, but I still think Hitler is the bomb." I'm fairly certain Hitler would not count such a person among his followers. Likewise, there is little or nothing in the cannon bible to suggest God/Jesus have anything resembling equal respect for Atheists or people of other religions.

You don't get to say Yay-Hitler while also hugging your Jewish friends.

You don't get to say I'm-a-Christian while telling me that you believe God is totally down with me being a Buddhist, Hindu, Pastafarian or Atheist.

If you're going to call yourself Christian, then man up and admit that non-Christians are something less than you are because they worship a different idol or no idol than you do. If stating something like that about your fellow human beings seems inherently wrong then you'd better re-consider being part of the Christian club.

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Comment by Jo Jerome on November 15, 2009 at 1:45pm
I'm not sure how necessary heaven and hell are since hell is not so specifically mentioned in the bible. Literal belief in Jesus and the resurrection seem necessary to me, but a touchy-feely Xian could get away with "Everyone gets resurrected thanks to Jesus."

But still, an overwhelming theme in all of the bible and Christianity is that Jesus/Xianity is the 'correct' way to pray/worship/refer to and view divinity. It seems difficult to simultaneously believe that and that, say, Ghandi will get equal treatment in heaven even though he wasn't Xian.
Comment by Chris on November 15, 2009 at 8:42am
I'd guess that to be a christian, one must believe that christ was a real person who is the son of god, and has to be worshiped. Do christians also have to believe in heaven and hell, or has it gotten so washed down that they can believe and do whatever they want?
Comment by Jo Jerome on November 14, 2009 at 12:09pm
Thanks guys for the feedback. And I am very grateful for those majority of Xians who pick and choose only the happy-fluffy bits of the bible to follow.

But I still wonder: How much of the xenophobia can one edit out and still have enough left to truly call themselves Christian? It still seems to me that one of the most basic tenants remains: This is the 'correct' religion and the 'correct' path to heaven/blessing/whatever.

Implicitly, that is saying all non-Xians are 'incorrect' and not on a path to heaven/blessing/whatever.

Implicitly, that in turn says all non-Xians are lesser in the eyes of God and therefore lesser people.

It just seems to me that when a Christian says "God won't mind that you're an Atheist/Jew/Hindu/Pagan; as long as you're a good person you're equally blessed" it's cutting way too much ideology out of Christianity for there to be any substance left.

Like saying, "All people are equal and deserve equal rights. I just go to the KKK rally for the great varieties in jello and because I look so darn cute in the white hood."
Comment by Alex McCullie on November 12, 2009 at 10:14pm
I think you are being a bit tough on what qualifies as a Christian. We have a great diversity on this forum of atheists. I was surprised at the numbers who entertain after-life in any meaningful way!

Many progressive Christians reject most literal interpretations of both testaments but still want to hold onto the religious practices of their churches. They even reject the core Jesus event - the resurrection - as a historical event. Amazingly both traditional Christians and atheists criticise them for not being true Christians.

Recently there was a to-do between Karen Armstrong, ex-nun progressive Christian, and Richard Dawkins. He claimed she was effectively an atheist like him. And then a conservative Christian agreed with Dawkins and critised Armstrong. Here's my blog reference: Alex's Heresies: Conservative Christian Blow-back.




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