The Atheist and the Good Christian

Hi everyone,

This being my first blog-post on A/N, I thought I'd address an issue that vexes me to no end: How to deal with the "Good Christian". In carpet-bombing the religious right we non-theists, try as we might to avoid it, end up inflicting collateral damage to Christians who, otherwise, lead exemplary lives. That just gnaws at me to no end. But I suppose the fact that I feel bad doing so is a 'good' thing from a moral point standpoint. But if you think me too weak-kneed, think again. A visit to my site should dispel that notion. Pronto!

The piece is one that I posted originally on my blog-site, "The Atheist Observer"


back on May 20, 2009. It was inspired by an individual who I perceive to be an outstanding human being despite his believing what he does. I am referring here to the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance and host of the popular radio program, "State of Belief" on Air America Radio. The non-theist will not find a more vigorous opponent of the religious right than this Christian.

See. It's tough. You don't want to 'hurt' people of character like Reverend Gaddy. But at the same time you're not going to share his world-view either.

Anyway, here is that post:

In recent decades atheists have seen a remarkable increase in the number of Americans joining their ranks—right along with an increase in antipathy towards the Christians that make up the religious right. And why not? Far too many far-right Christians have made transforming the United States into as close to a theocracy as possible their life’s mission.

“Reclaiming America for Christ!” is what some of their leaders have labeled this pipe-dream; insisting all the while that in the course of promoting their faith they would not impose their religious views on others. Just who they think they’ve been fooling with their patently disingenuous rhetoric, however, is anyone’s guess.

This quasi-theocracy would, of course, be led by individuals with a built-in abhorrence of and contempt for atheists and other freethinkers; individuals whose only “crime” is one of unbelief; fellow Americans guilty of nothing more than harboring a reasoned difference of opinion with those who believe in alleged supernatural creatures that not a one of them can prove exist!

But I’ve been speaking in regards to an extremist minority up to this point. What about the ‘good’ Christian? What about the ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ Golden Rule-abiding friend, relative, or acquaintance that carry themselves in a manner we atheists often find so downright “noble”; that stripe of Christian that is nearly as opposed to the religious right zealots as the non-believer? We non-theists all know such individuals. More likely, several! What about them?

Fact is that these wonderful people, these wonderful Christians, want to believe what they want to believe and have every right to do so. End of story.

Fact too is that despite our resounding differences of opinion, atheists respect, even admire, good Christians who do genuine good. The good Christian, we know, is possessed of grand character and a noble heart. But perhaps equally important, a live-and-let-live spirit of amiability that is so vital to peaceful co-existence in a country filled with so many divergent beliefs as ours.

The good Christian embraces a profound belief in their God while respecting the atheist’s right to disbelieve. The rabid, far-right Christian does not. The good Christian poses no real threat to the atheist, agnostic, or most any other shade of freethinking individual. We are, in fact, far more alike than dissimilar, the atheist and the good Christian.

The Christian extremist, on the other hand, does this country no real good. Their brand of Christianity is a bane on our cultured, freedom-loving society. They need to learn how to actually live the Golden Rule like good Christians do instead of just speak of it in the abstract or apply it only to Christians of their own persuasion. They need to learn to be more accepting of those who do not share their world-view. After all it’s their world-view, not ours; we atheists live on this planet too.

Non-believers are an ever growing segment of American society. But just as important is the fact that we are every bit as moral and ethical as the Christians--perhaps more so. Ever wonder which world-view those overflowing our jails and prisons to beyond capacity tend to call their own? Go figure.

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Comment by Greywolf on June 29, 2009 at 4:39am
I watched the Richard Dawkins: Respect for Religion Enables Religious Extremism YouTube video yesterday. In light of the refusal of the vast number of “good Christians” to denounce the decidedly flagrant “un-Christian like” behavior directed at atheists (speaking here of my area) by their Christian brethren, I am going to have to re-evaluate my “warm” feelings towards the pious, but “good Christian”.

What good is talking the good talk but then do virtually nothing when one's peers behave in the most morally unethical ways imaginable? Richard Dawkins does make some very valid points.

This is sad, really.
Comment by Greywolf on June 27, 2009 at 5:53pm
The dominionist practice what is known as "steeple jacking", where a contingency of dominionist join a congregation and over time direct the church to their extremist point of view.

The dominionists sure are some severely religiously diseased whacko's, aren't they? What in the world could cause people to believe such nonsense? Sure signs of some kind of mental disorder in my book. But, hey, if it's religion-based, it's supposed to be okay. Whooo boy! What a bunch of kooks! But that there are so many of em' and effectively getting their way in some quarters is rather alarming.

And yes, the infiltration of our military by these nuts is strong cause for concern as well.

As for that female group leader in Jesus Camp: "Becky", is it? Whew! I still don't understand why what goes on those "camps" is not considered out-and-out child-abuse! Made my blood boil watching such horrid behavior.
Comment by Karla on June 27, 2009 at 5:03pm
"steeple jacking" is a waaaay interesting phrase. Could be why some church organizations are so unspeakably extreme at times. These "steeple jackers" are probably starting with the young partitioners (and broken/vulnerable), worming their way into the youth groups and then in time, these faithful followers are all damaged but don't even know it. Why does jesus camp's Becky come to mind? hm - I may need to put the dollar bills down, stop crossing out "in god we trust" for a while and concentrate my efforts in another direction.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on June 27, 2009 at 12:19pm
Given the right circumstances, the zealots would turn on them without mercy as well. Ah, religion. Don't you love it?
The zealots have already turned on them. The dominionist practice what is known as "steeple jacking", where a contingency of dominionist join a congregation and over time direct the church to their extremist point of view. A majority of the Assembly of God churches have been taken over by this group. Sarah Palin's church is one such church, which, IMO, makes her unacceptable as a public policy maker. They are also the extremist military chaplains.
Comment by Greywolf on June 26, 2009 at 10:57am
Karla is right in maintaining that given the right circumstances and opportunity, the extreme religious-right Jesus people would kill us nonbelievers in a heartbeat. Trust me. I speak from bitter experience. They're nuts. They would feel perfectly justified in eradicating we 'evil' atheists; not pausing to realize that it's their God who “invented” evil, suffering, and death. (Hardly the personification of pure love and goodness, one would think.) They'd even feel 'holy' for having done so too, the whack-jobs.

Joey is spot on as well. Despite feeling bad about the possibility of a morally upright atheist friend or acquaintance being doomed to eternal suffering for their non-belief, the average Christian would feel that it's one of those “God works in mysterious ways” kind of deals. Most Christians have never truly thought about their faith as critically as they should. They like the warm and fuzzy feeling faith brings them; to hell with the truth!

Aerie seems to strike the right balance. Personally, I will respect and admire the good Christian simply for being a genuinely good person and doing genuinely good things. I' would feel that way about any person regardless of religious faith or the lack thereof.

It's too bad the divide is so great between the theist and non-theist communities, excepting the Interfaith Alliance to a degree, because we have so far more in common with the good Christians than dissimilarities. Rather sad, it is. But it's the rabid theists who don't give any quarter and it's rather shameful that more good Christians fail to stand tall and put their overzealous brethren in their place. They truly are enabling, aiding and abetting, the nut-jobs by remaining so disappointingly passive. Given the right circumstances, the zealots would turn on them without mercy as well. Ah, religion. Don't you love it?
Comment by aerie on June 26, 2009 at 1:30am
I know these guys. The Christian extremists call them luke warm Christians. The fence sitters. And unless they're "on fire for jeebus" and "filled with holy spirit" then they too will burn in hell.

Grewolf is spot on:
"What about the ‘good’ Christian? What about the ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ Golden Rule-abiding friend, relative, or acquaintance that carry themselves in a manner we atheists often find so downright “noble”; that stripe of Christian that is nearly as opposed to the religious right zealots as the non-believer? We non-theists all know such individuals."

I call them "floaters". They believe in God because, well...that's just what you do. They go to a "mild" church, they feel good about it, may teach a Sunday school class or teach VBS every summer. There's no history of evangelical fundamentalism indoctrination to rile them up. They just go with the flow. Nothing wrong with that, they are friendly, good people.

I can't seem to muster much respect for them though as they have no clue how to think critically or even have an original thought. They do it because their parents did it. It's more of a family and societal custom or habit maybe?

They are tolerant, kind, accepting and I would never get ugly with these people. They're not usually the ones plotting their fundy infiltration of our government and laws. They're mostly benign.
Comment by Joey on June 26, 2009 at 1:18am
Greywolf: Most of them seem to think god is going to send us to hell anyway. They might feel bad about it, but they're not about to start questioning god. They just file it under mysterious ways and move on knowing that because god is doing it, it's the right thing to do.
Some come up with some weird version of an already weird idea and decide maybe hell isn't forever, just until you repent or have burned off your sin. A bastardized version of purgatory.
Comment by Karla on June 25, 2009 at 11:22pm
anyone see The Messenger, story of Joan of Arc? she was delusional, surely a chemical imbalance nobody even knew existed, but she was killed for believing differently. I also realize that this movie is one person's own interpretation of what went down but my point being, christians would certainly kill and mutilate if given the chance and they'd feel justified doing so.
Comment by Greywolf on June 25, 2009 at 7:53pm
The comparision of the extreme religious right to the Nazis is an appropriate one. I can tell you from bitter personal experience that the army of God people would show the unbeliever no mercy, pity, or remorse whatSOever if the US were somehow transformed into a quasi-theocracy. Believe you me, I have no delusions about that whatsoever.

Still, there is an ocean of Christians who are truly good people and who I feel bad about mauling in debate. And, Yes, far too many of em' know diddley-squat about the bible. They just feel good about life and themselves believing that they worship and adore a creature who is touted to be love and goodness incarnate; not a bad entity to embrace if it were true. But, as we know, that stuff is as bogus as "bogus" gets.

If the fundies want to believe in the literal interpretation of Scripture, and so the 'reality' of Noah's Flood, then they are literally worshipping a mass-murderer. None for me, thanks.

Another point well made is the fact that the 'good' Christians fail to dress down their Jesus-lovin' zealot peers when the occasion, certain events, call for it. That's why I am a big fan of the Reverend C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, and host of the popular radio program, "State of Belief" on Air America Radio. He is a man of great character and principles. He is also one of the most vigorous Christian opponents of the religious right any non-theist can hope to encounter. Gotta like the guy for that, despite my having a diametrically opposed world-view.

As for every Christian feeling we non-theists are all going to Hell: I wonder about that. My instincts tell me that many of the faithful *reallY* believe their God would 'forgive' the morally upright atheist simply for being a good person. At least that's my impression. Only the hard-core brainwashed brainwashers among the zealots really feel every atheist, agnostic, and every single non-Jesus/God believer on planet earth is actually going to roast for eternity. Them and a gazillion Christians who have never even taken the time to actually think deeply about the issue. The idiots. Otherwise they'd realize that a God of pure love and goodness doesn't go around punishing someone for *eternity*. They seem to forget that they preach a "forgiving" God along with the rest of the crap they espouse.

Can't stand the religious right fanatics. Despise em' to no end.
Comment by Joey on June 25, 2009 at 5:02pm
The problem with "good" christians, as I see it, is one of enablement.
By subscribing to the same worldview as the bigger bastards, they further their methods.
After all, even the most liberal Christian would agree people that don't believe in god are going to hell. Being a Christian, god is considered the ultimate good. So it follows the people being punished deserve their punishment. Otherwise their god is just a petty asshole, and they're not about to admit that. Deserving everlasting punishment in the next life and at least a little punishment in this life aren't too terribly far apart. The difference is just a matter of timing and degree.

It's kinda along the same lines as the enablers of prayer only medicine. Sure, the bright ones know to take their kids to the doctor, but they still insist prayer works. Then when one isn't bright enough to take their kids to the doctor, and act baffled when the poor kid finally dies, no one seems to be able to understand how it happened. How it happened is the vast majority of religious nuts think prayer works. So it looks like prayer has an awfully good success rate. Ask anyone, they'll tell you it works!
Any religion, no matter how liberal, requires its adherants to create an atmosphere of poor critical thinking. Religions that didn't would die fairly quickly. If a person helps foster than environment, they can hardly complain about someone taking it a little further than they'd like.

It's not really a black and white issue. (Few things are.) Are the Christians that don't want a theocracy as bad as the ones that'd like to see us all on a bonfire? Of course not. Their blame lies in promoting the poor critical thinking that helps the ones that do want The United States of Jesus.

Also: Godwinned on the first reply. Yeesh.

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