Posted by: SteveInCO | 27 Mar 2012

Open Letter to Christians, #1

Dear Christian,

Many of you believe yourself to be moral, upstanding members of your communities.  Many of you are leaders in your communities, or respected businessmen, or perhaps even clergy.

So I’d like to ask you a “what if” question.

Let’s say when you get to be early middle aged.  You have children aged, oh, about seven to ten years old.

And at that time your mother lets it be known that she is an atheist.  That she does not believe there even is a god, much less a heaven or hell, or a need to be saved, or to be forgiven your sins.  What would your reaction be?

(Don’t tell me this couldn’t possibly happen.  Christians are surprised by this sort of event all the time.  Someone whom they thought they knew well suddenly turns out to be godless.  A heathen.  In fact I know the grandmother this specific thing happened to, and I know where one can find lots more similar situations, albeit from the point of view of the atheist, not the surprised Christian.)

Obviously you would react with some dismay.  Your mother, your own mother, will positively not be in heaven though you expect (or at least hope!) to be there yourself.

But here is my real question:  If this happened (and again, don’t try to tell me it can’t, unless your mother is already dead–in which case change the question to suit), would you ostracize your mother?  Try to prevent her from seeing her grandchildren?  Perhaps use your kids/her grandkids to blackmail her into going to church?  Spread the news to everyone she knows?

I don’t want you to tell me your answer.  I do want you to be honest with yourself.  Would you go to war like this against your suddenly heathen mother?  Think long and hard about it, be honest.  You may find yourself amongst the thousands of Christians who have faced this question without any warning whatsoever.

(It may not be your mother, it may be you are the grandparent and your son or daughter has “gone heathen” and they are raising your grandchildren and will most likely raise them as unbelievers as well.  But I am going to continue to write as if we are talking about your mother.)

Agree to disagree, or go to war?

If you can honestly say that you would accept, with regret, but accept your relative’s atheism, then I offer my congratulations and thanks.  The rest of this letter is not for you.  You can read it if you want (I can hardly stop you) but please understand that it’s not addressed to you.

For those of you that choose war–a literal crusade–I ask you to consider the following.

Your mother is still the person she was yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.  She may have been atheist for years, or she may have realized relatively recently that she simply could no longer justify a belief in god and/or Jesus any more.  (And maybe I just repeated myself–the trinity is tricky to talk about.  Try as I might I think of Jesus and Yahweh as distinct entities.)

What has really changed?  Is she now liable to murder her grandchildren?  Does she no longer love them?  Remember that all that has changed is your knowledge of your mother; she herself has probably not changed since before you found out she was an atheist.

But now that you know she is an atheist, she is unfit company for your children.  Well then:  if this is true, how on earth did she manage to raise you?  Now that you know she is an atheist, you know she cannot possibly be moral, right?  Well how on earth has she avoided running around on murderous rampages robbing 7-11s (or Circle Ks, or Cones or Loaf & Jugs or…), with no religious constraints on her behavior?

Is it just barely possible that people can be fit to live with, without them being Christians?  Fit to do the grandmotherly thing and babysit and spoil your children?  Perfectly moral even if not really believing what you believe?

Surveys show that something like 15% of Americans have no religion, and they have controlled for the Christians who insist their Christianity isn’t a “religion”; these 15 percent are not Christian.  Think about that.  One person in seven in this country is not a Christian.  He or she may be acting like a Christian, not believing a word of it, but going through the motions.  Why is that?

Well, because of people like you, who would go to war on them if they ever dropped their facade of phony belief.

Maybe you believe that forcing your version of Christianity on other people is good for them.  But remember you can no more force someone to actually believe something than they can force you to not believe it.  You can force them to profess a belief in Christianity.  But that does them no good.  Obviously dragging themselves to church to pretend to pray for years on end has not saved them, and if they remain hidden like this there is no way they will ever hear the argument that you think they need to hear, because you will not know you need to find new material.

So surely your reign of suffocating enforced conformity is not helping them be saved.  If you knew who they were, perhaps you could, you know, actually persuade them.

Isn’t Jesus strong enough on this earth to handle the presence of someone who not only thinks maybe he does not exist, but might have the audacity to say so (or just have a careless unguarded moment)?

So why do it?

I’ll tell you what I think.  I think for all your pretensions of respectability, for all of your upstanding position in your town, for all your leadership in the community or church, you are simply a small minded pissant bigot, unwilling to deal with people who are different from you, unwilling to entertain the possibility that they even exist.

Why?  What are you so afraid of?  Are you secretly afraid that they may convince you?

PS to those Christians the above did not apply to.  Perhaps you could endeavor to speak out against these bigots–and their behavior–as well?

Open Letter to Christians #2


Responses

  1. Oh this is right on,I know of just such a person. Great post SteveInCo.

  2. I have a lot of Baptist relatives I’d love to send this to but I don’t dare.

    • Is there some way of fixing it so they “accidentally” find it? *grin*

  3. Ha ha Steve – very tempting. I’ll consider it. Just this morning I found a post on a cousin’s Facebook ranting about how offended she was that a Facebook friend of hers made fun of religion on their Facebook. She when on and on about “what about respect and acting civilized?”. I felt like telling her well heck, just delete them. You don’t have to read it. It is not like they posted it on your wall.”

    • Someone posted this quote of D. Dale Gulledge over on ThinkAtheist: “I am treated as evil by people who claim that they are being oppressed because they are not allowed to force me to practice what they do.” Your cousin isn’t quite doing the same thing here; she’s acting put upon because someone disagrees with her.

      Meanwhile, I think maybe you should seek out your cousin’s friend, some good may come of this.

  4. [...] Open Letter to Christians #1 Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  5. I wouldn’t regard it as a problem and would answer any questions raised by my children as a consequence. Whatever my own beliefs I practice ‘live and let live’. I have no time for bigotry be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist or political. I think many Christians think the same way and you do a disservice to Christianity in general by assuming a level of bigotry which does not exist.

    • I am glad to see you wouldn’t regard it as a problem.

      You seem to think, though, that I am *assuming* that any Christian would, and upbraid me for stereotyping Christians. You’d be right to do so if it were true.

      But that’s not the case. The first half of the letter sets up the situation and then asks, what would you do? Then:

      “If you can honestly say that you would accept, with regret, but accept your relative’s atheism, then I offer my congratulations and thanks. The rest of this letter is not for you. You can read it if you want (I can hardly stop you) but please understand that it’s not addressed to you.”

      You will note that in that paragraph, that far from ignoring the existence of non-bigoted Christians, I actually thanked the people who (like you) don’t have time for the sorts of things I complained about, then continue to talk to those who are the problem (inviting others to listen in if they want).

      And contrary to your assertion, this “level of bigotry” does exist, in those people to whom the ending of the letter is addressed, as previous commenters can attest. I was in fact inspired to write this by the plight of an online friend of mine.

      It’s possible that you truly haven’t run into people like this, in which case you are very fortunate. On the other hand it’s possible that you have and just don’t know it, because you didn’t happen to tell them you were an atheist (why would you, when you aren’t?), only to be stunned by their reaction.

      To repeat: If you think I am assuming all Christians are like this, you failed in your reading comprehension.

      • You are incorrect in believing that I did not comprehend that your letter was not directed at Christians like myself who have no problem in practicing ‘live and let live’. However, I do think that the rest of your letter does stereotype other Christians in general terms. In Great Britain I have encountered people who are atheists or theists but our conversation was not about either as there is a tendency not to argue about politics or religion. Most people will tell you what they believe if they are asked it’s just that we never ask. I suspect that in the United States the issue of religion and politics is entwined in a manner which does not occur over here.


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