I’ve been looking into this Christianity versus atheism thing lately. It’s caught my attention for a few reasons. Mostly because I like listening to ideas and I like understanding things, but also because I see the way Christians and atheists tend to treat each other. We all act like the “other side” is a huge group of stupid people who have never researched anything a day in their lives, came to their conclusion for some over-simplified reason like, “Oh, your parents were Chrsitians/atheists and that’s why you have the beliefs you do,” instead of considering that maybe they put a lot of thought and time and emotion and brainpower into their decision. Maybe it was painstaking, and maybe it even caused issues in their lives, like alienation from family members who believe something different.
Maybe some people are just idiots who have put no thought into what they believe. But I don’t believe that that’s the case with everybody. In fact, I think that that’s an incredibly far cry from the truth.
And we need to stop acting like that is the case for everyone who doesn’t think the same thing that we do. I think that we sometimes do this consciously, but most of the time it’s unconscious. There’s an overwhelming reaction of, “You’re stupid and haven’t thought about this thoroughly enough if you didn’t come to the same conclusion that I did.”
Isn’t it possible that someone could be presented with exactly the same information as all the rest of us were and come to a different conclusion? Isn’t it possible that people can be intelligent and also disagree with other intelligent people? Isn’t it possible that they just people created by a God who loves them just as much as he loves you? Isn’t it possible that we’re all people and that, if you actually believe the scriptures, we’re all sinful, and maybe their sin is just expressed differently than your own? Isn’t it possible that we should be building relationships with people and befriending them, not just to convert them or to fulfill some unspoken super-Christian agenda, but just to be their friends?
I’ve been watching videos from a popular atheist YouTuber, and he’s posted videos both about what Christians should not to say to atheists and what atheists need to not say to Christians. I’ll admit, when I saw that there was an atheist out there who was trying to get people to respect beliefs that contradict their own, I was a little shocked. But that just goes to show that I bought into the whole atheist stereotype that they’re all douche-bags who hate religious people myself.
I think that in this man’s videos, he says some things I would disagree with. He says some things that I think are a little off about the church and what Christians believe. But one of the things that I hear him say over and over is, “You don’t know me, stop acting like you do.” And this seems to be a common complaint among many non-Christians. I think it’s true. In an attempt to be relatable and to “reach everyone” we forget that people are just people. They’re not an idea. They’re not someone that we need to save. They are not a number. They are a person.
I think that too often, Christians want to put all non-Christians into a box labeled “Sinners” and we forget that we all are in that box too. We complain that “Not all Christians are that way!” when we see ourselves misrepresented, see ourselves put into a box, but we do the same thing to others quite often and think nothing of it. But I really don’t like box metaphors because I don’t believe you can put anybody into any box without reducing them down to this dehumanized idea that is not a person at all. And even if there were boxes, there would have to be 7 billion+ because there’d have to be one for each person on the planet.
And we need to stop putting people who don’t believe what we believe into those boxes. Humans are so much more complex than we like to admit. They have struggles and emotions and thoughts that are worth hearing and they love other people and they have friends and family and kids and pets. They have lives. They have truth to share that’s extra-biblical, but still true, nonetheless. And it is one thing to live out a life that is in Jesus’ footsteps (which I think we should all be striving after because your life might be the only proof they ever see of God) but it is quite different to run around telling people who don’t believe in God that everything about their life is wrong, that their life is empty, and that they should be depressed all the time because they don’t believe in God.
Not only is that insulting to non-Christians, I think it’s kind of insulting to Christians too, and quite possibly to God. God is not some means to an end. He is the end-all be-all of all things. He is everything. So to reduce him down to something as trivial, as nonessential, and as fleeting as an emotion that you feel in a certain building on Sunday, to say that he is a feeling you couldn’t feel simply by having a loving circle of family and friends, or a pet that you love, or seeing a good movie, is wrong. That’s not what God is, and that’s not what we should be telling people that he is. He exists by himself and for himself. Nothing else. And we are saved out of the very same rebellion that we call others out on by him, and for him because he loves us.
Instead of looking at people as people, we reduce them to this two-dimensional idea that really doesn’t reflect much of anything that’s human. That’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to see a person as something other than a person. We forget that we were allowed to “come as we are” and that they can do the same. And I guarantee you that whatever led you to Jesus wasn’t someone thumping a Bible.
It was most likely a friend.