January 12, 2016

Dear Christians: I hate being called arrogant, greedy, and wicked. It makes me cranky.

I have a Google Alert set up to trawl the Internet and send me results for the term "atheism".

This is useful; it nets me a variety of results from both atheists and theists, so I have plenty of material that I can pull from to talk about. Every once in a while, it turns up something from the theist side of the equation that just makes me shake my head.

Let me backtrack a bit. One of the most common criticisms I see of atheists is that someone has never met one of us who is nice or balanced or respectful, etc. It crops up relatively regularly in comment sections around the internet. I see it quite a bit in posts by The Friendly Atheist, a title that some theists seem to take offense to even existing.

Every time I hear it, my mind immediately flashes back to the pulpits I sat in front of and the garbage that spewed from them about atheists. I can't help it. I spent enough time in church as a younger person to have collected quite a few anecdotes.

Today's Google Alert sent me right back there. It pulled up a sermon given in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, last Sunday, January 10, titled "Practical Atheism". Here's the description:

Characteristics of the wicked since they believe does not see or know: arrogance, prosperity, security and violence (reinforced greed). 
But, the righteous trust in the King of a greater kingdom, in His righteousness and His graciousness toward themselves.

You can hear the full audio at the link I provided above.

It's just...it's frustrating, honestly. Last week, our local freethought society joined with the Foundation Beyond Belief to do flood relief efforts in the capital of my state. They rebuilt houses and provided relief to citizens still mired in mess. It wasn't out of arrogance or violence (I have no idea what the points of prosperity and security are doing in there at all).

It's been pointed out time and again, but I'm going to point it out once more: If religion really deters violence, why are the most secular nations in the world also the least violent, while the most religious are the most violent?

I've seen it argued that this trend is because religion encourages violence (or at the least--it inhibits moral development), but I disagree. I think as societies mature, they become less violent, and that happens to coincide with an increase in secularity. I don't think that it's a chicken and egg scenario, nor is there any causal link.

But it is a demonstrable trend, nonetheless.

I also find it somewhat mind-blowing that someone could claim that "the wicked" do not recognize their own arrogance while they themselves type up the description that I've shared with you. Talk about a lack of self-awareness. I honestly think--and I've maintained this in past posts--that it takes an incredible level of arrogance to believe that a creator of the universe has time to worry about individual humans at all, but I'd never generalize believers as arrogant. I've met too many different types of believers to do that.

And perhaps that's the difference between me, progressive Christians, and Christians who post sermons like this one: some of us have taken the time to meet the people we're talking about and get to know them, and some of us haven't.

I'll let you guess who did what.

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