May 10, 2016

Dear Christians: Answers to Questions for Atheists, Part...I can't even remember

Today, we're talking about Christianity.

This is another of those segments where it seems like the author doesn't understand that, believe it or not, atheists CAN come from a Christian background. I know; I do.

So, let's dig right in.


1.     Are there any practical benefits to Christianity? If so, what are they and why?  If not, why?

Of course there are. Constantinople saw them centuries ago. They allow a dominant culture to suppress dissent, subject women, and remain in power. Depending on the denomination, it's also a useful social glue because it does away with the messy business of figuring out what people believe. I sincerely believe that alone explains the vast majority of religious conflicts.

There were other practical benefits for our species in the past too. An explanation for what happens after death and a way to control our outcome was useful for alleviating anxieties in times when our lives were short and full of pain even in Western societies (it still is short and full of pain for many, especially in other societies). There's cosmology wrapped in there, a shared mythology--all of these are good for organizing societies, and clearly, organizing societies is good for human survival.

Today, there's a very practical reason: Christian privilege. In a society like ours, where the majority of the population and government is comprised of Christians, Christianity provides practical, tangible benefits. In other nations, where the dominant religion is different, the privilege is also different--it goes not to Christians, but to the dominant group. This privilege takes many forms. It's the bottom line respect for your beliefs, the ability to easily practice your religion, not being required to explain your beliefs, easily finding charities that align with your beliefs, having your moral code be the prevailing standard of morality, etc.

It's also practical to have the majority of politicians agree with your religious beliefs. It leads to things like this, an actual quote from the South Carolina State Constitution:

Article 17, Section 4
"No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution."

This is now unenforceable, but it's still in my state's constitution even today. You can add sodomy laws (also now defunct), the same sex marriage bans (also now defunct), and all of this new "bathroom bill" legislation to the list of bills that stem from [some] Christian's moral code to be enshrined in our legal code.

2.    Is there a difference between “Christianity” and “Religion”?  If so, what is it?  If not, why?

Is this the part where believers chime in and say, "Christianity isn't a religion! It's a relationship with Christ!"

No, folks, it's a religion. Here's the definition of religion from Merriam Webster:

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group
Do Christians believe in a god? Do they have organized systems of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship that god? Do they have an interest, belief or activity that's important to their Christian identity?

Yes, they do. Christianity is a religion, one of many.

3.    Do you fully understand WHAT Christians believe?

After being raised and believing in Christ for 25 years...yes. I think I fully understand what Christians believe.

4.    Do you know what the Gospel is?

Christ, fully God, fully man, sent to earth to live a sinless life and to offer himself, the perfect, blameless lamb for the slaughter, to be crucified for our sins and risen again in perfection, having overcome them, allowing for belief in him and a relationship with him to be our ticket to a boundless paradise after death.

Yes, I know the Gospel. I can take you down the "Roman Road' if you'd like, as I did countless children in church camps over the years that I believed.


So, we've got about two segments left. I may wind up combining them into one post for next week, depending on how the answers go.

What do you guys think? How would you answer them? Heck, how would my Christian readers answer these?

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