It’s time once again to put on our neoprene waders and gas mask and step in, looking for the stupidest arguments by which Christians embarrass themselves.
The list begins here. We’re well past the original 25 and still going.
One Christian source expressed it this way: “How can you hate someone you don’t believe in? Why the hostility? If God does not exist, shouldn’t atheists just relax and seek a good time before they become plant food? Why should it matter if people believe in God?”
We don’t care about gods; we care about their followers. Gods don’t cause problems within society, but people who think they’re following gods do.
This argument seems to presume that Christianity is all about doing good works, community, mutual support, and other worthy aspects that no one would object to. It presumes that nothing bad comes from believing false things. They imagine that Christianity has no more destructive impact on society than knitting, but Christianity in America does quite a bit more than just good works. Christians push for Creationism in public schools, demand prayers at government meetings, stand in the way of abortion and same-sex marriage, block the use of fetal stem cells used for research, and make other attacks on the separation of church and state. And that’s just their attacks on society—within their own communities, people can be ostracized for thinking the wrong things or terrified as children with talk of hell and demons.
A variant of this argument wonders why we don’t see a parallel to atheism (an organized movement against something) with, say, stamp collecting. Why aren’t there non-stamp-collecting organizations, blogs, and lectures?
That comparison is poor, so let’s fix it. Make stamp collecting in the U. S. an industry with revenue of $100 billion per year, all of which is tax deductible, but make that revenue secret. That is, require all nonprofits in the country to open their financial records to show that they are worthy of nonprofit status, except for stamp-collecting organizations (more here). Have the leadership of the stamp collecting industry meddle in public affairs, have them complain to their lawmakers when stamp collectors’ perks are attacked, amend Article VI of the Constitution to forbid any public stamp-collecting test of political candidates (but make it a de facto test anyway), add in some financial and sexual scandals, and the comparison becomes more accurate.
Perhaps now it’s clear why atheism exists as a movement.
This is related to Stupid Argument #24: You really believe in God. (You must believe in God because you talk about him so much.)
This isn’t an argument that Christians make but I think it’s worth highlighting. The Little People Argument is made by atheists and agnostics against fellow atheists. They scold the cranky atheists for taking God away from ordinary people. These intellectual atheists don’t need God themselves, they assure us, but we mustn’t ruin things for the people who aren’t as smart or stable as we are.
They say that there’s more to a religious claim than just its truth. If believers get benefits from their belief, and their belief is grounded on the (false) claim that it’s true, why rock their boat?
Christianity’s reckless activity within society is why. Remember the problems listed in the argument above—Christians pushing for Creationism in schools, prayer in public meetings, and so on.
Of course, not all Christians are part of the problem. It’s likely a minority. In addition, politicians sometimes abduct Christian thinking for their own purposes, demanding that good Christians must vote for them to end the godless scourge of abortion, same-sex marriage, or whatever. Nevertheless, Christianity must take some blame for allowing this meddling in society.
One variant on the argument is to demand that you not undercut Christianity without something to replace it. Jerry Coyne, whose article was my inspiration for this argument, gives a counterexample: did the Civil Rights movement offer something to replace the idea that whites are superior to blacks? Nope. If you suffered from the realization that you weren’t superior to someone else, you had to get over it. Northern Europe is far ahead of us in pushing out Christianity, and they seem to have muddled through just fine.
Another example: when you’re cured of cancer or malaria, doctors don’t replace that disease with something else; they make you well and send you on your way.
Yes, religion can be useful, but that doesn’t help us if we’re trying to find out if it’s true.
(My interest is responding to Christian claims that their supernatural beliefs are true; however, some Christians make no such claim. If a believer doesn’t state that their religion can back up its supernatural claims, then there’s nothing to respond to. I focus instead on those who insist that Christianity is true and want to tell me why.)
I don’t agree with C. S. Lewis on much, but he had a good point when he said, “If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.” If religion is useful, let’s acknowledge that and try to understand why. But that shouldn’t hamper efforts to get everyone to agree on what’s true.
Don’t touch the fruit of the tree of historical knowledge
lest it open your eyes to the hooey that the Church professes.
— commenter Sophia Sadek
Image credit: Dan Ox, flickr, CC