When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I occasionally ran into the stereotyped "angry atheist". These were often men who wanted to argue or debate certain religious topics, usually using there-is-no-God as their jumping off point. As a Christian, they came across as arrogant psuedo-intellectuals who knew just enough science to make them sound smart, but not enough about the Bible to get their message across. I can honestly say that among these individuals, none of the ones I interacted with had come from a believing background. The most you would get were a few whose parents attended church sometimes.
Among their arguments there were a number of problems, some boiling down to a complete misunderstanding of scripture. These are the top four:
1. Hypocrisy: B.C. vs. A.D. The recent case of Kim Davis has brought this particular issue front and center in my mind. Opponents of Davis state that she has divorced multiple times and had an affair so she has no right to judge, but what they don't understand is B.C. vs. A.D. My mother was not a Christian when she met my father, nor was she married when she got pregnant with me. In a panic, my mother decided to have an abortion. Luckily, a friend talked her out of it, but it was a rather close call. Fast forward three years, my mother becomes a Christian. One would think that because my mother has been there, pregnant and unsure, she would have compassion for women in similar situations. No. My mother is staunchly anti-abortion. The closest I have gotten to a shouting match with my mother as an adult was over abortion.
See, the life before she became a Christian was a terrible sinful life full of bad choices and worse actions. Besides the pregnancy, there was also active drug use, hanging around bars, drunkenness, running away from home, and much more. But when she became a Christian, she got a clean slate. God forgave her. All those things she did or thought about doing were gone. They were the actions of another person, one who wasn't saved. Which is why they don't see themselves as hypocrites. Kim Davis became a Christian four years ago, after her affairs and numerous marriages. She can't change the past, but now that she is a Christian she won't do it again. At least, that is what Christians tell themselves. They were wrong, but have moved on to a righteous life. If you are going to argue with a Christian, using their past "sinful" life Before Christ is absolutely pointless. It doesn't matter to them.
2. Levitical Laws. One of my favorite statements that non-Christians make involves the misunderstanding of "the law" as used in the Bible. They get upset with Christians cherry-picking (as they should) about things like homosexuality while ignoring the passages concerning tattoos or mixed fibers. Well, apparently none of those people read Galatians 3 or Acts 10. Both are passages that deal directly with the law and why Christians (in the A.D. sense) are no longer required to live by all the requirements as laid out throughout the Old Testament. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice and tore the veil and now they have direct contact with God. No need to visit the holy of holies. If God needs you to know something, he will tell you himself rather than through a priest. This is of course arguable, but in the Evangelical circles I was raised in, this was the understanding. We can eat pork because we not only have been freed from the law, but God told Peter directly that he should. So using that argument always seemed a bit silly to me. We don't have to worry about mixed fibers anymore because Paul and Peter both said it was okay.
3. Homosexuality in the New Testament. People quote Leviticus a lot. To be clear homosexuality in whatever form is mentioned six times in the Bible. Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:10. Now, people will quote the Levitical statements all the time, but the problem with this is that modern Christian homophobia isn't rooted in just the Old Testament. Half of of the mentions of homosexuality are found in the New Testament. Now, although Christians believe in the Old Testament, as mentioned above, they don't really hold to Levitical laws. However, the New Testament is the new covenant and it says that it is wrong and they believe it. Even when I was a Christian and a supporter of LGBTQIA rights, it was difficult to rectify those passages in my theology. To be perfectly honest, I ignored them. Or at the very least, I told people that there were many sins listed in the New Testament, why such a focus on the one. But I didn't believe it was really a sin so even that much felt like a lie. No, the Bible is pretty clear about how "God" feels about homosexuality, but let us also be clear that they aren't getting all their prejudices from two scriptures in Leviticus.
4. Arrogance and Intelligence. Walking into a conversation with the idea that you are smarter than the other person based solely on the fact that you don't believe in a God and they do, is bound to be a very one-sided pretentious dialogue. I am a smart person. I had top scores in my classes and on tests. I got into a good college. I have literally read thousands of books. As a Christian, I never doubted that atheists could be intelligent. Yet, I was never given the same courtesy. It was assumed that I was stupid, ignorant, uneducated, and illogical due to my belief in God. Now, I agree that on some level I was rather ignorant, but I was definitely not uneducated or illogical. I was just so sure there was a god that I tried to rationalize that belief using theology. I studied theology a lot from every perspective. I did extensive research into the history of the church, differing theologians, founding fathers of the faith, and even (gasp) Catholicism. If an atheist approached me with the mentality that they not only had it all figured out, but that I was an idiot as well, the interaction pretty much ended there. No thank you. I don't want to talk to someone who is starting the conversation by treating me like a moron. My father is still a Christian and he is one of the smartest people I know. My respect for him is so great that the thought of disappointing him has been a huge motivation in my life. I can't imagine someone walking up to my father and disrespecting him because they believe that belief=stupidity. Having been there, I would never approach a Christian, or anyone of faith, in this manner.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.