I am almost never asked, “Right Reverend Crip Dyke, if some community leader is going to be a self-professed Christian, would you prefer that person be an honest believer or would you rather that person be a nominal Christian that clearly doesn’t believe in the actual teachings of the bible?”
However, that question is clearly asked or implied on the internet many, many times per day. Some think that the believing Christian is harder to reform because they really do believe on faith many non-sensical things that come straight out of the New Testament, the Tanakh, or the ancillary writings included in the Christian “Old Testament”. Often times this carries a presumption that I (really: the random internet atheist subject to the question) will prefer the person easier to deconvert.
Others, however, believe that the nominal Christians are preferable because these tend to come in two most common flavors. One professes Christianity and belief in the Christian bible, but clearly embraces policies far removed from what their bible would seem to advocate. “Slaves obey your masters” is only one of the more obvious of commandments frequently rejected by these Christians. The second flavor is distinguishable by its sharp, even acrid palate and the frequently over-used garnish of dry greed.
Now, I myself have fantasized about living in extravagant luxury. My current fantasy involves those homes people are making out of abandoned shipping containers (the large steel ones loaded onto semi trucks that are about the size and shape of a locomotive box car, without the suspension and wheels). Building a catamaran platform and sticking a shipping-container home on it, equipped with solar panels, a wind-generator that can be raised when stationary, and small electric jets/props would create a low maintenance, slow-moving home immune to sea-level rise that, if mass produced, would rely on upcycling to limit resource use and achieve costs that are far lower than that of urban homes in Canada and even homes in most urban areas of the US. The whole house-boat (not “houseboat”, since it does move) would cost between C$200k and C$800k, depending on a host of factors, not least that it is not yet mass-produced and thus incurs design costs for the first off the line.
And yet… asking for thousands of people to donate tens of millions of dollars so that I can get a newer, better private jet, and not just any private jet, not just a luxury private jet, but “the holy grail of luxury private jets” is beyond even my dreams of avarice.
Certain people assume that atheists should prefer any Christian community leaders fall into the Creflo Dollar mold*1, as the obvious greed would presumably make it easier for atheists to deconvert the followers of such corrupt priests.
The thing is that those corrupt priests do incredible damage to not only their own communities, but the communities of vast numbers of others. And the further thing is that I don’t actually care that much about whether you agree with my position that there are so many gods, with so many mutually contradictory schema distributed amongst the various Christian denominations and other religions, that belief in the truth of one religion’s claims would require disproof of the claims of all other religions which cannot be done*2. In no small part because of this, I have no belief in any god, specific or un-. You can share that belief or not, and it is no bother to me.
And so the damage done by these corrupt and frequently aggressive advocates of Christianity far outweighs any benefits I can see. I am not persuaded that if the growth in Nones is caused by evil that we Nones should wish for more evil. On the contrary, even if more people remained Catholic, remained convinced that the Catholic church was an appropriate moral shepherd, I wouldn’t mind so long as the Catholic church was actually providing both good moral advice and a good moral example. I don’t celebrate the priestly rape of a child because sometimes when a child is raped one or more people leave Catholicism (or Presbyterianism, or Buddhism, or the Lubavitchers or whatever).
So does that mean I prefer the honest Christian?
In a word: no. Nor do I take the easy way out and say that I prefer the weak, nominal Christian, whose deistically-vague religious views can’t offer any reason to call oneself a Christian beyond tradition. Neither honest Christians (who may also do quite a bit of harm by actually following biblical commandments) nor the deistically vague nor the obviously self-interested seem to me obviously preferable to have in my larger communities than either of the others.
But I was reading a thread on the blog of friend-of-FTB Ed Brayton about “Coach Dave” exhorting his listeners to take political action, when I came across a comment I thought was particularly on point. It was responding to this by Daubenmire:
It doesn’t make you mad that they teach lies to your kids in school?” he fumed. “That don’t make you mad? ‘Oh, we’ll just pray about it, we’ll just pray about, Coach.’ Yeah, and in the meantime, your grandkid is gonna be a homo!
Thank you for confirming you do not believe that prayer works.
Yeah. Exactly. And yet, I do not automatically prefer “honest Christians”*3 to people like Daubenmire. Ultimately I measure the value of a member of the community by their contributions to it. Intent isn’t magic, and just as a good motivation does not invalidate analysis of the negative consequences of an action, a neutral or bad motivation does not invalidate analysis of the positive consequences of an action.
Still, for Daubenmire those contributions could be improved quite a bit by heeding the advice of the Atheist Experience’s Tracie Harris:
Pray until it works.
Whether you consider Daubenmire an honest Christian or not, that should keep him busy enough to prevent a large amount of damage.
*1: Where, presumably, they would be heated beyond 1800 degrees celsius and forced into the shape of a Dollar.
*2: In no small part due to the intelligent design of religious dogma, over the course of centuries of challenge in the social environment, for the purpose of surviving falsification tests. The surviving religions are frequently well suited to thrive in an environment where falsification might mean the end of a religious population.
*3: For one thing, I’ve had too much experience with honest Jews’ religious bigotry, sexism, racism, heterosexism, and classism.