In this essay by John Pavlovitz, a liberal Christian, he makes the argument that the path evangelical Christianity has taken is toxic — that the hatred of Muslims, the contempt for the LGBTQ community, and the rise of celebrity preachers and professional Christians is driving good people away. I have to agree with him, and I think most atheists would agree, that much of the institution of Christianity is purest poison to anyone with a social conscience.
In record numbers, the Conservative American Church is consistently and surely making Atheists—or at the very least it is making former Christians; people who no longer consider organized religion an option because the Jesus they recognize is absent. With its sky-is-falling hand-wringing, its political bed-making, and its constant venom toward diversity, it is giving people no alternative but to conclude, that based on the evidence of people professing to be Godly—that God is of little use. In fact, this God may be toxic.
And that’s the irony of it all; that the very Evangelicals who’ve spent that last 50 years in this country demonizing those who reject Jesus—are now the single most compelling reason for them to do so. They are giving people who suspect that all Christians are self-righteous, hateful hypocrites, all the evidence they need. The Church is confirming the outside world’s most dire suspicions about itself.
With every persecution of the LGBTQ community, with every unprovoked attack on Muslims, with every planet-wrecking decision, with every regressive civil rights move—the flight from Christianity continues. Meanwhile the celebrity preachers and professional Christians publicly beat their breasts about the multitudes walking away from God, oblivious to the fact that they are the impetus for the exodus.
I’m reading it and thinking that gosh, this sounds familiar. It was like looking in a mirror. I think that the path the atheist/skeptic movement has taken is toxic — that the hatred of Muslims, the contempt for the LGBTQ community (and women!), and the rise of celebrity atheists and professional skeptics is driving good people away.
So I have some reassuring news for Mr Pavlovitz, if his worry is simply about church membership. If the behavior of the church is making atheists, those shiny new atheists are arriving at the atheist/skeptic community and finding exactly the same behavior and will bounce right back. Or maybe wander about between, in the cynical “pox on both your houses” domain of the nones (which we atheists will eagerly, and unwarrantedly, claim as ours).
Of course, if we’re actually concerned about supporting good people with generous views about diversity and Nature and culture, rather than what building they spend their Sunday visiting and which public speaker they spend their money on, well, both sides are screwed. It’s almost as if we ought to care more about building broader communities with healthy, progressive ideas rather than which god they believe in, or don’t believe in.
Nah, that can’t be it.