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Christians Should Live With Atheists

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I just watched the 30 Days episode "Christian/Atheist," and it seemed clear to me why the two have so many problems. In America, we should adopt and revere a "tolerance model" when it comes to faith. Instead of fighting to maintain "In God We Trust," rather we should think more about "In humans we trust." You might think I am saying that because I am a humanist or atheist … wrong. I am a Christian, and I feel most Christians in the media represent me and the faith I ascribe to.

When people say "Christian" on TV, the connotation often follows of slapping people on foreheads and proclaiming "You're healed." Even more likely is the judgemental person with a rifle on a Jeep and wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood riding in the back. Even these aren't the only types of negative Christian stereotypes out there. There are twisted cults like that of Jim Jones in the 1970s. There are also the David Koresh images that run through the television of the American mind. It was hard for the woman on the show I watched to get beyond these pigeon-holes where atheists usually dismiss Christians. She did listen though, and luckily this non-denominational church was not as bad as some. I still thought the people were too much on the illogical side. I for one believe that Christianity is a logical stance despite the hundreds of people who have argued with me about that fact. The fact is that some of them have become Christians in varied ways.

Faith is a freedom we need to revere again. At the time of the American revolution, we fought to worship God apart from the King's "slant" on things. Perhaps we all need to remember that. The atheists should not attack the Christians for believing the way they do, and the Christians should respect the atheists for believing that when they die, they simply cease to be. I have thought for many years that stance takes more faith than Christianity. The point of this article is to show we need to stop judging one who says she/he is a Christian and/or an atheist. When we declare the USA to be a "Christian" nation, we are forgetting there are a plethora of sects in Christianity. One sect might be a healthy, well-balanced church where people are built up and live productive lives as a result. Another may be one where you are dis-fellowshipped when you show interest in dating someone outside the church walls. "Christian" is not a monolith and I might venture to say neither is atheist.

So what's my point? People … can't we all just get along? Those words of Rodney King ring out with regards to religious tolerance. I think Atheists should respect what religion has done throughout history. At the same time, Christians need to step away from their convictions and recognize that, while we are alive, we gain much more through tolerance of other faiths than we gain through supremacy and intolerance. Would tolerance require one to stop believing what one believes? Of course not, so how about we start having some more of it … in America today … across the board.

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About Damien Riley

  • Clavos

    Interesting article; I applaud your advocacy of tolerance between faithists/believers and atheists, however I must take issue with your inclusion of atheism among the “faiths”.

    Atheism is the absence of faith, arrived at (usually), by the observer’s conclusion that there is no scientific evidence of the existence of a deity.

    One of the irritants of my youth, in response to my questions of “Where is the proof?” was the inevitable response from the priest/minister/preacher, who, when backed into a corner, inevitably intoned, “You must take that on faith.”

  • http://drakim.net Drakim

    I don’t really understand how it takes faith to think that “when you die you’ll be dead”.

    Is that really such an unreasonable position that it requires more faith that “when you die you live in paradise”?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Clavos is quite right, of course. It’s the pervasiveness of religion in human societies which leads believers to the erroneous conclusion that atheists also have faith.

    The vast majority of societies and civilizations taken it as a given that some sort of higher power controlled the universe. Not only that: it’s obvious to a believer that there is a God. So it can easily seem to be a leap of faith to say that there isn’t one.

    But, to put the distinction another way: It’s an act of faith to say, “If I jump off this cliff, a giant eagle will swoop down just before I hit the ground and carry me to safety on its back.”

    It takes no faith to say, “I don’t see nor have I ever seen any giant eagles flying around, so if I jump off this cliff the likelihood is that I will hit the ground at great speed and die.”

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I have to agree with Clavos as well. Atheism isn’t a religion nor does it have anything to do with “Faith”.

    Honestly, I’m tired of being lumped into a group because I don’t believe in imaginary creatures that have no evidence to support their existence! I don’t see a label for the people that don’t believe in the existence of life from other planets.

    Seriously, it doesn’t make any sense for me to be labeled by a society that thinks their lives are controlled by fate and that fate is determined by a creature that created us…HA!

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    woah, i just agreed with clavos and brian. (***shudder***)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    What am I, chopped liver?

  • zingzing

    that can be arranged…

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    I think you guys are overreacting. It’s true, of course, that atheism is not a “faith” the way a religion is a faith, but being sure there is no “god” does require some degree of faith – in the sense of having a feeling of certainty without absolute proof. There isn’t much we can really KNOW when it comes to the nature of reality. In that sense it’s only the “agnostic” who can be truly said to have no “faith.” And I say that as an atheist with as little patience as anybody for superstition and magical thinking.

  • DrHomeSkooled

    How does it take faith to accept no afterlife? the universe is 13 Billion years old, not once have I felt a sense of loss or pain over the fact that I dont remember the past 13 Billion years… who is to say the next 13 billion will be any different?

  • doug m

    If Christianity has a logical stance, let’s hear it.

    From the books I have read, it sounds like your view of the American Revolution is rather limited.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “. . . being sure there is no ‘god’ does require some degree of faith – in the sense of having a feeling of certainty without absolute proof.”

    Beg to disagree, Jon. Being certain of something, first off, does not require “absolute proof.” (There is an implicit understanding that we may be wrong). Likewise, it does not require faith.

    It’s precisely in situations in which we cannot be certain that the notion of faith comes in.

    Just a short comment on the grammar of language.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    being sure there is no “god” does require some degree of faith – in the sense of having a feeling of certainty without absolute proof.

    No, John, you’re shifting the burden of proof here.

    Since the only evidence we have of the existence of God is anecdotal, the default assumption should be that he does not exist. Atheism in its purest form is merely that assumption.

    It is then up to “faithists” – to use Chris Rose’s favourite term – to convince us that the default assumption is wrong.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    We have no evidence of the existence of God, Dreadful, anecdotal or otherwise. Likewise, we don’t have evidence of nonexistence. It’s up to us which description is more at home: thus, we’re opt either for being materialists/naturalists or not.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Anecdotal evidence is still evidence, Rog, albeit the most unreliable kind.

    Evidence of nonexistence, however, is a nonsense. While it’s not entirely true that you can’t prove a negative – I can, for example, quite easily prove that you’re not sitting next to me at this moment – the burden of proof generally requires it to be shown that something is so, not that it is not so. That is why the accused in a criminal trial is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/ Damien S. Riley

    Hi there. Thanks for so many comments, I hardly ever get this many on blogcritics. This concept of Christian/Atheist is a hot topic. I know this because throughout my 41 years I have had numerous heated discussions about it. For that reason, I am choosing to avoid the macro concept in favor of discussing my article which is about tolerance on both sides.

    First of all, Clavos commented that Atheists are devoid of faith. Why do atheists want people to keep acknowledging that? Everyone comes to a world-view through faith. I’ll just respectfully avoid that topic. At the same time Clavos, I will give you that the atheist sort of avoids stepping forward in faith in a way so it can be construed as true that atheists have no faith. I appreciate that you complimented my article and see tolerance as a good thing. I used to be an atheist way back in 1986 and found it too far more faith to live that way. But that was my experience.

    Second: I want to address doug m’s challenge about Christianity having a logical stance. I will tell you I got all the way to an MA from a Cal State school and I tool anywhere from 8-10 logic classes. On any logical topic from the death penalty to abortion, there is always a leap of faith after all the facts are given. Some Christians become that way out of emotions and ignore logic but others weigh the Bible and history and logic and then make a leap of faith based on logic. That’s all i have time to say, mostly because I doubt you really want to hear what I view as a logical faith. Thanks for your comment though, I want you to know I appreciate it.

    To everyone else who reads my article: This is a really cool episode of 30 days. It shows respect and tolerance on both sides. I know you atheists would have fun at my church and I know I would enjoy getting into the practices and rutuals of atheism. In fact, I will go as far as to say that some of the biggest jerks I have know in my life were in the church. Don’t judge God by Christians. If I did, I would be an atheist.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/ Damien S. Riley

    Oops, made a few typos in my last comment. My apologies. Just wanted to say also to doug m that you are correct: the American revolution was motivated by many things, being free to worship differently from the King was only one. My view of the historical event is not limited I am aware there were other motives. I sear it seems as if people attack Christian immediately once they find out they are such. You comment reminds me of that.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/ Damien S. Riley

    Eh, more typos. I’m gonna go make dinner now (hangs head in shame). This stuff is heavy folks, that’s why I thought the show was so valuable and innovative. I think Morgan Spurlock is an atheist and yet I love his movies and shows. Thanks again for the discussion.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    “Atheists should respect what religion has done throughout history”

    Huh?

    Would that be the completely false explanations of things? The religious wars? The arbitrary and manipulative rules?

    This article demonstrates only that no matter how many classes in logic somebody takes, religion will completely mess up their ability to think straight.

    People who don’t suffer from the god delusion are incredibly tolerant of people who do. We don’t lock you up, torture you or abuse your human rights, whereas faithists have done and continue to do exactly these things as a matter of course.

    I don’t judge god, because that would be as irrational as judging Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

    I do judge faithists as naive and/or dishonest, as exampled in the comment above mine which refers to the “practices and rituals of atheism”, which is simply meaningless.

    People who believe in an afterlife are guilty of, at best, wishful thinking, at worst a cruel manipulation of everybody’s understandable concern about the prospect of their brief existence coming to an irrevocable end.

    People who don’t believe in such a charming fantasy have a greater respect for all life, because they see how incredibly brief and fragile it truly is.

    As I’ve said before, the absolute worst thing about all these wacky religions is that they get in the way of the evolution of a more genuine reverance based upon the fact that all life is literally interconnected.

    The best thing, even if it is based upon obviously false ideas, is the way religion provides a way to mark important life events such as births, marriages and deaths, something that a more secular spirituality has not really yet developed.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/ Damien S. Riley

    My spirituality includes a profound reverence for mortal life. I agree many Christians miss that. I also know I may be wrong about my faith so I respect other points of view (wishing I would have used that instead of “faiths”)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #14, I see what you mean by “anecdotal” – testimony. Yes.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Just for you, Dreadful.

    Too bad I can’t transmit Wisdom’s delightful article.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bear in mind, however, the same Anthony Flew, a devotee of Hume and a rabid anti-cleric, has in his latter years turned – believe it or not – a theist!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    With the following caveat.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “Clavos commented that Atheists are devoid of faith. Why do atheists want people to keep acknowledging that?”

    Because most believers get that aspect wrong

    “I know I would enjoy getting into the practices and rutuals of atheism.”

    What? There are none. Are you sure you were you an atheist in ’86?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Satanism?

    Just kidding.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Everyone comes to a world-view through faith.”

    This I will agree with.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    as exampled in the comment above mine which refers to the “practices and rituals of atheism”, which is simply meaningless.

    c’mon c rose, don’t you remember that time at the atheists meeting when we all wore those dark robes and smacked each other on the bottom with those cypress boards.

    wait, memmbe i’m thinkin’ about something else.

    never mind.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/ Damien S. Riley

    I meant atheists have them just like all humans have them. Did you not take Athropology 1 El Bicho? As for the other attacks against me and my article thank you because you help me become a better writer. per the satanism comment: I was teased all my childhood because my name is Damien so your giggly j/k is a bit old but thanks for lightening things up a bit in here. Any honest questions about the content of my article or related stuff?

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Yes, but not because they are atheists, Damien. Any similar behaviors and activities atheists engage in have nothing to due with their shared view of the universe. Religious folks on the other hand have organized rituals. Are you telling me they told you different in Anthro 101?

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    @28,

    Damien, here’s my honest question about your article:

    Why should I have tolerance & respect for a monotheist belief system that isn’t supported by any evidence and teaches their followers that those who don’t believe will burn. Plus, those followers contradict its verbal restraints by worshiping other supporting characters and not just “God” itself. On top of all that,just as Clavos and many others have stated, there is no evidence to support such a claim, which, is why I must say,
    “What can easily be asserted without proof can easily be dismissed without proof.”

    Seriously, to say I should have tolerance for someone whose belief system has killed & destroyed many a civilization is rather preposterous!

    @5,

    Mark, I actually agree with El Bicho! (***shudder***)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    So you don’t like the fact, Brian, that Christianity features a cast of thousands.

    I’d say it makes for good nativity play.

  • Richard Spurrier

    I am always astonished that intelligent human beings can embrace a dogma or philosophy that has been the most direct and indirect cause of perversion, subjugation, genocide, and mayhem than any other cause in human history. Man created god as a way to control other man.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well, Roger, I never said it wasn’t an interesting story though the movie didn’t spend enough time building all of those supporting character’s roles. It seemed kinda rushed, like, “Let’s get to the violence already,huh!” and it reminded me of “The Doors” movie especially with similar “tripping” scenes.

    Here’s some good nativity play

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Thanks for posting it, Brian. Mr. Bean will always bring sanity into the conversation.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/ Damien S. Riley

    #30 Agreed that religion has been the smokescreen for some abhorrent thing. Having said that, it seems some stheists would sooner “tolerate” someone who believes in their private unicorn than a Christian living by faith. My post is about mutual tolerance and maybe mutual benefit. I’m a Christian based on what I know of the facts and what I ultimate accept on faith. This is not a theological article. I’d encourage you to get the episode I wrote about and then re-read my post. I think the atheist woman in it is awesome. She presents so much the Christians can learn from. I write about other stuff uhere as a rule, hope you won’t throw me out because of this. A call went out to Blogcritics authors to post outside their comfort zone and I acted. Perhaps the Blogcritics community would rather I go back to posting less after this.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/ Damien S. Riley

    Watching my typos is infuriating. Sorry once again, if you have any questions about what I meant please let me know.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Brian, if you think this is all we agree upon, you haven’t been paying attention. Stealing/downloading a pirated copy of “Powerslave” has nothing to do with Maiden deserving a spot in RRHOF. “Scream for me, record industry weasels!”

    Damien, I don’t believe anyone has said you should post less, but if you expect to have your assertions unchallenged, why bother posting?

    Just look at one of your latest comments: “it seems some stheists would sooner ‘tolerate’ someone who believes in their private unicorn than a Christian living by faith.”

    Why does it “seem” like that? I am fairly certain if someone posted an article here that made similar claims about their faith in unicorns they would be challenged by non-unicorn believers here. So when you write something like “I’m a Christian based on what I know of the facts,” you can’t be surprised when someone asks what those facts are.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    El Bicho,

    I’m a little confused…Seriously, Please clarify what you mean about downloading & RRHOF spot for Maiden.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Damien,

    I would have to disagree that your article doesn’t boil down to theology. You’re suggesting that I tolerate people whose daily actions, mindset & world view is based on a “religion” that encourages people to cast judgment upon others for not believing in something that has no foundation in reality. A mental shackle that forces its followers to question the validity of what can be proven by using a fictitious benchmark which is soiled with fear & intimidation.

    It’s nothing personal and I’m not saying you should discontinue writing what you feel but I won’t stop posting my opinions on any topic here on BC that I agree or disagree with, nor will I have tolerance towards a form of brainwashing propaganda that has a blood-soaked history of eradicating people who don’t believe in such a fairytale.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    We disagree about some aspects regarding downloading copyrighted material and agree Maiden should be in the Hall

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Oh.. okay, now I get it. Thanks for clearing that up:)

  • Jordan Richardson

    Man created god as a way to control other man.

    I’ve never been so sold on this idea. Some religious architecture requires the use of control, sure, but much modern religion actually puts the “power” in the hands of the practitioners and has evolved beyond the point of any meaningful leadership or “control.”

    If anything, man created God for purposes of security and comfort to deal with the utter shock of “meaningless” reality. I don’t think the evolution of God or other theism as a whole was quite so devious as many make it out to be, but, like all things human, it didn’t take long for corruption to be part of the equation.

    the most direct and indirect cause of perversion, subjugation, genocide, and mayhem than any other cause in human history

    That’s pretty vague, too. The “direct and indirect” cause? I would argue that economic and imperial causes generated more harm and destruction and “mayhem” than any other causes in human history. I would argue, too, that religion plays and continues to play a strong role in both destruction and the prevention of destruction. I think of the priest-led marches against wars, for instance, or Gustavo Gutiérrez’s liberation theology, for instance. Or the more obvious examples of Dr. King and so forth. Or more modern examples, like Jim Wallis’ Sojourners. And on and on.

    I think it’s irresponsible to attempt to characterize all modern religious thought and all modern religious adherents as THE causes to all modern violence and evil in the world. Just as I don’t consider proud Americans as complicit in the genocides of Native Americans, Middle Easterners, South Americans under Reagan, and so forth, I don’t consider proud Christians or Muslims terrorists and bigots by mere association with their evil relatives.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    In short, Jordan, religion has been used at times as a pretext, no differently than, say, patriotism was used.

    A fair point.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    @42,

    Yet, it was violence along with a narrow minded point of view that seeded “religion’s” strong foundation in the world today.

    Name one “economic or imperial cause” that has lasted longer and has created more mayhem & destruction then the Holy War that has existed between Israel & Palestine? Especially if you consider the biblical text to be true…

  • Irene Wagner

    MIDI file alert! Respecting and living peacefully with atheists is in YOUR job description, Damien, not the other way around. Ah me, we have plenty in our OWN store that needs fixing…

  • Brian Westley

    “Christians should respect the atheists for believing that when they die, they simply cease to be.”

    While most atheists almost certainly believe this, it isn’t universal, since atheism simply means the person lacks belief in gods, and gods are not involved in every belief in some sort of existence after death. Reincarnation does not always require gods, nor does Tipler’s Omega Point theory, as just two examples.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    It would be nice to think that when one’s life is over, there was something else to look forward to, although it is pretty implausible.

    However, people who don’t believe in an afterlife tend to value their brief time in the human story more highly than those who live and die in thrall to a deity.

    Here’s another point to consider, I cherish life, particularly my own, because I know how fragile it is. However, as the adherents of monotheism all believe that they are going to get an afterlife and this world is just a part of their life, is it actually murder to kill one? By their own arguments, they believe they will live on, so no actual death has really occurred…

    Devilish stuff, huh?

  • Doug Hunter

    “although it is pretty implausible”

    I disagree. You are alive now, that is proof enough that it is possible. Do you ‘remember’ a time when you weren’t alive? All you are is life and will never realize death.

    Once you are gone eons and universes and realities may come and go in what we would recognize as near eternity, but I find it highly likely that ‘you’ and ‘I’ will live again… for whatever that means. This life, if nothing else, provides an awesome illusion of being something more than a mindless chemical reaction… that is enough for me. (even if it is, it’s not farfetched to imagine that similiar reaction will occur in the infinite future springing ‘your’ self awareness back into being)

  • Doug Hunter

    I actually sometimes fear I’m living in an endless loop… a groundhog life… going through the predestined motions for the trillionth time. I hope my awareness has more durability & diversity than that, next time I want to be king, or a grasshopper.

  • Doug Hunter

    p9gv8qy5pg98qygp;aoi ah=d ha8hg[ahroir;g

    Did you see that coming destiny????

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    it’s not farfetched to imagine that similiar reaction will occur in the infinite future springing ‘your’ self awareness back into being

    Well, in an infinite universe everything that is possible must eventually happen, including that the current assemblage of atoms called Doug Hunter will one day reunite into the exact same arrangement.

    The two problems are that (1) it is far from certain that the universe is in fact infinite, and (2) the future Doug Hunter would not remember the past Doug Hunter(s), so the fact that he had just been reincarnated would mean nothing in practical terms.

  • Doug Hunter

    #51

    I agree, just throwing my thoughts out there.

  • Doug Hunter

    Just one more thing Doc, the idea of a purely chemical reaction, as you pointed out, can (relatively) easily be replicated, yet my sense of being seemingly could not be. If there were machines that could replicate every atom down to the exact quantum states of my person I doubt I would cease to be me or would have some weird dual awareness of two ‘selves’. Although this can currently only be a thought experiment it SEEMS like there is something unique that locks ‘me’ to this particular chemical reaction that can’t be physically replicated or transferred (though my doppelganger might disagree unless of course I was the doppelganger in which case I’d wonder what entity took over my original body)… I believe a religious type might call this illusion/feeling/potential unknown physical process the soul or something similiar.

    Maybe self awareness is all the same and we are all one entity just on different iterations… I will one day be you or something similiar and you the reverse, bound as an observer to the reaction that sparked us… destined to act out the roles physics has thrust upon us down to my absurd, random posting of keyboard strokes.

    Sorry if I run on a bit, I just find it fascinating.

  • Irene Wagner

    #53 2nd para sounds like solipsism.
    I’m looking for a promotional MIDI…

  • Irene Wagner

    …well not exactly promotional.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    If the solipsist view of the universe is correct, then I’m an incredible genius.

    Everything is a product of my own imagination, you see… I mean I see. It must therefore have been me who invented agriculture, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the skyscraper and the microchip, me who figured out the Theory of Relativity, solved pi to 3 trillion decimal places, performed the first human organ transplants and sent space probes to the outer planets and beyond.

    Man, I’m good.

    Too bad I can’t remember how I did any of it.

  • Irene Wagner

    Are you talkin’ to me? Or…am I talkin’ to me?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Don’t you look at you in that tone of voice.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com roger nowosielski

    Cool remarks, Hunter.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    I don’t remember typing that.

  • cathy

    I am fine with those who are so sure no higher power exist-God gave us all a free choice-I believe in Jesus Christ–the savior and only way to one and only true God. God’s word tells us what will happen in the last days–but some people only hear what their itching ears want to hear–