Image by Nimbuzz via FlickrHaving lived as an ex-Christian for awhile now one of the things I have found fascinating is being able to see Christianity from the other side. Christians have a hard time understanding why the opinions most non-Christians have of them range from amusement to downright anger. Looking at it from the other side I can now understand it. It's been rather amazing. Perhaps the most interesting part of this observation though is to see the different ways that christians have learned to rationalize the fact that those outside the church most often state that christians are the reason they have no desire to become one.
I had a discussion with a Christian friend not too long ago about this very topic. He told me that the "I don't like christians" excuse is little more than a red herring. Even though I was thoroughly indoctrinated into that school of thought at one time I asked him to explain what he meant. Below is a recounting of what he said. The quote won't be verbatim, but it will remain true enough to convey his meaning.
"The claim of not liking christians is merely a lie used to distract from the real truth. The real truth could be one of a variety of things. They won't admit to any of the real truths because a truthful answer would make them look small and immoral.
1. Some people are just looking to take the easy way out. Following God takes work. It can be a real sacrifice. Some people are merely too lazy or selfish to work or make a sacrifice.
2. Some people just don't want to live a moral life. They would rather go on being immoral and doing wrong and they know that if they become a Christian they can't do that.
3. They just want to point fingers at every perceived wrong they see in christians because it's an easy way to convince themselves they don't need god since christians are no better than they are.
4. The whole argument completely avoids the most important thing. It is the spirit of god that does the convicting. If I tell someone the message of Christ the spirit will convict them of the truth. If they choose to reject it that is their choice. However, whether they choose to accept or reject the message is not based on my example or my life. If they try to claim otherwise the only person they are fooling is their own self."
During this time I had taken a few notes to keep track of what he said to make sure I responded to each of his points. This is my response to him:
"Let me start by saying I take offense to the fact that you immediately start by characterizing anyone who does not want to be a Christian as small and immoral. I find it insulting and highly arrogant that you think the only way to be moral is through Christianity. I assure you my morals or how big a person I am are not in question.
You say people are looking for the easy way out? They don't want to sacrifice? They don't want to work? Let me explain something to you. I was born and raised in a Christian home. My wife is a Christian. My whole family are christians. My friends are christians. By not being a Christian I am risking everything. I have worked hard and sacrificed for my new beliefs. It's been more sacrifice than I ever made as a Christian. Don't talk to me about sacrifice and laziness.
People just want to be immoral? Really? So, your telling me that the reason I walked away from Christianity is because I wanted to be immoral. Let me check. I haven't suddenly started robbing banks. I haven't taken to pushing down little old ladies on street corners. I haven't developed a drug habit. I'm not beating on or cheating on my wife. The only thing I am doing that you would disapprove of is that I'm not a Christian. That's it. If I gave you an account of everything I do in a days time you would find nothing wrong with any of it. As a matter of fact you would find that I give more time now helping others than I ever did when I was encumbered by chains of Christian rules and dogmas. It's rather small of you to even insinuate that the reason people don't want to follow god is because they want to be immoral.
I find your phrase 'point out perceived wrongs' to be rather funny. I don't need to convince myself that I'm just as good as you. I don't view myself as any better or worse than anyone else. I'm imperfect. Your imperfect. We all are. I don't give a damn about your wrongs, perceived or real. The only reason it ever comes up is because christians are so intent on pointing out everything they believe to be wrong with us that it just gets sickening. As a matter of fact I would venture a guess that if anyone is using the perceived wrong of others to make themselves feel better it is christians.
That last thing you said is perhaps one of the most repulsive things about Christianity. It's all up to the spirit. The message is so powerful that you act as if there is nothing you could do to mess it up. How convenient for you. As long as you have presented 'the gospel' to me you are completely off the hook about everything else. Who cares if people look at your example of Christianity and run away screaming? Once you told them about god it's all up to the spirit and you can totally absolve yourself of all responsibility. I've got news for you. The way you present yourself and the way you act says more about 'your gospel' than the words you say. If you come off as a self-righteous obnoxious ass your words mean little. When your actions betray your words the words become meaningless. It seems to me that your the one taking the easy way out by taking no responsibility for your own actions.
I find it rather disturbing that you feel being a Christian is the only possible to live a moral life. If the only thing keeping you from a mindless crime spree is the threat of some future eternal damnation then by all means stick with it. I'd rather you be a Christian than a serial killer, but as for me I'm doing just fine being moral without the threat of endless torture hanging over my head.
It seems to me that Christians are the ones that spend their time, often euphorically, pointing fingers at everyone and everything for any perceived wrong they can find. Me thinks thou dost protest too much.
As for someone fooling their own self please look in the mirror. You can try to pass the buck all you want. The bottom line is that when you claim to be a Christian then your life, your words, and your actions are representative of what being a Christian is all about. You can claim that once you present the gospel that your actions no longer affect the choice I or someone else will make if it makes you feel better. That doesn't make it true. The truth is your argument is nothing more than a way to absolve yourself of the responsibility of living what you preach."
I probably lost a friend that day. Not that he was much of a friend anymore anyway. For the past two or three months our conversations have only consisted of him trying to win me back to Christianity. He acts as if my choice to leave the faith has suddenly made me no smarter than a five year old. He has become condescending and arrogant. It's as if I no longer have value as a person because I no longer believe the way he does.
I'm appalled to realize I once believed that way, but I guess when you live by a creed that throws away logic and reason all you have left is irrational, unreasonable rationalization to explain things that you don't like or understand.