As individuals who commonly extol the virtues of rationality, critical thinking, and the application of reason, it is tempting to assume that atheists are less prone to misunderstandings and a variety of cognitive errors. However, many of us (myself included) have been making a big error when it comes to our views on Christians. It is time to fix this error, and I hope that my atheist readers will join me in apologizing to the many Christians we have wronged.
Christians are a diverse bunch. While they share some central tenets of Christianity, one can find a full spectrum from right-wing biblical literalists to progressives who interpret the same bible metaphorically. Fundamentalism may be a fast-growing segment of Christianity, but it is certainly not synonymous with Christianity.
We atheists often find ourselves confused over who is a "real Christian" and who is not. Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, and James Dobson certainly refer to themselves as Christians. In fact, it is not uncharacteristic of them to dismiss progressive to moderate Christians as not being "real Christians." On the other hand, I have heard countless moderate to progressive Christians insist that these men are extremists who do not represent Christianity at all. Progressive Christians often express embarrassment that these men even associate themselves with Christianity.
I suppose some confusion is understandable on our part, but this cannot excuse our error. And what exactly is this error? We are constantly describing certain individuals as Christian when they are not even close to being "real Christians." We then attack these false Christian straw men as if they represented Christianity when they most certainly do not.
Fear not - we can avoid this mistake rather easily. All we have to do is learn what Christians have long recognized: "Real Christians" do not behave in immoral ways. The second someone indulges in immoral behavior, the person ceases to be a "real Christian." Just like magic! Remember Hitler? He might have been a Christian at one time, but the moment he started killing Jews, he was no longer a Christian. What about pastors who molest children? Once these were great Christians with large congregations. Now, not so much. Ted Haggard? Once a prominent Christian leader, but now...you get the idea.
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Christians, we atheists have been too dimwitted to see what has been right in front of our eyes the entire time. For that, we are sorry. We will never again accuse a Christian of hypocrisy because we will now recognize that this is not possible for a Christian. Once they've done something bad, they are magically no longer a "real Christian."
Tags: atheist, atheism, Christianity, Christian, apology, hypocrisy, sarcasm, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Christian extremism, Ted Haggard