March 27, 2008

What Would You Say To Christian Leaders?

If you are interested in some atheist-theist dialogue, I must apologize for not providing many opportunities around here lately. However, I can direct you to such an opportunity at An Apostate's Chapel. The Chaplain received an interesting question from a Christian reader seeking input from non-believers.

The reader's question is as follows:
Non-Christians can only draw conclusions about the Christian Church from the church’s collective public attitudes and behaviors. I believe much of the Christian Church wants to play a vital role in the health of their communities, but many churches are currently struggling with an identity crisis. If churches are not going to ‘go away’ (and I do not believe that is going to happen), they need to know how the greater community could see itself benefiting from the presence of the church. I would like to hear from the non-Christians: “If you were given the opportunity to speak from a public platform that reached a large constituency of Christian leaders, and you could say just one thing to them, what would you like to say that might make their presence more acceptable and their ‘love/grace’ message more authentic?”
Here is the comment I left:
First, it is simply untrue that non-Christians “can only draw conclusions about the Christian Church from the church’s collective public attitudes and behaviors.” Some of my conclusions come from close examination of Christian doctrine (e.g., the Christian bible). It is safe to say that an important part of what I believe about the Christian church is based on their willingness to accept irrational beliefs.

I am skeptical of your claim that “much of the Christian Church wants to play a vital role in the health of their communities…” because I think the primary mission of most churches is simply to sustain themselves. In all fairness, I think many do want to play a role in their communities, although I’m less willing to accept the notion that they are truly interested in the health of the community.

I agree with you completely that churches are not going to go away, at least not anytime soon. Their identity crisis is really a struggle to remain relevant in the modern world. To their credit, many are evolving to do so. The problem, from my perspective, with your question is that I am not convinced that the community does benefit from the presence of churches.

In my opinion, the church as an institution is obsolete. The good works they provide (and they do provide good works in many communities) can and should be provided by secular agencies so that assistance will not be contingent on acceptance of irrational dogma.

I suppose my message to Christian leaders would be that they need to get out of the way of reason, science, and secular education. They need to be energetic participants in the struggle to strengthen separation of church and state. They have a right to believe what they will, but they must recognize that merging religion and government is bad for both. I do not buy their “love/grace message” one bit because it smacks of hypocrisy and seems to apply only to those who believe as they do. As for making their presence more acceptable, I’m honestly not sure. Encouraging people to believe claims without evidence is unlikely to be acceptable to me.
Head on over to An Apostate's Chapel to contribute to the discussion.

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