July 9, 2017

Isn't There Anything You Like About Christians?

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In the early days of Atheist Revolution, it was common for Christians to visit and leave questions in the comments section on various posts or to email them to me. There were not more than a handful of active atheist blogs in 2005, and so it was little surprise that we attracted this sort of attention. It is also worth nothing that I was far more interested in this sort of thing then than I am now, and I encouraged it. Many of the questions were what you'd expect - not really questions at all but attempts at proselytizing or the canned sort of "checkmate atheists" approach pushed by some clueless evangelical pastors (e.g., "Then why are there still monkeys?"). Some were sincere, and those were the ones I most enjoyed.

One of the more common questions I received was one that I never seemed to be able to answer to the satisfaction of those asking it. It took different forms, but the general idea was as follows: "Isn't there anything you like about Christians?" Since much of what I wrote back then was critical of Christianity, I assumed that this question was a reaction to that.

I'd usually answer by explaining that there were all sorts of things I liked about particular Christians I knew but that almost none of them had anything to do with the person's Christianity. Take something like kindness, for example. I like that quality in a person regardless of whether the person is a Christian or an atheist. Intelligence and sense of humor would be other examples. I'd point out that I know some Christians who are far smarter than I am and that this is something I like about them even though I don't think it has anything to do with their Christianity.

I don't think I realized at the time why this sort of answer never satisfied. I now suspect that it failed because this wasn't what the Christians were asking. A Christian posing this question was probably asking something more along the lines of:
Isn't there anything you like about all Christians that is specific to Christianity in the sense that it would not apply to anyone who was not a Christian? That is, isn't there anything you like about Christians that is unique to them as a function of their Christianity?
If this was the real question, then I think my answer would have to be "no." At least, I cannot think of anything I like about all Christians that is unique to Christians. None of the things I like, respect, or admire in people is unique to Christianity. And yes, I'd have to say the same for atheists. I cannot think of anything I like about all atheists that is unique to atheism in any way. The notion of liking someone for their beliefs rather than their behavior does not make much sense to me.