Would They Prefer a Christian Child Molester Over a Morally Upstanding Atheist?

girl at the beach

I have a difficult time coming up with a good analogy to help Christians living in the United States understand how their behavior affects others (for those few who seem to care about such things). What I am thinking about specifically is how thoroughly they have managed to demonize atheism and dehumanize atheists. This has an impact on those of us who live in particularly religious areas dominated by fundamentalist forms of Christianity. It is hard not to internalize some of it, and I think this can lead us to be different people from those we would like to be.

The closest thing I have been able to come up with would be to ask someone to imagine the sort of reactions they would receive if they were to identify themselves as a child molester. Just imagine how others would respond to something like, "Hi! I'm Bob, and I molest children." The reactions would not be positive and knowing this would probably lead Bob to accurately anticipate negative reactions.

But this analogy is seriously flawed for at least two reasons. First, it omits the fact that atheists, unlike people who molest children, haven't done anything wrong that would give others a reason to react this way. We are hated for what we believe. To be more accurate, we are hated for what we don't believe. That's very different from being hated for committing various atrocities involving children. The second reason is a bit tricker even though it connects with the first. Unlike the many Bobs out there, most atheists (though probably not all atheists) are aware that they are hated for no good reason. This may not seem like a big thing, but I think it is. It isn't just that we are hated for no good reason; it is that we know we are hated for no good reason. This makes it even worse.

Bob can apologize (i.e., repent for those who prefer Christianspeak) and change his behavior. He can say, "I know you hate me for what I did, but I don't do that anymore and am working hard to make amends." Some Christians might forgive Bob if they thought he would no longer harm children. They wouldn't necessarily expect him to suddenly begin believing things he recognized as false, although becoming "born-again" would certainly help.

And what of the atheist? I'm not sure any of this would apply to the atheist. Our "sin" has nothing to do with anything we've done; it is ultimately about who we are and what we believe (or don't believe). I suspect that many Christians would have an easier time with a Christian child molester than they would with a morally upstanding atheist. What do you think?