An Atheist’s Guide to Christianese May 30, 2008

An Atheist’s Guide to Christianese

There’s a wonderful translation guide at Unreasonable Faith that lets non-Christians understand what Christians are really saying.

It gives us both acceptable and unacceptable responses to the phrases:

Do you know where you’re going to go after you die?

Translation: “This is the question they told me to ask in my evangelism class.”

Acceptable Response: “To heaven to see my sweet, precious Savior!”

Unacceptable Response: “How can you know that before you’re actually dead?”

“Thank you Jesus!”

Translation: “It’s easier to thank Jesus than the people who deserve it.”

Acceptable Response: “Amen!”

Unacceptable Response: “I’m not Jesus.”

There are plenty more where those came from 🙂

Moral of the story for Christians: Your clichés don’t hold much sway with atheists. You can’t bring up the supernatural (prayer, Jesus, etc) to a non-religious person and expect your words to have any real impact. Nice sentiments, perhaps, but they make you sound like a pastor’s puppet and they make us want to interact with you less… especially if the phrases are piled one on top of another.

Are there any other soundbytes that need to be added to the list?

[tags]atheist, atheism, Christianity, Christianese[/tags]

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  • mike

    When I hear someone exclaim “Thank You Jesus!” I often look them straight in the eye and say, “You’re welcome.” The conversation after mostly goes something like this:

    someone: “You’re not Jesus!”

    me: “How do you know?”

    someone: sputters. stammers, “Er . . . ”

    me: “Don’t just assume, it’s impolite.”

  • Mriana

    Here’s another:

    The Path to Salvation

    Translation: Believe in their invisible friend, called Jesus or else.

    Acceptable response: Submit to their concept of a saviour via kneeling at their alter, saying how horribly bad you are (preferably melodramatically in the more Fundamental churches), and that you need their Jesus/God in your life to succeed.

    Unacceptable response: Saying you can live life without superstition.


    Translation: Humans are fallen creations who are evil and bad.

    Acceptable response: Confessing sins, converting, and worshipping their god concept, which sometimes varies depending on denomination.

    Unacceptable: Rejection of the whole idea.

    There’s another term my mother and aunt used, on the order of the first one. Give me time and I’ll think of it.

  • Brian E

    “It’s a miracle!”

    Translation: “The odds of the incident occurring may seem large, but obviously not insurmountable” or “I don’t know enough about science or math to make sense of the incident”

    Acceptable Response: “Praise Jesus, hallelujah!”

    Unacceptable Response: “Isn’t the fact that 2 extremely inexperienced Muslim terrorist pilots were able to both perfectly maneuver commercial airplanes into adjacent buildings at just the perfect height and trajectory as to cause both buildings to collapse that were supposedly designed not to collapse a miracle as well?”

  • wOOt

    “gawd bless you”

    A: you don’t speak for gawd, so STFU

    A: why bother, it’s certainly not working for you

    A: sure thing, he can bless my penis with his lips

    A: bless, is that a euphemism for anal? no thanks.

    A: thanks for sharing your emotional weakness and exposing your intellectual impotence, but next time keep it to yourself.

    A: gawd, that’s such a cute idea… well, at least it was at the time when men lived in caves and hunted their daily meal with a wooden spear.

  • Oh there are so many its hard to pick. I’m curious as to your statement “they make us want to interact with you less.” What would make you want to interact with “Christians” or “Christ followers” (pick your term) more? Authenticity? Integrity? And I’m being serious. I’d like to hear that.

  • “I was saved”

    Translation: “At some point in my life I was depressed and self-destructive. YOU must be as well because I think that you’re a degenerate. Now agree with me.”

    Acceptable Response: “Praise the Lord”

    Unacceptable Response: “Saved from what? What does that mean?”

  • “Have you considered letting Jesus into your life?”

    Translation: “Let me into your house so that I can brainwash you into my cult”

    Acceptable Response: “Come in and tell me how to turn my life around”

    Unacceptable Response “Get off my doorstep before I set my dog on you. It’s 7:30 on a Sunday morning, I was asleep. What is wrong with you people?”

    I’ve done this more than once.

  • Spurs Fan

    (Regarding an atheist going to hell)

    “That’s God’s decision. It’s not up to me”

    Translation : “It’s very obvious that by the standard I apply to myself as a Christian, I believe I’m


    from hell, therefore, you are definitely going unless you accept Jesus as your savior. However, I’m too afraid to tell you that because it sounds offensive to me and something doesn’t seem quite right about now that I think about it. But, I’m saved, so who gives a damn, er, darn!”

    Acceptable Response: Wow, you are the most loving Christian I’ve ever met because you didn’t tell me I was going to hell. Your religion must be the right one, so now I’m so open to understanding it. Can I go to church with you?”

    Unacceptable Response: “Well, it’s not very clear then is it? After all, you’re a Christian willing to tell me what god thinks and doesn’t think, and yet, you’re so unsure about where I’m going. Maybe your god is a farce…or maybe since you don’t know, you’re going to hell!

  • Spurs Fan, it looks like its a no win response then. If someone tells you “yes you’re going to hell unless…” than you balk at that. If someone tells you (yet more Christianese) “only God knows your heart” then they are indecisive and you balk at that. etc, etc. I’m figuring then that if you’re asking “am I going to hell”, you really don’t want an answer, but just to stir up an argument?

  • Mriana

    Testimonial sermon or Testimonial

    Translation: 1. is a sermon with a testimonial 2. Testimonial, is a testimony to one’s conversion or their conversion story.

    Acceptable response: (example) I went to the altar on such and such a day in such and such a year after falling into sin and was saved! or She was 4 years old sitting at her mother’s knee when she gave her life to the Lord (said of my grandmother within a sermon during her funeral).

    Unacceptable: I don’t have one.

    Wages of Sin

    Translation: Anything that is not acceptable by the Church such as divorce, pre-marital sex, gambling, or even in some churches wearing jewelry, one pays with turmoil in life and after death they pay for it via hellfire and brimstone- everlasting torture in hell.

    Acceptable response: Follow the Path of Salvation

    Unacceptable: refusal to confess sins and convert

    God’s Love or He died on the cross for your sins (sometimes depends on denomination as to how it’s phrased.)

    Translation: A so called God man allowed himself to be crucified/barbarically killed, died on a cross, was buried, and rose again in a supposed act of love.

    Acceptable response: Rejoicing, maybe tearfully, over the barbaric, primitive, pagan act/story, because he loved you so much that he died for you.

    Unacceptable: Calling it a barbaric, primitive, pagan act and superstitious story/belief and then proceed to reject the story.

  • Spurs Fan

    Spurs Fan, it looks like its a no win response then. If someone tells you “yes you’re going to hell unless…” than you balk at that. If someone tells you (yet more Christianese) “only God knows your heart” then they are indecisive and you balk at that. etc, etc. I’m figuring then that if you’re asking “am I going to hell”, you really don’t want an answer, but just to stir up an argument?

    Good point. I guess I should have clairified that I have run into Christians who are open with their evangelism, but will still avoid telling me that I’m going to hell (it’s very obvious that they think I am as they are preaching the merits of Jesus “saving power” or something similar, but they won’t say it). So, as I’ve noted before on various posts, I disagree with the fundamentalists on more issues than other Christians, but actually respect their honesty when they tell me that, yes, I am going to hell without Jesus.

    All of that explanation kind of takes away from the “Christianese” post. “Only God knows your heart” is very good though, although usually those are the exact people who know damn well what they think, but won’t tell me. Hence, the lack of honesty.

  • Jen

    “I believe that gay sex is the downfall of America”

    Translation: “Its a lot easier to hate people who are different than me.”

    Acceptable response: “God will show his divine wrath”

    Unacceptable response: “Good to know you have never committed one of the Bible’s other sexual sins. By the way, how is your bastard child?”

    “It’s killing a baby to have an abortion!”

    Translation: “I am uncomfortable with the idea that women can control their reproduction and achieve financial independence outside of a relationship. I also dislike the idea that women are capable of rational thought”

    Acceptable response: “They just need Jesus’ love!”

    Unacceptable response: “This is what we get for not having those child-marriages from the Bible. Those were the good old days, when women were property”

  • TheOtherOne

    Actual conversation with my dad after my mom & I both walked away (well, she went to the ER but walked out of the hospital with a prescription for muscle relaxers an hour later . . . ) from a crash where we were at a dead stop and rear-ended by someone doing at least 55 mph.

    Dad: “You two sure had a guardian angel in the car with you.”
    [awkward silence – wondering why exactly this alleged guardian angel couldn’t have saved my poor car along with the two of us . . . .]
    Me: “And great car designers.”
    [pause – is it too much to hope it was reflective?]
    Dad: “and a guardian angel!”
    [sigh . . . .]

  • Mriana

    God said it in the Bible. or It’s in the Bible…

    Translation: God said it, that settles it.

    Acceptable response: Accept it as an inerrant fact.

    Unacceptable reponse: Question it.

    Let go and let God. or Pray about it and let God handle it.

    Translation: Sit back and do nothing, let whatever happens happen for it will be God’s will.

    Acceptable response: Pray and let it be.

    Unacceptable: Thinking and trying to find a solution to your own problem, because it’s called worrying and not letting God take care of it.

  • Polly

    “Lord Willing”

    Translation: I’ve already made up my mind and I’m going to do it.

    Acceptable Response: The Spirit will guide you.

    Unacceptable Response: Has he ever stopped you (or anyone) before?

  • Polly

    “Fuck You”

    Translation: I’ve just lost my temper with you, you godless heathen. Since you’re obviously never going to change your mind no matter what I say, I don’t have to suck up to you any longer and can FINALLY express my true feelings about all your overweening, pedantic questions without the risk of losing my heavenly commission on a soul.

    Acceptable Response: I understand that from your POV that outburst, though unacceptable even to you, is to be expected from fallen but forgiven humans when they are met with such obstinacy as mine. You aren’t perfect after all, but HE is.

    Unacceptable response: Is that WJWD? Hmmm? *mock shock*

  • Polly: hahahahahahaha!
    Spurs Fan, you’re right. The explanation does take all the fun out of it. Sorry about that.

  • Spurs Fan

    “I feel like God is leading me to….”

    Translation: “I don’t really hear from god using the five senses he supposedly gave me, therefore I’m sort of just taking a guess using intuition and desire to decide my fate, but attributing it to God so I’ll have no one to blame if my decision falls through.”

    Acceptable Response: Amen. Cool, man, if god is leading you to do that, you definitely should take that job, buy that car, etc.”

    Unacceptable Response: Wow. God doesn’t just speak to you directly as he did so many times in the Bible? What if he “leads you” to kill your own son? He did that for Abraham, but he at least told him directly.”

  • I’ll pray for you.

    Translation: I care about you enough to tell you I care, but not enough to do anything to help your situation.

    Acceptable: “Thanks. I appreciate your concern.”

    Unacceptable: “Could you please not? Some recent studies indicated a negative result when prayer was double-blinded.”

    Pray for me

    Translation: I’m scared about something, and I think the magic gumball machine will spit out a great result if enough people drop imaginary quarters into it.

    Acceptable: “You (and your family) are in my thoughts.”

    Unacceptable: “Maybe instead, I could do something that would actually help for realsies.”

  • Richard Wade

    “I’ll pray for you.”
    (This after a brief face-to-face debate over young Earth creationism that they clearly lost.)

    Translation: “Fuck off, asshole.”

    The face and voice tone indicate the true feeling.

    Acceptable Response: Thank you brother (sister).

    Unacceptable Response: Yeah. Be sure to include yourself in whatever you pray for me.
    Alternate Unacceptable Response: Uh huh. Here’s some kleenex for that bloody nose.
    Alternate Unacceptable Response: No you won’t, liar.

    Using the alternates depends on how large the person is and how likely it is that they are armed.

  • Moral of the story for Christians: Your clichés don’t hold much sway with atheists.

    Message to atheists: Some of us Christians are lost when other Christians start spouting this stuff.

    Despite being christian I avoid the christian section of my favourite homeschool forum because I just can’t understand the people there…And I really don’t want to pray for them to get a lower estimate on the exhaust job on their Chevy.

  • Richard Wade

    Dawn, I acknowledge your dilemma. It must be a pain in the ass sometimes.

  • Susan

    “Have a blessed day.” Translation: leave a larger tip than I deserve.

  • yogamama7

    “Well, if you don’t accept the Bible as God’s Word, then we have nothing more to talk about.”

    Translation: “If you don’t share my obviously correct point of view, then I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”

    Appropriate response: “Gosh, you’re right. Let me go read my Bible some more so that I can see how God is using it to teach me that you’re right.”

    Inappropriate response #1: “Oh good. Does that mean we don’t have to try to have a relationship anymore?”

    Inappropriate response #2: “No, that’s not logical. I asked you a question about inconsistencies in the Bible. You claim that it’s inerrant. Just because I don’t believe that does not mean that you can ignore the inconsistencies. How did Judas die?”

  • hoverFrog said:

    “Have you considered letting Jesus into your life?”

    Best Answer: “My mommy told me to stay away from strange men.”

  • Richard – Thanks but now I think I whined too much. I’ve got it good. If I weren’t of a mindset that Christianese bothered me I probably wouldn’t be of a mindset that would allow me to enjoy atheist message boards and blogs like this one. 🙂

  • Richard Wade

    Dawn, you have a good attitude. I’ll try to copy it.

  • “Let Jesus be your co-pilot”

    Translation: Join a church and let the pastor and others in the congregation tell you what to do with all your free time and money. Let the Church mold your children during their formative years to think just like the church wants them to think.

    Acceptable Response: I’m so lost and in need of guidance. I want to let go and let Jesus drive.

    Unacceptable Response: Who exactly is going to be making the decisions if I turn my life over to Jesus and how can I tell good ideas and advice from bad ones if I don’t think for myself?

  • Darryl

    Richard, you should have been a stand-up comic.

    “Seek to do God’s will.”

    Translation: Blindly grope around for some clue as to what you ought to do from day to day, but mostly depend upon what your preacher told you the Bible meant about this or that, and where the Bible is silent pretty much convince yourself that what you want is what God wants.

    Acceptable Response: “Not my will but Thine be done. Amen.”

    Unacceptable Response: “Well, now that’s the rub: I’m not clear on what God wants me to do, but everybody else seems to know precisely what that is. I mean, if doing his will is so important, why does he make it so difficult; why doesn’t he just tell me what he wants?”

    Alternate Unacceptable Response: “How come people that are doing God’s will assume that they’ll be happy if they do? Doesn’t God, every once in a while, will that certain people live lives that are uncomfortable, or hard, or dreary? Why do people that are having a hard time of it often conclude that they must be doing something wrong, or that they’re not doing His will? Maybe that is His will.”

  • Just had a flashback reading this one:

    What’s God doing in your life?

    In my Christian days, I had a friend who would ask me a similar question (what’s God been teaching you since the last time we spoke?) every single time we saw each other. I usually didn’t have a good answer. I would always part ways with the guy feeling guilty and ashamed for not being more “in touch” with God.

  • Richard Wade

    Derek, I’m impressed that you didn’t give in to the temptation to make up something ahead of time in anticipation of your friend’s question. At least you weren’t faking it with a contrived “good answer.” Maybe that genuineness is part of what led you to where you are now about all that stuff.

  • Richard Wade

    “Bless you.” (This said repeatedly each and every time a person sneezes. So it’s:

    “Bless you!”
    “Bless you!”
    “Bless you!”

    Ad absurdium.

    Translation: “I believe as in days of yore that your soul leaves your body every time you sneeze and unless someone nearby says “Bless you” your soul can get lost and might not return to your body.”

    Acceptable response: “Thank you.”

    Unacceptable response: “When were you born, 1300? Gimme that kleenex. I caught this cold from you when you brought it to work, you selfish jerk.”

    (Not recommended to say to employers or co-workers who have a good chance for a promotion.)

  • Mriana

    Translation: “I believe as in days of yore that your soul leaves your body every time you sneeze and unless someone nearby says “Bless you” your soul can get lost and might not return to your body.”

    😆 My younger son brought this up the other day when he sneezed. I didn’t say anything and he said, “You forgot that superstition”. I said, “What?” Because I had no idea what he was talking about and he said with a grin that meant he was being silly, “You know, the one where you are suppose to say ‘Bless you” or ‘God bless you’ so the person’s soul doesn’t escape their body when they sneeze.” “Oh. That one.” 🙄 “Well?” Silly grin from him. “Well what?” “Are you going to say it?” 🙄 – from me. “Oh alright. Bless ya. You want me to throw in some burning incense too?” “Na.”

    Then he went on his merry way. Not sure what that was all about, but it was pure silliness and he’s 17. Seemed awfully juvenile to me, but he is at that age where they flip back and forth with mental/emotional maturity. Who knows.

  • I found a book at Amazon God vs. Satan : The Untold Story which claims to be the Little Book predicted to explain God’s Mystery to mankind in Rev. 10. Even explains why he went into hiding, and when he would surface again, and why.

    My family didn’t believe it, but we read it anyway. And it is true. I understand everything Jesus said. EVERYTHING! Even know where he left out information on purpose because his generation wasn’t ready for the truth.

    I understand souls, God, how Satan’s Kingdom is divided, and how God and Satan fight in the world today. Except the actual truth is different from what anyone expects. It explains all the crime in our urban cities. And how to change it.

    It is a small book, as predicted in Rev. 10, every page is packed with new ideas. The words draw pictures, making the understanding easy. Even how creation started. And what the Holy Ghost is made out of.

    It was written in the Bible that it would come in the hands of an angel to the world from God. I read it, and I don’t believe any human mind could have that much new information by itself. A thousand geniuses couldn’t have written that book. Or this
    Einstein of religion kept himself hidden from the world for a long time.

    The fact that book is here today amazes me. We must be in end times for it to exist. I need an expert on Revaluations to comment on the book.

    I understand now why God went into hiding. Once you understand his mystery, what he really is, his early involvement in world affairs, and his absence later on becomes obvious. So does his return and when and why.

    No one religion captured the truth. But many got pieces of it. But the real truth makes complete sense of reality.

  • Richard Wade

    I found a book at Amazon God vs. Satan : The Untold Story

    It was written in the Bible that it would come in the hands of an angel to the world from God.

    Uh, so Amazon is an angel?

    Are copies available in the 6,900 or so languages in the world, or does Angel Amazon have to wait for a second contract, depending on the proceeds from the first edition in English?

    Tough to be a literary angel these days. Having to deal with book agents who want their percentage, jaded publishing house readers, editors who want to tweak the content for a better corner of the market, self-important graphic artists who want the cover to be their personal Mona Lisa, and predatory Hollywood types who will get you to sign the movie rights away for a pittance. It’s enough to make you want to take wing and just fly away.

    Your middle name isn’t Poe, is it?

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