Can You Say Something Nice About Christians? December 18, 2010

Can You Say Something Nice About Christians?

The Sceptical Scribe challenged Christians to say something nice about atheists. He got a pretty decent response from one:

Atheists think for themselves and examine all available evidence with a critical eye. They tend to be unconcerned with what others think of their opinions, and honest with themselves when presented with empirical evidence contrary to what they might have once believed…

Wow. That’s pretty big of the person to say, I’ll admit.

Now, can you say something nice — actually, truly, non-sarcastically, don’t-be-a-smartass nice — about Christians?

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  • Christians display immense cultural loyalty.

    That’s all I can think of!

  • Kahomono

    We gnaw endlessly on the counter-examples, but the fact is that many Christians do indeed exemplify the selfless altruism and fellowship of humanity that “being a good Christian” is supposed to mean.

  • Jim

    Nearly all Christians I know, and I hazard to guess nearly all Christians anywhere, truly do believe in the power of love and forgiveness. Atheists often focus on the parts of Christianity we don’t like, and often unfairly forget that when it comes down to it, Christians and atheists generally want the same thing; peace and goodwill for all mankind. I think this is especially important during this holiday season, for religious or not, we could all use some time set aside to show others kindness. I will be the first to admit that I have not always been fair and kind to my Christian friends, and this post has inspired me. Today I will go out of my way to make amends with those Christians I have wronged in some way due to their faith.

  • Judith Bandsma

    In general? No.

    As individuals, yes. I can think of no finer example of what christians are or should be than Jimmy Carter. Too bad that the individuals are far outweighed by the others.

  • Marty

    My aunt is the kindest and most selfless person I know. She is a Methodist minister. Her ministry is working with long term hospice, caring for the dying patient’s and families spiritual needs. She tailors her work to the needs and beliefs of the patient, never proselytizing.

    However, I can’t say anything good about christians in general. I am certain that most people who believe are good people, great citizens, and love their families. But so do I. We do it because we’re human. It’s got nothing to do with our belief or non belief.

  • QuarkyGideon

    Rene Descarte revolutionised philosophy. Galileo founded modern science. Newton & Leubniz came up with calculus.

  • Its activities like that really reaffirm many us (self certainly included) view of the Christian majority as our opponent.

    Since many Christians are tightly knit in their small communities, they tend to band together to support charity cause even if it sometimes comes with the price of preaching. The Salvation Army, (although politics we disagree with) has done a lot of good in the world. They also provide a community base that lends itself to a sense of belonging and identity.

  • Jon Peterson

    Christians are very community-focused, and initiate, promote, and participate in myriad activities that help others and improve upon their surroundings.

    I absolutely believe this to be true of the vast majority of Christians. There is a percentage that only benefits other Christians or new converts… but the vast majority of their charity work accomplishes excellent things for affected populations, regardless of religious conviction or lack thereof.

    It is a shame that those very few who commit atrocities or heavily discriminate in the name of “charity” are the ones most talked about and thought of when discussing Christian activities.

    (My perspective is in part influenced by the overwhelming [or maybe just whelming?] acceptance I have received from better than 99% of the Christians I’ve ever known, despite my outspoken and unabashed atheism. I have [perhaps unusually, and luckily] never been treated in any way I did not appreciate by a Christian who I’d spoken with at length. Well, at least with any people where religion entered the conversation enough to where I could confirm their preference as Christian.)

  • As Dick Gaughan puts it in his song Son of Man;

    I’ve met some good and decent folk
    Who bore the symbol of the cross
    And others who were bent and crushed
    Beneath it like some ancient curse
    And many more who waved it like
    A blinding spotlight in the eyes
    Of those they wished to influence
    Exploit, and mesmerise

    I will go along with that I have met a lot of Christians who are ‘good and decent folk’
    in fact I would say they are in the majority. They give up their time and money to help people who are less fortunate than themselves.

    If they could just cut themselves loose from the latter set.

  • Autumn06

    Most Christians seem genuinely concerned about the state of other people’s souls. I’m fairly certain we don’t have them, but it’s nice to think that, in light of the fact that they think we do have souls, they care what happens to them.

    I also appreciate that some Christians know when it’s best to selectively ignore their Bibles (i.e. slavery, treatment of women, execution of gays).

  • Sooner or later, as an atheist, you will have to come around to answering the question “Why are there so few like me and so MANY like them?”
    It goes along with the admonition to… “Know Thyself”.

    There IS a reason, you know, why human beings are theological creatures. They are not all stupid. There was a time in our evolution when we became “sentient”. We began to deal with questions that have no answers. That is when we invented culture.

    [Definition] “culture”: Culture consists of the lies and bullshit that we AGREE to pretend is the truth and agree to teach to our children.

    If you “seriously” wish to really understand religion and what it means to be human I would suggest that you avail yourself of what we know. READ!

    “The Corruption of Reality”: A Unified Theory of Religion, Hypnosis, and Psychopathology… http://www.amazon.com/Corruption-Reality-Religion-Hypnosis-Psychopathology/dp/0879759356

    “The Denial of Death” http://www.amazon.com/Denial-Death-Ernest-Becker/dp/0684832402/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1292673717&sr=1-1

    It took me a long time to put this together. Understanding is a “good thing”. It is my hope that I can save you a little time. Knowledge is power my friends.
    I wish you well
    Mrs. N
    (you may like this)
    http://mrsneutronsgarage.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/homo-suggestibilis/

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    no not today

  • Gordon

    Some Christians mean well, and most are just honestly mistaken about the lack of evidence for Jesus.

    Not every Christian is Fred Phelps or Bill Donohue.

    That’s all I’ve got.

  • Christians have a strong & well-developed sense of community. They truly understand the human need for connection with like-minded people. Communities are successful when the members are:
    * intergenerational
    * playing together
    * eating together
    * learning together
    * sharing sorrow
    * celebrating successes & milestones
    * working together to achieve a common goal
    * lending a helping hand to each other
    Atheists could learn a lot, as a community, from their fine example.

  • annette

    Many Christians are concerned about people’s eternity and will even suffer the embarrassment and shame of holding these beliefs, and promoting them, and sharing them with others.

    Many of the Christians I know seem to go out of their way to find ways to be kind and help others. I don’t always know the motivations, but I can give the benefit of the doubt.

  • Danielle

    I think it’s not only annoying, but kind of sweet that a Christian might try to convert someone to “save” them from an eternal punishment for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

    And not only that, but a lot of Christians that I know don’t even believe that hell exists. There are quite a lot of the more reasonable and kind Christians out there.

    And that’s uh, all I’ve got for now. I just wish more people would be as dsgusted as I am with the “bad” believers, and that the “good” believers would stop identifying with them.

  • Christians will share what they believe with you, and they don’t remain silent when misrepresented. They also tend to genuinely care about the wellbeing of my soul, and are eager to be inclusive. They want me in their club.

  • The vast majority of Christians are better than the God they worship.

    Let me explain. I define better as being accepting by giving communion (and quarter) to those that you are opposed to. For example, the vast majority of Christians will not throw their atheist children out of their house and tell them never to again be in their presence. Contrast this to the notion of God held by many of those same Christians. They believe that God will not tolerate atheists in His presence in the kingdom of heaven.

    (Admittedly it was slightly snarky, but I still am thankful that most Christians are better in this way)

  • littlejohn

    I though long and hard. No.

  • Benjamin

    I tend away from sweeping generalizations in any case.

  • Andrei

    Can I say something that Christians are that others are not?

    Not really. Many Christians are legitimately good people. But I think here PZ Myers said it best “Religion is not bad and makes you evil, it’s just wrong”. Believing in something wrong won’t make you evil. Are Christians on average better than other people? I don’t know, but i doubt it.

    The one that I know Christians – and other spiritual people – have is they are happier. Spirituality does correlate with higher levels of happiness as measured by psychologists. And although you most definitely don’t need to be spiritual to be happy – I am happy, and I am the most cynical atheist you can think of – the empirical fact remains.
    Of course, correlation doesn’t imply causation..

  • Bonnie

    I’ve only been a confirmed atheist for a few years now but was raised as a fundamentalist christian. Most of my friends and family are christians and I truly live in one of the most christian areas of the US – Oklahoma. Imho, most I know are kind, decent people who are sincerely deluded by the teachings and culture of their religion. And, most of those who know I am an atheist still love me, still respect me, but are genuinely baffled by my choices. (and some are curious enough to talk with me about it on the sly)

  • TOS100

    A former girlfriend and a preacher’s daughter who aggressively worked to convert me in college wrote a few years ago to apologize. We’ve been friends ever since and she has not judged me since. The world could use more Christians like her.

  • Jagyr

    There are millions of nice things I could say about individual Christians, but I feel odd trying to say something nice about them in general, because, like Hitchens points out, anything nice about Christians can be nice about atheists as well. There’s no good property that o’s the sole providence of Christians.

    The closest I can get is that the Christians I know, and the christians in my community, are generally kind and decent people. However, the non-Christians in my community and that I know are generally kind and decent as well. It’s got nothing to do with their religiosity and everything to do with them being good human beings.

  • James

    Christians are the most diverse group of people on the planet and many Christians welcome that diversity.

    Many happily do charity work. Many of those people will do so even if they know nobody they help will ever convert. Some sects promote good healthy living practices. Many Christians across the world stand up for human rights. Many Christians who are persecuted in non-Western countries stand strong against brutal opression. The peace churches refuse to commit violence of any kind in spite of the fact that this nonviolence is frequently taken advantage of by the scum of the Earth. If I only ever saw a sect of Christianity helping others and never saw that Christian sect hurting others I would join that sect.

  • Christians love their children.

    I’ve made the same observation about the Chinese. 🙂

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    The vast majority of Christians are better than the God they worship.

    I’ll opt out of this exercise since I’m still a fence-sitter, but I really rather like that, Jeff P. I may take it home and make it a pet.

  • This makes me think of my Catholic parents (Dad in particular), who keep providing for me in college and affirming they love me, even though we tend to have knock-down-drag-out theological fights. I know a lot of children of religious parents aren’t nearly that lucky and free to share their nonbelief.

  • Setting aside what separates us for the moment….I find that on the number of issues on which Christians and I actually do agree, I find that they can be powerful and reliable allies (politically and socially).

  • Jake

    I know many wonderful people who are Christians but I think they would be wonderful even if they weren’t Christians.

  • I actually wrote a blog entry a few months ago titled, What Atheists Can Learn From Christians. Aside from what I talk about in that blog post, I really do admire the passion that many fundamentalist Christians have for their religion. This passion causes many fundamentalists to genuinely be concerned about the questions of morality and existence seriously. The problem of course is that they are too quickly satisfied with the answers religion provides… but I digress.
    -Staks

  • Jeff

    Some of them claim to feel a little badly about us burning in hell for all of eternity.

  • Something nice, okay … it was good of them to leave enough clues in their biblical text to allow me to decypher the constellational allegory it was based upon, so thanks, very grateful. Oh, and the entrance fee to St. Peter’s basilica was very reasonable, and I found the display of gold artifacts inside very impressive.

  • OhThatStevie

    The best example of a Christian I admire is Stephen Colbert. He has his faith yet he openly questions it – and is a huge geek to boot. If more Christians were like him (as I hope/suspect they are), I wouldn’t have such a hard time dealing with the proselytizing and the threat of going to some town outside of Detroit (Hell, MI, anyone?).

  • JD

    I know plenty of individual Christians that are nice people. The belief system has a lot of ideals that unfortunately is broken by believers, with spectacular falls from the ideals on occasion.

    That question can be reversed too. Can we get more Christians that can say something nice about non-believers, “heretics” or atheists? Can we get Christians that don’t lump Thelema, Wicca, voodoo practitioners, pagans in general and non-believers as Satan worshipers? Can we get some prominent Christians to publicly repudiate the crazy stuff that comes out of Pat Robertson’s mouth? If they don’t condemn it, doesn’t that mean they agree with him?

  • What a stupid and bigoted question.

    You already know my stance. I have uttered it often enough on this blog.

    I will not contibute to the stereotyping of both them and us.

  • Bethany

    The vast majority of Christians I know are kind and generous people, and many of them credit this to their faith. I think they’re selling themselves short and they would be every bit as kind and generous without their religion.

    But the Bible does have a lot to say about kindness and generosity (in between smitings), so if it inspires them to good deeds, I’m all for it.

  • Alex

    I tend away from sweeping generalizations in any case.

    Yeah, I tend to find that all generalizations are false.

  • Remus

    I’m from Denmark were religion is somewhat taboo, and anyone who mentions abstinence get the “what the hell is wrong with you” look.
    Here religion is mostly a private matter and even though we still have homophobia and intolerence, it’s not justified in the name of god.

    So I’m genuine when I say that I really like the moderation and tolerence the church is showing. It’s rare for anyone to feel excluded due to ones religious belief or non-belief.

  • My fellow atheists who criticize Christianity on this post seem to be missing the point of this challenge.

    Many Christians in my life eventually accepted me for who I am, though they were shocked and disgusted at first. You have to give some of them credit for losing the feelings of animosity. It’s not easy.

    My Christian friends generally seem more upbeat than my atheist friends. However, my drunk friends did too. Nevertheless, it’s fun to be around happy people (though I’d rather go to a party than a church).

    I am interested in religion, and many Christians in my family love to discuss it. It’s nice to have someone on the other side of the table to get a different angle on things.

    My Christian friends tend to be better at giving me advice when I am down. However, there is probably a third factor at hand. Most of my friends are women. Women are creatures of emotion, but they also tend to be more religious.

    I don’t think this is a “stupid and bigoted question.” It’s important to sit down and take the time to appreciate what’s good in the opposition. In my life, I want people to come together, NOT drift further apart. I put family and friends above my lack of religion. Why would you put your lack of something ahead of everything else? As an atheist, I don’t make my life “about” religion, so it’s not so important as to be arrogant enough to fool myself into thinking Christianity or Christians are 100% evil. They are just humans, like us.

    There’s a big difference between “Christians” and “Christianity.” I tried to answer the question as best I could, about the general good in “Christians.” He’s not telling us to glorify religion here, people. To those who say this post generalizes: That’s the point.

  • Sachi

    I can’t say anything good about christians as christians. I might say something good about many christians (certainly not all) as people.

  • Rodrigue

    “Can You Say Something Nice About Christians?”

    I could. I guess. But they’re so good at saying great & nice things about themselves, why should I bother to intervene?

  • Daniel

    They’re slightly less scary than muslims.

  • aspentroll.myid.net

    Most of my friends claim to be Christians. I get along very well with all of them.
    I don’t bug them and they don’t bug me.

    Religion and politics are two things you have to be careful about when meeting new people. It seems to me that they are Christian for want of a better title and thats disturbing.

  • Mr Z

    This is easy. I have only to look at my parents. Some Christians are truly living by the rules they understand the world by, and living the very best lives they can in those rules, caring for others as themselves, and genuinely trying to live a good life, to make the best of this life that they can and still adhere to all the rules of their faith. While their world view taints these efforts in the eyes of others, they truly are living honestly and morally within the framework of how they understand the world. While some might call this delusion, if you are in the delusion you would see them as pillars of society; role models to emulate; and the kind of people that you would want your family to be.

  • Marissa

    “Women are creatures of emotion”? Scribe, one of the major reasons I left organized religion was to avoid the sweeping generalizations ascribing certain behaviors to all people of a certain gender. I would hope that a skeptic would be appropriately skeptical of gender essentialism, which through the centuries has been shown to be mostly nonsense.

    As for Christians, nearly all the ones I’ve met have been fervent believers in second (or third, or . . .) chances. They believe that someone who has done a lot of bad things still has the opportunity to turn it around. Except the Calvinists, who sort of think you’re screwed regardless.

  • Ash

    On the whole, Christians are no more or less good or bad than anyone else, of course. Their tradition does encourage community, which I think is good for the most part (when it avoids an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, which isn’t often enough, alas).

    While I frequently disagree with their values and priorities, I can admire the passion Christians put into their efforts to do what they think improves the state of the world. Often they really do exactly that.

  • Benjamin

    Yeah, I tend to find that all generalizations are false.

    I see what you did there. That was clever.

  • And I forgot to mention, nearly all the Christians I’m close to are against organized religion – even more so, now that I’ve shared my disgust for it. I have very, very few fundamentalist Christians in my family.

    The fundies are the ones difficult to complement, I’ll admit. I can’t really think of anything nice to say about die-hard, atheist-hating Christians, but I guess I could say they are happy? I’m not so sure.

    Yes, it’s wrong to stereotype a group of people and say “Christians are (insert complement or insult here),” but I don’t think it’s wrong to say “In general, my Christian friends/family members are (insert educated generalization here).”

    People say “in general” all the time. Overgeneralizing is wrong, but so is undergeneralizing. I’m interested in what people think in general about a group, based on personal experience. Realistically, you should answer with respect to the Christians in YOUR life. I haven’t met all the Christians in the world, so I can’t say much about them.

  • Tyro

    Christians are people.

    They have all the good & bad bits that atheists have with the added downside that they believe in one more superstition.

    That is the only honest answer I can think of – take it as good or bad if you wish.

    (I did like Jeff P’s answer and muggle’s.)

  • Hurf

    No.

  • Absolutely. Most Christians are good people. They genuinely care about others, and they want to make the world a better place.

  • Luciferadi

    I like the idea of this challenge, but I’m having a hard time with it.

    Someone’s Christianity or atheism is only one facet of the countless views, foibles, convictions, and experiences that make up the whole person. Yes, we can infer things about how someone evaluates information or how he was raised, etc., simply by looking at which camp he belongs to, but very few people are completely defined by one aspect of their lives.

  • As a religion, not a simple task to say anything nice. However from anecdotal experience it becomes easier. Mathematics tends to guarantee that most of the folks with whom I associate will be Christian. Many… perhaps most of these shun me upon learning of my atheism. I’m not shy about revealing the fact.

    Although I have many close friends with beliefs similar to my own, I also have a few Christian friends who have chosen to ignore my warts. These few very often seem to epitomize the good that Christianity claims as its own.

    One friend in particular waded into an online debate where a bunch of the resident Christian Taliban were slinging arrows my way. My friend, a respected Christian and regular on this particular forum, stood up in my defense. His statement was that “Christians do not have a monopoly on morality. MB is an atheist but he is a dear friend and as moral a man as I know.

    When a Christian will stand up to other Christians when they behave in un-Christian fashion… that is a good thing.

  • NotYou007

    The females are wild in bed and give good head.

  • @Luciferadi: I agree with what you and a few others have said. It’s not like religion or atheism is going to change who a person is. Good people are good, and bad people are bad. And today’s probably not the day to say this, but religion can make good people do bad things (sorry, Hemant).

    The reason I started this dialog was to get Christians and atheists to come together. What better way than to complement the strengths of each other’s position?

    However, it must be noted that my challenge was very different from Hemant’s. My challenge emphasized complementing atheism as a concept, while Hemant asked us to complement the people who follow a concept. Hemant is asking us to say something nice about, presumably, the Christians in our lives. That’s how I took the challenge, anyway.

    We need less hate and more healthy dialog between Christians and atheists. There’s hate on both sides of this debate, but there’s more hate on the Christian side (sorry once again, Hemant).

  • ManaCostly

    You mean about christianity today, our from its inception all way up to the present time?

    To answer both, no.

  • anna nonymous

    most Christians are ok. Only few are actually fanatics.-If you go to Europe, it’s even easier to find “normal” non-conservative/fanatic/crazy Christians, thinking about their life and how to be a good person. I have no problems with Christians (at least the ones who consider their religion a private matter)

  • Hope

    Honestly, many Christians I know are not nearly as annoyingly evangelistic or close-minded as some of the atheists on this comment thread. (OK, so a few of them are, but seriously, most of them aren’t.)

    I was an atheist for 20 years of my adult life, and I never had a Christian reject me as a person when they learned I was an atheist. Sure, they were shocked and didn’t understand, and they were concerned for the state of my soul, but no Christian criticized or pushed me away because of it.

    On the contrary, since I became a Christian several years ago, I’ve met with rejection and ridicule from the majority of the atheists I knew then and have met since.

    This has been very frustrating becaue I’m not a “right-wing” fundamentalist, yet I’m assumed to be just that, because I am a follower of Christ. I have a Ph.D. in English Lit, but I’m accused of being “anti-intellectual” because I believe in a supernatural God. I’m accused of thinking I’m better or more moral than non-Christians — which makes me want to laugh because my understanding of Christianity is that it’s all about undeserved grace.

    I’m not saying I’ve suffered in any great way from others’ treatment of me, because I haven’t. It’s just frustrating when folks who claim to be so open-minded and logic-based in their positions can be so knee-jerk dismissive and stereotypical when interacting with someone who professes Christianity, or when asked to say something nice about Christians.

  • TH

    The best thing I can say about Christians is that most of them only act in accordance with the good stuff in the Bible. (Sometimes cherry picking can be a good thing, if it means they’re not committing genocide, killing disobedient kids, keeping slaves, etc.)

  • Lauren

    I will even say something nice about Mormons. My sister joined the Mormon church after they knocked on her door enough times.

    They have a strong sense of community and help each other through sickness. when my sister’s family had the flew (including the three little girls), someone was over every day helping out.

    It is hard to say something generally about Christians because they are such a diverse group and have varying cultural practices.

  • Caitlin

    Christians honestly do work for what they think is right for the world, even if I disagree with their specific goals.

  • -There is lots of wonderful Christian literature and art which has enriched our culture.

    -There are many Christians who do actually follow the good parts of the Bible, such as helping the poor.

    -Churches and other religious groups can provide a sense of community that is important, especially when someone’s going through difficult times.

  • they’ve been a source of an endless amount of incredible art.

  • Beck

    Thank you, Hemant. This is a really interesting challenge.

    As for the Christians in my life, I find that like every other group they are a mixed bag. However, I deeply appreciate these things about most Christians I know:

    -Are willing to accept an opposing worldview without challenging it at every opportunity
    -Engage in open and friendly dialogue about our different beliefs

    -My mother, the most devoted Christian and Bible literalist I know, has been accepting (though not welcoming) of myself and my trans girlfriend (both atheists)
    -Have a strong sense of community and charity.

    @The Sceptical Scribe, I don’t think I can come up with anything I admire about Christianity as a whole, as a concept, or historically. Christians individually can be wonderful people, but there’s nothing wonderful about their religion.

  • Christians tolerated me and my atheist advisor in the ranks of the Divinity School i attended, and i believe my scholarship money was mostly funded by them, as is his salary.

  • and i wonder: how would these two posts have been different if the question had been about Jews? Hindus? Jains? Wiccans?

  • The Christians I know well really tend to take care of each other. No matter whether a church member is wealthy or poor, that member can count on the church to offer real assistance in times of need.

  • Meredith

    Christians are fantastic community builders, particularly the evangelical ones.

    Some of the best music ever written was done for them, too.

  • roboboy

    Even if God is completely imaginary, he still inspires many people to be happy and good.

  • All the Christians I know or knew are JWs.

    They are brave people, willing to stand up for what they believe in despite ridicule, vilification, and persecution. (Unlike the Christians who think they are persecuted, this small sect often is)

    They are honest, law-abiding, moral people who are mostly harmless. –okay, that got snarky, but it’s my fav way of describing them.

    If it were legal (and I had property) I would exclusively rent to JWs. If I wanted or could afford a maid, or anyone else who was entering my property when I wasn’t there, I would prefer to choose a JW.

  • In my recollection of the campus ministry organizations like Inter-Varsity and CCC…

    They were really good at community organization. They’d have over a hundred people and still be able to maintain a personal quality.

  • Michael

    I have met many Christians who truly live up to what they say Jesus preached.
    They are kind, honest, hard working, and tolerant of other views.
    I have no qualms with them working scientific discoveries into their world view as I tend to do the same, even if I disagree with theirs.

  • If you take the pure definition of an atheist as someone who rejects the claims of theism on the grounds of a lack of evidence – then the statement above simply stems from that.

    The equivalent for a Christian is that they believe that they will live forever in a utopia because they accept subservience to Jesus Christ.

    On that basis, the best you can say of them, as Christians, is that they behave as good servants of Jesus Christ.

    However, the atheist version builds on a characteristic of a human being. The Christian one doesn’t – so it’s not possible, and probably not fair, to find the human characteristic that defines them, because there isn’t one.

  • Jeff

    @chicago dyke: and i wonder: how would these two posts have been different if the question had been about Jews? Hindus? Jains? Wiccans?

    It would be very different, as none of those other groups believe everyone else is going to hell, and none are attempting to impose their will upon the rest of civilization.

    @Hope: This has been very frustrating becaue I’m not a “right-wing” fundamentalist… my understanding of Christianity is that it’s all about undeserved grace.

    If you believe Christianity is “all about undeserved grace”, then I assume you think we’re going to hell, and if you think we’re going to hell, you are a fundamentalist – or close enough.

  • Noel

    Christians qua christians? I’m afraid not.

    There are plenty of good people that happen to be christians. It’s just that it has nothing to do with them being christians, but about them being kind, lawful, reasonable individuals.

  • Richard Wade

    I can say nice things about individual people who do nice things. I’ve known many kind, loving, generous, fair-minded, respectful, ethical, courageous people. Some of them were Christians.

    In all those people I’ve gotten to know closely, I’ve never been convinced that their being a Christian or any other religion was a necessary ingredient for them to demonstrate all those wonderful qualities. They would have those qualities regardless.

    So I can say nice things about people who happen to be Christians, but I’m not attributing their qualities to their religion.

  • Sarah

    Wow, what’s up with all the negativity? To me, the point of a question like this is to stop yourself from brooding over everything you dislike and reflect on what you admire.

    How are Christians different than other groups? What is their extra motivation that comes only from their faith? Let’s see… Christians are very socially concerned, because they have a mandate from Jesus to care for the sick and poor. The second biggest commandment according to Jesus was to love your neighbor, and many Christians try to treat me with love and respect even though they think I’m dead wrong, which isn’t so easy to do. Many Christians are generous, again because giving is a part of that religious culture.

    And please, please, please don’t respond to this with “Yeah, but so are Atheists! You don’t have to be Christian to be socially concerned, kind, or generous!” Again, not the point. That’s not what I’m implying. The person who wrote the nice comment about atheists wasn’t implying that you have to be an atheist to be a critical thinker. In the mainstream Christian community there is a focus on being kind and generous, just like in the atheist community there is a focus on being rational. And I admire that about both groups.

  • ZelKwin

    Most of the christians I have contact with at my college are liberal, moderate christians, so they’re very different from the ones who make the news. Half my hall in my dorm were very devout christians who all knew each other previously. They are so full of love for everyone and everything is a blessing . They are a joy to be around and they are really the first christians who made me question whether god really does exist.

  • wright1

    My stepmother was raised in rural N. Carolina, in the bible belt. She’s been a Christian pretty much all her life. Despite being fairly conservative politically, she campaigned vigorously for civil rights in her younger days. She detests fundamentalist Christianity and left her original Baptist denomination when fundies took it over.

    She’s affectionate and generous, and brought my father out of a profound depression; really turned his life around. She has a razor wit and a steel-trap intellect to back it up.

  • Jacques

    What stands out for me is more about Christian churches – the environment offers a wonderful sense of community.

  • @Sarah: Exactly. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I’m almost ashamed to see some of my fellow atheists at a loss for words when asked to say ONE thing nice about the Christians. Are you they really that angry, arrogant, and politically correct? We have to live with Christians, so we may as well get along and be nice. And remember, I got a Christian to say some really nice things about us. Did you read the post?

    Perhaps if we focused on the good in each other and what we agree on, the world would be a much better place.

  • They really, truly want to be good and most of them want to get along with their neighbor, like most people do.

    Aside from that, I find that even the good things I find to say have an edge to it.

  • They have (or had) beautiful typography and page design, and the colors used in paintings were nice. I’m not sure this is general enough, as it mostly refers to ancient clergy.

    I can’t think of anything nicer to say without risking digging under all the *%&# I’d like to say.

  • Jonathan Duran

    Christians have a wonderful sense of community, are generous, welcoming and genuinely interested in helping the neighborhoods they live in.

    Actually, I never really got why people are so down on Christians…they are clearly victims of a religious virus and deserve our compassion more than our scorn. We talk about fighting cancer, but we don’t say cancer patients are ignorant fools because they became infected with a disease…why do we do the opposite with religious folks?

  • I’m with most of the other commenters in that I think it’s fairly hard to try and say anything about Christians at large. Digging deep, I can come up with:

    Christians genuinely think that they’re doing you a favor by trying to convert you, in much the same way that somebody who was certain that a flood was coming would try to make you accept a life raft.

    (The fact that they’re ignoring all the evidence that indicates there’s no flood on the way is what separates them from the atheists.)

  • Well, they’ve built some pretty buildings in the name of their imaginary friend.

  • mj

    They rarely kill people for being non-christian any more.

  • Demonhype

    I think a lot of the difficulty stems from the very non-parallel nature of atheism vs. Christianity.

    For example, atheism is only a disbelief in god or gods while Christianity is a religion, having a holy book, holy men, all manner of religious-based mandates on how to interact with the world. So while you can, perhaps, pick up a trend among atheists, there is nothing specific that can be inherently tied to atheism or attributed to atheism, be it good or bad. Whereas Christianity has that book and those rules and such, and it is adherence to those things that identifies one as a Christian or even a specific kind of Christian. Kind of apples vs. oranges. Technically, the best one can say either way is that from a Christian perspective, atheists can be perfectly good people despite lacking the all-important faith in God (but don’t they often say that we are simply reacting to God’s moral presence being inherent in the world or written on the human heart or that our goodness is okay but not quite as good as faith-based goodness?), while from an atheist point of view, Christians can be perfectly good people, (but don’t we often say that is when they manage to reject many of the uglier parts of their faith?)

    For another example, Christianity has had about two thousand years to establish itself–and, at some points, enforce itself–and create variants aplenty (ranging from tolerant and generous to intolerant and hysterical), and it is now a supermajority–one might even call it an over-privileged majority (not to denigrate nice Christians who tend to reject using that privilege, but that doesn’t mean the privilege isn’t there). Whereas atheists have only recently begun to feel confident enough to “come out” and be visible, much less establish any kind of identity, and we are an underprivileged minority whose very visibility–no matter how mildly or gently-put–is still causing conniptions among many of the faithful majority. Sure, atheists can be diverse but nowhere near the super-diversity of Christianity as a whole.

    So with this second point, I think atheists are still few enough to be able to generalize a bit from observed trends outside of “they all disbelieve in deities”, whereas Christians are so many and so varied and have been for so long that it’s really difficult to find something to say that specifically applies in a general way to Christianity besides “they believe in Jesus”. How the hell do you compare the beliefs or characteristics of a 100-person newly-visible minority to a 100,000-person long-established majority? I think this would be similar if atheism had been the dominant established POV for over a thousand years, sporting multiple often-mutually-exclusive sects, and Christians were some oft-persecuted minority of lonely individuals who only now were discovering others who agree with them and only now feeling confident enough to become visible in a still-hostile environment.

    On top of that, the fact that Christians are technically beholden to a defining rulebook that tells them not to tolerate people who are different–be they gay, atheist, or whatever–means that the best thing most atheists can really say about a Christian that specifically pertains to their Christianity (and not simply to their humanity) would be that they are nicest when accept the equality and humanity of others despite the mandates of their particular religion or holy book or holy leader’s words.

    My dad once talked of smorgasbord Christians, and I told him that technically they are all smorgasbord Christians! The ugly ones gravitate to the uglier parts of the Bible that validate their ugliness and give it divine sanction while ignoring parts that do not, but nice ones do the same, gravitating toward the nice parts that help them validate the nice things they already believe while ignoring the hateful parts. The way I see it, I think Christians are either nicer or uglier than they give themselves credit for–in that the nice ones credit God for their own good natures, while the uglier ones consider themselves good while shifting the blame for their ugliness onto God. And obviously, that can only be looked at in terms of individuals, simply due to the amount of time and the huge size and scope of the faith and the sheer numbers of individuals practicing it.

    I guess my overall point is that it’s an apples vs. oranges question and I believe it will be until atheists are as numerous and accepted as religious people. Kind of like it’s worthless to discuss whether girls are not as smart as boys until you’re able to control all of those confounding variables such as internalized expectations from authority figures who automatically assume girls are “no good” at math or science or anything but looking pretty in pink and makin’ babies. Or how it’s worthless to discuss whether white kids are smarter than black kids until you actually manage to create an actually equal playing field in which black kids are not overwhelmingly deprived of opportunities from birth, or sabotaged by low expectations from educators the way girls are. I just think there are too many confounding factors to ask this question yet, or to say that atheist are arrogant or evil for not being able to reciprocate in kind. I think many if not most atheists here would like to be able to reciprocate, but circumstances don’t really allow for it. I know I’m struggling to come up with something, but there is nothing nice I can say that can apply generally to all Christians. And I feel that if it can’t apply to Christians in general, it isn’t really in the spirit of the question in the first place.

    The best thing I can say about Christians that pertains directly to their Christianity is that I am happy and appreciative when the nicer elements of Christianity are willing to fight with and argue against the uglier elements, rather than hiding in the wings and letting the atheists do it for them–and then berating the atheists for not validating the nice version of Christianity in their arguments, as if atheists have some kind of duty to defend your religion from your point of view! So I’m very happy to see the nicer elements laying off the atheists, fighting the ugly elements in their faith for themselves, taking it upon themselves to defend their own take on the faith, and prioritizing. And by prioritizing, I mean the fact that so many are thinking, “what is more important to me in a companion–that she Love God or that she behaves in a manner that God would approve of?” And then deciding that they would rather fellowship with an atheist who will roll up his sleeves and help feed the poor vs. that fundie christian who Loves God with plenty of lip service but spits on the poor. For years, the priority of most believers was on “at least so-and-so BELIEVES in something, unlike you!” Now there is an increasing emphasis on genuine empathy and behavior that has caused many Christians to reconsider what is important. And I do believe this re-prioritizing has been forced by the fact that atheists have become so visible, but I still give credit to the Christians who have risen to the challenge posed by an increasingly-visible atheist community and have chosen to become more tolerant rather than retreat into the bigoted mire in which the fundies wallow.

    It would be great if that trend continued and spread to overtake the uglier fundies and make them extinct. Because with nice Christians, I can easily say “in a practical sense in the real world, you and I have the same values and goals, and the fact that you have an invisible friend and I don’t is a small and completely irrelevant factor between us.” If all Christians were like that, we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.

  • Demonhype

    Atheists and Christians cooperate and help others in new orleans

    Values and beliefs with which we do not agree

    Here are two stories just from Friendly Atheist alone that illustrate what I mean by prioritizing behavior and empathy over faith or lack thereof. (In the second one, notice that McGowan mentions the Christianity of his original web designers and their commitment to a good cause even if it isn’t specifically religious in it’s foundation. That’s what I’m trying to point out, not the douchebag he was responding to.)

    And there was one other that I can’t even find right now (might be too old, from 2008 I think) in which the readers here were asked if there was a Christian leader whose death they would feel to be a loss, or who they would regret to see them go (since so often it’s some kind of bloated numbnut like Falwell). I wish I could find it, because the atheists here had much less problem naming some Christian leaders or notoriously Christian people in general who they would be sorry to see go. Off the top of my head, I recall that Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu came up a number of times, as well as Tammy Fay for her early acceptance of homosexuals in hers and her husband’s ministry, as well as a general perception of her as a genuinely good person despite the crap her husband pulled.

  • Flawedprefect

    Yes, certainly: the Christians I know accept me for who I am. They are as angry about the vocal minority freaks that make news as we are. We share similar passions, and we have fun despite our theological differences. In general, conversations don’t revolve around Jesus, they revolve around shit that actually matters.

  • bigjohn756

    No!

  • Sean Santos

    Christianity is in a sense a more diverse population, which makes this harder. Or rather, atheists are diverse, but the ones who actually call themselves atheists are usually interested in skepticism and at least two of: science, philosophy, history, or anthropology, which rather narrows down the types of people you get.

    So what I’ll say (the most I can say) about fundamentalists is: they (individuals much more than clergy) have stick to the principles and beliefs they think are right. I think that’s a very big problem for the rest of us, given those principles and beliefs, so it’s bad in a utilitarian sense, but it’s still an admirable trait when taken out of that context.

    As for the moderate-to-liberals? They tend to be loyal and generous to their communities and families. I think this is a trait anyone can have, but whether due to time (being a recently exploding movement), lacking distinctness, or any other factor, atheists simply haven’t built up the same sorts of extensive communities and support networks that organize people’s altruistic and protective instincts, or provide moral support for day-to-day struggles.

  • You have to admire their tenacity.

  • nice_marmot

    Nope.

  • dc

    Now that my exit from Adventism is three years behind me (I transitioned out to evangelical Christianity first, and have since left that for Secular Humanism), I can make some observations about aspects of the sub culture that I consider to have something about them that I can find to admire:

    – Adventists tend to have an above average interest in healthful living.

    – They excel at disaster preparedness.

    – The parents often go to great personal sacrifice for the sake of their children’s education. (They typically attend a private SDA school K-College.)

    – The church takes a strong stand on the separation of church and state and therefore they are unofficially pro-choice.

    – Historically the church leans towards non violence, with a substantial amount of members serving in the military as conscientious objectors when drafted. (However many modern day SDA’s do voluntarily join the military and engage in combat.)

    – They set aside one day per week to rest, reflect and spend time with their fellow members and family. Often there’s a nature focus (because they are celebrating their belief in Creation) which results in meeting up to go on walks or hikes. They also tend to prepare and share several special meals during this time.
    ………………
    Several of the above items could also be said of some other religions such as Mormonism, Judaism, Catholicism, etc.

  • Allyson

    As a group, they really do seem to want to help people.

  • Michael

    No…

    Christians are diverse people and the only thing they all have in common is the thing i’m against. So, it’s categorically impossible for me to do so.

  • Tom

    I am going to paraphrase and extend Kahomono’s entry which I liked:

    Like atheists, Christians come in many flavours but the fact is that many Christians do indeed exemplify the selfless altruism and fellowship of humanity that “being a good Christian” is supposed to mean. They are also organised and truly make the time to do good works.

  • Troglodyke

    which makes me want to laugh because my understanding of Christianity is that it’s all about undeserved grace.

    I’m curious, Hope. Why did you go back to the church after 20 years of non-belief?

    I’m asking in the nicest possible way. Was it for the community? Did you feel as if your life was lacking?

    And, as someone else pointed out, if the above is your belief about what Xtianity is, why do you think human beings are undeserving?

    Thanks.

  • Steener

    Wow. I can’t believe that some of you, and also some of the Christians can’t come up with ONE nice thing to say about each other. Thats what scares me away from associating with any group. Right now I’m a fence sitter trying to figure out what exactly I believe or don’t believe it, but I think its petty that no one can look beyond thier religious views and find things that each other do are good.

  • The Christians I know are very kind, forgiving people who genuinely want to help people. For them, the eternal benefits they believe they’ll get seem to be a happy bonus.

    Also this comment by the sceptical scribe –

    Women are creatures of emotion

    Is ridiculous. Did we time warp back to the 1950’s for a second? Isn’t it true that humans, not specifically women, are creatures of emotion?

    I’m not pointing this out to be a downer or to turn something that’s supposed to be positive into a bickering match, but I think it illustrates a good point – anyone can chide anyone else for not being open minded enough, accepting enough, forward thinking enough, but in that regard to some extent, we’re all in the same boat.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Steener,
    I suggest that you figure out what you believe or do not believe according to the merits of the belief that you’re questioning, and not worry about the merits of the groups who believe or do not believe it. I’m sure you’re aware that the existence of gods is not determined by which group of human beings is nicer. Listen to their arguments and disregard their attitudes toward each other. If you get off the fence onto either side, you still don’t have to associate with groups oriented around that side if you don’t like how they behave. You can just be on the side of people in general. Associate with the individuals who appeal to you.

  • Rob

    I think that Mormons have one of the wackiest belief systems out there, but I have to admit that they do have one hell of a choir.

  • @pinkocommie:

    I’m not pointing this out to be a downer or to turn something that’s supposed to be positive into a bickering match, but

    They always say “but.” Could have just stopped at “match.” You are starting one, with your ignorance. The point I was trying to make was women are more likely to be religious since they are more emotional, but it looks like you were so anxious to attack, that you didn’t read thoroughly. And if you don’t know women are more emotional, and men are more logical, then I want to know what hole you’ve been living in.

    I don’t want to call people names, but you are an idiot … commie.

  • Pinkocommie is right scribe. Since I don’t mind calling people names… YOU are the idiot.

    …”The point I was trying to make was women are more likely to be religious since they are more emotional”…

    What? Are you a comedian? Emotions are chemical. You figure women are made up of more chemicals than men, you doofus?

    Affectionately
    Mrs. N
    x

  • Steener

    Richard Wade,
    Thanks for being so polite about what you said, and you are right I’m fully aware that either side being nice or not has nothing to do with who is right. I guess in general no matter in the end what I decide I want to find a group of people who feel the same way as me, without having to totally be at war with the other side. I know it sounds quite childish but I just want to yell at the whole lot “Can’t we all just get along?” Honestly I think if some of the people who are on opposing sides met each other and talked about things that had nothing to do with religion, they’d like one another. I’m very glad I found this website though, its been helpful in my whole exlporation of what I really believe.

  • @Mrs. Neutron: Go jump in the hole that pinkocommie is living in.

    Since I don’t mind calling people names… YOU are the idiot.

    You don’t mind calling people names? I mind. I’m better than that. I’m more moral than you.

    I can’t believe nobody is agreeing with the saying “Men are creatures of logic, women are creatures of emotion.” It’s a very popular saying, and has science to back it up.

    You figure women are made up of more chemicals than men, you doofus?

    They do have certain chemical and physiological differences which make them appear that way, at least. Women lack testosterone, which assists in aggression, and have an overactive amygdala: a center in the brain which regulates the “fight or flight” response. These are only two of the many differences between men and women, on a chemical level.

    Are you sure you’re atheists? You two don’t seem intelligent enough. And do you know who you are talking to? Probably not.

  • Richard Wade

    Steener,
    I don’t think you’re being childish at all. In fact, I think you’re being very mature. Whichever side of this question you end up choosing, you’ll be able to find individuals and even small groups who agree with you, yet who are able to remain respectful and constructive when interacting with those who disagree. You just won’t be able to find larger groups that don’t have some of the more contentious or hostile individuals mixed in. Also, it can be encouraging to keep in mind that people can change over time. I used to be very nasty and sarcastic when discussing things like this online.

    Wherever you go, I hope you continue to add your gracious and peaceable disposition to the general atmosphere. It can spread.

  • I would advise to post every comment as if it is the comment that will forever be associated with who you are. Ask yourself “Is this how I want to be remembered?”. If the answer is no, then don’t submit it.

  • Jeepers Scribe…. You are even dumber than I thought!

    Here you go Einstein… http://women.webmd.com/normal-testosterone-and-estrogen-levels-in-women

    With your views on women you would fit right in to a nice Fundamentalist Christian or Muslim community. Go for it! You will feel right at home.

    … “Men are creatures of logic, women are creatures of emotion.” It’s a very popular saying, and has science to back it up.”…

    Right, it’s very popular among the intellectual doofus crowd you probably hang out in. For the rest of us…. it’s called comedy.

    Here is another popular saying for you. “People can only assume you are a dope until you open your mouth.”

    Affectionately
    Mrs. N
    x

  • SeekerLancer

    Christians have the capacity to be the most loving and and compassionate group of people. Though I think their morality can be misguided their concern for people’s souls via their belief system is admirable. They’re only doing what they think is best.

  • Claudia

    I’m incredibly late to this party, but I’ll add my two cents. I can’t say anything good about all Christians (just as it would be silly to say something nice about all atheists), but I understand the spirit of the thing, so here goes.

    Amongst Christians you can find some of the most selfless, forgiving and generous people in the world. Christians make up some of the people suffering nearly intolerable conditions and danger in the darkest regions of the planet because they feel called to help the most helpless. I stand in awe of their bravery and decency.

  • Claudia

    And if you don’t know women are more emotional, and men are more logical, then I want to know what hole you’ve been living in.

    I hope you’ll excuse a comment coming from an illogical creature of emotion but you, sir, can go take a running jump. We’ve already got the theists for facile sexism and condescension against women.

  • SeekerLancer… you can say the same thing about a beagle. Oh, and Hitler was only doing what he thought was best too.

    Claudia…. Christians are a pain in the ass.

    …”I stand in awe of their bravery and decency.”…

    Right… pedophiles, rednecks and The Bible Belt leading the country in incest, illiteracy, divorce, percentage of the population behind bars and church attendance. How can you stand in awe of parents who teach their kids that the earth is 6000 years old?

    Are you a friend of The Skeptical Scribe? Or, maybe a relative? A cousin he took to the prom perhaps?

    Respectfully Yours
    Mrs. N

  • Claudia…. I BEG your pardon! I can now see that you COULDN’T POSSIBLY be related to that moron.

    Forgive me dear.

    A Contrite
    Mrs. N

  • Claudia

    @Mrs. Neutron, apology accepted. While I’m at it, please do note the start of my comment. It’s impossible to say something nice (or mean) about all Christians, or all people of any large group. My comment is directed at those Christians who sincerely direct their faith for just causes. Obviously kiddy diddlers don’t exactly enter into that group.

  • Tizzle

    Here’s one:

    When Christians play up the differences between the sexes, they don’t pretend it’s scientific.

  • Nice one Tizzle.

    Claudia says: ..”It’s impossible to say something nice (or mean) about all Christians, or all people of any large group.”…

    Wanna bet?

  • I don’t think this is a “stupid and bigoted question.” It’s important to sit down and take the time to appreciate what’s good in the opposition.

    It’s still a stupid and bigoted question — from either direction. Oh, and now I see the mentality that started it all:

    women are more likely to be religious since they are more emotional, but it looks like you were so anxious to attack, that you didn’t read thoroughly. And if you don’t know women are more emotional, and men are more logical, then I want to know what hole you’ve been living in.

    I don’t want to call people names, but you are an idiot … commie

    Frankly, pinkocommie ain’t the one coming off idiotic in this exchange and also, frankly, I’m having trouble understanding why Hemant picked up on your stereotyping agenda and ran with it.

  • You don’t mind calling people names? I mind.

    Liar. Liar. Pants on fire. It’s all right up there in black and white for everyone to see. You made sexist remarks that pinkocommie disagreed with and your not-so intelligent comeback was idiot? You don’t call that calling names? Really? Then your definition of name calling and 99.9% of the rest of the human race’s differs.

  • Where’s the like button for Tizzle’s last remark?

    Other than grow a moustache or write their name in the snow with their pee (both rather trivial things), I’d like you to name one thing men can do that women can’t do? One. Women do everything men do. We even run countries and companies.

    Oh, and the two things women can do that men can’t: give birth and breast feed (compare that with the two men can do!)

  • Baconsbud

    Donna you must know being able to write your name in the snow with pee takes a lot of effort. You know how much beer I have to drink to have enough pee to do that?

  • Donna is going all “emotional” on us.

    Could that moron have been correct after all? (Is my face red!)

  • Wow, I totally missed being called an idiot. The internet is so emotional – must be a women, huh guys? Right? Hyuck!

    Scribe – you are wrong. But it’s OK. I won’t insult you. I just hope you eventually figure it out.

  • Christians are so diverse, it’s hard to think of one thing that I could say about all of them. Pentecostals, Mormons, Quakers, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Methodists (to take just a small sample) are all extremely different.

    One nice thing I could say about some Christian sects (evangelicals and Mormons in particular) is that they are good at community building. Evangelicals have even created a whole parallel subculture of their own. Even though I disagree with the content, I think it’s impressive that they have managed to organize into such a cohesive group.

    One nice thing I could say about Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists is that they tend to promote healthy living via vegetarianism (SDA) and avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine (Mormons and SDA). One nice thing I could say about Catholics and Greek and Eastern Orthodox is that they have created beautiful art and architecture over the past several centuries.

  • baconsbud, thanks for the laugh! I needed that.

    Mrs. Neutron, don’t you love how guys like that say something insulting and if you actually get angry about it, it just proves women are emotional? I’m not stupid enough to fall for that shit. What they want is a doormat, not a woman.

    pinkocommie, it stood out glaringly to me because he did that and then went on about don’t call names!?

  • Brendanclifton1

    THIS IS AWESOME. I’m a British Christian, and it’s lovely to see American atheists, who tend to be much more militant than British ones probably owing to the more extreme flavours of Christianity over the pond, ignoring the lazy stereotypes and pointing out individually most Christians are loving people.

    Anyway, when you’re in England, visit a church. Christians here tend to be pretty awesome and non-preachy. People love to be proved right, but it’s great to see so many of you looking past Westboro Baptist Church and the like.

  • Brendanclifton1

    Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Gregor Mendel, pretty much any president or prime minister you like (plus any you hate) such as FDR and Lloyd George, both of whom helped the poor, or Lincoln, Harriet Tubman etc etc etc. Thanks for not falling into the jolly annoying stereotype of dumb Christians.