My Frenemy, the Christian September 2, 2011

My Frenemy, the Christian

C. R. Wiley, a Presbyterian pastor, has an article in RELEVANT (a Christian magazine) about why Christians ought to befriend atheists — and not for the sole purpose of converting them. There are several benefits, he says, to having godless friends.

While his points might sound generous, the article is full of backhanded compliments.

My atheist friends have made me more humane.

… since they say “no” to my most important “yes” I must cull out the essential, the truly human in them, and hold it apart from their atheism. Wonderfully, a tool for the job has been handed to me by Christianity. It helps me distinguish an intellectual sin from an intellectual sinner. I can affirm an atheist’s humanity in spite of his dehumanizing philosophy.

Aww, isn’t that sweet of him?

Our philosophy is anything but dehumanizing. If this is the only life we have, we have to make the most of it. That means doing what makes us happy (without stopping anyone else from doing the same). It also means helping out others so they can get the most out of their lives as well. One thing that evolution teaches us is that we’re related to every living being on Earth — we really are one huge family. And, at least in theory, families take care of each other.

But saying someone else has to die for your sins? Teaching women that they should be docile and submissive to their husbands? Having a holy book that tells gay people their loving relationships aren’t as worthy as ones straight people have? That’s dehumanizing.

My atheist friends have made me smarter.

Recently, sociobiologists have made a measure of peace with belief in God by proposing that it must have a biological basis, and if so, it must have served a role in the survival of our species. This would mean that faith in God is somehow “hardwired” into us. This would also imply that atheism is a sort of deficiency, even a birth defect. On the other hand maybe it is the next leap in human evolution. How can we know? Sociobiology can’t say.


The existence of a God Gene is very much in doubt. But even if there’s an evolutionary benefit to believing in something delusional, it doesn’t make it true. Furthermore, Wiley’s implication that atheists have this “birth defect” makes me reconsider if he really has any atheist friends at all. Most atheists I know were raised in a faith and left it later in life because we realized the arguments in favor of god’s existence were sloppy and full of fallacy. We weren’t deficient of anything when we were born.

Keeping a few atheists for friends is caffeinating. I can be sure they will challenge my arguments. Like most people, I am a bit lazy. Atheists force me to think.

WTF is up with that sentence? Talk about “dehumanizing”…

And if your atheist friends are the only people in your life who “force you to think,” maybe you need some new friends. Or a better church.

My atheist friends have taught me compassion.

Since atheists believe the universe began with a bang, but without the benefit of someone lighting the fuse, the second law of thermodynamics is their only guide as to how it will end. Everything will float apart in a cold eternal night. What difference does that make? The universe isn’t going anywhere. It has no meaningful purpose. Since the world does not serve the will of God, atheists must find their meaning in their own willing.

If matter is all there is in the end nothing matters. The only hope for real meaning is a Creator.

Apparently, none of us have any meaning in our lives — and finding our own path is futile because this world won’t always be around.

I don’t see a problem with finding our own meaning in this world. Ultimately, Christians are going to end up in the same place we do. If they derive their life’s meaning from a holy book full of logical holes and bad ideas, I feel sorry for them. If I give my life meaning through the people I surround myself with and the work I’m passionate about, I’d be very fulfilled.

It brings to mind my favorite passage by Richard Dawkins:

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”

We’re lucky to be here, so let’s not waste a moment of it.

You know, I actually do have some Christian friends. They’re good people who do wonderful things with their lives and I enjoy the time I spend with them. I’m not friends with them because of their Christianity or in spite of it. The thought just doesn’t go through my head that I must surround myself with people who believe the same things I do. It’s pretty sad that Christians need to be taught that there might be an upside to having friends who don’t believe in their god and who might actually (*gasp*) challenge their ways of thinking.

We have more things in common than they might think:

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  • Anonymous

    Shorter C. R. Wiley:”Having atheist friends allows me to feel better about myself by comparing myself to those miserable, lost, amoral, subhuman defectives”

    Mr. Wiley, I tend to doubt you really have atheist friends. However if you do I sincerely hope they read your post, so they can realize what you truly think of them and dispose of your false “friendship” immediately.

  • Anonymous

    Shorter C. R. Wiley:”Having atheist friends allows me to feel better about myself by comparing myself to those miserable, lost, amoral, subhuman defectives”

    Mr. Wiley, I tend to doubt you really have atheist friends. However if you do I sincerely hope they read your post, so they can realize what you truly think of them and dispose of your false “friendship” immediately.

  • I just translated those lines from Dawkins to Hungarian about 5 minutes ago for a YouTube video.

    Coincidence? No way! It’s a miracle of the religious kind. Clearly it is a sign from god for me to end my meaningless life!

  • Ouch. That guy is kind of a dick. We’re dehumanizing by birth? Geeze. I would say that theists are misguided, guilty of wishful thinking, or at most desperate for a caring sky daddy. Calling you a philosophical mistake of mankind from the moment of birth would just be too cruel.

  • #1 most ‘liked’ comment on that article?

    Chuck McKnight:
    “While we should certainly be friendly to atheists, the Bible makes it very clear that those who reject God are not to be our close friends. We, who are light, are not to have fellowship with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:7–8; 1 John 1:5–6). ”

    Oh wait, Chuck decided to elaborate on his point:
    “Men are either darkness or light. There is no such thing as a person who is just partially dark. Atheists (and all others who reject Christ Jesus) are pure darkness. There is no such thing as someone who isn’t evil. We are all either sinners saved by the grace of God, or sinners who have rejected him.

    Now I deliberately clarified that we should be friendly to atheists (and all others who are unsaved). That is exactly what Christ did when he ate with them. But they were not his close friends. Those close to him were those who chose to follow him. Furthermore, he ate with sinners because he came to bring sinners to repentance. He never once fraternized with the unrepentant for the sake of their company.

    Absolutely, we should interact with the unsaved for the purpose of sharing the gospel with them, shining our light before them so that they may see our good works and glorify God, and being servants to our communities; but we are not to fellowship with them as close friends. ”
    (2 people liked this.)

    Who did you say has a dehumanizing philosophy?

  • Danish Atheist

    If his atheist friends made him smarter, I can’t bear to think how dumb he was before.

  • Anonymous

    This is just the sort of subtle not quite an insult of a response that I’ve come to expect from Christians for the most part. I’m deeply saddened by it because I have Christian friends who, whilst yes have a deep rooted faith, don’t try to force that faith on me and actually are just as intelligent as most atheists I know. It’s people like Mr. Wiley who are recently, IMHO, giving Christians the bad name they are getting in the atheist community.

    I pity him.

  • want to know more about Chuck? I sure did.
    His facebook page tells me all I need to know:
    About Chuck: A servant of Christ Jesus. It is my desire for that to become my only defining characteristic.

  • Anonymous

    Some other Christian gently called him on this and he doubled down saying:
     “Men are either darkness or light. There is no such thing as a person who is just partially dark. Atheists (and all others who reject Christ Jesus) are pure darkness.”

    He later said that Christians should be “friendly” to us for the purposes of conversion. Can you imagine how insincere someone must seem trying to pretend they are your friend while thinking you are “pure darkness”?

    [EDIT]: I wrote the above while you were editing your original comment, so my point got caught in the pattern buffer, apparently. Oops

  • Prosey

    Not just that…*blink* Home-schooled, then a xian high school, then Bob Jones University (which has an interesting history that pre-dates Roe v. Wade in terms of the neoconservative xian movement)…wowza. That’s a guy I don’t think I would ever want to associate with. *shudders*

  • Anonymous

    What is it about saying “Christ Jesus” instead of “Jesus Christ” that somewhow gives you fundie points? Anyway, the guy is the full deal. Besides the homeschool-Christian school-Bob Jones “University” he’s an employee of “Answers in Genesis” (a professional creationist!) and has:

    Admired people: Jesus, Paul the Apostle, Martin Luther, George Müller and Jim Elliot (the last two were evangelists).

    Books: The Bible, C.S. Lewis and 3 other Christian writers

    Activities: Studying the Scriptures and Reading (presumably Christian books).

    Interests:  Philippians 4:8, creation museum, answers in genesis and on and on.

    Jeez, conversation with him must be a blast /snark.

  • burgerburgs

    I don’t like this guy. He clearly misses the point.

  • ACN

    Firmly agreed.

  • I disagree profoundly with a lot of the accusations and the doctrinal teaching that this post gives.
    Yet I’m perplexed by the spiritual sentiments that the post highlights (which many of you atheists will quickly deny are spiritual) and I’m confused by some of the statements like ‘making the most of life’ and making sure that other people make the most of their lives too as long as it makes them happy – these sort of statements have very big moral consequences (of which I am *not* going to get into in this post, as this will be the only comment I’m making)

    However, I have to say that I loved the post in general, for this little gem at the end:

    You know, I actually do have some Christian friends. They’re good people who do wonderful things with their lives and I enjoy the time I spend with them. I’m not friends with them because of their Christianity or in spite of it. The thought just doesn’t go through my head that I must surround myself with people who believe the same things I do. It’s pretty sad that Christians need to be taught that there might be an upside to having friends who don’t believe in their god and who might actually (*gasp*) challenge their ways of thinking.

    The author is right. I’m glad the author has Christian friends just because, and not in spite of their religion. And I agree wholeheartedly that Christians shouldn’t need to be told to make friends with people who aren’t Christians, and they shouldn’t be told that it should be in spite of their atheism either. Though I must admit, I don’t think it’s so much of a problem in the UK as it is in USA, but I could be wrong of course.

    Interesting post…

  • Drew M.

    He’s the web content editor for Answers in Genesis.

    I guffawed.

  • Matto the Hun

    “his dehumanizing philosophy”
    gee, projecting much.

  • Prosey

    I don’t know how similar to or different from the US these matters are in the UK, having no frame of reference other than a few friends there who are nonreligious.  Here in the U.S., religious influence did not used to be part of the public square (politically) until the late 1960s, when the IRS sued Bob Jones University because of racial bigotry in the university’s bylaws. That lawsuit had a LOT of fallout, ultimately decided by the Supreme Court in 1983 (in favor of the IRS). It was that case, later followed by Roe v. Wade, the blasted the far-right religious groups into public politicking, and they have been *extremely* well-organized on many local levels. Hidden in plain sight. The matter of friendships between religious and nonreligious folk here is steeped in the extreme philosophical differences between Conservatives and Progressives (on the American spectrum, which does not correlate with the global spectrum – comparatively, the U.S. really has no true Left). So the issues here are a little different from elsewhere.  

  • Prosey

    On a side note…am I the only person who finds “RELEVANT” as the name of a xian magazine amusing in a wishful thinking sort of way?

  • As for the last point about compassion, I think he’s confusing “atheist” with “fatalist” and “humanist”. Just because one is an atheist doesn’t automatically make him or her either of the others. 

  • Babsva

    Meh. In my experience, Christians who hang around with atheists soon become .. atheists. 

  • Noel

    my (Christian) wife was sitting next to me as I was reading this article and made the following comment:

    any time someone writes an article like this (i.e. about a fringe group from the point of view of a non fringe group) they need to start replacing the group’s moniker (atheist) with “black people.”  If the statement still passes the sniff test after that, you’re good.

    to wit: I can affirm a black person’s humanity in spite of his dehumanizing traits

  • Matto the Hun

    At least Chuck is honest and doesn’t gloss over such inconvenient Bible passages by presenting they aren’t there or making bullshit rationalizations.

    Good for Chuck for being honest and affirming a dogma of hate and sticking to it. Better an honest enemy than a hollow friend.

  • In many (though not all) cases, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the religiosity of Christians and their behaving like Jesus.

    I seriously doubt that this condescending, smug punk has any actual atheist “friends.” He talks about them as if they’re pets that he keeps around for his amusement and stimulation, and for someone to whom he can feel superior. Such conceit would be impossible to conceal for very long.  One whiff of that and any atheists would tell him to go, uh, …away.

    Keep up the good work, Reverend. You’re doing an excellent job of turning people off to Christianity. The only ones left hanging around you will be the other condescending, smug punks.

  • No, you’re not the only person. I immediately thought of some little brat kid who’s being ignored having a tantrum: “I am relevant! I AM I AM I AM!

  • Anonymous

    Sign from god? I’m reminded of a Robert Ingersoll quote “Love was the first to dream of immortality, — not Religion, not Revelation. We love, therefore we wish to live. The hope of immortality is the great oak ’round which have climbed the poisonous vines of superstition. The vines have not supported the oak, the oak has supported the vines. As long as men live and love and die, this hope will blossom in the human heart.”

  • Entertaining Doubts

    Yeah, I snorted a bit at that too. Back when I was a semi-serious Methodist, the big push was to make the church more “relevant” to the modern world. Which meant basically two things: (1) half-assed imitations of vapid pop music, and (2) trying to put a Jesus spin on virtues they claimed came from the church but were actually appropriated from Renaissance and Enlightenment humanism. I imagine that’s still going on, with a few tweaks. Glad I recognized it for the “race to the bottom” that it is, and got the hell out….

  • Ricklongworth

    This may be true in some sense, but I can only suggest that Christians and other religionists have so many ways of offending that it might be letting them of rather easily to say Wiley is the most egregious offender of late.  Don’t forget Christians have had a bad name dating back 2000 years and just recently have been receiving some extra and much deserved critisism.

  • ACN

    His “My atheist friends have taught me compassion.” made me want to tear my hair out. This guy is an aspiring professional troll.

  • Anonymous

    Not believing in gods isn’t a philosophy.  It is simply evidence based thinking taken to logical conclusions.

    Some parts of Christianity could loosely be described as a subset of theological philosophy.  A belief that a magic man in the sky is your friend and will punish you if you commit thoughtcrime is dehumanising.  Almost by definition.

    Is being blue eyed a birth defect?  I lack the ability to produce the pigment that makes eyes brown.  I’m very much indifferent to this defect of my birth.  Around 1 in 6 Americans have blue eyes, more in Europe and significantly less in other parts of the world.  My partner and one of my daughters were born with the birth defect of being left handed.  This defect has a significant impact on their quality of life and ability to use a can opener.  It effects around 1 in 10 people.  My son is dyslexic.  His birth defect prevents him from forming written words or even letters though he reads without too much difficulty.  Around 5% t0 10% of people are dyslexic.

    Being atheist isn’t and never has been a birth defect.  Not holding a belief in something is 100% common in all newborns.  People are taught to believe in gods.  I was not.  Some people question what they are taught and decide that it doesn’t seem to be true.  A lot of people on this site are like that.  I cannot change my eye colour.  My partner and daughter cannot change their handedness.  My son cannot change his dyslexia.  Religious beliefs are changeable.  Therefore religious opinion is not a product or defect of birth.  Claiming that it is is just a way to insult people who hold differing beliefs.

    The universe isn’t going anywhere. It has no meaningful purpose. Since the world does not serve the will of God, atheists must find their meaning in their own willing.

    Actually we all must find our own purpose.  Theists simply choose one of the pre-packaged ones available from a church.  I’d say that they choose badly because they don’t get to enjoy the rich and rewarding experience of discovering for themselves what it is that gives their lives value but then I’m biased and I think that life is actually quite good on it’s own.
    I have to ask.  Does Wiley actually know any atheists?  Has he spoken to them and asked them about their lives, motivation and beliefs or is he simply making it up as he goes along?

  • Entertaining Doubts

    Richard, that’s what I keep reminding myself when I get frustrated about the influence of the current crop of outspoken theocrats — the reason they’re screaming at secularists is that they’ve been backed into a corner and their numbers are declining steeply with each generation. Hopefully we’re seeing the last gasps of a profoundly irrelevant worldview; however, cornered animals are often the most dangerous, especially when they’re defending their babies (i.e., their indefensible dogma). We must be eternally vigilant!

  • Oh darn, and I was *so* hoping to be someone’s token atheist!

  • Anonymous

    Needless to say we don’t share your divine morality and in fact consider some parts of it deeply immoral.

    If someone needs a supernatural source to give their life meaning, it must really be an empty, meaningless life. Life is what people make of it. Meaning comes from within and the people around us. And yes, as long as people are happy and they aren’t hurting anyone, they are doing fine.

  • guest

    Sadly,  that only happens in my dreams at the moment.  Hopefully, it will become my experience, too!

  • guest

    Really enjoyed reading this excellent comment, Hoverfrog!  May I steal parts of it (not for monetary gain –  lol – but to add to a stash of great, wonderfully clear quotes that I am collecting)?

  • Annie

    “I’m confused by some of the statements like ‘making the most of life’
    and making sure that other people make the most of their lives too as
    long as it makes them happy – these sort of statements have very big
    moral consequences”

    Dean, I think your confusion may come from your lack of acceptance (or perhaps understanding) that morals have nothing to do with whether or not a person believes in a god or gods. 

    By knowing that there is nothing after this life, no reuniting with dead relatives, no pearly gates, a person is freed to really appreciate the here and now.   That appreciation quite often translates into wanting to make the world a better place, not just for oneself, but for all we share it with. 

  • The comic at the end there is win.

    @facebook-100000019835554:disqus, exactly! He doesn’t care about his atheist “friends;” all he cares about is that he can claim he has them and so woo other Christians with the fact that he fellowships with unbelievers, just as Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes.

  • But it does sound like an incredibly fun insult to say when you reallllly need one. I may have to remember that.

  • Rich Wilson

    I think this fits in nicely with something The Godless Monster posted the other day  You see, God MADE us atheists.  He hardened our hearts ON PURPOSE!  It’s God’s fault we are atheists!  And probably for many of the same reasons Wiley states.  We provide Yin to his Yang, to make his Yang just that much more, Yangy.

  • When I saw that post, I groaned inwardly and though, “Crap, I hope none of my friends who are atheists see that.”

    Even though I identify as a Christian, most of my closest friends right now also happen to be atheists, and like you say, Hemant, I’m friends with them because I like them, not because I like having a token atheist friend. The fact that the author of the piece identifies them as “atheist friends” and not “friends who happen to be atheists” signals to me how he sees them. He defines by belief or lack thereof first and foremost, not by whether or not they are a friend. To me, that says a lot about how much he values (or doesn’t value, rather) their actual friendship.

    I have a lot of friends who are Christians who are like him. It’s like they collect “friends” of people of different beliefs for the sole purpose of beefing up their own arguments and philosophies and ideas. And it frustrates me to no end, especially as I’ve noticed that I’m the token “feminist friend” for a lot of these people. Basically, if you hang out with a person because they make you feel smarter and more secure in your faith, then you’re not a very good friend.

    I feel the need to apologize on behalf of all those idiotic people, but if I did that, I’d be here all day. So I’ll just say that there ARE people in the church who are just as frustrated as you by these kinds of articles.

  • Anonymous

    Did I say anywhere that “Wiley is the most egregious offender of late”? No I said people LIKE him, I know far worse. But it does not stop him being an offensive idiot.

  • Greg

    I’m confused by the fact you are perplexed, to be honest! 🙂

    First off, I’m trying to work out what you could think is ‘spiritual’ in the post – I’d like to know how you define spiritual, too. Then (obviously) depending on what you pick out, I’d like to know why you think we shouldn’t be able to say these things.

    I’m also confused as to why you think it’s strange that we should say things that have pretty big moral consequences or want to make the most out of our lives. Why is that such a shock? 

    Why do you find it so strange to understand these things – we’re human beings! Nothing about being an atheist means we have somehow lost the ability to love, empathise, or enjoy life.

    I know you said you didn’t want to get into big moral questions and that ilk, but could you please perhaps explain just why you find these things so surprising? I’m am completely flummoxed here (especially as you imply you come from the UK – like me – and so probably come across many, many atheists every day), and I like to try and understand where other people are coming from. 

    Who knows, maybe I can help solve your quandaries if you expand upon your confusion.

  • SJH

    Hemant, It seems that you enjoy pointing out the flawed arguments of religious people who obviously have a flawed understanding of the religion. You also seem to do it with inaccurate statements yourself. Perhaps it would be more productive to post articles from those Christians who know their faith and have a thorough understanding of their beliefs. This way you can induce intelligent conversation that might actually lead to enlightenment rather than division and further polarization. 
    Atheism has more to offer than this? Your skepticism is a vital component to further humanity and can be targeted towards benefiting everyone. I challenge you and your readers to take the discussion to the next level, don’t get offended/angry so easily, elevate others (including those you disagree with) and search for truth.

  • SJH

    It is good that you apologize for others who make bad decisions but I would be careful not to imply that most Christians are like the author of this article. Most of the people I know are not like this at all. We try to live a good life. We try to help when help is requested and when it is not requested but feel it is needed we try and do it in a uplifting way that is respectful. We try to be friendly to all and we try hard to live by the model Jesus set for us which is to love and respect those who disagree with us.

  • SJH

    My experience is the opposite. Anecdotal evidence is not good evidence. 

  • SJH

    Really!, looking at someone’s facebook page to dig up dirt for the mere sake of proving how stupid they are? You actually spent time out of your life on the facebook page of someone you believe to be a moron so that you can then gossip to others about it? How is this productive? Shouldn’t we try and elevate the conversation?

  • Alleyprowler

    Oh please tell us what a true Scotsman, er, Christian is like.

  • Anonymous

    There are over 30,000 different flavors of Christianity. Many of them seemingly mutually exclusive to their adherents. Obviously he has a good understanding of HIS kind of faith and disagrees with yours.

    His stuff about atheist having no purpose and that life is meaningless without gods is really a very common thing said by Christians. Not all, no, but many here have heard it from others before. It’s one of those facepalm-worthy “Oh not this shit again” arguments

  • I didn’t meant to imply that all Christians are like this guy (being a Christian myself, I know we aren’t). It’s just that I know a lot who ARE, and that I felt the need to apologize on their behalf because they don’t know how ridiculous they are. Sorry if that didn’t come across clearly.

  • Rich Wilson

    If we can’t laugh at the silly variety of Christians, then really, what are they good for?

  • *sigh*

    I hate bagpipe music…

  • Hardly. I checked out his facebook page because I found him fascinating. He’s cartoonishly deluded and hateful. Dig dirt up on him? These aren’t past mistakes or things he’s embarrassed about. It’s information he shares quite proudly and publicly.

  • C. R. Wiley:

    sociobiologists have made a measure of peace with belief in God by proposing
    that it must have a biological basis, and if so, it must have served a role in
    the survival of our species. This would mean that faith in God is somehow
    “hardwired” into us. This would also imply that
    atheism is a sort of deficiency, even a birth defect.
    On the other hand maybe it is the next leap in human evolution. How can we
    know? Sociobiology can’t say.”

    I hear statements like this I know the author is a dilettante in the area and
    that is putting it politely.

    there are a few science writers like Nic Wade (The Faith
    )  and scientists like David Sloan Wilson
    (Darwin’s Cathedral) who argue that religion provided a
    direct evolutionary benefit, the position held by most
    researchers in the area (like Pascal Boyer, Scott Atran, etc) is that religion
    is a by-product of the evolution of other mundane cognitive
    systems (agency / intentionality detection, etc) that did (and
    do) have real-world consequences.  Qua
    this position, “religion” is a mishmash of reified human social-cognitive
    propensities being expressed in ritual and narrative. 

    Jesse Bering, one of the leading scholars in the area, has engagingly and
    succinctly stated the idea here: Source

    Elsewhere, I have compared God to the illusion of the moon
    appearing larger when it is close to the horizon than when in the middle of the
    sky.  Did this visual-cognitive propensity
    evolve precisely to have this effect? 
    Absolutely not!  Is this illusion “hardwired”?  In a sense it is.  Do those of us who realize it is an illusion
    have a “deficiency”?   I see it as quite
    the opposite. 

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely.  I’d love to be quoted.  It makes my ego swell.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely.  I’d love to be quoted.  It makes my ego swell.

  • This guy is a Presbyterian pastor? I thought Presbyterians were supposed to be normal, mainstream Christians. I didn’t think they went this far off the deep end.

  • C. R. Wiley:  “But why should we will one thing and not another? Because it will make us happy? The idea of God has done that for many people. Why not try to believe in Him? When I’ve put that question to atheists, they respond, “That wouldn’t be honest.” But what does honesty get you in a meaningless world? If in the end all our beliefs amount to nothing (see the second law of thermodynamics), why not go for the thing that produces the most euphoria? Following that thought, here’s a though:. Why not create a drug that will produce an intense religious conversion—the sort of joy intoxicated conversion experienced by Pascal? If the atheist persists in his objection, we could ask, “Isn’t your objection merely a by-product of your brain chemistry?””

    This kind of argument is one I always find frustrating.  During an argument about religion, some religious people tend to misinterpret/distort a statement about finding meaning and happiness in life to mean that atheists just want euphoria.  There’s a difference between finding meaning in life with family, friends, trying to do good, etc. and just seeking some kind of permanent high.

  • Also, I love that you used “frenemy” in the title.

  • Many of us have tried to believe in various gods and goddesses, your strange triple-god included. And honestly, it just doesn’t work that way. We can’t just will ourselves into belief, especially when all the evidence and logic and science points towards the non-existence of any deity. All you have for deity is “because I feel it.”

    Still, you know, not a problem. Until a believer starts to insist that everyone follow his specific beliefs and ways, with or without an “or else”.

    I believe that people who believe in god would be a lot happier if they would stop worrying about other people’s beliefs and ways of life, and focus on their own shit instead. He’s your god, they’re your rules, if you want to obey them to the letter, that’s okay, so long as you’re not harming other people who may (or may not) follow your particular beliefs.

  • Anonymous

    It’s an extension of their idea that all atheist are selfish, immoral hedonists who only think about their own pleasure and don’t care about others

  • Drew M.

    Actually, his “credentials” tell us that it would be utterly useless to try and elevate the conversation where Chuck McKnight is concerned.

    The time spent looking at his FB page is miniscule compared to wasted time drafting up a response that would fall on deaf ears.

  • Drew M.

    A Christian is someone who believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.  Everything else is just fluff.

    While I appreciate that there are good, non-bigoted Christians out there, you do not get to handwave the assholes away. Like it or not, they are Christians too and their actions reflect on you True Christians™.

    Instead of trying to separate your wheat from their chaff, we would much rather you call them out on their bullshit and try to change their hearts and minds.

  • As long as we atheists remember that the same applies to us (although, since atheism itself makes no moral claims, there is a difference . . . ).

  • There is a scene almost at the very beginning of “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist” where the Chosen One, still in his infant form, prior to regenerating into his adult self, is rolling down the hill, squeaking every time he hits a small stone. Anywhere, there’s a woman walk a long a path and he rolls to a stop right in front of her. She picks him, rocks him a few times, says, “Awwww… So cute.” and the rolls him down the next hill to get rid of him.

    That’s what I thought when I read about our dehumanizing philosophy.

  • Drew M.

    Let me know if you ever see someone say, “That’s not true atheism.” 😉

  • Erp

    He is PCA  (Presbyterian Church in America) not PCUSA (Presbyterian Church (USA)).   Both are mainstream but PCUSA has the moderate to liberal Presbyterians (ordains women, bit iffy on the gays) and PCA the somewhat more conservative types (no ordination of women or gays).   PCUSA is far larger than PCA so tends to be the face of Presbyterians in the US.

  • Curious

    Jim Elliot was far more than an evangelist.  He was a martyr; unjustly killed by Amazonian tribesmen.  Thereafter, his wife stayed with the tribe for decades and had a small part to play in the entire tribe’s conversion to Christianity despite their having slaughtered her husband and his fellow missionaries.  It’s a pretty amazing story, actually.

  • Curious

    Um… I hope those who have “liked” this comment realize the author never actually wrote those words.  For that matter, did you even read the article, Claudia?  He does nothing but compliment atheists.

  • Rich Wilson

    OMG.  That’s the most unintentionally funny thing I’ve seen in a long time!  (unless it really was intentional- Poe an’ all you know).

    Yes, we RTFA.  And yes we realize I_Claudia was satirizing Wiley.  We all ‘Liked’ it because she did a fantastic job of it.

    Did you read Hemant’s commentary AT ALL?

  • Compliment? Well, sure, in a very backhanded, insulting way . . . 

  • I’ll admit, I have not heard that line before. I suppose it could happen; be kinda weird though. I was more referring to the second paragraph. I can *easily* imagine a theist saying the same thing to some of us, just replacing “Christian” with “atheist,” and am thinking I’ve seen something similar already, but honestly can’t remember where (perhaps I’m mistaken). 

    To that extent, I think your third paragraph applies to us as well, not so much with morality, but with argument and debate (which so many of us seem to love). If we see an atheist debating a theist, and the atheist is engaging in misrepresentation or logical fallacies, we should call them on it. 

    And before anyone says it, I’m not accusing anyone of that right now, but I would be shocked if it has *not* happened. We’re all human, prone to all the human failings.

  • Rich Wilson

    If I’m on the right page- certainly I’ve had to say “he’s not a true atheist (or any kind of atheist)” about Hitler.  And we’ve all had to say “but atheism wasn’t the reason he committed genocide” (about the other genocidal tyrants of the last century. 

    Note: when you have to explain that Hitler wasn’t an atheist, you’re arguing with a rock.And sometimes we have to claim people as ‘real atheists’ (or at least not the kind of theist that theists want them to be).  Einstein e.g.I think more often than not we have to explain hard/soft atheism.  Which still isn’t really the same thing.  Maybe I should just go to bed already…

  • Nhills

    Not a “real atheist”? I thought he was a Catholic.

  • Anonymous

    It does happen now and then. The most common occurrence  is when people go beyond “not believing in gods” to demand an adherence to skepticism or even anti-theism. While the first is usually a logical outgrowth, people can also be apathetic atheists who just don’t care about religion one way or another.

  • Rebecca Sparks

    Christians who hang out with Christians become atheists?  A quick google scholar search doesn’t turn up handy statistics, but I did find this nugget:

    “Perhaps on of the most interesting items that appears is the apparent influence of belonging to a minority religious group.  At the time they dropped their religion, twice as many were living in places where their own faith was a minority group, as were living where their own faith was the dominant one.  Typical is the Catholic becoming an Atheist while living in Salt Lake City. ” (Vetter 1932: 190)

    Being in the theist minority makes you rethink things you took for granted.  Becoming an atheist is an intellectual endevour, but there are other factors that help (or hinder) that becoming.  This would actually make a really intereting study.
    Vetter, G. B.; Green, M. “Personality and group factors in the making of atheists. “The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol 27(2), Jul 1932, 179-194. doi: 10.1037/h0075273

  • Rich Wilson

    He was Catholic New-agey, and the Nazis where Catholic and Lutheran mostly.  But if you’re so steeped in your own righteousness that you think there are only two things in the world, “God-Fearing” and “Atheist”, then obviously Nazis must be atheists.  Neo-Nazis, too, by the way.  And although we never got this far, I’d say everyone in prison.  All atheists.  Nobody who feared God would ever do anything Bad.

    Like I said, might as well be talking to a rock.   

  • Rich Wilson

    Sleep helped.  Lee Strobel and Kirk Cameron have both essentially been called “not real (former) atheists” on this blog recently.  (Pretty sure it was here).

    Granted, the claim of atheism in those cases is a bit different than the claim of Christianity that other Christians want to deny.

  • I was thinking about this last night, and remembered seeing a story about an atheist guy who mockingly prayed with his mother that she would win the lottery. When she won, he converted. I remember thinking that he couldn’t have been an atheist for very good reasons if that’s all it took to convert him. I don’t think I ever thought the words “no true atheist,” but I seem to remember feeling an attitude that could be described as such. 

    Thinking on it now, I’d have to say that if you don’t believe in God, then you’re an atheist (momentarily ignoring weak/strong distinctions), however lacking in intellectual rigor your reasons might be. Apparently though, I’m not immune to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, and hypocrisy. Bad me. No cookie.

  • Rich Wilson

    The sad reality is that the more I see through other peoples’ bullshit, the more I have to accept that I most certainly am victim to my own fallacies.

    Dear Lord, today please let me discover something that I’m wrong about.

  • An ironic prayer for an atheist blog.

  • Thanks for the info! I’m glad he’s part of a minority, but it’s mind-boggling that Wiley’s extreme fundamentalism can be considered “mainstream” in any way, shape, or form.

  • It doesn’t strike me as particularly amazing, and certainly not laudable.

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