Based on a sampling of almost 6,000 comments I am able to come to some conclusions about the methods Christians use to turn me, and many other people, off to Christianity. Their words speak volumes about their God, Jesus, and the Bible. In their attempts to witness to me, evangelize me, set me straight, or deliver me from my delusions, they continue to show me that leaving Christianity and the ministry was the next best thing I have ever done. (The best thing was marrying my best friend and wife of 33 years)
So, here’s the list of Most Effective Methods used by Christians to Turn Me off to Christianity. Whatever their motive, Christians need to know that the things listed here DO NOT help them achieve their intended goal. (and I suspect most atheists and nonbelievers would agree with me on this, not that Christians care what we think)
Quoting Bible Verses
One of the favorite things that Christians like to do is quote Bible verses. They think the verses of Bible have some magical power and that if they put them in a comment that I will, all of a sudden, be convicted of the error of my way and coming running back to Jesus.
They seemingly forget that I know the Bible inside and out. Even today, six years removed from when I preached my last sermon, I can still quote from memory hundreds of Bible verses. The Bible is deeply imbedded into my mind. (as are the lyrics of hundreds and hundreds of Christian songs)
I know the Bible inside and out. Arrogant sounding, I know, but it is just how it is. I have yet to read a verse in a comment that I have not seen before. I have not read the Bible in over three years, yet my mind is still filled with the words of the Bible and Christian doctrine. I even find myself humming Christian songs or singing a few bars of my favorite hymns or praise and worship songs.
My problem is not a lack of Bible knowledge or understanding. I know all I need to know about the Bible and its teaching.
Fortunately, some commenters know this. I have observed that the less fluent someone is in the intricacies of Christianity the more likely they are to quote Bible verses. (proof texting) Mature, well educated Christians understand the problems I have with Christianity. While they still choose to believe, they understand why I don’t. They may WISH I would return to Christianity but they understand that quoting Bible verses will not facilitate that return.
Some Christians take to preaching in the comments. They view the readers of this blog and yours truly as a captive audience so they quote a few verses and preach away. They are not interested in interaction or understanding. They are only interested in getting a good word in for Jesus.
Sometimes, they aren’t really preaching to the me as much as they are preaching to themselves. Perhaps my writing troubles them. They wonder, “If a well-educated, seasoned pastor like Bruce can fall from the faith, so can anyone one!” Very true, however, rather than carefully considering what I write and its implications, they circle the wagons and defend the home turf. This is a normal response. We all do it when our sincerely-held beliefs and convictions are challenged.
Preaching may make the preacher feel good and it may reinforce their need to be right but it has a negative effect on people like me. Atheists and nonbelievers likely have heard enough preaching to last them a lifetime. I have preached thousands of sermons and heard thousands more. Lest you doubt the math……consider 50 years x 3 times a week + Sunday school, revivals, special meetings, pastor’s conferences, street meetings, nursing home services, and chapel services. I have preached and heard more sermons than the average Methodist or Episcopalian hears in 5 lifetimes.
Preaching doesn’t work but it seems that a lot of Christians like to hear themselves talk or read their own sermons. So preach away, dear Christian but understand, that to me and many atheists, your words are like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. (1 Corinthians 11) They are just noise.
Bible verse regurgitators and sermon preachers seem to have no time for questions. They are focused on whatever their objective is and can not be bothered with questions. Recently, a commenter has been droning endlessly about law and grace. He has been asked several questions, yet he never answers them. It seems he expects everyone to just accept his theological pronouncements, even if they show a lack of nuance and understanding about the text of the Bible. He is above the questions of lowly atheists and nonbelievers. (even if his comments show a definite lack of understanding Christian doctrine)
Granted, I do not ask questions because I don’t know. I ask questions in hopes of getting the Christian commenter to think more deeply about their beliefs. Of course many Christian commenters are certain that what they belief is THE TRUTH, the ONLY TRUTH, so help them the triune God of the Christian Bible. They are absolutely certain that their interpretation of the Bible is absolutely correct. They expect people to bow in submission to their interpretation. Questions? When in the presence of certainty questions are not needed. Just believe!
Ignoring Educational and Professional Background
One of my favorite commenters is the one that only reads one blog post. Often, they come to the Fallen From Grace blog via a Google search. One recent commenter came to this blog via a Google search of “Todd Burpo Did Jesus have Wings?” I am not kidding. This same person then proceeds to argue Christian doctrine with me and tell me how ignorant I am of the Bible. Any person having to Google, Did Jesus Have Wings ought never to open their mouth about the teachings of Christianity.
Many of the prominent atheists on the internet were former Christian pastors or educators. Many of us spent decades studying the Bible. We spent countless hours reading books and dissecting the Greek and Hebrew text. We took seriously our calling and devoted our lives to knowing the Bible inside and out. Like a doctor, lawyer or any other professional we knew our craft well.
Why is it then that little respect is paid to us? Why is it every Christian armed with a Strong’s Concordance and a Bible software program thinks they are an expert on what the Bible teaches? Evidently, when we deconverted all our knowledge disappeared.
One recent commenter quoted Andrew Murray and then proceeded to tell me he was a non-Christian writer. Sigh…. She was trying to give secular proof of the existence of Jesus and her proof was 19th century Christian author Andrew Murray. Never mind that I have read most of what Andrew Murray wrote……I am ignorant and closed minded because I didn’t accept her no-proof proof.
Regardless of what disagreement I may have with a person, I respect those who work hard at knowing their craft well. I know that becoming proficient at anything requires hard work. Excelling requires total commitment to the craft.
While I can’t stop Christian commenters from disparaging and ignoring my 50 years in the Christian church, my education, and 25 years in the ministry, they should know that this approach causes me to shut my ears. If you don’t respect me why should I listen to one word you say or write?
This is a no-brainer. Calling names is a definite show-stopper. Yes, I know I have called people names a time or two. Yes, I know there are some well-known atheists who are quite proficient at name calling. Surely your mother taught you that just because someone else does something does mean it is a good idea for you to do the same.
Being told I am ignorant, a fool, an idiot, etc. causes me to stop listening to anything the epithet hurler has to say. Once again, it is about respect.
When I call names it is because I am angry, offended, pissed off, want to retaliate, or lack a good response. When I call names I am reducing myself to level of my word-challenged critics. I must constantly guard against telling some commenters that they are brain-dead, illiterate, married to their sister dumb fucks.
I see name calling as a coarse, degrading way of conversation. It rarely accomplishes anything. Sadly, some Christian commenters don’t see it this way. I wonder what Jesus would think of their name calling?
Some commenters think of themselves as prophets, called of God to speak truth to degenerate, atheist,Christ-haters like me. They see themselves as modern day speakers of truth, just like the prophets and apostles, and men of God of old. (sorry women really should keep silent in the comments) They think they are above the unwashed uncircumcised Philistines that frequent this blog so they can say whatever they want.
Invitations for Breakfast, lunch, or dinner
I like eating out. I like fellowshipping with other people. That said, eating out is not a time to debate over Christianity or atheism. Eating out is a time for good food, lame jokes, reflections on the past,and having fun. Eating out is meant to be free from dick measuring. (sizing each other up) As a home-bound disabled person, I look forward to going out to eat. This Saturday Polly and I are going to Toledo to shop and we plan to eat at Famous Dave’s while we are there. It is only Wednesday and I am already exited about our trip to the big city. I love spending time with Polly, eating good food, and spending money.
So, I ask you WHY would I want to share a meal with a Christian, a pastor, a “concerned” follower of Jesus? If they can read, my blog tells them everything they need to know about me. What will eating a meal together accomplish?
Listen, I understand their motivation. They refuse to accept that I left Christianity for intellectual reasons. They are certain there is some underlying emotional issue. Perhaps I am burned out or I have been hurt. They think if they just befriend me they can win me back to Jesus. They think if they are nice to me they can show me the “good” Jesus and I will then come running back to the fold.
While I will readily admit that there is an emotional component to my defection from the faith, the bottom line reason is an intellectual one. I don’t believe the Bible is truth. That’s it. End of story. No matter how friendly a Christian might be it is not going to change my beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible.
Dear Christian, you want to be my friend? Do you want to wine and dine me at McDonalds? Can you do this without ever bringing up Christianity or my atheism? (unless we mutually agree to talk about it) Can you do this without psychoanalyzing my past? Can you focus on the here-and-now rather than the sweet-by-and-by? Can you respect me as I am, where am? Can you respect why I am an atheist?
Before you answer YES……..consider that many have walked the path to my door before you. They all said YES, but over time the simply could not repress their native need to speak a good word for Jesus or to try and nudge, pull, or drive me back to Christianity. Maybe, you are different. I doubt it……but maybe. Knowing now what I have experienced in the past, you’ll forgive me if I don’t trust any Christian, especially a pastor, who says, “I want to be your friend.” I am like the woman who has been married five times…When a Christian says “let’s be friends” I am immediately wary.
What else could be added to this post? What do Christians do that immediately turns you off or causes you to stop listening?