I listen to several atheist call-in shows and podcasts, particularly late at night. I take three medications at night to help with insomnia and pain, yet it still takes two to three hours for me to fall asleep. Typically, I watch TV shows/movies on my iPad Pro or listen to YouTube videos. Instead of saying bedtime prayers to the ceiling God, I fall asleep listening to videos/podcasts produced by the Atheist Community of Austin, Jimmy Snow, Matt Dillahunty, Rationality Rules, the Godless Engineer, and other atheist content producers.
Of late, I have become increasingly troubled by several atheist talk show hosts and podcasters who show a lack of understanding about Christianity and the Bible. If you are going to critique Evangelicalism and the Bible, then you should, at the very least, have a working knowledge and understanding of that which you are criticizing.
One call-in show host said that Jesus, during his lifetime, had LOTS of followers. This is patently false. According to Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book, The Triumph of Christianity, it is likely Jesus had around 20 followers in 30 CE. That group “exploded” to a few hundred people by 60 CE. In Acts 1:13-26, after the death of Jesus, 120 people gathered in the upper room for prayer, to listen to a sermon by Peter, and choose a replacement (Matthias) for Judas. One thing is certain: a relatively unknown, obscure itinerant Jewish preacher did NOT have lots of followers.
Another call-in show host said that Jesus started a new religion. He most certainly did not. Jesus was a Jew; his followers during his lifetime were observant Jews who worshiped at the Temple in Jerusalem. According to Acts 11:25-26:
Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Jesus was not a Christian. Jesus didn’t start First Baptist Church in Jerusalem. If we take Acts 11 as accurate history, the first time the followers of Jesus were called Christians happened 40 years after the life and death of Jesus.
And finally, another call-in talk show host, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, objected when a caller said Christianity was a cult. The host vehemently disagreed, saying that her former religion was a cult, but garden variety Christian sects were NOT cults. This host, for some reason, thought it important that the word cult be reserved for just “bad” religions — her former religion. The host showed a real lack of awareness about other Christian sects, particularly Evangelical denominations. Fortunately, the show’s co-host gently corrected his fellow host’s incorrect assertions.
I have noticed that some atheist call-in talk show hosts have a hard time saying “I don’t know” or admitting that they lack understanding about a particular subject. Wanting to be viewed as authoritative, these hosts (at times) speak beyond that which they know. I am in no way suggesting that these hosts are deliberately saying untrue things. I suspect that the problem is a lack of knowledge. It’s important to know what we don’t know. I don’t pontificate on this blog about science or non-Christian religions. While I am not ignorant of some aspects of these things, I am not an authority. Want to talk about Evangelicalism or the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement? I’m your man. I know what I’m talking about. I try to stay in my lane, focusing my work on subjects for which I have expertise.
To these show hosts and podcasters, I say, do better, my fellow atheists, do better. Christians deserve to have their religion, in all its flavors, accurately represented. Atheists don’t like it when their beliefs are straw-manned, and neither do Christians. If you are going to critique Christianity in general and Evangelicalism in particular, please put in the work necessary to know what the hell you are talking about. If you are unwilling to do your homework, please turn off the microphone.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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