A lesson learned from angry atheists

AngryI had a chance to interact with some atheists in response to a post I had written for Bravefaith.org. While I did not intend it this way, some of what I had written came off as “insulting and hate inducing” according to one of the commenters. I did not do a good job of understanding their point of view before writing the post. The comments helped me better understand why they are angry.

In response to angry atheists we are tempted to sit back and smugly quote what the Apostle Paul says (1 Corinthians 2:14) about the natural man not understanding the things of God. Yet, the truth of this verse does not relieve us of the responsibility to reach out to those who are angry with us and with God to seek to understand the anger and engage it in a loving manner. We must resist the temptation to lob truth missiles over the wall hoping that they hit the target.

One lesson I learned from my interaction at Bravefaith is that the organized church has much to answer for and some of the anger of the atheist is justified. If we are going to reach out to those who have been alienated from religion, we need to own up to the failings of ourselves and our churches. While we cannot resolve all of the anger, we can resolve the part that is caused by our inappropriate behavior. We can confess and ask forgiveness where we have given offense.

In Matthew 5:23, Jesus tells us that if we are on the way to worship and remember that our brother has something against us, that we should make it right before attempting to worship. It may be that the way we interact (or don’t interact) with our community is affecting the way we worship. Our offering of worship may be neglected by God because we have not sought to be reconciled to our neighbor.

AngryPerhaps if we have more of a spirit of repentance and mourning and less of an attitude of moral rectitude we might be in a better position to speak into the lives of those with whom we disagree. I believe that a better awareness of, and honesty about, our own failings, doubts and stupidity would put us in a better position to speak the truth in love.

This does not mean that we cannot offer correction when it is appropriate and needed. We need to engage faulty reasoning in a loving, reasonable manner. For example the claims of atheists that Hitler was a Christian are preposterous and need to be addressed.

No matter how lovingly we present truth, some will be offended by the Gospel. Some will reject the gospel because they refuse to submit to God. Some will refuse to give up their sinful lifestyle. Some will seek to stand firm in their own perceived goodness. But let us be sure that it is the Gospel that is the offense and not the manner in which we present it.

One of the complaints that I’ve heard is that too often Christians try to jam the gospel down someone’s throat. Yes, we have the responsibility to present the gospel, but I cannot find any instance where Jesus forced truth on someone who was not prepared to hear it. A wise lady once told me that Jesus is a gentleman; he does not force himself on anyone.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that those angry atheists are people for whom Christ died. We are no better; they are no worse. Before we respond to the anger, we should listen to understand its source. It is my hope that by listening and understanding we can then speak truth into the situation in a loving way.

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Mark McIntyre

Mark has been blogging at Attempts at Honesty since early in 2011 primarily writing to challenge and encourage the church to be all that she should be. He can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

  • http://twitter.com/JTrott Jim Trott

    Are there Christian clergy and other Christian leaders whom you deem to be charlatans? When they see a concerted effort by reasonably-minded Christians to shed themselves of the frauds and authoritarian personality-cults which infect Christianity, perhaps skeptics and other non-evangelicals will be more inclined to hear what you have to say.

    • http://www.mhmcintyre.us/ Mark McIntyre

      I can’t argue with this. Too often a church gets built around a man instead of being founded on Christ. I know from personal experience that when this happens it is bad for everyone and dishonors God.
      When this country gets to the point where Christians are persecuted (barring a revival), those who proclaim Christ for personal gain will be weeded out.

      • http://twitter.com/JTrott Jim Trott

        I don’t see a great persecution coming; evangelical machinations have set Christianity on a drift toward irrelevance for many Americans. (Schemes such as the Great Commission Resurgence begin to fade.)

        Why wait to weed out the charlatans from the temple? It may lead to a revival beyond your reckoning.

        • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.gibbs.737 Joshua Gibbs

          Agreed. Better to clean house now then just sit around and wait till we’re in trouble.

          • http://www.mhmcintyre.us/ Mark McIntyre

            The question is, how can this “house cleaning” be accomplished?

            • http://twitter.com/JTrott Jim Trott

              Well, that is the question, isn’t it?

              Go talk to your religious leaders about it. Tell them you’d like to bring a little video camera along to record the discussion.

              Their replies might offer some insights as to why the charlatans are allowed to prosper.

  • ldwaddell

    It is my understanding from scripture that we will always have the weeds growing among the wheat until the final harvest (Christ’s return). To attempt to “clean house” would mean ripping more wheat out than the weeds merit. I think the best method of combating weeds is to plant good seed in a well tilled field. Meaning that the true and more difficult gospel of Christ be presented in a open, honest and balanced way. But there has to be a means of choice, will the people be drawn to a preacher who preaches the whole gospel more than they would a phony who promises health, wealth and prosperity? Only God can draw men and women to himself, but the real Jesus Christ must be presented in a honest and winsome way first.