I have a friend who strongly hates religion. While he doesn’t try to force Atheism down my throat, he does often go on a lengthy rant about all the evils religion (especially Christianity) has brought on to the world and holds Secular Humanism and Scientism on the pedestal. I am trying very hard to be kind to him and listen to him but sometimes I can’t help but personally get offended by some of his statements. I am not sure what to do because some of the stuff he says is personally affecting me.
Please, dear friend: whatever your friend says, do NOT take it personally.
I understand it feels like he’s talking smack about your mama, but any sort of pushback from you will only prove his point.
I’ve said this story many times, but in my old housing complex there was an awesome black gentlemen who was a guard at the security gate. He had to work with a raging atheist, who was also a pretty cool dude. Both of them became my friends. When I asked Terry, the Christian black gentleman, how he handled the atheist, he said some very simple words.
Oh man, he just don’t know.
That was it. No detailed script, no three-point plan, no evangelism cube, no apologetics. Just the simple reasoning: He doesn’t know any better, and that’s okay.
Because at one point in my life, I didn’t know any better.
At one point in your life, you didn’t know any better.
We all hated a weak version of Christianity that some lame college professor could dismantle in a thirty second lecture in the impressionable mind of a seventeen year old freshman.
I was an atheist who hated God, who hated Christians, who shrugged at Jesus.
We just didn’t know.
I hope you have patience for your friend, to remember what it was like the first time you walked nervously into church expecting to be judged, not knowing why these Christians were being so nice to you, thinking the preacher was scamming everyone with the offering plate, seeing some weird stuff on Sundays like “drinking the blood” and being “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and hearing that murmuring during prayer time.
Try to remember.
And your friend, to some degree, is right. It’s okay to agree with him. Christians should absolutely apologize for things that “Christians” have done, acknowledging that it’s not supposed to be that way. It’s okay to say that his human idea of religion has caused a lot of chaos: because people are people, and we can pervert anything.
“Religion” has definitely caused tons of evil and quite a few atrocities. Never mind that atheism has caused massive genocides and that Christianity is responsible for countless good deeds and the advancement of human welfare: so long as we’re being one-sided, you can defer to your friend.
But a screwed up people in no way reflects on the perfect God. It only reflects on how much we need Him.
I don’t think your friend’s problem is with Christianity. The simple question here is, What’s the actual obstacle that’s keeping you from a belief in God?
Some of that will be intellectual and academic and social and philosophical, but there’s an emotional component in there too. There is a psychological element in our faith that stems from upbringing, background, history, past events, trauma, and our own biased preferences. To deny that is to deny our humanness.
See: no one convinced me into or out of atheism. It felt easier, because I wanted the mindless sex and the rampant cynicism and the permission to be selfish. My home was also messed up and my family wasn’t exactly nurturing. So who wants to be under the authority of God? Even if He’s supposedly good and gracious and loving? If life is so cruel, why not do what the heck we want?
I’m not saying every atheist is like this, but come on: it’s pretty difficult to live an actual Christian life and way easier to give in to impulse. Even if this isn’t spoken out loud, it still describes the subconscious childish entitlement of most non-Christians. Atheism was appealing in that way, and made sense to the M.O. of my flesh. Any real atheist, including a former atheist like myself, will be man enough to admit it.
So whatever reasons your friend is giving, all those social implications and “secular humanism” and wonderful statistics, are not the primary reasons. He knows it. He became an overnight Google Expert and supported his feelings with some cobbled facts. He has hardly begun to approach the real God, because it’s too threatening. Trust me on that: I was terrified to think God could be real.
If you’re going to really struggle for your friend, you’ll need to love him. Not to convert him or make him a project or change his mind, but to love him because you love him, regardless of his response. It’s the only way.
Sure, brush up on your apologetics. Yes, be aware that religion has done some evil. But don’t take it personally when he goes for a reaction; the only thing you should take personally is that your friend needs the love of Christ, and you’re the one person who can show it like crazy in spite of everything.