We live in such a time where dialogue doesn’t seem to happen anymore. We yell past one another with each side digging in their heels safe behind fences and walls getting while drunk on their own smug posture and warped sense of righteousness. We live in a war of words where the idea of moderation or discourse is laughable and seemingly forgotten. So there it remains, each side camped and waiting for attack.
Look at issues like abortion, climate change, gay marriage or any other issue that’s been politicized and volleyed around between religious and political circles. So the issues (and potential solutions) remain frozen in place and will remain there as long as we continue this course.
So how do we brake such a deadlock? It’s not easy, but I believe that the road to change begins when we commence seeing the value in the other side (those that are not like us). When we can start to see that the “other” isn’t much different than we are, we realize that we’re all just human trying to make sense of the world around us. There may have been different circumstances and events that brought each of us to our respective points, but we all have a story. There are no real enemies aside from inflexibility and pride.
I want to start a dialogue here and will begin by picking a fight for the side that most Christians love to demonize… the atheists.
Full disclosure, I’ve been a pastor and worked in churches or Christian based non-profits for the last 13 years. I’ll also add that I have friends who are atheist (along with other belief streams). I value other perspectives and sides. Stepping into a dialogue and breaking bread with people who are not like myself has always been something I value immensely. I value our conversations , their questions and friendship because true friendship isn’t about only having friends who believe what you do. It’s funny how we’re willing to accept so many differences in people, but when it comes to hotbed topics like religion, we draw the line.
Here’s what I value most about atheists:
- They refuse to be saddled with the damaging effects of religion
- They desire community
- They celebrate authenticity
- They want freedom from oppression
- They value asking questions
- They seek knowledge
- They are tried of fear mongering
- They want to help the world to become better
- They live mindfully
- They respect humanity
If anyone would bother to read atheists writers, you’d find people tired of being told what is true and an intense desire to seek that truth on their own merit. Historic Christianity has been oppressive – mentally, spiritually and otherwise. It has done terrible things in the name of God while being veiled in human deceit and hunger for power. Less about God and more about man.
There’s no problem with criticism if it speaks to glaring holes in your own stance. Critiques should inspire and drive us to be better, not become stodgy and defensive.
You see, most of atheist critiques of Christianity have tremendous merit and value. The god they are tired of being told to fear, isn’t a god that I would want to follow either. So in many ways, I understand their pursuits. I, also, am tired of the way Christianity has become political, fear based and oppressive. I’m tired of this strong arm and abusive tactics. We’ve forgotten how to love and serve the world. The way it marches and in America, it seems little like the way Jesus intended. If American Christianity is about following American Jesus, then I’d rather be an atheist as well.
Thankfully, Jesus isn’t about all of that. I choose to follow Christ because of how it changes me and helps me to engage the world around me. My pride and the way I love others is constantly challenged. In my own spiritual journey, I don’t have it figured out. I’m still learning and growing. I appreciate the push back, because it helps me to have a faith that evolves. I appreciate the views, drive and aim of atheists and continue to look forward to future conversations because it helps me continue to follow Jesus.
What are your thoughts?
This post is part of the March Synchroblog, in which each participant writes what they appreciate about another religion or belief system.
- Mark Votava – How Christianity Can Learn from Buddhism
- Justine Steckbauer – Christianity and Other Religions: Many roads or exclusive path?
- Glenn Hager – The Thing About Labels
- Clara Ogwuazor-Mbamalu – What I Appreciate about Islam
- Bram Bonius – What can Christians learn from neo-pagans and ‘magickal’ traditions?
- Mictori – Buddhism Reshaped my Easter
- Loveday – What I Don’t Appreciate About Your Religion
- Pastor FedEx – 3 Things Christians Learn from Other Religions
- Leah Sophia – Land, Sun, Community, Crops
- Kathy Escobar – Why I Love Interfaith Conversations
- Dr. Samuel Mahaffy – My House Shall be a House of Prayer for All People
- J. D. Myers – What I Appreciate About Pagans