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O Me of Little Faith

On Tuesday, I mentioned The Outsider Interviews, a book and DVD describing what non-believers think about believers. It was brought to my attention by blogger and author Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist.” In his post about the book/DVD, he asked his readers — most of whom are nontheists — this question:

If Christians would listen, what would you say to them?

The responses are challenging (to say the least) but as we mentioned earlier, they are responses that Christians need to understand and be aware of. You can read an almost comprehensive list of them here without having to dig into hundreds of comments.

For the sake of our discussion, I thought I’d list a few of the answers to the above question.

Christians…

• are hypocritical.
• need a spiritual
being to cling to.
• hold modern beliefs which aren’t Christ-like.
• think
that philosophy, science, postmodernism, movies, etc. are out to get
them.
• tell others how to live their lives.
• are judgmental.
• are narrow-minded.
• reject reality.
• believe that God created
the heavens and Earth in 6 days.
• think they are horrible and
unworthy.
• have been brainwashed into believing something that makes
them intolerant and hateful.
• are trapped in a religion that takes
advantage of good intentions.
• limit their understanding of the whole
wide universe to the Bible.
• manipulate family members to isolate and
reject atheists.
• think that moral behavior is impossible without
belief in God.
• have been told what
to think by their Church.
• think that atheists are ignorant, angry or abused.
• condemn others.
• think shellfish are ok, but homosexuals are not.
• are
arrogant.
• have not read the Bible.
• don’t use
evidence based in reality.
• have not researched science.
• fear
atheists.
• think asking
questions and searching for answers is a bad thing.
• are being spoon-fed.
• play the victim.
• are raised to
be judgmental.
• take the Bible seriously, but disregard other holy texts.
• do not have a
scientific mindset.
• hold nonsensical beliefs.
• use
words, actions and votes to express disrespect for another’s sexual
orientation.
• are on the
wrong side of big issues like slavery, segregation, discrimination
against blacks, discrimination against women, discrimination against
gays.
• made war, tortured others, fueled the Inquisition, destroyed
cultures with missionary work.
• close their eyes to progress and
scientific evidence.
• wreck families and ruin lives.
• are unwilling
to change their opinion on whether god exists or not.
• don’t read the
Bible critically.

Yes, the list contains offensive stereotypes.

Yes, many of these are generalities that may apply to some Christians but of course not every individual.

Yes, many of these descriptions make me feel annoyed, upset, or uncomfortable.

But before we get defensive and start citing Scriptures about persecution and how the world will hate us and all that, we need to read the list again and ask ourselves this: What does it say about me? What needs to change in the way I treat people to repair this perception?

Because regardless of what we Christians may think about the list, we need to understand that this is the perception many nonbelievers have of us, and perceptions are often based on reality.

We can say over and over how important it is to love our neighbors and we can throw around words like “mercy” and “grace” and we can sing about how the world will know us by our love. But the truth is that we’re not doing a very good job at loving people, because the perception of Christians by non-Christians — judging from this list from an admittedly narrow focus group — isn’t good.

As a Christian, what am I doing that causes others to think about me this way?

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