Dumb Things Christians Say, Another Installment

Critical thinking isn’t taught at Sunday School
A devout Christian whom I know is a public school teacher, and she is proud that she became a lay catechist in her church; she is fiercely devoted to her faith. We have engaged in a bit of sparring about my atheism, and I recommended that she read a couple of books by Bart Ehrman—to get an idea of what’s going on in New Testament studies. She scowled…and informed me that she doesn’t read books—in fact, never has. [I’m still trying to process this bit of too-much-information: a school teacher who doesn’t read books.] She even made it through college without doing so. “I just kept very careful notes in class,” she said. I wasn’t sure if she was boasting or confessing.

On the scale of How-Christian-are-you? I would give her a full robust score of 10. Not because she doesn’t like to read, but because her faith is impenetrable. It is rock solid, secure, untouchable; the faith was encoded in her brain from an early age, and there it remains. There is no chance that her mind will open even a little bit. It is sometimes said that Christians cannot be reasoned out of their faith, because they weren’t reasoned into it. In her case, that’s the truth.

But there are other Christians for whom it isn’t true—after all, a lot of atheists were once churchgoers—and who don’t rate the perfect 10. They’re not brain-dead or frozen. They have found that life can batter away at the certainties proclaimed from the pulpit. The subtitle of my book, A Minister-Turned-Atheist Show Why You Should Ditch the Faith, includes the word YOU for a reason. I did write it with some Christians in mind: Yes, those who are willing to listen, for whom the propaganda might have worn thin.

I established the Facebook page for my book in 2012, four years prior to publication. Since it became available on Amazon in 2016, every week I have paid for Facebook boosts to promote the Amazon link. And that’s when Christian visitors began to show up.

I acknowledge, of course, that my subtitle is combative, so, hey, pushback and protest could be expected. But the Christians who have offered their comments—I’m guessing they all merit a #10 ranking—turned out to be a daft, nasty bunch. The level of illogic has been stunning. Ignorance of their own faith is alarming, and in fact betrays shocking stupidity at the core. I couldn’t pass up the chance to collect the dumb things Christians say.

I have put them all into one document, which is now more than 70 pages long. Last October I shared some of them in a DC Blog article, in which I explained what I mean by DUMB. Now it’s time for another installment. Here are more examples of self-incriminating quotes. The distressed Christians do a pretty good job of undermining the faith by their uninformed attempts to defend and salvage it.

• Shannon B. wrote, “Millions of people would disagree with your contention that Christianity fails. God doesn’t fail, people fail.”

Does she really have no idea that this doesn’t work as a defense of the faith? Millions of people can be wrong. There must be other tests for truth. There are probably millions of Christians who believe that Shannon’s version of the faith is wrong.

And how would she test/verify the claim that God doesn’t fail? She doesn’t have to, of course, because she has been taught to ‘take it on faith.’ Believers don’t appear to grasp that the very first priests who pushed their god-ideas—including ‘God doesn’t fail’—could have been wrong. That didn’t stop the nonsense from spreading.

Moreover, if the Christian construct of God is true, including his superior power, wisdom and compassion, then most certainly God has failed. For example, he couldn’t manage to stop the Holocaust (“How did you sleep? Like God during the Holocaust”), which was part of an even larger calamity. “It took two world wars,” Darrel Ray has pointed out, “for the Europeans to realize that the prayers of millions of people were not answered. It doesn’t take too much intelligence to see that god isn’t working too well when 92 million people died in two world wars.” (Emphasis added,The God Virus) God has neglected to correct the aggression and territoriality encoded in the human brain, to eliminate genetic diseases, stop famines and mass shootings; the list is endless.

It just doesn’t work to defend the faith with a cliché. Any proper theologian knows that it could take hundreds of pages to squirm out of such bad theology: “God doesn’t fail, people fail.”

“When great fear comes upon you I’ll laugh at your calamity”

While Christians have no magic wand to banish atheism (a strange deficiency since they are experts at magical thinking), they commonly resort to gloating: you’ll get what you deserve. This is get-even theology that derives from Jesus and Paul. So there are Christians who look forward to the coming doom for atheists, me especially:

• Alan H. boasted: “As my friend, Pastor Ernie Sanders often says, ‘If you don’t believe that Jesus is Lord, one second after you die…YOU WILL.’”

• Tabb A. scolded, “It's one thing not to believe yourself, but to actively seek converts away from something you don’t believe in...it’s a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

• Claude A. was worried: “This is pure lunacy. I hope this author sees the light before it's too late.”

• Charles T. offered a mixed version of compassion: “I’ll pray your eyes are opened and you have an ear to hear. In the last days there will be scoffers. He knew you were coming. When great fear comes upon you I’ll laugh at your calamity. Love you bro. I’ll pray!”

• Reg T. was succinct: “Moron. Mystery sandwich. Burn in hell.”

• Geri W. was sure that Satan is behind my book: “False prophet wrote this. First of all a turncoat. Was never saved in the first place. Remember: the road to hell is very wide, the road to heaven is narrow and few there be that find it. Satan is a liar and the father of it. He is a follower of Satan. Do not believe him. He will send your soul to hell. Trust only Jesus Christ, God's Son! Do not read or believe this book. Only trust God's Word. Your soul is at stake.”

In other words, our god is a loving god—until you cross him. How can these guys be comfortable with God-the-Supreme-Bully? He’s not only a bully, he’s a narcissist who gets supremely pissed if folks don’t believe the right stuff. By what measure of compassion or justice can eternal punishment be deemed appropriate or moral? If Jesus really believed this (see Matthew 25:45), he is disqualified as a moral teacher deserving our respect.

A More Benign Version of the Faith

• Laszlo K. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‪assured me, “There's no problem with Christianity as long as you follow Christ's way of life as He intended us to do.”‬‬

He seems to be confident that he has it all figured out, but Laszio is oblivious on a least a couple of levels:

• How do we know ‘Christ’s way of life’? Figuring out which ‘words of Jesus’ in the gospels really are the words of Jesus has been a major preoccupation of New Testament scholars for a long time. Nobody knows for sure. Wasn’t that covered in Sunday School?

• And it’s my suspicion that Laszio rejects, flat out, many of the teachings of Jesus—as do so many Christians. Those who get divorced, for example. Those who have pension plans (“Do not lay up treasures for yourself on earth…”), those who have any eye toward fashion and work hard to feed their families. You’re not supposed to do any of that, according to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

And how about Matthew 5:39-42: “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” I don’t know many Christians who take this kind of advice seriously; they don’t even regard it as an unattainable ideal.

Come on, guys, you’re just blowing smoke in our faces when you say all we have to do is follow Christ’s way of life. We can see what’s happening: it’s easy to fantasize about an idealized Jesus…and just skip over the bad advice from Jesus.

Wouldn’t you think it would be easy to spot Jesus’ bad advice if you have a version of the Bible that prints the words of Jesus in red? (In an earlier article I discussed this red-ink foolishness).

But, oh no, it doesn’t seem to work that way:

• Terry G. wrote, “Stick with the red. The words of Jesus are not condemning or confusing only uplifting.”

• Lou T. seems to have been blinded by the red ink: “As I read my Bible, I like the red print the best. It is bold yet abounding in humility ... direct and full of compassion. I find no confusion or turmoil in the teachings of Jesus. I drink up the simplicity of it all. Over-analyzing often takes the transformative magic and spontaneity out of the life-altering teachings.” [A word of caution to Christians: don’t say things like, ‘I drank up the simplicity’ and ‘transformative magic’.]

Did both Terry and Lou miss the red letters of Luke 14:26 and Luke 17:26-27:

• “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

• “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.”

It seems that a lot of Christians who look forward to Jesus ‘coming back’ aren’t bothered that most people on earth will be killed to mark the occasion. How can Lou be correct that the red ink is “full of compassion”? How can Terry be right that the red ink is “uplifting.” Haven’t they picked up on the cult-crazy flavor of some of Jesus’ pronouncements?

It’s just a fact that too many of the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels fail to meet basic moral standards…or even make sense. Hence I appreciated the cynicism of Tim H., who left this comment: “You just have to stop demanding that it makes sense. The great thing about this technique is that it works just as well for any religion.”

In the marketplace of ideas, all systems of thought, all religions, are fair game for critique and criticism, although Christians seem to want their faith to be off-limits. Of course, Facebook offers a kind of private space, that is, we can delete, unfriend, block and ban stuff we don’t want to see. Which is a good idea. The paid boosts for my book are always carefully targeted; I never select people who identify as Christian or religious. But somehow they end up seeing my promotions; hence I’ve been able to make my collection of Dumb Things that Christians Say. Which includes the nasty stuff as well: David M. asked, “Why does this filthy garbage keep appearing on my feed?” and Richard B. said, “Get this crap off FB.”

Mission Impossible

All of the quotations I have included here do give us pause: Do the Dumb Things Christians Say reflect what they learn in Sunday School or catechism? Never forget—which is why I keep repeating it—that the priests and pastors who run the schools are paid propagandists. They are custodians of indefensible doctrine. Hence critical thinking can never be part of the church curriculum.

The faith professionals know, moreover, that it takes a lot of sophistry and special pleading to “properly” defend the faith. This is well beyond the job description of most laypeople. Which is why we see generous helpings of sophisticated Dumb Things said by the professional apologists who show up here at the DC Blog.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published in 2016 by Tellectual Press.

The Cure-for-Christianity Library can be found here.