Unteachable Christians Come Out of the Woodwork

Glimpses of Arrogant, Aggressive Ignorance

I’ve been in book-promotion mode since my new book was published last week: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught. One of the things I did was arrange an ad on Facebook. I carefully selected the target audience, e.g., atheist, humanist, freethinker, secular. Facebook gave me an estimate of how many people would be reached, which was pretty impressive. But as it turned out, many people who were not in my selected targets got included. That is, the ad popped up on the timelines of Christians. The reaction was predictable: Hell hath no fury...like an offended Christian.


I was reminded of what happened when Christopher Hitchens died. Many folks in religious communities had never heard of him, but when they saw the title of his book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, virulent Christian hate erupted on social media. The comments posted to my ad didn’t quite reach that level, but they do offer insights into how some devout folks perceive the world. Perhaps the most adamant comment came from a fellow named Mark:


“Your book is irrelevant. Authentic Christians believe every word which dropped from His lips. You can't shock us with anything because we already know everything He said and it is all still standing after being subjected to 2000 years of criticism.” 


Mind you, there wasn’t any hint that he’d read the book. The title set him off, and perhaps he’d read the description on Amazon. He also sent me a private message: “You are full of baloney.” He gave no thought or effort at all to engage in the issues I raise in the book. He confessed his total allegiance to Jesus, bragging that he “already knew everything He said.” It is precisely this mindset that has always played into the hands of tyrants, demagogues, and religious bureaucrats who want followers who won’t think for themselves, who “believe every word” that drops from their lips. 


Mark admitted that his mind is officially closed, at least he carefully screens what he allows in. What factors bring on this mindset? Three come to mind especially.


First, as Jonathan MS Pearce has stated in his book, The Resurrection: A Critical Examination of the Easter Story:


“Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon that arises when we hold a core belief (a very strongly-held belief) and we are then introduced to rational evidence that is contrary to that core belief. It is what our brain does to harmonise the dissonance, the disharmony, that the brain experiences. The brain does not enjoy that disharmony because it is incoherent. If the rational evidence (perhaps “reality”) is at odds with a core belief, then the brain can do a range of things to reduce the feeling (cognitive dissonance reduction)…[including] refuse to accept the disconfirming evidence – it is simply wrong or doesn’t exist. Confirmation bias can be used to give more weight to criticisms of the disconfirming evidence than is warranted.” (Kindle, loc 7446-7447)


Second, Mark has been coached—I’m guessing since toddlerhood—that faith is a superior path to knowledge. Religious leaders of all brands have always promoted this idea, this fantasy. But then, just to be sure, apologists of all religions can show their followers the “evidence” that demonstrates the truth of their “one true faith.” But, of course, apologists of other religious brands argue that “evidence” for the other brands doesn’t hold up in court. How many Catholic apologists have been convinced by the “evidence” advanced by devout Mormons, Muslims, or Baptists? This dilemma was spotted early on. The author of John’s gospel invented the famous Doubting Thomas story to show the ideal way for his readers to respond. Jesus ridiculed Thomas for wanting to see proof that Jesus had risen: “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’”  (John 20:29, NRSV) That is, just believe what you’re told. I’ve known many people of faith who demonstrate so very little curiosity about their beliefs. My critic Mark kicks it up a notch, bragging about his closed mind.


Third, and this gets to the heart of the matter: hope for eternal life hangs in the balance. Wavering from Jesus endangers your eternal soul, so don’t even dare to questions any words that have “dropped from His lips.” The Ancient Jesus Mystery Cult (aka now as Christianity) outlasted so many of its competitors in the early centuries for political reasons, to be sure, but it excelled at promoting the promise (i.e., the gimmick) of eternal life…as did the other cults. From the postings I see from Christians on Facebook, it’s clear that a lot of folks remain secure in this belief. It gets a boost every time they go to church. 


It would seem that this weekly practice advances their cause, but I wonder if the folks in the pews grasp the confusion in the New Testament about how to earn eternal life. In Matthew 25, the Last Judgment Scene, Jesus indicates that folks who fail to show enough compassion will get tossed into eternal fire, and even most Christian would admit they don’t meet the high bar that Jesus set. In Matthew 19 a young man asked Jesus what he had to do to gain eternal life:


“Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” (Matthew 19:21-22)  That’s another pretty high bar. 


And in John’s gospel and Paul, we find magic potions and spells are required. John’s Jesus said that followers had to eat his flesh and drink his blood (see John 6 for more about these potions) and in Romans 10:9 Paul assures his readers that a magic spell will do the trick. Honestly, Christianity should be ashamed of itself.


Let me digress briefly. The eternal life gimmick can have a downside; it can lead to the cheapening of this life, even callousness in the face of suffering and death. This frightening news item caught my attention: 


“Mississippi’s Republican Governor Tate Reeves said southerners are ‘a little less scared’ of Covid-19 because they ‘believe in eternal life.’ ‘I’m often asked by some of my friends on the other side of the aisle about Covid… and why does it seem like folks in Mississippi and maybe in the Mid-South are a little less scared, shall we say,’ Reeves said. ‘When you believe in eternal life—when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don’t have to be so scared of things,’ the governor told the crowd during a Republican Party fundraiser in Tennessee this week.”  


I can’t find anything in the New Testament about place of residence guaranteeing eternal life. And have all of those folks in Mississippi and the Mid-South worked out the tricky business of how to qualify, given the confusion in the New Testament?   We-believe-in-eternal-life-so-we’re-good: Governor Reeves brushes off the horrible suffering that Covid brings to those on their way to eternal life—or not. Are these Christian values?


Now back to Mark’s critique of my book that he didn’t read. Seems like he’s gone to a lot of effort to remain unaware of what’s been happening to Christianity, given his claim that “…it is all still standing after being subjected to 2000 years of criticism.” What value is “still standing” when there are 30,000 brands of the faith that cannot agree on what God is like, what he expects, and how he wants to be worshipped? What a mess. If Mark is a Southern Baptist or Pentecostal, would he consider converting to Catholicism because it might be a more correct version of Christianity?


To be fair to Mark, he actually said that “all that Jesus said” is still standing after 2000 years. But the whole point of my book is that Christians themselves don’t think so! Jesus-belief is vulnerable precisely because the faithful themselves disagree with Jesus: I have identified ten categories of his teaching regarding which so many of the devout just say No. Apologists have labored overtime to work around, excuse, apologize for so many things Jesus (supposedly) said. What a mess. 


Mark was joined by a few others who offered critiques, without having read the book:


Dave [exactly as he wrote it]:  


“Atheism is boring. I used to do all this BTW: The rational stuff... And I'm not sure we're better off now. West is degenerate. Broken families. Feminism. Marxist groups. And Islam filling the vaccum. Be careful what you wish for because once it's gone it's gone. Rather have nice cultural Christian families and relative peace, some sort of based moral system than this morally relativist, individualist intersectionalist clown world, whatever the hell it is. Some of you are really missing the point.

"Cultural Christian's don't murder their own off-sping - based. They tend to keep their stable nuclear families - based. They're not gonna fill their kids heads with LGBTQP/rainbow mafia nonsense, so their kids don't even know if they're a boy or a girl - based. I believe they give more to charity. They're probably going to maintain their culture/civilization/society more. You're not selling me on points here - How is this modern baseless degeneracy better?”


What a mess. Given this cluster of incoherence, it’s little wonder that he fails to perceive the massive incoherence in Christian theology.


William weighed in as well:  


“How can anyone not Christian know what a true Christian believes? It's impossible smh. As a Christian I am thankful beyond mere words for every word that Jesus spoke. Thankful beyond words. And one day all you haters will bow before him and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. But then it will be too late as u have already judged yourselves by rejecting Christ. He taught that. If we as Christians are wrong we have lost nothing. But if u haters of Christ's teachings are wrong you will have lost everything. I like my odds way better. DUH.”


Again, who, among the 30,000 brands, are the true Christians?


Juergen: “Another book of bullshit to separate fools from their money!”


Kevin: “Who let this junk in here? Another sales pitch by another bad author looking for money. I can tell already the book’s a flim-flam. But thanks for wasting my time!”


One guy named Bill sent a private message: “Please go away.” 


This comment actually has some merit. After all, my ad appeared on his timeline—blame Facebook, entirely against my wishes—and he has no use for trolls invading his space. Nor do I want to be a troll. I never, ever, go onto Christian blogs or websites to advocate atheism (nor those of any other religions). It would be a waste of time and keystrokes, but it’s also bad manners. It would be like me walking into a church on Sunday morning to argue with the preacher. Bad manners. I am an atheist advocate, and state the case for this in my books and on this blog. I spread the links to these on Twitter and to my Facebook friends and followers.  


But if Bill means I should go away, as in give up my work, well, no, I won’t do that. Another comment came from Andy: “The best way you can help people is by shutting down your site.” 


Why don’t you guys pray for that to happen? 



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 by Tellectual Press in 2016. It was reissued in 2018 with a new Foreword by John Loftus.


The Cure-for-Christianity Library©, now with more than 500 titles, is here. A brief video explanation of the Library is here.



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