Better a Good Atheist Than a Bad Christian

In the comments thread to my post, Tell Me, Christian, That You Hear This Boy, I attracted, like a cockroach to a cinnamon roll, a troll. This particular troll was keen on making public the point that Evan Hurst, from Truth Wins Out, had proven, via some comments he left on a blog post two years ago, that he hates religion, and thinks the whole idea of God is, at best, exceedingly lame.

Here are some excerpts of what Evan wrote in the comment thread that Le’ Troll couldn’t wait for me to read:

Most “reasonable” people, if we’re using the word with a respect for its root word, “reason,” agree that there is no evidence for God’s existence, and thus no rational REASON to believe that any god or gods have determined ANYTHING, much less morality

[God is] a ridiculous idea, created by uneducated nomads from thousands of years ago.

Fundamentalist religious people ARE essentially battered wives. They just act it out on a grander scale without such visible bruises. The really screwed up thing is that their abuser is an imaginary friend.

That means your god is a weak minded little bitch who changes his mind and is definitely NOT eternal or omnipotent.

The troll’s idea was that I should be ashamed of myself for my online association with, and support of, Evan Hurst, who, via Truth Wins Out, sometimes links to/excerpts my posts.

So lemme just say right off that I’m a sucker for anyone who writes with the kind of brains and humor of Evan. That’s just a weakness of mine. If Shakespeare had been a serial killer, I would have been, like, “You know what? Everyone needs a hobby. Let’s leave the guy alone.” Terrible—but there it is.

Also, I like much of what Evan wrote there. His statement likening fundamentalists to battered wives is so brilliant I’m thinking about mounting it on a bronze plaque next to my front door.

And personally I very much like Evan. In our exchanges he has never been anything but kind, sincere, and honest. (In fact—and this is something I’ve been meaning to put on my Facebook page—go “like” Evan’s Facebook fan page. And most definitely check out this sampling of his music. Turns out he is a truly fame-worthy player and singer.)

Also: why in this world would I care if someone thinks the whole idea of God is absurd? I get that point of view. It doesn’t in the least offend me. Why would it? What the [bleep] do I care what anyone else thinks of God? That’s their business, not mine.

You know what quality I really like in a person? The ability to be unflaggingly rational. I wish everyone I knew was in full possession of that singular characteristic. Because you can talk to a rational person. You can reason with them. You can actually get from point A to point B. Being rational is a discipline that actually works in life.

Go, Team Brain!

What I take offensive to is the idea that a Christian should be offended by someone using their rational mind to arrive at the conclusion that God does not exist. Any Christian who is in any way galled by another person not being Christian needs to grow up.

But here, now, is the real thing. The opening sentence of Truth Wins Out’s mission statement reads:

Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism.

Annnnnnnnnd bingo. That right there makes Evan Hurst my friend. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. And my enemy is most certainly anti-gay religious extremism.

Evan Hurst! Know of my desire to sometime get together with you over a cup of coffee—or even a beer or a martini, if, being the pagan that you are, you insist until I graciously relent.

What fun we will have, imagining a world in which what a person believes is considered completely irrelevant compared to what they actually do.

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  • Tammy Lubbers

    Thank you John, you’ve done it again!

  • Tammy Lubbers via Facebook

    “A cockroach to a cinnamon roll” Heehee! LOVE it!

  • …and as a now agnostic, who spent years in the ministry with such religious extremists, THIS is exactly why I give you the time of day, John Shore. Well said and please keep saying.

  • Joris

    My brother, the atheist, former Franciscan Seminarian, has been and continues to be the most “Christian” man I know. Thus speaketh my wife who is also hostile to religion (although a believer in God). More and more, as I age into my befuddled old age, it becomes apparent that Jesus’ pointing us to the Father, very often points us away from religion and its necessary shortcomings to a more fundamental goodness and truth. It is doing the will of the Father (i.e., helping our neighbor) that counts more than creed.

  • Joris

    A second (historical) point–it was Constantine the Great, a non-Christian at the time though eventually baptized an Arian on his deathbed–who started Christians against Christians, and started down that long road to the persecution of non-Christians by the organized and politically powerful (religious) followers of Jesus.

  • LOVE this, john. and, i shall shar it and share it and share it… 😉

  • William Prince via Facebook

    I’ve been saying that for years. Frankly, most of the atheists I know are far more Christ-like than many Christians I know.

  • mike moore

    count me with Kristin.

  • Diane Turley

    Thank you, from a good atheist 🙂

  • Ray

    Yes, well said indeed…unfortunately, it taps into an issue I deal with all the time as a psychotherapist: by turning away from God in all the numerous and various forms/formats around, one can turn away from any sense of meaning o r purpose in life. I deal with depressed, anxious,and downright scared people who don’t know anything they can trust or believe in. Yes, sometimes they take refuge in the easy answers and enclosed world of the religiously conservative (and it ain’t only Christians!) But much of the time they simply wander from moment to moment with no sense of direction. Trying to help them know something of that meaning (the divine, if you will) within themselves is the path I suggest to them.

    Okay, enough diversion…back to our regularly scheduled program…

  • I have atheist friends who are NOT “anti-theists,” and my Christians (and believers of other stripes) are not “Christianists,” nor “Dominionists” (nor extremists of other stripes).
    I’m radically moderate that way.

  • Janet Vandenabeele

    I have come to the conclusion that Christians — the mouthy kind and particularly on the Internet — view all of life like a game they have to win. They have to “win” the Internet. They have to beat your opinions with theirs. There is no subtle persuasion — there isn’t even really any persuasion at all anymore. It’s all SCREAMINGINALLCAPS and Big Lie propaganda and Glenn Beck and Fox News. They have to “own” America and December belongs entirely to them, even though I’ve never found anywhere in the Bible where it says Jesus’ birthday is the primary sacrament of the faith. [That’s several other rants …] So “Happy Holidays” is a declaration of war against them that they have to win, not an invitation to spread good cheer to all.

    If they don’t win this game, they feel they are bad Christians. If theirs is not the loudest voice at the party, they feel they are doing God a disservice and, I assume from my years among born-again fundamentalists, feel they will be punished or less rewarded in Heaven. Except when they post Bible verses on their status or as a sig line, I see very little evidence of them following any kind of faith-based path.

    Again, this applies to some, not all, and mostly it is a herd behavior seen on the Internet and fueled by the 24/7 news cycle and those few who have mastered the art of fomenting dissent in every corner of our society.

  • Reed Boyer

    I have been a HUGE fan of Evan Hurst’s writing (and knew he was an atheist) for a a couple of years or so. He has a cut-to-the-chase style that I envy – and is one of the few writers who can actually make me “LOL” (with full “milk-out-the-nose” vigor).

    And now, thanks to you, I’ve seen what he looks like (handsome) and know that he has musical talent to spare – and am even more “in like” with him.

  • mare

    john: the link to truth wins out is broken and redirects to a 404 on your blog. just fyi.

  • “Go, Team Brain!” I think I found my new catch phrase. (Also makes so much more sense than when I read it the first time as Brian. Maybe it was the capital B. Eh – who knows.)

  • THANK YOU! Fixed.

  • Misty Myers

    I am an agnostic atheist, but I follow your blog regularly (I almost said “religiously”, whoops!), and I just want to say: for someone who has been routinely tormented by the insults, discrimination, and vitriol of religious conservatives and fundamentalists, your posts breathe life into a dying view of Christians as kind hearted, compassionate, reasonable people with much to give to the world. You (and the group that led me to your blog “The Christian Left” on Facebook) have completely undone my negative perception of the Christian community, and grown my own compassion and tolerance as a result. So thank you, very much, and please keep up the good work.

  • should be a song “like a battered wife”

  • “Team Brain.” That is funny. I was just now discovering that I think I might be out of XL “” t-shirts. I’ve zero plans for printing anymore of those (it was weird enough doing them in the first place). But I would TOTALLY do “Team Brain” tees.

  • Drew M.

    Another atheist here who enjoys reading your blog.

    I’m still laughing about your Shakespeare bit, by the way. That was genius!

  • <3

  • It was barely a joke. I don’t do this anymore, but when I was younger, I would totally bond with ANYONE who was actually funny. I’d have, like, real CRETINS over at our house, and my wife would be, like, “Baby, I caught the guy going through the drawers in your office.” And I’d be, like, “But that routine he did about the dog playing Frisbee was so FUNNY. So what if he borrows my checkbook?”

    Also, I used to hang out with people who weren’t funny at ALL–but who were so basically STUPID that I just all the time THOUGHT they were being funny. Again, my wife would say, “Um. He’s not joking. He really THINKS that.” And I’d be, like, “Oh, c’mon. No one would actually SAY that their wildest ambition in life is to be the vice-president of a major corporation.”

  • Gary

    So true Janet. Exactly the reason why I no longer attend church services. I am still a follower of Christ though, I just see Him leading me AWAY from the church these days.

  • I confess, I’m a Christian who loves athiests. 🙂 I’ve never understood why anyone would be offended by someone who has a reasonable doubt. I can’t even explain why I’m “a believer” so, how can I tell anyone what to believe? I don’t understand why some very vocal American Christians insist that others should live as Christians believe when most Christians don’t even live as they SAY they believe. Tah-dah!!! There, I SAID IT!!! I love this site!!!

    I’m a songwriter and music moves me. So, I want to share the words of one of my fav songwriters, Brett Dennen. This is the chorus to his song “Heaven”. I think it speaks volumes.

    Heaven. Heaven.

    What the hell is Heaven?

    Is there a home for the homeless?

    Is there hope for the hopeless?

    (look up the rest of the song, it’ll blow you away)

  • nice–and I HAVE had a meal with him, about this time last year. I did block the gent in question too. he came to my blog trying to shame me over my friendship with Evan. How lovely to be slammed along with people I like. I think I choose my friends wisely.

  • sigh. Those poor Christians. Less than 100% of people are exactly like them. I couldn’t imagine a life like that.

  • That’s so nice. Thank you, Misty Myers.

  • “Herd behavior on the Internet.”

    Personally, I see people who have a need to crow loudly about who they are as people to be wary of. What I mean is… I cringe whenever I’m at a message board and I see people put Bible verses in their signitures. I sort of forgive it in young people because I figure “like me when I was an obnoxious teenager,” – but I still find it a bit cringeworthy to browse a videogaming disscussion board and see tons of “If you’re a Christian, put this in your sig! (John 3:16).” It’s really cute that they think they’re “saving souls” that way, but… eh.

    What I often cringe at even more? When I see people online with “Rational” as part of their usernames or something to that effect. Even the rather innocuous sig of “Part of the reality-based community” sends up red flags for me because it seems, inevitably, that people with such naming and identity conventions are anything BUT rational. I’m not talking about personal conclusions about deity, I’m talking in the crud they spew about people who believe in deity(s). I mean, they sure do believe a lot of lies about me. They even seem to believe a lot of lies about people I know and have known in life (even the Fundamentalists I’ve known! Even they don’t have the simplistic view of God that so many think EVERYONE does)! I can’t even talk to them to give my experience because, you know, they’re “rational” and I, by category, am “not.”

    But, really, anyone who’s big on “advertising” in usernames, sigs and whatnot, whatever belief they are kind of makes me go…uh? and think they’re “out to win the Internet.”

    Incidently, I’ve “won the Internet” a few times according to other people – with witty sayings, observances of pop culture and fiction I like, etc. You know, fun “winning.”

  • Ha. I was almost a long-term missionary in a fundamentalist organization. I became a crazy liberal sort-of Christian instead. I couldn’t tell you how that happened.

  • @Kristin I used to be in a fundamentalist ministry too. Let’s start a club!

  • Amy

    Hahaha! I am picturing this being sung in church, hands raised, in the style of those crappy “Jesus is my boyfriend”-type praise choruses. *snort*

  • I’m fond of shouting “GO, TEAM PRIMATE!” sometimes.

    It has to do with opposable thumbs. They’re useful.

  • Judith MacKay Dahlen via Facebook

    Love on and other and play nice. Pretty simple. Come one, come all!

  • Isn’t it just great when people (who only barely know you on the Internet) tell you who you should and shouldn’t be friends with?

    I still remember a couple of years ago when I met an atheist who was bent upon “saving my mind” (or maybe just “winning” a game of “Internet” with me) – on a freaking videogaming board, no less – I remember him telling me that because I was a Christian (didn’t matter what stripe) that the Bible was against me having friends who weren’t Christian.

    He was a former Jehova’s Witness, you see, and he claimed that he was speaking of his Christian upbringing. He was offended when I said that I had friends of all kinds, including agnostic/athiest friends (who were a lot nicer and less wound up than he was). He said it was great that I had all kinds of friends but that I should know that I was going against Christianity to do so. (He was trying to shame me out of belief in God or something, I guess). I told him to show me where.

    He pointed out the verse about being “unequally yolked.” – I went “Huh?” becuase I was taught (in the Baptist church I went to for a good while) that the verse applied to marriage and other extremely binding contracts, not to friendships.


    After which I reminded him “Huh? We weren’t talking about marriage, we were talking about friendships.”

    The guy actually wound up being banned from the board later for being a general nuicience. I mean, you’d think someone who showed up at a board about a videogame series would actually want to primarily talk about that videogame series rather than spend all his time in one of the off-topic boards trying to “save minds.”

    All I’m left with is an appreciation for my un-churched, free childhood and a wondering if Fundamentlists always stay “Fundamentalists” even when they change religions or ditch religion.

    Only bringing this up because they guy was actually preaching from a form of Christian Fundamentalism to try to bring me to athiesm. It was weird. And I’ve kept my friends. It doesn’t matter what someone believes, if we share the same interests and people are able to treat me as an intellectual equal, we can be friends.

  • Lynette

    In general, I think you’re right, but there are a few folks who have flung out some of the great, preposterous quotes from scripture and I know I have found a soulmate. We miss so much of God’s humor when we take the Bible so deadly seriously.

  • Hey John:

    Loved your blog today! I personally think intelligence is sexy, even if I don’t come to the same conclusions as others. If you’ve never watched Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God” I highly recommend it! It’s one woman’s fascinating deconstruction of her belief system and I personally think it’s a great learning experience and that every Christian should watch it, just to see how others come to the conclusions that they do. And to notice areas that the show makes them uncomfortable, because it asks some pretty hard questions. Anyways, love to read your stuff and have a great one. Drucifer

  • Stu

    “What fun we will have, imagining a world in which what a person believes is considered completely irrelevant compared to what they actually do.”


    That’s almost like saying “by their fruit you shall know them” or telling a pagan centurion that you’ve never seen as great faith as his even among the “proper” believers……. But that would just be all kinds of crazy surely!! 😉

  • John, you are a peach.

  • Drew M.


    And this is the first time I realized that c0mments on your FB page get echoed here. Neato!

  • Gary

    Love it!!

  • Oh, and we can do coffee and martinis or beer or whatever else ANY TIME, John. I tend to be drinking all three at any given time!

  • LVZ

    That’s interesting. The first time I ever heard of the “reality-based community” was from a supporter of George W. Bush. The supporter was proud of the fact that he (the supporter) was NOT part of the “reality-based community.” His rationale: George W. Bush said Iraq had a huge and lethal arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and the United States went to war to destroy them. Since history is written by the victors, he said, future history books will read that Iraq DID have WMD and Bush was right to invade. The fact that Bush was completely wrong will be forgotten. According to the supporter, it doesn’t matter if you’re right or not – it only matters if you win. Therefore, the “reality-based community” are losers.

  • I too resonate with Evan’s battered wife analogy. in I wrote:
    These fundamentalist expressions of Christianity are tantamount to an arranged marriage to an abusive husband.
    And sadder still is the fact that the husband is not truly abusive, just that the wife fully expects him to be, has been taught to expect that he will be, and therefore refuses to question and lives in fear of the time that he will fly off the handle and abuse her. Meanwhile the husband yearns to grow closer and develop real intimacy; but the wife’s fears prevent that from happening.

  • Caleb

    You are clearly a gentleman and a scholar.

  • Nick K.

    This just goes to show you that even atheists can be just as intolerant, biligerant, ignorant, and hateful as their Christianist counterparts. Sounds to me like he just exchanged one form of extremist rhetoric for another. Sadly, extremism in any form is divisive and destructive.

  • CinD

    I just stumbled upon your blog today and love it. I’m a believer in progressive Christianity and have several close agnostic and atheist friends who I love dearly. I am also Facebook friends with some right-wing, ultra-conservative Christians who I believe are giving Christianity a bad name. I love rationality and honesty. It sounds like Evan is honest and up-front about his beliefs and I respect that very much. Lastly, you’re an awesome writer!

  • As an open minded atheist, I thank you. 😉

  • LSS

    i am a christian who married a (zen-flavored) agnostic. technically you aren’t supposed to be “unequally yoked” but i have to tell you that while it was, at age 32, my first real adult decision that i made without other people’s influence, marrying him has been literally the best decision of my life (i don’t count “getting saved” because i still have a bit of calvinist left in me and i still feel like that was predestination).

    my husband rescued me, with his reason that you mention, from all the what your friend called “battered wife” stuff or what i call “psycho-protestant” stuff that my mind was trapped in. some of it took him over 5 years of patience (we have been married about 7 yrs). he refuses to hand me made-up answers when i really should find my own. he is a better christian (in terms of acting like Christ would – such as unconditional love, etc.) than anybody in my family ever was, including me.

  • LSS

    i feel like i came away from aforementioned (other comment) “psycho-protestantism” with, like, this “dogma instinct” … i’m bad at psychology and sociology so i make up my own terms until i find out what the real name for stuff is…

    but it’s like, whatever i’m into i have this… sort of like the way a dog could be trained to jump at people and bite their neck off? … i feel like i got trained like that, and even if it’s something about buddhism which isn’t supposed to have a dogma, or something as open-minded and open-ended as tolerance … i would have this dogma instinct to want to pinpoint and persist and argue dogma. it’s like i switched sides but i still have the same bad technique (>_<)

  • J Aiden Rose via Facebook

    I enjoy Atheists, so long as they don’t try to convert me. As a good Jew, I never try to convert anyone. I wish they would adopt that model of expression.

    That and I’d like them better if they’d not act like I’m a first class idiot for having religious convictions.

    Just sayin’…

  • GREAT and true post; it is truly all about our actions!

  • Kate

    Brilliant. I’m laughing as I eat breakfast. I’m so pleased to find someone else who refers to them as “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs 🙂

  • DR

    An atheist taught me more about being an ethical, loving and responsible citizen in ways that transformed my character and actually, saved my faith. I’m so grateful to him (and he hates Christians. Even me a little. )

  • Love. It.

  • J Aiden Rose via Facebook

    I agree with John, that the content of your character should be foremost. But unlike John, I prefer my friends not assume I’m an idiot, because what criteria for friendship is their better than mutual respect?

  • Thank you, CinD. That’s awfully nice of you to say. Correct–but nice! (Kidding!)

  • That does explain the photo on your FB page ….

  • Lymis

    Consider CafePress – they do the printing and stocking, shipping and customer service, and print on demand. They might be more pricy than keeping your own stock on hand, but you don’t have to do anything but design and promote the shirts – and you can, if you want, periodically do special or topical ones – like, for example, Team Brain.

  • Lymis

    I alternate between the team based theory and the One True Way theory.

    When I find someone with just flatly illogical double standards, where “they” get condemned for doing what “we” do, such as marriage between medically infertile straight people is blessed by God, but gay people can’t marry simply because they can’t have kids, or when a Christian sits quietly and hears voices, it’s angels, but when a non-Christian (or insufficiently Christian) person does, it’s Satanic, then I view it as the team thing.

    Most of the time, though, it seems to me that their foundational principle is that there can only possibly be One True Way, and that acknowledging that someone else’s way might have merit for them means rejecting their own way. I see this with the “if we allow gay marriage and everyone gay marries, there won’t be another generation and humanity will die out” sort of thing I used to think was a joke, but damn it, they’re serious. Because of this, they literally can’t leave anyone alone to do their own thing, because tolerating is supporting, and supporting one view is rejecting every other view.

  • GTB is the new FTW. It’ll go cosmic.

  • Christian Connor

    Maybe it’s just me but I find myself wondering all the time. I saw show the other day about a pastor who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the people of his church via an investment scam. These folks said in interviews they prayed about whether to give him the money and ultimately decided God wanted them to do it. I’m watching this and in my head I’m thinking, why would God tell you to give money to someone who he KNOWS is going to rip you off? I also think of myself as a “partial” Christian because I believe in some of what Christianity says but I also think as a “religion” it’s incomplete. I think each of the major religions of the world probably has part of the “truth” but you would have to put them all together, get rid of the extraneous crap, and the you would become “enlightened” (sorry about all the quotations). I don’t know probably I’m just strange but I LOVE this blog. It’s one of the places I’ve found recently that has me doing a lot of self exploration and trying to figure out how to make things better for me and others around me. Thank you very much!

  • Some of the most honest, straight-forward people I have ever loved are not of my belief (I follow Jesus Christ). Some of the most mean spirited low lifes I’ve known claimed their right to be so came from God. I’m hoping to meet God someday and get an answer to this anomoly. 🙂

  • This Christian says Amen to everything you wrote. Count me as a fan.

  • Lisa Jordan Board via Facebook

    “Bad Chirstian” Hey, I resemble ( I mean resent that remark!) wow, that is an oximoron. My “only choice” is to call this article a “tragic comedy.”

  • LSS

    PS: i appreciate the fact that your common enemy is an IDEA or maybe a phenomenon, but not PEOPLE (exception for those who try really hard to become an enemy?)

  • DR

    Christians who think highly of morality can learn from atheists who are moral, who make the right choices and strive to love people well because they aren’t doing so to get an eternal pay off or because God “commands” them to. They are good, loving people who will love sacrificially and demonstrate a commitment to doing the right thing because it’s their character to do so. At this point, I believe that this kind of approach to life make atheists our most valuable teachers.

  • oh, how refreshingly good it is for me to read your blog, John Shore. A dear friend pointed me to it when she read one of my recent posts (shameless plug: I am soothed with hope and I feel lighter as I read what you write. Thank you!

  • LSS

    i would totally buy a Go Team Brain shirt. i would wear it to class. who could argue with having that phrase printed on the front of a college teacher?! especially since one of our big goals lately is critical thinking.

  • LSS

    if only to make the cats jealous. if they had that, they wouldn’t need us; they could open their own cans of meat food.

  • Andie

    Delicious! I was so happy to read this.

  • LSS

    force of nature?

  • LSS

    i always heard (in my christian family) “the only good christian is a dead christian”. um, i guess we were heavily into the theory of Depravity of Mankind. and of course the only time you could be good (sinless) was in Heaven. kinda depressing now i think of it from a different direction.

  • Diana Avery

    So true!

  • Diana Avery

    That Jesus! Always coloring outside the lines!

  • Diana Avery

    So weird to interfere with other people’s relationships. Some people really are out of their minds.

  • Diana Avery

    I admit, I’m a lot like that myself. There are a lot of people in my life whom I like just because they’re funny, even if their viewpoints are completely the opposite of mine.

  • Diana Avery

    And then, they’d take over the world! Ha, ha, ha, ha!

  • Diana Avery

    Yes, indeed!

  • Diana Avery

    Gag me with a spoon!

  • Hannah B.

    I’m proud to say that some of my closest friends are atheists, and I agree with and appreciate this post! Just not Evan’s quote. I do have to agree with J. Aiden Rose. As a Christian, I hold my beliefs with a bit of humility. I’m open to the belief that God might not exist, but I believe that he does. I never try to convert anyone. I would want to hang around atheists who consider my beliefs intellectually viable (because a science of the empirical and physical can’t prove or disprove the metaphysical) and are open to the possibility to God might exist. I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who will openly call me an idiot for my beliefs and attempt to make me swing to strong atheistic beliefs in light of tolerance and reason (when it’s perfectly reasonable to believe in God). Bigotry runs on both ends of the spectrum.

  • Diana Avery

    Yes it is!

  • Christine McQueen

    Thank you John. I’ll definitely be re-posting this on Facebook.

    I’ve had a few so-called Christians try to convince me to disassociate from my son because I’m Christian and my son isn’t, as if my son identifying as atheist would somehow “corrupt” my faith. Or, as if my kicking him out of my home would in some way “force” him to believe. Sorry folks, my son is 40 years old; if he doesn’t already share my faith, he likely never will. But that does not make him any less my son. Nor does his lack of belief make him in any way a “bad man”. He’s a good man who cares about how other’s are treated; he cares about how pets are treated; though he has none of his own, he even cares about how children are treated. Most of his bad habits he learned from ME! He learned his better habits from his father, whose faith was on shaky ground most of his life.

  • Driftwood2K11

    Great article as always, John. There’s no reason why Christians and atheists can’t work together. I’m a secular humanist, and I believe that Christians like you, and atheists who ascribe to secular humanism, have the same goals. We want to feed the hungry, mend to the sick, bring hope to the hopeless. Keep up the wonderful work. You’ve got atheists pulling for you here as well. 😉

  • Driftwood2K11

    If it helps any, J. Aiden Rose, I’m an atheist, but I’m rather fond of the Jewish faith and culture. I look at religion like I look at food; that being, some of them leave a sour taste in my mouth and give me an upset stomach, and sometimes, different varieties make for an interesting and often wonderful experience, and it makes me savor them. Judaism is one that I find quite savory. 😉

  • “If Shakespeare had been a serial killer, I would have been, like, “You know what? Everyone needs a hobby. Let’s leave the guy alone.” Terrible—but there it is.” – I think I love you.

  • Crysta

    I have been trying to make this point for a few years now. Thank you for putting clearer words to my thoughts.

  • I’ve heard that addage: “Once cats learn how to use the can-opener, we’re doomed.”

  • I don’t blame you.

  • (Joke. That was a joke. Thank you!)

  • Diana A.

    I believe it!

  • LSS

    “i, for one, welcome our feline overlords.”

    hadn’t seen that meme in a while but it’s still got its uses.

    i just hope we taste bad.

  • Diana A.

    Me too.

  • Melody

    I love that analogy, Driftwood!

  • I assure you that mine will demand that I become a sushi chef and will enslave me to that purpose.

  • Interesting. When I taught theology in a Catholic school (11 years) my most favorite students were the ones who anounced: I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God.

    With those students there was hope of real dialogue, real meaning, real progress. The others were still sucking down all that parents and church required them to believe. No reality there.

  • Kevin Gervais

    Yeah, seriously John. swoon!!!!! I have a total man crush. And I haven’t had a crush on a str8 guy since high school. 🙂

  • “…imagining a world in which what a person believes is considered completely irrelevant compared to what they actually do.” Now there’s a thought! I’ve come to the conclusion that the common enemy of both the atheist and the spiritually minded is fundamentalism. Yes, there are both fundamentalist Christians and atheists! It’s a way of (not) thinking that says “I’m right and you’re an idiot.” You’ll find examples of both in blog comments pretty regularly. This post, on the other hand, recognizes the validity of the spectrum of opinions on both sides without requiring agreement or condemnation. What a treat! Thanks, John.

  • In coming back…

    The one thing that bothers me about the quote given is something that bothers me whenever anyone brings it up: The dig at “uneducated nomads.” I really don’t like the assumption that “uneducated” means “unintelligent.” It doesn’t. It can be difficult for smart people to attain education even today given financial barriers – I imagine barriers to scholarship were even worse in ancient times when people were born into locked-in social classes and had to scrap for survival.

    A person can come to any conclusions about God they want, it just bothers me a bit when debunking any religion turns into classism.

    __ Says a stablehand who likes to think she’s not stupid.

  • Janey

    Nicely said, John.

    There’s a lot of truth coming out of the mouths of atheists. We can learn a lot from them about the messed up aspects of our “worldview.” Yesterday, I read a Christian book by a famous TV preacher that contained a quote from Christopher Hitchens denouncing Jerry Falwell. I’ve met Falwell. I re-read the quote and found myself agreeing with almost every point…and I’m pretty conservative.

  • MaryJo

    Well said, John, well said!

  • Shadsie, I’ll respond to you directly on that one…

    A couple of things to remember, for context, first off.

    The troll that obsessively posts and reposts my comments from that thread (two years ago lol) was quoting a conversation WITH a troll in my own comments section at TWO. As such, and as we are absolutely inundated with trolls on a daily basis, simply because of what we do, on the rare occasion that we decide to engage, it’s kinda gloves off, and when the constant argument you’re dealing with is “But the Baaaaaahhhhhble sez!” (about LGBT people), as an atheist, it’s pretty hard not to just say “Oh, prove it or fuck off.”

    However, I do think you’re taking my comment a bit differently from the way I intended it. It had nothing to do with classism and everything to do with the fact that these texts (like most ancient religious texts) originated with people who had absolutely no clue how the world actually worked compared to our current scientific understanding. Now, does that discount everything they said? No. But it does call into question their judgment when it comes to moral proscriptions said to come down from On High when these people also went apeshit over lobster while simultaneously being A-Okay with treating women as chattel.

    And — interesting, and I don’t know if or how much John has addressed this, if you go back to the earliest texts used to condemn homosexuality (Leviticus, unless you’re one of those really creative Fundamentalists who uses the Adam & Eve story) and actually look at the context and verbiage used throughout Leviticus 18, you’ll find a couple of interesting things:

    1. A lot of the other verses around it feature fairly sensible condemnations (if not sensible punishments, but again, that goes back to the tribal nature of what we’re dealing with) like “don’t bugger your aunt” and “don’t bugger your daughter-in-law,” except that none of them condemn these things for the sake of it being a Good Idea to keep your hands to yourself around Aunt Flo. No, it’s rather that she is Your Uncle’s Wife (read: property) and your daughter-in-law is your Son’s Wife (read again: property) and thus off limits for you.

    2. The verse about “lying with a man as with a woman” is interesting if you look at how it’s written. Some early translations are more along the lines of making a man “as a woman,” which is the key into understanding that that condemnation is not about the “eeeeeeevils of homosexuality,” but rather about their tribal belief that to make a man “as a woman” is to make him shameful, to demote him to the level of “woman.” This is also why there’s no verse about evil, dirty lesbians because really, what the hell did they care what women did in their spare time? They were just women, after all.

    Soooo…and being one of John’s readers, you might know all that and I might be preaching to the choir…but the point is that, as an atheist who used to be an Evangelical Christian and who used to believe this stuff wholeheartedly, but who studied the hell out of it in order to arrive at my current atheism, when I’m in a debate with one-a-those fundamentalists (which I try to stay away from having entirely, but am not always successful) I’m just not playing the game. It’s sort of, “Yeah, I’m an atheist, and I don’t even consider those people to be decent moral authorities on dick, much less Dick, and until or unless you come up with a way to prove your claims, get bent.”

    So that’s sort of where I’m coming from.

  • I understand.

  • Lisa Jordan Board via Facebook

    “Bad Chirstian” Hey, I resemble… I mean resent that remark! Wow, that is an oxymoron. My “only choice” is to call this article a “tragic comedy.”

  • Samantha Tvenstrup Ward via Facebook

    <3 on you both

  • Jeannie

    Thanks, this explanation helps.

  • vj

    More likely the love of Christ? once our eyes have been opened to Him, it’s hard to imagine/remember what/how/why we used to be….

  • vj

    I think it was Maya Angelou who said ‘you do the best you can with what you know; when you know better, you do better’

  • vj

    Exactly! RELATIONSHIP rather than religiosity… There isn’t a person alive who has exactly the same relationship (whether characteristics or depths) with everyone they know. What then is the basis for anyone insisting that everyone has to relate to God in exactly the same way? Isn’t that between God and each individual?

  • vj

    Which is precisely why I like to buy contemporary accounts of current events (recent history), so that one day in the future when the airbrushers have been let loose, at least there will some remnant of the real truth out there…..

  • vj

    “Christians as kind hearted, compassionate, reasonable people with much to give to the world”

    🙂 I think this is probably what Jesus had in mind when he told us to love one another…. (“by this, shall all men know that you are my disciples: that you have loved one another as I have loved you” – where did it all go so terribly wrong??)

  • David J Martin

    I find it intriguing that persons who adhere to a belief system which they are very ardent about shy away from any questions, positions or debates by those who question or oppose it. Do they not realize the “teaching” as Christ did involved debating the rigidity of contemporary Judaism, the Temple cult, and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He did not shy away nor reject open sincere debate or questioning. Think of the self-righteous young rich man who complied with the Law – was a good Jew under the Law but could not give up his worldly comfort to follow Christ. Christ did not condemn him but felt sorrow because he was a sincere man – unable to make this one last step. Or the secretive teaching of Joseph of Aramathea – a scribe – an authority of the Law – questioning his Hebrew beliefs with the Master. The problem with Fundamentalists is not that they believe they are right – I am sure many are sincere and kind. However, the most vocal, the loud mouthed bigots are the ones we hear from. THEIR problem is they KNOW they are right and stand ready to ram their beliefs down your throats, condemn non Christians, Jews, atheists and commit violent against against persons, agencies with whom they disagree. They are religious fanatics no less worse in their hearts than the religious fanatics who destroyed thousands of lives on 911. Now they do it by assassination of non adherents character and persona by their endless ranting of pronouncing judgment in the name of God. Are they capable of terrorist acts like 911. Certainly they are. Although many deplore abortion and demonstrate, lobby against, very few seek to make their point by killing doctors, nurses, innocent persons in seeking abolition. Oh, I forgot, these persons are damned by God in the fundamentalist’s view thereby justifying their execution in his Name – like the heretics, Jews of Spain and most of Europe, the Muslims killed in the Crusades and on and on. The best approach to them is to let them have their say. When people of Faith “turn the other cheek” – giving them little or no credence, they will find themselves talkng to the wind. Maybe then their hearts will be opened to the Holy Spirit and attend to the words of Yahweh: “Be silent and know I am God”.

  • “Esteban” has been blocked. It was his “You guys’ heads are stuck so far up your liberal asses.” that did it. Again: okay with differences of opinion. Not okay with rudeness, crudeness, etc.

  • Val P.

    I am very close to my son, the evangelical athiest. We have worked very hard to have a close relationship, sometimes it has been difficult. I do not try to “save” him, as I apparently was a Christian universalist before I knew there was such a thing – as I’ve probably said before, I believe Jesus Christ died for all men – not just those who know the secret handshake.

    My son says he does not believe a God who created the universe, every speck and mote floating in it, would condemn him to eternal damnation because during the fleeting time he was alive on this earth he did not “get it”. And neither do it. God created him this way – he is who he is supposed to be, according to God’s plan.

    My only problem with my son is when he becomes agitated by some fundie he runs across on the internet (I’m sure my son is a troll on a fundie site somewhere), and then decides ALL Christians are the same. And he then tries to “save me” from my Christianity. I had a new “friend” from high school gang up with my son on FB to tell me I’m not really a Christian because of my leftist leanings. Because ALL Christians, you know, tow the party line – washed in the blood, standing on street corners trying to save people. I told them to check out Bishop Spong – which my friend did, and he proceeded to tell me Bishop Spong is not a Christian. And neither am I if I agree with him. Ha! I confused the hell out of him. Good!

    I found during that conversation that at least these two athiests’ problem has nothing to do with God – it has to do with their up close and personal experience with evangelical Christians. How come the evangelicals don’t know this? You don’t convert people to Christianity by threatening them – what you do when you do that is convert people to athiesm. Same thing happened to me 40 years ago. Only I came back.

  • Lynette

    There are a couple answers to the question Why would God tell someone to [do something stupid]?

    1) He didn’t. Sometimes the voice of God that we hear is our own voice, drowning out God’s actual voice. Sometimes it might be another spiritual creature speaking that is not of God. This seems the most likely answer in this situation.

    2) God is allowing them to do the foolish thing they want to do after repeatedly warning them of the consequences. Consider allowing Israel to anoint Saul as King. Sometimes God just gives us our head and lets us learn the hard way.

    3) God has a plan for the situation. I mean, marching around Jericho blowing trumpets hardly seems like a wise battle plan. Perhaps allowing this charlatan to take these people and then having him be caught is preventing a far worse outcome, like this guy becoming the next Jim Jones. We don’t always know.

    But my money’s still on #1.

  • Lymis

    My background is Catholic, not Evangelical or Fundamentalist, but one of the more important aspects of what I was taught was that a deep, abiding, living faith was considered to be a gift from God, not something that someone could manufacture for themselves because they decided they wanted it.

    And many of the people who most vocally piously proclaimed their thanks to God for granting them that gift were the first to condemn others for their lack of faith.

    I never understood how that worked, and how someone could smugly condemn someone for not receiving a gift that they had no control over.

    Of course, I eventually came to my own conclusion, but I still don’t know how people can reconcile this claim for themselves.

    I’ve always seen a big distinction between “I don’t need to know every detail to trust that it is so” and “this doesn’t even need to make any sense at all for me to believe it.”

  • Lymis

    “I find it intriguing that persons who adhere to a belief system which they are very ardent about shy away from any questions, positions or debates by those who question or oppose it.”

    I do too, but I notice that this pretty much seems only to apply to religion and politics. Ever spent time around die-hard Star Trek fans? They’ll pick everything apart to the tiniest detail, and point out inconsistencies and where possible, come up with theories that resolve the conflicts. Want to piss a Trekkie off? Inform them that they shouldn’t worry about inconsistencies and should just have faith that the writers know what they were doing.

    It always astonishes me that people who claim that their immortal soul and eternal life hinge on getting every detail absolutely right won’t put the effort into it that some people put into a cancelled television series. I’d be fine if their view was about not sweating the tiny details, but they’re often sure quick to condemn anyone who has thought about it and comes up with the wrong conclusion.

  • David j Martin

    Don’t really believe God “tells” anyone to do anything. We have His Law of Love written in our hearts…we have free will to “act with justice…love tenderly…walk humbly with our God”. Our own desires sometimes act as stumbling blocks…we are responsible for misguided actions…non loving choices…God can never direct us to wrong choices – essentially “sinful” choices since it is incompatible with Him…God can, however, turn things around…resulting in good even from bad. This is, again, effected through us – our reaction to the situation – making the right response. Example: observing a person living through a terminal, perhaps painful illness…beyond healing…but accepting it through Faith with “joyful acceptance”…filling those around with a hunger for such Faith.

  • Brilliant.

  • Lovely.

  • Nick K.

    Evan – Excellent explanation. Sometimes we read the wrong tone into postings and clarification is sometimes in order.

    Side note-I think it’s interesting that you arrived at your atheism because you “studied the hell out of” the Bible and religious texts. I read and hear that a lot from atheists who used to be deeply religious and then took up studying their religious texts in earnest and then came to no longer believe in God.

    Surprisingly, the reverse also happens. A few years ago, Newsweek had an article about a number of scientists who started out as ardent atheists/non-believers and then “studied the hell out of” their respective scientific fields only to then come to believe in God once they got so deep into their research. This has happened quite a bit in physics and astronomy.

    Kind of ironic, don’t you think? Religious extremists state that science is at war with religion and atheist extremists say that religion is at war with science, both failing to realize that in-depth study of their respective positions can lead people to the opposite conclusions. I guess faith (both in a higher power or in none at all) can come from anywhere.

  • RoeDylanda

    I think CS Lewis nailed this long ago when he wrapped up the _Chronicles of Narnia_. At the the end of the day, good deeds serve God, because that is the nature of good. Doesn’t matter if the person is an atheist, agnostic, Shiite, pagan, or Best Christian Ever!!!. I am grateful for any any all compassion and kindness from any person for any reason. The world needs all of it.

  • RoeDylanda

    …By which I do NOT mean, “My faith is right and you’re all secretly part of it whether you want to be or not!”

    I mean, thanks for your good deeds, fellow humans, whatever motivates them.

  • DR

    The irony of the Estebans of the world is that they enter into conversation determined to show the “falseness” of the faith in Christ compared to their more authentic, unfiltered Jesus while behaving in such boorish, unChristlike ways. If he didn’t do so much damage to people I’d feel badly for him, for that complete lack of consciousness.

  • A random wondering:

    I wonder if some people lose faith once they study the Bible because they were taught that it was “infallible” and a perfect guide — then they realized that a lot of the things in it just don’t fit with the morality of today-times.

    I’ve been editing a novel I’ve written in which I had a fantasy-culture use a slavery-system inspired by slavery-laws in the Old Testament. If the thing ever got published and I ever got “known,” I could just see Fundamentalists being uncomfortable with me revealing something like that in an interview – “Oh, the slavery was based on the Bible!” cue people going “Ack!!!”

    Yet, I’m a believer – totally comfortable with the idea of values dissonance, history being history and people having changing ideas on God and morality.

    Is that strange?

  • mike moore

    We have a buddy who says, “I don’t believe in God, I believe in Radiohead.”

    He’s a very very good man. Wherever he’s headed after this life, that’s where I want to be.

  • Val P.

    I had a Sunday school friend tell me once that his mother told him constantly that he was going to hell because he left the denomination he was raised in and went to a more liberal one. Finally one day he said, “Mom, that may be so – but I would much rather spend eternity in hell with my friends than spend one minute in your so-called heaven with you.” Might as well as an athiest if your own mother damns you to hell just because you dont agree with her…

  • Brian W


    Well, God works in mysterious ways, even using unbelievers to bring Christians to a deeper understanding of His soveriegnty.

  • Man. You should be some sort of comedic writer and speaker, John. Oh wait.

  • J Aiden Rose – I don’t try to convert. And I don’t think you’re an idiot. Just sayin’…

  • Driftwood2K11

    Thank you, Melody. I’ve always been full of that.

    Analogies, I mean. 😀

  • Kevin OD

    I agree with many of the comments I have read here. I was born and raised Catholic, and decided when I was 13 that religion just made no sense. I stopped going to church and CCD ( thanks mom for understanding!!!! ) My God mother is a nun – she knows I’m gay, and has NO problem with it. I have muslim friends who also know, and dont really give a crap. Religion doesn’t define you – your heart does.

  • David J Martin

    You do not confront bigotry and hatred with more of the same. It is not the Way of the Cross…it is not imaging Christ. Thank you John.

  • David J Martin

    Agree with RoeDylanda: God does not care about appearances. He sees a person’s heart…their attitude and good deeds – care for our brothers and sisters – His family. In so far as you do good for others you do it to Christ. Whether you acknowledge/believe in Christ or not, salvation is granted to all persons of good will…not earned – gifted.

  • vj

    Someone once said ‘one cannot arrive at faith by reason alone, but our faith is certainly reasonable’. I definitely have to be able to make sense of things, even if I am willing to allow God to hide some of the details from me (for now!). That, really, is why I can’t get on board with defining homosexuality as sin – I have yet to see a Biblically sound (i.e. factoring in the WHOLE of God’s revealed word, not out-of-context sound bites) and well-reasoned explanation of why it should be that MAKES SENSE…… Every time I try to come up with one (as an exercise in trying to understand those who claim that it is), I fail.

  • cat rennolds

    Lobster was bad because, well, it WAS bad. Went that way very very quickly. It had zero shelf life in their climate. No uneducatism there.

    Ditto most of Leviticus now that I think about it. Most of those rules had good reasons. including the No Gay Sex and the uncleanliness of menstruating women – they had very poor sanitation capacity and a very high infant mortality rate. They wanted every single sperm safely where it belonged, and no exchange of other bodily fluids that might involve germs. Think of the pages and pages on how to tell the different skin diseases!

    PS as unfair as it seems to us, the Women as Chattel thing had reason behind it too. If I, a small, slender, weak female, say reasonably unto my young male relative, okay, you are gonna screw up the gene pool if you don’t stop playing doctor with Cousin Betsy, my big strong male nephew is gonna laugh and write me off. If, on the other hand, her DAD ( a large, strong, weapons-wielding, male relative) says MINE> DON”T TOUCH in a loud voice….whole different story. One must speak to hormones very, very firmly. this is why women so often put up with the women-as-chattel thing.

    The priests were very educated men for their time and probably very intelligent, too (the two things not being necessarily related). But the masses don’t DO good reasons, they have to have emotional motivation. Stigma. Taboo. be scared of the Guy in the Sky.

    Come on, to most people in this day and age, science is the same way. It’s some big mysterious thing that only its priests understand, and the public will believe whatever those priests tell them. Although my husband assures me that global warming is caused by liberals breathing, and if they find the Higgs-Boson he gives up all faith in the Church of Science.

    Let’s face it, sad as it is; Team Brain (count me in!!!!) is not the majority. Must be something else valuable about us humans, then.

  • cat rennolds

    “imagining a world in which what a person believes is irrelevant compared to what they actually do……”

    Well, by their fruits you shall know them, and faith without works is dead, and ditto works without faith.

    What a person actually does, and how they do it, TELLS you what they actually believe. As opposed to what they say they believe.

  • Diana A.

    This is the truth. It always comes back to this.

  • Mike

    I’m a radical agnostgicist, myself. I don’t have The Answer, I know you don’t have The Answer even if you think you do, and I demand that the Government act from the basis of not knowing The Answer.

  • David J Martin

    Does it really matter in the final analysis whether a person is an atheist or a theist. What matters is that we treat each other lovingly, compassionately, justly. This makes for a better world. No one can PROVE the existence of God – it is a matter of Faith which involves some doubt. Those who say they know God and His intentions only think they know…they believe. In the end, when our life on this earth is finished, believers and non-believers will judge themselves by the goodness of their life. Some argue that if there is no God, then there are no moral rules. However, as one human family – self-respect and respect for others establish such rules of conduct. If theists are correct…we judge ourselves and are embraced by God’s love. If atheists are correct, their contribution to making the world a better place is their legacy and reward in itself. Belief or non-belief in God are of free will. Your actions are what is most important.

  • Joris

    If you try to read the Gospels from the viewpoint of a non-religious (not anti-religious) viewpoint, you come, in my opinion, to much the same view as this writer. Whether it is the gentle sarcasm addressed to the “rich young man,” or Matthew 25, or various other offhand remarks (e.g., about the sabbath or divorce) recorded by the evangelists, I get the impression that the early followers of Jesus did–or tried to do–the Will of the Father/Creator/God/numinous experience in the man Jesus rather than follow rules of rulers, and laws of religion. Nor is it the commitment to Jesus important–in fact, the follower of Jesus does not always recognize “him” in their family caring–whether on the way to Emmaus or, as I mentioned, in Matthew 25. An atheist could be the “beloved of my father” there if you read it carefully.

  • Too true! I am a Christian, and I endorse this statement.

  • Allie Bolen via Facebook

    I believe in the light theory. God looks inside our spirit and heart to see did you try your best to bring peace and love to others or did you follow a book literally written by man that it clouded your judgement and you began to hate! That is what I believe God looks at when you die.

  • Maybe it’s because I am Catholic, but words are meaningless without acitions. It’s by your actions that you show what kind of person you are. 1 John 3:18-19

  • Absolutely true!!!

  • two thumbs up!

  • Al

    Whether we believe in God or not, all thinking people can agree that we live in an awe-inspiring universe. This life is full of wonders. We’re all privileged to be here, even if it is just by accident.

  • Reed

    Dibs on getting together with Evan Hurst, as he was one of my favorite writers (the wit, the snark, the excellence) for a very long time before I twigged that he was an atheist. I love him for many reasons – and of of them is because he is NOT an “anti-theist.”

  • Diana A.

    I missed this the first time around. It’s kind of cool!