We’ve been talking lately about the lamentably-common trope of Christians expressing great sadness over our non-belief. I’ve been noticing one outgrowth of that sentiment: the idea that ex-Christians would never have lost faith if we’d only encountered the best and most correct form of Christianity. And lucky for us, Magic Christians know exactly what that form is! Today, we’ll tackle that idea–and watch it fall into rubble before our wondering eyes.
Yet Another Very Sad Christian.
On Wondering Eagle, I discovered some folks talking about my blog. The author there very favorably discussed my February post about why I initially rejected Christianity and how my reasons for that rejection had shifted and expanded afterward. In the comments there, I noticed something written by a Christian who feels oh so very “sad” about my post.
Here is the comment in question, from Dave H:
Reading stories such as the one on Cassidy’s blog makes me sad, because I feel like the Christianity she experienced and describes was a rather unhealthy distortion of what the Christian faith is supposed to be.
Too many people see a corrupted version of the faith from far too many leaders and churches and individual Christians. And that’s on us, because of the way we twist God’s truths out of selfish desires and motives. Certainly someone can still be skeptical and disbelieving of a better representation of the faith, but criminy, sometimes we don’t even give people an decent chance.
I often find myself looking around and thinking, if I were not a Christian already, what would even draw me to much of what I see going on as being representative of the faith??
I’m not mad at the blogger, and not even at Dave. I bring up his comment because it brings together a lot of the comments Christians make when they run across my ex-timony. They all talk about how saaaaaaaaaad they are. They sorrow that my youthful zeal ever faded, and that “Jesus” lost such a powerful PRAYER WARRIOR.
Most of all, they express this weird belief that had I been exposed to their preferred flavor of Christianity, I never would have deconverted.
The Myth of the Magic Christian.
In essence, we’re looking today at Magic Christians. We talked about them a while ago.
A lot of Christians see themselves as Magic Christians. They think that they can successfully resolve all of our issues with the religion. If the prospective mark is “angry at God,” as the Christianese goes, then they can soothe the pain that drove that person away from the One True Faith. Magic Christians know the perfect apologetics answer to any intellectual objections to the religion, too. They fully expect that once they’ve resolved all of those concerns, nothing hinders us from joining back up again.
Often, Magic Christians seriously think that Jesus himself is beaming information about us into their heads. In actuality, they’re just cold reading us–and because they don’t realize they’re only cold reading, they haven’t practiced the skill and are abysmally, hilariously bad at it. (More on this next time.)
Even worse, they’re cold reading a construct they’ve placed over us. They can’t engage too closely with our reality, because we offer living, vibrant contradictions to their indoctrination. Consequently, whatever they say tends to sound downright surreal, non-contextual, and disconnected–like a reply comment on a blog that ends up in the wrong thread.
In this case, Dave never wonders what flavors of Christianity I’ve experienced in my life. He assumes that I haven’t experienced whatever flavor he prefers. Obviously. If I had, goes the thinking, I wouldn’t have deconverted, so therefore I couldn’t have encountered it.
The Message Is Always Perfect (In a Broken System).
In Christianity, believers swim in a sea of free-floating blame. Just as there always exists a way to blame women, there always exists a way to blame those who reject Christianity.
It doesn’t offend me. I know why they do it.
In Christianity, the message is regarded as perfect. It must be. Nothing about it can be less than universally perfect for all humans everywhere for all time.
Therefore, if someone rejects the message, then only one of two things could possibly have happened:
- Something went seriously wrong for the person hearing the message. Maybe the person is simply too rebellious or doesn’t wish to be accountable to anybody. Or maybe their hearts aren’t soft enough yet.
- Something went seriously wrong in the presentation of the message. The person presenting it garbled something. Or the presenter bogged down the Good News with all sorts of dross and rules.
In the first case, Christians blame the person who rejects the pitch. In the second, they blame the presenter. I suppose the latter is a little less reprehensible than the former, but both of ’em up at the same sorry cul-de-sac.
Dave circles endlessly in that cul-de-sac. He doesn’t blame me, at least not directly. Instead, he blames the Bad Christians he imagines as having fed me “a rather unhealthy distortion of what the Christian faith is supposed to be.” He doesn’t share which flavor he believes constitutes a clear, healthy presentation of the religion. And that leads us to the next problem he has:
Which Witch is Which?
Whatever a Christian imagines is the bestest possible way to experience Christianity, I’ve done it or learned enough about it to reject that too.
I grew up Catholic–fervent but not 100-and-crazy-percent wackadoodle. My family immersed me in church life in what I would imagine is both normal for such families and sensible. Looking back, I don’t see anything in my upbringing that veered too far into laxity or overzealousness.
As a child, I frequently encountered mainline churches. For a short time, I even attended a mainline church with a gaming friend. My mother allowed this without any voiced concerns. A few months later, I returned to Catholicism. This church didn’t impact much; now, I struggle even to remember its name or its denomination.
I converted to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at 16. Then, shortly thereafter, I went into Pentecostalism. Excepting a brief respite at mid-17, I was Pentecostal till I was 24. Along the way, I met a great many Christians involved in a great many flavors of Christianity.
And I still deconverted from the religion entirely.
I wasn’t uninformed about the other options when I deconverted. And I’ve only learned more since then.
What We Did Wrong, Apparently.
Since deconverting, in fact, I’ve learned about pretty much every single major flavor of Christianity that exists. None of them has ever made me second-guess the religion. I consider some flavors less harmful than others, but none of them offers anything that sounds remotely compelling.All the same, way too many Christians persist in thinking that whatever flavor of the religion pleases them best is the flavor that would have persuaded us to stay Christian–gosh, had we only known about it, bless our hearts! It’s all but part of their folklore by now.
And it’s so comical. Had I deconverted from some mainline group, they’d accuse me of not having been hardcore enough (like them). Some go there anyway. Since I was SBC and Pentecostal at the end, though, I constantly hear more accusations like these:
- Legalism killed your faith.
- MAN’S RELIGION will always do that.
- You lost sight of Jesus.
Enough. Enough! Whatever magical flavor of Christianity someone thinks would have prevented my deconversion, I can say this very safely:
It would not have made any difference. The religion’s claims are simply untrue. All flavors of the religion base themselves on at least a few untrue claims. That’s why I deconverted.
Indirect Blame = Blame.
Buried in Christians’ sorrow, we often detect between the lines a subtle shade cast at us for not doing the research (like they had) before walking away, or else being too hard-hearted to join back up again once we’ve investigated our accuser’s favorite flavor of religion.
Dave didn’t come right out and do me this wrong. A lot of other Christians, however, will come right out and say it:
We should have tried every single flavor of Christianity till we found theirs: the one that would have been perfect. If we haven’t tried their flavor, then obviously we didn’t learn enough about Christianity to know if it was true! But we can correct that oversight now, with their help.
If we decline the opportunity to learn all about their preferred flavor, then these same Christians eagerly seize the opportunity to blame us for not doing enough to satisfy King Them.1
The Myth of the Quirky Little Flavor That Works.
Magic Christians really don’t want to hear that the religion’s message isn’t perfect. Nor do they want to hear that we already know about and have already rejected whatever their preferred flavor is.
They definitely don’t want to hear that their quirky little take on the religion isn’t actually unusual or new. In all the years I’ve been blogging, the only flavor of Christianity that’s mildly surprised me is Christian atheism. Before blogging, the only surprise was a lady who claimed to be a “Christian sorceress.” Neither sounds compelling.2
Nonetheless, a great many Christians believe that they’ve hit upon some gloriously quirky, totally-new take on Christianity that no one has ever figured out before that will revolutionize everything. Usually, their totally-new, totally-revolutionary idea turns out to be a somewhat-defanged take on evangelicalism, such as the tedious “grace rebel” mini-trend from a few years ago, or Preston Sprinkle’s “scandalous grace” notion that turned out to be neither scandalous nor gracious.
I’ve personally watched Magic Christians short-circuit when they trot out their quirky takes and get told they’re not that quirky at all, like Shane Hayes did when Friendly Atheist commenters dug into his ideas a few years ago. As deeply satisfying as these exchanges can be, though, the Christians involved learn nothing.
This, And Therefore That.
It seems to me that the Christians who believe that their preferred flavor of Christianity would have satisfied me think so for one reason only: because it satisfies them. They haven’t left Christianity yet, and so therefore I wouldn’t have left had I only found and followed whatever they follow.
I bet these same people follow vegetarians around at Thanksgiving with forkfuls of roast turkey, insisting they will love it if they just try Aunt Brenda’s recipe. It’s just that insulting and demeaning, and just that disrespectful. But this assumption is just part of Christian culture.
It’s another reason to reject Christianity, in the end. Christians do this stuff because they don’t have any good reasons for buying their product. This emotional manipulation is all they’ve got. It’s got to just suck.
NEXT UP: Speaking of emotional manipulation, cold reading fascinates me. It’s such a carnie trick! We’ll look at how–and why–Christians do it. And then we’ll take look at the time my sister and I (at 10 and 11 years old) got sucked into a carnival evangelism tent! See you soon.
1 Spoiler alert: As long as we reject their religion, Christian judges will never, ever, EVER be satisfied with the work we put in to please them. They will always, always, ALWAYS have more junk to thrust at us to do and learn, always implicitly promising that their approval will come after we’ve leaped through those hoops. But it never will, not unless we end up re-accepting belief. Don’t start down that road. The only way to win this game is not to play. The outcome will be exactly the same either way. (Back to the post!)
2 I don’t think Jesus (as described in the Gospels) was actually a particularly good person, nor that Christianity as an ideology is particularly moral. Thus, a non-supernatural Christianity appeals even less to me than a very supernatural one. As for Christian sorcery, Christianity already contains a number of untrue claims. Adding sorcery to the mix only worsens the problem. It reminds me of that old polyamory joke: “Relationship broken: Add more people!” Religion broken: add more religions! (Back to the post!)
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