The Common Sense Atheist wants atheists to promote evidence-based thinking, but also to recognize many Christians have strong emotional and relational investments in their beliefs.
I’d like to see those emotional ties attached to self-interested motives removed from the reasons why many of us maintain our Christianity.
The quote, with my thoughts in italics:
For example, let me consider what my father – a pastor – stands to lose if he ever chooses to doubt the dogma he was raised with. He could lose:
- His dearest friend, Jesus. -He never leaves us nor forsakes us. His friendship is unconditional.
- His home (the church owns it). -I have become more skeptical about housing allowances for pastors. It’s a tax loophole, more than anything else. Why not just pay them enough to afford a house?
- His job, the only good one he is really trained for. -Clergymen need to be tentmakers. We all need to constantly be preparing for our next jobs.
- His wife of 25 years.
- Many of his dearest friends, nearly all of whom are Christian.
- Relationships with many of his family members, nearly all of whom are Christian. – These three bother me. They are unfortunately true, but more to the fault of the other parties involved than the pastor. If we as Christians so easily discard relationships then we know nothing of the love of our Father.
- The social advantages of having official rank in the dominant religion of his country.- This starts hammering home at the problems of Constantinian Christianity. If we achieve social rank or privilege through our attachment to the Christian label, it is time to look for a new label.
- The social privileges conferred by the state on his religion. -It is all the more imperative that subversive Christians publicly and conspicuously detach ourselves from privilege, and work to eliminate privilege structures.
- The peace of knowing he will not die, but live forever with Jesus.
- The emotional satisfaction of being certain.
- The comfort of being loved by the Creator of the universe.
- The exciting sense that he is on a personal mission from God. -These four more closely align with what the gospel is really all about.
- The pride in knowing he has invested so many decades towards a good cause. -For if Christ be not crucified, then we are of all men to be most pitied. If it’s all a farce, then our good works are in vain, just as the heathens are. This is the offense of the cross – that our best is not good enough. This is the blessing of the cross – that He invites us to complete the Good Work which He is doing.
Now those are some seriously good reasons for my dad to avoid questioning his faith. In fact, it’s quite possible that for him, the benefits of atheism (having a coherent worldview, freedom from ancient superstitions and prohibitions, etc.) do not outweigh the costs of losing his faith.
Let’s be honest with ourselves about this. If we are Christians because it is convenient of comfortable, then we are not really carrying a cross. We are probably doing something wrong. That said, the author sets up a false dichotomy, in that Christianity does offer a coherent worldview – and that altruism by atheists is quite incoherent.
I think I’ll look back on some Bonhoeffer soon…