Let’s (Sort Of) Talk About Atheists and Christians


This is the second post in my “Let’s Talk About X” series, which I just decided to do today. Like I ever plan. So, as usual, I’m going to type away whatever comes to mind, and you, dear reader, can come along if you wish.

Before I begin rambling, however, I’m going to post a quote that I’ve read before. It’s from Chassidic literature. Do read before continuing.

The Master teaches the student that God created everything in the world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson.
One clever student asks “What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?”
The Master responds “God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all — the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs and act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that God commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right.”
“This means,” the Master continued “that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say ‘I pray that God will help you.’ Instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say ‘I will help you.’”

Right then. I was talking to someone on the Internet earlier, and our conversation came around to the point of Christian clichés. When someone goes to a Christian for advice, how often do they hear some of the following?

“Oh, just talk to God about it, and you’ll figure it out.”
“You definitely need to get in the Word.”
“Have you tried talking to your pastor?

Now, is there anything that’s inherently wrong with the above? No, there is not. But all too often, when one says something similar to the above responses, it does more harm than good. And why? Think about it, people. If someone has come to you for advice about a problem, they’ve opened up to you. They’ve exposed a part of themselves. They might feel vulnerable, confused, and hurt. And when you essentially tell them to go to S/someone else, does it not feel as though you are shoving them off, pushing them away? Yes, they can turn to God, assuming they’re a Christian, but even if they aren’t, your opinion obviously is of some importance to them.

By nearly ignoring the problem, little *actual* help is done. Let’s think about it like this, readers. Assume that I have a deep, personal problem, and I go to you and ask for your advice. I’ve prayed. I’ve meditated. But I’m still uncertain. Then, I come to you, I open up to you, I expose myself, and I am told to go back and do what I have already done. I now feel as if I am but a child, being sent to do the obvious. That is not what I came for! I came for actual help! If I have asked God for help, what am I to expect? Has He not placed you to be of assistance? To help those who need it? Is it not our calling? By sending me back to the place I have come from, you shrug off the responsibility that you have been given. And how dare we? We must not talk, but *do*. We must *help*.

And this is where we see the difference in atheism and Christianity. Yes, you may not agree with atheism, but the principle is the same: if there were no God, would you help the person? If God did not exist, what would you do? We must not help out of a mere sense of duty, but out of willingness. If we help because the great Cosmic Moral Enforcer (see the quote at the end of my Stream of Consciousness post) requires that we must, what is the good in that?

Instead, we must take the time to examine ourselves and focus upon what we do, analyzing the motives behind it, and deciding what changes we must make. How can we make a difference? How can we truly help?

As I have said before, it all begins with one person. It begins with you.

Less than three,

“The way a crow/Shook down on me/The dust of snow/From a hemlock tree/Has given my heart/A change of mood/And saved some part/Of a day I had rued.” –Robert Frost’s Dust of Snow

6 thoughts on “Let’s (Sort Of) Talk About Atheists and Christians

  1. Why yes, Mr. Bladd, I do believe you put it quite succinctly.
    And of course, Christian. A post would not be complete unless you had to disagree at some point.

  2. We should also remember that the Magic-Sky-Genie conception of God is a double-bind once trouble aries. In other words, if we expect God to help us and give us a good life — as that godforsaken Word of Faith theology teaches — then two events appears common when evil arises:

    (i.) we feel the existential loss of God, since He is not helping us out of our hell, and we feel His absence.
    (ii.) we turn against ourselves and feel that we were not pious enough; that our misfortune is ourselves.

    Now, I think the problem ultimately stems from classical theism, the separation of God from the World, and that panentheism is the only lasting solution, but that is a topic for another time.

  3. As a former Christian, I expect that Christians believe God works through them to help the friend. They might think that God arranged for the meeting so that the Christian with the wisdom could share it to answer the friends question or request for help. Most Christians I know would do anything they could to help.

    As an Athiest, I can’t imagine that I believe that some people are moral and some are not. Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, etc. or not.

    Morality and religion are not correlated. Morality is taught, where religion seems to be biological. Some people are able to have faith, some people need faith in God and a higher authority, and so they are naturally inclined to adopt the religion of their environment. Those of us unable, or unwilling, to have faith in something unknown and unproven do not follow a religion.

  4. As always, John, your insight on such topics is most fascinating.
    Thank you for sharing your opinion, Anne Kelly! I was at your blog earlier and read through some of your posts, and I quite enjoyed it.

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