My friend Mark has some pretty pointed things to say to Christians who make it their business to witness to atheists such as himself.

Other Christians may disagree, but I think the entire notion of building relationships simply to further the spread of a belief system (even Christianity!) is repugnant. We should build relationships for the sake of building relationships. We should be real friends, not phony friends 'doing God's work.' If, from time to time we find ourselves reconciled on some previous point of disagreement, that's gravy as far as I can see.

The logo on this page seeks to make this point. The big letter 'A' is used as a symbol of atheism by some folk. I've modified it with the words 'Friend Of" to distinguish myself sympathetically from a community that I appreciate and enjoy. But I should also point out that I don't think of these folk as 'my atheist friends', but rather 'my friends who happen to be atheists'. Real friendship is not tokenism, either.

Now, one point of Christianity which strikes me as internally incoherent has to do with loved ones who are not saved. We are promised that 'God will wipe away every tear' with respect to the losses of our earthly life. We are also assured that some go to eternal reward, and some to eternal condemnation. What is not clear is whether or not those we love will be rewarded, or condemned---and whether or not we will grieve the family or friends who are not 'saved'. If the latter is the case, that we will grieve such things, then the promise to 'wipe away every tear' seems to violate our freedom of consciousness. I would not want to worship a God who would condemn my friends for honest doubt, or who would rob me of the grief that honors their loss.

I therefore choose (perhaps heretically) to believe that the task of Christians is to love not just each other, but the whole world, to love it so much that even the tyrant God that rules the imagination of so many believers would be dethroned. Real love is more powerful than death, and as far as I am concerned, my friends are my friends forever, in life and in death.


James F. McGrath said...

I think that, if one discusses things in an appropriate manner, it is more likely that discussing faith intelligently with an atheist will lead to friendship, than vice versa. The problem is that many Christians are not out to really listen to what people they disagree with have to say, and to be willing to learn as well as share. Nor are most of us sufficiently well-informed to be able to really discuss issues that many atheists would want to talk about.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

OK, this is a good post with an even better link that I will have to link to meself. Thanks for posting!