I took a trip down a rabbit hole this week. I was following a link from my twitter feed for a BBC special about the history of Christianity. When I discovered it was posted on an Atheist website I was curious and posted the following comment: “I’m confused, why would an “Atheist” blog post this on it? What good does it do?” I wasn’t trying to be provocative or contentious, I was genuinely curious. My thought was, “why would you even care about something you believe to be a complete fallacy?” The next day I checked back to see if anyone had responded and I found two comments.
- “An understanding of the actual historical facts about religions is important for a competent anti-theist to have. And many atheists here (like myself) are specifically anti-theist. Often we’ll engage with outspoken theists who end up having no idea historically how their own religion came to be -such as the whole Emperor Constantine, fall of Rome, rise of the Dark Ages period. “
- “This should also be considered a good example as to how, regardless of belief or non-belief, one can and should be open minded, even to those things one may refute on a regular basis or wholly disagree with in essence. Truth is truth regardless of one’s desires. I am not, however, meaning to infer that what is detailed within this program is absolute truth, although it seems to be spot on.”
As I read the comments there wasn’t any part of them that I could disagree with. In fact I had found myself making similar statements to individuals in my own ministry; telling people that they shouldn’t just accept religion because of what others tell them. They need to study it and understand it for themselves. The difference here was that these individuals didn’t just take it upon themselves to understand what they do believe, but also they followed up to understand what they don’t believe. I began contemplating why it is that Christians don’t spend more time learning what others think and believe. I went to a trusted and close friend of mine who teaches religion and asked what he thought about becoming more knowledgeable about Atheism. His response was simple; “Truth does not fear knowledge”.
I’ve met people like the “outspoken theists” and would agree that many times they aren’t fully informed. Most people that try to convince you that they are open-minded aren’t. I would also venture to say that most people who “read up” on the thoughts and opinions of those with opposing points of view aren’t looking for ways to find a middle ground. But my question is why? Why are so many people afraid of being truly open minded and engaging in those conversations that might challenge them? More importantly, why are so many Christians afraid of engaging in those conversations? A while back I read an article by Craig Gross, the founder of xxxchurch.com. He tours the US with Ron Jeremy for a “Porn Debate” on college campuses. In the article he explains how he has never been able to schedule one of his debates on a Christian college campus. Again I ask why. What is it about Christian culture that causes us to think if we expose ourselves to something controversial we run the risk of becoming corrupted?
Didn’t Christ peacefully and thoughtfully engage those whom he disagreed with throughout his ministry? He never shied from a conversation with members of the various religious parties. He embraced prostitutes, the handicapped, the deranged, the outcast, the unclean, and the politically incorrect. I’d venture to say that anyone who spent their time in bars, adult stores, clubs, or abortion clinics making friends with homosexuals, prostitutes, drug dealers, alcoholics, and ex-cons would soon become an outsider within their own denomination.
Why then should we do any less? Why do we so often seek the security of a picket line outside of an abortion clinic, instead of the waiting room to talk to a frightened young woman? Why do we hide behind a bumper sticker of the Ten Commandments instead of inviting someone to coffee? Why do we shelter ourselves and other believers from the conversations that occur on the other side of the belief spectrum, instead of helping each other understand why there are differences? In our Christian “Christ-likeness” are we truly “Christ-minded”? Have we taken hold of righteousness to cover our fear? The fear that we might be challenged to face the questions that we may have; the fear that we may not have the answers.
I can’t say all atheists are open-minded or even that the two that commented on my question are truly open-minded. I merely take the comments they made and turn them on myself. Have I taken all the steps to truly understand why I believe what I do, and why I believe what I don’t? Am I seeking to understand before passing judgment? If I truly have truth in my heart, how much more can seeking knowledge build that truth into something that can never be overtaken? In the end, I’m reminded “Truth does not fear knowledge”.