"One of the arguments that the new breed of atheists
often proclaim is that
Religion is the cause of the bad things that people do."
-Steven M. Conger
...while I was Googling today. Steven M. Conger, a Christian, expresses his view about the evils of religion. I'm assume he is presenting his case to the congregation of Ridge United Methodist Church. He begins by presenting a CNN study that says "America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago" and that only 75% of Americans call themselves Christian, down from 86% in 1990. According to Mr. Conger, this loss of faith has stemmed from the political take-over by evangelical Christians and the child molestation cases of the "Catholic" church.
"The survey also found that "born-again" or "evangelical" Christianity is on the rise, while the percentage who belong to "mainline" congregations has fallen.The rise in evangelical Christianity is contributing to the rejection of religion altogether by some Americans, said Mark Silk of Trinity College. 'In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting 'religious right' connected to a political party,and that turned a lot of people the other way," he said of the link between the Republican Party and groups such as the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family.'"
He even admits to knowing that "many [people] who self identified as religious do not practice their faith." So, who really knows what the true numbers are. A few conversations between a person of weaker "faith" and an educated atheist will probably have the person admitting to their religious agnosticism. By this I mean, that the person will admit to not really believing in to story of Noah's Ark or not really believing that Jesus rose from the dead. I've met self-described Christians who do not believe a hell, do not believe Jesus rose from the dead, agree that Bible is a bunch of pieced together bullshit, know that evolution is how it happened and so on and so on. . . I actually had a friend tell me that god was created during the big bang. Then, god made creatures on other sorts of planets and that he 'seeded' Earth and let evolution takes its course. He also believes that the Bible has been tampered with and mistranslated so much that it's identifiable from the original. Yet, he identifies himself as a Christian. [He says it was the way he was raised. I tell him that he has made up his own god.]
...back to the Mr. Conger...
Dawkins and Harris receive a brief mention as "evangelical" atheists who say "the world would be a better place without religion." Evangelical? Really?
- The need for personal conversion (or being "born again")
- Actively expressing and sharing the gospel
I don't see how you could describe any atheist as evangelical. Most of us do not care if you practice your religion as long as you keep it out of everyone's public schools, government, and even our own homes. Yeah, I'm talking about you, Jehovah's Witnesses. Some atheists actively express their feelings but that's something you could say of any rights activists, including those who support gay marriage. I think points 3 & 4 are pointless to argue.
Mr. Conger goes on to speak about some of the evil acts pursued in the name of religion. Although I think he leaves out some of the more grotesque moments in religious history, he does mention the oppression of Islamic women, American slavery, American women's right to vote, and American women being speakers of the church. He takes into account the pedophile priests, money scandals, and "gullible Christians" who have been taken advantage of. All of this while knowing that "people outside the church see that and lump [Christians] all together and think [they] are crazy!"
"What is the most common thing that people who are not religious say about Christians?
I hear it over and over again: CHRISTIANS ARE A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES
And you know what? They are right!
Of course we are ->that is why we come to church, to try to teach us and learn about the way of Jesus and how we need to do a better job in following."
He seems to understand that his religion is falling apart from the inside out...but yet, he rationalizes the situation by asking if we should "just get rid of religion because sometimes people miss use it?" He then takes a look at all the good things religion has done: started universities, helped with Katrina, Tsunami, Haiti, collected food and fed people, collected toys for the Salvation Army, and taken mission trips.
He fails to mention that atheists do all of these good things too and have never formed institutions that steal money, rape children, and wage wars.
He also says that Christians do all of these things because they want to help people. Yet moments before, he agrees that some Christians do good so they won't go to hell and will get a "ticket punched to heaven." He goes on with some silly Bono quote about god helping the rich and famous and still able to be a nurturing being to an HIV infected mother and child.
He ends his sermon by asking anyone, even those who don't believe, to come to their church and see all the 'good' they are doing. He is basically asking you to ignore all of the bad things behind church and only look at the good.
"Religion does so much good. Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. Sure we have done, and will no doubt continue to do some bad things, but with the help of the way of Jesus we are trying to change."
Then, here comes the guilt-trip finale. How would you feel if you had a tough time following in Jesus' footsteps because of circumstances in your life? What if someone wanted to kill your WHOLE family because you loved Jesus? Well, you don't have to because you live in a free country. Show your thankful by taking this challenge: 10 hours of working with poor or 1 week on a mission trip or you can pay for someone to do it for you!!
It seems to me that this wouldn't be doing good because you want to help people. It feels as if it is a punishment for being born into a decent family. Do this because god blessed you with a good home and other people have to suffer worse than you....?
In the end, Steven Cronger did nothing to help anyone on the fence about religion. I think he may have even encouraged some people to look outside the church. Though, I do sincerely hope that he learns something meaningful from his conversations with atheists.