The Christians Making Atheists

Growing-up in the Church, I was taught that the worst thing one could be was a non-believer; that nothing was as tragic as a doomed soul that condemned itself by rejecting God. The religion of my childhood drew a sharp, clear line between the saved and the damned. All that mattered was making sure someone found themselves on the better side of this line—and the Atheists and Humanists didn’t have a shot.

In light of this supposed truth, the heart of the faith (I was told), was to live in a way that reflected the character and love of Jesus so vividly, so beautifully, that others were compelled to follow after him; that a Christian’s living testimony might be the catalyst for someone’s conversion. The Bible called it “making disciples” and it was the heart of our tradition. As the venerable hymn declared, we Jesus people were to be known by our love.

What a difference a couple of decades make.

Just ask around. People outside the Church will tell you: love is no longer our calling card. It is now condemnation, bigotry, judgment and hypocrisy. In fact, the Christianity prevalent in so much of America right now isn’t just failing to draw others to Christ, it is actively repelling them from him. By operating in a way that is in full opposition to the life and ministry of Jesus—it is understandably producing people fully opposed to the faith that bears his name.

In record numbers, the Conservative American Church is consistently and surely making Atheists—or at the very least it is making former Christians; people who no longer consider organized religion an option because the Jesus they recognize is absent. With its sky-is-falling hand-wringing, its political bed-making, and its constant venom toward diversity, it is giving people no alternative but to conclude, that based on the evidence of people professing to be Godly—that God is of little use. In fact, this God may be toxic.

And that’s the greatest irony of it all; that the very Evangelicals who’ve spent that last 50 years in this country demonizing those who reject Jesus—are now the single most compelling reason for them to do so. They are giving people who suspect that all Christians are self-righteous, hateful hypocrites, all the evidence they need. The Church is confirming the outside world’s most dire suspicions about itself.

These people aren’t stupid. They realize that bigotry, even when it is wrapped in religion or justified by the Bible or spoken from a pulpit is still bigotry. They can smell the putrid stench of phony religion from a mile away—and this version of the Church, frankly reeks of it. People are steering clear in droves, choosing to find meaning and community and something that resembles love outside its gatherings.

With every persecution of the LGBTQ community, with every unprovoked attack on Muslims, with every planet-wrecking decision, with every regressive civil rights move—the flight from Christianity continues. Meanwhile the celebrity preachers and professional Christians publicly beat their breasts about the multitudes walking away from God, oblivious to the fact that they are the impetus for the exodus.

And one day soon, these same religious folks will look around, lamenting the empty buildings and the irrelevance of the Church and a world that has no use for it, and they’ll wonder how this happened. They’ll blame a corrupt culture, or the liberal media, or a rejection of Biblical values, or the devil himself—but it will be none of those things.

No, the reason the Church soon will be teetering on the verge of extinction and irrelevance, will be because those entrusted to perpetuate the love of Jesus in the world, lost the plot so horribly, and gave the world no other option but to look elsewhere for goodness and purpose and truth.

Soon these Evangelicals will ask why so much of America has rejected Jesus, and we will remind them of these days, and assure them that they have not rejected Jesus at all—they just found no evidence of him in their Church or in them.

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.


655 thoughts on “The Christians Making Atheists

  1. This is so sad to read, and I do agree with some of what you say. However, I AM a Christian, but I have never bashed another for having different beliefs and have never held myself in higher esteem than anyone else. We are ALL imperfect souls walking. Most of the Christians I know are the same. My church is growing in leaps and bounds, and, yes, with lots of young people, but this is because we teach love, the same love that Jesus taught. We love God, we love people. We also teach salvation through Jesus, and living a good life HELPING others, not condemning them, as well as telling them about Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Yes, there are denominations out there that preach elitism but they are NOT the majority. It is very sad to hear their mis-guided and wrong sermanage and it hurts my heart to see them turning away hurting souls by insulting or condemning them. Jesus loved everyone as he walked the earth, but he also taught them his Truth – meaning the Word of God – as he loved them. We are to do the same. On the other hand, Jesus also turned the gambling tables over in the temple. We also are to do the same. If we won’t stand up for what we believe, then it is not worthy of belief. But it is certainly true that when we stand up for what we believe, we need to learn to do so in love, without condemnation of the PERSON.

  2. I grew up Christian. I am no longer Christian for all of the reasons addressed above, plus some. I can remember going to church and being surrounded by people who were just mean. Some of the cruel things that self-professed Christians say and do alarms and disgusts me. Even from my own family, I’ll hear them say things that shock me to my core.

    Not just that, but that blatant hypocrisy and the sanctimonious bull is so tiring. I see Catholics protesting our local abortion clinic constantly and I’m just like, did you forget that your church has spent the last few decades dealing with the fallout from mass physical and sexual abuse of children? How are you suddenly a moral authority after all that?

    I’ve tried to cut Christians a lot of slack, particularly because that used to be my life, but a lot of y’all are annoying, rude, and cruel. It’s not a good look.

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  4. Describes my deconversion to a T. (Where did that weird phrase come from, anyway?) It was the preaching of hate in my own church that got me buried in my Bible and religious study library searching for where they went wrong. What I found is all the ways they could be considered right. Reading the Bible that time, I saw so many things I’d never seen before. I wasn’t reading it to reinforce my own beliefs. In reading it wanting to see what was ACTUALLY there, I saw all the horrid hateful crap I’d always glossed over before. Saw how you could use anything in there to justify anything you wanted. That was the beginning of the nagging thoughts that it’s all bullshit. Every single damn religion is bullshit. Thanks, miserable, bigoted, hateful Christians for giving me my life back. Keep on hating. ~a thankful atheist

  5. Just discovered this little gem. I’m enjoying the hypocrisy here. In order to be “loving” toward one marginalized group, you insult another marginalized group to our very toes by portraying us as thoughtless, shallow, fickle, and stupid. You aren’t leaving your core beliefs because of other Christians, are you? Did it even cross your mind? Westboro Baptist has signs saying God hates gay people, God must not be real!!! I understand why you have to build a strawman in order to make your idea work. It’s not like Christians of all 30,000+ sects haven’t been demonizing the specter of apostasy in order to control others through fear and shame for as long as their sect has existed.

    I am a real atheist. I am a Christian apostate. I do not believe in gods, any gods, I do not believe Jesus existed, let alone is a divine being or the son of a god. I do not believe Jehovah / Yahweh is real or ever was. Nor his wife Ishtar or any of the Canaanite pantheon, whether co-opted by some Jewish people or not.

    I didn’t deconvert, as we Christian apostates tend to put it, because of bad actors in the Christian faith. I am not that blindingly shallow. Frankly, this entire posts reads exactly like the kind of offensive, insulting garbage that comes out of people in right-wing, theocratic churches. It’s on every listicle I’ve ever read: don’t judge Christianity by badly behaved Christians.

    Talk to a real apostate instead of inventing apostasy to shame your tribe into behaving the way you want them to. The majority of us left because of the so-called “Good News” after obsessively reading the Bible and praying like our eternal lives depended on it. We couldn’t maintain the cognitive dissonance the very foundation of the faith, regardless of how left or right politically the churched are, requires in order to be true.

    Atheists may be a handy cudgel to beat your fellow Christians into interpreting the Bible the way you want them to, into cherry picking your preferred verses instead of theirs, but in order to turn us into your cudgel, you have to lie to yourself and others. You have to turn apostates into shallow, thoughtless people whose fickleness has no boundaries. But I understand exactly how it can be too difficult to deal with people who found the message itself false. I can understand why you’d prefer to shift the blame from the core message itself to a few bad actors. It’s better than dealing with the fact that you must see all human beings as inherently evil enough to deserve eternal punishment, whether it be hell or just dying and staying dead, in order to believe that your god offers any salvation. Without the fear of eternal punishment just for being human, what does this verse offer? Nothing. If simply being human isn’t a punishable offense, there is no reason grace, no salvation. Which brings us to why humans are sinners in the first place: God did it.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever shall believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Thinking about God’s power and why people are the way they are is dangerous. That’s what leads to apostasy, not your fellow Christians doing things that you don’t like.

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