Does Christianity lead to Atheism?

An odd lead question, but the thought results from a brief quote I read some where (which I have utterly failed to find; I often read a lot in short period of time, and it is hard sometimes to track where all the bits come from) and the obvious rise of New Atheism. It is a question we need to ask as we watch our Christian culture rapidly erode.

Dawkins Fish

A bit of history first; as Christianity spread across Europe, Zeus and Jupiter and Thor were all laid to rest, in large part because Christianity represents a significantly superior metaphysical system. The God of the Bible isn’t merely a glorified man with all the attendant weaknesses; He is transcendent, above and before all things, and yet intimately intertwined with the personal history of mankind. There are no squabbles in heaven; unlike Olympus and Valhalla, Christ isn’t performing in a celestial soap opera, vying with all the other gods for power and love. Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and all alternatives are obliterated in a primarily Christian culture.

As much as this is true, only one alternative is left to the God of the Bible when a culture is primarily Christian, and that is no belief at all. As the old gods no longer suffice, and as human hearts are ever seeking their own way apart from ‘the light’ as Christ put it, many are left with no alternative but to abandon religious belief all together.

This would explain the increasing secularization of Europe, and how a Russia fully ensconced in the Orthodox faith turned to the harshest form of atheism-in-practice, namely Stalinism.

Atheists also have the advantage of tolerance in a primarily Christian country. Unlike many civilizations, original Christianity understood that belief in Christ was an act of the conscious will – that is one must choose to follow Christ; it could not be the product of compulsion. As a result, atheists are free to reject prevailing Christianity, even criticize it with little fear of reprisal – a notion that would be unthinkable in Islamic countries, or many ancient theocracies.

In addition, living in a country that is predominantly Christian affords atheists cover for a lack of moral code – they can adopt the overarching morality of Christianity while maintaining the pretense that morality can be readily derived from reason. There is no history to support the notion that the moral basis of Western nations can be derived from anything but Christianity, but once established, the origin of morality is often quickly forgotten.

This understanding sounds an ominous bell for the US. Though we remain one of the most religious countries in the world, at least according to polls, the increasing secularization of our culture seems fairly obvious. And when closely explored, the religious are less likely to believe in an orthodox (little ‘o’) form of Christianity, and in what has come to be termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – basically a watered down version of Christianity meant to make us feel good about ourselves and give us hope, without all the attendant challenges of obeying God and respecting His commandments, or fearing any form of judgment.

And what this portends for the US is a potential European secularization, with all the diminishments that come with such a change; increasing hopelessness, less interest in family and future, and more concern with immediate comfort and pleasure.

In the gospels Jesus tells a parable of a man who, once free of an evil spirit, does nothing to fill the emptiness in his soul, merely orders his life without seeing it transformed:

“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

I think the truth Jesus meant to impart here is that a mere veneer of spirituality is not sufficient to maintain fruits of a Christian life; indeed it can open the door to a state worse than having been a Christian culture at all.

In short, our generation in the Western world enjoys a home put into order by others before us, but to the degree we don’t experience for ourselves sincere belief and personal transformation, the emptiness that remains invites evils much worse than those Christendom originally displaced.

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20 Responses to Does Christianity lead to Atheism?

  1. bZirk says:

    I knew when I started reading you were going to use that passage. Excellent piece!

    Mere codes of ethics, whether they be essentially religious or intellectual, could never uphold us eternally. There’s no life in them. Doesn’t the Lord tell us that? If not, then what was Paul talking about so incessantly?

    My favorite is when he’s dripping with sarcasm in Galatians 3, and I especially love (horrors) Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of it:

    1 You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

    2-4Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

  2. There are no squabbles in heaven;

    Fallen angels.

  3. jackhudson says:

    Well I think the word ‘fallen’ (which is more a product of Milton than Scripture) would indicate they aren’t in heaven.

  4. Thereby showing that, at some point, there was a squabble.

  5. jackhudson says:

    Yes, angels and men squabble.

  6. Angels and God squabble, actually, and they do it within Heaven (until God loses his cool and kicks them out).

  7. jackhudson says:

    Angels and God squabble, actually, and they do it within Heaven (until God loses his cool and kicks them out).

    Again, a mythical view of Christianity; there is no Scriptural reference to God squabbling with angels. And certainly nothing like the gods (which angels aren’t incidentally) vying to rule.

  8. bZirk says:

    Tangent alert:

    I had an English professor in college who went on and on about what God did or didn’t do and why he was perplexed and hacked about it, and it was all predicated on Milton. One day in the middle of his ranting he stopped and said, “So what do you think about that!? Why do you think God did that?!” To which a guy sitting in front of me raised his hand and said, “Sir, with all due respect, I think you’re reading the wrong book.” I had to slide down in my chair so I could giggle.

  9. jackhudson says:

    That is funny. I find that skeptics (including myself at one time) are more often rejecting a caricature of the Bible than what it actually says.

  10. So no fallen angels exist? There has never been a war in Heaven? There isn’t a predicted war in Heaven?

    And certainly nothing like the gods (which angels aren’t incidentally) vying to rule.

    Bait-and-switch. You said there are no squabbles in Heaven, not that no gods seek to rule.

  11. jackhudson says:

    So no fallen angels exist? There has never been a war in Heaven? There isn’t a predicted war in Heaven?

    Angels that are no longer obedient to God exist. These same angels war with men and and other angels, and no, there is no predicted war in heaven.

    Bait-and-switch. You said there are no squabbles in Heaven, not that no gods seek to rule.

    No, if you read carefully I continued, “…unlike Olympus and Valhalla, Christ isn’t performing in a celestial soap opera, vying with all the other gods for power and love.” Quote-mining me on the same page as my post is a little silly.

  12. 1) Satan
    2) Book of Relevations
    3) Your point was that your god is above the weaknesses of humans, which is in contrast to many other gods. The fact that he squabbles (or, say, throws a temper tantrum in a temple) means he is not above all human weaknesses. Your god does not contrast as starkly with the other man-made gods as much as you would like.

  13. jackhudson says:

    1) Satan

    Satan is not a god, he is a created being like you or I.

    2) Book of Relevations

    The Book of Revelations says nothing about a future war in heaven.

    3) Your point was that your god is above the weaknesses of humans, which is in contrast to many other gods. The fact that he squabbles (or, say, throws a temper tantrum in a temple) means he is not above all human weaknesses. Your god does not contrast as starkly with the other man-made gods as much as you would like.

    The God of heaven rules alone in accordance with His nature, as He always has, which is why neither angels nor men that disobey Him share heaven with Him.

    What happened in the temple was merely a physical representation of the fact He doesn’t share this authority, and completely consistent with the nature of His supreme authority and Holiness – and nothing like pagan gods who never made personal appearances in history at their temples.

  14. 1) Bait-and-switch again. This has been explained to you.
    2) 12:7
    3) He squabbles. Deal with it.

    Incidentally, he also gambles (with Satan, no less), but I digress.

  15. jackhudson says:

    1) Bait-and-switch again. This has been explained to you.

    Considering the whole of what I wrote as opposed to the bit you quoted out of context isn’t ‘bait-and-switch’.

    2) 12:7

    Does not depict a future war in heaven.

    3) He squabbles. Deal with it.

    Mere assertion doesn’t contradict the basic point I made, that the God of the Bible is unique in His attributes.

    Incidentally, he also gambles (with Satan, no less), but I digress.

    No, Job does not depict God ‘gambling’, in fact it is impossible for Him to do so.

  16. 1) Your point was that your God does not squabble. Whether by example of how he does not do with other gods or even like other gods, he still does it. It is irrelevant that Satan is not a god.

    Again, your point is to place your god above the pettiness of other gods, specifically in this case by way of lack of squabbling.

    2) Right. It just says it.

    Of course, it is theology, so there is no internal way in which one can possibly resolve anything which isn’t trivial.

    3) His attributes being much like those of man aside, your assertion was that your god does not squabble. I disagree and fallen angels and future wars in Heaven demonstrate my position.

    I like that you knew to what it was I was specifically referring without me saying directly.

    I suppose it could be argued that God can’t gamble since he knows all (which has implications for his burden of responsibility for not only worldly evil, but the evil of eternal damnation), but if we assume free will, then he very well could have had an outcome which did not demonstrate his egotistical point (made at the expense of an innocent man). That has to be called a gamble.

  17. jackhudson says:

    1) Your point was that your God does not squabble. Whether by example of how he does not do with other gods or even like other gods, he still does it. It is irrelevant that Satan is not a god.

    My point was indeed that there are no squabbles amongst the gods in Christianity in the same manner as pagan mythologies; you attempted to say that a created being rebelling against the authority of God was the same, and I have shown it’s not.

    2) Right. It just says it.

    Of course, it is theology, so there is no internal way in which one can possibly resolve anything which isn’t trivial.

    It doesn’t say it; it’s not a matter of theology, but reading comprehension.

    3) His attributes being much like those of man aside, your assertion was that your god does not squabble. I disagree and fallen angels and future wars in Heaven demonstrate my position.

    And as fallen angels aren’t gods and there is no ‘future war in heaven’, you are clearly wrong, just unwilling to admit it.

    I like that you knew to what it was I was specifically referring without me saying directly.

    Only because atheists are repetitive and frequently parrot the same sources.

    I suppose it could be argued that God can’t gamble since he knows all (which has implications for his burden of responsibility for not only worldly evil, but the evil of eternal damnation), but if we assume free will, then he very well could have had an outcome which did not demonstrate his egotistical point (made at the expense of an innocent man). That has to be called a gamble.

    Free will doesn’t negate knowing the outcome, and because God knows the outcome, He isn’t gambling.

  18. 1) If this were your point, it would be utterly pedantic to make it. Of course your god does not squabble with other gods. The illogical aspects of the trinity notwithstanding, your god is described as a supreme singleton. Obviously a singleton cannot squabble with others like him.

    But it remains that the statement that “there are no squabbles in heaven” is a false one. There are squabbles; heaven does have its own soap opera.

    2. 7 And there was war in heaven.

    And as fallen angels aren’t gods and there is no ‘future war in heaven’, you are clearly wrong, just unwilling to admit it.

    Don’t falsely claim that “there are on squabbles in heaven”.

    Only because atheists are repetitive and frequently parrot the same sources.

    The Bible? Because it was my Christian upbringing that exposed me to Job; even as a child I recognized that God was a gambler.

    Free will doesn’t negate knowing the outcome, and because God knows the outcome, He isn’t gambling.

    That isn’t free will at all. But if you like, then yes, God asked Satan to actively destroy the life of an innocent man. This is text book conspiracy.

    Of course, the whole story is ludicrous. It’s an excuse for why God cannot adequately counteract all the evil in the world. He can’t make the point that he is all-powerful and simultaneously claim that he cannot provide for everyone. It’s patently silly.

  19. jackhudson says:

    1) If this were your point, it would be utterly pedantic to make it. Of course your god does not squabble with other gods. The illogical aspects of the trinity notwithstanding, your god is described as a supreme singleton. Obviously a singleton cannot squabble with others like him.

    Actually, that was the point; God is not divided againt Himself, He is singularly consistent, not at odds with the other gods over the fate of men; I am glad you finally see it.

    But it remains that the statement that “there are no squabbles in heaven” is a false one. There are squabbles; heaven does have its own soap opera

    No, created beings rebelled against God and they were removed from His presence (thus Rev. 2:7, a past event) – there is obviously conflict between God and men and demonic beings, but this doesn’t diminish in any way the power or perfection of God Himself; He commands and judges, He doesn’t squabble.

    The Bible? Because it was my Christian upbringing that exposed me to Job; even as a child I recognized that God was a gambler.

    Then you had a bad Sunday School teacher. As did every other atheist who parrots this point

    That isn’t free will at all. But if you like, then yes, God asked Satan to actively destroy the life of an innocent man. This is text book conspiracy.

    I am not sure how God allowing Satan to test Job negated His free will; the fact that bad things happen to us, even things we consider unfair doesn’t change our ability to choose how we will respond to them.

    Of course, the whole story is ludicrous. It’s an excuse for why God cannot adequately counteract all the evil in the world. He can’t make the point that he is all-powerful and simultaneously claim that he cannot provide for everyone. It’s patently silly.

    What I find ludicrous is the notion that if there is no God, we would think there is ‘evil’ in the world at all.

  20. I’m going to agree to disagree on the first point. We’re just beating yet another dead horse on this one. However, it should be noted that I was not citing Rev. 2:7, if that is what you thought I was doing. I was making point 2 and citing Rev. 12:7 to which I had referred earlier.

    I had no Sunday school teacher. I went to a Christian school for 9 years (8 of which involved any significant Christianity). The story was told pretty much as you’re telling it: God allowed Satan to ‘test’ Job who never used God’s name in vain or renounced God, but did question him; This questioning was answered by God making lame excuses for evil which are incompatible with his all-powerfulness.

    I am not sure how God allowing Satan to test Job negated His free will; the fact that bad things happen to us, even things we consider unfair doesn’t change our ability to choose how we will respond to them.

    It’s not really a choice if God is the one who determined the outcome in the first place (what with his whole plan thing).

    What I find ludicrous is the notion that if there is no God, we would think there is ‘evil’ in the world at all.

    You’re welcome to find that ludicrous, but you aren’t saying anything of why your god is making excuses for allowing evil.

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