• On Atheists Respecting Christians Who Believe the Bible – a Caveat

On Atheists Respecting Christians Who Believe the Bible, a Caveat

I wanted to add something from my previous post, Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity by L. A. Taunton.

In that article, this was stated:

They [ex Christians who are now atheists] expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously

Following our 2010 debate in Billings, Montana, I asked [famous atheist] Christopher Hitchens why he didn’t try to savage me on stage the way he had so many others.

His reply was immediate and emphatic: “Because you believe it.”

Without fail, our former church-attending students expressed similar feelings for those Christians who unashamedly embraced biblical teaching.
/// end article snippet ///

I unfortunately do not have any links or direct quotes to provide the reader in this discussion; I wish I did.

I am just basing what I’m about to say on what I’ve personally seen on occasion over the last 15 or more years online when visiting blogs, forums, or groups where people discuss or debate theism and / or theology.

Most often, what I’ve seen from one variety of atheist, is that when this type of atheist says they “respect Christians who believe in the Bible,” (or in the faith) is they almost always mean to say they only respect Christians who adhere to a woodenly literal interpretation of the Bible, or to a very simplistic and legalistic form of the faith – such as what your typical Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, King James Version Onlyist would come up with.

This type of atheist refuses to acknowledge that there can be other, equally correct or valid ways of a Christian interpreting the Bible or the faith.

(At this stage of the game, I personally think both conservative and liberal Christians misunderstand the Bible at points and they both sometimes misapply it.

I used to have a pretty standard conservative Christian approach to the Bible. I’m not sure what I’d classify my views as now, but I don’t think either the liberal or conservative tags fit me nicely. I don’t even know if there is a third tag for people such as myself.)

From what I’ve seen, if a person is a liberal Christian who chalks up some portion of the Bible or the other as being symbolic or allegory, that is when the atheist gets upset and irritated.

These types of atheist think that anything less than interpreting the Bible in a very narrow, literal way is “cheating,” or is a false version of Christianity.

I guess that particular type of atheist is assuming that some types of Christians invent sneaky ways of interpreting the Bible for the precise reason of avoiding (easy) atheist critique.

I find it ridiculous that atheists – who mock the Bible and say there is no God – feel they have the right to dictate how adherents of  Christianity can or should be understanding their own scriptures.

If you’re an atheist, it’s not your place to dictate to Christians if they choose to use a more liberal or conservative hermeneutic.

But some atheists absolutely think it’s their place to demand how Christians understand or defend or explain their own holy book. Talk about hubris.

I assume the reason some atheists take this approach is because they have fun with, and a much easier time with, knocking down or trying to poke holes in a conservative and very literal interpretation of the Bible, then they can with liberal Christians who may take a more allegorical approach.

When I see any article proclaim that atheists
(point 1) “respect Christians who really believe the Bible,”
I usually take that to actually mean
(point 2), “Atheists only respect Christians who utilize a very ignorant, overly literal, super duper extreme conservative biblical hermeneutic.”

Those are not entirely the same concept.

I think it’s disingenuous for any atheist to say point 1. when he or she really in fact subscribes to point 2.

Even though I don’t agree with liberal (progressive) Christians on a whole bunch of topics, and with how they choose to interpret the Bible, I don’t automatically rule out any and all their views, interpretations, nor do I assume they are not “real Christians” who are not not practicing a “real” form of Christianity that I cannot respect.

But that is what I see some categories of atheists doing to Christians – they feel they can define what and how “real” Christianity is, how it should work, and what it should look like.

(Which is again, quite weird, since they think all of Christianity, whether it be liberal or conservative, is a bunch of fairy tales and putrid garbage. Why not allow those who claim to follow that faith and that book define it as they understand it? Why should atheists be allowed to define Christianity or the Bible, and what is or is not “real” or “respectable” Christianity?)


You may be reading the Bible wrong. Pete Enns says the Bible itself shows a better way – RNS

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