What Is the Point?

Russell Miller of Holy Mighty Atheist asks an excellent question in his post, What’s the point? He asks why people should be Christians, when Christians have the same moral flaws as non-believers.

Here are some considerations:

1. There are good Christians in the world. Sure, there are a lot of bad ones, and, like Russell, I often find myself criticizing Christianity and Christendom on the basis of its bad apples. But there are also some good ones. And we don’t have to shoot as high as Mother Theresa to find them. For example, there are Christians who are reaching out to Russell on his blog–hoping for him to heal, seeking common ground, listening to his story, sharing their own experiences and vulnerabilities, etc. Are they perfect? No. But they do seem to care, at least from what I can see. And there are Christians and believers in God who have reached out to me over the years.

I think of the story of Austin Miles. Austin was a circus-master who converted to evangelical Christianity, and he quickly became a celebrity on Jim Bakker’s PTL. Austin witnessed a lot of hypocrisy within evangelical Christianity–especially among big-time evangelical celebrities (and celebrity wannabes). Even the person who led him to Christ had huge hang-ups, although he initially appeared to have his act together (which was just that–an act). And he told Austin what a lot of Christians have told Russell: “Hey, I’m not perfect, just forgiven!”

You can read Austin’s story in his book, Don’t Call Me Brother: A Ringmaster’s Escape from the Pentecostal Church. In one of his writings, Austin says that the next time someone tells him he or she’s a born-again Christian, he’ll respond, “Thanks for the warning.”

But Austin’s story did not end with his book. He met a pastor, who patiently listened to Austin’s story and showed him love. When the pastor passed away, Austin realized that the bad Christians who turned him off from the faith were not the only Christians in the world, for there are good ones as well.

Here’s a less-juicy version of Austin’s conversion from Christianity: Walk Away How I walked away By Austin Miles.

And here’s the story of his conversion back to Christianity: Burned Out–A Refining Fire.

2. The bad Christians in the world could be considerably worse without their faith in Christ. At least their Christian faith gives them some moral compass!

C.S. Lewis talks about this in Mere Christianity, in the chapter “Nicer People or New Men?” Lewis contrasts two people: a nice man who’s a non-believer, and a mean lady who’s a Christian. According to Lewis, the mean lady may be a Christian because she feels that this is her only hope for goodness. As Lewis says, “It’s either Christ or nothing for her.”

That’s the same sort of sentiment I find in Luc’s testimony (see I’m not a Christian because (An open letter to Russell) and I pushed the Jesus button, nothing happened). Essentially, Luc is a Christian because he feels that he needs a power greater than himself to bring him to sanity (my incorporation of the second step of Alcoholics Anonymous into the discussion).

I can’t say that my prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance make me a great guy. I’m still a fearful, hateful, lustful worm of a person who has some redeeming qualities. But I do believe that I’d be worse off if I did not do those things–if I didn’t set aside time each day to reflect on something positive, to vent about my problems, to seek wisdom, etc., etc. I find those things in religion. This is just my experience, though, and there may be other ways to accomplish the same goals.

3. I used to get the Worldwide Church of God’s publication for teens, Youth [whatever the year]. When I was a subscriber, the Worldwide hadn’t quite gotten to scrapping the Sabbath and the holy days, yet it was moving towards a conception of God that was more benevolent than its previous portrayals. In one article, a person asked why we should be Christians. And the author’s answer was simple: “Because everybody needs a friend.”

That’s the biggest reason that I’m a Christian–or (at least) someone who believes in a higher power. I like having someone to talk to each day. I prefer to believe that there’s a purpose to my life rather than total aimlessness. Sure, I want God to give me stuff, but I like something Philip Yancey said in his book, Prayer: Does It Make a Difference?: I pray for the company.

But I can only speak from my experience. I too have my disappointments with God, but I still make time each day for prayer. Where else would I go?

I will say this, though: There are many people with bitterness against God who eventually get out of their bitterness. I know a man who doesn’t have a left arm, and he says that he used to be mad at God. “Why should I believe in God? What’s he ever done for me?,” he once asked. But he gradually concluded that faith could lead him to the answers he was seeking. That’s actually an encouragement to me, since I still have bitterness–against religion, against Christians, against God, against life, etc.! But I hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyway, that’s my two cents! Have a good day!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to What Is the Point?

  1. Bryan L says:

    Why should non-believers stay non-believers if they have the same moral flaws as Christians?

    Bryan L

    Like

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