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Saturday, April 24, 2010

What many Evangelicals and Atheists Share in Common

I write often about my issues with organized religion and my own views which are more akin to atheism. I just read a very interesting article by Skye Jethani, an ordained pastor, who calls out many of the actions taken by the Religious Right with which I have also had issue and discussed in this blog. On Huffington Post Jethani writes (

The common criticism levied on atheists by evangelicals is that they are prideful -- seeking to live "above God" with no regard for his existence or instructions. Atheists, the argument says, have given up on a theistic universe in favor of a humanist one -- a world in which purpose and truth are fluidly defined by the individual or at best one's community.
I often write how I believe we should all be humanist, caring for one another. It is not that I seek to live above the notion of this said "God", just that the principles of Christianity and other religions are founded on being good to your fellow man.  I agree with their messages of kindness and goodness but completly object to how it is distorted and used as a weapon.

Jethani further writes:

But evangelicals should take no delight in pointing out the speck in the atheists' eye while a log remains firmly lodged in our own.
But in their attempts to conform the United States' law and society to God's commands, these culturally crusading evangelicals have exchanged the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a Gospel of Morality. And in the process many of my evangelical sisters and brothers find themselves guilty of the very sin they peg on atheists -- seeking a position of authority above God.
Gospel of Morality.  The interesting thing about morality, is that it is largely defined by the individual, what they deem moral and what they do not.  In a previous post I wrote how people pick and choose which passages in the Old and New Testament which they will follow, i.e., how many ignore the provisions which say you shall not eat shellfish?

Jethani highlights this same hypocrisy:

Countless evangelical teens have been taught that if they abstain from sexual activity before marriage God will bless their sex lives after the wedding. Evangelical parents clamor for "biblical" parenting methods guaranteed to result in moral, obedient children. And I've counseled a distraught business owner in my church who believed that if he gave generously to Christ's work, God would prosper his company.
The problem with this "life under God" view of the world, apart from the obvious fact that it doesn't work, is that it is predicated on fear and control rather than love. What drives many who buy into such an approach is not love for one's Creator, but a desire to control God as a means of survival and advancement. Whether an ancient culture sacrificing a virgin in the volcano, or contemporary conservative evangelicalism, the "life under God" view inevitably results in human attempts to control the divine through ritual, morality, and dogmatic manipulation of others.
Just the other day I wrote about this, how Hurricane Katrina was purported to be "God's Wrath." The concept that many religious leaders preach is absolutely predicated on fear and control rather than love. My fight with the Religious Right is that they use religion not for love for one's Creator but as a means to control God as a means of survival and advancement.

And most importantly Jethani states:

The great irony is that while claiming submission to God, those advocating a life under God are actually seeking control over him through their religiosity. Pray X, sacrifice Y, avoid Z, and God's blessings are guaranteed. They have reduced God to a predictable, controllable, even contemptible formula. Some evangelicals condemn the atheists for exalting themselves over God without realizing they are guilty of the same sin by other means.
His article is well worth the read.

Skye Jethani is an ordained pastor, managing editor of Leadership Journal, and the author of The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity. He blogs at

1 comment:

  1. I am a Christian but I do not believe in discrimination. God loves us all!! Forgive the sinner, condemn the sin. yes sir