Thanks to a friend of mine, I came across a post on the blog Debunking Christianity titled “[Expletive] Christians say to Atheists: Translated (Part 1).” Author J.M. Green “translates” some common statements that Christians supposedly say. Of course, his attempt at witty humor really isn’t anything more than a thinly-veiled attempt to marginalize Christianity. But, I think it’s valuable enough to consider here.
The post begins with the following: “You’ve heard them over and over – all those clichéd, annoying questions and silly statements that Christians throw in your face. Well, let’s have a little fun at the expense of fundamentalists and translate what they really mean. After all, as the Good Book says: ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.’”
I’ll answer each one of the ten points, and provide my own “translation of the translation” after them. I’m giving the first five here.
1. “You’ll think differently when you stand before God at the final judgment!” Translation: “I really don’t have any reasoned rebuttals to your arguments so I will comfort myself by imagining you burning in Hell for all eternity.”
First of all, telling people they’re going to hell is never a good method of evangelism. It is confrontational and generally very, very unhelpful. But no genuine Christian would ever take comfort in others burning in hell for all eternity.
Translation of the translation: “I don’t like being held to standards, especially Christian standards, so I’m going to comfort myself by assuming without evidence that all Christians are more hateful and spiteful than I could ever be.”
2. “You have no meaning and purpose in life, without God. What’s stopping you from killing yourself?” Translation: “I’m really [ticked off] that I have to give so much of my time and money to my church and you don’t. I wish I could sleep in on Sunday mornings, think for myself, and not feel guilty for watching porn. Go die!”
If we are talking about transcendent, ultimate meaning, then actually this statement is true. Atheism cannot offer ultimate meaning. Any attempt to do so would presuppose the transcendent reality that atheism explicitly denies. As far as the “translation” goes, no Christian would say anything like this. It is nothing short of a total failure to understand the Christian worldview (if someone really wanted to sleep in and watch pornography, why bother going to church in the first place?). Of course, anyone coming up with a list like this could never be accused of knowing much about Christianity, anyway.
Translation of the translation: “I can’t possibly imagine someone not adopting my worldview, so Christians MUST be believers against their will. So I’m just going to choose to believe that they waste their lives believing something against their will and hating others for not doing the same. Makes sense, right?”
3. “Without God, you have no basis for morality. What’s stopping you from murdering, raping, and robbing?” Translation: “My religion has brainwashed me into believing that every human being on the planet is a psychopathic anarchist at heart.”
The question is legitimate, but there are better ways to ask it. Most people are sensitive enough to others to refrain from murdering, raping, and robbing them (but, who has ever lived a perfect life? Who has never cheated or told a lie?). The question is about the basis of morality. Without a transcendent basis, then morality is defined by the individual, whether it is his or her own personal choice or the willingness to adhere to the moral code of another person, group, or society. The very fact that humanity everywhere—including militant atheism—uses terms like “good” and “evil” and “ought” with regard to morality indicates the recognition of a need for a transcendent basis for making moral decisions.
Translation of the translation: “I can’t deal with the fact that I don’t have a transcendent basis of morality, so I’ll just caricature the Christian position to make them look like hatemongers. In in an age of tolerance, there’s nothing more sure-fire than calling someone intolerant!”
4. “I’ll pray for you.” Translation: “If I talk to you any longer, I might lose my faith and become an atheist, so I am exiting this conversation.”
Ridiculous. Anyone who says (genuinely) that they are praying for another person is concerned about that individual’s soul. To think otherwise is gross assumption.
Translation of the translation: “Christianity can’t possibly have any good arguments despite the fact that some of the most brilliant thinkers in history have been Christians, so I’ll just misinterpret their concern as “escape and evade” tactics.”
5. “Atheism has killed more people than religion.” Translation: “The reason dictators lead repressive regimes is simply because they don’t believe in a Supreme Ruler of the universe who requires that everyone bow the knee to him, and plans on torturing disloyal subjects, for all eternity.”
The statement is true; the “translation” is partially correct, although it’s really little more than a pot shot at God. Atheistic regimes in the 20th century alone have been responsible for tens, if not hundreds, of millions of deaths. It’s no coincidence that the most notable of these maniacs were non-Christian (Pol Pot), anti-Christian (Lenin, Stalin), or used Christianity as a political tool without actually having any genuine faith (Hitler). But the translation is curious. If I’m reading it correctly, essentially it’s saying “disbelief leads to psychopathy.” Sorry, but no intelligent Christian is going to make this argument. There are plenty of examples of atheists and agnostics who lead noble lives. They just don’t do it for the same reasons Christians do.
Translation of the translation: “Let’s just try to make believers look silly and naïve. In the absence of a good argument, that always seems to work!”