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The church of the hypocrites

Locations: Opinion Published

Submitted in Decemeber 2020

I have a Christmas present for all you Christians out there. This atheist’s going to tell you what’s wrong with your religion.

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Mohandas Gandhi was a Hindu who read passages from the New Testament every day. When asked if he ever contemplated converting to Christianity, he said he had, “and then I met one.” Who the Mahatma probably ran into is one of the plethora of hypocrites who degrade a religion that, if its original precepts are strictly followed, would lead one to a pure and righteous life. The problem isn’t Christianity. It’s Christians.

In 1 Peter 4:8, the Apostle says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins,” yet many of those who call themselves Christians hate their brothers because of their race, ethnicity, religion, politics, sexual preference, social standing, or any other feature that’s different from theirs. 

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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” said the Prince of Peace in John 14:27, yet people who profess to be his followers kill their brothers in the name of Jesus Christ. Throughout history, religion has been a major cause of war and Christians have been at the forefront. Since the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants have gone at it repeatedly, both sides professing to represent the one true way. 

The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6:10 writes, “For the love of money is the root of all evil,” yet so-called Christians worship the false god of money as if it will buy their way into heaven. The only time Christ lost his cool was when he threw the money changers out of the temple. 

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The vast majority of Muslims just want to work, support their family, and praise Allah, but a few murderous fiends grab all the headlines with heinous and cowardly acts of violence. But they’re not being hypocrites. They’re just following the teachings of their religion. The Quran has over 100 verses advocating killing the infidel.

Of the five major religions, Buddhism and Hinduism are primarily about love while Islam and Judaism preach a lot of hate. Christianity is divided. The New Testament is one of the most beautiful expressions of love there is. There’s much hate in the Old Testament. 

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Refer to Samuel I and II. When King David’s army conquered a Philistine village, they killed every man, woman, and child in it. That might be appropriate for Game of Thrones, but I expect something more loving in the holy scriptures.

I quit believing in God the same time I outed Santa Claus, and for the same reason. I figured they were both imaginary figures my parents told me about to try to get me to be good. If I was bad, Santa would put a lump of coal in my stocking. For the same sins, God would damn me to Hell. Of the two, the lump of coal seemed much worse. What does a six-year-old kid know about Hell? Anyway, it occurred to me religion was just another form of government. The objective was controlling people.

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About this time, my best friend and neighbor and I started taking early Sunday morning walks to the black neighborhood a couple of blocks away to listen to the music coming from the Koinonia Baptist Church. Black folks hold their meetings early, 7:00 a.m., while the honkies can’t roll out of bed and get to church until ten.

After a while, an elder noticed us and invited us inside. We realized the congregation not only sang to the Lord, but they danced for Him, too. I mean, these people knew how to worship. They did it with such passion, you could feel the spirit of the Lord filling their breasts.

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Later in the morning, my friend and I would go to our boring-ass white churches where the minister was droning on about how the congregation ought to put more money in the collection plate, while the choir was offering a lifeless rendition of Bringing in the Sheaves, which was almost drowned out by the snoring coming from the pews. Looking back, I think if I’d grown up in black Baptist church, I might be a devout Christian today.

I went all through Sunday school, appreciating the Bible stories for their narrative value, but convinced they were fiction. During my high school years, I attended regular services, partially because a pretty teenager depended on me for a ride to church, but also because I soaked up the quiet, contemplative atmosphere. 

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I’m an atheist who’s read the Bible cover to cover and am guided by it. Obviously, the Bible doesn’t always convict. In college, I took a course called “The Literature of the Bible.” It approached the Bible, not as a holy book, but as a piece of literature. I learned it’s a magnificent text containing fascinating stories with object lessons and words to live by that can and should guide your life.

A student of history, nobody has any more admiration for the Roman Catholic Church than I do, not even any Catholics. The history of the Western Civilization in the Middle Ages is the history of the Catholic Church because that’s all there was. 

It established the great institutions of learning and brought order to the chaotic period of feudalism. However, if the Catholic Church is going to take credit for all that, it also must accept responsibility for the many horrors, like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and, implicitly, the Holocaust.  

My grandmother, who I lived with for four years in the ‘70’s, was the finest Christian I’ve ever known. She lived her life like Christ. Not the least bit judgmental or evangelical, when I told her of my atheism, she responded, “Oh! That’s interesting.”

We proceeded to have a dispassionate discussion of the foundations of her faith and the reasons for my lack thereof. My grandmother led by example. She put her character on display; her compassion, her courage, her capacity for love, her serenity, her wisdom. The unspoken message was, if you admire those qualities, follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. For me, it was a powerful temptation.

During this Christmas season, I implore all you pseudo-Christian hypocrites (you know who you are) to examine your faith and ask are you living up to the standards set by your Savior. Gandhi would approve.

 

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