Why Are Atheists “The Enemy?”

I was just reading/listening to Teresa Macbain’s story–

http://www.npr.org/2012/04/30/151681248/from-minister-to-atheist-a-story-of-losing-faith

Religion so often does the opposite of what believers think.  It makes people intolerant.  Why does Teresa’s community that she gave guidance and counseling and encouragement and support to, turn on her this way and treat her like an enemy?  Do Christians view Jews as the enemy?  Or Buddhists?  Or anyone who happens to have faith in something else?   Then why are atheists the enemy?  And especially atheists who were previously Christians?

Tell you what, listening to Teresa’s story…struck a chord with me.  I haven’t become an enemy like she has.  I am not seen as a betrayer of the faith as she is.  But I have lost friends since I made it clear I can’t believe anymore.   I also find myself suddenly having to walk on eggshells worrying how much should I exult in this new feeling of freedom?  How much singing out and speaking out and shouting out with joy can I do before I am admonished for offending someone?

Really, all it takes to offend a Christian is to say the words “there’s no such thing as god.”  Say those words and they are offended, personally and deeply offended.

It’s not meant to be an offense.  If I went 40 years of my life thinking I have a horrible singing voice and always being ashamed to sing, afraid to sing…and then one day I’m told by a voice teacher I have a really great range and wonderful potential as a singer, I’m going to want to tell people.    The same is true if I go my whole life believing in something that makes me feel I can’t ever be good enough, that I was born corrupt and I need to do this and this and this to be good or to be loved…and then one day I find out it’s all a lie and I was born into this world exactly right and exactly as nature meant me to be–I would want to sing that news from the rooftops!  I’d want to  tell my friends, my family, people I care about whom I still see struggling in the dark.   And yet…it offends people.

No Christian, especially not the ones who live for Jesus and give their whole life’s work to serving Jesus like Ms. Macbain, want or ask to lose their faith.   It’s not a road believers take intentionally.  It’s a path they stumble on.

We’re not supposed to ask questions.  I know a friend who was kicked out of her church for asking too many questions.  Why is that?  If Christianity is true–if any religion is true–it should be able to withstand any questions put to it.  It should  not shy away from the new discoveries of science either, but rather welcome those discoveries as further proof of its unshakable truth.

Instead when I asked questions, the kind of questions that put parts of the bible or god’s actions or Jesus’ actions, into doubt, I was given the same pat answers: “we are finite beings; how can we possibly understand god?”  Or, “god works in mysterious ways.”  Or, “have faith.  God will reveal this to you in time.”

And then that time never comes.

I look at the bible and I wonder, how can this loving god that the Christians believe in order little children dashed to pieces or pregnant mother’s bellies cut open with swords?   How can this just and merciful god order a man stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath or…allow his followers to teach that women are worth only half as much as men and should be silent, should not wear jewelry or braided hair or… speak aloud in church, and daughters can be sold into slavery.

These are the questions that catch us unaware.  We are like everyone else, Christians going along with what we’re told, assuming someone bothered to do the research and confirm it’s all true.  We nod our heads and sing our songs and high-light the appropriate verses in the bible.   But then one day someone points out something in the bible we didn’t know was there.  Or maybe one day it suddenly dawns on us that it makes no sense that Satan would hate the people who deny god, his enemy, and would want to punish them.    Or that god would punish Adam and Eve so severely for simply being ignorant, for making a mistake, and not just them but all of humanity.

Atheists are not the enemy of anyone.  Atheists simply do not believe in the supernatural–and have lately been brought to the point that we aren’t so silent about it anymore after having to hear politicians who should know better declare our country a “Christian nation” when it’s not, or for that matter have  Christianity shoved in our face wherever we turn.  How does this make us bad people worthy of hate?  How does this make someone like Teresa Macbain worthy of being shunned by the very community she served and helped for years?

Once upon a time God created himself an enemy.  I’m not sure why.  A lot of pain and suffering would have been avoided if he hadn’t.   But he made Satan and then punished Satan for being made.  Sometimes I feel like Christians want to have an enemy too.  So they hunt down people who dare to not agree, and attack them, call them ignorant or evil–arrogantly tell them they’re going to hell–basically punish them for daring to be, just like gays, true to who and what they are.

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