We’re All Christians: A study on misleading titles(and subtitles)

During a recent and very short debate with my uncle, he asserted that a Christian that does evil in the name of Christ is not a true Christian.  I said that it’s a cop out, that a Christian is one who believes in Christ for better of worse and that we non-believers don’t have the luxury.  Atheists can’t say that a murderer isn’t a real atheist since all that is required for atheist is a lack of belief in a god.  According to my uncle, however, a Christian is one who follows in the teachings of Christ, and attempts to be as Christlike as humanly possible.  I let it go from there because we could have gone on forever over different interpretations and if Old Testament rules still apply as so many others seem to believe.  But it did get me thinking.

Richard Dawkins is fond of saying, “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in.  Some of us just go one god further.”  I would like to make the claim that according to my uncle’s idea of Christianity we are all Christians, but some of us just choose a different Christ.  We all strive towards a goal of human perfection that is beyond our own capability, and we all fail miserably at it because we are imperfect beings.  Now, the Christian idea is that since we are imperfect, we cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven when we die.  Jesus comes along and gives us the chance for perfection, but although working towards His level of goodness in life is the point, we still won’t get there until we go tits up.  It’s a cute idea, but one that I’m not likely to embrace anytime soon.  Rather than admit to being a sinner and undeserving and all that, I would rather ask what’s so special about God that I would want His grace in the first place.  But this of course assumes that there is a God and then I suddenly have to wonder if digressions mid-paragraph are considered a sin and I just don’t want to worry about that.  But that doesn’t change the fact that aspiring to be like Christ(i.e. tolerant, golden rule, etc) isn’t such a bad idea after all.  

Human beings are often prone to hero worship.  We see good qualities in others that we would like to emulate, and if that person doesn’t live of to those qualities themselves, we tend to overlook it.  We talk of great men and women in history like Mahatma Gandhi,  Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr..  While I would go so far as to state that the latter of the three is the only one who is more saint than shithead, even he cheated on his wife.  However, we do create this perfect version of those people and others in our heads and then do what we can to emulate that perfection, even if it’s entirely imagined.  So maybe for Christians to have an idea of a perfect human to strive towards – even if that person never existed, or did exist but without super powers – might not be such a bad thing after all.  Of course, the big part of Christianity is that Jesus was not just a man, but the son of God.  C.S. Lewis says that for him to make this claim would mean he would have to be telling the truth, toys in the attic, or a complete asshole(not his exact words).  As I’ve said before, someone can be bat-shit crazy and a good person.  

Many of us who fly the atheist banner tend to be rather harsh towards Christianity and often, Christians themselves.  While ideally we should focus on the former, the latter can be really annoying, and in some cases, downright evil.  There is the claim that atheists are just as annoying as Christians in all their zeal, but I would tell people to hold off on that claim until they’re woken up by non-believers trying to dissuade them from your religion at 9:00 AM on a Saturday morning.  The occasional troll in your web forums doesn’t sound so bad now, does it.  But the comments made by many atheists under the protection of internet anonymity, can be downright shitty.  And even within their communities, challenges to the status quo are often met with extreme hostility, despite how often the concept of reason and respectful discourse is thrown around.  Even I have been rather harsh in some of my writings.  Also some of my millions of readers might note that I have been guilty of slight exaggerations.  The point is that I’m not perfect.  Anyway, I do tend to look at good qualities in others and try to adopt those qualities.  I would love to write with the skill of Christopher Hitchens, Hunter S. Thompson, or Douglas Adams.  I strive to emulate Penn Jillette’s loving humanism.  And I will always fall short, at least in my own eyes, just like the followers of Jesus.  

The difference between myself and Christians is that I set my own standards.  I may not ever live up to them, but I don’t fear damnation because of it.  If I were to take all the men I mentioned above and throw in a few more personalities here and there(bit of Teddy Roosevelt, dash of Emma Goldman), combine all those qualities into one imaginary being that I called Boner McFierce, and took a few moments each day to contemplate ways that I could make myself more like Boner McFierce in all His glory, I could save myself some time.  Then again, I could just think of Jesus and project my own ideas of perfection onto him.  Jesus isn’t as cool a name as Boner McFierce, but at least  I could finally justify saying to people…

I sometimes wish I was a black woman.


6 thoughts on “We’re All Christians: A study on misleading titles(and subtitles)

  1. I’m not going to comment the whole article, but I would like to point out at the opinion of your uncle whom, I’m inclined to believe, already forgot which are the main qualities to be a good or authentic Christian. In the first place, a good Christian has to do all the opposite of the catechism, without any punishment, if they are committed in the name of God and for the benefit of the Church. A good Christian has to be a ferocious and pitiless warrior. Those are the ones that go straight to heaven. Atheists don’t go to heaven, because heaven is for the death.

  2. Where on earth do you get the idea that “We all strive towards a goal of human perfection”? Nothing in human history confirms that. Where would you even get a definition for “perfection” from an atheistic worldview? Don’t you just mean you strive to accomplish whatever you’ve chosen to accomplish, which, in the end, is just energy exerted meaninglessly?

    1. We all want to be the best we can be. Some of us don’t exactly go for perfection, but as close to that as possible. Of course, that level of perfection is different for everyone, which is why a Utopian Heaven seems so difficult to imagine for so many. And how exactly is that energy exerted meaninglessly?

      Do you mean because we don’t believe in an afterlife, death renders our accomplishments worthless? Because the incredible works of human beings that have led us to this point in our history are pretty amazing. Hunter S. Thompson’s accomplishments are hardly meaningless. They might not mean a whole lot to him anymore, but to the rest of us who value his work, they mean the world. He will live on forever in the hearts and minds of those who love his work.

      1. We don’t all want to be the best we can be. Some people commit suicide. Some commit murder. Some do what they know will do damage to their futures. I don’t think perfection or even betterment is a universal pursuit.

        What I mean is that from the atheist’s perspective, the world is simply matter, and matter has no pinnacle or goal. We come from dirt and we return to dirt, until the dirt finally erodes in the heat death of the universe. Your evaluation is that accomplishments can be “pretty amazing.” But so what? It all returns to dust in the end, and whether it is spectacular or stupid, there’s no ultimate vantage point from which accomplishments can be said to be worthwhile. That would require a “God’s eye” perspective.

    2. So we should have a pinnacle or goal thrust upon us by a celestial dictator? I would rather make up my own and act accordingly. Sure, in a billion years, everything I love won’t matter a pair of dingo’s kidneys to the world. In fact, it matters little now, except perhaps to the people I’m fortunate enough to have in my life. But I’m okay with that. Right now gives me all the meaning I need.

    3. Saying that, “We don’t all want to be the best we can be” is a precarious statement, because I’ve found that people, limited in their abilities and/or short-sighted in vision, often don’t know how and/or have a very subjective view of what is good. This doesn’t entail that they don’t want it. Real evil is, more often than not, not some kind of romanticized, demonic evil. Real evil is often executed by people who, by themselves, are decent people with bad reasoning and poor execution. For example, take the film “The Fog of War”, a documentary showcasing a series of interviews with Robert S. McNamara. During the Vietnam war era, he was considered, by the public, to be this kind of cold, uncaring human calculator, turning human casualties into a matter of statistics. He even said himself, that, if the U.S. had lost, that he would likely be among those tried as war criminals, which prompted the question, why is one a war criminal if one loses, but not when one wins? The point being is, that, in the film, McNamara professes that he and the administration of the time did its best to do the right thing considering the circumstances, which invariably involved mistakes along the way. So, one notices, then, that what matters is the present, because that is all we can do anything with and with the limited information we have. McNamara transforms from monster to human. No doubt, even his wife and children did not see him as a monster, ‘nor did his colleagues. We may only call him evil when he remains at a distance and unknown to us. As an outside observer, knowing this, I can know the following, that he, probably, tried to do his best or what it was that he thought was the best at the time and, despite what effects his decisions have on me, there is nothing I can do to change them, only what I do with them. Further, that he will have to live with that for the rest of his existence. His acts are meaningful to himself. In hindsight, being 20/20 as it is, he becomes his own ultimate observer. So, it does not matter that he, in his limited being, will one day return to dust and his accomplishments and failings go forgotten by humans or god(s) or even by the universe, eventually. He is the one who, ultimately, must live with himself, for better or for worse, for his (in)finite existence. Everyone else could just as easily toss him in an oubliette and forget about him.

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