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.