3 Valuable Lessons I Learned From Atheists

Many Christians see atheists as enemies – despite Scripture frequently, loudly, and profoundly warning Christians that our battle is not with flesh and blood and that atheists are exactly what we were before we were saved by grace – and that grace is what we should extend to others constantly with no exceptions, even to enemies.

John Garay is a hero of Rogue Millennials. He is authentic, when many ministers are not and many churches punish those who are real about their failures, pasts and struggles. He is graceful, when many Christians are known for being judgmental and hypocritical. He truly sets captives free. A GenX leader, he still has the heart and soul of both a Rogue and a Millennial [without all our worst traits! 😉 ]

For those reasons and many more, we are thankful that John has allowed us to share this article – we hope it will be inspiring. With so many Christians walking out of churches, it’s clear we’re doing many things wrong. Becoming an insular community that does not share grace with outsiders but rather treats them as perceived enemies is one. May you be challenged by John’s words, that we can learn and be inspired by atheists – and only then, after showing them this love and respect, might they be willing to learn and be inspired by us.

-Rogue Mills
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John Garay

“What do you mean I have to write a paper about atheists…” she yelled over the phone, “All I know is that they are EVIL! EVIL, I tell you!” Then without a warning, she broke down, and started to cry…

I had worked as an academic counselor for quite some time and had come to understand that most students were resistant to certain topics in their world religion course. Usually frustration was expressed in the form of incomplete assignments or lack of engagement in classroom discussion. However, this was new to me. This was my first time witnessing someone having a complete meltdown over this matter.

The student, on the other end of the line, was a middle-aged daughter of a fundamental pastor. She had been assigned the task of identifying and discussing moralistic motivation of atheists. The assignment required her to provide an academic response describing social constructs, influence, and norms. However, she interpreted the question as a direct attack against her Christian worldview. Behind the sounds of her uncontrollable sobbing, she kept repeating, “Atheists are evil!”

At first, I didn’t have a response to her outburst of emotion. To be honest, I didn’t understand how she came to interpret this assignment as a personal attack. Seeking clarification, I asked her, “Can you help me to understand what you mean? I’m not understanding what has caused you to be so upset.”

You would have thought that I had splashed a glass of ice-cold-water on her face. She knew that I was a former-pastor and he had expected me to side with her. From the sound of it, she wanted me to help her find a way out of completing the assignment. She stopped sobbing for a quick second to ask a question: “Weren’t you taught that atheists are evil?” I chuckled to myself and responded, “What I’ve been taught is that evil and rebellion are part of our human nature. Thanks to Adam and Eve we inherited this mess. In fact, it was for this very reason that Jesus came to earth… He came to redeem a fallen humanity… We just all express evil differently depending where we are at in life.”

It was obvious that she was not pleased with my response. She wasn’t having it with my stance and expressed it by muttering some things under her breath that involved the words, “rebuke,” “get thee behind me Satan,” and “in Jesus’ name.” Her choice words were followed by the sound of a dial-tone. She had hung-up on me.

Dialogue with Outsiders

This puzzling conversation caused me to take a moment and reflect on how I respond and interact with people who hold different beliefs and worldviews than I do. It doesn’t take long for people to find out that faith and belief are a huge part of my life. I am unapologetically a Christian. I believe in God, I believe in His son Jesus Christ, and I am an undeserving recipient of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  As a representative of Christ, I believe that it is my responsibility to represent Him, and to do it well. Sometimes I’m shining in this area and at other times I fail miserably. In my failures I always encounter grace.

Grace changes my outlook. It causes me to renounce any temptation to assume that I am better than others and it inspires me to demonstrate grace as well. Yes, I do recognize that some atheists are extremists who go to great measures to demonstrate spite and hatred towards people of faith. However, I’m not ignorant of the fact that I have attended church with people who might as well be labeled as Christian extremists themselves… And that’s why I cling to grace. In fact, grace causes me to recognize that there are many things that I can learn from those who hold different beliefs than me. And with that thought, I’d like to share with you 3 powerful lessons, that I have learned over the years from my friends and family who happen to be atheists.

  1. It’s good to “do good,” simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Throughout my life I’ve been addicted to approval. I must confess that many times I am tempted to do good things to receive the approval of others and of from God. Truthfully, I love to be awarded and I love acknowledgement. However, I have several friends who happen to be atheists and who are involved in serving their community and advocating for justice. In doing this, they are simply motivated because it is the right thing to do. They aren’t concerned with receiving the approval of a deity or anybody else for that matter. They simply choose to do good because they enjoy it. Their example makes me wonder how my relationship with God would be if I just genuinely chose to do good because I was motivated by love and not by desire for connection with the divine. I wonder how life would be if I simply approached God with the desire to be in his presence instead of expecting something in return.

  1. Love is best experienced when you love someone simply because of who they are, not for what they believe in.

I have a family member that holds an agnostic/ atheist worldview. When we talk, it’s obvious that we don’t see eye to eye on everything. Nevertheless, this guy has not once made me feel like I am “less than.” In fact, I truly sense that he loves me just the way that I am. Not once, has he ever asked me to be someone other than my ornery self. Since I can remember, he has been a constant voice of encouragement. He’s someone that I still count on for an encouraging word when I’m having a bad day. Truth is, his love inspires me to love people regardless of where they are at in their current journey in life. As I look through the gospels, I see Jesus loving people in this manner. It may sound sacrilegious for me to say this, but this family member inspires me to be more like Jesus than many Christians do… And I’m grateful for this inspiration.

  1. The opinions of others are never a “good enough” reason to cause you to doubt what you believe.

Another trait that I admire about my loved ones that are atheist is that they are not easily swayed by the opinions of others. They don’t live in constant doubt, worry, or fear. They have a predetermined foundation that they live from and it is not dependent on the affirmation of others. When I see this, I’m personally convicted to do the same with what I believe to be true. I’m challenged to hold fast to my beliefs regardless of what others may say. I’m challenged to stand up to doubt, worry, and fear. I’m challenged to be a man of faith in the face of opposition.

Unapologetically yours,
John Eli Garay


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36 thoughts on “3 Valuable Lessons I Learned From Atheists

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  1. interesting article. I am a former Christian (Presbyterian) and now atheist. In that I do good because it’s just the right thing to do, I don’t need a god to tell me this, or to believe in a god that commands genocide, commands murder and weirdly enough works with evil to corrupt his followers for evidently one more bloodbath in Revelation. I’ve read teh bible from front to back as a believer and as not, and that was what made me sure that this god wasn’t something worth believing in.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I appreciate you sharing your journey! It is one shared by so many; and many of us in the faith have had to spend years grappling with the very same doubts. One frustration I have with churches in general is that they expect you to leave your doubts at the door – you aren’t allowed to ask questions, explore doubts, as if you might infect others. We need more Christians to be bold enough to ask the hard questions; only in doing so can they become more mature and willing to admit the Church has often been on the wrong side of many injustices. We also need atheists to voice their own doubts. In respectful dialogue, much can be accomplished – just have to avoid the firebrands on both sides who do nothing but through empty insults instead of talking like adults!
      Plenty of people have written books on whether God is or isn’t a maniacal bloodthirsty vengeful genocidal God or not – so maybe not important to delve into here. But I shared a similar journey to yours and found my way back only through really digging into those hard questions. Doubts make us wise. If there’s any one thing I’d encourage you in, it’s to keep sharing your doubts! They challenge you to look deeper at things – and they challenge others around you to question things they blindly accepted. I believe in God today precisely because I took doubts seriously, tackled them fervently, and learned so much that I can’t believe otherwise. But not everyone will have this same journey or reach the same results, but that’s okay – because taking the journey seriously is the important thing!
      I love Bertrand Russell & Richard Dawkins’ reply when asked if they die and have to face God, what would they say? Their answer, “Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?” I truly believe that if God is real and you can stand before him and truthfully say, “I looked hard and I didn’t find you” he’ll respect that you took the journey seriously. C.S. Lewis shared that view in “The Last Battle” – that a person who did good but didn’t serve God because he never met God would be commended. Just some of my own rambling thoughts!

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      1. Hi Jared, I’d love ot know what answers you came to for these “hard questions” and what you think the hard questions are.

        I’m not aware of where CS Lewis said that atheists who were honest would be commended by this god. I have read in his works that atheists are’t commended, in The Great Divorce which he makes his character speak a lie about atheists “Our opinions were not honestly come by,” the Spirit (another convert) says. “We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful” and “You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God”. Unfortunately, for Lewis, atheists have no problem with love. you might like to read an atheist’s review of The Great Divorce here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/the-great-divorce/ It seems that Lewis doesn’t consider us atheists to be Emeth, and again it seems an attempt to claim that all good people “really” are worshipping Aslan/God. If there is a god, I do hope that it accepts an honest atheist, but most Christians are sure that would never be the case, and per the bible it seems that they are right. For me, religion is made in the image of the believer, based on their hates and desires. Some Christians are good, some are not.

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      2. The relevant quote from The Last Battle is, “I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.”
        Paul writes about how even people who have never heard of God will know of goodness and be in awe of nature – presumably opening theological doors for those who are not traditional Believers through no fault of their own. Not everyone has the same chance to become a Christian, and so a gracious generous God would have allowances for those who “believed as much as they could given what evidence they had available.”
        That’s my own speculations, anyway. There are a lot of Christians out there who believe Heaven will be full of the most unexpected people. And Jesus himself said that many religious leaders might find themselves on the outside and those usually dismissed as lost in their sin would find themselves on the inside: “You can be sure that tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you ever will!” is what he said to the chief priests.
        I’m always relieved to find open-minded atheists and open-minded Christians – people willing to admit, “This is what I’ve decided to believe – but dang, there is so much we just don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I’m wrong – so I’ll treat those with other views with grace and mercy.”
        Feel free to shoot me an email, troyescd2@aol.com, if you want to chat problem of evil, nature of God kind of stuff! I’ve found a lot of resources that have encouraged me to look deeper at the nature of pain, the context of Scripture, etc. Might be interesting to you to see that the issue is bigger and more nuanced than many Christians or atheists will admit; even if it doesn’t constitute enough evidence to change your mind!

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      3. I think that question is a perfect of example of where the failure of both Christians and Atheists is generally one of creativity – not knowledge. Everyone reads a passage and assumes that it can only mean one thing: the thing they want it to mean.
        “Accept him as savior” is a sometimes Christian theological assumption that the text doesn’t actually say, for example. It says, “I am the way… No one comes to the father except through me.” Which, if I might say so, is rather ambiguous. Muslims come to God through the prophet Jesus. So do Mormons, so do Adventists, so do Catholics and Protestants, so do Jehovah’s Witnesses.
        While lots of Christians try to use this passage to claim that only their type of Believer makes it into heaven, it clearly doesn’t teach this.
        But you raise a very good question, if I read you right. Could this passage in any way say that good Atheists make it into heaven, or is this a clear example that the supposedly loving, caring, saving God leaves a lot of people out based on what they believe.
        And I think that was what Lewis was taking a stab at answering. No passage occurs in isolation; it has both immediate context and then the context of the rest of Scripture. There are many other conversations of Jesus that might help clarify what this one fully means. For example, loving God is defined elsewhere as loving others. Doing good is a way of following God, whether someone believes they are or not. And believing all the right things isn’t enough – Paul says even Satan believes all the right things about God and it isn’t good enough. Doing good is an essential part of following God – more essential than knowing the right theological answers. For example, the thief on the cross didn’t know a damn thing about Jesus yet he gets to go to heaven after a life of crime that earned him a death sentence. Grace may cover a lot more people than Christians would like to admit.
        The passage you quote might not be as exclusive is Christians like to make it. I definitely don’t have those answers – but I like to encourage other believers to be more open minded about just how much we don’t understand. And especially just how much authority God HASN’T given us. We don’t get to judge outsiders, we don’t get to decide who goes to heaven, we don’t get to pick who is in and who is out.
        Hopefully that’s an important admission, in your view, for any Christian to make. Recognizing that we don’t know it all, we don’t understand it all, and we should probably tread a lot more carefully when we attempt to speak on God’s behalf. A lot of the crimes Christians have committed could have been avoided with a little more collective humility.
        Anyways, that’s just my thoughts on that single verse. I’ll reply to your email tonight and we can take the conversation from there! Glad to meet you and thanks for being willing to chat and challenge, both civilly and respectfully!

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      4. The number of “may” and “maybes” in your post are soem of the reasons why I have no reason to believe in Christianity, any form of it. It seems that playing pascal’s wager with no one having any idea of what they believe or what the entity they claim wants isn’t terribly sensible.

        If you don’t understand so much, why consider you understand any of it? I do think it is an important admission to make. we have many Christians who are sure that they got it right and then we have a group that says “no, no, it’s us!”.

        I can agree that many of the crimes Christians have committed could have been avoided by humility, but the bible is pretty clear when it says murder those who don’t agree with me (god). the OT, Luke 19, and Revelation are pretty clear on the subject. 🙂

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      5. I think our definition of “pretty clear” will be miles apart.
        For example, Luke 19 – you’re cherry picking one verse (v27) out of a fable and pretending it is an imperative command by Jesus for Christians to follow. Clearly it is not; it’s an element of storytelling he is employing to make a different point – that the Kingdom of God would come slowly over time, not all at once when he arrives at Jerusalem – verse 11 makes clear the purpose for telling the parable, people thought the Kingdom of God would appear all at once. Instead, he tells them in a symbolic way that he’ll be leaving for a while and his followers will have to steward the resources they’ve been given.
        Revelation is another one that’s doesn’t make the argument you’re making – that Christianity lends itself to violence. No where in Revelation are Christians commanded to violence or even depicted doing violence. There’s one scene where they are surrounded by enemies and God swoops in to save the day, but it isn’t Christians doing the fighting. The book is clearly symbolic and much of it refers to stuff that happened 1,900 years ago, and many scholars (like Barbara Rossing) don’t even believe it’s a prophecy for the future anyways – but either way, it doesn’t make a “pretty clear” case that Christians were ever expected to murder those who don’t agree with God.
        The Old Testament isn’t addressed to Christians, of course; but if you extrapolate from it, some Christians have taken the impression that they should great Christian nations (shudder). The New Testament is clear that much of the Old Testament commands do not apply in the new era. They held a conference in Jerusalem (recounted in the book of Acts) where they decided what parts of the Old Testament Christians should keep – and they did away with just about all of it. The dress codes, dietary laws, everything from tattoos to Tabernacles. So while the Old Testament was a fairly civilized document compared to the violent culture it was created in, the New Testament was a quantum leap forward and is the foundational document for Christians. The vast majority of Christians – both today and historically – have been Gentiles, not Jewish converts. Most Christians never followed the Old Testament – before or after becoming Christ followers. It definitely doesn’t command or imply that Christians should kill people who don’t agree with God.
        While those three examples might be troubling taken out of context and slapped on a bumper sticker, they don’t make the “pretty clear” argument you suppose they do when you look at the historical and literary context of each passage.

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      6. who is the returning king in Luke 19? IF this is a parable, what does it mean when the returning king wants those who don’t accept murdered by those who do? In other parables, god does the killing. In this one, other humans do.

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  2. Wow! I love this. It’s a pity how we Christians judge easily. God is everywhere, even in atheists and with that in our conscious, you’ll learn from anything as the Holy Spirit leads you because of your open mindedness.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. how is god in atheists? We certainly don’t notice. You may not mean it this way but claiming your version of your god is in atheists seems like an attempt to claim us for your team, to convince yourself that everyone ‘really’ agrees with you.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If you do good because it is right, why do you attack a clear compliment? Why take offense to inclusion? Do you see yourself as better than a believer and doing good as convincing a believer to stop?

        I’m only asking because I’d prefer it if we just accept we believe differently and love each other despite that. I can love you and wish the best for you despite your belief my God is imaginary. I hope you can find it in yourself to do the same.

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      2. You may see it as a compliment but I do not. I do not find it complimentary to have someone say that their god, a very nasty being as described in the bible, is in me. I do good because of empathy and I do find it right but not of a myth that tries to equate a god with benevolent action. My definition of good is not this god at all. And it is not inclusion, it is trying to claim that any good comes from this god, which is not supported by evidence. I do see myself better than a believer if the only reason that a believer does good because they are afraid of some being that cannot be shown to exist. And yes, I do see it as a beneficial thing to stand agains baseless beliefs that can and have caused harm to others, from lgbt folks, to parents who murder their children because of their baseless belief in a god.

        I understand that you would like no one to point out the problems in belief and religion. That would be find if beliefs weren’t acted upon to the harm of others. I can’t love anyone who would advocate that. I hope you understand my reasoning.

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      3. I didn’t say that you can’t point out problems with with my beliefs. Can you not do that without attacking the believer? If you look down on me because I believe in God, what is it in you that hopes I understand your reasoning?

        I know that you see bad things within the body of Christ. I see them too. I know you see biblical scripture as describing a hateful nasty being, and maybe you are right and we are wrong. I don’t believe what you’ve read shows that, but it’s fair to have an honest conversation about morality between believer and unbeliever. Do you resist honest overtures of friendship because we are guilty of the terrible moral decision of believing in a God you hate? Or, are you worried that you’ll doubt your own beliefs?

        I think you have to ask yourself if you take the position you do because you hate God or if it’s because you really believe what you do. It makes a difference.

        If you just hate God, friendship obviously won’t do either of us any good. If you really believe what you do, than why can’t you have a friendship and normal conversation with someone who believes differently? Many of us exist having done no harm to you and many of us exist having done no harm to anyone.

        Do you hate us for being different, and if so, is this not the same as the bad we both have seen in the body of Christ?

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      4. do your beliefs influence your actions, Colin? If I pointed out a problem in your actions, would you take that as an attack on yourself?

        You make some assumptions here, Colin, and they aren’t correct. I don’t hate your god, and that is a common assumption by Christians. I don’t like what this god did in the bible, nor do I like what people do in its name, when it does nothing to stop them if it exists. You also seem to be accusing me of not wanting to have an “honest” conversation. Why would you say this, when I have not done anything to indicate this?

        I certainly don’t hate you for being different. Why do you think so? Because I don’t find it flattering to be assumed I am in god? I’m assuming you have read the bible, and know that in it your god has done some very nasty things. Now, if someone told me “Hey you’re great since you like dogs. You’re just like Adolph Hitler.” you might understand why I find the compliment less than flattering. If you wish to be friends, that’s great. However, starting out by accusing me of hating you or anything or one else because I disagree with you might not be the way you want to start.

        What do you think about what your god does in the bible that doesn’t match with modern morals?

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      5. I like your critical thinking, but assure you not insult was meant by the article or comments. People of faith often see God in nature and other places, such as in every loving act of people – regardless of their faith or anti-faith persuasion. Jesus said as much as well. People who claimed to be his followers were often told they don’t truly follow him since they don’t love others – and people who didn’t claim to be his followers were often commended since they loved others.
        I think – instead of feeling like the post author or the comment are making an attempt to claim atheists for their team – consider it as an insistence that Christians need to admit how much common ground there is between themselves and atheists. It’s not an attempt to pretend everyone really believes in God deep down – not at all. But rather to say, atheists may only differ from us in what they believe. Christians still sin, they are no better. Atheists still do good, love others, etc – they are no worse.
        As a Christian, I’d never say we are on the same team. But being on different teams doesn’t necessitate being enemies – and Jesus made a stark point of this at many points in his ministry. If both sides could treat each other with respect we might get a lot more good done in the world!

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      6. I do understand that believers see their god in everything and to equate everythign good with your god. I did the same thing when I was a Christian, but then came to the conclusion that good has nothing to do with religion or any god. In that Christianity has caused harm, do you think it should be respected? And I’m not just talking about Christians, but what the bible teaches. There are some very horrible things that Jesus supports from God’s laws in the OT, that Paul claims and that supposedly will happen in the future if Revelation is true. The harm caused by belief is why I find it important to point out that Christianity is not equivalent to benevolence and goodness. Many Christians falsely claim that atheists are nihilists, evil, genocidal, etc. You may not but I think you may understand why it is important to seperate goodness from belief in a god.

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      7. These conversations get bogged down really quickly in threads, so feel free to use our contact form for specific questions. We love to see all the chatter going on in here though!
        A specific question you ask is do we think Christianity should be respected, in that it has caused harm. The answer is yes and simply defended. We think America should be respected as well, and it has done great atrocities as well – both foreign and domestic. We also think other humans should be respected and they are a mixed bag of apples as well. The dark or evil or failures of a person doesn’t negate the value of the whole. That isn’t quite the same as saying, “As long as the good outweighs the bad” – but that we wouldn’t throw out all Christians or all Christianity or all churches because they’ve been involved in some bad stuff in the past and are likely doing some bad things even in the present. (Our whole blog is about calling out abuses in the church and the movement of millions of American Millennials to keep their faith and loyalty to God while distancing themselves from the institutions that cause so much harm!)
        We agree 100% with you that atheists are not nihilists, evil, genocidal, etc. – and that no large group of people should be dismissively caricatured in such a way. Which is why we also don’t like to caricature Christians or ancient Israel as being pro-genocide or some such perceived flaw. We might read one passage where God says, “Go into the land and kill all living in it” but then ignore every passage after that which talks about the people they spared, the alliances they formed, the generous deeds and the advances in civilization and civility. It’s important to recognize the good with the bad. The Old Testament has some crazy stuff in it; but it also taught humans to wash their hands after touching a wide range of disease causers, not to eat foods that are notorious for making people sick, to take care of widows and orphans in their society, to protect travelers and foreigners, etc. Lots of bad in the Scriptures – and not everything recorded in there is “prescribed” by God; often it’s simply described as a historical fact and then often denounced as not in line with God’s heart or mission.
        Thanks for being willing to challenge along these lines. No simple answer could be put forth, I’m sure – hundreds of books have been written to tackle the tough passages of both Testaments, to address the concerns Christians and atheists alike have had as long as Scripture has existed.
        In the spirit of the original post, it is important to find common ground and start with mutual respect. Not all Christians are living blind to the challenges of God’s nature – but hundreds of millions of us have grappled with them and come to a place where we can respect and love God for all the good while having occasional reservations for the issues we don’t yet understand. Likewise, not all atheists are God haters, they are just honest intellectuals who logically want a preponderance of evidence before committing their life to a spiritual being they’ve never met. 🙂

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      8. I can understand your argument that even if something has done something wrong, it should still be respected. However, I think that can be an oversimplistic answer. For example, the Nazis in Germany in the 20s and 30s can be shown to have helped the German people a lot, recovering from a punishing economy, etc. Is this enough to say that Nazism should be respected even though they murdered millions? This is the issue I have with a god that insisted on genocide, that murdered unknown numbers if the story about the flood is true, genocide where women and children were murdered and this god accepted young girls as war booty for its temple and its believers to own, etc. What good can ever make up for that? A country or a person can be forgiven but a god that is supposedly perfect and good?

        This speaks to my point that to be good, one doesn’t need to accept or excuse horrors like genocide at all to be good. Humanism has the good parts of most religions, without the baggage of the origins from an ignorant and xenophobic culture. We don’t have to excuse or explain why a god would allow churches to advocate hatred for others (which they are being quite biblical about), for priests/pastors who abuse children in these churches, etc.

        I do understand the desire to separate yourselves from the abuses of the church; I felt much the same way when I was questioning my faith. My church ripped itself apart (a story you can see on my blog). However, you are still left with the problem of why this god allows such actions again and again, for millennia. There is always a generation that says that the old church is corrupt and their version is better.

        In that your god commanded genocide, it is not the Israelites or Christians that are at fault, it is the god. That is the root issue. There is nothing in the bible that has any advances in civilization or civility, and we know from archaeology that the claims of the bible about how awful the other civilizations were are wrong. We have a god that murders children and insists its believers do the same. Is this ever right?

        The bible does say wash one’s hand after touching disease carriers and it also claims that menstruation is just as unclean as those diseases. It isn’t. The washing of hands wasn’t about germ theory, it was about ritual cleanliness. Other societies ate the foods forbidden by this god, and has no more problems than the Israelites, and indeed, claims of not eating blood or not eating milk with flesh are not any more dangerous to eat than not. As for widows and orphans, this god allows familes to sell their children, and forces women to marry others, being brood mares if their dead husband didn’t have any progeny by passing her along to his relatives. Is this acceptable now or is the morality of the bible just as subjective as morality now?

        It does have to protect travelers, and it says to murder anyone in a city who dares to believe in another god. There is nothing to show which parts are “really” from this god and what are not. Everything in the OT when it comes to laws from god are all laws from god. There are no places where it says that some are not. It is tempting to claim so, because many of those presciptions are distasteful to modern humans, but it is not an accurate claim. For example, lots of Christians want to claim that only the first ten commandments are “really” from god, but if one reads Exodus, Leviticus, they are all from this god and all are to be followed. Even JC says that none of his father’s laws are to be ignored, until earth and heaven pass away. There are none that he says are not longer in force. He may disagree in interpretation and application with the priests but the laws are always there. We should still be stoning homosexuals to death, murdering people for working on the Sabbath, forcing women to marry their rapists and separating families if they are slaves.

        You are correct, I want evidence for this god, for the events in the bible, and for the claims of miracles that Christians insist happen. I suspect you would want the same for any other god. I’m curious on what evidence you would require for another god.

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      9. Definitely lots of good questions in there. Well trod questions that have been asked by many atheists and believers alike – with many answers offered by many Christians to address them. I encourage you to take up Colin and Jared’s offers to discuss by email! There are a lot of interpretation flaws and logic leaps I see in your discussion above, but here may not be the best place to piecemeal break them down, correct misunderstandings, debate interpretation, or suggestion answers for each and every concern you raise! Hundreds of books have been written regarding evidence for God, for events in the Bible, and even defenses of miraculous claims. So please don’t interpret this as a “dodge” of relevant questions – they are important ones to us as well as to you! But rather a passing of the torch – continue the journey, continue asking questions, continue looking at answers already given over 2000 years of Christians writing, and delve into dialogue with the two guys who invited here. It’s awesome to see the conversation coming out of this!

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      10. I’m kinda confused. Is this a blog post for discussion in comments or don’t you want discussions on this blog? You seem to like questions, but when it comes to discussing them, you don’t want to do it here. Any particular reason? I wonder because I also have a blog and i have no problem in discussing things right on my blog, rather than discussing things “off-camera” as it were.

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      11. We love discussions among readers. And we’ve answered plenty of your questions already, regarding the original article and your feelings that it might offend Atheists, for instance. Your comments tend to be very long with twenty hinted questions and half a dozen actual questions each. We love the inquisitive spirit. But meaningful discussion can only happen if you tackle one question at a time instead of speaking in sweeping generalizations about often unconnected topics. Also, this is the blog admin. It’s hard to speak for all Rogues. 🙂 Individual writers will be happy to field your specific questions, like Jared. And other readers will also be happy to field specific questions, like Colin. And if you have a specific question for the whole Rogue team, feel free to post here or use our contact form. Lots of questions, unspecific questions, generalizations and such bog down any efficacy commenting will have, especially with multiple people trying to tackle different aspects of each complex issue.
        I hope your specific questions about the original post were answered; that no one intended to offend nor to lump all Atheists into one group. The point of the article was to challenge Christians that although Atheists are different from Believers (no one here’s trying to claim them for their side, obviously), there is much to be learned about our own view by being open to hearing and respectful of different views.
        So if you were worried that we have some corrupt reason to encourage you to talk off-camera, no fears there. We wouldn’t be blogging about faith if we weren’t confident in ours and if we didn’t have personal answers to all the questions we’ve encountered in our own spiritual journeys! We love to encourage dialogue, but often we move it to coffee shops, personal emails, phone calls, Facebook, anywhere the dialogue can be more effective carried on, especially when it’s evolved beyond the point of the original article!

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      12. Often people who criticize a passage have little information about the context it was made in. For example, the Old Testament forbids touching or requires hand washing after contact with germ propagators – which includes dead things, yes, but also blood, human waste, and sexual fluids. It’s possible all of these are just a ritual cleanliness issue (the Atheist view) but also possible it’s all connected to a Supreme being aware of germs; his rules to move bathrooms outside the encampment or to wash after bleeding may seem petty micromanagement but also turn out to be really wise. There are hundreds of such examples. In an age without bleach, the rules regarding mold make more sense. In an age without the understanding of transferable intestinal worms, forbidding pigs and allowing cattle as food might not make sense. To the modern physician, it makes perfect sense. Banning shrimp seems petty to us, but in an age where they didn’t understand temperatures required to kill off common seafood borne germs the rule is perfect. Some of the Old Testament laws are about morality; some are about cleanliness; some are about community safety; some aimed at preventing plagues; some are about being set apart from outsiders. If your interpretation of a passage doesn’t take into account the time period, the cultural customs, the original language, the passages before and after it, etc. then it might be considered flawed interpretation. Anything can be plucked out of context and misused, but that never really helps. You end up assuming Christians don’t care about these issues, and Christians end up assuming Atheists just don’t care about understanding what God actually asked of us before criticizing him for it. Sweeping generalizations that fail to take into account context will always be logic leaps. Dawkins is the king of these, and many just reiterate his complaints – probably a big part of why the new militant Atheism hasn’t gained a whole lot of support. A lot of us read his books but I’d dare say most of us saw through much of his eloquence. He is the master of “A and B, therefore C” when C rarely follows from the argument he built. His rhetoric of God as genocidal, for instance, doesn’t really compute. It fails to take into account anything except a paltry handful of verses. It’s a logic leap unfounded on the available evidence that doesn’t convict most Christians that their loving God is actually a sadistic maniac 🙂

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      13. Okay, but again what makes you sure that I’m wrong as you stated and that your interpretation is the only right one?

        I know the context, and the rest of your claims are hopeful assumptions that this god *may* know what you want it to. For instance, Moses had the Israelites bury their poop so God wouldn’t see it or step in it. There is nothing about germ theory, and there is plenty of nonsense about pigeon blood curing disease which doesn’t work.

        There are all of those reasons, culture, community, and they aren’t about germ theory. If that was the case, why didn’t your god say “wash your hands because there are little things you cannot see on them and they can make a woman giving birth very ill or die.” This is as comprehensible to those of that age as anything else in the bible. But this god didn’t and it took centuries for people to wash hands and cut down maternal and child death rates. Those parts where this god is ignorance and failed to know basic facts about the world it supposedly created are ignored by many Christians. Or they take them out of context, for instance where John 3:16 is touted as such a benevolent phrase, but the Christians ignore the rest of is which isn’t so nice at all.

        As for the “new militant atheism”, it’s the same as the old regular atheism. Nothing has changed, and atheists used to draw huge crowds to hear them speak. Dawkin’s arguments are no different from Robert G. Ingersoll’s, and we’ve been doing quite well. I’m not sure why you would want to claim otherwise other than to try to frighten people. Now, if you do want to accuse dawkins’ of something, please to show in an argument, his C doesn’t follow is a or b. Now, I don’t like Dawkins, but I’m not keen on seeing baseless claims made about anyone. Now, why doesn’t Dawkin’s pointing out that your god has committed genocide and ordered genocide wrong. Why doesn’t it “compute” as you say? The words are right there in the bible. What context makes genocide any better?

        As for a “handful of paltry verses”, those verses are from your god supposedly, and many us atheists are quite aware of context, culture, etc. For complaining about “sweeping generalizations”, you seem to have no problem in using them yourself.

        In my experience, I know that many Christians don’t care about those things. They pick and choose and ignore the parts of the bible that make ridiculous claims that get people killed. Many have never read the entire bible at all but are sure that they should follow it. Not exactly a thoughtful way to do things.

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      14. Religion and extremism are the major problems of today’s Christians. By seeing God in everything, I mean being open minded to hear God speak and inspire us from anywhere. He can use even a broom to teach us a lesson. So my friend, see God in everything and everybody even in that unbeliever with tattoos all over his body and that atheist close to you. Don’t push them away or write them off. You can learn from him. Shalom.

        Liked by 2 people

      15. Viola, are you a pantheist rather than a Christian? I see that unbeliever with tats as being equal to me without needing a god and any atheist like me without needing a god. I certainly wouldn’t push them away. That is what many Christians do, and the bible supports this, making tats somehow distasteful to this god and wanting to kill atheists. In my experience, people with tats and atheists are quite a bit more moral than many Christians and a lot more than the bible god.

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    2. I like your idea of “God is everywhere”! We have been thinking about sharing some articles about where we see God in our own lives. In other people, in culture such as the stories we love to see in movies or the songs we love to play on repeat, as well as in books we read or the time we enjoy in nature. We don’t think of God being in everyone and everything as some Buddhist concept, perhaps – but rather that God can speak through anything, can draw anything to our attention to teach us just like you say – the Holy Spirit can lead us to learn as long as we haven’t decided, “God can’t speak that way.”

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  3. The important point of this post is that differences help us to mature. An atheist can learn to be a better atheist by being friends with a Christian. A Christian can learn to be a better Christian by being friends with an atheist. The friendship between them will help them mature and live peacefully with each other.

    Anyone who attacks the other does so not out of good but out of selfishness. You don’t attack the beliefs of others because it is good to do so. It creates division and hostility and tears people down.

    We can all learn from the differences in each other. Our enemy is the fear of those differences and that our beliefs will easily fall when introduced to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I especially like that! “An atheist can learn to be a better atheist by being friends with a Christian. A Christian can learn to be a better Christian by being friends with an atheist.” I feel the gist of the article is that mutual respect is the best way forward. Often singling out one thing – like “You don’t believe in God” – makes Christians dismiss the whole person, even though they are also made in God’s image and are loved by him. God doesn’t start loving people after we start loving him – he loves all. Not all welcome it, but there it is.

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    2. Yes! Maturity. I think so many churches tend to create an in-crowd that is insulated, a Christian bubble – and members of the church continue in immaturity because they haven’t been allowed to doubt or ask questions, they haven’t been exposed to other views, they haven’t been challenged to make their faith practical. It’s something in their head and something for Sundays, but not something day in and day out that they live in and adapt as God disciples them through life.

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  4. I want to share a comment I got by text from a good friend (pretty much family!): “Hey! I really enjoyed the last article on the blog. As an atheist among a family of believers, it was a breath of fresh air. So thank you!”
    We talked a bit about how sometimes being an atheist in a family of believers can make one feel not just alone or left out but actually looked down on, mistreated or judged. Christians should be careful to treat everyone around them with love, even if we disagree on issues of faith! Love your neighbors, and everyone is your neighbor. Doesn’t get simpler than that!

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