How Christianity Teaches People To Be A Bunch of Racist, Sexist, Anti-intellectual Bigots
By David Metcalfe
October 9, 2017
A Pregnant Society and The Birth of Law
In prehistoric times, in the age of hunters and gatherers, many historians of that era have speculated on what life must have been like. They are thought to have formed communities, where they co-operated towards a common goal, basically, of surviving and propagating the species. It was a very simple time. But it was not advantageous to remain too simple. Increased growth in these communities gave a variety of advantages. Specialization, diversity, and resilience were direct results of increased numbers, and all served to increase the ability to provide food, shelter, better genetics, and survival through disease or famine.
Although the increased numbers gave many advantages, those advantages would become futile if there was too much disorder and chaos. Certain rules were needed to keep the community in a state of order, for the benefit of the larger group. But who would decide these rules? And if someone breaks the rules, what do we do with them?
This is how laws were born. “Baby law” as I’ll call it, needed guidance. As civilizations grew, people began building permanent structures and owning property, having a specialized job that gave them something in return for their labor, and having smaller communities within the larger community in which majority of their social interaction took place. Things like rights to property, protection under the law, labor laws, and rights of minority groups all came into existence. People decided that they wanted one wise ruler who could make decisions for them in order to establish these laws for the sake of the society. These people were known as kings.
If the king says that you should pay a 10% tax, and your friend says you should pay no tax, what is to determine who is correct? Well, the king was in a state of power, and not only was his opinion greater, but he himself was a greater person than the rest of the people. It was determined that since the king is superior, his son, who is of similar genetics and who can receive wise counsel from his father, should take the throne after him. This idea permeated to other members of the king’s family, who were viewed as a superior class of people based on who they were born to. In fact, this became the case for everyone. For example, let’s say a baby is born to a farmer. That farmer, genetically, must have certain abilities of strength, perseverance, and durability that make him able to do such a job. These things are likely to be passed down to the kid. Also, the child will grow up in an environment where they have to learn farming, so it only makes sense that they would also become a farmer. This system of hereditary role formation combines both nature and nurture to create a system of societal roles that are the most beneficial to the group.
Now, if kings were good, this system was a totally fine way of doing things. However, very few kings could be considered good. Children are not carbon copies of their parents, and it was anybody’s guess King to King whether they would be any good. And even if the king meant well, many were incompetent. Being a good king required a combination of both good will and competence. And just how the king thinking that a tax of 10% is more important than your friend’s opinion of having no tax, this power of opinion carried to anything. Let’s say the king decided that all of your tax dollars were to go towards building a gold statue of himself. You might disagree with that. In fact, you might have a very good, well-reasoned case for why the money would be better spent elsewhere, but it simply didn’t matter. Over the course of history, millions of injustices were committed towards innocent people as a result of this idea of authoritative superiority. But the problem was, how can we maintain civil order without a king? If 10th century England would have just decided, “alright, no more king”, society would have descended into chaos and destruction very quickly. They needed a system to replace it, but no one knew what that system was.
Sowing For Centuries and Reaping a Republic
During the renaissance and enlightenment eras beginning in the 14th century, massive gains were made in science, art, literature, and philosophy. It led to the idea of a new type of authority, apart from God or a king. It was the authority of reason. Through reason, we figured out cures to diseases, created amazing inventions that served the betterment of humanity, and invited in a new era of thought. If reason was king, then the peasant who has better reason for tax dollars to be spent on feeding people will have a superior opinion to the king who wants to make a gold statue of himself. Reason was a necessary precedent to equality.
That brings me to one of the greatest books ever written: “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine in 1776. It is a culmination of the greatest thinkers of the enlightenment, being put together in a well reasoned and practical essay. The book essentially caused United States to reject the monarchy of Britain, and embrace the system of government we enjoy today (Paine, 1776). As John Adams, the second President of the United States, once said, “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain”. Thomas Paine’s genius, on the shoulders of the great thinkers before him, made people realize not only that a monarchy system is inherently unjust, but that there is a system better that we can replace it with. The Declaration of Independence was later written, inspired by Thomas Paine’s writings, and included ideas that were revolutionary (quite literally) at the time. The foundational concept was the idea of “natural rights”, which are determined to be universal and inalienable (cannot be taken away) for every human being. The Declaration of Independence, in it’s second sentence, is quite possibly one of the greatest sentences ever written. It reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Lucas, 1989).
The constitution was written a few years later, and it affirms these rights, along with practical applications to how a government can exist in a way that affirms these rights. That’s the idea behind the first 10 amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights. When I read through the Bill of Rights, I think about how awful it would be if they weren’t in place. When I read about the separation of church and state, I think about the atrocities committed by the historic Roman Catholic Church, or the atrocities currently being committed in Saudi Arabia. When I read about freedom of speech, I think about great thinkers like Paul of Tarsus, Galileo, or Thomas Paine, who had their rights taken from them for speaking their mind. And when I read about the right to due process, I think about the African Americans who were lynched all over America just because someone arbitrarily accused them of something. The constitution of the United States is not amazing because America is superior or because it’s an inherently good thing in and of itself. It’s amazing because it is the result of the greatest principles of morality, developed over thousands of years, brought into practical application to create the most advanced, equal, just, and free society in history.
Now, we know that it took society a little while to figure out and actually embrace these principles. Many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were themselves slave owners! (Berlin, 1998). How can you possibly agree that all human beings are equal and also believe that black people should be in slavery? Cuz they were freaking idiots, that’s how. Just kidding, they were actually quite smart but they just didn’t realize that black people were actually people, and that slavery was an unjust practice that perpetuated inequality. They also made no mention of woman’s rights. It was just kind of assumed that a woman was a form of property to be used for child bearing and satisfying her husband. Slavery wasn’t officially abolished until nearly one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence was written, and “Jim Crow” (a system of laws governing racial segregation) wasn’t abolished until one hundred years after that! And women weren’t granted the right to vote until 1920! We have had this amazing constitution the whole time, and are still working to actually employ it’s use. Majority of the problems currently in America right now, in my opinion, would be solved, or at least dramatically reduced, if society’s values, and the laws that result from those values, were actually in line with the intent of the constitution. Equality, freedom, and justice are awesome values that do wonders for any individual, group, or society at large, when done correctly.
The Antithesis of The Constitution: A Series of Biblical Blunders
Being around Christians a lot, I often hear people say that the Bible starts with a wedding and ends with a wedding. It’s this idea of how Jesus is married to the church or some weird thing like that. I disagree with those people. I think the Bible begins with sexism and ends with tyranny, and is filled with a bunch of racism, violence, and anti-intellectualism in the middle. Then again, I shouldn’t just say it starts with sexism, because that wouldn’t be doing justice to the rest of the sexism throughout the Bible. So yes, I will proceed to tell you why the Bible promotes each of these things in various ways. Let’s start with sexism!
Missing Misogyny? Just Read Your Bible!
The Bible starts out describing how the universe was created, which has been overwhelmingly proven wrong by modern science…ok, cool, moving on. God made “Adam” (the Hebrew word for “Mankind”) for some reason, and then noticed that he was lonely, so God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him” and proceeded to rip out one of Adam’s ribs, and use that to create “Eve” (the Hebrew word for “life”). If you think that sounds insane, try reading the rest of the Bible…wooo! There’s a lot of odd stuff in there. Anyway, the devil tempts Adam and Eve, and Eve is the one to give in, and then tempt Adam to do the same. So, here’s the beginning of the Bible from a woman’s rights perspective: Woman are an afterthought made to help man, and they end up dooming mankind. Then, after they get in trouble for eating the fruit, God literally says to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
“Rule over you”! God himself establishes sexism early on. I hear some people say, “That’s not sexist, it’s a role of submission, not a value judgement”. Ummm…what? Would you say that about African American slavery? “Slavery was just a role for them, it said nothing about their value”. Just like the kings of ancient days had increased value because of their superior role, we know that one’s role is intrinsically tied to their value. The role of woman is set out as submissive, meaning that her opinion is not regarded as high as her husband’s, which, if you’ll remember the story of the peasant arguing about taxes, means that reason is negated in favor of authoritative superiority. Whenever reason is negated for the sake of authoritative superiority, inequality develops.
Paul was an awesome guy. He studied Jewish law under some of the greatest minds of his time. Before reaching the height of his legal career, he had a bit of a career change, to say the least. In fact, he scrapped the whole thing and became a follower of Jesus. He would go around to different cities debating the top philosophers on various issues, and he often commanded large crowds. He was a prolific writer and a stern critic of culture, the virtues of humanity, and the Christian church. These opinions came out in what are his most famous works: letters to various churches around the Roman Empire. They were later put into what we now know as the New Testament of the Bible. But just like the great minds who wrote the Declaration of Independence, while simultaneously owning slaves and mistreating minorities, Paul too had some severe flaws.
Paul mentored various people whom he saw promise in. Timothy was likely his main one. He wrote many letters to Timothy, instructing him on doctrine, morality, and church dynamics. In his first letter, he writes some instructions on how Timothy should conduct women to act, saying:
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing- if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.” (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
Imagine if the New Testament writings were on trial for the crime of sexism. As the prosecutor, this piece of evidence would be my “right hook”, the final blow that knocks out any possible argument from the defense. The defense would be forced to back pedal into three possible things:
1) Paul didn’t write it, 2) It was to a specific church, so it doesn’t matter, or 3) Other writings show that Paul was not sexist
Response to 1): It’s possible that Paul didn’t write it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s in the Bible. The overall case here is not actually that Paul himself is sexist, but that the Bible is sexist.
Response to 2): Imagine if a father told their child that white people are the best race, and when asked about whether he is racist, simply said, “Oh no, that was to a specific kid, so it doesn’t reflect my general view.” You’d be like, “what the heck? Why say it to someone at all if it doesn’t reflect your view?” Clearly, specificity of a statement has no bearing on it’s validity or implications.
Response to 3): As we’ll get to later, there are no writings that show that Paul supported social equality, and even if there were, it wouldn’t negate the statement he made, it would only prove that he contradicted himself in another context.
After wrecking their last attempt at saving their argument, they would have nothing left to try to defend it. It is clear that the sentiments expressed are putting women in a lesser role, and even drawing upon blame to justify it. If it really was an equal role, why would he attempt to justify it by mentioning the misdeeds of woman? Imagine if you got promoted at your job, and your manager announced all the mistakes you made this last year. That wouldn’t make any sense. It would make sense, however, if you were getting demoted. In the view of Moses (the author of Genesis) and Paul, women started out merely as helpers to fulfill man’s desire, and then were demoted further by eating the fruit.
How God Picks Favorites
Most people are familiar with the story of Jericho. It’s mentioned in Joshua chapter 6. It’s a fun story for kids in Sunday School. I remember walking around a bunch of LEGO walls seven times and then knocking them over in my grade 5 Sunday School class. But that was it. We simply knocked them over, had a laugh, and got told why God loves us or some “Christiany” type thing. What most people don’t know, is how that story concludes. Shit gets real at verse 21, saying: “They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed everything in it- men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” (Joshua 6:21). What I have especial trouble with, is when it says “young and old”. Age didn’t matter. Imagine a 4-year-old girl getting her head cut off by an Israelite soldier. Imagine a man at home with his pregnant wife, trying to defend her from the Israeli soldiers, but failing to do so because there were too many of them. And if you were lucky enough to find a place to hide, you would just be burned to death later on, since they proceeded to burn the entire city.
I hear a lot of people bend over backwards to try and justify these atrocities. I won’t bother with the majority of the arguments, because they are garbage, but there’s one that’s almost good. It’s basically that the Canaanites (who lived in Jericho) were awful people. They were offering children as human sacrifices, raping people, torturing innocent people, etc. So basically, it was justified to wipe them out as a punishment to, and way to end, the evil that was occurring.
This argument fails on two major points. For one, the Canaanites were never given a chance. Their race was cursed from day one, since Ham (the father of Canaan) did some weird stuff in Genesis chapter 9 to his father, Noah. So Noah gets up and gives this generational curse on Ham, saying that all of his descendants are now cursed. Imagine this: Canaan is five years old, and he throws a rock at some other kid. Since he’s cursed, his father knows there’s no chance of redemption for him, so would he even care about Canaan’s morality? When Canaan finds out he is cursed, and has no chance at redemption, wouldn’t he simply give himself up to the pleasures of the world? And when Canaan has kids, you can bet they’ll be messed up too. It was a shit show from the beginning, and there’s no evidence that they had a proper chance at redemption.
Secondly, killing children is never an acceptable thing. Some of these children may have been evil, sure. But children are largely a product of their environment, and if they are raised to think that killing people is ok, can we really blame them? In American law, children cannot be held criminally responsible until age 11, generally. In our civilized society, we recognize that a 5-year-old does not have the ability to determine morality for themselves. We need to teach them and work with them. Many of the people killed on that day in Jericho were below the age of being criminally or morally responsible for their actions, however heinous they may have been.
And lastly, as an aside, I have trouble believing that all of them were constantly committing horrible crimes. Remember when I talked about how laws are born? The rule of law needs to be abided by to a certain extent for a society to function. If everyone was constantly raping and murdering each other, the society would die out very quickly. People were obviously owning property, sharing resources, working at jobs, supporting families, and taking part in social interaction. Without those things, they would not have had a city. It’s just basic principles of sociology. There were probably heinous things being committed, but the fact alone that the city was functioning means to me that they were not beyond redemption. I guess I’m kind of like Batman, and the Israelites are like Ra’s al Ghul, if you’re a “Batman Begins” fan.
We see very clearly the racism that is so prevalent in the Bible. The Canaanites were a race of people who were cursed, and the Israelites were a race of people who were blessed. This gave the Israelites the ability to dehumanize them to such an extent that they were more than willing to kill innocent women and children. Old Testament racism doesn’t stop there. In fact, story after story shows that God played favorites the whole time. Sure, the Israelites had hardships at times, but it was nothing like the hardships they inflicted on others that they viewed as “lesser” people.
Paul’s New Form of Favoritism
Alright, revisiting our friend Paul! If you’ll recall, the guy is smart, well-meaning, and super sexist. But hey, he’s pretty cool overall. Paul never actually affirms social equality. However, Christians love pretending he does by taking certain verses out of context. The most often quoted verse is Galatians 3:28, when he says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This is a great verse for social justice type Christians. It’s like, “Hey guys, look! The Bible is against racism, slavery, and sexism!”. I wish that were the case, but there are two major problems with this verse. The first is that he is not referring to social equality, but rather spiritual equality. The entirety of the section preceding it is referring to spiritual matters. The second is that there is one major condition to being equal. Verse 29 says, “If you belong to Christ”. Verse 27 that precedes it says, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ…”. The invitation of equality (which already is only spiritual at best) is only given to people who are Christian, which brings about what I deem as Paul’s new form of favoritism.
Paul loves all people…who are Christian. He never talks about non-Christians in a positive light. In fact, he has a lot of harsh words for them, making blanket statements about them. Like in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, when he says that they are a bunch of horrible people, and that the only chance they have at not being horrible people is to become Christian. That’s why so many Christians literally believe that everyone who isn’t Christian is an awful person. He basically says this repeatedly about anyone who is not Christian. He’s right when he says that there is no distinction among you in terms of race, social class, or gender, because he’s replaced it with a new, even harsher, divide: religion.
And if you want to read about someone who has a really antagonistic view of people who aren’t Christian, try reading 1 Peter!
A Totally Legitimate Election
Wow! It’s voting day in North Korea! What an amazing opportunity to give a voice to the people as to how they should be governed! Oh, this is odd, it looks like the ballot only has one candidate for me to choose. This candidate ordered the death of my family, so I don’t really want to vote for them. I guess I will just walk out of the booth, grab a red pen in full sight of the guards, and walk back into the booth so I can cross out his name in order to vote against him. Oh, what’s this? I’m being taken to a concentration camp to work hard labor for the rest of my life? Wow, what a great and free country we live in! I really feel that my thoughts are valued in this nation!
The sad thing is, while I was being sarcastic, I was not being hyperbolic. North Korea has federal elections every 5 years. Not surprisingly, they have 100% support for the candidates that the dictator has chosen (Rauhala, 2014). It’s something known as a “rubber stamp parliament”, which means that the voters have considerable “de jure” power, but essentially no “de facto” power. De jure means “in law”, while de facto means “in practice”. It’s kind of like how apparently in the state of New York, it is illegal to wear slippers after 10 pm (Bratskeir, 2017). That has de jure power, since it is technically law, but in actuality, there is no practical, or de facto, power, since it is never enforced, and never will be. Telling a North Korean they have the right to vote is like telling a New York resident to take off their slippers at 10 pm. It means nothing.
Think about this: Do citizens of North Korea have the free will to choose who their leader is?
That’s an easy question, since it’s obvious they don’t, but why is that? Basically, in United States law, there are certain criteria that must be met in order for a decision to be considered one’s own. One such condition that would limit the ability to consent is when there is a threat to the person if they do not agree to do a certain thing. Let’s say that there was a guy named Jim who robbed a bank and stole 1 million dollars. This is a pretty serious crime, and is worthy of a substantial jail sentence. However, during the trial, the defense released recordings of a phone conversation in which a mob boss told Jim that he would kill his family unless he gave him 1 million dollars. All of a sudden, Jim is essentially off the hook. The crime, although very bad, is no longer his fault, since his ability to choose was so severely hindered by the coercion he was under. That’s a basic example to understand why coercion in choice is not really a choice at all.
A Totally Legitimate Choice To Love God
The classic set up for Christianity is this: We sinned, so we are all doomed to go to hell, where we will be tortured by Satan and his demons, but Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, and we just need to accept this grace in order to not go to hell, and instead go to eternal paradise in heaven. Remember when I said there’s a lot of weird stuff in the Bible? Yeah, it is a freaking weird book when you get into it. Anyway, Christians often try to set this up as though we have a choice. Basically, the choice is between these two things: 1) You can accept Jesus, and have eternal paradise in heaven, or 2) You can reject Jesus, and spend eternity in hell. If you think that this is a free choice to make, then you must be a fan of North Korean elections. There is clearly a threat being made, as well as a reward for the counter option. This perfectly satisfies the definition of coercion.
The idea that we have a choice is common in what’s known as “Arminian” theology, which describes majority of Christians. According to one study cited in The New York Times, about 30% of Christians describe themselves as adhering to “Calvinist” theology (Oppenheimer, 2014). This basically means that they don’t believe there is any choice at all. In fact, God has chosen the people for heaven and hell before time even began, and human choices carry no significance whatsoever in the grand scheme of things. Where Arminian theology is similar to North Korean elections, Calvinist theology is similar to Nazi Germany. Jewish people were put in concentration camps, while Aryan race Germans were given special privileges. They never had a choice in the matter. Their fate was simply dictated to them on the arbitrary distinction of who they were born to. Calvinism states that God arbitrarily makes the choice for us that determines our ultimate destiny. It is the most dehumanizing, anti-intellectual garbage theology that Christians have ever embraced.
Choosing To Be Smart
I remember when the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 first came out a few years ago. My parents said that they would buy me either one for Christmas that year. Problem was, I couldn’t decide which one I wanted (first world problems…am I right?). Anyway, I underwent meticulous and arduous research in my effort to determine which one was superior. I asked my friends, went to “EB games” to test them out, and watched probably 20 YouTube videos of gameplay reviews. Eventually I determined that based on the price, the increased prevalence among my friends, and the controller design, that I would go with the Xbox One.
I’m now kind of an expert on video game consoles. There are a bunch of different factors that go towards making a good video game experience, and I know nearly all of them. But here’s the thing: I researched them not because I was genuinely interested, but because I wanted to make the best decision. Think of an important purchase you had to make; it might be a car, a house, a laptop, etc. I’m guessing you did some research beforehand, and became more knowledgeable on the subject as a result.
But imagine if there was only one video game console in existence. If I wanted to play video games, I would simply purchase it. I wouldn’t have done the research into it, and I wouldn’t have become an expert in it. Without the ability to make decisions, we simply accept what is given to us without thinking about it. Free choice encourages intelligence, and intelligence encourages free choice.
Now, let’s take this to politics. I study American politics a weird amount, probably close to an hour a day, on average. It matters to me who is in charge, and I want to understand what is the best decision for myself, and others, to make. McCain and Obama in 2008 was the first time I really became interested in an election. At 13-years-old, I began thinking to myself questions like: “Is healthcare a fundamental right that should be guaranteed by the government?”, “Should our tax dollars go to pay for fighting wars that don’t directly affect us?”, “Do we need to increase efforts to reduce the national debt?”, and so on. Decision making leads to intelligent opinion formation through the freedom to engage in honest debate, research, critical thought, and one’s ability to affect change.
How much research do you think the majority of North Koreans do before they go to the ballot box? Well, they aren’t even allowed to do actual research, so that makes it difficult. But even if they could research, they are unlikely to do so, since debate and critical thought are discouraged. And even if they get past that, their ability to affect change is essentially nothing since they don’t really have a choice anyway. North Korean elections are inherently anti-intellectual, and if you’ll remember, Christianity is a lot like North Korean elections.
How God Establishes Tyranny
Since the choice to accept Jesus is coercive at best, it breeds stupidity. Christians often have this idea of “faith”, meaning that you should just believe without evidence. One often quoted verse is Hebrews 11:1, which states that “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I’ve heard many people use this verse to suggest that reason and rationality are simply incongruent with Christianity. That kind of thinking (or lack thereof) has brought about tyranny in a variety of ways. Remember when I talked about how the king could make some stupid decision and everyone would have to follow it since his opinion is superior? Well, this idea is supported by Paul when writing to the Romans. He says in chapter 13,
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.”
This is some dictatorship garbage right here. So God established Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Donald Trump? (Just kidding about Donald Trump, he’s not that bad). But seriously, that was one of the arguments against breaking away from Britain that nearly held America back. And as we know, America created an amazing society as a result of their rebellion. Taking down Adolf Hitler was of incredible importance, but according to Paul, it would have been better to just submit to him. Applying this thinking to politics, or much of anything, would have a devastating result for our society.
The second way that this thinking creates tyranny is by taking reason and rationality out of our decision to accept Jesus as our savior. The system is already damaged, since we are being coerced into a decision, but how do we even know that the decision making of whether we go to heaven or hell through Jesus even exists? How do we know it’s not just something a bunch of people living in ancient Israel made up? Well, according to many Christians, you need to just believe it’s true, no thinking involved. Cutting out the “middle man” of rational thought may be a better way to get people to believe the same things as you, since they are mindless sheep, but this “middle man” of rational thought is also one of the defining factors that separates American and North Korean elections. Believing whatever you are told, without thinking about it, is tyranny’s greatest ally. Honest, well-informed, critical thinking is tyranny’s ultimate downfall. God is only as tyrannical as we allow Him to be.
“Take Me To Church”, So I Can Learn How To Be A Bigot
It’s clear that the Bible is full of racism, sexism, anti-intellectualism, and tyranny, but church services seem like such a nice, “feel good” time. There couldn’t be anything wrong with church, right?
It’s generally common knowledge that the Bible has a lot of awful things in it, but many people believe that the church acts as a sort of “filter” for the bad stuff, and only presents the good stuff. That’s sort of true, because how often will you hear a modern pastor actually talk about the Israelites slaughtering people? Or about how majority of your coworkers are going to hell? It’s safe to say that quite a bit of filtering goes on, but there are also a host of additional problems that actually make church a significant contributing factor to the problems in Christianity.
As I sat in church this morning, I looked over the sea of upper class white people. I actively looked, but could not find, a single black person among the nearly 2000 people there. One black guy I talked to a few weeks ago said that the Christian church is the most racially segregated institution in America. I was like, “Naaahhhh, that’s probs an overstatement.” But then I started looking into it, and I think he’s right. 87% of Christian churches are made up of only white or only black people (Vischer, 2001). There’s a sociologist named George Yancey, who honestly has a hilarious looking website. When I saw the feature picture of himself sitting at the computer, I burst out laughing. Here is a link to it in case you want to laugh along with me: https://www.georgeyancey.com/
This is the feature picture, so awkward lol
Man, that guy is classic. Anyway, he wrote an awesome article back in 1999 in the Journal of Sociological Perspectives that sheds important light on race issues in the church. He found that people who go to churches of primarily white people are significantly more likely to be racist than people who go to more racially diverse churches (Yancey, 1999). And in general, Christians are more likely to be racist than the general population.
But what might contribute to this racism? Well, here’s my theory. We need to ask ourselves, why do people go to church? Usually it’s to build community. When you believe odd things, like that the reason hurricanes happen is because a snake gave fruit to a naked rib lady, you need to be affirmed that other people believe it as well, so you don’t feel crazy. But even more so, people just want to have friends. Church is a place where people will be nice to you, and you often get to go for lunch with people afterwards, or get invited to play golf, or whatever. When I think about the friends that I have, I notice a few odd things. So, let’s think about my Facebook friends, to keep it simple. There’s about 350 of them, and I think 5 of them are black. Probably 300 of them are within 5 years age of me. The vast majority of them are Christian, college educated, and come from middle class families. Oh crap, I think my Facebook friends might resemble the Christian church kind of closely.
It’s not that I ever consciously decided, “Hmmm…I would like to surround myself with people similar to me”. It’s just that I naturally connected with certain people, and later added them on Facebook. I don’t think the American church, in it’s current state, is actively trying to be racist. I think it just casually happened, and no one really cares enough to actively stop it.
Where the church is actively bigoted, often times, is on the distinction of religious belief. Remember when I talked about how antagonistic Paul is to non-believers? And how Peter is even worse? That rhetoric gets thrown around constantly in sermons. If aliens knew nothing of humanity, and all they heard was sermons from evangelical churches, they would think that Christians are amazing people, who think they are terrible, and that non-Christians are terrible people, who think they’re amazing. But let’s face it, the idea of human depravity does nothing to subside the enormous superiority complex of evangelical Christians. As I mentioned earlier, role is an aspect of defining value. The Christians believe that their role is to go to heaven, and that everyone else’s role is to go to hell. They also believe that they live a morally superior lifestyle than other people. The basic concept of Christianity is inherently unequal, and this comes out in a variety of ways, all of which are damaging.
Discovering The Ocean of Rational Thought
Communion is a super weird and messed up thing. Basically, the whole church metaphorically cannibalizes God’s body. What kind of freak would volunteer to serve communion? Well, I do. I don’t see much value in eating a weird cracker and drinking grape juice, but this morning, as I held the plate for people as they approached to take it, I found value where I wouldn’t initially expect. I watched a young, blind man be led by the hand up to me at the front, and my heart was filled with compassion for him. “Man, that would suck to be blind” I thought. As he took the grape juice, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “God bless you”. One man who came up was muscular, covered in tattoos, and in any other context, was the kind of guy I would be a little nervous to see walking up to me. After taking the bread and grape juice, he sat down, and in his contemplation, he began weeping. People gathered around him and prayed for him. I stood there and watched as people of all kinds came up to receive this weird, stupid custom, and I felt a sense of sincere community and compassion for each person.
It seems to me that there is a lot more to things than we notice on the surface. Beneath the weird, stupid custom of eating God’s body, was a wealth of compassion and meaning that was felt by the people who truly understood it’s significance. Sticking around on the surfaces of life is ok, but I want to go deeper.
Imagine this scenario: you’re in a little kiddy pool, where the water is up to your ankles. Someone comes up to you and says, “You need a boat! Here, let me get one for you!”. You’d be like, “Ummm…what the heck? The water is super shallow, I’m totally fine just standing”.
Ok, cool. Now think about this scenario: you’re in the ocean, so far out that you can’t even see land. After being out there for a while, someone comes up to you and says, “You need a boat! Here, let me get one for you!”. You’d be like, “Oh, that’s so awesome! Thank you!”.
I think that Christianity is the boat, and atheism can only survive in the kiddy pool. Let me explain:
A while back in this article, I said that the second sentence in the Declaration of Independence is one of the greatest sentences ever written. It reads:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I originally presented it as if humanity was the pinnacle of existence, but it’s important to take into account that it says “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”. They didn’t write this because they felt a need to pander to a Christian audience or something, but rather because being made in the image of God was a foundational concept of “natural rights”. If God doesn’t exist, and the material world is the only thing that’s real, humans are, at their core, nothing more than a bunch of atoms that happened to be connected in a certain way. If these atoms were to be scattered in a new composition, what’s to say which composition is superior? Death and life are on equal terms, and life ultimately holds no innate value. Any value that we make for humans would be a social construct. As we know with African slavery, prohibition of alcohol, or even “beehive” haircuts, social constructs come and go based on the whim of the people. There is nothing that keeps them there no matter what, and if you’ll remember, the definition of “unalienable” is that they cannot be taken away. Atheism provides no framework for the possibility of unalienable rights.
Just like with communion, when we start to go deeper on human rights, we find that Christianity offers more than meets the eye on the surface. I continue to be amazed, that right when I think I’ve disproven Christianity, I go deeper into it and find that I need a boat so I don’t sink. I could just say that communion is weird and stupid. I could just say that God has nothing to do with human rights. I could stay in the kiddy pool, and never need a boat. But in depth, we find love, meaning, purpose, and compassion. When I was atheist, my life was void of these things, and I wanted them badly, but I didn’t want to leave the kiddy pool, for fear that I might sink.
I spent considerable time in this article saying why the gospel is at best a North Korean election, and at worst, Nazi Germany. That’s the view I had of it for most of my life, but just like everything, I overthought it excessively, and now have a very different idea than a lot of Christians. I do believe that we have a choice in our salvation, but it’s not the one we often think of. If you think something is true, that means you believe it. And if you believe that you will go to heaven if you accept Jesus’ sacrifice, you will obviously take it. So after someone thinks that Christianity is true, it’s essentially an automatic, mindless process to accept Jesus into your life. The decision that you have, is whether or not you want to engage in honest, rational thought about whether Christianity is true.
And I mean honest. Do you think God is tyrannical? Go visit a Bible study and ask about it. Do you think Paul is misogynistic? Read a Bible commentary on it. Do you think Jesus’ advice to not worry about tomorrow is impractical? Go ask someone who has actually followed that advice in their life. Be critical. Be engaged. I’ve done it, and I continue to do it every day. And let me tell you, it’s worth it.
I believe that we have rights because we are made in the image of God, but I also believe there’s more to it than that. I think that our minds have been made in His image, and have a unique and important purpose. Life can seem dim and mundane when we stand in the kiddy pool, but God has provided a vast ocean of meaning and purpose if we are willing to think deeply, love unsparingly, and walk in honest humility.
P.S. I do believe that the Bible upholds the qualities of liberty, justice, and equality, just not in the way we sometimes think it does. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions, or want some good resources that have been beneficial to me.
Berlin, I. (1998). Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, pp. 7–13
Bratskeir, K. (2017). The craziest laws that still exist in the United States. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/weird-laws-in-america_us_56a264abe4b0d8cc1099e1cd
Lucas S. (1989). Justifying America: The Declaration of Independence as a Rhetorical Document. in Thomas W. Benson, ed., American Rhetoric: Context and Criticism, Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, p. 85
Oppenheimer, M. (2014). Evangelicals find themselves in the midst of a Calvinist revival. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/us/a-calvinist-revival-for-evangelicals.html
Paine, T. (1776). Common Sense.
Rauhala, E. (2014). North Korea elections: a sham worth studying. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/17720/north-korea-election-a-sham-worth-studying/
Vischer, R. (2001). Racial Segregation in American Churches and Its Implications for School Vouchers. Fla. L. Rev. 53: 193.
Website, Hilarious. George Yancey is an awesome guy but dang buddy, maybe consider updating your website. Retrieved from https://www.georgeyancey.com/
Yancey, G. (1999). An examination of the effects of residential and church integration on racial attitudes of whites. Sociological Perspectives, 42: 279-304.