Christian Billboard: Beautiful Message, Ignorant Theology

In my own journey towards intellectual freedom, one driving factor was present, even through my Christian years: truth.  To borrow some of the decent wisdom of the Bible,

Proverbs 12:17 Whoever speaksthe truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit

John 8:32 … the truth shall make you free

The pursuit of truth, or discovering that which has the most fidelity to reality, ultimately led me away from Christianity and convinced me of its mythological nature.  The same hunger for truth frustration me when, as a Christian, charlatans spoke false theology that directly contradicted the God of the bible.  I now understand that the nature of religion is one such that everyone has a conception of God that agrees with their views, and then proof-text to support their view. However, I was fairly certain that at least one thing could be agreed upon by almost all Christians:

Salvation and the love of God hinge on belief, not works.

This is the bedrock of the so-called “good news” of the gospel: that your actions don’t determine your salvation status, but the condition of your heart, and if you’re honestly trying to do what you believe is true, you’ll be saved.

Controversial Sign, Confused Message

Yesterday, the Christian Post reported on a sign in Portland, Oregon, that has been making waves in the Christian and Atheist community.  Many atheists are embracing and cheering its sentiment, as are more than a few Christians.  The sign first appeared on their Facebook page, and has now gone viral.  Its sentiment is simple: God prefers kind atheists over hateful Christians.

I hate this sign.  It is absolutely contrary to multiple warnings and positions espoused by the God of the bible.  I hate it for the same reason I hate other pastors which tell known falsehoods as truth.  These pastors are liars for Christ, who peddle falsehoods about the nature of reality, and of the god portrayed within the text of the bible, as truth, for the express purpose of gaining congregants or respect in an unrespectable, unteneble, intellectually bankrupt position of superstition as reality.

Shady Theology

On the church’s Facebook page,  Pastor Tate explains his theological underpinnings:

… if we complete the “list” of God’s “required beliefs” then God will love us. Or so the argument goes. This means that we can control whether or not God loves us.

Yes, that’s exactly how the bible portrays faith, belief, and salvation.  God makes people believe, and gives them faith.  Tate goes on to say he believes in “Amazing Grace” that values right actions over beliefs, but ignores the key lines of the song:

How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.

Grace isn’t contingent on being “nice” or “hateful,” and in fact, if warning against the dangers of sin and pushing towards righteousness are “hateful,” then Jesus was a hateful Christian.  The whole point of Christianity, of the Gospel is wrapped up in this: Sinners, despite works, are saved by belief. How ignorant must you be to not understand this idea? What God is he even talking about?

Who God Actually Prefers

As an atheist, God has quite a few words to say about me.  And they do not generally agree with the sentiment of the sign.  Generally when doing hermenutical study, if some idea is spoken to directly in scripture, that supersedes personal interpretation.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Psalm 14:1 To the choirmaster. Of David. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.

1 John 5:10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.

Revelation 21:8 … But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Dishonesty All Over Again

The above verses are what the god of the bible actually says about unbelievers.  Not that He “prefers” atheists over Christians, but that they will burn in the lake of fire.  Such fallacious cherry-picking on behalf of the pastor is ignorant stupidity at best, and deliberate misrepresentation at worst.

If you think that God is evil for preferring Westboro over Bill Gates and Todd Steifel, then lose the god.  I wish Christians would be honest that God is an evil being, who created a world for the purpose of punishing most of it, especially punishing those that value credible, reliable, falsifiable evidence over stories and feelings.  I’m guilty of the crime of valuing reliable evidence for discovering truth, and for that, God prefers a hateful Christian over me any day of the week.

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  • Chris Robison

    I think your point is an important one to make, but I think your sentiment about it is a bit excessively negative. Don’t *hate* this message, just point out that it’s misguided though clearly well-intended.

    If anything, we should at least acknowledge that it reveals far more about Pastor Tate’s inherent goodness of character than about Yahweh’s.

    • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

      In retrospect, I should have worded this differently. I love the message, but hate that you have to ignore multiple warnings and subvert mainline doctrine to get to it. Thanks for pointing this out!

  • Rick

    As a former Catholic, I’d like to disagree a bit with you. See, it’s no mystery that the Bible contradicts itself, and that many things in the New Testament contradict the Old, and even among themselves.

    Catholics did believe in salvation by Grace, but that works were still necessary. One of the strenghts of Catholic theology is that it’s self-consistent. If you want to take the Bible at face value like protestants do, however… then I completely agree with you.

    It all comes down to what the Bible is supposed to mean. As protestants have no Pope, they have to believe (they’ve got no other choice, they chose Luther’s path!) that the Bible was written by God and that they’ll be enlightened by reading it.

    Yes, it’s bullshit. I know. But if there is a loving God, then this loving God would *certainly* prefer kind atheists over hateful christians.

    But we could spend years and years debating over what God really supposed to say, like geeks keep debating about their Star Wars, and the midichlorians, and warp drive and all of that ficticious stuff, and it won’t mean anything, as the Bible really is a collection of fairy tales tied together with an empty theology.

    Your error is that you assumed that the Bible only has one possible interpretation. It doesn’t.

    Then again, you point about how evangelical Christians in particular interpret the Bible, is completely valid. The idea of a loving God hating nonbelievers is self-defeating, and it’s a wonderful weapon in showing the contradictions in Christianity.

  • Guest

    “I prefer kind atheists over hateful Christians.”
    If everyone said that, and meant it, we might get somewhere with all this.

  • Fil Correia

    hum…

  • Darrell

    I like to know why Atheist are upset? They dont believe in God anyways……so what difference does it make?

    • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

      Depending on the atheist, some like to help others get over the indoctrination and lies that exist in religion.

      God isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean people still aren’t hurt from religion.

  • Anonymous

    I think the pastor has good intentions, though. When I saw the sign—as an atheist—I already knew that their bible contradicted this theory. However, I would prefer Christians who accept kind atheists with open arms which is why I am not opposed to this message. If there were more Christians like Pastor Tate, atheists like me would not face so much condemnation.