Atheist Advice From a Christian Mother

This is a guest post by Jon Darby. In his own words: Jon Darby is an atheist author who has been comparatively studying world religions—Biblical lore in particular—since 2004. He is ordained through Universal Life Church in Modesto, California and has received a degree in Biblical Studies from Victory Bible Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He takes neither seriously.

In his spare time, Jon pursues his passion of blues guitar. He desperately hopes his eschatological beliefs are incorrect so that he may one day meet Stevie Ray Vaughan.

motherly adviceMy mom had a saying: “When the words and the actions don’t match, watch the actions.”

I remember hearing that many times while I was growing up, usually after I had done something incredibly stupid (which was not a few times). I could say I was sorry; I could say that I would never do it again. I said the words, but the actions didn’t match. Instead, my repeated antics belied the sincerity of my halfhearted apologies.

Later in life, I heard this adage as my mom consoled me through the heartaches of youth. How do you make sense of the disconnect between “She says she loves me” and “she’s nailing my friends“? When the words and the actions don’t match, watch the actions.

Moms are a wellspring of wisdom like that! 🙂

I thought of my mom’s old saying the other day as I was listening to a Christian apologist. Though I hadn’t ever thought about it this way previously, I’ve been approaching Christianity from that old standpoint of “When the words and the actions don’t match…”

“God is loving and merciful.”
…yet, I see so much senseless suffering in the world.
“God will keep believers from all harm.”
…yet, statistically believers don’t have any fewer misfortunes than unbelievers.
“Pray to God, and he will heal your infirmities.”
…yet, the statistical probability of prayer working is the exact same as chance.
“You can’t have morals without God.”
…yet, studies show that there is a lower percentage of atheists in prison compared to the rest of society.
“You can’t show love and compassion without God.”
…yet, atheists have spearheaded countless humanitarian efforts, disaster relief efforts, and charitable fundraisers.

Christians, however, seem to take the opposite approach:

There is so much senseless suffering in the world.
“…yet, we know that God is still loving and merciful.”
Statistically, believers don’t have any fewer misfortunes than unbelievers.
“…yet, God will keep believers from all harm.”
The statistical probability of prayer working is the exact same as chance.
“…yet, if you pray to God, he will heal your infirmities.”
Studies show that there is a lower percentage of atheists in prison compared to the rest of society.
“…yet, you can’t have morals without God.”
Atheists have spearheaded countless humanitarian efforts, disaster relief efforts, and charitable fundraisers.
“…yet, you can’t show love and compassion without God.”

I’m sure most Christians would probably agree with my mom’s saying in principle–just not when it comes to God. To reflect Christian thought, my mom’s adage would need to be appended with “But when we’re talking about God, we know the words are right no matter how we interpret the actions.

When the words and the actions don’t match, the Christian presumes the validity of God’s word and reconciles the actions as best as possible.

I understand where Christians are coming from on this, but I just can’t make myself think that way. Personally, I can’t get past the idea that if the words and actions don’t match, maybe the words aren’t a good reflection of what God is. Or maybe… just maybe… he’s not ever really there at all.

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30 Comments

  1. That’s one of the major issues I have with religious belief myself. In order for you to stay in faith, you have to reinterpret (or misinterpret if you will) reality all he time to make it fit with the world around you.
    You can say that God is love and that He will answer your prayers but when you just don’t see it happening around you, I think sooner or later you will have to arrive at the conclusion that your belief is not in correspondence with the world and therefore not real.
    At least, that would be an intellectually honest approach.

    Good post and good advice from mom!

  2. Pingback: Atheist Advice From a Christian Mother - The Heathen's Guide

  3. Thank you for this post…it resonated strongly with me today. So many promises made by the deity, and still so much suffering. Pointless promises are what kept me captive for a loooooong time in religion. No more.

    Then there was that comment about how “she loved you but was nailing your friends”…egads, that made me cringe for you. Indeed, actions are more important than words!

  4. Wow! One of the best blogs I’ve ever visited. I shall read more as and when time permits. I too am an atheist and it feels good to have found you (it’s a very uncommon thing at my place and people really get very nosy and make me feel terrible about it, but I still stick to my point). I have similar thoughts. A very great post, wonderfully written.
    Best wishes and regards. 😀

  5. Pingback: Atheist Advice From a Christian Mother - The Gospel According to Jon

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