07 June 2022

Fake Christians?

A recent post at Atheist Revolution notes an annoying but common phenomenon:  Whenever a Christian says or does something hateful or obviously evil, other Christians -- and even some atheists -- rush to denounce him as a "fake Christian" (or some similar term) on the grounds that no true Christian would say or do such a thing.  This is, of course, a textbook case of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy, defending the purity of a favored identity or ideology by arbitrarily re-defining any bad manifestation of it as not being part of it.  As Atheist Revolution points out, however, it's absurd for non-Christians to play along.  Not only do we have no reason to help whitewash a religion we don't believe in, but the "fake Christian" denunciation is simply not valid in most real-world cases.

One can imagine a few cases where it probably would be valid -- no true Christian would explicitly worship Satan, for example -- but most situations where it's actually used are murky at best.  For one thing, in two thousand years Christians themselves have never been able to agree on what true Christianity is.  From the earliest reliable historical records about Christianity, we hear of disputes about various details of doctrine, with the adherents of the winning dogma defining rival views as "heresies".  There were even conflicts over which documents should or should not be included in the Bible.  Sectarian divisions soon arose, and Christians have fought innumerable bloody wars with each other over the correct way to worship a deity who supposedly told them to love their enemies.  A few centuries ago, one of the few things that Protestants and Catholics agreed on was the virtue of burning each other at the stake.  The number of sects has steadily metastasized, and even those that maintain administrative unity over a large population (notably the Catholic Church) are riven with disagreements, in many cases pitting European and northern-US liberals against African, Asian, and southern-US reactionaries.  Given the cacophony of squabbling among Christians about what real Christianity is, there can be no meaningful consensus about whom to denounce as fakes.

The most hateful elements do, at least, generally have the sacred texts on their side.  Torquemada, the Crusaders, the pope who condemned Galileo, etc certainly had a deeper knowledge of the Bible, and lived in a more Christian-centered culture, than the modern liberal Christians who repudiate them.  The Bible really does condemn homosexuality -- and most of the anti-gay stuff is in the New Testament, proclaimed by persons far closer in time, culture, and belief to Jesus than any modern Christian is.  The present-day moderates reject the most disgusting Biblical taboos on the basis of modern morality, insisting that a deity thousands of years ago must, deep down, have been in agreement with the moral values of college-educated early-21st-century American liberals, even if those values would have been literally unimaginable to any of the people who wrote the texts of the Bible.  It is bizarre indeed that they denounce the modern fundamentalists, who do still uphold most of the taboos, as "fake Christians".

The Bible itself does contain some humane material, of course, mostly in the cited words of Jesus -- but one has to take this in context.  The modern liberal claim that Jesus's mission superseded or abrogated the Old Testament's intricate labyrinth of barbaric taboos is specifically refuted by Jesus himself in Matthew 5:17-19, and can only be salvaged by dishonest verbal sophistry.  Jesus is never quoted as explicitly rejecting or questioning the Old Testament's taboo on homosexuality, nor its endorsement of slavery, despite living in a time and place where slavery was common.  Moreover, as noted above, devout Christians have been studying the Bible from late Roman times down to the present, and until very recently, virtually none of them ever imagined that the teachings of Jesus somehow abrogated the condemnations of homosexuality, declarations of the subordinate status of women, etc which litter the pages of the Bible.  Only with the advent of modern changes in the secular moral view of such matters did a few Christians start to claim that God or Jesus anticipated and agreed with those modern views but oddly forgot to mention it, or mentioned it in such an obscure and indirect fashion that none of those generations of scholars noticed it until now.

So, sorry guys, but you're gonna have to own Fred Phelps and Jack Chick and Pat Robertson and all the rest of them.  You can say they're fake Christians, and they can say you are, and they're the ones who have most of the Bible and tradition backing them up.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

This kind of encapsulates my feelings towards the xtianists:
"For one thing, in two thousand years Christians themselves have never been able to agree on what true Christianity is."
So there. Also, infighting is fun.


07 June, 2022 08:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or at least meme them. Like that Chick tract with the Pharisees telling Jesus to shut up, and now we just make it another one on the "uncomfortable truths" meme list.

But since I'm a nice guy, I'll give liberals an out. The Old Testament is full of people arguing with God, and God often takes a stance we would consider morally repugnant, including supporting genocide. In Exodus, God actually uses mind control to keep Pharaoh saying no to emancipating the Jews so he can show off ten other powers.

God is at best the original 1990s comic book antihero.

07 June, 2022 08:50  
Blogger dellgirl said...

This is very interesting. I gathered some insight into the topic from reading your point of view. Thanks for sharing your POV. I have nothing helpful to add, just letting you know I stopped by.

Wishing you well, my friend.

07 June, 2022 09:32  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

The booble is total B.S. and anyone who uses it as an excuse for anything is a booblehead.

07 June, 2022 10:31  
Blogger Bruce Gerencser said...

I like to point out the only difference between the late Fred Phelps of Westboro fame and Al Mohler, the SBC luminary, are their personalities. They have similar theological Mandel social beliefs. Both are Calvinists. Yet, Evangelicals distance themselves from Phelps, saying he’s not a true Christian. That doesn’t fly with me.

07 June, 2022 13:28  
Blogger Mary said...

Basically the hateful preachy fundamentalist Christians are the real Christians and not fake. It’s the moderate or liberal Christians who are the fake ones, in that real Christianity is cruel, mean, judgmental, violent and dangerous. I couldn’t agree more.

07 June, 2022 16:58  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

all reasons that I'm a pagan.

07 June, 2022 17:44  
Blogger Daal said...

good to know - yet another thing we can a sort of back-of-the-mind have an inkling of, but needs a spotlight shone on

07 June, 2022 21:08  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: If only they kept it among themselves.....

Anon: The pharaoh thing is weird. God keeps trashing the whole country to coerce the pharaoh into releasing the Hebrews, while at the same time making him double down on saying no. If there's a comic-book character with morals that shitty, I haven't run across him.

Dellgirl: Thanks for visiting and reading!

Ricko: I always think of it as the Wholly Babble.....

Bruce: To me, Phelps's beliefs never seemed unusual for a fundie. He was just more rude and in everybody's face about it. One could even argue he was being more honest.

Mary: Unfortunately that's about the size of it. Hard to seriously argue that after 2,000 years of Christianity, only the last couple of generations have figured out how to do it right and everyone before them was wrong.

Granny: It does generally seem like a more appealing alternative, with a few exceptions (Aztecs, Moloch, and the like).

Daal: It's always necessary to have an accurate understanding of what's going on, even if we don't like it.

08 June, 2022 02:20  
Blogger Jack said...

Thanks for the mention. I thought the comment you left was a great one and was hoping you might expand it into a post. It does seem like the fundamentalists often have the bulk of their bible on their side. They can find many passages that seem to support their misguided views. That makes it harder to argue that they are the "fake" ones.

08 June, 2022 03:47  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jack: Thanks for your original post, for giving me the idea for this.

Strictly speaking, "fundamentalism" means taking the whole Bible as literally true, so the fact that fundamentalism usually ends up being cruel and authoritarian tells us something about what the Bible is like. If it were a humane and pluralistic book, then fundamentalism would be humane and pluralistic.

08 June, 2022 06:52  
Anonymous NickM said...

I do see where you're coming from over Phelps but I'm not sure.

Yes, "God hates fags" is in some ways a more honest slogan than some of the bizarre work-arounds more "liberal" Christians have such as the farcical idea that it's OK to be gay as long as you are celibate.

But there are certain issues with Phelps such as his law career in which he worked for the likes of the ACLU.

Moreover at a philosophical level he was a hyper Calvinist which meant a belief in pre-destination which is very hard to logically with the visceral hatred he believed God felt towards, well not just homosexuals, but almost everyone. How can God hate a part of His supreme plan? And Phelps wasn't dim - he graduated from high school in the top 3% of his year. This absolute paradox must have occurred to him.

There is also the testimony of the BBC's Louis Theroux. Theroux interviewed Phelps (and clan) extensively and came to the conclusion Phelps just loved conflict. If this is true (and I have always thought Theroux was a pretty straight arrow) then Phelps was not so much being honest as being a cantankerous old git for the sheer Hell of it.

Phelps managed to make enemies everywhere and relish it. He managed to unite in condemning him groups as disparate as The Republican Party, the NAACP, gay rights groups, Jews, veterans groups, Southern Baptists and the Hell's Angels. That is a very short line-up, I mean he once damned all of Australia! To put it bluntly you'd need quite a large HD to store Phelp's "enemies list". I suppose, in a sense, it's a perverted achievement to hate everyone. Towards the very end of his terrible puff he even managed to get himself excommunicated from Westboro Baptist Church which he had founded. Wow! He was a piece of work driven by utter rage against basically all of humanity.

I hope we shall not see his like again. Truly a piece of work.

Is it logically possible to take the Bible as entirely literally true? Some parts contradict other parts. That has to be reconciled and I fail to see how it can be. I'm not talking about geology and fossils or how Noah got the largest zoo ever onto a wooden boat. But internal consistency. It seems to me that the only way any of this could be "true" is to get very metaphorical. Which means I might as well base my beliefs on Lord of the Rings or Star Trek or Paddington Bear.

08 June, 2022 11:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, Phelps's professed beliefs, then. I assume religionists of all stripes include some individuals whose stated views are partly a pose.

Muslims have various word-games to supposedly reconcile predestination with individual responsibility for sin. I assume Calvinists do as well, insofar as the general intellectual impoverishment of Protestantism allows for it.

Of course the contradictions in the Bible make it impossible to accept every detail as literally true, but that's what fundamentalism means, regardless of whether it's possible in the real world or not. We have words for lots of things that aren't congruent with objective reality. And fundamentalists certainly believe it's possible, however many fudges they need to make to deal with awkward cases.

Are you saying you don't accept Lord of the Rings as sacred truth? Heretic! :-)

09 June, 2022 00:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now thinking about Marville: Join Kal-AOL, son of Ted Turner, as he travels through time and learns God is Superman, dinosaurs were Jewish, and Adam is Wolverine. And it's all an ad for Marvel's new Epic Comics imprint...which didn't last. I think they were aiming for something like Vertigo?

And somehow no Marv Wolfman references, though he loved Christ symbolism in the 80s.

09 June, 2022 08:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean, you can't punish the wicked if you're the one who made them so and still call yourself benevolent.

09 June, 2022 08:56  
Blogger Jack said...

Great point about fundamentalism! After reading that book, I didn't come away thinking that this religion was primarily about love of any sort.

12 June, 2022 05:04  

Post a Comment

<< Home