Not All Christians Are Bigots

This shouldn’t come at much of a surprise. That being said, lately, it seems as though there are Christians acting not-so-Christian all around me: from my apologetics teacher to the girl I talked about last week. A lot of Christians that I meet and hear from are very closed-off when it comes to people who don’t agree with them. It’s people like them to keep me locked in the closet. In different posts before, I’ve talked about how I determine whether someone would react well if I come out to them and whether or not I’d be comfortable doing it.I had determined a while ago that if my atheism “came up” or was “relevant in conversation,” I’d come out to any professors or classmates. I don’t really care who or who doesn’t know I’m an atheist at school; if I lose a friend over it, then that’s their loss. I keep my atheism much more guarded around my family, because they’re more important to me than a couple of acquaintances that don’t know me that well in the first place.

A few weeks ago in one of my classes, we had an assignment of posting in an online discussion forum and responding to other students’ posts. As it was due at midnight on a Friday night, I actually forgot to do it at all, but my professor let me know that the submission time was extended through the next week. This is significant because I was the very last student to write in the forum, and almost no one else saw it.

The prompt was as follows: “Have you had an experience where you were able to bridge individual or group differences with someone with whom you didn’t think you had much in common? Can you share how you were able to move beyond seeing the other person as a category and started seeing him or her as an individual?” I took this as an instance when my atheism would be relevant to the conversation.

I posted in the abandoned class forum: “It can be hard at times to see past the labels on people and get to know the individual behind it. A lot of times, conflict can arise between different religious groups, or between religious and nonreligious, when they don’t see past their differences. To this day, I can find it baffling when people take the luxury to not look past a “category” and get to know the person behind it. I’ve found that I can’t afford this luxury, as no one I know falls under the same “category” as I do–the atheist category. When there’s not a soul in sight who shares my beliefs and values, I have no choice but to see past religious differences and get to know people on a one-to-one basis. Oftentimes, in order to get to this level, I avoid the topic of religion in order to minimize overt differences.

I suppose I could say all of my experiences are those in which I must bridge differences and focus instead on what we have in common, which could be anything from a passion for design or writing to finding a fellow introvert or band member. When it becomes a communication problem is when this courtesy is not returned to me. It can be easy to see someone with a minority view as an outsider and think of or treat them differently. It may become difficult to see them past this label at all. I find this to be a shame, because when two people fall under different categories, that’s when the connection begs to be had. That’s when there is a gap to be bridged. And missing that opportunity just because of a fear of differences is a great shame, because we have so much to learn from each other.

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I didn’t want the slight nausea I got from writing that forum post to go to waste. In the case that my teacher wouldn’t fully read each and every post from the class, I sent him an email to thank him for extending the deadline and to let him know that he might be interested in reading what I wrote. He quickly replied back to say that he thought it was very interesting indeed and that I should check the forum for his response. Here’s what my teacher had to say about me being an atheist:

“It’s always the “quiet ones” you have to look out for. Haven’t I said that a few times this week? You are blazing new trails at the College, [my name]. While I’m sure you’re not alone, it probably feels like you are. As you’re learning, the world is too rich and people are too valuable to dismiss. We have much to learn from and teach to each other. I appreciate you and respect you so much for sharing this post.”

I’m not one to ever get close with professors, so I was surprised to see this (as you can see, I’m pretty quiet in class). I’m amazed that the diversity I bring to my college can even be seen as a positive thing. I find it extremely refreshing to see a Christian professor be so accepting and appreciative of a vulnerable atheist student.

34 Replies to “Not All Christians Are Bigots”

  1. Yes, not all Christians are bigots, and I am glad that you acknowledge this. Some would not even care. So, this is not just a good post you have written, but an admirable one.

    I would not totally agree with RevTJ. While it may be correct to say that your professor is a “good human,” I see nothing wrong in calling him a “good Christian” as well.

    Christians come in all different stripes. Of course, you have the fundamentalists, of which you have much experience interacting with, and while they tend to be the most bigoted, some stick very close to their Christian notion of love. And then you have your more liberal Christians, who tend not to bigotry, but of who you will also find bigots mixed in. And finally, I will mention nonbelievers, who can also be bigoted. In other words bigotry holds to no one group of people.

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  2. I just wanted to give a very sincere and heartfelt apology on behalf of people who call themselves Christ followers but who don’t model their lives after His teachings and clearly don’t know Him.
    Christ taught that showing genuine kindness, gentleness, and LOVE should define every word, thought, and action of His followers. I am so sorry that we have failed miserably at revealing Him and Who He truly is.

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  3. I’m not so generous in complementing your professor as a “good Christian”. I find that the ability to be accepting and appreciative of others is more secular than anything else. So, I’ll say he is a “good human”.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. To be perfectly frank, if someone who claimed to be Christian didn’t respond as the good professor did, then in my view they are not Christian. Perhaps it’s the community I grew up in, but I cannot image living where alternative religious beliefs/non-beliefs where not accepted as normal.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Good article and good points. I have written a few articles on the subject of labels. If we could just look past the labels people put on one another and see the person behind them, I think we would be more understanding. It is hard to meet someone face-to-face, get to know them as a person and then be so hard-hearted and condemning. Thanks for this article that points this fact out.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. excellent points. Labels are useful in certain instances, but for the most part draping another person with a label that is confining and perjorative, and only serves to isolate you from ever learning about that person. You have made up your mind that X is a commie-pinko parrot head, and that is where the discussion ends. Kinda sad.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Well done on being willing to make yourself vulnerable by what you wrote.

    “To this day, I can find it baffling when people take the luxury to not look past a “category” and get to know the person behind it. I’ve found that I can’t afford this luxury, as no one I know falls under the same “category” as I do–the atheist category.”

    This reminds of something the anthropologist Clifford Geertz said: “We are all natives now, and everybody else not immediately one of us is an exotic. What looked once to be a matter of finding out whether savages could distinguish fact from fancy now looks to be a matter of finding out how others, across the sea or down the corridor, organize their significative world.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Having studied courses in sociology and anthropology, I am pleasantly surprised and delighted that you quoted Clifford Geertz, whose insights on, and contributions to, symbolic anthropology are invaluable. By the way, only social constructionism and symbolic interactionism are mentioned in my post at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-quotation-fallacy/, not symbolic anthropology.

      All in all, it is a particularly fine quotation here. Thank you. Whilst certain inequalities (cultural or otherwise) have been shrunk by technologies and mass communications, economic polarization has increased dramatically, leading to various endemic social, political and environmental issues.

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  7. That is a good example of a Christian who practices what he preaches. Something that’s becomeing rarer and rarer these days so that response is a genuinely suprising and welcome one. I also love where your post struck at, the important point that once we get past the labels and disagreements, we’re all humans in the end. Something most certainly worth respecting.
    Merry Christmas CA, hope it’s a good one for you. 🙂

    Liked by 8 people

  8. Yes, religion can have the tendency to make non-believers feel isolated and alone. This is of course part of the remit of the collective delusion, and manipulative nature, of those within it. I’m hoping you’ve seen my latest post, if not, I’ve taken the liberty of including it here: https://love-is-empowerment.com/2017/12/24/reality/

    I hope you enjoy the days off religious beliefs grant us. Even I can find a benefit, in delusional beliefs, of the masses. Be well. א

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m confident that line you LOVE, was written as a consequence of my courage to stand alone, against the poison of religious beliefs.

        When we acknowledge how religious leaders are leaching of our fears, we have good reason to become stronger, through learning individuality.

        We will always be exploited when we’re afraid. Many are fearful of reading truths. To exploit a human psychological weakness – the fear of being alone – does in fact mean all religious leaders are hypocrites to their beliefs, delusional or not.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. What your professor has done is what is expected of every Christian. You deserve respect because you are a human, a woman, a student, a strong and bold person. And these are just the things I have gleaned from your blog. What you believe about God does not change any of that. Have you ever noticed how the angels at Christ’s birth praised God by saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace to men of goodwill?” The peace is not given to Christians, but to men of goodwill. There are many non-Christians who fall into that category, and many Christians who fall outside of it.

    Liked by 8 people

      1. I really think if we christian people would live following the example of how Jesus lived, showing God’s love without condemnation, judgment and demanding everyone see things our way, we all would get along much better. If we see the human being rather than the label, accept each other in our differences and do what Jesus said to do, love God and love people there would be less arguing and more acceptance even when we disagree spiritually.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Hi Nan, unfortunately I have to agree with you. Most would rather condemn and separate rather than love all people with the love of God. I pray that would change. No one is going to agree with everyone, we are not going to have that nice flowery life with one another, but we should be able to respect one another and accept one another even in the differences.

            Liked by 2 people

  10. Wow, I wasn’t expecting that reply! I’m so happy for you. It feels good to slowly find the freedom to be who you are around others.
    As I have learned on my own journey, it’s often a surprise who will erase you from their life, and who will be open to hearing your perspective. Oddly, the best conversations I’ve had about my atheism (with no intentions to re-convert me) have been with my ex-pastor’s wife. Like you, I felt such a wave of relief when she extended me dignity and respected my opinions. It’s something we should all be granted, but the Christian community often withholds those inherent rights from others.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Re “I keep my atheism much more guarded around my family, because they’re more important to me than a couple of acquaintances that don’t know me that well in the first place.” The question is whether you are more important to them than their acquaintances..

    If you were to come out to your family and they shunned you, then loving you has a lower priority than what … how it would appear to their fellow congregants to have an atheist in the family? (Peer pressure is the primary mode of action in these cases.)

    Christians invented the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” but don’t seem to act upon that often.

    If you “need” your family, but fear they would shun you if you came out, then you really need to look at your need, because you will have put yourself in the position of placing your needs above all else with regard to your family.

    If they would shun you, how important are they? What is that importance based upon: financial support, love, … ? These are things to mull over. I strongly urge you to consider in great detail a number of possible future paths you could take before you consider coming out. If your family is supporting you financially and you wait until you are on your feet before telling them, I can almost guarantee they will feel used by you. There is also a path in which you do not tell them. If they believe their relationship with their god is personal, so should yours be. Nonetheless, when the do find out, there will be repercussions.

    I wish you the best!

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Yes, there are a lot of decent Christians. They are mostly liberal (or progressive) Christians. Most importantly, they are human first, and their Christianity is secondary to their humanity.

    A merry Christmas, everyone. Personally, I find it the most boring time of the year. Everything stops. Yes, there’s good Christmas music, but we get a heavy overdose at this time of the year. Oh, well, New Year’s day is a week later, and that brings things back to normal.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is actually one of our most liberal professors. He’s the faculty representation of the campus homosexual-equality club, so that’s pretty cool. It’s one of the ways I could tell he probably wouldn’t shun an atheist student.

      I think one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is Christmas Day, mostly because the end is in sight. Everything is on hold in December because of this madness.

      Liked by 3 people

  13. Nicely done, and quite surprising, that response, coming from a professor who teaches what seems to be a dreadfully narrow-minded course.

    Three thoughts. One, he really means what he says. That was not the kind of response I’d have expected from him.

    Two, He’s setting you up (sorry, the cynic in me is howling right now) for public “outing” either in class or elsewhere.

    and Three, he might not be as firmly, undeniably Christian as he lets on. He may have doubts of his own, which would account for his poor delivery on the class subnect matter.

    Either way, that was a nice surprise.

    Merry Christmas, and I surely hope your weather is friendlier than ours. Brrr.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They do usually have an angle in mind to get you back to the fold. My guess though if he’s actually done some reading is he is a surface Christian but below that he has to at least wonder if he’s not atheist

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think that he’s one of the Christians that has his own sense of right and wrong and molds his religion around it. Kind of weird, but I’ll take it.

      I wouldn’t mind an outing since if they wanted to, the class could have read my initial post if they wanted to. They just didn’t look because the assignment was over.

      Our weather is pretty cold but no snow on the ground right now! Maybe we will have a white Christmas, I hope.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I agree with judyt54’s three possibilities. Given the contents of this post, and knowing that some theologists or theologians eventually become atheists, we may indeed wonder whether the said professor himself could be a closet atheist, especially if revealing one’s true belief(s) could threaten one’s social standing and profession.

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