John Loftus, the affable hat-wearing atheist who loves to poke quasi-informed fun at Christians, posted this on Facebook yesterday:
Except for extremely rare circumstance I don’t go to church. For one thing, I don’t need to be reminded to be good. For another, I find a deity who commands people to worship him egocentric, regardless of whether he deserves it or not. For yet another reason, I can get more things done by actually doing something rather than by praying. Then too, I can do better with my money than by giving it to the church. Furthermore, I can forgive others without any help from a deity who refuses to forgive until he first punishes someone and who demands we beg forgiveness from him. I can forgive people who never asked for forgiveness.
What about you? Why don’t you go to church? If you do go to church, why?
Why go to church?
I go to church to learn about God, to worship him, to help others learn about and worship him, to enjoy friendship, to find opportunities to give and to serve, and to be encouraged in doing the sometimes-challenging work of becoming a better person. There’s also Heb. 10:24-25.
In short, I go to church so I can enjoy life more and live it better in relationship with God and with others.
Why not go to church?
What about John? I say he’s “quasi-informed” because he has read enough to know better.
- The love of God is such a high and noble standard, and human moral entropy is so powerful, we all need to be reminded to stay in its pursuit. We needed to be “reminded to do good.”
- But church attendance is more than a reminder for doing good, it provides significant social support in doing good. Arthur C. Brooks shows in a detailed sociological study, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism — America’s Charity Divide–Who Gives, Who Do, that religious people do more good than non-religious people.
- John has no idea what “egocentric” means in the case of a deity. Sure, egocentrism is unseemly and wrong in humans because. That’s because of who we are as humans. By what principle does he extend that to God? Should the one Creator of the universe, the one eternal being, the one who alone is the founding truth of all reality treat his own self-image with the same “Really, we’re all equal around here anyway” humility that humans should treat theirs? His complaint here rests on a silly and irrational equivalence between God and God’s creation.
- If God is truly God and worthy of our worship, then not to worship him is to fail to recognize deep, good, and important truths about eternal reality. It’s not egocentrism for God to want us to know what is true. (More on that here.)
- John is judging God in these things as if he had the right to do so. That’s only true if there is no God. He’s assuming there is no God, which in this context at least is miserably irrational question-begging.
- Likewise, John can get more done without taking time to pray, only if there is no God who answers prayer. I’ve found I get more done when I pray as well as act. I also enjoy life more through taking part in living fellowship with the God who loves me.
- John thinks he can do better with his money than by giving it to the church. Apparently (see Brooks) he doesn’t realize he could do more good in his community with his money by giving it through the church than he could through almost any other vehicle.
- John can forgive people without going to church. Sure. I don’t go to church to forgive people.
- God doesn’t demand we beg forgiveness, but that we ask. It’s only natural even in human relationships to ask forgiveness when we’ve wronged others. It shows a recognition of reality: that what we’ve done is wrong and hurtful. Why is it wrong for God to ask us to acknowledge reality?
- God is quick to forgive when we do that. Again, there’s no begging required.
- The punishment to which John refers is God’s deep answer to the question, “How is it possible to forgive and let people off the hook without violating perfect justice?” The full answer in the Bible (the book or Romans) occupies several pages of very tight reasoning. John knows about that answer. He thinks it’s silly. I can’t stop him from thinking so, but I can sure point out that his version of it here is distorted and tendentious. I can ask him, too, to treat it with the respect of not distorting it in front of others who might be fooled into thinking he’s presenting it accurately.
- John can forgive people who have never asked for forgiveness, but which people, committing what kind of wrongs against him, and with what perfection of pure justice? God forgave his enemies (Romans 5:1-8), and he did it without violating justice. It’s hardly too much for him to expect people to request forgiveness, as their end of that transaction! It’s almost as if he thinks God is a lesser being for asking that of us. How strange!
What we have here, then, as usual from Loftus, is a sadly distorted screed. I still pray for him. He will say that is “getting nothing done.” But I’ve seen more than one atheist converted, quite amazingly in some cases. And John is heading toward terrible danger if he insists on judging God as he does here.
So I will pray.
Image Credit(s): Public Domain.