Let Me Ask You A Question

I generally consider myself to be a good person, and most people who know me feel the same way. Some of those people who aren’t as close to me as my immediate family and my closest friends are shocked when they find out I’m a Satanist (never mind that I don’t actually hide it). Since their worldview usually equates goodness with adherence to their religion, they usually assume I’m Christian like they are. It tends to turn their world upside down when they find out I’m not. “But you’re such a good person!” they cry, as if it’s impossible to be one without being Christian.

I usually find this explosive reaction amusing; it tends to be short-lived, and if the person I’m interacting with is someone I like, we can both laugh about it. Sometimes though, they don’t let it go. One thing I like to ask to shut them up is: “If Christianity is so good, why do so many people do terrible things in its name?”

This question stumps a lot of people. I usually get a variation of one of two answers: “Oh, they’re not real Christians,” or “You’re going to find bad people everywhere, no matter what religion you look at.” The first answer doesn’t bother me too much; it’s bullshit, but it was one I had used myself when trying to justify my own adherence to the religion when I saw how people were using it to hurt others. The second answer, on the other hand, pisses me off to no end.

This was something my parents, teachers, and preachers always said to me whenever I had questions, especially when those questions concerned horrible things done in the name of Christianity. As an example, when I was around 9 years old, Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. I didn’t understand why at the time, and living in conservative Texas and being too young to really care much beyond my limited scope of the world, the killing didn’t even register on my radar until Westboro Baptist Church showed up at the funeral and made an ugly scene.

They were all over the news, with their hateful, hand-painted signs that read “God Hates Fags” and quote scripture that no one in my church paid attention to or preached about. It was completely incomprehensible to 9-year-old me; a man had died, in a horribly gruesome way, and these people were mad as hell – not that the man was brutally murdered, but that he had existed and was loved in the first place. I asked my mom how anyone calling themselves Christian could say that about another person. The only answer she had for me was that, “Bad people are going to do bad things whether they are Christians or not.”

Technically, that was a true statement, and at 9 years old, I knew it. I couldn’t argue with it, so it derailed any further conversation, which allowed my mom to change the channel away from the news. But it didn’t answer my question. In fact, I got that same general answer so many times from so many authority figures in my life that I respected, that I stopped going to them when I had similar questions.

In my opinion, that’s what that answer is designed to do, whether the person giving that answer realizes it or not – it’s meant to discourage further difficult questions. Maybe the person answering gave that answer because they’re afraid of looking too deeply at the truth, but I think it’s a little more sinister than that. Consider how important faith is in Christianity. It is essential to the religion. By its very nature, questions are generally discouraged because to question the church is to question God, and good Christians don’t question God – they have faith in Him. This of course makes it very easy for abusers and people with control issues to quickly gain power they have no business wielding, and it explains why Christianity and anti-intellectualism seem to go hand-in-hand.

The question I was really asking my mom when I saw Westboro Baptist Church harassing Matthew Shepard’s friends and family wasn’t, “Why do bad people do bad things?” The question I was really asking was, “If Christianity is supposed to be this paragon of goodness, why do we as Christians tolerate people doing bad things in its name?” I’ve asked this question many times throughout my life, and I’ve never gotten an honest answer. I probably never will – people would have to admit to being complicit in the bad things bad people do, and that would mean shattering their delusions about themselves. Since no one will answer this question in any meaningful manner, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that there is something inherently wrong with Christianity that inspires people to act this way.

As far as I’m concerned, any institution that discourages questions, especially difficult ones, is an institution to be wary of. Never let anyone make you feel ashamed for asking questions, and never shame anyone else for asking questions you’re afraid to ask yourself. Always remember that vague answers are meant to control you. Don’t let people control you. Keep asking questions.

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