"Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion" --- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2125
Recently, I had a conversation with a person who considers himself an atheist. He was telling me about a bad experience he'd had with a relative who considers herself a Christian. The encounter left him so shaken that he said to me: "If this is what Christians are like, then I want no part of them." While his may be an unfair generalization, it is undeniably true that the bad behavior of some Christians is damaging to the faith. Christians could learn a lot by listening to what atheists have to say about them.
Many nonbelievers are wrongly judging our God by our actions, words, and deeds – and when they see some Christians behaving very badly in their marriages, in their work places, and in their social environments, they will shy away from checking what our faith is really all about. --Michael Bradley, Bible Knowledge.com
Badly behaving Christians often steal the spotlight from the majority of Christians who are true to the faith and diligently follow Christ's example. Unfortunately, perception is often more important than reality to the extent that the actions of a few can have a direct bearing on how Christians are perceived, positively or negatively; and by association, how God is perceived. It only takes being hurt one time by a badly behaving Christian to turn a person away from religion. No doubt some atheists have been hurt by Christians; and so have some Christians who became atheists because of church hurt.
Christians need to start behaving better. There’s so much misinformation about Christians from non-believers in the media, entertainment industry, etc, that we’ll never be able to combat it. But we can STOP feeding their perceptions with some of our ugly behavior. If we truly want to impact the culture for Christ than we need to start acting like disciples and stop acting like Pharisees. We need to point people – through our word and deeds – to a risen Savior --Author Bill Renje
On his blog, What do Atheists think of Christians, Renje posed this question to atheists: "If Christians would listen, what would you say to them?" Typical among the responses from atheists were that Christians...
- are hypocritical
- are judgmental
- are narrow-minded
- have been brainwashed into believing something that makes
them intolerant and hateful
- have not read the Bible
- think that moral behavior is impossible without
belief in God
- hold modern beliefs which aren’t Christ-like
- tell others how to live their lives
- limit their understanding of the whole
wide universe to the Bible
- think that atheists are ignorant, angry or abused
- fear atheists
Without admitting that I know any Christians who are like this, it goes without saying that if even one of these characterizations is true of anyone who calls himself a Christian that person is a detriment to the faith and the cause of Christ. Instead of becoming defensive, Renje suggests Christians do some soul searching. Ask yourself, "Am I like this? And if so, "What needs to change in the way I treat people to repair this perception?"
As Christians, we must examine ourselves daily to make sure our walk fits our talk. We can't go around professing to love Jesus and, at the same time, mistreat other people because they don't believe as we do. That's what hypocrites do. It gives atheists another reason to point the finger at us. I'm not saying that they're right, but it's what people in this society tend to do ---that is, ascribe the behavior of one or a few individuals to an entire group. It cuts both ways. Perhaps, I should add "prejudiced" to the list of complaints against Christians?
Naturally, I'm exaggerating a bit but here's my point --- if you're a Christian who is giving a bad name to the faith, clean up your act or face eternal consequences down the road. Finally, Christian, be true to who you are. You were called to be a follower and an imitator of Christ. Mind how you represent Him. Christ gave us the greatest gift known to man --- love. That's what the world needs to see in us, even if they don't yet believe in Him.