Riker's Mailbox

Monday, October 01, 2007


This one goes out to all the good Christian people out there who mistakenly believe atheism is nihilism.

It's not just a rhetorical question I'm about to ask you, it's an entire rhetorical quiz*.

The Rhetorical Quiz

1. What is the first word that would come to mind if you were asked to describe someone who believes in the following?

Helping others in need

Treating others as he would wish to be treated

Making personal sacrifices for the benefit of others

Honoring and respecting elders

Believing in the 'good' in people

Remaining humble

Practicing honesty

Loving unconditionally

Championing against the immoral and oppressive

I know that you're expecting to be tricked, but honestly pretending that you weren't... would you have been compelled to say 'Christian'?

Well, the fact is, I left one item off the bottom of that list. If that last item was "Believing that the character of Jesus Christ was the son of God and died for our sins," then and only then would you be correct in describing him as Christian.

Well, the fact of the matter is, I was describing myself. The last item that I left off the list was "Does not believe in the existence of the supernatural."

Lo and behold, I do not believe in the existence of any gods, and I still try my best to be a good person.

I brought this all up for two reasons: first, to disambiguate the term 'atheist' (or at least differentiate it from the word 'nihilist'), and second, to address the concept of 'Christian virtues.'

Every time I hear someone refer to certain qualities as Christian virtues, it gets my dander up. If you don't understand why, I suggest you find a rock n' roll aficionado and tell them that 'All Along the Watchtower' was the best song Jimi Hendrix ever wrote. Watch their reaction.

You see, 'Christian virtues' is a misnomer. Christianity did not author those concepts. They are not Christian virtues... they are virtues. Every moral** instruction espoused by Christianity preexisted in prebiblical culture. Not only that; people of all backgrounds can accept them. Even people that don't believe in any gods.

The items on that list are all things I believe in. And yet if I add to the bottom of that list "Does not believe in the existence of the supernatural," all I'm viewed as is "atheist!" It's a perfect example of the prejudice that this society is laced with that it bothers you to hear the idea that 'atheist' and 'virtuous person of high moral character' are not mutually exclusive.

* - Okay, so it was still just one question, but didn't it feel big enough to constitute being called a quiz?
** - I don't mean every instruction that's identified as moral... I mean every instruction that actually IS moral. There aren't that many.


  1. Dead on Riker! Great post. And on the flip side, there are plenty of "good Christians," past and present, who have been utterly inhumane monsters.

    Being Christian doesn't make you a good person. And being a good person most certainly doesn't require one be Christian.

  2. sexy iggy - thanks for stopping by!

    That's inhumanity is what drives me to actively work toward a shift in global mentality away from religion.

    By the way, lots of interesting articles at your site!