Marketing Christianity and Atheism

This post from Internet Monk is generating some good conversation around the blogosphere.  iMonk dissects a very funny interview with Ricky Gervais to show that in regards to the “competition” between atheism and Christianity in the West, particularly, in America, the game has changed entirely, and evangelicals are still playing as if this were the 70’s.  Evangelicals like William Lane Craig and other similarly brilliant types are trying to score points through debates, as if the real thing pulling teenagers away from the church was that, after reading six or seven books on either side of the argument and carefully studying a number of televised debates, they each decided that atheism was, in fact, the more rational choice and that to continue attending church would be intellectually dishonest.


You see, evangelicals have made such outrageous assumptions and promises about happiness, healing, everything working out, knowing God, answered prayer, loving one another and so on that proving us to be liars isn’t even a real job. It’s just a matter of tuning in to an increasing number of voices who say “It’s OK to not believe. Give yourself a break. Stop tormenting yourself trying to believe. Stop propping up your belief with more and more complex arguments. Just let go of God.”

You can send an army against an army. What do you send against a group saying “None of this has any point. Give it up and go have a coke.”

One thing I would add is that atheists have a considerable advantage in that what they preach is largely what they practice.  “Give it up and go have a coke” may not be an especially profound or compelling message, but for all appearances most atheists seem to be happy, well-adjusted people (with maybe a bit of a chip on their shoulder for organized religion) who lead normal, fulfilling lives.  They say, “give yourself a break,” and give themselves plenty of breaks.  Their behavior, in short, is consistent with their message.  That’s attractive.

Not so with Christians.  “Jesus came that you might have life,” we say, “and have it to the full.”  “Accept Jesus into your heart and you’ll never have to worry about a thing.”  But of course, for all appearances most Christians worry about plenty of things—401(k)s, mortgages, insurance payments, the Jehovah’s Witnesses moving in next door.  And most of us don’t lead lives that are any “fuller” than anyone else’s.  To use a marketing metaphor, we advertise that our product is the best on the market, getting results far superior to our competitors’, yet in the end we end up about the same.

Both products get you the same results: why spring for the pricier name brand when the generic stuff works just fine?

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3 Responses to Marketing Christianity and Atheism

  1. fastthumbs says:

    IMonk wrote a very interesting article. It’s always refreshing to see Christians (or any religion for that matter) honestly try to access their shortcomings.

    However, I only think he partially got it right – There is certainly a relief and “lifting” of burden from ones shoulders when one realizes that one isn’t going to be “struck” dead for questioning religious authoriity and beliefs about the existance of God/Jesus/Allah/Vishnu/Zeus/etc. The feeling of being emotionally and intellectually honest is wonderful once one let’s go of all the mystism and worry of preparing for an afterlife (or reincarnation into a worm, etc.)

    However, it is far from being “lazy” since it takes effort and courage to critically examine one’s worldview and then go against the flow of society, friends and family. Many atheists then have to face ridicule, judgment and hatred everyday from their family, community and co-workers just because they have “doubts” about God and the religious authorities. The “lazy” way would be to hide this and PRETEND to still believe…

    • urbanfall says:

      Hey fastthumbs,

      I’d agree with you that iMonk might be a bit biased. Changing one’s religious convictions—one’s whole worldview, really—takes a lot of courage and will guarantee you some heat from people who disagree: that’s a two-way street. It’s also sad that Christians end up looking down on those whose leave instead of asking themselves if the Church might have actually had something to do with it.

      Kudos to iMonk, however, for noting that much of “the coming evangelical collapse” will actually be deserved.

      I feel weird saying that as a Christian. But it’s true. I hope to blog more about this later.

  2. Andrew says:

    yeah, I really have to agree with fastthumbs on the analysis. To be sure, iMonk has had a history of looking at things pretty candidly, but he is religious, so I understand he does have to root for the home team.

    I’m thinking though…when WLC and others try to make all these arguments and then conclude when they “win” that the “rational choice” is to remain religious or to become atheist (not saying the arguments are flawless, there are several written or online refutations of WLC’s arguments…just WLC is a GREAT speaker and speaking is loads above writing), they make a misstep in “rationality” that some atheists have made.

    Quite simply, humans aren’t *quite* rational beings. We aren’t Vulcans (even though Spock was half human, he fits the purpose here). So, “rationality” SHOULD include subjective experience or else it is dead and inadequate. So, sometimes (if one has faith and spiritual experience), it is rational to be religious. Other times (lacking these experiences), it is rational not. One can’t just look at the sterile aspects of an argument, a theodicy, an apologetic text, and say, “This is rational” or “This is not.”

    This is usually a fault that atheists make. Atheists sometimes want to put out reason 1, 2, 3, and 8c about why religion doesn’t make sense “rationally,” but they miss the subjective components, and their entire argument suffers as a result. This is Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett’s fault.

    But now, more religions *are* alienating on the subjective side of things. Things just don’t make sense. They don’t feel right. They feel empty. etc., It’s not laziness to confront this emptiness and shed the baggage.

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