Non-Christians (particularly atheists) have valid criticisms of the Christianity practiced by Catholics and Protestants today. Let us take a look at some of them and try to find the truth.
Criticism: Christians cause division.
It is true. There are over 40,000 Christian denominations in the world as of 2020.
In reality, humans of all stripes cause division. This is not something exclusive to those who embrace the Bible or Christian religion, regardless of denomination. However, this is no excuse. Christians should operate under a higher standard.
Answer: The God of the Bible prescribes unity.
Nowhere does the God of the Bible tell His children to harm or kill those who do not believe or who believe differently.
God prescribes a unity of believers:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.John 17:20-23
God advocates for preaching the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and leaving others free to decide. There is not to be any coercion by threats or force to get others to accept and/or obey the God of the Bible.
And if a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.Luke 9:5 (NLT)
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy…Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)
Criticism: Christians hate people who do not follow God.
You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.Anne Lamott
Answer: The God of the Bible prescribes love for all.
And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.1 Thessalonians 3:12 (NLT), and many others…
If a person does not love his neighbor as himself, he is not a follower of the God of the Bible.
Criticism: Christianity is not required to be a good person.
I left religion and started lying, cheating, robbing, and murdering.
Oh, wait. Nope. I didn’t.Anonymous
Answer: The God of the Bible doesn’t want to change your behavior. He wants to change your heart.
The obvious question is, What is a “good” person? If it is a person who can behave properly when not under duress, then most people can meet that standard. We generally do not mistreat those who treat us how we like to be treated.
But the Bible does not stop there. The Bible defines a “good” person as someone who would sacrifice something of themselves for another person, even if that person is their enemy. This is contrary to the dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest philosophy of the secular world, and is even viewed as irrational and stupid.
It is in the face of significant stress when character is revealed, and when it comes down to it, if it is a matter of your life or someone else’s, those who remain selfish will choose themselves over others.
Selfish people kill to save themselves.
Good people sacrifice to save others.
The God of the Bible died to save all humanity, even when that humanity put Him on a cross and killed Him.
This criticism is based on a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Christian life. It is not to change your behavior. It is to change your heart.
Criticism: Christians kill those who reject Christianity.
The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers.Denis Diderot
When you hold a belief so tightly that you cannot see another’s humanity, it will eventually obscure your own.Brian Peck
Answer: The God of the Bible promotes peace among all. Every human being is loved by God.
The God of the Bible has strong words for those who tell lies or perpetrate violence in His name:
For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.John 8:44 (NLT)
For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me.John 16:2, 3 (NLT)
The parable of the Samaritan shows us that God values one who chooses to love others, regardless of their belief system.
Criticism: The life of a Christian is one of miserable slavery.
Life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually true. There may be people who wish to live their lives under cradle-to-grave divine supervision, a permanent surveillance and monitoring, but I cannot imagine anything more horrible or grotesque.Christopher Hitchens
Answer: The God of the Bible desires all to achieve a loving self-control.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.Galatians 5:22, 23 (NLT)
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.Titus 2:2 (NIV)
God is not an overbearing dictator. He does not have a secret police watching your every move. He is a loving Father or Best Friend, walking with you if you wish, leaving you alone if you wish.
He does not control or enslave anyone. He offers healing for your fear and selfishness so that you are enabled to live a life of love without constant hand-holding.
Criticism: Christians are good because they are afraid of God.
Fear is the microwavable version of respect. It’s not as good, but it’s a lot faster.
Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward or to avoid His disapproval and punishment?
That’s not morality. That’s just sucking up, apple-polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base thought.Richard Dawkins
Answer: God desires to have a loving relationship with every human being.
It is true that the modern version of Christianity teaches a God to be feared. Most Christians distort the teachings of the Bible and claim that God demands to be feared. This is a misunderstanding of the text. God does not desire to be feared. He desires to be seen as He truly is, Love, which would provoke a relationship borne out of love.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.Psalm 34:8 (NIV, et. al.)
Modern Christianity teaches that God threatens to kill you if you do not love Him back. This is also a distortion of the character of God.
Look at it this way: You are sick with a fatal disease. God is a loving Father or Best Friend, and He wants to heal you so you can live forever in paradise. If you refuse the Remedy, you will die. He will not kill you because He won’t have to.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23 (NLT)
These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.James 1:15 (NLT)
God has the Remedy to heal you of your deadly disease. He will not force it upon you. He offers it freely to you, because He loves you.
Criticism: Christians hope and pray for non-believers to suffer eternally.
Well, to the people who pray for me to not only have an agonizing death, but then be reborn to have an agonizing and horrible eternal life of torture, I say, Well, good on you. See you there.Christopher Hitchens
Answer: God does not want any to perish and praises those who love others.
The fourth commandment states, “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.”
Many think this is a commandment against saying “God damn it,” or similar phrases. It is not.
This command is telling people not to call themselves God’s children while misrepresenting the character of God. It is a warning against those who use the name of God to rationalize or excuse their wicked behavior.
It is a sad and vile truth that Christians throughout history have said and done evil things in the name of God. God has a different attitude toward those who do not believe.
Anyone who prays for the suffering and death of another human being is considered sick in God’s eyes and influenced by the devil.
When the disciples James and John saw what was happening, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy these people?”Luke 9:54 (CEV)
James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, saw people behaving wickedly, and thought that calling down fire to kill them would be the righteous thing to do. But Jesus rebuked them. That is not how God deals with those who are sick.
He loves all people like a perfect father loves his children, in mind, heart, and behavior.
He desires all of them to be healed.
He desires all of them to find the peace and joy God wants for them.
Why would you perish? Choose life!
Criticism: Christianity enables people to behave wickedly.
The take-home message is that we should blame religion itself, not religious extremism – as though that were some kind of terrible perversion of real, decent religion. Voltaire got it right long ago: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” So did Bertrand Russell: “Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.”Richard Dawkins
The fact is that far more crime and child abuse has been committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus, and Mohammed than has ever been committed in the name of Satan.Carl Sagan
If you think religion makes people more peaceful, you obviously failed history class.Don Freeman
Answer: Jesus of Nazareth
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.Matthew 7:15 (ESV)
The Bible describes those who claim to be Christian but don’t act like Jesus as ravenous wolves. This is not the fault of the Bible, of Christianity, or of religion.
Human beings with selfish motives can manipulate others by wielding their Christianity. Some are sincere (but sincerely wrong). Others are dishonest. Regardless, it is a corruption and misuse of the love of the God of the Bible.
Mahatma Gandhi was insightful when he said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
The prime example of a Christian is Christ Himself. The God of the Bible enables all to have the thoughts, motives, feelings, and love for others as Jesus did while He was on earth. That is the end-goal.
Criticism: Christians are only good because they want something in return.
Doing good to get into your heaven is the moral equivalent of being nice to someone so they’ll sleep with you.
What you do simply reflects behavior, but your why reflects who you truly are.
Your why is everything.
This is true about most Christians today. They believe that good behavior is a pass into paradise.
Answer: The God of the Bible says “the why is everything.”
Men look at the outside. God looks at and knows the heart of every person.
The God of the Bible asks, “Can a cheetah change his spots?” The implication is that the cheetah cannot change its nature, just as human beings cannot change (or heal) their selfish nature. But God provides a Remedy in Jesus and a promise to make you well if you desire it.
God wants children who love others because it is the right thing to do, not because they think it is a ticket to paradise or a “Get Out of Hell” card.
Criticism: Christians behave badly.
Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of another. There are just some kind of men who’re so busy worrying about the next world, they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
They taught us to fear the witches, not the people who burned them.
Answer: The God of the Bible has the Remedy to cure the selfish heart.
All human beings behave badly. When a wicked person wields religion, it can be doubly harmful and, sometimes, deadly. Any philosophy or religion can be co-opted by wicked people. That is not the fault of the philosophy or religion.
The Bible calls out this condition of humanity. It makes no excuses and offers no justification. Humankind is infected with a deadly disease through their own fault, but the God of the Bible has the solution, and it is freely available to all who would have it.
The God of the Bible calls out to all human beings to offer them a Remedy to their fatal condition. There are human beings who see the God of the Bible as trustworthy. They acknowledge their sinful state. They open their hearts to receive the healing love of God. They begin to experience a life of peace and joy. They then desire to tell others the truth in love, leaving them free to accept or reject.