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Faith & Culture: My French atheist friend and moi

By: Tim W Callaway

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 06:00 am

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I’ve enjoyed my recent exchange in this space with my blogger friend, Michel Mercier, of Montreal. I fully intend to stay in touch with him but wanted to share one last bit of our ongoing dialogue with you.

Michel said in a recent email, “I’m really glad you actually took the time to read my blog because I put a lot of effort in trying to make it readable even for someone religious (well, someone religious AND open-minded)… I see how in the end, if we just come around and call people’s religious belief all BS, not only does it make people sad, but it makes us look like morons and cuts off any possibility of dialogue. It’s just not true that religion is inherently bad or completely useless, etc. If we’re going to criticize someone or something, we should say what we don’t like about it and explain why. This forces me to actually wonder if my reasons are valid… if something good comes from something I don’t like overall, how ridiculously counter-productive would it be for society to ignore it?”

For those truly interested in making a positive contribution to this multi-cultural experiment we call Canada, I hear Michel making a couple of helpful observations here.

For one thing, it is increasingly important we truly listen to what those we disagree with on significant issues in modern Canadian life are truly saying, as opposed to stereo-typing them or presupposing we know what they’re saying. Just as I don’t appreciate being negatively stereo-typed as a “Christian” or a “Baptist” guilty of all the negative connotations those designations legitimately convey for some people, neither should people of faith automatically stereo-type “atheists” or “agnostics.” Michel noted how pleased he was I actually took the time to read his blog. My doing so really has little if anything to do with my religious orientation – it’s just a matter of civility and decency… doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, as someone once suggested.

It’s both interesting and disappointing that in Michel’s experience, he has encountered many religious people to be close-minded. This doesn’t surprise me if for no other reason than that his experience equates mine in this regard. Blind adherence to religious dogma has produced and continues to produce no small problems in the history of mankind. And, to be sure, as David Kinnaman points out in his book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith, many in today’s younger generation are not naturally disposed to blind adherence to any system of thought. It doesn’t matter how much said system means to dad or mom. Young people – and I have every reason to believe many adults are the same – have every right to be accepted for who they are regardless of what they believe.

The behaviour of Jesus with regard to those he associated with in his day verified as much.

Tim Callaway is the pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church in Airdrie. You can contact him at 403-948-6727.


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