This past weekend I had the pleasure of going backpacking for four days in the beautiful forests and mountains of Arkansas. In all it was about twenty-seven miles of hiking, and at roughly 30 minutes per mile, there was a lot of time on the trail that I had to just think as I walked. It was quite incredible, I was constantly amazed at just how creative our God is and how beautiful this world He made is. Some of the time hiking I was talking to the other two guys I was with, but a large majority of it was just spent quite, praising God through prayer, worship in my head, and sheer amazement.
But there was one thought that kept going through my head on the trail, and it was this: why is it that Atheists attack Christians for our beliefs. Now this could be just that I live in a so-called “Christian” nation, so naturally Christianity is the dominant religion, thus Atheists attack that which is most widely known and recognized. But I was led to believe that this question goes much deeper. Why is it that Atheists mock Christians? Why do people use the name of Jesus Christ in vain, even when they don’t believe in him? But more importantly, why is is Christianity, specifically, that is the target, as opposed to other major world religions?
I mean, think about that for a second: why is it that when someone gets scared, angry, or hurt they instantly cry out “Jesus Christ!” instead of “Allah!” or “Shiva!” or “Buddha!” I think part of this can be answered as I said above, it is simply the religion that they most likely grew up with or was around the most, and as such the power of the name of Jesus has been lost on them, to the point where one may see it simply as an expletive word. But there is also a deeper explanation, which I will come back to.
Let’s go back to Atheists attacking Christians for our beliefs in Christ. Why is it that we are the target of such ruthless jokes and slander? Have you ever listened to an Atheist comedian? Have you ever heard one directly attack any religion other than Christianity? I used to watch a fair amount of stand-up on Comedy Central, and I can’t think of any that did. But I do remember quite a few blaspheming the name of Jesus specifically, and joking ill about a God that loves us and makes us in His image and died for us, which is unique to Christianity. So why is it that they joke about Christianty exclusively? Again, at the surface one could say it is because it is the most widely known and recognized religion in the Western world. But like using Jesus’ name as a curse, it goes deeper.
And on a much heavier level, looking at the statistics of religious persecution, again it is Christians who are the most commonly targeted. Sure in today’s world we would see Muslims as being a prime target with the turmoil in the Middle East, but throughout history Christians have been targeted and killed just for being Christian. Statistically, 75% of everyone killed due to religious persecution has been Christian (consider the Holocaust, 6 million Jews killed; many times more Christians than that have been killed). Why is it that time and time again, in so many varying aspects of life, Christians are the target of hatred? Unlike the two above, this statistic cannot be answered by the fact that Christianity is well known, it must go much deeper. And the reason for this is the very same as will answer the first two questions.
You may have heard of the term “God-shaped hole.” This refers to the fact that everyone has a hole in their heart that they are trying to fill, but no matter what they try to fill it with they find themselves empty, because nothing will ever truly fill that hole except the love of Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” A while ago God gave me a vision that demonstrated it perfectly. Imagine that there is a hole in your beating heart and to fill it you pack it with dry ice. For a while it works quite well; the hole is filled. But soon after the dry ice turns to gas and goes away, and while it was in your heart it froze the tissue, leaving a hole larger than the one it initially filled. Only by filling that hole with Jesus will it be filled for good and will you find true satisfaction.
But where does this idea come from? Genesis 1:27 says we were created in God’s image, and Acts 17:22-27 tells us that God created the world as he did so that we might seek him. But ultimately, we cannot say that everyone has a God-shaped hole, because in Romans 3:10-19 we are told that there is no one who seeks God, that all have turned away to gratify the sinful desires of our flesh, which is to say of this fallen world, and that this fruitless passion is leading us all into our (rightful) deaths. So then, we cannot say Atheists attack Christians because they secretly are trying to fill a hole with slander. But rather than say this belief is incorrect, I would say that it simply is not deep enough.
In Romans 2:20 we get a great explanation of what I mean, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Now this verse doesn't say that all men have the desire to know God, but rather that all men have had the presence of God revealed to them and so all men must necessarily know that God is real and alive. It may not be a conscious knowledge, but somewhere deep inside, everyone knows that God is real. And to most, this terrifies them.
Now this is not a conscious fear they feel, but that is just because Satan has hidden it so well inside them. The ultimate truth is that this fear manifests itself in various ways, but it is manifest in all people. In those who have accepted the truth, it comes as a righteous fear of God. In those who believe in something different, or in the lack of belief, it comes almost as a fear of Christianity. They feel threatened by Christians, because a part of them that they are unaware of knows that they are wrong and that God is real and alive and moving. Have you ever gotten into an argument and halfway though realized you were actually wrong, and yet still kept arguing your point so that you wouldn't have to admit defeat? That is exactly what is going on here on a deep, spiritual level. A battle is being waged inside these people, and outwardly their spirit tells them that they are winning, when in reality God has already won, and if the spirit fighting inside you is not the Holy Spirit, then you have already lost.
And the reality is that when we accepted Christ into our lives, it was not a work of our own or that we sought God, but rather that He chose us to have a relationship with him, and we saw His beauty and glory and we decided that we wanted it. We have never saved ourselves, and we don't deserve to be saved at all, but God loves us enough to have sent his only Son to die the death we deserve that we may have a relationship with Him. And if we have truly given our lives over to Christ, then we know that this world will hate us, but we also know that we are blessed when we are persecuted. Nothing in this world can ever hurt us again or take us away from our one true Love, because when we are raised from death through Jesus, we are born again and gain citizenship in Heaven.