Excerpts from ‘Reason for God; Belief in the Age of Skepticism’ by Tim Keller (except where noted +)
Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. This is [of course] a valid criticism. The truth is we humans are so twisted that bad behavior can come out of any world view. Just a few examples: much of the evil perpetrated by the Japanese in World War II came out of a mix of Militarism, Buddhism and Shinto; out of Christianity, you get everything from the crusades to shooting abortion doctors; out of Communism everything from Stalin murdering a million of his people to the Khmer Rouge.
There is evil done by religious people and evil done by atheists.
Hypocrisy doesn’t disprove Christianity any more than a Joseph Stalin disproves atheism or Ted Kaczynski (the Unibomber), a Harvard-trained mathematician, discredits the academic community. Poor facsimiles of the truth, whether in a church pew or a science lab, is not by itself a logical reason to conclude therefore that truth must not exist. One thing to keep in mind when making an honest appraisal of Christianity is to take a look at the life of Jesus where he leveled his most severe anger at the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day.+
It’s arrogant to say your religion is superior and try to convert everyone else to it. How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have? Skeptics believe that any exclusive claims to a superior knowledge of spiritual reality cannot be true. But this objection is itself a religious belief. It assumes God is unknowable, or that God is loving but not wrathful, or that God is an impersonal force rather than a person who speaks in Scripture.
I know non-Christians who are a whole lot nicer than Christians: Imagine that someone with a very broken past becomes a Christian and her character improves significantly over what it was. Nevertheless, she still may be less secure and self-disciplined than someone who is so well adjusted that she feels no particular need for any relationship with God at all.
Christians are fanatics: Think of people you consider fanatical. They’re overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. Why? It’s not because they are too Christian but because they are not Christian enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathetic, forgiving, or understanding—as Christ was. Because they think of Christianity as a self-improvement program they emulate the Jesus of the whips in the temple, but not the Jesus who said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). What strikes us as overly fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Christ and his gospel.
Didn’t Christians endorse slavery? Even though slavery in some form was virtually universal in every human culture over the centuries, it was Christians who first came to the conclusion that it was wrong. The social historian Rodney Stark writes: ‘Although it has been fashionable to deny it, anti-slavery doctrines began to appear in Christian theology soon after the decline of Rome and were accompanied by the eventual disappearance of slavery in all but the fringes of Christian Europe. When Europeans subsequently instituted slavery in the New World, they did so over strenuous papal opposition, a fact that was conveniently “lost” from history until recently. Finally, the abolition of New World slavery was initiated and achieved by Christian activists.
Christianity is a straight-jacket. One of the principles of love—either love for a friend or romantic love—is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy. If you want the “freedoms” of love—the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that it brings—you must limit your freedom in many ways. You cannot enter a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your friend or lover no say in how you live your life. To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy.