I’m an antitheist, more so than many of the people in my social circle. I do not merely disbelieve in deities and the traditions that come along with them; I also think that other people should also disbelieve. I think that religion has, at best, severely outlived its usefulness and, more likely, has been a force for consistent ill in humankind’s history. I think them all false, and I think them all dangerous. There are some I find more palatable than others and some that are more reality-based than others, but none meet with my actual approval. I know many people who cleave to various religions and who are exemplary human beings my life is richer for including, and I know a much larger assortment of religious humans who fit in Donald Trump’s basket of deplorables. As a Taína trans lesbian, I am targeted for harms both ongoing and historic by the largest religious establishments in my vicinity, including through non-religious institutions nevertheless suffused with religious sentiment, and the entire edifice fills me with loathing; as a scientist, its non-empirical silliness me with irritated bemusement. As far as I am concerned, the good ones are good despite their faith, not because of it.
I’m often challenged, with all of that in mind, to describe what a version of Christianity my antitheism wouldn’t encompass would look like. If indeed my antitheism isn’t driven purely by emotional antipathy, then surely there is such a version. And there is.
Modern Christian denominations derive their cultural authority from a number of disturbing sources that New Christianity would have to unequivocally repudiate. The popular discourse in much of the world gives people social capital if they are members of the dominant religion, and often equates the idea of a “good person” with a member of that faith. Christianity is guilty of aggressively and intentionally propagating this lie within Christian-majority locales, and New Christianity would have to just as aggressively and intentionally renounce it. It would have to firmly and without equivocation denounce the idea that membership in its group causes one to be a “good person,” even as it encourages its members and non-members toward goodness, even as it expels those within its ranks it discovers to not hold goodness among their priorities. Its moral ideal must, in this way, be an aspiration and not a definition or a tool for declaring non-members morally deficient.
New Christianity would also have to purge from within itself all notions of the supernatural. Not only are these notions unsupported by any available evidence, but they encourage a wide variety of errors rooted in magical thinking. They disable the healthy skepticism that protects people from a wide variety of dangerous scams, they encourage helpless passivity and acceptance in the face of hardship, and they encourage people to see the difficulties and rewards in their life as supernatural whims rather than the results of their own actions or of chance, and thus take away from people the chance to respond appropriately to the events in their lives. They encourage people to devalue expertise and forego critical thinking. Where supernatural notions connect to moral concerns, such as the idea of sin, they disconnect morality from the effects of actions on the actual, physical beings affected by those actions and instead affix it, ludicrously and hatefully, to the judgements and opinions of supernatural beings, short-circuiting moral reasoning and corrupting empathy. Even notions as seemingly innocuous as the idea of an immortal soul or special divine creation for humans have empirically ridiculous and morally horrifying implications and thus have no place in New Christianity. There will be no angels or saints, no heaven or hell, no sin or salvation, no cosmic rewards or warnings from on high, no evil spirit tempting people to hedonism and spite, no magic force giving people healing hands or granting mystic gifts to groups who avoid modern medicine. New Christianity dwells firmly in this world.
In demonstration of a good-faith effort to expunge the horrors of the past, New Christianity must explicitly rail against the abuses justified by any and every faith, with emphasis on its predecessor. Anti-queer sentiments, opposition to bodily autonomy for people with uteruses, conversion by the sword, coercive evangelism, moralizing against consensual sex, victim blaming, unquestioning obedience, non-medical genital surgeries performed on children, not trusting children when they tell us about themselves, regarding suffering as holy, accepting a role for religious organizations in education and medical systems, and the multiplicity of abuses that comprise honor culture must all face loud, unequivocal condemnation from New Christianity even as Old Christianity continues to truck in these crimes. New Christianity must encourage its members and wield its power to try to make the world a more equitable, more secular, and more humanistic place in the face of aggressive opposition and disavowal from mainline Christians.
The rituals and rites of Christianity, the meditative introspection of prayer and high emotion of shared song, the soaring beauty of cathedrals and the universal joy of celebrating milestones together, the perspective gained from giving thanks, are all welcome here. The human need for ritual transcends faith.
If that standard sounds like such beacons of relative reasonability as Quakers and Unitarian Universalists would struggle to live up to it, then it should be clear why my antitheism encompasses real-world Christianity with such enthusiasm.