The last acceptable prejudice. Anti-Christianity. So whatever your religion, or lack of it, you should care when specific people are told that they have no place in the public square. It's one of the reasons I wrote my new book, Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity. The book takes on the most common and toxic of the attacks on Christianity: Jesus didn't exist, Christians oppose progress, are scared of science, they're obsessed with abortion, they're racist and supported slavery, Hitler was a Christian, and so on.
But the supportive premise is that Christians are not treated fairly. Take the example of the Norwegian murderer Anders Behring Breivik. After his arrest, it took only hours for the media to label him a Christian. He identified himself, they said, as a "cultural Christian." Those of who understand religion, however, know that this is shorthand for "only a cultural Christian." Then we had Breivik's manifesto:
"Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I'm not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God."
But none of it mattered. Just as it doesn't when we're told that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian -- he left the Church when he was a youth, and wrote that "science is my religion." The reason that so many in mainstream media are so hysterically eager to call Breivik and McVeigh Christians, or claim that abortionists are regular targets for armed pro-life fanatics is not only that they are opposed to Christianity, but that they are obsessed with relativism.
Commentators take every shape imaginable in their attempts to report Islamic terror as something other than Islamic. Because, they argue, all religions are the same, and all equally capable of producing violent fundamentalism. Yet Christian fundamentalism is extremely rare, and when it does occur it leads to rejections of evolution rather than rejections of law and order, and snake rather than dynamite handling. For the media to admit that different religions lead to different assumptions about pluralism and different approaches to human dignity would lead to the invincible conclusion that there is a qualitative distinction and hierarchy. That, to the moral and intellectual relativist, is heresy itself.
The examples of anti-Christian behaviour are legion. In the west it takes the form of ejection from the public square and the workplace, legal restrictions, mockery, and abuse. In the developing and Islamic world it is far more serious: persecution, arrest, torture, murder.
The number and intensity of attacks is staggering. A mere book cannot do very much for the millions of believers who risk life and limb, but it can empower and perhaps even embolden Christians in the west who feel weighed down every time a critical remark is made.
Being a book about Christianity, Heresy is in the forgiving business. But forgiveness does not mean forgetting the truth. We have to be resolute in what is and what isn't, which is why I've taken on the most frequent arguments used against followers of Christ.
Some of them are simply ludicrous, the stuff of Internet wisdom and website philosophy. The notion that Hitler was a Christian is schoolboy stuff, and profoundly insulting to the Christians who opposed the man and who he in turn slaughtered. Of course there were people calling themselves Christian who were Nazis, but this says nothing at all about Christianity but a great deal about hypocrisy. Nazis were often street thugs, but National Socialism itself was an ideology, replacing Messiah with Fuehrer, Church with party, love with hate, soul with will, protection of the weakest with survival of the fittest. Even a cursory reading of Nazi theorists will reveal the sheer idiocy of the claim.
Similarly with the alleged Christian opposition to science and progress. The Christian Church has in many ways been the handmaiden of science, and the only reason opponents mention Galileo all the time is that he's about the only scientist who Christianity didn't always treat properly -- mind you, his story is far from the caricature presented by Brecht and his comrades.
The same applies to the claim that there is no evidence that Jesus existed, or that The Da Vinci Code is credible, or that bad things happening to good people is somehow a difficulty for Christians. This one is especially annoying, because it's so badly thought out. Not only do bad things happen to good people, but -- just as annoying -- good things happen to bad ones. But that's a problem for the atheist, not the believer.
We understand that God guaranteed not a good life, but a perfect eternity. The dying child, the cancer-stricken philanthropist, is a dilemma for the materialist, not for someone who knows there is an immortal soul and that life does not end in the hospital sickbed.
Neither this nor any of the other atheist talking points that I dismantle in the book are terrors to anybody who knows their faith. The problem is that too few Christians do fully understand it, and many of those who do have been cowered into silence if not submission by a culture that imposes uniformity in its purported lust for diversity. There's irony for you.