I was raised a Christian but towards the end of high school, I started calling myself an atheist. I was influenced in this direction because of the hypocrisy of many Christians. I had learned from history about all the atrocities committed in the name of God: the inquisition, the crusades, slavery, the denial of civil rights to the descendents of slaves, the strife in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants, the Holocaust, etc. However, I did not feel comfortable calling myself an atheist. I liked the teachings of Jesus Christ and had wondered why many so-called “Christians” did not seem to follow His teachings. However, I was also distressed to find that my atheist friends didn’t like His teachings either. They made fun of my strait-laced morality, my gentle ways, my desire to help those in need, and my forgiving attitude toward who had wronged me. Gradually, I realized that I had been judging believers by the standard that Jesus Christ Himself had raised and that it was okay to call myself a Christian. To my astonishment, when I did so, I also began to find welling up inside of me a spirit I had never felt before that convinced me of the reality of God. I also felt the need to be a churchgoer because I enjoyed being around people who also believed.
I still find myself very charitably disposed toward all people, regardless of their particular beliefs. Jesus Christ showed us the way in this respect in his Parable of the Good Samaritan and in various personal encounters with Samaritans. Samaritans were a despised people in His day because they were a mixed race and had some “incorrect” beliefs, yet Jesus showed them as doing the right thing when the occasion demanded it. In the end, we are going to be judged by what we do, rather than by what we profess.
So what is the “right thing”? Well, we may not always keep the commandments of God, but we sure do prefer it when others keep those commandments with respect to us. That ought to give us some clue.
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