Over the past century the main thrust of arguments against religion have been of the form “religion is delusion”. It has been suggested that those who believe in religion are misinformed, gullible, unscientific, and so on. And the strategy of opponents to religion has been that if only those who believe in religion could be informed of their errors, learn to less gullible and be more acquainted with science and rationality then they would quickly see their errors and abandon their beliefs. This was the thinking behind Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion.
But in recent conversations with unbelievers I’m seeing a new line of questioning. Their issue with religion is not its conflict with science or established teaching, it is not with belief in miracles, or lack of evidence for the historical claims. Instead the issue is one of power. There is a definite skepticism, not in the facts of religion, but in the motivation of those who hold religious power. As put by Rust Cohle in True Detective, “Oh yeah! Been that way since one monkey looked at the sun and told the other monkey, ‘He said for you to give me your f***ing share.’”
This is a sign that post-modernism is gaining influence in our culture. The idea that meta-narratives exist for the purpose of power and control is a common theme in post-modern writings. And so we as Christians need to respond to these charges. There is a lot of effort at the moment going into countering the charges that Christianity is unscientific, or unfactual. There is a lot less effort going into countering the charge that Christianity is a massive powerplay. This is important to realise because when one looks at abuses of power by church authorities, manipulative tactics to extort giving, massively wealthy churches and pastors, the willingness to use politics to entrench religious power, it certainly seems like religion is at least being used as a powerplay.
So how do we as Christians respond to these claims? It seems that there are two important things that we need to do. The first is that we need to demonstrate that religion is not a powerplay for us. This will involve giving up our rights and privileges. The second will involve highlighting the person of Jesus as an anti-powerplay. The person of Jesus is a powerful corrective to the idea that Christianity is a powerplay precisely because he was opposed to those who used religion as a powerplay.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking on the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death -
even death on a cross!