A True Human

Posted: December 20, 2011 in Matthew, spirituality

A True Christian wouldn’t act that way.

We’ve all heard this before. It emerges when a Christian is critiquing the actions of another Christian (“A true Christian wouldn’t cheat on his taxes”), or when a Christian disavows a heinous person who claimed to be a Christian (“Hitler’s actions make it clear that he wasn’t a true Christian”).

The argument is an example of the True Scotsman fallacy:

When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule.

Find the True Scotsman:

Sean Connery

Rod Stewart

At the same time, the True Christian fallacy makes sense. If Christians as a collective group can be blamed for the actions of any particular person who calls himself a Christian (“Hitler called himself a Christian, therefore, Christians support genocide and anti-Semitism”), then Christians need a means to determine whether or not a person is actually a member of the group, and whether or not a person’s actions are actually representative of the group’s beliefs.

However, it’s difficult to determine who is a True Christian because of the minimal prerequisites. To call yourself a Christian in the 21st century, you don’t necessarily need to pay tithes. A number of mainstream Christian beliefs hold that baptism is not necessary for salvation. You don’t even need to attend a church to be a Christian. And in the 21st century, the emphasis on salvation and redemption means that a person can be a True Christian even after reprehensible acts, allowing death row conversions for the genuinely repentant. By eliminating the barriers to entry and allowing for redemption, Christianity is an inclusive religion. And this inclusive nature itself makes it hard to blame Christianity for the misdeeds of any of its adherents.

This is an unsatisfying conclusion, though, because morality is a two-way street. If Christianity can’t be blamed for the misdeeds of its adherents, then it also can’t be credited with the noble deeds of its adherents. At this point, we can neither credit nor discredit Christianity with any actions performed in its name.

And yet, we do exactly this! Christianity has a sordid history throughout the Middle Ages and even into the 20th century that its detractors are likely to bring up. And it’s more than just Christianity. Any ideology is subject to the misdeeds of its subscribers. Fair or unfair, who can think of communism without thinking of Stalin? Who can think of the Branch Davidians without thinking of the tragedy in Waco, Texas?

Branch Davidians Compound

I have heard atheism blamed for such things as Stalin’s purge, and the typical rejoinder is that atheism promotes no doctrine and can therefore not be blamed for such misdeeds. I’m surprised, in light of the True Christian argument, that I have not yet heard an atheist pull out a “True Atheist” type argument instead: If a person guilty of misdeeds can simply be excluded as a True Christian, it can similarly be said that an atheist guilty of misdeeds is not a True Atheist. “Well that’s just silly, Bill,” one might opine. “Atheism has no creed, so there’s no way in which you can be true to a nonexistent creed.” Well, true enough. However, atheism does not, and should not, preclude spirituality. Spirituality, contrary to the opinions of, well, basically everyone, does not require either a belief in or the existence of the supernatural. Atheism is a statement of disbelief in the supernatural, just as salvation is a statement of faith in God. After this statement has been made, it’s still up to you how to live your life. This statement is the point at which spirituality begins.

According to many polls and studies (google “atheists mistrusted”), atheists are one of the most mistrusted minorities in America. The reason for this lack of trust is because people feel that there is no supernatural power that can hold atheists to a higher standard. Of course, there is no supernatural power that can hold theists to a higher standard either, what with free will and eternal forgiveness. Fair or unfair, the fact that atheists will be judged for being moral mavericks means that atheists must strive to hold themselves to a higher standard.

Thus we find that regardless of religion, there is a practical element in being a better person, in that our ideological fellows will be judged by our deeds and misdeeds. But there is also a spiritual path in being a better person. In the case of Christianity, the Bible urges humans to turn the other cheek and says that actions speak louder than words.

Matthew 5:39

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

I John 3:18

18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.


This spiritual path cuts across all ideologies, and following this path is independent of your belief in a deity. Christians should strive to be True Christians, and should not think for a moment that their spiritual path ends with or should even arise from a belief in god. Atheists should strive to be True Atheists, and should not think for a moment that spirituality is just for those who believe in god.

In short, humans should strive to be True Humans. Follow the spiritual path of being the better person, whether or not there is a god. So be good for goodness sake!

  1. Ellen Weddendorf says:

    It’s only 5am but I wanted to let you know I have read your comments. Where to begin? Wow! Yes, we definitely should strive to be hood human beings and treat each other fairly, kindly, whether believers in the living God or non-believers. Let us all strive for that and again another “but”, we all gravitate to our base nature at times! So let’s see what the word “Christian” means to me, specifically! Plain and simple “I am a believer in a man who came to this earth called Jesus by name, God in human flesh who promised through His holy book the Bible, that when I received Him as my Lord and Savior, I have the reassurance that I will have “the gift” of eternal life with Him” and that “nothing can separate me from Him”. I’m sure the verse in Hebrews says it right and so much more concisely Hebrews 11:1. So I take the word “Christian” meaning “follower of Jesus Christ”. This is my individual statement as following an Individual not a group which obviously has numerous translations! And people who translate to their benefit. Not at all what Jesus meant for us to.

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