“There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association. There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” he said. “How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”
It took me a while to find the actual statement since it was reported different ways in the media.
So is it better to be an atheist or a bad Christian?
There was a time when I would have said it was better to be a bad Christian or a hypocrite because at least they were in church and might learn to do better. I’m of a different opinion on this today. If you continue to practice bad behavior you will never change. At least an atheist comes into this honest about the whole thing. Is it better to stay either way? Absolutely not. What the Pope was trying to say is that the bad Christians give the church a bad name and do nothing to convince anyone to be a part of the church.
In fact didn’t even Jesus say that He would prefer that someone be either hot or cold? If you are lukewarm He would spit you out. (Revelation 3:15) Jesus expects people to be all in or not at all. Halfway doing it doesn’t do anybody any good.
And who did Jesus have the most problems with? The Christian Leaders. Specifically the Pharisees. They were all about doing things for show but their motives weren’t always pure.
In my lifetime, I have seen my share of church people and a lot of the negative side of people. It isn’t pretty and no surprise that people have no use for attending a church. For me, it has taken a lot of time and deep soul searching to separate truth from the hypocrites. Separate the dark side of church from who God really is to me personally.
You see, I used to “drink the koolaide” as they say. I attended every Sunday and carried out my responsibilities. The problem was that I was dying inside. I left church feeling worse than when I came. It was terribly frustrating. I won’t say it was all bad but I was bad. I was a total hypocrite. And good at it too. That’s not what I wanted to be or the life I wanted to live. It took me a long time to unlearn the things that I was taught that was wrong. I came to a startling revelation that there were many things that the church taught that wasn’t what God had intended. Denominational leaders had taken some things and made it the extreme of what it was intended. Much like what the Pharisees did in the Jesus’ day. Did you know that some wore the actual law on their heads (and still do)? Talk about legalism to the extreme!
So is it really better to be an atheist than a bad Christian? Well, I’ve never been an atheist but I have experience at being a bad Christian. It has been a painstaking experience reprogramming from the things I had learned. I won’t say it was ALL wrong but I really had to deal with the legalism. It would have been a lot easier to learn it the right way in the beginning. Today, I can tell you that my relationship with God is much more personal and meaningful than it has ever been. Time alone with God is much more fulfilling than sitting in a church pew for an hour on Sunday morning.
Are all Christians hypocrites? Absolutely not. In fact, there are many examples of selflessness, courage, moral action and reform and many other positive influences on the world. These are sincere believers transformed by the resurrected Christ and are models of what a good Christian is supposed to be. Sadly, we tend to focus more on the bad apples rather than the good fruit.
The point that the Pope was making in his statement is that none of us are perfect. Just because we call ourselves Catholics, Christians or whatever religious title we want to wear, we have ALL sinned. We ALL need that amazing grace every day to do better and be better people. We aren’t better than someone else because we go to church or belong to a religious group.
I often say that I was brought up in a church home but it took me a long time to discover God personally. I’m glad I did. It doesn’t make me perfect I just hope it makes me a better person.