Christian Moral Hypocrisy: A Case Study
From what I've read online, most atheists have a pretty low opinion of Pastor Gene Cook. Now, I agree that his apologetic M.O. is about as bad as I've ever seen, and he doesn't do himself any favors through his mindless dedication to it (for those that aren't familiar with it, it is essentially the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God, or "TAG", as formulated by Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen). Although in his defense, this apologetic has been becoming more popular on the Internet among Christians, in part because of its previous obscurity, as most of the other evidentialist arguments have been repeatedly debunked already.
Aside from this, I really want to like Gene. Underneath his religion, he really is a decent human being, and I really do see profound examples of this from time to time (for example, when he was despondent about leaving his family before a trip to Africa). And Gene's theology really is so similar to what I was brought up with- if I hadn't given up my faith, I would have been a steadfast member of a church just like his. So in a way, I see his path in life as sort of a mirror image of my own, and he represents to me what my life would have been like if my eyes had not been opened.
Which is why it's so disappointing to me when Gene, who argues that Christian morality is not only superior to any atheist moral system, but is also presupposed by both Christians and non-Christians alike, commits such a contradiction of his own teaching, and acts in such an inconsistent manner.
Gene's internet ministry seems to be, I'l just say, "preoccupied" with Reggie Finley, a/k/a The Infidel Guy. From it's beginning, Gene's show was heavily influenced by Reggie and his preoccupation has become something of a bizarre obsession over the past few months. A while back, Gene posted on Reggie's forum a statement, seemingly out of nowhere, declaring that Reggie was Robert Price's "bitch" (Robert Price is a Bible scholar who has developed a close professional and personal relationship with Reggie, who has his own webcast through Reggie's network called "The Bible Geek").
Needless to say, this was really not the kind of thing that would be expected of a Christian pastor for whom the superior morality of Christianity is part and parcel of his professional life. Upon meeting him a few months ago, I asked Gene if that had really been him, and he admitted that it was. He told me at that point that it was wrong of his to do so, and it was his "sin nature" that was reponsible. He seemed reasonably contrite, although I didn't press to find out if he'd given Reggie an apology.
Now, at this point, I could take a hard look at how the scapegoat of a "sin nature" completely destroys any kind of moral responsibility in Christianity, but I think that should be obvious to readers of this blog. Let's just accept provisionally that he knew that he had done something wrong, even according to Christianity. One would assume that the moral lesson had been learned, hopefully for the better.
And one would assume wrongly.
Last week, Gene released a parody of the Bud Light radio spot series, "Real Men of Genius," which was composed of nothing but personal attacks on Reggie Finley. Now, I can appreciate a good-natured joke as well as the next guy, but this was blatantly and personally insulting. And by being such, it really lost all pretense at comedy- what makes the Bud Light commercials funny is the fact that they make specific observations about a generalized group of people, not one individual. It would be one thing if Gene wanted to make a "Mr. Internet Atheist" parody that makes fun of atheists in general, but he made a "Mr. Internet Atheist Infidel Guy" parody instead. He directly insulted Reggie's appearance on WifeSwap, his fundraising efforts, and even his personal appearance. What's more, he was so bold as to release a recording of him and a friend making the parody, and laughing hysterically at the insults directed against Reggie.
Now again, to those of us who are familiar with the moral bankruptcy of Christianity, this should be no surprise, even as much as it was disappointing to me. Although Gene had admitted that making fun of Reggie by calling him a "bitch" was wrong, he somehow felt morally justified in producing something which increased the insult by at least an order of magnitude? I expressed my disappointment at Gene's "sin nature" explanation on Reggie's forum, saying, "Seems to me to just be an excuse to indulge in holier-than-thou mean-spiritedness without any sense of moral responsibility. But of course, this doesn't mean that Gene's a dick, just that he's being a consistent Christian- Christianity is utterly devoid of moral justification."
Gene noticed my post while lurking on Reggie's forum the next day, and instead of feeling contrite, responded in anger to me. He sent me an email saying that he had only admitted that calling Reggie a "bitch" was wrong, but that he "never said it was sinful to make fun of him or mock him by reporting his foolish behavior. Please get your facts straight."
Now Gene is in a tough position- he knows that he admitted that a small insult was a sin, but he doesn't want to admit that the larger insult was just as bad, if not worse. I told him, "calling Reggie a "bitch" is no different qualitatively than your "Real Man of Genius" parody- it's just different in terms of quantity. Both things were intentionally mean and hurtful, and you admitted to me that doing the former was a sin."
Obviously, Gene can't argue against this without sounding especially crazy, so instead he attacks my moral foundation by saying, "Whose standard are you judging my actions by when you say that I should be ashamed?"
This is a clear case of psychological projection- Gene knows that his morality is on the flimsiest of foundations, and he projects his own moral insecurity onto me to deflect his feelings of guilt. But I explained to him, "obviously I'm judging you by my own values, how could I do any more? This is what we all do, of course. The difference is that since I lack a belief in a deity, I'm justified in making moral choices based on values that are derived from the facts of reality, whereas since you have given up your moral autonomy, you can't even consistently hold to concepts like values or morality- they're meaningless within the Christian paradigm."
At this point, Gene just wanted out. "So you think I should be ashamed and I don't think I should be ashamed. So I guess there is nothing left to discuss, silly." Of course there's nothing left to discuss- how am I supposed to have a rational moral conversation with someone who doesn't base their morality on any values, and tries to make the case that a small insult is immoral while a larger one is completely justified?
And thus we see a perfect example of how the Christian mindset has completely compromised a man's ability to make rational, consistent, moral choices. Even within its own worldview, Christianity has no hope of establishing any sense of morality whatsoever. I truly hope that someday Gene will be able to look back on this and realize how embarrassing this is for him. Because in doing so, he'll be one step closer on the path to a truly moral life.