What Is a Christian?

You would think, from the stentorian, yet at the same time, strangely (dare I say) shrill complaints from some Christians, that Richard Dawkins has reserved the right to himself to say who is, and who isn’t, entitled to call themselves Christian. A less biased and hysterical interpretation of the poll that the RDFRS commissioned (but did NOT itself conduct) would put the shoe firmly on the other foot; it is not Dawkins who is telling people what they must believe to be a Christian, but the two-faced Christian leaders who, admittedly say that Christianity is a broad church on the one hand (when they want to show that they are the majority), but then insist that their way is the only right way when they want to make or influence public policy.

Many of the louder faux martyrs have focussed on just one question’s result, which showed that only 35% of the people polled who ticked the “Christian” box in the census could name the first book of the New Testament, saying that it was unfair that people should have to answer correctly in order to say they were Christian. I hope I’ve already shown that that isn’t what the poll, or Dawkins, or even that question is about: rather, it is about showing that the Christians with power or influence, or just loud voices, cannot assume that all Christians agree with their political/theological opinions.

That wasn’t the only way that the “Matthew question” was dishonestly represented though. Self-identified Christians were asked to name the first book of the NT not out of the blue, but from a list of four options, two of which were Old Testament books. Giles Fraser challenged Dawkins, on the spot, to give the full title of Darwin’s book, “Origin of Species”, whereas it would have been fairer to ask Dawkins to simply identify it from a list of book titles. Not that Dawkins would need a multiple choice question but, in any case, one question alone isn’t very significant.

But then, nobody without a vested interest in religion pretends that it is.


One response to “What Is a Christian?

  1. Pingback: Faith in the opinion polls « Ben Blogs

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