Images are important. We often use images to think about others, to understand them and to interact with them. But images can be wrong.
Some Christians, when imagining themselves to be generous, have an image of Atheists as “searchers”. They envision us as fumbling in the dark until we discover their brand of Truth. Or perhaps they use the image of the proverbial blind men who can only barely perceive the elephant [God]. Thus they see their role as being there to gently fill in our lack of vision. These Christians get their “seeker” image from one of their favorite Bible verses where Jesus says:
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; Search, and you will find; Knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
— Luke 11: 9-10 (NRSV)
You see, using this image of us as searching for the truth, Christians can then feel they are part of God’s mission to help us — they are there to offer our blind eyes a glimpse of Jesus. To them, it is much more generous to see us as blind seekers rather than to just envision us as doomed blasphemous unbelievers. For if we are “seekers” or “searchers”, we are not yet full blown dangerous hell-fated heretics. To rid themselves of that image, they are compelled to sanitize us with the “Seeker Image”. For if they didn’t, they would have to contend with this haunting Bible verse that commands them to shun us:
Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.
— 2 John 1:9-11 (NRSV)
Thus if they are truly Bible-loving Christians and they want to keep relating with us unbelievers, they must first sanitize us. They sanitize us by imaging us poor atheists as still “searching”. They then think of themselves as being in relationship to us so as to gently guide us toward the light — toward truth. Or perhaps to just be kind to us while God works with us. Either way, once they have sanitized us as being a “searcher” instead of just a pure outright blasphemer, they feel safe to continue relating to us. These images help ease their cognitive dissonance.
Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?
— 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NRSV)
So, 2 John tells them to shun guests or strangers who don’t believe, while 2 Corinthians tells them to not even partner up with deniers of Christ.
So, how can a Bible-loving Christian deal with us hell-bound unbelievers? They must do something to cure their cognitive dissonance. Well, one method is to use the imagery in the Luke verse above (also in Matthew 7:7). They can use Luke and Matthew to help see us as seekers who may someday find Jesus. Doing this, they sanitize us and then can sweep those other nasty verses under their spiritual carpet and alleviate their mental distress.
Images are important. Don’t indulge them by letting them envision you as a blind seeker. This blind seeker image is fed by this story of Jesus healing a blind man just like you.
He [the former blind man] answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’
— John 9:11 (NRSV)
I am an Explorer !
Instead of letting Christians sanitize you and thus letting them easing their consciences, keep that cognitive dissonance burning in their minds. Tell them you are not a seeker. Tell them you don’t need Jesus to rub mud in your eyes. Tell them you are not searching for either Jesus or God. Tell them you are not searching for the final truth of the universe so as to comfort your soul.
Let Christians know you are not burdened with spiritual confusion nor seeking the one answer. You are not a seeker. Instead, tell them you are an EXPLORER ! Instead of buying into their view that there is some final goal in life, tell them that “The path IS the goal”. You may appear as a seeker to them because you keep looking into all the various religious thoughts out there. But let them know you do it more as an anthropologist, a sociologist, ra psychologist, a scientist, an artist or a musician — not as a seeker. Give them the image of yourself as an excited explorer.