Christianity is the central, most common and most thoroughly marginalized, obscured and misrepresented belief system in the opening years of the 21st century, says author and journalist Michael Coren.
This misrepresentation has grown out of a new hatred, he suggests. Some of it is based on anger, some on mythology, some on political and sexual extremism, and much on simple lies.
Coren maintains that attacks on Christianity have become harsh to the point where genuine Christian believers are told to keep their faith at home and not discuss it in public, and certainly not in politics. He says anti-Christianity is the last acceptable prejudice and it's time Christians respond to such attacks.
It's one of the reasons Coren wrote Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity (McClelland & Stewart). Coren was in Edmonton May 14 promoting his book.
"If you are a Christian, you'll be marginalized, berated and called stupid," he said in an interview. "Somehow Christianity is not a valid area of thought any longer."
The purpose of the book, he says, is to give Christians and people of good will "weapons" to respond. "You can't ask them to read boring books on theology."
Christians, says Coren, are not demanding centre stage in the public square but for permission to be heard properly, understood authentically, embraced or rejected seriously. "Criticize Christianity for what it says and does, but not for what it does not say or do."
In Heresy, Coren tackles and debunks "lies" such as that Jesus didn't exist, that Christians oppose progress, are scared of science, that they're obsessed with abortion, that they're racist and supported slavery, that Hitler was a Christian, and so on.
Coren is the bestselling author of 12 books, including biographies of G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. He is the host of the nightly television show The Michael Coren Show. He also hosts a daily radio show and writes a syndicated column for 10 daily newspapers.
In places like Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan and now Syria, Christians are being slaughtered and many are forced into exile. In the West, including Canada, that persecution takes the form of institutional attacks, mockery, marginalization, abuse, rejection and even ejection from the public square.
Beneath and behind it all, he says, is the assumption that to be a Christian you have to be both stupid and intolerant. The most serious attacks come from the atheists – "the most angry group ever."
In Heresy, Coren tries to show not only that countless highly intelligent people are Christians, and that Christianity is entirely logical and intellectually compelling. He also maintains there is no necessary link between faith or lack of faith, and intelligence or stupidity. In other words, there are brilliant and stupid atheists, and brilliant and stupid Christians.
Coren examines the trendy, and unjustified, attack on the fundamental component of Christianity: the existence of Jesus.
He does this in chapter one by quoting the works of intellectuals who lived within decades of Jesus.
"That doesn't mean you have to believe he was the Messiah – that's a very different thing," says Coren. "Just realizing that there is more evidence for his existence than Julius Caesar is pretty significant."
Regarding the alleged Christian opposition to science and progress, Coren says the Christian Church has in many ways been the handmaiden of science, and the only reason opponents mention Galileo so often is he's about the only scientist who Christianity didn't always treat properly.
What about the devout Newton, Pasteur or Copernicus?
One important lie Coren refutes is that Hitler was a Christian. Nazism was the antithesis of Christianity.
"To claim that the Nazi founder was Christian is not only anti-historical and foolish but also downright insulting," he says. "Hitler, Himmler, Goering, Goebbels and many of the other Nazi leaders took their own lives. They rejected God's law and Christ's teaching in their lives, and in their deaths."
In Heresy, Coren says another myth is that Christians are obsessed with abortion. They are not, he says. They just care passionately about human life. "If a Christian does not stand firm for the weakest in our society, what sort of a Christian are they?"