Busting Myths About Christianity


This year's Christmas Day was about the slowest day I can remember in a long time. We spent time away at the in-laws. All the usual Christmas activity happened on Christmas Eve, then Monday anti-climaxed. I spent most of Christmas Day in a comfy chair watching TV. 

Well, just one show—about six hours of it.

We get the local stations at our house, and that's it. (I think I currently Mythbusters watch less than an hour of TV a week.) So shows that I did make time for when we had a couple hundred channels a few years ago (like Alton Brown's Good Eats and Mythbusters) now become a treat if I get to see them elsewhere. Just my luck, the Discovery Channel ran a Mythbusters marathon all day Christmas Day.

My Dad taught me no manly skills. I look in bafflement upon internal combustion engines. The idea of welding something sends images of burn trauma units and seared retinas racing through my mind. Science I love, but don't ask me to make or fix anything. That I can change the fluids and filters on my tractor is enough for me.

So a show like Mythbusters appeals to me because not only does it have a great science angle, but the sheer audacity of making all those crazy testing contraptions from scratch helps me appreciate those skills all the more.

If you've never seen Mythbusters, the two hosts (special effects experts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage) attempt to prove the veracity of "old wives tales," Internet memes, and urban legends. A duck's quack will not echo. A helicopter's rotors are so precisely balanced that a postage stamp affixed to one blade will cause the copter to crash. Adding Viagra to your Christmas tree's water will help it keep its needles. Driving over a bumpy road is smoother at a higher speed. You get less wet walking through a rain storm than running through it. The team tests each and assigns a value of "Busted," "Plausible," or "Confirmed."

After a marathon of watching the show, I asked myself, What are some myths that plague Christianity? 

I've thought about this a bit, choosing to think like a non-Christian.  Here are ten possible myths I came up with:

  1. Christians are more judgmental than non-Christians.
  2. Christians are stingier than non-Christians.
  3. Christians are more intolerant of other people than non-Christians.
  4. Christians are more short-sighted than non-Christians. 
  5. Christians don't know how to have fun. 
  6. Christians despise intellectuals more than non-Christians do.
  7. Christians prefer kitsch over important art.
  8. Christian subculture mimics the world rather than creating anything lasting.
  9. Companies run by Christians are as unethical as secular companies, and perhaps more so.
  10. Christianity causes more problems in the world than any other religion.

Busted, Plausible, or Confirmed? Readers, what's your take? And how might you devise experiments to test those conclusions?

Entries in this series:

 {Image: The Discovery Channel's Mythbusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman}

16 thoughts on “Busting Myths About Christianity

  1. It’s nice to know there’s another “Good Eats” fan out there…

    1. As the only people with a standard from which to judge, of course we are…
    2. We don’t want to lead people into temptation, so we keep money out of circulation…
    3. It’s not that we’re intolerant of people, it’s just that we don’t want to seem like we’re tolerating the sin, you see…
    4. The world is going to be swept away soon, so it’s not like we need to conserve anything…
    5. Fun is sinful. Or is it sin is fun? I can never get those straight…
    6. It’s not that we despise intellectuals, it’s just that our hold on Truth is so tenuous that we fear an intellectual argument. (No joke, that…)
    7. Important art is intellectual. See above.
    8. We only want to appeal to non-Christians, and presenting something obviously Christian would drive them away.
    9. Kenneth Lay, founder of Enron, was a ministers son, a regular church-goer, and as described in the words of a former colleague, “believed in the rules set out by Christianity and thought Enron should lead the community in helping the unfortunate and disadvantaged.”
    10. The usual issues can be marched out here: Crusades, Manifest Destiny, opposition to birth control, etc. But what about the positive side? Anyone? Anyone?

    But honestly, I wonder what the average non-Christian does think about Christians in general? I know I want to grind my teeth whenever an SUV with a IXOYE passes me at 80MPH (4, 8 and 10), but what about the broader view? Will a non-Christian confide with a Christian because they are a Christian? (1 and 3 would be important here) Will a non-Christian in need turn to a Church for help? (2 goes into play here…) Can Christians be depended on to encourage sustainable development? (2, 4, 6, 9 and 10)

    Testing these hypothesis would be difficult. Essentially one would have to have four groups of people: Christians by observation, Non-Christians by observation, Christians by profession, and non-Christians by profession. Then follow them for a year or so, interviewing people they come in contact with for their opinion.

    Or we could just wait for judgement day and watch the movie.

    • David,

      Nice list.

      I agree with what you say in #6. I think a lot of us run from intellectual arguments because:
      1. We’re afraid to deal with our own theology behind that argument’s points.
      2. We’re afraid of looking like “a dumb Christian.”
      3. We’re so isolated in our own Christian “ghetto” that we don’t address larger issues outside of “How many chapters of Bible reading a day is enough?”
      4. We just don’t know what a truly Biblical response to an issue should be.

      • Wired magazine has an interesting article on Atheism that makes a try at getting to the core of the divide between intellectuals and Christianity.


        I was impressed with the authors attempt at a balanced point of view, but ultimately dismayed at the perception of Christianity being something one feels. This is, I feel, the weakness of Christians in general, and the recent church movements (everything from Charismatics to EC) in particular.

  2. Dave

    Q1. Christians are more judgmental than non-Christians.
    A1. I believe that this is probably true a lot of the time. Even though we shouldn’t judge others I find that in our daily lives in trying to be obedient and pursue godly or God honoring lives; we are in a constant battle to resist temptation and turn away from sin, so when we witness the World around us freely sinning, I believe our first impulse is to be judgmental. It’s often difficult to not be judgmental towards people who are, daily, doing the very things that you are trying to avoid. But as followers of Christ, that is our calling. We are to be a light to those around us, we are to love our neighbor and be forgiving and understanding and most of all non-judgmental. Being judgmental will definitely hurt our witness and cause a stumbling block to those whom we have outwardly judged.

    Q2. Christians are stinger than non-Christians.
    A2. I’m not sure about this one. This is probably a myth. It hasn’t been my personal experience to witness Christians, as a whole, being any more stingier then the World. In fact, I would think that Christians would be more free with their money. But at the same time, I would also think that Christians would also be careful with their money as good stewards and not just throw it away. I would say this is a myth.

    Q3. Christians are more intolerant of other people than non-Christians.
    A3. This might be true in many cases. This again I believe is a result of Christians pursuing Holiness and Godliness, leading repentant lives and constantly resisting the World. But again we need to go back to our charge, to be IN the World but not OF the World. This of course means that, even though, we are being sanctified in the Spirit and are being conformed closer to the likeness of His Son, we still need to be accepting and forgiving of the wrongful attitudes and actions of the World and to love our neighbor. If we are constantly ‘intolerant’ of other peoples sin, then this will hurt our witness and again cause a stumbling block. But on the other hand, people will, no matter how much we try to be ‘tolerant’ notice a difference in us. We, as Christians, will be different from the World. So, There will be times, when the World will label us, especially in our culture today, as ‘intolerant’ simply because we are choosing to uphold Godly values. In this situation, it’s the World that is being ‘intolerant’ and not the Christian. So as far as the Myth goes, I don’t think that it is true, because I believe the World can be just as intolerant towards Christians as Christians can be towards the world.

    Q4. Christians are more short-sighted than non-Christians.
    A4. I believe that in America, people tend to be very pragmatic. The World wants things done NOW. So we have this mentality of getting the job done, no matter what it takes. So solutions and answers tend to be very short term. It has been my experience that most people in the World that I’ve met are very short-sighted. They seem to only be focused on this and next week. So long term effects of short term decisions are usually not considered. Now for people who are not willing to be pragmatic and or ‘practical’, but are more concerned with a long term vision, might be labeled as short-sighted by the pragmatics. I’m not sure. But it hasn’t been my experience that Christians are necessarily thought of as short-sighted. I believe that this isn’t a myth.

    Q5. Christians don’t know how to have fun.
    A5. This is, in my opinion, a valid myth. Sometimes it can be a truth that hurts our witness, a Christian who is more ‘works’ focused and is unwilling to go to dances, drink, watch secular movies and so on. This type of mentality I believe is unwarranted Biblically. But in a lot of cases, I believe this is just the situation where, the World’s idea of ‘fun’ is sinful and harmful and the Christian isn’t going to and in fact ‘commanded’ not to participate in. We are not going to be ‘fun’ in the Worlds eye’s because we are not willing participants to; fornication, drunkeness, lying, cheating, violence and so on.

    Q6. Christians despise intellectuals more than non-Christians do.
    A6. It hasn’t been my experience that this is a valid myth. I don’t believe that Christians outwardly give the World a reason to think that they ‘despise’ intellectuality.

    Q7. Christians prefer kitsch over important art.
    A7. I’m not sure if a lot of Christians would even know what ‘kitsch’ even means? I work at a Christian bookstore and if that is what the World considers ‘Christian Art’ then, this Myth is probably valid. But I believe that appreciation in the ‘Fine Arts’ is purely subjective. I can say this though. There is a lot of ‘junk’ in the secular community that is passed off as art. So I don’t believe that the World should label Christians as unable to appreciate Fine Art. I personally, as a Christian, am appalled by how strong of an influence towards nudity and sex there is in the Fine Arts and Theater. Francis Schaeffer has a couple of really good books that deal with the decline of Art. There is and has been a lot of Fine Art done by the World that would be offensive and unedifying for the Christian to enjoy. Art, Theater and Music is also the result of the mind behind it’s creator. If the person who has created the art isn’t embracing Christian truth, then chances are, their art will reflect this and therefor unedifying for the Christian audience. But we are all created by God in His image and so there has been and continues to be art created in the secular environment that is wonderful and beautiful. I like Fine Arts, paintings, sculptures and so on and I can say that most Christians I know, enjoy good art. I also know that there are Christians who create good art. So realistically, this might be a valid myth as far as the World is concerned, but in the Church, I don’t believe that it is valid. But I guess, as far as the World is concerned, Art that is viewed and accepted by Christians would be ‘narrower’ and therefor considered ‘kitsch’. I have to admit, I personally know quite a few Christians who do own ‘Christian’ prints. They prefer to listen to ‘Christian’ music (praise and gospel) and they tend not to frequent the Artsy community very much. There probably isn’t very many Christians living in Greenwich Village and preforming on Broadway.

    Q8. Christian subculture mimics the world rather than creating anything lasting.
    A8. Wow, working in a Christian Bookstore, this crosses my mind a lot. I get very frustrated because most of what we sell IS a mimic of something that has already been though of by the World. Again, if it is the Christian Bookstore that the World is using to judge us by, then this can be a very valid Myth. But here is my answer. As far as truth, I don’t believe this for one minute. I believe that ‘things’ that have been instilled and influenced by the church are very lasting. I’m going to use one very good example that is more and more being threatened by the World and our culture. Marriage. Marriage is a very Christian institution. Marriage between a man and a woman and the family unit is a very Christian practice and it has been a lasting custom for people for thousands of years. I could go on, but as far as the Christian ‘subculture’ goes, I believe that it is upholding many traditions and practices that have been very lasting for thousands of years.

    Q9. Companies run by Christians are as unethical as secular companies, and perhaps more so.
    A9. It has been my experience that this is simply not true. Although the Myth is probably valid. Because of this, there are a lot of business people who call themselves Christian and even attend Worship on a regular basis. But they are not truly a child of God. They are just using the Church as a means to make connections. But for the businesses that are run and operated by honest Christians, then I don’t think this is true. I work for LifeWay Christian Bookstore and I can say right now without reservation that it has by far been the best place I’ve ever worked. Working for and along side other Christians has been a very powerful witness for me in believing that there are honest businesses.

    Q10. Christianity causes more problems in the world than any other religion.
    A10. I would say, as far as the World is concerned, this is a by Yes and a valid Myth. Christians are going to stand up for Biblical truth against a world of wickedness and corruption. In my own experience, I have had many altercations against wrongful doing, in and out of the workplace. If it were up to the World, Christians wouldn’t exist. Sometimes though this can be true in a bad way.

    Summary: All these questions point to one main question, which is, Should the Church conform to the World, or should it continue to be Holy or different from the World. If the church chooses to remain Holy, it will be different and it will continue to convict and be subject to the Worlds hatred. A true follower of Christ will stand out and be different from a Worldly person. But on the other hand, we are commanded to love our neighbors and be forgiving. So as Christians, we should not judge and segregate ourselves from the World.

    So for the most part, most of these Myths are probably true and the Church has earned them. Some of them are a bad thing that hurts the Churches witness but some of them are essential and reflects the reason why the Church is called out and different.

    I just hope and pray that my words were in some small way edifying. May His grace and peace be with us.



  3. Cary

    I don’t have time to comment on your whole list, but number 2 is clearly a myth. Arthur C. Brooks has just recently come out with a new book titled, Who Really Cares. It describes how conservatives, an in particular religious conservatives, are more giving than liberals. Religious faith is a key driver in this. By the way, religious liberals are also more giving than secularists.

    Below are two quotes from his website promoting the book at http://www.arthurbrooks.net/

    There is a huge “charity gap that follows religion: On average, religious people are far more generous than secularists with their time and money. This is not just because of giving to churches—religious people are more generous than secularists towards explicitly non-religious charities as well. They are also more generous in informal ways, such as giving money to family members, and behaving honestly.

    A religious person is 57% more likely than a secularist to help a homeless person.

  4. bob

    To be positive, first, christians are more giving in their charities and charitable work. Most volunteer good will is through charitable organizations and individuals not looking for glory.

    That having been duly recognized, I find that christians in business are no different than the secular world. All of the following experiences are with christians: a lawyer we had to report to the attorney grievance commission, a woman paying barely above minimum wage telling an employee to leave 25 cents for a local phone call made on her phone, same one didn’t pay me for weeks, a pastor who didn’t pay me for carpet cleaning even after a polite visit asking for payment.

    Workers who are christian goof off as much, cut corners , and stir up gossip at the workplace as much as nonchristians. I am glad one reader thought this a myth.

    Indeed you’ll find nonchristians capable of all of the above behavior. There just isn’t enough difference and everybody expects it.

  5. bob

    P.S. I love that show.

    They busted a myth that potatos shoved up the car tailpipe will cause harm. All these decades I harbored guilt thinking I had blown up a teacher’s muffler.

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  7. Chris Stiles

    This piece by Ron Sider may be apposite in the context of several of your myths:



    Christians are more intolerant of other people than non-Christians.

    Christians are stingier than non-Christians.

    As for the first part of “Christian subculture mimics the world rather than creating anything lasting.”, someone on one of the blogs I read had something like this to say about it (annoyingly I can’t dig up the link any longer):

    “Go into a record store – look for an album with the picture of an ugly musician on the front. Try to do the same in the CD section of a Christian bookstore.”

  8. Dan, I really don’t see what point there could be in this “mythbusters” exercise of yours.

    First of all, as far as the “educated elites” and the “political classes” who run this country are concerned, they don’t give a rat’s patoot about what xtians thinks. And they never will. For them, we are nothing but an unwashed mob of ignoramuses, and therefore do not count for anything, and however much we might protest contrariwise, it will only fall on deaf ears. Insofar as we have any value to the politicians, it is merely that we are occasionlly mollified with hot air and talk in order to obtain our votes; after that, we are promptly ignored. So beyond that we really don’t matter to the world, and it is quite pointless, in my opinion, to wring our hands about “myths” and whatnot, trying to discern what’s busted and what’s not.

    It really boils down to this: deconstructing a list of “myths” seems silly. Measuring how the church is currently functioning as compared to the plumbline of scriptures is enough. The world can’t do this for us; we have to do it ourselves.

    • Dear mystified about “mythbusters” Moonbones,

      You may not see the point of arguments made against “educated elites” and “political classes” but here is a little point that you may have not bothered to consider as of yet. That is, if our friend Dan bothers to write about topics that include both keywords and religious topics less frequently discussed within the same breath on a blog over the internet. He will end up drawing a very curious crowd of “on-lookers” to his blog. Thus, witnessing the love of Christ to a very unique and possibly interested audience. One doesn’t always have to “preach to the choir” you know. There are many folks on the internet who would like to read about what Dan has to say, even if, Christians may consider these topics “old news.”

      The internet is a library. Invest for future generations. Think about what you write in terms of those who will happen upon your keywords and phrases. “Mythbusters” is a great keyword. I’m glad I just happened to find your entry Dan.


      P.S. Oh, and Moonbones, I can’t wait to read the keywords you’ll dream up someday. Moonbones is very different. Perhaps, Christ will be using your comments to draw some very hippy chics! In any case I’ve just mentioned that word often enough to rank it a little higher, Moonbones. (Better get a good sermon worked up.)(grin.)

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