Christianity is a crutch. Never has a truer statement been made. Christianity is a belief for the weak, helpless, and hopeless individual. What more could one expect from a religion where a "Great Physician" is the centerpiece? I have heard such a claim levied at Christianity fairly frequently. Good, American, self-made individuals take issue with such a religion because casts don't have bootstraps by which one can pull themselves up, and are rather cumbersome features. They impede self and produce dependence. Who needs a crutch when one has proven with their life that they are self-sufficient - they are hindered by nothing? Many Westerners are therefore functional atheists, denying their need for a God who is just a crutch.
Most atheists are probably fine with my characterization of Christianity so far. IF Christianity were true, some of these aspects could provide us with great hope. However, because Christianity is so obviously false, it is a delusional system intended to soothe us through this life. But in reality, Christianity is no true comfort at all. It doesn't provide us with healing, but rather false hope. I think this is a fair claim. If Christianity were false, it would be a terrible sort of remedy. It would be the greatest snake oil scam of all time. It would be a tragedy - a travesty. For if Christ is not raised, we are more than all men to be pitied. But if Christianity were replaced with atheism, would delusion and false hope disappear?
Let's assume for a minute that Christianity is false and atheism is true. Let's assume that the world throws off all religion, as Lennon encouraged, and embraced pure materialism. Would our world be devoid of crutches? Certainly not! Materialism is a system that is built on crutches and relies on them for survival. On materialism, many aspects of humanity that dig into our deepest intuitions seem clearly false and delusional. Your sense of free will (as most intuitively understand the term) in a mechanistic world governed by physics and chemistry is delusional. On materialism, love as we deeply understand it to be is overthrown. We are determined creatures who don't act on love, but rather are acted on by our physiology to "love." Love becomes pure, determined reaction. Altruism, on materialism, boils down to self-interest, as the late Christopher Hitchens himself so eloquently told the world. A plethora of the core emotions and actions of humanity - the very things that make life livable and meaningful- logically dissipate on materialism. Yet they don't really dissipate. They are kept around as crutches, for the materialist who so despises the delusion of Christianity cannot avoid the crutches his own system requires him to bear in order to continue choosing existence over demise. The atheist, like the Christian, recognizes that this world is broken. The atheist, like the Christian, is lame.
But here lies a significant difference between the crutches of Christianity and the crutches of materialism. On Christianity, if it is true, the crutches are intended to bring individuals and the world to a point of restoration and healing. They are intended to do what crutches should do. Belief in Christianity brings one hobbling through this life until the crutches can be thrown off for a body made whole, a world made right, and relationships restored - until faith becomes sight. But on materialism, if it is true, the crutches are an inherent, perpetual part of the system. They dull the pain rather than bring it to healing. One is forced to believe - for sanity's sake - in things that cannot be features in a materialistic universe. If materialism is true, one could certainly throw off the crutches and embrace pain, suffering, and mechanistic determinism - but who would want to embrace such brokenness? And if a mechanistic universe is what we have, who could blame anyone for not embracing such a horrid truth, for chemistry and physics determine that they believe what they do. One may be able to embrace such a world for the sake of the truth, but what would we be embracing truth for if all of our deepest emotions and intuitions evaporate, and we are just determined, hopeless creatures? Truth has no more inherent value than delusion on materialism, especially where truth inhibits one's ability to live this life. It seems that delusion is an integral part of atheism. And if materialists are ok with crutches, then why dismiss crutches that center around the delusion of religion?
It is hard to believe that we exist in a materialistic universe that goes against some of our deepest intuitions. This is particularly the case when it comes to love. Love is a powerful thing. In fact, it is so powerful, that it drives some to become atheists. It has often enough been through the death of a loved one that an individual comes to denounce their faith in God. For whatever reason, only a minute before, they were content with the deaths of all the billions who had died previously. Yet when death touches something they themselves cherish, they ask, "how could God allow such tragedy to strike me?" That is almost always the phrasing of the question. It is not "how could God allow such tragedy?" but rather "why do I have to experience such tragedy?" The love the atheist convert had for their precious deceased is so strong, it pulls their faith to the grave with their beloved. But in denouncing God's existence, the convert to atheism throws off much more than the tyranny of God and the crutch of dependency upon him - they inadvertently throw off the tyranny of love. For where only matter exists, true love and its binding claim upon us cannot. Like the man who refuses to get his family a pet because he doesn't want to go through the heartache of eventually having to put it down, so it is with a logically consistent atheist. To prevent the pain of loss, they throw away the very thing that drives life - the basis for love. They will never be hurt by God again, and they will never have a reason to hurt. Love nothing, lose nothing. But in losing the basis for love, the atheist ends up truly losing their deceased forever, for their beloved can no longer be loved, and in fact, never was - for love is merely a delusion.
Fortunately for the Christian, life and love does not work this way. We not only have a basis for love, but a God who is not an atheist. Rather than our God denying that he had ever loved, he bore the pain of sacrifice and loss to prove to us that not only does love exist, but it exists in greater measure than we could have ever imagined. Our God embraced the tyranny of love. Our God is love. He preserved and magnified this love so that we too, even through our darkest days, could know that true love really does exist, and therefore, so does a relational God. And he did it propped up by two pieces of wood.