A quick-witted reader from Illinois asks about my Christmas essay, “Christmas Atheists.” He quickly discerns that I was describing atheists who, despite their abandonment of religious faith, hold on to Christian or Jewish ethics.
But why, he wants to know, did I choose to call one category of such atheists “Methodist Atheists”? The reason is that of all Christians, Methodists are in the main the nicest. John Wesley put an emphasis on how actions are done, on the adverbs (so to speak) of reality. One should act gently, kindly, modestly, warmly, humbly, generously, gratefully, cheerfully, and so on.
Perhaps for this reason, Methodists have been called the Hallmark Card of American Christians, the most American of all.
Of course, there are Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Catholics, etc., who fit the same pattern. That is, even when they fall away from the faith, and when they let church-going lapse, they go on being nice, just as they were taught to do while growing up. “Good Christians” (or “good Jews”) to the end.
I meant it as a compliment to Methodists, as the most “typical” Americans.