By Michael Runyan | 11 November 2013
My path out of Christianity began 30 years ago when I realized that evolution was a fact — that we evolved from very simple organisms that lived 4,000,000,000 years ago. I wondered why a god would use such a long, convoluted process to produce the desired human product, a process that included a 160,000,000 year reign of the dinosaurs and the countless suffering of animals that starved to death or were eaten alive. The way I got out of that conundrum was to suppose that God allowed everything to happen on its own and that only when intelligent beings evolved did he decide to intervene, and that perhaps he did the same on other planets where intelligent life evolved.
For a while, I was satisfied with that, but then I started to realize other problems. Modern humans have existed for 100,000 years, so why did God wait 95,000 years before he made contact? And why was that contact made with only a small tribe in the Middle East? The problem was further exacerbated by the question of why God would “choose” a certain people over another in the first place, while ignoring the many vibrant civilizations that existed all over the world at that time? Then it became worse when I realized that God allegedly not only favored the Jews, but he also helped them to fight their neighbors, even to the point of commanding them to kill the adversary’s women and children. Why would a god who had built the entire universe become involved in such cruel and petty absurdity? When looking at the other atrocities ascribed to God in the Old Testament, I also realized that no real god would ever act in that way. I also concluded that the god of the New Testament was very different and could not be the same as the one described in the Old Testament — though, if that is true, then Christianity fails a significant test of authenticity.
I was impressed by this quote from Richard Dawkins:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
There are scriptures to back up every adjective in this quote.
Another quote from Mark Twain:
“Our Bible reveals to us the character of our God with minute and remorseless exactness. The portrait is substantially that of a man — if one can imagine a man charged and overcharged with evil impulses far beyond the human limit; a personage whom no one, perhaps, would desire to associate with, now that Nero and Caligula are dead. In the old Testament His acts expose His vindictive, unjust, ungenerous, pitiless and vengeful nature constantly. He is always punishing — punishing trifling misdeeds with thousand-fold severity; punishing innocent children for the misdeeds of their parents; punishing unoffending populations for the misdeeds of their rulers; even descending to wreak bloody vengeance upon harmless calves and lambs and sheep and bullocks, as punishment for inconsequential trespasses committed by their proprietors. It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light and leading, by contrast.”
The story of Noah’s Ark never happened. But it was written as if it were a fact, so it made me wonder what other events in the Bible that, unlike Noah, seem plausibly true but are nonetheless fiction? What is even more telling in my observation is that if the story of Noah is true, as many fundamentalist Christians believe, would a god capable of such vicious cruelty be worthy of worship in the first place?
I also recognized that a real god would not require animals to be sacrificed for his gratification or demand that people who work on the Sabbath be put to death, or that disobedient children should be killed. It seemed obvious to me that men wrote scriptures that reflected the current culture and whatever appealed to them, but they were not in communication with or guided by a supernatural being during this process. Could the real god that made the whole universe be so petty, unjust, and jealous, or be a misogynist or homophobic, or be a racist, or be homicidal, or be so inconsistent and capricious as he is portrayed in the Old Testament? No, but humans certainly could. This god is nothing more than a reflection of the men who wrote the Old Testament, very much a fictional deity grounded in the times and environment of the people who created him.
That the Bible is a product of its times is also revealed by the Ten Commandments. Nowhere in these commandments is there a condemnation of slavery, genocide, child molestation, or cruel treatment of homosexuals or non-human animals, but it does suggest that a wife is the property of the husband (Commandment #10). It is apparent that the morality of modern civilization has surpassed that of the Bible, but if God was the author of these commandments, it begs the question: are we today more moral than God? It takes little effort by anyone to construct a more enlightened set of instructions than what is contained in the Ten Commandments.
I understood that the Bible viewed homosexuality as sin, but concluded that a real god would have understood the causes of homosexuality and would not have condemned what came natural to these people. He would have known that it wasn’t a choice, but rather an integral part of their essence. Such a god would not have condemned these people or their activity. The Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality reveals its man-made origins.
The story of the Jewish exile to Egypt has been disproved based on the absolute lack of evidence either in the Egyptian historical records or corroborating physical evidence. The story of everything associated with this sojourn was apparently a myth that was later written into the books of Genesis and Exodus. Once again, this casts doubt on the authenticity of the Old Testament.
So the next rationalization for me was to completely jettison the Old Testament and consider it apocryphal — just a series of legends that might in some cases have been remotely tethered to real events, and that Jesus came to the earth to correct the errors of Judaism as well as other religions. There were problems with that concept as well because Jesus appeared to be supportive of Old Testament history and law. There seems to be no way to separate Christianity from its Jewish roots without destroying its authenticity.
At this point my faith was hanging by a thread. I looked at how the universe was constructed and how things worked in my experience of life. Well, the universe did not seem to be anything a god would design, there being too much chaos and asymmetry, with asteroids pounding planets, galaxies colliding, and so forth. The universe is too large for it to have been created just for human earthlings, and it also seems to be farcical that the god that made all of this is a male and looks like a human.
I considered a thought experiment, that I had been raised without any religious instruction or even hearing about religion as I grew up. Would I have concluded from what I experienced that there were supernatural forces at play? Did it seem like a world populated with gods, angels, devils, and demons? The answer was “no.”
The very concept of the Devil and Hell seemed to be a human invention, perhaps to scare and control people, but very unlikely to exist in reality. I understood that if I disbelieved in the Devil that I was also dangerously close to disbelieving in God.
I wondered how God could justify letting so much misery occur when he had the power to stop it. I examined the well-known quote by Epicurus:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
I found it hard to construct a convincing retort to this argument. After seeing people fall victim to Alzheimer’s disease, be eaten alive by flesh-eating bacteria, be drowned in tsunamis, be wracked with agonizing pain, I became weary of using the long-standing rationalization that ‘god works in mysterious ways.’ The amount of suffering in the world is too great to be considered a purposeful plan by a benevolent god. I realized one thing — if God is who most Christians think he is, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, then he is not compassionate, not sympathetic, and not deserving of admiration or worship.
A corollary to this issue is to ask what would a god do if he sees a very tragic event unfolding or about to happen, would he just watch and let it occur? An example is 9/11, or the great Indonesian or Japanese tsunamis. It seemed to be unusual that an existence overseen by a supernatural god would see such terrible events occur, and happen in a way that appeared to be unrestrained by any governing mechanism. If a person withheld information that could have thwarted the 9/11 attack, he would have been prosecuted as an accessory before the fact. But god gets a pass on this by Christians who seem to rationalize that god thought this event was somehow necessary.
I also evaluated the effectiveness of prayer and concluded that the prayers I had said in my life had not shown any sign of being answered beyond pure coincidence. I wondered why God refused to heal amputees and quadriplegics. I also wondered why Christians and atheists respond the same way when they get sick or wreck their car — that is, it seemed that being a Christian offered no tangible real-world advantage.
I was bothered by the fact that Christians did not pray for anything that would clearly require a supernatural force, such as praying for a dead person to be raised back to life, or an amputee to have a limb restored, or for a polluted lake to be cleaned up. And I had ask myself why this was so, because the Bible seemed to suggest such things should be possible through an all-powerful God. I wondered if it was because Christians know that prayers really do not work and to be safe it is best to use them only in situations where a positive ‘answer’ might result from a natural process.
I also wondered why God would be so secretive and aloof, and allow so many false religions to flourish. Even in the Christian religion, there are hundreds of denominations each with a different philosophy of Christianity. Wouldn’t it make more sense to be upfront with us and let us know exactly what we were supposed to believe, how to behave, and who to worship? Further, why are so many people born into circumstances that make becoming a Christian almost impossible?
I wondered why a god would author the perception that men were in any way superior to women, or had dominion over them. Our society has moved to a paradigm of equality between the sexes. Wouldn’t a god have been similarly enlightened and have promoted this concept from the beginning?
I wondered about the inconsistency of salvation, given that an infant who dies is supposedly given a free pass to heaven, but if he lived to be an adult and did not satisfy God, he could be sent to Hell. This seemed to suggest that dying as an infant was the best thing that could happen, for why risk an eternal reward for a few short years of earthly life?
My read of the Bible also suggested something atrocious — that Ted Bundy, the serial killer of over 30 women, is in heaven, while Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian who devoted his life to alleviating the suffering of impoverished Africans, is in hell. It is consistent to make this argument from the text of the New Testament, which suggests that no man is worthy of heaven without accepting the grace offered by Jesus’ death on the cross and that any person still alive, no matter their history, can have his sins absolved. Bundy did accept Jesus before his execution and Schweitzer did not accept Jesus as being divine. This outlandish scenario caused me to question the morality of the New Testament, but more importantly, the likelihood that a god would use such an injudicious system of reward and punishment.
I wondered why a religion started by the Jews was any different from other religions created by other cultures. In all cases, the gods exclusively favored the group that invented them, so why should I assume that the religion of the Jews was any different?
I considered the miraculous elements of Christianity — the virgin birth, the guiding star, the visitation by nobility, being put to death and resurrecting, and found that all of these elements existed in religions that preceded Christianity. This didn’t disprove these events as described in the Bible, but it did suggest the possibility that elements of previous religions were borrowed by Christianity.
I looked at the New Testament and found two disturbing problems, the first being the Roman census that was supposedly conducted during the time of Jesus’ birth (BC 4). There is no record of this in Roman history (the only census that took place in this time frame was in AD 6-7 according to the Romans meticulous records and did not include the areas of Nazareth and Bethlehem) and it never made sense anyway. The Romans would not have required people to journey to their birth city. This would involve cases where families would have been split, going to different cities, but more significantly, the Romans would want to know how many people were living currently in each area rather than how many were born in a certain city. I also realized why this was written into the Bible — Jesus was a Nazarene, but the scriptures said that the savior was to be born in Bethlehem, so some device was needed to convince followers that Jesus was not born in Nazareth as everyone had assumed, but rather he had the appropriate credentials of the savior.
The other story was the release of Barabbas at the Passover. There is no record outside of the Bible of the Romans having a tradition of releasing a prisoner of the crowd’s choice during the Passover, and common sense suggests that this could not be true. The Bible suggests that a murderer named Barabbas was released in lieu of Jesus at the behest of the crowd. It was clear to me that this was written to make the point that Jesus was crucified at the will of the Jews and to exonerate the Romans. It also seems likely that the crowd screaming for the release of Barabbas was actually referring to Jesus, and that Barabbas, translated to “son of the father” might have been his nickname. It also seemed to be very peculiar that the same crowd that enthusiastically regaled Jesus on Palm Sunday would turn against him 5 days later and urge the Romans to crucify him while selecting a callous murderer to be released in his stead.
I convinced myself that these two stories were not true and further discovered the motivation that led to their inclusion into the gospels. When I realized that these two stories were not true, I began to question the validity of everything written in the New Testament.
As many historians theorize, Jesus was crucified by the Romans for the charge of sedition and was only one of many Jewish leaders of the time that met the same fate. The Romans were suspicious of any Jewish leader that was recognized to be a threat to the Roman occupation, and Jesus certainly fell into that category. But the gospels tell a different story — the Romans (Pontius Pilate) didn’t want to execute Jesus and left it up to the Jews to decide his fate. The Roman soldier was the first to comprehend Jesus’ divinity. The centurion had faith that Jesus could heal his servant. What may have happened is that after the Roman-Jewish war decimated the Jews, the existing oral traditions and scriptures were revised to favor the Romans, because they then became the focus of Christian evangelism. This proselytizing focus on the Romans would later lead to the explosion of Christianity across Europe and later the remainder of the world.
I considered the following scriptures:
I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” — Matthew 16:28
And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” — Mark 9:1
I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” — Luke 9:27
I had to conclude one of two things — either Jesus made this statement and was wrong, and was therefore not God himself, or it was purposely added to the scriptures to create a sense of urgency among the followers. I concluded that the latter was the more likely explanation, and likewise, this caused me to doubt the veracity of everything in the gospels referring to the words spoken by Jesus. This ploy would have caused people to be much more willing to donate their goods to the church and be more eager to serve the faith. In actuality, this tactic is still being used today by some evangelical preachers.
The philosophy that Jesus espoused was in many ways irrational and suggested that he thought the world order was about to end. Here is a list of what passes under the radar of most Christians:
- If you do something wrong with your eye or hand, cut/pluck it off (Matthew 5:29-30, in a sexual context).
- Marrying a divorced woman is adultery. (Matthew 5:32)
- Don’t plan for the future. (Matthew 6:34)
- Don’t save money. (Matthew 6:19-20)
- Don’t become wealthy. (Mark 10:21-25)
- Sell everything and give it to the poor. (Luke 12:33)
- Don’t work to obtain food. (John 6:27)
- Don’t have sexual urges. (Matthew 5:28)
- Make people want to persecute you. (Matthew 5:11)
- If someone steals from you, don’t try to get it back. (Luke 6:30)
- If someone hits you, invite them to do it again. (Matthew 5:39)
- If you lose a lawsuit, give more than the judgment. (Matthew 5:40)
- If someone forces you to walk a mile, walk two miles. (Matthew 5:41)
- If anyone asks you for anything, give it to them without question. (Matthew 5:42)
Very few Christians, even fundamentals, follow even one of these precepts, and yet they will tell you that Jesus is their role model (What would Jesus do?). But clearly, it suggests a person who is convinced that the world is ending as it was known and that planning for the future or defending your possessions was a waste of time. Of course, if Jesus was really God, he would have known that the world would continue on for at least another 2000 years.
I realized that the Bible failed to offer any insights beyond the then-current understanding of science and considered this a piece of circumstantial evidence suggesting that it was written by men without any inspiration from a supernatural source.
I looked at the historical sequencing of the books of the New Testament. Mark was the first, written about 30 years after Jesus died, followed by Luke, about 5 years later, then Matthew, about 10 years later, and John, about 25 years later. The time lag between the events and the documentation seemed long enough to be an opportunity for exaggeration and myths to contaminate the historical account. But more telling, the stories told in the gospels appear to grow in magnificence with each successive book. In Mark, there is no account of a virgin birth or of a resurrected Jesus interacting with the disciples (other than the last verses that were added much later), with Luke, the virgin birth is added, and with John, the raising of Lazarus is first presented and Jesus is for the first time equated with God the Father. Another example is that the temptation of Jesus by the devil grows in significance and details from Mark to Luke to Matthew. These examples reflect a classic illustration of mythmaking, such that over time events are embellished to make for a more compelling story.
Another example of the evolution of Christian writings is as follows:
Matthew 27:46,50: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ …Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”
Luke 23:46: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:’ and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”
John 19:30: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished:’ and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”
In the first gospel, Jesus is expressing displeasure with God for allowing the crucifixion, but in the later gospels, Luke and John, there is no longer any hint of dissatisfaction. It suggests that the writers of the gospels made revisions to improve the image of Jesus.
This also brings up a theory that Jesus, as a man and not a god for this discussion, did not expect to be killed by the Romans, but rather thought that God would culminate his mission by miraculously expelling the Romans and establishing a free Jewish state. It is possible that Judas was sent to ensure that the Roman soldiers would descend on Jesus’ location in the Gethsemane Garden and that the miracle would happen there — this based on Jesus’ understanding of the scriptures. For this reason, Jesus was very nervous (supposedly sweating blood) and asked his disciples to pray with fervent zeal and was quite irritated when they appeared to be falling asleep. Judas was accordingly not a traitor, but was following Jesus’ instructions. Jesus was disappointed and disillusioned by his arrest and crucifixion and the cry of abandonment was a reflection of those feelings. It is probable when a statement appears in scripture that seems to be contrary to the major theme of the text as it appears in Matthew 27:46, that this is more likely to be an actual statement made by Jesus. It is also likely that a controversial quote by Jesus would be modified by later editions, and this is what we see in Luke and John.
This brought me to a realization that many of the anecdotal stories told by Christians are not true, but are deliberately made up or exaggerated for the purpose of strengthening the faith of family members and friends. A Christian can rationalize this tactic by thinking that the end justifies the means. If they see a family member waning in faith, then a fictional story of miraculous characteristics could possibly get them back in line, and the benefit of doing this is greater than the burden of lying. This caused me to be skeptical of any story that contained supernatural elements.
For a while I clung to the account of the disciples risking their lives and enthusiastically spreading the news about Jesus as an indication of the reality of Jesus’s mission. But this too was problematic because the book detailing these events (Acts of the Apostles) was written in approximately A.D. 63, or 34 years after Jesus’ (4BC-29AD) death. I couldn’t discount the possibility that much of the account included deliberate fiction to bolster the faith of the fledging Christian followers. The number of people still alive who had witnessed Jesus’ life would have been very little at that time.
I questioned how the story of Jesus’s resurrection and visitations with his disciples thereafter could have become conventional wisdom if these events had not happened. What seemed possible was that his body was stolen, leaving an empty tomb for his followers to witness, and it is very conceivable that the dreams of the disciples and others involving Jesus could have been interpreted as actual instances of him communicating with them beyond the grave. Also, some disciples might have invented stories about Jesus to keep his memory and fame alive.
The story of the Romans guarding the grave of Jesus is almost certainly not true. There would have been no reason for them to do this, and remember, Jesus was only one of many rabbis crucified at about the same time for the crime of sedition. As long as Jesus was dead, the Romans were satisfied. But it seems very likely that the fictional story of the Roman guard was added to the scriptures to make Jesus’s resurrection seem more remarkable, and perhaps as a way to curtail a rumor that his body had been stolen.
Within the same framework of the death and resurrection stories, there is mention of graves opening following an earthquake with dead people coming back to life and walking the streets of Jerusalem. In Matthew 27:51-53:
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
This is clearly a fictional account and its inclusion casts much doubt on the authenticity of the neighboring text. It seemed to me that if something this artificial could be added by the author of Matthew, then other fictional stories might have been added as well. This caused me a lot of concern because it meant that some events written in the Bible might simply have been completely fictitious stories that the author thought would add more luster to the account. In this case, it appears that the author of Matthew did just that.
I looked at the result of the Jesus Seminar and found the conclusion was as follows:
… the Jesus Seminar, a colloquium of over 200 Protestant Gospel scholars mostly employed at religious colleges and seminaries, undertook in 1985 a multi-year investigation into the historicity of the statements and deeds attributed to Jesus in the New Testament. They concluded that only 18% of the statements and 16% of the deeds attributed to Jesus had a high likelihood of being historically accurate. So, in a very real sense fundamentalists — who claim to believe in the literal truth of the Bible — are not followers of Jesus Christ; rather, they are followers of those who, decades or centuries later, put words in his mouth.
One of the stories in the gospel of John talks about Jesus calling for the person without sin to cast the first stone at a woman caught in adultery. This story does not appear in the earliest manuscripts and is not even commented on until almost 1000 years after this event supposedly occurred. It appears that it was added by a scribe as a means to further define the characteristics of a fictionalized Jesus.
In Matthew 5:29-30 the following quote is made by Jesus:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
This statement is probably meant to be figurative, though many people throughout Christian history have taken it to heart and mutilated themselves. The important point is why would a god make such an irresponsible statement? Most likely it was an addition from a previous Teutonic religious tradition.
I also explored the fractured relationship and doctrinal differences between Paul and the direct-witness disciples (James, Peter, and John) as well as the theory of many biblical scholars that two forms of Christianity existed in the first century, with Paul’s version surviving exclusively after the Roman — Jewish war resulted in the destruction of the temple and re-occupation by Roman forces in AD 70. It also made me wonder how God’s chosen people could suffer such a humiliating defeat.
It became important to realize that Jesus was a Jew and had no intention of establishing a new religion separate from Judaism. I was wary of the fact that the vast majority of Jews did not follow on to Jesus’s mission, but rather continued in their old traditions. What this told me is that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who was hijacked by outsiders who deified him to create their own vision of God’s plan. It appeared that Paul was the major impetus to this undertaking and he might have been the unique inventor of modern Christianity. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” He would have been appalled that a new religion founded on his name did precisely that — it dismantled much of the old Jewish law.
There is ample evidence that Jesus was a racist, considering the Jewish race to be superior to other races, both in this life and in the one to come. This is not a criticism of the man Jesus, because he was a product of his time, and was taught from birth that he was one of the chosen people. But it does suggest that Jesus was not a god, who if he was, most certainly would not have divided his grace unequally, much as a parent tries to treat all of his progeny with equal compassion.
Christianity has diverged and split into a multitude of denominations, which is expected when a manmade concept is subjected to a large population, but a god-made religion should converge and become more cohesive as time goes on, because only the churches that are truly following god should experience success.
Finally, I had to ask myself how a mythical religion could be so successful over two millennia. This was easily explained by the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Absent this, Christianity would likely not have survived to today. The modern day analogue of the Mormon Church established the fact that millions of people can become completely convinced of something that is obviously not true. Given the societal environment of 2000 years ago, this would seem to have been even more likely then.
There were other issues that strained the logical processes of my mind. I thought about the moment in time that a fetus or child becomes an entity destined for an eternal life either in heaven or in hell. Does a fertilized egg cell that fails to implant in the uterus and dies considered a person in the eyes of god and goes on to heaven? That made little sense. But then, I had a very difficult time trying to pinpoint a moment in the fetal development when immortality begins. No matter what stage of pregnancy or birth or age of child that I picked, I could see how arbitrary the choice was.
I also wondered about Christians who are hoping for the return of Christ in their lifetime, so they wouldn’t have to experience death and would be raised to glory in the rapture. What indulgent self-centeredness! So they want to cut short the life of their children or even stop everything before their children can have children? For someone who has lived out the bulk of their lifetime, it is insincere to wish an end to the world that would trim the life experience of those who are younger.
I also considered that many Christians believe in evolution. This creates another logical problem: when did the first hominids become eternal creatures in the eyes of god? Whenever this happened, it is unavoidable that the first persons so selected would be resurrected into heaven without their parents. They would be the only persons in heaven without parents. They could beg god to resurrect their parents, but if he did so, these parents would likewise be without their parents.
Next, I thought, why would a god want to immortalize humans in the first place? Why would god need all of this ‘help?’ Also, what is eternal life when the universe is only 13.7 billion years old?
I wondered why a god who set up the earth as a testing ground for humans would allow some to born with hampered mental facilities such as retardation or autism. However, these afflictions fit perfectly into a model of reality that has no supernatural overseer.
The final nail in the coffin for me was the realization that Jesus was a Jew and was following Jewish custom without making any effort to depart ways and start a new religion. The Jewish faith would not allow for a man to be a god, for the Jews were unyieldingly monotheistic. This is best description of this is a quote from Reza Aslin:
“If you’re asking if whether Jesus expected to be seen as God made flesh, as the living embodiment, the incarnation of God, then the answer to that is absolutely no. Such a thing did not exist in Judaism. In the 5,000-year history of Jewish thought, the notion of a God-man is completely anathema to everything Judaism stands for. The idea that Jesus could’ve conceived of himself — or that even his followers could’ve conceived of him — as divine, contradicts everything that has ever been said about Judaism as a religion.”
The book “Zealot” by Aslin points out that there were scores of Jewish ‘saviors’ roaming the Middle East contemporaneously with Jesus also with bands of followers and a promise of a second coming. This appears to raise the possibility that the Jesus described in the gospels is a composite mythical figure based on several of these preachers.
I confidently came to the conclusion that the god of the Bible is not real. I also concluded that if there is a god or gods in the universe, then it either does not know we are here or else knows of us but has decided not to interfere.
I also concluded that this life is the only life that we will experience, and that after death we will not have any consciousness, the same as before we were born.
I then tried to determine if Christianity is a net plus or minus for the world. Certainly, it has given many people a sense of community, a means of dealing with the deaths of loved ones, a spiritual basis for experiencing life, a sense of purpose, and a basis for doing good deeds and being charitable.
On the other hand, it has also caused some problems. It has triggered much division among people of different faiths, such as Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, Christians and Muslims in Europe, and even among various denominations of Christians in the United States.
Over history, Christianity has been used to justify slavery, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the burning of witches, the suppression of women’s rights, and so forth. It is still being used today to deny equal rights to homosexuals.
Because many Christians believe that the end of times is near, it has desensitized people to the environmental challenges facing the planet, and these same people have voted like-minded people into political positions, resulting in a failure to take measures to ensure the long-term viability of the planet.
One of the more subtle effects of Christianity is that it has made people less likely to take care of their health, emphasizing spiritual health as taking precedence, as written in the scriptures: I Timothy 4:8: ‘For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.’ If one is convinced that after a short life on earth an eternity of time will follow with a perfect body, it lessens the incentive to make sacrifices in this life to live healthily.
Christianity also causes some people to make bad decisions because it encourages them to interpret voices in their head or circumstantial events to be a sign from God instructing them on a decision they must make. This can take precedence over objectively examining facts.
The belief that some form of personal protection (such as guarding angels) is available to Christians causes some people (admittedly a small minority) to take foolhardy risks, leading to death or serious injury.
Christianity has also shown itself to be vulnerable to being hijacked by influential people who use a distorted form of it to justify war, slavery, and torture, discrimination against homosexuals, the virtues of affluence, and the glorification of firearms.
It has also been associated with opposition to universal health care or any social safety nets for the poor, this being most ironic because it was one of the central themes of Jesus’s ministry. Historically, it has been used to justify the relegation of women’s rights.
Christianity has a history of impeding the advancement of science reaching back to the Middle Ages. Even today it manifests this tendency by watering down the teaching of evolution, restricting stem cell research, and opposing efforts to control climate change.
Christianity has been used in other ways that have resulted in public health crises, such as the Catholic Churches ban on birth control and the slow response to control the spread of the HIV virus by politicians who incorrectly interpreted it as God’s retribution on homosexuals.
It has also overvalued the exercise of faith, or believing in things without supporting evidence. This has a subtle but thoroughly permeating effect on the public at large as it allows for unscrupulous people to dupe others into accepting on faith a false product or assertion. The people who followed Jim Jones to their deaths in Jonestown, Guyana were all raised in the Christian faith as were the followers of Joseph Smith and David Koresh. In this sense, Christianity has stifled the exercise of critical thinking in its flocks, and promoted the preferred use of intuitive feelings to come to knowledge of the unknown.
I am struck by the difference in mindset between conservative Christians who object to same-sex marriage and the more liberal people who accept it, as depicted in the following quote from Jennifer Beals:
“I’m always shocked that gay marriage is such a big deal. You have to realize how precious human life is, when there are tsunamis and mudslides, when there are armies and terrorists — at any moment, you could be gone, and potentially in the most brutal fashion. And then you have to realize that love is truly one of the most extraordinary things you can experience in your life. To begrudge someone else their love of another person because of gender seems to be absolutely absurd. It’s based in fear, fear of the other, fear of what is not like you. But when you are able to see lives on a day-to-day basis, rather than reducing it to politics, then it humanizes a whole community of people that were otherwise invisible.”
Upon reading this quote it became apparent to me that Christianity as practiced by many Christians is rather ‘un-Christ-like.’
I concluded from these observations that Christianity has had a net detrimental effect on civilization. I further concluded that the world would be a much better place if all religions vanished from the face of the earth.
Animated map shows how religion spread around the world
What the Bible Doesn’t Say – Why I don’t believe in God
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