Synopsis: 25 Reasons Why I Am No Longer a Christian
» Also available as stand-alone application (zipped file) or as a Microsoft Word document «

An armchair polymath, for thiry-odd years I've been a student of comparative religion, theology, philosophy, mythology, literature, history, and science (after a long hiatus, I returned to graduate school and recently earned a Masters in Humanities). I've read thousands of books, have over four thousand in my personal library, five hundred of which belong to the subject of Christianity and the Bible (see partial list).

Prior to earning degrees in Philosophy, Literature, and History, I attended Northwest University to prepare for a career as a pastoral minister. I studied biblical exegesis, hermeneutics, New Testament (Koine) Greek, a little Hebrew, ancient near east history, and doctrinal interpretation. During this time I was 'on fire for the Lord'. I witnessed to anyone who would listen and brought several friends to Christ. Always a voracious reader—sometimes reading three or four books a week—I immersed myself in the study of religion and took full advantage of the extensive (and expensive) scholarly volumes in the school library.

Ironically, it was during my years at the Bible college that I was inadvertantly introduced to information that would eventually lead me to question my faith. The more I researched, the more I uncovered cogent evidence and religious information typically hidden from the general church-goer (see DESCENDING BABEL for further discussion). I had no idea. Despite attending Sunday School my entire life and several years of 'confirmation' and bible classes, I knew so little, just a narrow band of teaching that supported sectarian church doctrine. Overwhelmed by what I was discovering, shocked and apprehensive, in time I could no longer embrace the belief that the Bible was the inerrant and inspired Word of God. This realization did not come easily despite the preponderance of evidence—a million pieces it seemed the more I looked—that showed the Bible was nothing more than a man-made composition, compiled to promote religious-political platforms specific to its time. I fought this knowledge every step of the way, I wept and gnashed my teeth, and prayed incessantly for guidance. I felt as if I was going through agonizing withdrawal following a long addiction, the psychoactive drugs of indoctrination and enculturation. After four years of honest soul-searching and book-searching, I conceded the realization that I was no longer a Christian. But my religious and Bible studies did not end there. For thirty years I have never ceased to research and inquire.

Throughout the years I've made several attempts to catalogue and discuss this information, but was quickly daunted by the sheer magnitude of the task. There was just too much to pull together from so many different sources—textual and source criticism, form and redaction criticism, socio-historical and rhetorical criticism, tradition, history, comparative myth and religion, language studies, linguistics, archaeology and anthropology, etc—hundreds-of--thousands of pieces of information that emphatically controvert the veracity of Judeo-Christian tradition and the Bible. I wondered how many others had attempted this before and were forced to give it up or else restrict their findings to sizeable bites. I found it remarkable that people continued to embrace the Bible as a supernatural document with so much contrary information available. To start uncovering this information all anyone had to do was commit to a couple of weekends of honest and dedicated research. In almost no time they'd have enough information to send them down a hundred different paths of inquiry, there was just so much of it, from so many different sources. The scholarly information alone numbered in the millions.

I came to realize that most people didn't want to do the research, to uncover waiting evidence or scholarly information, for fear of undermining their belief systems. Today I sincerely believe most people already suspect deep inside what they will find, so they don't bother to look. They might scratch the surface, hash out the same 'safe' arguments that have become something of a cottage industry for apologists and skeptics alike, but when it comes to digging deep, really getting their hands dirty, feeling a bit panicky and uncomfortable, fearful even, most would rather rely on what they'd like to believe, what they already think they know, what promotes encouragement and promises them hope. This is understandable given human nature, although not very commendable. Offering up 'explanations' for a few hundred bible 'difficulties' gives the appearance of honest analysis, but what about the other five-hundred--thousand? If there are over half-a-million 'difficulties' in the Bible, doesn't this undermine the basic claim that it is the inerrant and inspired Word of God?

In the end it comes down to how honest we're willing to be with ourselves, how far we're willing to go, whether or not we have the courage and stamina to do the work, stand up to what we fear the most, acknowledge it, accept it, finally admit what we've so long pretended not to know. What follows are twenty-five things I've struggled with over the years, each in their own way, one hard-fought step at a time. I did not start out determined to undermine Christianity or the Bible. To the contrary, it was because of my love of God that I wanted to know the truth, to acknowledge and accept it, even if it became the last thing I wanted to hear, even if in the end it threatened to break my heart.

  1. The world simply does not behave the way described in the Bible
  2. The words used to define Christian Doctrine are representative of things whose existence cannot be 'proved' outside of language
  3. The Fall of Adam & Eve (and resulting Doctrine of Original Sin) is incoherent and contrary when compared to scientific evidence and other doctrines
  4. The concepts of Heaven and Hell are equally morally and ethically reprehensible
  5. Historical Evidence shows much of the Old Testament was appropriated from earlier Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Canaanite, & Persian Myths
  6. The Account of the Flood and Noah's Ark bears striking similarities to the Epic of Gilgamesh and other pre-dating Creation/Flood myths
  7. Persian Zoroastrianism altered Jewish Doctrine during the Babylonian Captivity
  8. The influence of the pseudepigraphal Book of Enoch on the mystical Good-Evil dichotomy of Christian Doctrine
  9. The influence of Philo of Alexandria on the development of Christian Doctrine
  10. The ancient gods and goddesses that were assimilated by the Hebrews to become Elohim EL & Yahweh YHWH
  11. Myths of Dying-Resurrecting God-Men Born of Virgins that Pre-Date the Story of the God-Man Jesus
  12. The Problem of Evil (Theodicy) and the Hiddenness of God
  13. Natural (Empirical/Scientific) vs. Supernatural (Faith/Language-Based) Belief Systems
  14. The Gospels are not 'eyewitness' accounts but anonymous third-person narratives
  15. The 'Evolution' of the Christian Canon and Jesus' Godmanship
  16. Saul/Paul of Tarsus and the 'Re-Creation' of the Christian Myth
  17. Archaeology and Biblical claims
  18. Biblical Criticism: Findings as to Who - What - When - Where - How - Why
  19. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Essenes
  20. The Nag Hammadi Library, Ugaritic Texts, and Amarna Tablets
  21. Canonical and Extracanonical books, the Gnostics, and Church Councils
  22. Examined objectively, the Bible is rife with errors, contradictions, misstatements, and inconsistencies
  23. Belief, Doubt, Disbelief and Critical Thinking
  24. Science and the Scientific Method
  25. Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution

Reason 01

AbracadabraThere is the world we live in and then there is the world of the Bible. In our world, the 'real world', the world of flesh and matter, there is no magic, no metaphysical conjuring, nothing supernatural or transmundane. What exists is experienced empirically—through the five senses—and therefore measurable, testable, subject to examination and experiment and ongoing scrutiny. Sure there is talk of the supernatural, of the occult, of miracles and faith healing and psychic phenomena, events or agents that can nonchalantly circumvent the laws of physics. There are books and movies and TV shows and sermons from the pulpit and paintings of supernatural entities like angels and ogres and ascending gods aglow and crowned with halos. But in the 'real world', the world outside of language and art, the world we live in each day, there none of these things. None. And make no mistake about it, science has looked.

Science has been looking into claims of the supernatural for centuries, spent hundreds of millions of dollars, rigorously tested the various assertions of preternatural behavior, and found that the world simply does not work this way. If someone claims they can communicate with your dead loved one, they are lying to you. If someone claims they can lay hands and cure cancer, they are lying to you. If someone claims they can levitate or walk on water or read your future, they are lying to you. The evidence is clear and specific: Any claim that contradicts the laws of physics is either an intentional lie or an unverifiable belief. This is not merely a 'naturalistic presupposition' as bemoaned by Christian apologists, but simply the way things are. The way this world works can be proven again and again, rigorously tested, realistically examined, with millions of experiments. If the apologists want to make 'supernaturalistic presuppositions' can these likewise be proven, tested, evidenced, anywhere in the world? Where exactly does the supernatural realm exist? Where is the only place that apologists can point to for proof?

Only at words. Because they are unable to point to anything in the world, they can only point at words in a book and forced to manipulate language in order to argue, defend, and debate a supernaturalism that is nowhere else in evidence. All things being equal, whose presupposition is the more rational, the more intellectually honest, the more coherent? The person who presupposes a natural world susceptible to and driven by natural laws based on known evidence, or the person who presupposes a supernatural world based solely on words in a book? If all the books went away tomorrow, all writing, all language, we would still be able to deduce our natural world and its natural laws. Without words what could the apologists deduce? What defines reality? Interaction with the world we live in or words in a book? If all the words in the world were suddenly removed, isn't reality that which remains? This is one of the reasons why religious books have become so important to religious believers because without having words to point to they would have no other evidence of the supernatural, and in order for religion to hold sway you must buy into the notion of the supernatural.

Most religions claim that life is more than the flesh and matter we see around us, that encloses us, of which we are composed. In addition, religions suppose some sort of spiritual or supernatural realm that exists 'behind' everything, beyond the scope of science and measurement, imperceptible and undetectable, and that our 'true selves' are really spiritual entities, not material at all. Since all this depends on claims that are outside the scope of science and therefore undetectable, how does religion 'know' to talk about it? If the spiritual realm can't be seen or measured, or Heaven, or even God, how did religion come up with attributes, characteristics, features, properties? Isn't religion simply a case of word association, of words pointing back and forth to other words since they are unable to point anywhere else? If not for words, where would God, Satan, Heaven, Hell, Eternal Life, Sin, Salvation, Jesus, Holy Spirit, et al, be found?

To date all the evidence has determined that life is strictly a natural phenomenon, that who we are—our selves—is material, a series of physical interactions, dependent upon the biochemical workings of the brain. Our sense of self, our personalities, the way we perceive the world, can be severely altered by head injury, stroke, or chemical imbalance. With a serious enough injury we can even be considered 'brain dead' although all our autonomic functions (heartbeat, constriction/dilation of blood vessels, constriction/dilation of the pupils, digestion, respiration, perspiration, relaxation and contraction of the bowels and sphincters, erection and ejaculation, child birth, and tear formation) operate normally. That sense of 'who were are' can be altered, reversed, even 'die', because it's fully dependent on our brains, a broad synthesis of our material surroundings, environment, cultural prejudices, parental influences and biases, birth order, sex, physical appearance, shared experiences, stored memory, bones, flesh, blood, eyes, ears, mouth, and a steady oxygen supply. Everything we think we are we owe solely to the state of our flesh and empirical surroundings, a process impossible to remove from the intrinsic network of matter. With all the above suddenly in absence, what would remain to 'stand' in judgment before the Throne of God, and what mechanisms (or lack thereof) would propel interaction with the Divine Inquisitor? We are natural entities, part and parcel with the natural world, expressly subject to natural laws. We are like all other animals in that respect, who exhibit no supernatural tendencies. Unless these animals appear in the Bible.

In the Bible animals can talk, wizards and witches summon spirits, demons possess pigs, sticks turn into snakes, food falls from the sky, people walk on water or through walls or remain lost for forty years in an area roughly this size of West Virginia. In the Bible the dead can come back to life, enough rain fall in seven weeks to cover the entire planet, all sorts of magical things happen that have no basis in the way we know the 'real world' works. If you know the world doesn't work this way, if all the evidence shows it impossible for the world to work this way, then what are your reasons for believing the Bible when it claims otherwise? You'd consider yourself crazy if you believed Greek and Roman myths that claimed the same types of things, or fairy tales, or old European fables, simply because you know how the world works and it doesn't work that way! And yet, when the Bible makes claims contrary to the way you know the world works, not only do you believe and defend it, but consider all those who don't as the ones who are living in error. Is this an honest assessment? Shouldn't what we believe somehow coincide with what we actually know?

The short answer to all of this? The Bible and Christianity don't stand up under scrutiny. There are too many glaring contradictions and inconsistencies, incoherent reasoning and moral repugnances, ethical sidesteps and magical presuppositions. As a spiritual entity it is corrupt and self-serving, ego-centered, narcissistic. When Hitler's "Final Solution" was to send six million Jews to their deaths we condemned him as a monster; when the Christian God sends these same Jews to Hell we are suppose to praise and adore him as the Highest Paradigm of Moral Intelligence. It makes no sense, unless we are living in abject denial.

Reason 02

GHJ = TrinityInstead of saying God, Heaven, and Hell, you could just as easily say Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo. Like God, Heaven, and Hell, the only way you can know anything about Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo is through word association. But this isn't exactly true either. In all actuality, you don't know anything about Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo other than the words associated with these terms. You can't point to Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo, or see them, or measure them, or know what they're suppose to be or whether they even exist, or where, or how. In fact, any words used to define Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo are applied not because of anything experienced in reality, but solely out of artificial and abstract word associations. The only we we think we know anything about Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo at all is through word associations and for no other reason! Since the existence of Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo cannot be proven and nowhere in evidence, anything said about them is completely contrived, invented, speculative, made-up. If I say "Glavin is All-Knowing and All-Powerful" how do I know this? Since the existence of Glavin cannot be proven and is nowhere in evidence, I could just as easily have said "Glavin is ignorant and weak." Why? Because 'Glavin' is by itself a meaningless term that appropriates meaning solely from the words associated to it and from nothing else! This being the case, any words could be associated with it no matter how far-fetched, ridiculous, or contrary. You can't prove that one set of word associations is correct and a different set of word associations is incorrect, because 'Glavin' is composed of nothing but word associations. And that is the nature of religion.

Religion is nothing more than a carefully crafted series of word associations whereby X = A + B + C + D . Remove A + B + C + D and you have nothing else to show for X. While you can make these same types of word associations with a tree or a dog or a car, trees and cars and dogs don't need word associations to argue their existence or make themselves known, but terms like God and Heaven and Hell are wholly constructed by word asociations alone.

Don't believe me? You can't show me 'God' but you can show me words associations that add up to define God. Where did these word associations come from? The term 'God' is meaningless without the word associations, but what about the word associations themselves?

Let's look at the Christian doctrine assertion that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere), and omnibenevolent (all-good, all-loving). How do we know God is any of these things? Did we determine this by pointing to God or did we determine this by pointing to words?

There's a very simple test to determine the answer.

Without pointing to words, without relying on word associations, what can you tell me about God? If you can't tell me anything without refering back to word associations, then the word associations themselves—omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent—are meaningless since they also or composed of associations that cannot be proven and are nowhere in evidence. For example, what does it mean to say that God is omnipotent (all-powerful?) Is there really such a thing as omnipotence or does its very definition entail contradictions and paradoxes? This quote by Epicurus (341-270 BCE) clearly exemplifies the issue: "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?"

It's almost like an elaborate con game is going on. The term 'God' is meaningless without the word associations, but the words used to make the associations are also meaningless since taken together they are inherently contrary, paradoxical, and still manage to beg the question. And isn't all doctrinal language just this way? You can't point to God, so you make word associations instead. You can't point to life-after-death, so you make word associations instead. You can't point to Satan, so you make word associations instead.

Without words, without making word associations, there would be no knowledge of the Soul or Heaven or Hell or Judgement Day or Eternal Life, etc. Even the notion of 'Sin' depends on word associations, for what is a 'sin' without the declaration of sin? It may be said that "it's a sin to tell a lie" but the 'sin' and the 'lie' are both products of the 'telling' word associations.

Without language, without words, you cannot tell a lie and you do not sin. Both come into existence with a declaration and not before. And, if you think about it, the same can be said for 'truth'. Outside of telling, there is no truth. Like God, like Heaven, like Hell, you can't show Truth. Truth is a product of language and requires words to exist. Prior to language, notions of God, Heaven, Hell, Soul, Salvation, Truth, etc, are not an issue. With language they are defined using any consensual word assocations that anyone can make. This being the case, such words—because they can be defined as anything—are ultimately meaningless, hollow, and empty. Reality is not based on definitions or word associations or quotes from a book. Reality is what you have after all the books have been put away and you keep your mouth shut. Reality has been around for billions of years and language for only a few thousand. You don't need language to know reality. Anything that requires language to make itself known is not reality but the artifice of words, simply word associations, predicates on paper that can nowhere else be seen.

Reason 03

Adam & EveQUERY 1

According to a literal reading of the Bible (as opposed to a more tenable figurative or metaphorical interpretation) Adam and Eve were created fully formed and adult as part of God's initial six day act of Creation. Although apologists evoke all kinds of side-stepping sophistry to explain it away, a close reading of Genesis 1 - 3 demonstrates there are two separate 'Creation' accounts that are mutually exclusive (Genesis 1:1-2:3 & Genesis 2:4-25) and contain contradictory elements easily deconstructed by the Documentary Hypothesis. Despite which account is cited, is the 'Creation' story in Genesis compatible with the way we know the world works, with the findings of science, with our 21st century understanding of biology, geology, astronomy, cosmology, etc? Is there evidence demonstrating that most of the early stories of the Bible were borrowed, assimilated, and reworked from earlier Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Greek, et al, myths to accommodate a distinctly Hebrew retelling? Not withstanding the narrow doctrines espoused from the pulpits and casually accepted by congregations in the pews, what do higher-educated, well-read, and well-researched Bible scholars believe? Do all the known facts support a literal supernatural six-day Creation or a Hebrew Creation Myth appropriated from the evolved mythology of other Ancient Middle Eastern cultures? Which explanation is the more sensible (and the least complex by way of Occam's Razor) in light of what we know regarding Ancient Middle Eastern religion?

BOOKS OF INTEREST

QUERY 2

According to the Apostle Paul (e.g, Romans 5:12), the inheritance of a sinful and inherently evil human "nature" is universal and unconditional (i.e., every human being is automatically marked by sin and death at birth because of the original disobedience of Adam thousands of years ago and that's just the way it is, so quit your whining), however God's Plan of Salvation is not unconditional and universalAugust 18, 2010/U> something to make it happen—you need to repent, accept Jesus, be "born" again, become baptized, etc). It seems, therefore, that human depravity August 18, 2010/EM> and more powerful than Jesus's ability to save (since salvation is conditional and not universal). My having to ask to be saved is a condition of my salvation, but I didn't have to ask or do anything at all to be branded by sin and death. In other words, sin is unconditional, but salvation is not.

As such, is the curse of Original Sin more powerful than the sacrificial death of Jesus? Is the unconditional curse of sin stronger than the conditional power of salvation? If I am born depraved because of the unpetitioned stain of Original Sin, why would I (or how could I) ever petition to be saved? Wouldn't my very depravity actually prevent me from ever pursuing the right thing (e.g., accepting Jesus)? According to Pauline doctrine, I am born accursed with spiritual blindness by no fault of my own and then damned because I am spiritually blind. Is being born with this blindness my fault? If it is, then why? If it isn't, then whose fault is it? Who, really, is to blame for keeping this curse alive?

Either help me safely across the street or push me gleefully into onrushing traffic, but don't threaten me with damnation to an Eternal Hell because I was 'created' already cursed with spiritual blindness. Either the concept of Original Sin is a false and a poorly interpreted doctrine or it is a Zen-like stepping stone used to measure one's true spiritual journey. If God is love, why am I going to Hell? If you're so spiritual, how can you casually accept the idea of Eternal Damnation? Wouldn't an ethical person reject his-or-her own salvation strictly on moral principles? Wouldn't that be the right thing to do? To stand up to God and consciously choose to become "dead again" after becoming "born again" or at least try to rally the troops to storm the gates of Hell in order to free those in endless bondage? I'd rather spend eternity in Hell knowing I did the right thing in voicing my disgust at the concept of an Eternal Hell than one second in Heaven knowing I did nothing at all because I was selfish, complacent, or fearful of punishment. In the presence of the doctrine of Eternal Damnation, isn't seeking one's own salvation ultimately a cowardly and immoral act? Isn't rejecting the author of Eternal Damnation as reprehensible and deplorable actually the more ethical and moral choice?

  • God created Adam and Eve already cursed by death. How do we know this? Because, according to Genesis 3:22-24, in order to "live forever" they would to have had to have eaten from the Tree of Life. Since they did not eat from the Tree of Life this means they followed their "natural" state and eventually succumbed to death. In other words, Paul is wrong in Romans 5:12 because death did not enter the world "through sin" since death was already in the world prior to the so-called sin. Eating the fruit from the Tree of Life would have reversed the already-present state of death and God elected to prevent this by casting Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden before they have a chance to eat the magical fruit. Even though they were instructed to not eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil lest they die, they were going to die anyway since they would have had to have eaten from the Tree of Life in order to not die.
  • God commanded Adam not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17). In other words, since Adam did not have the knowledge of Good and Evil before eating the fruit any action he took prior to this eating was neither an act of obedience or disobedience since both require the knowledge of good and evil (i.e., right and wrong) in order to make sound and informed choices. In our contemporary legal system, if a person does not have the knowledge of good and evil (i.e., cannot determine right from wrong) and commits a crime they are not punished for this crime by "reason of insanity." If Adam did not have the knowledge of good and evil before he "disobeyed" God and ate the fruit to acquire the knowledge of good and evil, then his punishment is farcical and ultimately immoral because he would have needed the knowledge of good and evil to make an informed decision to disobey. To put it bluntly, without the knowledge of good and evil any act that Adam committed was a legally insane act. Since God created Adam without the knowledge of good and evil, God created Adam legally insane.
  • According to Christian doctrine, God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), all-loving, and merciful. What does this all mean when considering the creation of Adam and Eve and the notion of Original Sin?
    • Since God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing) He knew Adam and Eve's fate before He created them, the world, the universe itself.
    • God created Adam and Eve without the knowledge of good and evil (they would need to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in order to acquire this knowledge).
    • God created Adam and Eve already doomed to die (they would need to eat from the Tree of Life in order to "live forever").
    • God created the Garden of Eden with the world's most-hazardous tree within quick reach all the while knowing in advance that this easy access would doom all of mankind.
    • God created the serpent "more crafty than any of the wild animals Yahweh had made" (Genesis 3) and placed this talking(!) tempter smack-dab in the middle of the Garden knowing in advance that it would bait Eve into eating of the fruit while also knowing that Eve would entice Adam into eating of the fruit as well.
    • Knowing all this, God punishes Adam (and, according to Pauline doctrine, all mankind until the end of time) for an act of disobedience that was not disobedience since a disobedient act requires the foreknowledge of good and evil, something Adam acquired only after the act. [NOTE: Eve's enticing of Adam to eat the fruit is a different kettle of fish entirely since at this time she did possess the knowledge of good and evil even though Adam did not.]
    • Knowing all this, God also punishes the serpent who was "more crafty than any of the wild animals Yahweh had made" (Genesis 3) for beguiling Eve with it's silver tongue.
    • Knowing all this, because of Adam's "original sin" God punishes the entire human race (according to Pauline doctrine) through a proclamation that every infant born into the world is born into sin, accursed by the so-called "disobedient" act of Adam.
    • Finally, knowing all this, God gives human beings an escape clause through Jesus (who himself laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens according to Hebrews 1:10). All that men and women have to do to be "saved" from God's judgment is rise above their inherent sinful natures and ask to be saved by-way-of Jesus's fabulous escape clause.
  • Perhaps we might better understand the above scenario this using an analogy:
    • I am a father of two very young children, perhaps two and three years old.
    • I tell them that they can play with anything in the house but they are not to play with the book of matches that I leave laying on the coffee table in the living room.
    • I tell them I am going to go away for awhile but that I will be back shortly.
    • Before leaving I take a gallon of gasoline into the house and empty it on all the living room furniture.
    • I leave my two young children in the care of my teenage son who I know is "more crafty than any of the children I have made."
    • I also know that this teenage son has a nasty habit of convincing others to play with matches.
    • When I return I discover that the house is burning and my two young children are trapped inside. Outside, my teenage son is gleefully watching the flames.
    • I stand beside him and watch the house burn while listening to the screams of my two young children. I refuse to go into the house on my own accord and save them. I will stand back and allow them to burn alive unless they first ask me to save them. If they don't ask me to be saved it is entirely their fault that they are being burned alive.
    • I am a wise and merciful father who is allowed to treat his children any way I like because I, after all, created them. Without me they wouldn't be here, now trapped inside a burning house.
    • I am a loving father because I have given my children an escape clause. Even though I constructed the whole scenario knowing full well the outcome would mean me standing outside watching my children trapped inside a burning house, I was loving enough to give them an escape clause. Of course, this clause only works on the condition that my children ask to be saved. Until they do that, I will stand back and allow them to burn. I will not raise one finger to help them unless I hear them ask. My love knows no bounds.
  • My question is this: If I behaved in this manner with my own children would I be considered the type of father worthy of love, admiration, and respect? Or might I be looked upon as a sick, cruel, psychopathic, and heartless monster deserving only derision, loathing, disgust, or pity? Would my actions be considered moral or immoral, my underlying intentions kind or malign? Is my offering of a so-called "escape clause" really demonstrating mercy or does it entail something else altogether, something darker, more self-serving, egocentric and selfish? Finally, am I demonstrating unconditional love with this type of behavior or only that when push comes to shove I really don't give a damn about anyone else's feelings but my own?

SUGGESTED BOOKS

SUGGESTED LINKS

Reason 04

Heaven or Hell?Let's face it. Despite making altruistic claims to the contrary, I'm convinced most Christians believe the way they do for two main reasons:

  • To be rewarded with Eternal Life in Heaven
  • To escape the Wrath of God and Eternal Damnation in Hell

Closer examination will reveal both these reasons are equally morally and ethically reprehensible while proving themselves flip-sides of the same shameful coin.

According to Christian doctrine, nobody deserves going to Heaven (i.e., Eternal Reward) because of (1) the inheritance of the Original Sin of Adam and (2) personal sin, and it's is only through the intercession of Jesus Christ that Christians are allowed to go to Heaven (i.e., earn Eternal Reward). As such, since most of the world's population are not Christian this means that the majority of people will feel the Wrath of God and be condemned to Hell (i.e., Eternal Punishment). In other words, Christians are all to happy to accept Eternal Reward knowing that (1) they don't really deserve it and (2) most peope will be condemned to Hell. This stance is neither moral nor ethical. A person of higher moral and ethical standards would (1) reject salvation as (a) undeserved, (b) capricious, and (c) self-serving, and (2) stand up to God and appeal for those he has condemned to Hell. Anything less shows the true moral character of the so-called 'righteous' believer.

What inspires faith, or rather what incites it, is belief in an afterlife. Never mind there's nothing in the physical world or the mechanics of natural law to support such a claim except sacrosanct promises conveyed in ancient texts (though tradition is no argument, despite what some apologists might have you believe), second-hand stories of black tunnels\white lights\shadowy figures (limbic system reaction to anesthesia or trauma or stress; psychological disorders; fraud and confidence games), or spurious claims of past life regression (via reincarnation), all in direct denial of what we can be empirically aware, might physically touch in regards to death – roadside carrion, the coppery taste of blood in your mouth, cadavers putrefying in zippered body bags, the moldering dead. But belief in an after-life is essential to a fundamentalist's faith, and its purpose is two-fold:

  • It provides the anticipation of Heaven, Eternal Life, One's Just Reward, etc.
  • It promises the threat of Hell, Eternal Punishment, Damnation, Retributive Justice, etc.

How ingenious of church doctrine! Promising a paradise it never has to deliver and threatening a punishment it never has to inflict (to date no one has returned from the dead to make a formal complaint, demand his or her money back, grouse about the squandered years, denounce the celestial promises, the vitriolic threats of the church, etc). According to conservative Christians, we don't need to defer to reason, proof, evidence, logic, critical thinking, or rational thought (after all those things are actually worldly and unsavory). All we have to do is believe. All we need is faith! So what if our religious belief system is ultimately incoherent, illogical, rife with contradiction, and ethically the moral equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust (not possessing a clean bloodline the Jews are carted off to the camps and ovens, and after dying carted off to the fires of Hell because they are not Christians)—what does it matter as long as we are saved? As long as we're in Heaven? As long as we don't have to suffer for all eternity? If our children don't make it, our spouses, our parents, brothers, sisters, friends: no problem! Just as long as we make it! Just as long as the God of Love doesn't inflict his eternal torture on us!

Stated bluntly, faith or belief in an after-life is the single-most cause of suffering and foolishness inflicted upon the human race, by the human race, and for several reasons:

  • It negates the immediacy and value of human life right here and right now.
  • It corrupts the collective unconscious of the species in such a way as to affect behavior. Believing in an life-after-death, making the assumption people don't really die, subconsciously legitimizes capital punishment and the death penalty, abortion, territorial wars, religious wars, turf wars, gang wars, terrorist attacks, ethnic cleansing, murder, suicide cults, political assassination, et al, since people aren't really dying after all—they're just continuing on in another stage of existence.
  • It allows people to postpone action in this life (whether humane or humanitarian) in favor of the life yet to come, allowing for political and religious boundaries, derision and division, separatism and succession. Hence there remains global hunger, border skirmishes, illiteracy, disease, poverty and pestilence, all because the problems of this world are deemed ultimately not as important when measured against the life yet to come. With the idea of an after-life always simmering in the back of people's mind, they don't try as hard to really instigate change in this world, strive for peace, alleviate suffering, fight for global changes. After all, eternal life starts at death so why should folks get all worked up over sixty or seventy years?
  • It offers people hope for a solution to their problems at some future time and enables them to not make a conscious effort to begin making the necessary changes or do the necessary work now. It allows them to postpone taking responsibility for their own lives or education (since god will enlighten them and fix everything once they get to heaven) and permits them to sit on their hands in ignorance and inertia while life passes them by. Why make a serious search for truth if truth will be revealed on the other side?
  • It legitimizes the use of persecution and torture in the name of saving souls for the after-life.
  • It allows religious leaders to control their people by offering hope in the next life, promising rewards, threatening punishment, even sentencing eternal damnation (through papal bulls, excommunication) all by invoking interpreted church doctrine.
  • It assumes a mind-body (or soul-body) dichotomy, a disembodied spirit that is mystically and temporarily ‘housed' in human flesh while blissfully ignoring the inescapable synthesis of each person's material surroundings, environment, cultural prejudices, parental influences and biases, birth order, sex, physical appearance, shape, size, color, health, biochemistry, electrochemical reactions, stored memory, bones, flesh, blood, eyes, ears, mouth, and steady oxygen supply to shape personality. Everything we think we are we owe solely to the state of our flesh and empirical surroundings, a process impossible to remove from the intrinsic network of matter. With all the above in absence, what would remain exactly to “stand” in judgment before the throne of god, and what mechanisms (or lack thereof) would drive interaction with the divine inquisitor?
  • It rewards laziness, complacency, ignorance, superstition, irrationality, religious fervor, and blind faith with promises of an other-wordly victory and assurances of everlasting retribution.
Until we as a race are willing to take responsibility for our lives here and now, to respect and honor life here and now, and to put away imaginary dreams of some afterlife we will continue to be governed by superstition, ignorance, and childish 'me first' behavior.

'Me first' believers are unethical and immoral, period, if they can consciously and deliberately accept going to Heaven while knowing the majority of the world's population will be spending the rest of eternity (that's 1010000 years x 1010000 years x forever) being deliberately tortured in Hell.

They are unethical and immoral if they can, with a clear conscience, praise and worship a Deity who will condemn a person for all eternity (that's 1010000 years x 1010000 years x forever) for behavior and/or choices made (or not made) during his-or-her incredibly short human lifespan (that's 70-80 years vs. Eternity).

They are unethical and immoral if they do not reject this behavior on the part of the Deity outright, confront the Deity for being the architect of the atrocities of Hell (at least the Nazi Holocaust only lasted a few years), reject their own salvation on moral priciples, make plans to charge the Gates of Hell and free its prisoners, or offer to take another's place in Hell as an act of Unconditional Love. As long as there is a Hell—even the slightest threat of Hell—I could not morally or ethically consider that kind of Deity a god worthy of worship or emulation (whether Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) but a tyrant more in keeping with Hitler's "Final Solution" and the fiery stoking of the ovens.

What I find inconceivable is how any Christian considers this Deity worthy of praise and worship, unless beneath it all it's really about enlightened self-interest, not caring how many others will suffer just so long as he-or-she can avoid the flames. If this is the case, then they've become just like their chosen Deity—shameful, unethical, immoral, and incredibly selfish.

Side Note: If Jesus died for my sins then how come I can still go to Hell? This means there must be a sin that Jesus didn't die for, the ultimate sin, the biggest sin of all—the sin of my not accepting him. If that's the case, then what kind of Savior is this? He'll die for my lying, he'll die for my cheating, he'll die for my thievery, or adultry, or murder, but when it comes to my not acknowledging him that's where he draws the line. He'll die for all my sins, except the one that really counts. If Jesus is the 'Son of God' I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Don Cupitt has said it best: "All the doctrinal themes are meant gradually to sink in and become part of one's own being—which gives rise to the paradox that when you have fully become a Christian, you aren't one any longer." And so, over the years, I've evolved and discovered that I can no longer be a Christian. I've found it impossible to constantly work at justifying what is blatantly selfish, offensive, horrific, and cruel. Maybe that's the final test, the secret test, the real test, come Judgment Day. Are you willing to hand your salvation back to the Deity and reject Heaven outright because accepting it would be just plain wrong? Perhaps that is what is meant by the first shall be last, and the last shall be first, because many are called but few are chosen...

SUGGESTED BOOKS

SUGGESTED LINKS

Reason 05

Sumerian "Adam" & "Eve" with Tree and SerpentAnyone who takes the time to deliberately study Ancient Near East texts, history, archeaology, and mythology, will quickly discover that much of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) was appropriated and assimilated from earlier cultures and religious traditions (specifically the Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Hittities, Syrians, Egyptians, and Persians/Zoroastrians). This is not some Bible-bashing liberal idea contrived from thin-air but a historical and verifiable fact derived from physical evidence and conscientious research.

Remember, because they were at various times a 'conquered people' the Hebrews would be impacted and influenced by the traditions and ethos of those doing the conquering. If Christians (as well as Jews) would dedicate a little energy investigating Ancient Near East texts and mythology they would see how Old Testament stories were adapted, modified, and evolved from older myths and legends.

Why aren't Christians told about all these Ancient Near East texts and mythologies that pre-date the Old Testament when attending church, Sunday school, or bible college? Why do you suppose? What is particularly interesting is that after they are shown how the Hebrews "borrowed" these older stories and altered them for their own religious uses, most Christians will still continue to believe in the legitimacy of the Old Testament. Why? Because they would rather 'believe' in comforting religious stories and cling to hope in an 'afterlife' than face and recognize their denial of death and fear of annihilation.

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN MYTHOLOGY AND THE OLD TESTAMENT

Mythology in the ancient world was like science in our modern world—it was their explanation of how the world came into being and how it worked. The mythological approach attempted to identify function as a consequence of purpose. The gods had purposes, and their activities were the causes of what humans experienced as effects. In contrast, our modern scientific approach identifies function as a consequence of sturcture and attempts to understand cause and effect based on natural laws thaat are linked to the structure, the composite parts, of a phenomenon. Because our scientific worldview is keenly interested in structure, we often go to the biblical account looking for information on structure. In this area, however, the biblical worldview is much more like its ancient Near Eastern counterparts in that it views function as a consequence of purpose. That is what Genesis 1 is all about—it has very little interest in structures. This is only one of many areas where understanding ancient Near Eastern culture, literature and worldview can help us understand the Bible.

Many parallels can be identified between ancient Near Eastern mythology and Old Testament passages and concepts. This is not to suggest that the Old Testament is to be considered simply as another example of ancient mythology or as being dependent on that literature. Mythology is a window to culture. It reflects the worldview and values of the culture that forged it. Many of the writings we find in the Old Testament performed the same function for ancient Israelite culture that mythology did for other cultures—they provided a literary mechanism for preserving and transmitting their worldview and values. Israel was part of a larger cultural complex that existed across the ancient Near East. There are many aspects of that cultural complex that it shared with its neighbors, though each individual culture had its distinguishing features. When we seek to understand the culture and literature of Israel, we rightly expect to find help in the larger cultural arena, from mythology, wisdom writings, legal documents and royal inscriptions.

Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context (from IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Copyright © 2000 by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

 

LINKS OF INTEREST

BOOKS OF INTEREST

Next Page

SUggested Reading

Suggested Links

Return to Top

Copyright © 2007 by Craig Lee Duckett. All rights reserved
LAST UPDATED: August 18, 2010
August 18, 2010