Conundrums


A Beautiful sunset
Can we judge the supposed actions of the Christian god?

Is rape good? 2 Samuel, chapter 12: Did God arrange for David's wives to be raped? According to the bible, God himself says that He (he says "I will") ""will raise up evil against thee" and that He "will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour."

Who arranged the rape? The Bible god says "I." He even killed David's baby to punish David. Never mind the baby, never mind the mother's feelings...

How can Christians claim their god is good? "Good" has no meaning for us if it is beyond what humans can understand. Someone could just as easily claim that the devil is good, but we just don't have the spiritual eyes to understand how.

Nevermind the holocaust, all will be well. What is a beautiful sunset? Is it a natural phenomena? A gift from God? Or is it a work of the devil up to something too mysteriously evil for us to understand - it just seems beautiful from our limited point of view?


The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Christian god (or bronze age warriors):
1 Samuel 15:3 etc. "the Lord says ... [lots of killing...babies, animals...]"
versus
The UN council:
"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

The Christian god (or bronze age warriors):
Deuteronomy 15:17 "Then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise."
versus
The UN council:
"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

And Christians tell us it is a sin to "go our own way...".

You cannot serve two masters. Who looks wise and who a bronze age warrior?


Did He suffer?
How is a death, no matter how unpleasant (could have been worse than crucifixion - how about being hung, drawn and quartered, how about being in hell for all eternity) have been a big deal if Jesus knew he was God? That would have been a great strength to him in misfortune, just as Bill Gates' millions would be a strength to him if he lost a dollar. Hadn't he just said that he is going to be in paradise ("that day") to one of the other crucified men? What strength for Jesus if he knew his divine status, past heavenly eternity and future eternal glory!

How could Christ have felt abandoned if he knew he was to be resurrected in 3 days time, go to the right hand of the Father, be worshipped by hundreds of millions and return in glory? How does that compare to the suffering of children at the hands of abusive parents and those who were slain by Hebrew warriors under divine instructions? Whilst Mary and Joseph were warned, what about the children whose parents the Christian god chillingly deemed it unnecessary to warn about the coming of Herod's troops? Shouldn't we have more sympathy for an innocent child than a deity?

Was Jesus' saving death not the purpose of his coming and exactly what the whole of creation needed? How could he possibly have felt unwanted or unpurposeful, knowing the incredible importance of his death? Jesus had been followed by disciples and was soon to be worshipped by hundreds of millions and to be the king of heaven. Would this not have counteracted a few hours rejection - and rejection that was part of his divine plan at that!


Was He tempted?
How could God be tempted? Would Jesus have thought Earthly kingdoms are worth more than heavenly ones? So how exactly could any offer to Jesus have been a "temptation?" Why would a deity be tempted to give up all of eternity and the most exalted state of all for worldly kingdoms/bread etc? Didn't the Christian god make the world anyway? Would Bill Gates be tempted to give up Microsoft by someone offering a CD containing a copy of Windows 3.1?


Was He a man?
How could God be a man with the consciousness that he was divine and perfect? That is an infinite source of strength, power and knowledge that mere humans do not have.


Religious experience
All religious experience feels absolutely authoritative (veridical) whether one has Christian religious experience, heretical Christian experience or religious experience of another religion, or even secular spiritual experience. Since the conclusions of religious experience (e.g. Jesus/Krishna/Allah/no-one/etc. is God) are mutually incompatible, then religious experience is proved to be an unreliable indicator of supernatural truth.


Faith alone
Why faith in your religion? Allah and Krishna make the same faith demands.

"He who in this oneness of love, loves me in whatever he sees, wherever this man may live, in truth this man lives in me...I am from everlasting the seed of eternal life...in its delusion the world knows me not...all beings have their rest in me...I am the way...he who loves me shall not perish...only by love can men see me, and know me, and come unto me...malignant men hate me...they come not to me, but they go down the path of hell." Krishna - the Bhagavad Gita (c. 500 B.C.)

And so on... Sounds a lot like Christianity, doesn't it?

What can a fideist Christian say to a Hindu or Muslim who make the same faith claims and with equal assurance are also convinced by their religious experiences that they are right and the Christians have it wrong?

Without a reason, isn't faith arbitrary?


Not Faith alone
As soon as a believer gives a reason for faith then one is back to apologetics. Indeed, unless one merely continues as a Christian unthinkingly from a childhood upbringing then something must have convinced someone to remain, or become, a Christian. Even if this was a religious experience a Christian will have believed this to be veridical enough to have faith in, rather than it being some idle thought. Moreover one will have to claim that your religious experience is veridical whereas a Buddhist or Daoist's (or even an atheist's) religious and spiritual experience is not. Yet again fideism intrinsically contains apologetics if it is to be anything other than purely arbitrary. So I do not believe fideism is an honest statement of anyone's approach to Christianity.

If evidence was important for convincing ex and non-Christians then a God could obviously convince them very easily. However, in response to confirmation candidates asking "why faith not evidence?" the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said "to ask for faith in the way that many people do is to ask for a prouder God than He who became our brother in the cradle and on the cross." As such I think pounding ancient history, desperately trying to find flaws in evolution and all the other behaviour of demanding evangelists are way off even the religious mark. I fail to see how Christians can be doing "God's work" by taking up the task of trying to convince us when the Christian God himself (or Allah, Krishna etc.) does not seem too concerned about doing this.


Condemned to hell for not-believing
How can any dogma be more immoral? How can anyone honestly choose their beliefs? How is it even psychologically possible to willfully choose beliefs in a healthy mind? Why does not believing things justify torture? What more evidence do we need that hell-believing Christianity is the product of morally primitive minds?

Many Christians have trouble appreciating ex-Christians had views in favour of biblical authority first and our researches and thinking through of knotty problems demolished that view! Hence it is not fair to appear to lay some sort of presuppositional or moral blame on us and claim that we had "decided" to try a new philosophy, wanted to go sinning, do our own thing etc. These are false views of people Christians are given at church - which could be cured by reading actual deconversion experiences. Rather the evidence against Christianity and the cognitive dissonance Christian ideas bring to thinking minds is what causes our Christian views to be demolished. Some go quietly, others go kicking and screaming, but it is grossly misrepresentative to imply that in anyway we have chosen or decided to try apostasy. Loosing faith is something that happens to a person, and not a deliberate "choice." Unfortunately for Christians their dogma often forces them to the idea that we are deliberately choosing unbelief. If not then it makes the justice of hell look dubious, and heaven rather disturbing. Therefore it "must be" our fault and we "must have" radically and wilfully changed our views.

What Christian would feel morally admonished if a Muslim accused them of having a drastically different attitude towards the Koran and its underlining authority? Does this also mean they don't have the necessary spiritual eyes to understand the Koran?


A disturbed relationship
This is the most dislocated aspect about Christianity - its similarity to an abusive relationship. Some apologists expend enormous amounts of energy attempting to convince others (and themselves) that the God of their bible who orders baby massacre (1 Samuel 15:2-3) and pronounces on damnation (Mark 16:16) is a divine, loving and just being. "My husband hits me because I deserve it, he only does it because he loves me and my behaviour is so poor. He does so much for me - I owe him everything and would be nothing without his care." He is perceived as having complete power whilst demonstrating both kindness and cruelty. But it can't really be cruel - where would I go! We must deserve it. And so God stood by during the holocaust because of a "higher purpose." It just has to be so!

Then it gets even more disturbing. The beloved husband starts beating the children. The wife of the abuser then shouts at the "disrespectful" children when they dare to tell her what Daddy is doing to them. Bad non-Christians, it's your fault - you deserve to be tortured. It is too horrible for the dependant wife of an abuser to confront the fact of his abusive nature. Eventually though, many do see through and walk away to more healthy relationships.

What exactly can a Christian know that the god they believe in has done to deserve their love when the evidence from the bible, human atrocities and terrible natural disasters of the world speak so loudly against a benevolent deity? Just what should an abusive husband do to his wife before she stops loving him, and what worldly negligence or biblical cruelty would the Christian God have to commit before it became obvious that Christianity is a set of confused beliefs constructed by humans and built on a foundation of a very primitive war like god?

See
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/seek.html#stockholm
http://home.teleport.com/~packham/abuse.htm
http://www.losingmyreligion.com/essays/abuse.html


Is the bible historical? What if the bible is historical!
Even as a Christian I was certainly not an inerrantist and neither was I very bothered about the historical accuracy of much of the bible. I had no glimmer of a belief that Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark story, the Genesis creation account, Joshua making the sun stand still for a day etc. were historical or indeed anything other than spiritual (and sometimes not so spiritual) tales. It also didn't bother me whether the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, and I didn't think it very likely that Moses parted the Red Sea or that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego really went unharmed into a fiery furnace. All this stuff always struck me as rather fanciful and trivialising what I thought "God" must be if he is reduced to such displays. Also there is no way I thought tales of God killing the Egyptian first born could be true! That was not the good God I felt in my bones. Just a tale spun by ancient Hebrews as a very old fashioned (and sometimes rather silly and even cruel) way of telling a story about their spiritual struggles - surely?

Far more important to me were always the "spiritual messages" I felt could be discerned through pondering the mysteries of God. So it always has and I guess always will strike me as rather irreligious to put great store in miracles, as for me I could not fathom what is so mysterious and spiritual about power displays. Maybe there is a race of advanced aliens who can do even more astonishing things, but I do not see why that should incline anyone to see them as spiritual, numinous, or the goal of humanity's striving for the beatific vision. In essence nothing there is different in my opinions from my time as a Christian to my time now.

I did think central doctrines were true - the existence of God (whatever "God" was), the resurrection (however and in whatever form it was meant) and an afterlife (not a mere continuation of life but a mystical timeless union briefly glimpsed in moments of high ecstasy). Some Christians will claim that I was not a "real Christian" but every Christian suffers from that claim from others. I was an Anglican - very "wishy-washy" for some Christians' tastes in beliefs, but gentle and exploratory beliefs are quite consistent with a deep feeling of spirituality and connection with God. I know - I was there and that is how I felt. Also there is obviously a complete spectrum of ex-Christians, my experience was not the only kind!

What matters though is not really historical details such as was there a King David, Abraham etc. but are the supernatural parts of the biblical stories historical?

Events which are shown to be ahistorical (the flood, Adam and Eve, the slaughter of the innocents etc). shed doubt on the reliability of other supernatural claims in the bible. But I would add as I discussed at the beginning this is only a problem for the fundamentalist or inerrantist, for the old Christian me Christianity was a deeper thing than stories of strange and often cruel magic.

In my first discussion with Mark McFall he was adamant that the whole bible stood or fell on the historicity of Adam and Eve. Mark wrote there:

So you see, if you cast aspersions on the historical record surrounding Adam and Eve, you must also question the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the genealogical and archaeological accuracy of Scripture, the problem of sin, Christ's vicarious atonement, salvation by the grace of God alone, and much more. I've been laughed at before for holding this view. But you know what, that's what the Bible teaches.

So certainly any biblical ahistoricity is thought to be a problem for Christianity by some Christians. Christianity not only assumes that mankind is fallen and in need of atonement with God but for most of Christian history, and still amongst fundamentalists, this was based on a literal belief in the Adam and Eve story. This story is false. The literal events in Genesis are known not to have happened. Genesis does not describe the origins of Earth, evolution or cosmology any more correctly than any arbitrary fairy tale. Despite all the mythical interpretations of the Adam and Eve story in recent times, the first Christians thought Genesis was literally true. They based their religion on what we know to be a myth.

There is also good reason to think that the NT writers are not averse to adding stories to make Christianity sound more impressive. If even central doctrines are clearly being embellished, what security is there for supernatural Christianity?

It is also not mere "atheists and skeptics" who question the historical accuracy of the bible. If my long (and still ongoing) discussion of the resurrection I showed that it is biblical scholars and theologians who are largely responsible for opening up the bible to criticism. Note what Bishop Spong reports about the scholarly opinion of the resurrection accounts:
If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed. For that view of resurrection is not believable, and if that is all there is, then Christianity, which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus' resurrection, also is not believable. If that were the requirement of belief as a Christian, then I would sadly leave my house of faith. With me in that exodus from the Christian church, however, would be every ranking New Testament scholar in the world--Catholic and Protestant alike: E. C. Hoskyns, C. H. Dodd, Rudolf Bultmann, Reginald Fuller, Joseph Fitzmyer, W. E. Albright, Raymond Brown, Paul Minear, R. H. Lightfoot, Herman Hendrickx, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung, Karl Rahner, Phyllis Trible, Jane Schaberg, D. H. Nineham, Maurice Goguel, and countless others.
- John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994), p. 238

Similarly as reported on the Sea of Faith website:
The recent programme on Rev Andrew Freeman emphasised his failure to believe in a literal resurrection, but it failed to also inform viewers that all significant theologians for the past 100 years agree with him. In what sense then is he heretical?

Criticism of the reliability of the NT and OT accounts is commonplace amongst theologians and biblical scholars outside of fundamentalist circles - a far cry from the idea that this is an attack from just "atheists and skeptics."

Many of those on my site have abandoned Christianity due to their studies which were embarked upon to make them better exponents of the faith. It is not hostile criticism that is leading people to these conclusions, but rather a painful conclusion against their wishes.

There is also obviously no historical weight to be gained in virtue of some historical peoples or places being real. Obviously a fictional story can be set amongst the times and places familiar to the authors. Again, it is the supernatural elements that need to be true - but even there, what is so spiritual about the supernatural - why are Christians so hung up on the supernatural?

However imagine that the bible is historically accurate. What does this say about Christianity? I found this on the Internet (I forget where):

Remember the story of the Passover? Moses keeps telling Pharaoh to let the people go from their bondage. Pharaoh refuses. Finally, according to the story, God comes up with a plan that breaks Pharaoh's will to fight. What is the plan? The plan is to send an angel to kill all of the firstborn in Egypt. And we are told that this is exactly what happened. All throughout Egypt, mothers supposedly awoke to find their babies dead. .....an idea keeps coming to my mind. Wouldn't it have been easier to threaten to kill Pharaoh? If he doesn't respond, kill him. Suppose his successor maintained the bondage. Ok, then you kill the next Pharaoh. How many Pharaoh's do you need to kill until one of them will listen and end the brutal slavery? How do you like that plan? Isn't that more humane that killing thousands of innocent babies? Why not?

Imagine that you are watching the evening news. You see a picture of an American missile being skilfully guided so that it misses the enemy bunker and slams into an orphanage. The announcer tells you that this is exactly where the missile was supposed to hit. The announcer describes the precision that was necessary to avoid the tanks and hit babies. He tells you that these tactics will demoralize the opposition leaders, and cause them to submit to our requests. How do you react? You would be outraged, wouldn't you? When civilized countries fight modern warfare, they take special precautions to avoid killing babies.

But what happened in Exodus? If we believe the bible, the big blow deliberately missed Pharaoh, missed the army command-and-control, and missed the slave drivers. Instead, we are told it was aimed specifically at the children. This is good? This is moral? Can you understand how I have come to the opinion that the writer of this passage was mistaken?

In Numbers 31:15-18, after his soldiers had killed all of the men among the Midianites, Moses ordered his army officers to kill all of the male children, kill all of the nonvirgin females but to save alive all of the virgin girls for his troops. Prior to this, the Israelites had taken all of the animals and goods of the Midianites and then burned all of their towns. If genocide or "ethnic cleansing" is a war crime, then this act of Moses was clearly a war crime. What possible reason could Moses have given in order to justify this horrendous act of genocide? After all, wasn't he the great "law giver"? He claimed that Yahweh, the God of Israel, ordered him to do this, because the Midianites worshiped a deity named Baal Peor. The Midianites felt that Baal Peor was nature's god, the creator of the universe, whereas the Israelites believed that their god Yahweh was the creator. The current situation in Kosovo is remarkably parallel. The Albanians in Kosovo worship a creator whom they call Allah; the serbs worship this creator but call him the "Holy Trinity." So, in effect, what we have here is a demonization of those people who refer to the creator by a different name. These people are accused of worshiping a false god.

How can anyone really believe all this is historical and from a good, holy and just god?

"I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children." (Leviticus 26:22)

"Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourself every girl who has never slept with a man." (Numbers 31:17-18)

"The Lord commands: "... slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women" (Ezechial 9:4-6)

"When the Lord delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the males .... As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves." (Deuteronomy 20:13-14)

"You will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you." (Deuteronomy 28:53)

"The Lord said to Joshua [...] 'you are to hamstring their horses.' " (Exceedingly cruel.) (Joshua 11:6)

"... Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword and; also the women and little ones.... every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall utterly destroy." (Judges 21:10-12)

"This is what the Lord says: Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass .... And Saul ... utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword." (1 Samuel 15:3,7-8)

"The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their women with child ripped open." (Hosea 13:16)

I've asked Christians before that if they value goodness why do they think that the god of the bible is good given the above, the doctrine of hell etc? Who should accept a "blessing" from someone else's god whom their scriptures portray as a being who kills a baby to punish the father and arranges for his wives to be raped? See 2 Samuel, chapter 12. According to 2 Samuel 12:11 the God of the bible himself says that *he* (he says "I will") "will raise up evil against thee" and that *he* "will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour." Notice too that when killing David's baby no thought was given to the feelings of the mother!

Fundamentalists are very dismissive of all things human and draw an absolute line between human thought and divine thought. This turns out to be Achilles heel. As soon as it become clear, as it has in the last 150 years, that the Bible is of human origin and reflects at all points the thoughts, customs, and world-views of the various people whose words are there preserved, fundamentalists are raising to divine and absolute status the (human) thoughts of people of ancient times. In other words they are idolising past human thinking and rejecting modern human thinking. Far from being the guardians of the true faith, fundamentalists are guilty of what the biblical tradition regards as the most heinous of all sins, namely idolatry.

Idolatry for a book, and a book full of wicked commands at that. Not defenders of "God," but defenders of frequently cruel human bronze age thinking.

So, in summary I don't think it matters if the bible is historical or not in its secular events. However if all the supernatural stories are true then Christianity is a horrific religion indeed and I do not understand how a good person can worship a purported deity who they believe did the things the bible says he did. On the other hand if the supernatural elements are recognised as stories, then maybe some element of rationality and spirituality can remain for a Christian who can also justly shake his head at the ancient cruelty of the inventors of the old stories, just as the folks at the Sea of Faith do.


To conservative hell believing Christians who tell me they love me and want me to convert
To look forward to heaven in the belief that non-Christians will be in hell is to tacitly admit that you can only be happy in heaven if you are unaware of reality and do not feel love for non-Christians. This is because to be happy in heaven then the bright midday consciousness, love of life, friends and family, striving for understanding that is my non-Christian self has to be reduced to a lost memory for you - otherwise you will be aware that what you wished for (me being with you) did not come to pass and your bliss will be imperfect. I must be "untermenschen" to you, so that my sufferings can be dismissed, just as the Nazis were able to dismiss the Jews as worthless vermin. Their own families, whom they saw as real human beings, were treated with kindness by the same SS who threw the Jews into the furnaces. It is the same psychology. Nobody can bear the torture of those they emphasise with. Hence Christians must thwart their love for those they believe satisfy Mark 16:16 if they are to find heaven bliss rather than grossly disturbing.

For some Christians it is worse than being unconcious and merely not loving non-Christians, rather they actually glory in the torture of non-Christians. Just how appaling does Christianity have to become before it is obvious enough that it is not good?

"Ah! The broad magnificence of that scene! How shall I laugh and be glad and exult when I see these wise philosophers, who teach that the gods are indifferent and men soulless, roasting and browning before their own disciples in hell." [Tertullian (c. 160 - c. 220), "De Spectaculis"]

"That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell." [Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Summa Theologica]


Why it is illogical to want to save somebody
Should a Christian want me to go to heaven?

Yes. Then heaven will be less than perfect for that Christian if I go to hell since heaven will not have turned out as they wished (i.e. with me in it).

No. Then there is no point in them trying to "save" me.

Conclusion: Salvationist desires are inconsistent with a theory of the perfection of heaven. Therefore all Christians who believe heaven is perfect should stop evangelising!


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