Childlike Faith

Why is it acceptable to have childlike faith when it comes to Christianity, but we are expected to evaluate other religions with critical thinking skills?

Recently I’ve had a couple of conversations with theist bloggers that have really left a sour taste in my mouth in regards to this idea of childlike faith.

The first was a gentleman who was actively trying to proselytize to me. So I asked him “why should I believe your god and not someone else’s”  to which he would respond that Jesus was the only God to die to save the world. This of course is not accurate statement of world religions, but setting that aside, even if he was that isn’t a reason to believe Christianity over another religion. Right off the bat Islam and Judaism are going to counter that claim, so I pushed again “why should I believe Christianity over Islam.” He had two suggestions for me, first that I needed to diligently seek after (his) God, and if I did I would find him. And second that I needed to just believe, and that answers would come later.

Now I live in a major US city and work for a large university. I encounter many people of differing religious beliefs on a daily basis. If I treated every religion the way this individual wanted me to treat Christianity, basically sans any critical thinking skills, I would be changing my religion more than a freshman changed majors. Somehow I don’t think he would be supportive if I “just accepted” Christianity today and “just accepted” Islam tomorrow.

So this whole concept of “childlike faith” seems, well childish. But apparently you can’t get into heaven without it according to Matthew 18:3. I don’t understand why this doesn’t offend more Christians. After all, we convince children that a fat man in a red suit can fly around the world in a single night delivering toys created by elves in a workshop at the North Pole, squeezing down non existent chimneys all along the way. Children are, in effect, stupid. No disparagement is meant, they just lack the critical thinking skills to evaluate information effectively.  And this is how Jesus wants you to be or you can’t go to heaven. This seems incredibly insulting to me, does anyone else feel this way?

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The Blood of Christ

Not getting into whether or not the figure known as Jesus Christ is an actual, real, historical figure or not. Has anybody wondered what would have happened if the Romans had chosen to strangle, drown, suffocate, or otherwise kill Jesus without any blood letting, would his death still have “washed” the sins of the world? Or was literal blood spilling necessary? 

The Great and Powerful Oz

I am always amazed and the sheer number of Christians who do not believe in an All-Powerful God. In my experience this is actually all of Christianity, no seriously, I’m not generalizing here. Naturally Christians will of course pay lip-service to their Omnipotent God, their God who is so powerful he created the universe out of nothing, but if you engage with any Christian for longer than five minutes on some of the stickier issues of Christianity, they always reduce God to no more than a man standing behind a curtain. Let me explain by looking at a few common arguments I hear when I am engaging with Christians.

Slavery

First up is a favorite topic of mine, Old Testament slavery. Now most reasonable people agree the slavery is a bad things, even Bible believing Christians will profess to believe that. But where do Christians come by that belief since slavery is clearly approved throughout the OT, to the point of being regulated and even encouraged by their God who can do no wrong? The argument from Christians here is that of course the Great and Powerful Oz would never ever approve of slavery and genocide, but the man behind the current was limited by the reality of the culture of the time. And they will actually say “God was limited” so that should be a major red flag. This is the God who created the universe from nothing, but he can’t forbid his chosen people from engaging in owning other human beings because it is a reality of the culture of the time?  On its face this is absurd because starting in the OT and continuing to Christians today, followers of the Biblical God are constantly being told not to be like the cultures around them. In the OT it deal particularly with what gods they worship (obviously) how they worship God, not engaging in human sacrifices, what foods they can eat and so on. So I don’t see why an all-powerful God can’t make not owning slaves just another way the Israelites are supposed to be different from the cultures around them Probably the most common follow up I hear is “God knew the Israelites wouldn’t be able to follow a no slaves policy so he regulated it to make it less harsh then how the surrounding cultures treated their slaves.” First off, that is just categorically false and if you spent any time reading OT slavery laws you would see that. Second, the way I understand it, as Christians will point out every and anytime an atheist brings up the OT that the whole purpose of the OT laws were to show the Israelites they could not follow all of the laws, so what is one more law that the Israelites would break? Finally (although this is by no means an exhaustive list), that perhaps there were economic reasons as to why it was necessary for God to allow slavery. They of course believe this is the same God who fed 2-3 million people with literal bread from heaven for forty years, so I’m confident that he could have shielded his chosen people from any negative impact  resulting from a non existent slave trade. And this is all of course without mentioning that an omniscient God could have superseded culture by giving laws before their was a culture, like when he created the first man and woman, or when he saved only seven people from a global flood. Or that he didn’t seem to be limited by culture when he destroyed the whole world in a flood or wiped Sodom and Gomorrah off the face of the planet. So this line of thinking doesn’t track. Christians either need to come to terms that their God is totally okay with something they believe to be morally repugnant, or that God is in fact not all-powerful enough to even outlaw it from his own people.

Hell

The concept of Hell has plagued Christians for centuries and so many will try to argue away eternal torture as a necessity. But of course with an all powerful God nothing is a necessity, everything is a conscious choice. Christians will say that God is too Holy and to Pure for anything that is not pure and holy to exist in his presence, therefore our immortal souls have to spend eternity somewhere. There are, as you would expect, a number of problems with this line of thinking in consideration of an all-powerful deity. For starters if God is all-powerful than he can, in fact, allow a sinful person into his presence without affecting his holiness or pureness. Also if God is omnipresent as Christians claim than sinful people are constantly in his presence because he is present everywhere, in fact God will even be present in Hell, that is what omnipresent means. Furthermore, in the first chapter of Job we see Satan presenting himself in the Lord’s presence, so so much for that theory. Also immortal souls don’t have to spend eternity anywhere, If God can blink them into existence, he can blink them out of existence just as easily, so an all-powerful God could have created heaven without needing a hell. Even if Hell the location is necessary, which is isn’t, the fire, brimstone, and eternal torture are aesthetic choices God has intentionally made, and keep in mind this is torture not punishment, punishment is designed to modify/correct future behavior, Hell is, by intentional design, continuous and eternal, there is no getting out of it once you are there. So here, Christians have to come to terms with either God somehow finds burning people for eternity pleasing and good, or he is not all-powerful enough to stop it.

The Crucifixion

The argument here is the world has grown so wicked that the only way to “save” it was for God to send his son (by impregnating a thirteen-year-old girl, also totally unnecessary), in order to die by crucifixion so that his blood could wash away the sins of the world, but only if you ask for it. This is of course replacing the atonement in the OT by slaughtering animals. It seems this “all-powerful” deity has an unhealthy reliance on blood-magic to actually be able to accomplish anything. An all-powerful deity could of course just forgive the sins of those who asked (or even if they didn’t), no blood magic necessary. And that is really the kicker with Christianity, the central component to the faith, the so-called necessary death and resurrection of the savior Jesus Christ, even if it really truly did happen, it is just completely unnecessary theater. Here Christians need to come to terms that either God is reliant on blood-magic to accomplish his goals, or the death and resurrection of Jesus was a marketing ploy to make Christianity more appealing.

So those were a few instances where Christians have indicated to me that they don’t actually believe in an all-powerful God as they keep trying to limit his power. I encourage you to push back anytime you hear a Christian claim it was necessary for God to, God had to, or God was limited by, and see if they believe that God really is all-powerful or not.

I Don’t Want Christianity to be True

The biggest understatement of the year is my mother and I do not see eye to eye on religion or politics and I would be lying if I said my “sudden” switch from liberal albeit non-practicing Christian to vocal capitol A Atheist has not strained our relationship. For the most part we do our best not to discuss the issue and instead focus on my five-month-old son, because nothing brings families closer together than cute babies. However there are times when I wish we would or could talk. It has been about a year since I proudly embraced the Atheist label (just before Christmas, admittedly my timing could have been better), and since that time I have noticed an uptick in Facebook “likes” on posts detailing what Atheists think, or more accurately what Christians think Atheists think. This frustrates me in general, but in particular with my mother because if she wants to know what an atheist thinks perhaps she should ask her son. Go ahead and take a second to watch the Frank Turek video that graced my Facebook feed the other day courtesy of my mother.

Did you catch all that?

“They have a moral issue, an emotional issue. They have an accountability issue maybe… People don’t want Christianity to be true. Why? Because they don’t want there to be God, they want to be God. They want to go their own way. They don’t want to have a moral authority above them. In fact most people are not on a truth quest they are on a happiness quest, whatever is going to make them happy they are going to believe.”

Its a wonder I haven’t left my wife and son to go marauding and pillaging, and
I have to ask myself, is this what my mother really thinks about me? And even if I did leave Christianity so I could go live an immoral life and not be accountable to God why on earth would I become a capital A Atheist as opposed to a little A atheist? Why would I proudly embrace the label of one of the most disliked groups in the country? For that matter why would I even leave the comfort and privilege of the Christian community? Look at how the evangelical community has rallied around Donald Trump, I assert there is zero reason to leave the Christian community in order to live an immoral life accountable to no one. My act might not fool “God” of course, but certainly would fool Christians. For seven years I lived as a non-practicing Christian, a little A atheist for all intents and purposes, and so long as I occasionally professed a belief in God no one questioned my morality, then one day I embrace the atheist label and somehow with absolutely no change in lifestyle suddenly my mother believes I am an hedonist. And I have to ask, what part of alienating  my family does she think is fun for me? It makes no sense to become a capital A Atheist for moral or accountability reasons as Frank Turek describes them, I can do that just as easily while still being plugged into the Christian community without the added stress of being an Atheist. No there must be something more, like the complete and utter lack of evidence for the two most foundational events of Christianity, the Exodus and the Resurrection, for starters.

But I must confess I am guilty of Frank Turek’s accusations. I don’t want Christianity to be true, also if Christianity were true I wouldn’t become a Christian but not because of moral or accountability issues as Turek spouts off. No if Christianity were true that would mean God actually did kill the slaves of the people he was mad at for owning slaves. It would mean God actually did save the life of a man who offered to let a depraved mob rape his two virgin daughters (probably around 13-years-old) but murdered his wife for looking over her shoulder at the wrong time. It would mean there is a God who exists that thinks picking up sticks on the wrong day is a worse offense than beating someone with a rod. A God who cares more about the appropriate way to boil a baby goat (not in its mother’s milk) than he cares about slavery, polygamy, and rape (often all at the same time). Exactly which part of that does Turek think should be appealing to me?

I wouldn’t become a Christian because why would I join an organization that has zero respect for other faiths and cultures, that oppresses women, and discriminates against the LGBT community for the privilege of worshiping a deity who did all of the above? I wouldn’t become a Christian because being commanded to say “I love you” to someone pointing the gun of hellfire at your head means nothing at all and I won’t degrade myself by saying it. I wouldn’t become a Christian because my principles would never allow me to praise someone who made that the choice in the first place.

On second though I did leave Christianity for moral reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Absence of Evidence

Christians have a problem. Their problem is much of their 100 percent accurate Bible does not have the evidence to definitively prove, or even support that the Bible is 100 percent accurate. A favorite counter of apologists though is “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Which is logically true, but let’s examine that a little bit deeper.

While absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, the absence of evidence can lead us to make fairly accurate predictions. Take sloths for instance, I have no evidence that a 5 toed sloth does not exist. What I have is good evidence that every sloth species that we are currently aware of either alive today or extinct have been either 2 toed sloths or 3 toed sloths. Now it is entirely possible tomorrow some biologist in Costa Rica, or some paleontologist in Canada might discover a 5 toed sloth either a single mutated individual or an entirely new species, at which point I would need to reevaluate my views on the subject. For the time being however, I am very comfortable stating 5 toed sloths do not exist because all available evidence points in that direction. In light of the available evidence, the absence of evidence provides no reason for me to believe in the claim that a 5 toed sloth exists.

Let’s apply this to the Bible. When examining the Bible as an historical text (that is a text from history, not a history textbook) it is the position of mainstream scholars of all faiths that the exodus story, as well as its leader Moses are both fictional. We have zero archeological evidence to suggest that 2-3 million Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt, that the ten plagues happened, that 2-3 million Jews wondered around a relatively small desert for 40 years, or that a Canaanite conquest ever happened, and if it did, definitely not in the scale proclaimed in the Bible. That’s four events that include any number of smaller details that should be attested through archeology and other historical analysis. Only one needs to be untrue for the inerrancy of the Bible to be shatter and the entire foundation of Judaism and therefore Christianity to come crashing down like a house of cards, and we have zero evidence to confirm any of it. Now again, just because evidence hasn’t been found yet doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, new evidence could always be found tomorrow. However, the fact that experience tells us that the events as described in the Bible would leave behind a mountain of positive evidence, and the fact that we have searched for decades and have been unable to uncover any evidence to suggest the exodus story, as described Biblically, is accurate, the absence of evidence here is incredible suspicious and we can with a high degree of confidence conclude that the exodus story is in fact fictional.

Furthermore, we do have positive evidence of much smaller nomadic tribes living in Canaan worshiping a tribal storm god named Yahweh as part of a larger Canaanite pantheon during the time period 2-3 million Jews should have been wondering around in the desert, which makes the lack of evidence for 2-3 million Jews running around the desert even more suspicious and suggests a different development of the Judaism religion/culture, and consequently Christian tradition thanthe development described in the Bible. So the fact that we do have evidence for smaller nomadic tribes but no evidence for the 2-3 million Jews, we can again, with a high degree of confidence conclude that the Biblical exodus story is not historically accurate. 

I would even go so far as to say that if the Bible did not exist the historical and archaeological evidence produced in the past 200 years would never lead us to entertain such stories as remotely plausible. And since part of the circular reasoning of Christianity is “The Bible is 100 percent accurate because God exists, and because the Bible is 100 percent accurate we know that God exists,” the Bible being wrong, doesn’t necessarily prove that a god doesn’t exist or even necessarily that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist, but it does require a serious recalibration in Christian thinking.

The Cliché of Magical Fruit

My favorite part of the Bible is when God damns all of humankind to eternal torment in Hell for the actions of two people who failed to live of to his ideals of good and evil, when God is the one who locked up all knowledge of good and evil, and therefore any possibility Adam and Eve could live up to those ideals, in a piece of fruit.

The real crime here is God imbued a piece of fruit (well, a tree to be fair) with magical powers.  Whenever someone gets the bright idea to imbue an inanimate object with their magic it always comes back to bite them. Seriously hasn’t God read Lord of the Rings? What a cliche.

For a longer post read Genesis 3 and the Age of Accountability

Genesis 3 and the Age of Accountability

I have always wanted to know how any reasonable person could hold Eve accountable for the crime of eating magical fruit.

The Bible teaches that because of the Fall of Man everyone inherits original sin, the punishment for this is death and eternal hellfire, unless you accept Jesus as your personal savior. If we follow this to its logical conclusion that means millions upon millions of “innocent” children are currently experiencing eternal torment in fiery Hell all because they are too young to understand their own sinful nature and to accept Jesus as their personal savior. Well that doesn’t seem like something a just, loving and benevolent deity would do and therefore Christians need an escape hatch to save their opinion of their deity. Enter the “Age of Accountability.” This is the belief that since Jesus covered the sins of the whole world, God, out of his mercy saves those children too young to be held accountable for their actions.

Just to be clear there is absolutely no biblical doctrine about the age of accountability, this is purely the result of a thought exercise trying to account for why a just and loving God would send millions of innocent babies to hell just because they are not old enough to accept Jesus as their savior. It has since become a widespread belief. And this is what gets me. If Christians refuse to believe that God would punish children who are incapable of understanding, why do they believe that God would punish all of humankind for the actions of two people who are also incapable of understanding?

Let’s briefly recap Genesis 3. God creates Adam and Eve and places them in the garden with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which Adam and Eve are commanded not to eat from. A talking snake reveals to Adam and Eve that the fruit is wisdom granting magical fruit and convinces them to eat. The two realize they are naked, sew some fig leaves together and hide from God. God curses all three of them, makes some clothes for Adam and Eve and then kicks them out of the garden.

So Adam and Eve have been running around the garden completely in the buff having no idea how bad being naked is. They eat from the magical wisdom granting fruit true and suddenly they realize that being naked is very bad. They had no knowledge of how bad their nakedness was and therefore could not be and were not held accountable for their actions. Then they received knowledge of the “wrongness” of their current state and immediately, independent from God, take steps to correct their wrongness. There is a clear and evident transition.

Because of their lack of knowledge of Good and Evil Adam and Eve cannot be held accountable for any of their actions up to and including the eating of the fruit. In fact, based on the information provided in the Bible we have every reason to believe had Adam and Eve been given the knowledge that eating of the magical tree was wrong they would have taken steps to prevent that action just like they immediately took steps to cover their nakedness as soon as they had the knowledge they were naked. Anyone who believes in the Biblical God needs to ask themselves why God would hold back the very knowledge that would have allowed Adam and Eve to follow his will. Some people will argue that Adam and Eve knew eating form the tree was wrong because God had commanded them not to. However, these same people will argue that disobeying God is evil and following God is good, knowledge of Good and Evil is exactly the knowledge that Adam and Eve lacked. Adam and Eve are like the little girl whose mother is desperately trying to convince her not to accept cookies from strangers, if a stranger offered her a cookie the next day and she accepted it no one would argue the little girl was purposefully trying to disobey her mother, the girl just isn’t old enough yet to have the mental capacity to comprehend that accepting cookies from strangers could possibly be bad. Satan could have appeared in full red-face, horns, tail, and pitchfork and Adam and Eve would have had zero reason not to listen to him.

In a cruel twist of fate Adam and Eve were incapable of preventing themselves from eating the magical fruit because they could not know eating the magical fruit was wrong precisely because they had not yet eaten the magical fruit that would give them that knowledge.

If God cursed all of mankind because of the actions of two individuals who He failed to give the knowledge they needed to effectively follow His will, why on earth would he spare children from eternal torment because they lack the same knowledge? I have no reason to believe that the millions of children who God has murdered, commanded to be murdered, has allowed to die in the hands of abusers, through various natural disasters, accidents, or starvation are in a “better place,” in fact if I believe in the God of the Bible, I have every reason to believe the opposite. And that is just one more reason why I’m not a Christian.

Thoughts? Comments? Share them below and remember, don’t follow the herd.