Losing His Religion

A fellow blogger recently posted his reasons for walking away from Christianity. The last I checked, there were almost a thousand responses to his post. He obviously struck a nerve with both believers and unbelievers. You see his post here. I do not presume to tell him or anyone else what to believe. However, I do think it is worth responding to his list of 20 reasons, as many of them would be representative of other’s people struggle with faith.  His reasons will be listed in italics and my responses will follow.

God is wrathful, jealous, hateful, and kills nations of people like it is a bodily function. He is certainly not just or “holy” in nature.

The claim that God enjoys killing entire nations is extremely overstated.  What is being referenced here is likely the holy wars described in Joshua.  These are hard passages and not my favorites either.  But a careful reading will show that God’s intention was not for genocide but for Israel’s possession of the land.  The plan was to drive the Canaanites (of which God waited until their evil reached a certain level).  There are numerous examples of grace shown, even to the previous inhabitants of the land.

 
The act of throwing people into infinite torture and punishment for not believing a Jewish guy from 2,000 years ago was God’s son, or unknowingly worshiping the wrong god, is extremely cruel and sadistic.

I understand hell as being defined as absence from God.  The idea of little demons systematically torturing unbelievers is a post-biblical idea.  Our natural tendency is to be separate from God but God has provided a way to be in relationship with God through Jesus (the “Jewish guy”).  Would it not be cruel for God to force his presence upon people who have no desire for him?

 
The statements, “God works in mysterious ways,” or “It will all make sense in heaven,” are little more than irrational cop outs. This God allows horrible atrocities to be committed against innocent men, women and children every day.

I agree that those statements can be cop outs.  Does God allow those atrocities?  God has given us the conscience and the resources to make a heaven on earth.  Before we ask why God allows it, perhaps we should ask why we allow it.
Bloody animal and human sacrifices are illogical demands by a divine god as payment for petty wrong doings. These actions are no different than the rituals of archaic pagan religions. Not to mention the bizarre ritual of symbolically drinking human blood and eating human flesh.

In some ways God was revealing himself in a way that ancients could understand.  In another way, there is a timeless truth here.  We see blood as a symbol of death, the Hebrews saw it as about life.  How ethno-centric to reject their symbolism as illogical.  Also, the early Christians did not see communion as cannibalistic, that was a claim of their critics.
If God loves us and wants us to know and believe in him, why be so completely invisible? What is the purpose of being so illusive to those who believe and worship him?

Since God is spirit and does not have a body, it is natural for him to be invisible.  But he does reveal himself in nature and in experience.  As one who worships and believes in him, I do not find God to be illusive.  He is invisible enough to stretch my faith but real enough to give me hope and confidence.
God never manifests himself or performs miracles as he regularly did for the Israelites in Old Testament stories.

Actually, miracle stories are relatively rare in the Old Testament.  It is mostly Moses, Elijah and Elisha who perform miracles.  If you took all the miracle accounts of the Old Testament and combined them, you would have some Psalms longer than these accounts.  And who says God does not perform miracles today?  Doctors regularly question as to why some terminally sick people suddenly have no illness.  I have experienced a number of smaller miracles in my own life.
Prayers are never answered. Certainly not in the way Jesus described. Prayer has absolutely no affect on the world around us.

I am sorry if that is your experience but it is not mine.  Prayer does not work like sending a wish list to a cosmic Santa Claus.  But prayer does work and I have experienced dramatic answers to prayer.
Jesus did not fulfill major Old Testament prophesies or even fulfill his own promises and predictions.

I would need details as to what was in mind in this statement.  There are many Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in Jesus, as well as statements made by Jesus.  This is a very vague criticism.
The authors of much of the Bible are unknown. And of these unknown authors, the men who wrote the gospels likely never even met Jesus considering they were written 40-70 years after his death. A far cry from reliable testimony.

It is very possible that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did write the Gospels attributed to them.  The accounts reflect earlier oral traditions of the people that did know Jesus.  In oral cultures, those traditions are just as reliable as written records.  In addition, 40-70 (I would say actually 30-60) years is quite reasonable.  Our written accounts of Alexander the Great are 300-400 years after his death.  We do not reject accounts written today about the Woodstock music festival, just because it is forty years later.

 
The Bible is repeatedly contradictory with itself, reality, and the laws of morality. Couldn’t God inspire a less poorly written book?

Again, I would need some examples.  I would disagree that the Bible is contradictory.  There is a consistent story of a God seeking his people and the struggles that go along the way.  As for morality, even in our post-Christian world, much of our morality is still shaped by biblical values.
The Bible is open to interpretation. Everyone interprets it in the way that suits them best or serves their purposes.

I agree that this is true.  But that does not mean that there is no true meaning to the Bible or that it is false.
Throughout history, Christians have justified horrific actions by the Bible and its teaching.

Unfortunately this is true.  That is why I am a follower of Jesus and not the fallible teachings and commands of any group of Christians.
The Bible promotes hate and persecution against women, homosexuals and those who worship other gods or no god at all.

The Bible does no such thing.  The Bible is actually very pro-woman in comparison with its cultural context.  The Bible does not promote hatred toward anyone.  Homosexuality is rejected and pagan worship is criticized.  But notice that Jesus spent much of his time with people who were hated and persecuted by their society.  There is a strong message of love and tolerance while still challenging us on our lifestyles.

 

According to the Bible, nearly 70% percent of the people in the world will burn in hell because they don’t believe Jesus was the son of God.

As I said earlier, should God force people into heaven even they want nothing to do with him?  Should not people have freedom of choice?

 

The only reason I was a Christian was because I was indoctrinated into the religion as a child as a result of the culture and region of the world in which I was born.

Good point.  I struggled with this as I was coming out of atheism.  In fact I put Christianity farther down the list of options because of this very reason.  I ended up becoming a Christian because I was convinced of its truth and not because of any cultural pressure.

 

Christianity has no more rational or factual foundation than any other religion on earth that I openly reject.

I would disagree.  But if you pushed things hard enough, Darwinism and atheism have the same problems.

 

The Christian church is disjointed and can’t even agree with one another.

This can be a problem.  But as a pastor, I work with pastors and churches of many denominations and we have always been able to put aside our differences to work together.

 

Christians are not at all ethically or morally different from non-Christians.

This can be a problem as well.  Thankfully my faith is in Jesus and not in fellow Christians.

 

Today, powerful church leaders steal, lie and molest young children. The church repeatedly attempts to cover up these atrocities, only to reluctantly apologize as a last resort.

The percentage of these events is relatively small and surely is no higher than among non-Christians.  It is still a horrible problem and the full weight of the law and condemnation of the church should be placed upon those who commit such crimes.

 

It is absolutely irrational to continue to believe archaic teaching with the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through science and technology. The Bible reads like a book of primitive folklore, not divinely inspired insight into our true reason for existence.

What examples are you thinking of?  Has science and technology proven that love for God and love for people (as Jesus summarized the Law) are no longer valid?  How would such proof look?  The basics of the Christian faith have not been proven false by science.  Science is not the church’s enemy as all truth is God’s truth.  It is true that the Bible was written in an ancient context and that our interpretation should reflect that, but it is not true that science has proven the Bible to be fundamentally false.

I realize that some people are going to walk away from Christianity.  My responses here are not likely to put a stop to that.  But what I want to demonstrate is that these reasons have responses and that if people are honest, they are not the real reasons for walking away.  They are excuses for something that is happening on a deeper level.  I encourage people to keep an open mind.  Feel free to ask questions, but have a measure of humility in acknowledging that not all of our answers are available in this world.

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9 thoughts on “Losing His Religion

  1. ” We do not reject accounts written today about the Woodstock music festival, just because it is forty years later.”

    We would if the accounts detailed (for example) human beings with the ability to fly and perform magic.

    “But if you pushed things hard enough, Darwinism and atheism have the same problems.”

    Sorry, but untrue.

    Atheism isn’t a ‘thing’. Atheism is the rejection of theist claims. That’s it.

    If by ‘darwinism’ you mean ‘the theory of evolution through natural selection’, then you’re completely wrong.

  2. If enough people witnessed miracles, we would have to at least investigate. The original point is that 40-70 years by itself does not take away from historical value.

    Actually, atheism is a thing now. It is not simply a lack of belief. It has evolved into its own system with its own philosophy and morality and has even become evangelistic. It is now a belief system and not just a non-belief system.

  3. “If enough people witnessed miracles, we would have to at least investigate.”

    Certainly. But as we have no witnesses when dealing with such old documents, that doesn’t really apply.

    “The original point is that 40-70 years by itself does not take away from historical value.”

    It depends on what the historical claim is.

    For example, the existence and actions of Gaius Julius Caesar can be backed up by the historical evidence. The claim that he was the descendant of the goddess Venus, however, is not.

    “It has evolved into its own system with its own philosophy and morality and has even become evangelistic.”

    I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.

    Atheism is a part of many worldviews and systems and philosophies. But atheism, by itself, is not any of those things.

    For example, I’m a secular humanism. Secular humanism includes atheism, but it isn’t atheism, if you take my meaning.

  4. My point is that it is not the age of the document that determines the value. You would reject the Gospels even if they were written during the life of Jesus and we still had the originals.

    Of course there are different forms of atheism, just as there are different forms of Christianity. Atheism is not just about unbelief. The reason atheists spent thousands of dollars on their bus campaign is not that they wanted to tick of theists but because they thought they had a better alternative for people.

  5. “My point is that it is not the age of the document that determines the value.”

    Not quite. It is not the age of the document that solely determines the value.

    If we had originals written during the time of Jesus, then that would certainly be better evidence than you have. Evidence that something remarkable happened, certainly, to convince those people.

    “Of course there are different forms of atheism, just as there are different forms of Christianity.”

    You’re not comparing two similar things.

    You need to compare atheism and theism. There aren’t ‘different forms’ of theism…there are different belief systems that include theism, one of which is your particular brand of Christianity.

    “Atheism is not just about unbelief.”

    Yes, it is. I don’t know where you’re getting your information from.

    “The reason atheists”

    Atheists did not do this. A group of people who happen to have atheism as one of their attributes did this.

    Are you really not seeing the difference, or are you being stubborn?

  6. If enough people witnessed miracles, we would have to at least investigate. The original point is that 40-70 years by itself does not take away from historical value.

    We’re not exactly talking about a period where things were recorded accurately. There were no newspapers, no film, nothing but oral tradition prior to the gospels. This is not evidence we would admit into any legal proceeding, and my idea of extraordinary evidence (which this claim requires) goes far beyond a level of quality that would pass a mere legal test. So, 40-70 years after the fact given to us several levels (NOT just individuals) removed from anyone who might have been eyewitnesses does indeed greatly diminish its value to essentially nil.

    Actually, atheism is a thing now. It is not simply a lack of belief. It has evolved into its own system with its own philosophy and morality and has even become evangelistic. It is now a belief system and not just a non-belief system.

    No, secular humanism is a philosophy which is compatible with atheism (which most definitely is not a philosophy). There are other philosophies which are also compatible with atheism.

    The reason atheists spent thousands of dollars on their bus campaign is not that they wanted to tick of theists but because they thought they had a better alternative for people.

    As an individual who was involved in a bus ad campaign I can tell you that aside from the truth being better than living a lie, this is wrong. What we were about is to get people to rethink their position and to let people know that we atheists exist and those that wish we wouldn’t had better get used to the idea. It is a statement of empowerment, of telling society that we are a force to be reckoned with and that religion is no longer going to be given the immunity from criticism that it so richly did not deserve.

    THAT’S what it was about. If it ticked a few Christians off with such mild messages it was no sweat off my back. How strong can the faith of such people be if something so innocuous gets a bee in their bonnet? That’s a sign of insecurity of belief, not an affirmation of it. We atheists have had religion shoved in our faces and interfering in our lives and we’re sick of it.

  7. To MorseCode: “Not atheists but people who have atheism as one of their attributes.”

    You would never let Christians get away with this. Imagine if I responded to the corruption of televangelists by saying they were not Christians, they were just people that had Christianity as one of their attributes.

    To Shamelessly Atheist:

    Oral testimony is not legal evidence? What country do you live in? Of course there was no film or TV, but we do not deny all events that took place before the invention of these events. Studies in oral tradition have revealed how accurate these things can be.

    I am willing to admit that secular humanism is the proper term but atheism is the umbrella term that is presented to the public. Perhaps it has a better ring to it or is more understandable. As for the bus campaigns, it did not tick off this Christian. I welcome the opportunity for more communication on these issues.

  8. “You would never let Christians get away with this.”

    For the simple reason that atheism is ONE THING and Christianity is MANY THINGS.

    Try and wrap your head around it. Atheism: the lack of belief in a god. Theism: the belief in a god.

    Both of those are only ONE THING.

    Christianity: a set of beliefs and principles. Secular Humanism: a set of beliefs and principles.

    Both of those are MANY THINGS.

    Get it?

  9. I agree with your statement about Christianity and secular humanism but not about theism and atheism. Theism is many things. It includes monotheism, deism, polytheism, panentheism and pantheism. To a lesser degree, atheism also has variety. For example, the early Christians were called atheists by the Romans because they did not believe in the Greco-Roman pantheon even though they did believe in the Judeo-Christian God.

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