There are a few basic, fundamental requirements of belief to be an orthodox or conservative Christian that not only don’t make any sense, but I have yet to ever have a Christian address them. They’re illogical problems with the dogma that convinced me out of my belief in the religion, and I feel undermine the religion as a whole and should be addressed by anyone purporting to claim orthodox Christianity as being accurate and viable. They go beyond the illogic, contradictions, and factual inconsistencies in the Bible and speak to the very basic premise of the â€œrevealed religionâ€ of Christianity as the only true belief.
But that’s a ways below. First, I had one issue of illogic that was never addressed, until recently, but I’m afraid not very well. The trilemma issue as raised by C.S. Lewis. To paraphrase, if the scriptures are correct, and the Gospels are accurate in that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, then he was either a liar, insane, or the Son of God. And since the scriptures are correct and Jesus fulfilled the scripture, then he MUST be what he says he is.
Mark over on NewSojourn finally addressed my questionimg of this failed logic. While I was presenting an unadressed 4th option, that of â€œmisguided and still wrong but not insane, any more than the Pope is insane for believing he’s God’s emissary on Earth,â€ Mark reminded me that the focus is on the fulfillment of scripture.
Unfortunately, the whole issue rests on the ASSUMPTION that scripture is correct AND that Jesus fulfilled it. Since there is no proof of either, then there is no basis to say Jesus IS what he said he was as a matter of absolute fact. And unfortunately, all of C. S. Lewis’ seminal work of Christian apologetics, â€œMere Christianityâ€, is filled with this kind of flawed logic and fallacies. Lewis constantly sets up assumptions and then goes on to hold up conclusions based on assumptions as fact. Yet, any claim that has as its foundation a mere assumption is itself an assumption and should not be put forward as anything more.
Let’s say we have the equation: 5 + x = y. Lewis is saying, in effect, â€œLet’s assume x = 5. Then y must equal 10. So the fact of the matter, is that y+y=20 and that’s a certainty!â€ But what if x = 4?
What if we even now the result, so that the equation is 5 + x = 10. It’s easier to assume x = 5, certainly! And this is closer to analogous to what Lewis and a lot of other objectivists and religious fundamentalists believe. Because of one reason or another, we know the result to be 10, then it only seems logical that x MUST equal 5! It’s that simple, why can’t everyone see this, they lament. But here’s the thing: x might just as well equal 6-1.
5 + (6-1) = 10.
Same result perhaps, but the basis of the equation is not what they think is so obvious.
Enough algebra, and back to philosophy. So, Christians are certain x = 5. I’m pretty certain x = (6-1). What, aside from the actual data we’re believing in, is the difference? Certainty and doubt. And the reason we come to the data we believe in, but more on that later. A religious person, raised on and constantly surrounded by the dogma of their belief, is absolutely certain x = 5. There’s no doubt, and generally no room for doubt and no patience for those who dout it. But I’m not 100% certain x = (6-1). It could be (7-2). Or (2.5×2). Or heck, it actually COULD be 5! And that, my friends, is the fundamental difference between a believer and a skeptic, the acceptance of doubt, in addition to requiring evidence. Someone who simply disbelieves is a cynic, not a skeptic. Someone who can not accept doubt is a fundamentalist. I believe there is a God, creator of the universe. But I have doubt. There may be no god. Or, God may actually be a creature-like entity as Christianity (and most mythologies describe/imply) that does directly manipulate existence as it happens. I have no proof either way.
So what do I do? What should (in my opinion) one do? There are aspects of existence where belief comes into play and informs much of how one lives and views existence. Atheists BELIEVE there is no God as there is no PROOF that there is NO god (you can’t prove a negative.) Well, the only thing you can do, is come to your beliefs reasonably and skeptically and with due reflection and examination of what the available evidence points to.
Now you may say, that’s not belief! That’s crime scene investigation. But I ask, why do belief and faith have to defy facts and evidence? There’s nothing except dogma and irrationality that requires a person to believe something contrary to evidence. Belief in something where there is lack of contrary evidence is a risky venture, but acceptable. Risky, though, because new evidence can possibly interfere with what you thought was true where you filled in the gaps. The â€œGod of gapsâ€ concept of Intelligent Design is an example of this. When new empirical evidence arises that contradicts a belief, the belief must change to accommodate. Not the other way around.
The concept of facts must conform to belief, besides being intellectually backwards and incapable of growth, advancement, and discovery, is how Christianity has gotten to be the illogical mess it is now.
Here’s why. Here’s the fundamental problem I have with orthodox Christianity that has yet to be addressed by any Christian apologist (I have yet to discover.)
According to the (literal interpretation of the) Bible and conservative Christianity, the Earth began about 6,000 years ago (which coincidently is about how long ago the Jews â€œbecameâ€ a viable culture/race/religion, on the cusp of quasi-Ugarit and Canaanite culture and the nomadic Hebrew tribes.) For 4,000 years to be one of God’s chosen, you had to be born a Hebrew. You can’t convert (not back then at least) to Judaism, you have to BE a Jew. Which means then, that God, the creator of the entire universe, really only cared about 1% of the world’s population (at the time) and only by right of having been born into that culture/race. If you were unlucky enough to have been born in the Americas during that time, or northern Europe, or east Asia, you were just s.o.l.. God evidently didn’t care about you, by misfortune of your birth.
But then, 4,000 years later, the Jewish Messiah came along, and his followers decided to allow gentiles to become followers. The concept of eternal punishments and rewards were also put forward as paramount (a concept not believed by most Jews (remember, â€œGod’s Chosen peopleâ€) up until then,) and Salvation from hell/eternal death was born. Why God decided to let 4,000 years pass before telling even his own Chosen People this info and providing a way out, I have no idea. He already didn’t care about the non-Chosen People for 4,000 years, maybe he didn’t care about his Chosen People that much more. Until Jesus at least.
So now the whole world is allowed to have the gift of Salvation from the newly created/discovered/revealed destination of hell everyone is condemned to by default. Oh, and why is this? Because some guy named Adam 4,000 years earlier sinned. So, the human race that God so dearly loves, a caring merciful God mind you, is destined to pay for the sins of one man. 4,000 years earlier. Because of his error which was contrived by God in the first place. How is that? Because according to the literal interpretation of the Bible, God, omnipotent creator of the universe from photosynthesis to galaxies, has need of a literal and physical â€œTree of Knowledge,â€ and required it placed in the Garden of Eden. What use a (sorry, THE) God has for a Tree of Knowledge, I would love to have explained to me. He told Adam and Eve not to eat of it or they’ll die. (Which he evidently meant in the â€œspiritualâ€ sense since they didn’t die for many decades later. Or at least Adam didn’t. The Bible is pretty silent on how long women lived. Maybe all the incest that had to have happened in order to go from one man and one woman to the world’s population drove her to an early grave.) They ate of it anyway. So we’re all doomed to hell. But wait, if God is omnipotent, and really doesn’t need an actual, physical tree for knowledge keeping, that means he planted the tree there as a test. OK, tricky and deceptive. But then, if God is also omniscient and knows all and knows the future, then he KNEW they’d eat of it. So God actually set humans up to be doomed. We’re all supposedly doomed to hell because of a situation God set up and tricked us into doing.
But the good news is God evidently, 4,000 years later, decided to give us a break (maybe hell’s quota was filling up) and gave Jesus as a sacrifice to give us salvation from the default destination God set up. Granted, God being God, he COULD have just changed the rules. But instead he had his son tortured and killed to give us this break. Nice. Not very imaginative for the creator of black holes, but whatever. And now we ALL are saved!
No wait, ONLY those who â€œaccept Christ as Saviorâ€ are saved. OK, so at least we ALL have the chance at being saved!
No, actually, not in the least. God evidently in his Middle Eastern-centric wisdom, planted this chance at salvation right in the middle of the same small piece of land his Chosen People lived. Fairnuff…but that meant that this gift went completely unknown to the other 95% of the world. For not just years, but centuries! At least 4 centuries went by before Christianity became ONE OF Romes official religions and went with the Roman army beyond the Middle East and southern Europe. So for at least 400 years most people still lived their lives as best as they could, and died and went to hell without even knowing anything about the existence of Jews, Gospels, or a man named Jesus.
And so today, EVERYONE has the chance!
Uh, no again. According to the Southern Baptist International Missionaries association, more than a billion people alive today will die and go to hell because they never even heard of the name Jesus. Not just heard and didn’t convert, but simply will never even hear the name or come in contact with a Bible or a Christian.
And that my friends, is the reason I can not accept â€œorthodoxâ€ or conservative Christianity as â€œtruth.â€ To first accept that God is a sentient person-like being with feelings of love and mercy is hard enough (although not impossible!) to believe, but that the loving and merciful and just God set us up for damnation and then sets up a system in which the only way you can be saved from damnation is to come in contact with a single book originating from the Middle East and dependent upon other humans to reveal this book to others, is absurd at best and horribly cruel and capricious at worst.
An orthodox Christian may balk and say â€œOh no, it’s not the book, it’s the love of Christ that saves you!â€ OK, well, can you be saved any other way?
OK, can you learn about Christ’s love/sacrifice on your own, with no contact with the Bible or another Christian?
So the only way you can be saved, is to learn about Christ and his love et. al.? Then where do you learn of it?
From the Bible or a Christian.
But you can’t become a â€œChristianâ€ without the help of the â€œwisdomâ€ and â€œtruthâ€ found in the Bible.
So the source of salvation is the book. If not, then you should be able to experience Christ’s salvation without ever coming in contact with the Bible. Since you can’t, then the entire God’s love/salvation thing comes from the book.
And that is absurd. That is dogma.
Why would God, creator of supernovae and genetics and an infinite universe, leave all salvation from hell up to the proliferation of a book? It’s preposterous and absurd.
No, the most logical, reasonable, supported by evidence, answer, is that the Bible is a collection of history, laws, beliefs of a single, small, nomadic, Middle Eastern culture that through luck and human political conniving has been able to survive 2,000 years into the present. And since humans hate mystery (unsolved) and are constantly looking for meaning and spiritual answers, millions of people have latched onto the Judeo-Christian mythology for those answers despite the illogical and fallacious inconsistencies and absurdities that smack blatantly of ancient Middle Eastern patriarchal nomadic existence and lack of any scientific understanding that is the foundation of today’s existence
I guess I just make it really hard for any Christian apologetic to actually address my main challenges of the validity of Christianity as a revealed religion, what with all this babbling. So, here’s the key points that I need addressing:
(All assumes a literal, conservative, orthodox view of the Bible)
- Why does God need an actual, physical Tree of Knowledge which requires being placed in Eden and at risk of being eaten from, and not hidden away in the darkest reaches of the Amazon or Siberia?
- If God is omniscient, how did he not see that humans would eat from the tree; and if he is omniscient and saw it coming, how is his setting up this situation not a conniving set-up for man’s fall, which makes him ultimately responsible and culpable?
- How does one reconcile an â€œall-lovingâ€ creator of everything and caring only for a single, small, race of people in a small, 5% region of the world in which you have to be born into?
- Why is it that MOST of the Jews (a.k.a. God’s Chosen People) did not believe in after-life judgment or eternal punishment or paradise until the followers of Jesus opened up Salvation from eternal hell to non-Jews?
- How does one reconcile a just, loving, merciful, God that according to John 3:16 â€œso loves the world,â€ and the system he set up requiring that you must come in contact with a single book (or another person who has come in contact with this book) or else you suffer eternal punishment despite how good of a life you may have lived, because someone who you never heard of millennia ago committed some original sin you’d never heard of?
- How logical is it that the creator of all existence, of an infinite universe, the limitless potential of the human mind, quantum physics, also set up a system of salvation from eternal punishment because of something you didn’t do (and is ultimately God’s own doing) through a means that has to be revealed to you, and not through your own personal relationship with God which everyone can have access to despite when and where you lived and your literacy level?
Is it POSSIBLE that all of this is fact? The sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction fan in me admits that yes, it is possible for this to all be true. My disbelief in all of this may actually be wrong. I admit this. But I am so certain of the infinitesimally improbable chance of it that I am willing to risk my eternal â€œsoulâ€ disbelieving it as absurd mythology.