I said the other day that many of my reasons for my unbelief are solidly founded on the Bible itself. Someone (my first ever email for this blog!) asked me to write down those 'Top 40' reasons. And so I give you:
My Top 40 Reasons for Unbelief:
1. Unfulfilled Promises. This one has been at the top of my mind for years. (Proverbs 10:3, 1 Timothy 2:12 & 15, Phillipians 4:19, Matthew 6:31, Matthew 18:19) Whenever people tell me that God will take care of you, I think of the millions of people all over the world who die of disease, starvation, and childbirth. God did not take care of them. How many of those people are Christian? How many of them cried out to God, desperate for him to save their dying child, hoping for food, only to receive nothing? Was their faith not big enough? Were they not righteous enough?
2. Copying Errors. I was taught that the Bible was the inerrant word of God. (Psalm 12:6, Proverbs 30: 5-6, Matthew 5:18, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Revelation 22:18-19) Yet, there seem to be a lot of mistakes. Some were copying errors. Words mistranslated or re-translated to the point where they
3. Additions. Did you know that the story of the adulterous woman and Jesus don't appear in any of the early versions of the Gospel of John? It appears to be a fabrication. Not only is the writing different then the rest of the book, but it is also lacking in many vital details that are so prevalent in other stories concerning Jesus. It's a nice story, but if the Bible is the inerrant word of God it shouldn't be there and certainly should not be preached from the pulpit. The story of raising Lazarus from the dead is also a likely addition. Bonus point: Mark 16: 9-20. If we know those three things don't belong there, how much more do you think has been added (or removed) with the older books?
4. Subtractions. As mentioned above, we know a good many additions, but what about all the subtractions? Many we may never know about. But after reading some of the Gnostic gospels, Catholic Bible, and apocrypha, one has to wonder why they are any less credible then the others. I was led to believe that it was because they didn't hold up under scrutiny and were thus removed, but considering most of the Bible doesn't hold up under scrutiny, one has to wonder if they removed simply because they didn't tell the story in the way the writers wanted it told.
5. How Did Saul Die? 1 Samuel 31:4 clearly states that Saul killed himself. 2 Samuel 1:10 claims an Amalekite killed him. 2 Samuel 21:12 says that a Philistine was responsible. There are long articles devoted to piecing together this mystery and I haven't found one that was convincing. One has to perform mental gymnastics to explain this in a way that sounds reasonable. All of them read far more into the text than is there. The Amalekite was lying? Really? How do you know? What evidence is given anywhere in scripture to let us know this was a lie? Maybe the lie was in that Saul killed himself. Or maybe the lie is that it didn't happen in any of these ways because the people writing this story were writing it generations later and might have had reasons to lie or exaggerate.
6. Talking Animals. Genesis 3 and Numbers 22 feature two talking animals. The first, the snake is given no explanation to his talking and neither Adam nor Eve seem surprised by his speech. Numbers 22 is a bit more realistic as a talking donkey does freak Balam out. The problem with the snake account is simple, if a talking snake was normal, then one must assume that it wasn't the only talking animal in the Garden of Eden. Balam's talking donkey is at least viewed through the lens of a supernatural event, but the talking snake seems to be a naturally occurring phenomenon. Are we really supposed to believe, even though there is absolutely no evidence that any animal on this planet except us, used to be capable of speech? Narnia is great and all, but it is just a fantasy.
7. Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. I love this story. Always have. After studying Egyptian history however, I was well aware that there is little evidence backing up the accounts in Genesis and Exodus. I've watched and read some historical accounts that try to make it work, but their "evidence" is flimsy at best. There is no direct evidence linking a Biblical Joseph or Moses to Egypt.
8. God the Moral Monster. Growing up I was taught that all the horrible things in the Old Testament didn't really count because now that we had Jesus, God would never do those things to us. Except, if he is real, he did do them. God condoned slavery, genocide, infanticide, rape, and fratricide. He allowed and commanded the murder of innocents simply to enlarge the kingdom of his chosen people. And let's not pretend that all this murder was nice and orderly. The Israelites, commanded by God, walked into cities they conquered and killed every man woman and child in vicious fashion. Is that truly a good god? Why would you serve a god that is capable and responsible for such horrible death and destruction?
9. God of the Damned. To add to the last point, the God of the Bible is also one who sends people to eternal torment for being born human and not worshipping him. That's it. You are born a human with sin through no fault of your own therefore you are automatically damned. One can tip the scale towards heaven, but only if you pledge eternal allegiance to that being. Is that truly a good god? Why would you serve a god that is capable and responsible for such horrible death and destruction?
10. Borrowed Material. Zoroastrians, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Instruction of Amenemope, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Ulgaritic poetry. I was taught growing up that the Old Testament was the oldest book in existence, even if we don't have the earliest versions of the text. Thus, any religion or culture that bears similarities has borrowed from the Bible. Yet, historical evidence doesn't bend to this "truth". Instead, it is far more likely that the Biblical writers were influenced by the already existing religions and stories of their time periods. Joseph Campbell has written numerous books discussing the power of myth and culture. I mean, I think about something as simple as fan fiction. I imagine the Bible as fan fiction disguised as religion and claiming to be truth. Anyone of the time period would have seen right through it, which it seems many of the cultures surrounding the Israelites did, but they spun it as truth and eventually it stuck, truth or not.
11. Missing Commandments. God is supposed to be all-seeing and all-knowing. He is outside of time and knows what we humans will do. Yet, in his infinite glory does not see fit to tell his people to do things that we now consider morally wrong. Slavery, rape, forced marriage, polygamy. God spends four commandments telling people to obey and worship him and completely ignores this moment to tell mankind to treat each other well. What kind of world would this be if the god of three major monotheistic religions said, Thou Shalt not Rape? Or Thou Shalt Not Own Other People? But those commandments don't exist and they reason they don't is because there is no good god behind them. These are laws, written by men of their time period, expressing common understandings of that time period. Most philosophers agree that half of these are universal truths seen in many cultures around the world.
12. Retroactive History. Hindsight is 20/20 and in the Bible it is the norm. This can also be called postdiction or hindsight bias. Judges 3:30 states, "That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years." This automatically tells me that the account that is written here was written at least eighty years after the fact. That's three generations of people. Three generations of word of mouth. That's like writing about 9/11 in 2081, sans any written or videographic confirmation. Would you take someone's word for it that something happened eighty years ago just because they wrote it down and claimed it was true? I'm not saying everything in the Bible is false as I do believe it can be a historical account, but it is a biased one to be sure. These stories could easily be manipulated or changed and its not like anyone is alive from the actual event to protest. It seems like most of the Bible is written this way.
13. No Personal Accounts. The previous point leads to this one. If you are writing a story eighty plus years after something happened, then nothing written is an actual first person account. Now, we do know that the letters of Paul were actually written by Paul, but I want to remind you that they are not the gospels nor do they claim to be the history of a religion. There is much contention as to who wrote the gospels, but at this point, most scholars do not believe that any of the writers were disciples of Jesus. It is believed that Genesis had at least four if not five authors and none of them were contemporaries. It is hard enough believing a biased media about news stories happening now. How am I supposed to believe in things written by biased nomads who wrote it down generations after the fact?
14. Demons vs. Mental Illness. I cannot imagine how terrible it must have been to suffer with a mental illness in a time period where people didn't understand that sort of thing. Science tells us all about chemical imbalances in the brain. We know a lot about schizophrenia, the symptoms and psychosis, and how to treat it. We know that, despite the outward manifestations of illness, they are not demon possessed. Apparently Jesus didn't know any of this though, despite professing to be an all-knowing God. (I know there is some contention there, but let's say for the sake of argument that Jesus was claiming to be God) This Jesus, who should have known about mental illness--doesn't. Mark 3:11 states that the "unclean spirits" bowed down and proclaimed Jesus as God. Knowing how untreated mental illness works, I wonder if this isn't actually true. I mean, it would make sense that the first people to latch onto a Messiah would be the mentally ill.
15. Confirmation Bias. I'm sure you have heard of churches who insist on a KJV only translation. They often cite "data" that they received from other Christians about it and when presented with any contrary facts will state that this is how it is supposed to be read because they read another book that said so. They believe in the KJV and then buy books and surround themselves with people who also believe the same thing. The New Testament is full of this. It is the foundation of the early church. The Jews believed there would be a Messiah and that there was a God. They were looking for signs (just as many Christians search for the end times now). Jesus was not the first person to claim divinity. Once his believers, who already believed there would be a Messiah began to follow Jesus around, they then surrounded themselves with other people who believed as they did. Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20 is told to avoid "godless chatter and opposing ideas".
16. God of Confusion. 1 Corinthians 14:33 states that God is not a god of confusion or chaos. Matthew 7:7 states that whenever a person seeks the Lord, they will find the answers. Of course, there is that little Tower of Babel incident, where God confused their language, but maybe that's just a translation error. What about all these tongue speaking churches where people are shouting and screaming and carrying on? Isn't that confusion? 1 Corinthians 14:33 seems to think so too. But aren't those people worshiping God and isn't God controlling them? I mean, if he makes things clear, why can't churches agree about whether miracles happen today or not? Or agree on what the Bible says about homosexuality. Or even something as "simple" as the meaning of Revelation. They can't all be right, although they could all be wrong. Which is my conclusion. God doesn't clarify because he isn't there. If he was, he would provide clarity to his believers, as promised. Instead there is just confusion among the ranks.
17. No Bueno. So far I have laid out a God who is not clear, creates confusion, condones slavery & rape, commands genocide. Even by modern Christian standards God is not good because he encourages abortion in the case of infidelity or perceived infidelity. (Numbers 5:21-28) Not to mention that murdering children only resulted in paying a fine. If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow then he is horrible in the extreme. This God doesn't even follow his own rules. If we are taking the Bible literally, or at least believing the "historical accounts" then God is the very opposite of good.
18. Light Before a Sun or Moon. A lot has been made of the Genesis creation story. The most poignant one to stand out to me is the light arriving before a sun, moon, or even fire. First thing God does is create light and calls it day and night. But we know that our two light sources that create light are the sun and moon, and some stars. Yet, God doesn't create the actual sun or moon until day four. Where was this night and day coming from? Nevermind that we know how light actually works on our atmosphere and what the moon is in relation to that light. At this point, unless you choose to live in the dark ages, we must assume that the Genesis account is just another story.
19. Look to the Stars. Do you know how many stars scientists predict there are? 100 billion. It took God six days to create the Earth and it tired him out, but he hung the stars in the sky in one day. 100 billion stars created in one day. Stating that it is because we have life and that's why is preposterous as it ignored the variety of all those planets, stars, gas giants, asteroid belts, rings, novas, etc. Space is almost unfathomable, but God just snapped his fingers and no problem. Of course the biggest issue with this is that this is a perfectly reasonable understanding of the universe for the time it was written. But if God was writing this book, then we have to assume, based on mountains of evidence, that God told them to write it down wrong.
20. Three days? Good Friday vs Palm Sunday. This always bothered me. I used to ask my mom about this all the time. I've seen the charts, heard the explanations about how Jews figured up time differently (sundown to sundown), but it still doesn't work. It doesn't work because even if we are going with sundowns, Jesus wasn't in the grave for three whole days. They discovered his missing body Sunday morning. No matter what way you twist it, it just wasn't three whole days. Since that is what was required to fulfill a prophecy, I would say that this prophecy wasn't fulfilled and this is a case of people forcing the events to conform to prophecy.
21. How did Judas die? Here was a Biblical contradiction that I conveniently chose to ignore for a long time. In Matthew 27, it clearly states that Judas hung himself out of guilt. However, in Acts 1 it states that he bought a piece of land and then fell down headlong and his guts burst open. Some apologists have said that Acts is basically the continuation of the story. That after Judas hung himself, somehow his body fell from wherever it was hung and his body's final end was this. One could go with this, but there are a lot of assumption being made since the Bible is not at all specific in the details...or at least, with the right details. We get guts splitting open, but in Acts someone failed to mention the hanging. And in Matthew we get a hanging, but they failed to mention what happened afterward. And the third possibility is that even the early church couldn't get this straight. For explain, the timeline of the two stories together would suggest that Judas acquired the field after he was dead! This is, of course, not what Acts says. The sensible reading of Acts is that, while still alive, Judas acquired a field, and then he died in it. If you accept the idea that Judas "acquired the field" when priests bought it after his death, I think you have to say that this happened before Judas died. He then went to that field to hang himself in. That might work, except that Matthew seems to have Judas kill himself first. Still, if you wish you can say that Matthew is not writing in order. At this point, it is such a conundrum that I will refer you to my previous statements on #16.
22. The Roman Census and Jesus' birth. There is absolutely no record of a census by Caesar Augustus as described in Luke 2:1. The Romans kept extremely detailed records and there is simply no historical basis, outside of the Bible, to verify these "facts". Beyond that, this type of a census would go against everything we know about Roman economics. Taxes were done on a provincial level using governors and usually did not require anyone to travel anywhere. On top of that, we know that these types of taxes were done every fourteen years and if there had been a census it would have happened at the wrong time, while the governor Quirinius was busy in Asia Minor. Even if the census did take place, considering it was for property taxes, it would be highly unusual to leave their home (their property) and travel somewhere else since they were actually expected to be at home during the tax assessment and would be fined if they weren't. Oh and, let's not forget that this "ancestral home" of Joseph's was based on a lineage that was a thousand years old. Can you imagine having to travel back to where you family was from 1,000 years ago? What if you were an orphan? Or your family lost track? It's all kinds of ridiculous. But the Messiah was supposed to be born in Bethlehem, and by damn, the Biblical writers were going to get him there.
23. God and the Modern World. God is all knowing. He is outside of space and time. And it is asserted that he was the author of the Bible. Funny how the author of the Bible knew absolutely nothing about the future. God clearly didn't understand things like mental illness or even simple psychology. I've heard some people try to twist parts of Revelation to say that it mentions helicopters (Revelation 9:17). God isn't very clear (#16 again) about this even though, since he is writing it, he could be. He could have talked about computers or scientific discoveries, yet he doesn't. My conclusion is that God was not writing anything, because if there was a God and he was sending a message that he knew would be read for thousands of years, he would easily be able to insert things into the text that would let us know 2,000 years later that he not only saw the future, but saw us too. Instead, the Bible is very much a book of its time.
24. Old Testament vs. New Testament laws. This has always been a huge matter of contention in the church. On the one hand, people quote and follow the Ten Commandments with undying passion. Yet, they toss away most of the other laws, unless they need to be homophobic and then they magically appear again. Some Christians claim that only some of the laws need to be obeyed, but this seems to be open to interpretation. Paul clearly states that Christians are no longer bound by the law, conveniently discarding all of them in one fell swoop. Yet Jesus says that he didn't come to take away the law, but to fulfill it, and then promptly breaks a number of Jewish laws. I think the truth is, the Old Testament laws are harsh and our society has advanced past that point and had already done so by Paul's time. Paul discarded them because they had no part in a civilized religion. Stoning your child for being disobedient? It was a necessary change in order for the religion to survive as one that promoted love and forgiveness. But if you discard all the Old Testament laws, then you really need to discard all of them unless it is mentioned in the New Testament. Don't worry homophobes, there are still some New Testament scriptures you can quote.
25. Broken Prayer Chains and Faith Healing. The Bible is very clear that healing happens. It is also very clear that those who love the Lord will be healed. (James 5:13-16, Acts 19:11-12, Romans 8;23, Phillipians 2:25, Acts 5:16) Now, the argument has been made that God no longer heals people today, but there sure are a lot of people out there who claim God has healed them from various illnesses. Of course, most are using the 'God of the Gaps' fallacy where they got better, can't explain it, and attribute this to God. But the more serious issue is that there is this idea that if you are a good enough Christian, God will heal you. And if he doesn't, either it was for some greater unknown reason or because you weren't good enough. Most people who believe this are never healed and so they find comfort in thinking that their suffering is part of God's eternal plan. "All things work together for those who love the Lord" type of jazz. I see these scriptures as broken promises. The truth is, Christian or not, you will not be healed. If you are lucky there is a medical treatment for your illness and if you aren't, it is possible you could suffer for a very long time. And none of it has to do with your goodness or servitude.
26. The Imperfection of God's Perfect Plan. So let me get this straight, God's perfect plan was for human beings to live in the Garden of Eden forever (typical fundamentalist thought pattern), but Eve fucked it up. If this was God's perfect plan then it was an abysmal failure from conception, since he also knew that humans would screw it up and created a way for them to do so. If it had been a perfect plan, Eve couldn't have ruined it as a perfect plan would take these actions into account. Think Ocean's Eleven. All variables planned for. Thanks to this not so perfect plan we now have Original Sin and because of this the rift between God and man can only be fixed with a blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is God's new perfect plan to fix the one that Adam and Eve screwed up. This plan sucks too though since the failure of the original plan as condemned billions of people to eternal torture due to being born in the wrong place, indoctrinated into the wrong religion, or because they are skeptical. Of course, being God, he could just make a better plan where he uses his divine power to close this imaginary rift that he himself created, but no. No, humans have to wait thousands of years for a dude to show up and die, then resurrect, before he can even get into the forgiving business. And billions of people still end up burning for all eternity because they were born in the wrong place, to the wrong religion, or are skeptical. This plan has a lot of plot holes.
27. Slavery. You want to know why plantation owners didn't have a problem with slavery? They read their Bibles. And that Bible clearly states that slavery is okay. It tells slaves to obey their masters and has some instructions for slave owners as well. These scriptures are in both the old and new testaments. If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, then he does condone slavery. We now agree that owning another human being and doing the very things that the Bible seems to condone (giving your female slave to a man so he can sleep with her?) is wrong. This tells me that if there is a God, he is not civilized nor does he care about the autonomy of individual people. The Bible seems to back of this theory.
28. Homosexuality. I used to believe a lot of things about homosexuals, most of them were bad. These feelings came directly from the Bible. I knew all the scriptures and wrestled with them for a long time. Eventually, I told myself that the evidence I saw before me was that gay people were not being sinful and that the only reason we took issue with their lives was because of the Bible. So I disregarded those scriptures. As a Christian, this was wrong to do because the Bible is actually very clear about this concept. If you believe that it is not wrong to be gay, then you are rejecting something that God is supposed to abhor. You are telling God that he doesn't really know what he is talking about because all the evidence points to this being a very natural thing. And if you do believe that being homosexual is wrong, then you are at least being truthful about what you are reading in the Bible, even if you are being uncivilized because I am not sure how a Christian can reject the notion of slavery, but uphold the condemnation of homosexuals since the Bible is pretty clear about both.
29. Women's Rights and God. God does not give a shit about women. He had thousands of years worth of books to straighten out his feelings about women and time and again he makes it clear that they are nothing more than penis puppets. Christians really try to spin this one by saying Eve was Adam's "help-mate" and uphold stories about Ruth, Rahab, Esther, Sarah, and Mary. But if you read these stories all of them are fraught with problems. Most of the women in the Bible are nothing more than fuck buddies. Their worth is wrapped up in producing a male heir and some go to extraordinary lengths to cement their male line. Poor Leah was forced to marry a man who didn't love her and even when she gave him a bunch of boys, he still treated her with disdain. Esther was a concubine. We have this image of this beautiful virginal Queen, but it was so much more than that. She saved her people, but it's not like she really had much of a choice.
30. Noah's Fake Ark. I knew fairly early on that there was no way that a Biblical flood could cover the entire Earth. So I told myself that to someone like Noah, the "whole world" was actually really small so maybe there was just a big flood in his area. Then I learned about population growth and the genetic consequences of incest. The flood story was quickly turning into just a story in my mind. "But what about the flood stories all over the world?" the Christian will ask. What about them? It floods everywhere. Tsunamis, hurricanes, flash floods. We know that they can happen anywhere and the fact that there were stories about floods in ancient times is in no way indicative of the Biblical flood account being true. I would also refer you to #26 as the flood story seems to indicate that God realized he really screwed up and decided to just start over again.
31. Outsider Accounts. During Jesus' day the Greek and Roman authors of the time were in full swing. We have thousands of texts from the era. Yet, not a single one of them reports about Jesus and his miracles. No reference to his divinity. One would think that if he really was performing the miracles that were attributed to him, there would have been more than two eyewitness accounts (Matthew and John, whose eyewitness accounts are suspect. See #13). If he was such a problem for the Romans, why didn't he get more press. The Romans and Greeks did believe in gods after all. Why wouldn't they write about someone performing miracles. John 21:25 claims that that Jesus did so much that the world itself could not contains all the books to be written about it. Yet the only books in existence that speak of these miracles is the Bible itself and all are written after the fact. But what about Josephus? the Christians will ask. Well, at this point it doesn't look all the references of Jesus in his book "Testimonium Flavianum" were added many years later, probably by early Christians. The earliest references to Jesus didn't appear until the third century, the original manuscript from 90 CE contains nothing about him. Pliny the Younger only reports on what Christians believe, not about the Christ himself. Caius Suetonius was not referring to Christ, but rather to a movement. There was a Jewish agitator but his antics are written about and took place in 50 CE, not in the 30s. Cornelius Tacitus seems to write about Christ, but since he refers to the Christ followers as Christian, even though that word wasn't even used during the time of his writings, it must be assumed that this is a later addition as well. Truth is, if Jesus was really doing something amazing, one of his contemporaries should have mentioned it, and yet no one did.
32. Inspiration from God and Holy Prophets. The Bible is inspired by God. We are told that it is perfect. His prophets are special. Nowadays there are a number of people out there who call themselves prophets of God and most of them Christians reject out of hand. Seven-Day-Adventists have their own set of prophets. As do Mormons. The Bible isn't really all that clear about how one becomes a prophet, although it does give some dire warnings of false prophets. From what I can tell in a modern context, a false prophet is anyone who claims to be a prophet but whose theology doesn't match up with your beliefs. Which means that every single denomination has their own set of prophets of whom are claiming inspiration from God.
33. Unfulfilled Prophecies and Misattributed Prophecies. Let us be clear what counts as a prophecy in the Bible.
1. It must be accurate and claiming foreknowledge of an event.
2. It must be in the Bible.
3. It must be unambiguous.
4. It must be improbable. Guess work does not count.
5. It must have been unknown and not an educated guess.
Ezekial 26:7-14 God states that Nebuchadnezzas will sack and destroy the city of Tyre and that no one would build on that land again. This never occurred. Tyre ended up striking a deal with Nebuchadnezzer and the city was saved. Tyre still exists today.
Ezekial 29: 8-15 says that Egypt will become a barren wasteland. There has never been a period where people didn't live in Egypt. It has never been a barren wasteland. And it has never been surrounded by desolate countries.
Ezekial 30:12 says the Nile will dry up. Has never happened in recorded history. (Ezekial got a lot wrong)
Isaiah 9: 1-8, Isaiah 19:18, Joshua 3:10, Exodus 23: 25-31, Hebrews 11:13, Exodus 23:21, Ezekial 28: 24-26, 2 Samuel 7:13-16. It looks like God got it wrong often enough that it isn't just coincidence.
34. Forgetting to Feed the Multitudes. In Matthew 14:13-21 (John 6:1-15 Mark 6:30-34, Luke 9:10-17) Jesus feeds the five thousand, a story that many people are familiar with. A little while later Jesus feeds four thousand (Matthew 15:29-39, Mark 8:1-8) and the disciples have somehow forgotten all about the five thousand previously. Either the disciples are complete idiots who deny miracles happening before their very eyes or this is a case of the same story being turned into separate accounts. If it is the same story, it does make one wonder what other details were changed beyond the numbers. Not exactly something condemnation worthy, but add it to my previous 33 issues and a pattern is clearly emerging.
35. Biblical Marriage. When it comes to marriage Christians are quick to make declarations of what God considers a proper marriage. Of course, marriage is between one man and one woman based on Matthew 19, 1 Corinthians 7:2, and 1 Timothy 3:2. Of course, the problem with this is that God seems really okay with polygamy and other non-traditional (according to modern thought) marriages. After all some of the greatest leaders of the Bible had non-traditional marriages. Solomon had 500 concubines. Abraham had 2 concubines who also happened to be slaves. Polygamy was fairly normal. Widows were often forced to marry their husband's sibling and sometimes this began a polygamous relationship. Virgins who were raped had to marry their rapist. And then there were the women who were prisoners of war who soldiers could take as wives. Masters could also force their slaves to marry and copulate. So what if homosexuality isn't on the list. Women had to marry their fucking rapists! It was a command from God. So the New Testament tried to change that. So what? It doesn't change the nature of the God of the Bible. It doesn't change the fact that God really doesn't think marriage is between just one man and one woman. He never has.
36. Saved by Grace or Deeds? Ephesians 2:8 states that we are "saved through grace not works." Matthew 16:27 states that believers will be rewarded according to their works. Galatians 2:16 says that only faith through Christ saves you, but 2 Corinthians 5:10 says we are justified by our works. One could literally go back and forth about this and there is no definitive answer. Now, not only is that confusing (#16!), but it is also highly suspect because in my mind this is a blatant contradiction.
37. Indoctrination of the Doubters. Doubting Thomas. Are you doubting Christ? No problem, the Bible has an answer for you. Shame. The whole story of doubting Thomas comes across as a big finger waggle at anyone who doubts the story of Jesus. Yet, it makes sense that this man would be skeptical. People don't come back from the dead. All of his friends are telling him that they saw Jesus. He states that until he sees evidence he won't accept this. Thomas is a man after my own heart. Yet when Jesus does show up, he condemns Thomas for wanting proof, stating that he should have accepted on blind faith and those who do are blessed. (John 20:24-29) The early writers of the Bible managed to "fix" the issue of people wanting evidence in one scripture verse.
38. The Unforgivable Sin. Let's get this straight...Mark 3:29 (Matthew 12:31-32, Luke 12:10) states that those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit (deny his power after they have supposedly seen that power) will never be forgiven. Yet Acts 13:39, Colossians 2:13, Titus 2:13-14, and 1 John 1:9 refute this by saying that all sins are forgiven. If we defer to Jesus then it must be assumed that stating that the Holy Spirit is not real or powerful is worthy of eternal damnation as opposed to say...raping and murdering a baby. (a recent story in the news) So I, a good decent person who works hard to treat others with kindness, love, and respect deserve eternal torture because I no longer believe in a god, but that dude who raped his 4-month-old daughter will get a free pass as long as he says hes sorry? What kind of bullshit logic is that? Sounds to me like another case of a fear manipulation tactic to keep people from questioning or doubting.
39. The Myth of Hell. Years ago I read Love Wins by Rob Bell and was completely offended by it. How dare he try and erase hell from the Bible? I mean, the Bible is rather clear about hell and eternal torture. Isn't it? So I read and read and read and realized that he was right. The interpretation that non-Christians will be tormented eternally in a lake of fire is completely wrong. We, human beings, creates this myth because we humans really want people to be punished for things we don't like. It is through the understanding of this that, even if I am wrong about there being no god, I am not that concerned. At the very least, I interpret the Bible as stating that as a non-believer I will simply die and have no eternal life. At worst, I will be punished for a while and that eventually that will end. If this is the price I have to pay for demanding more evidence than one book, then so be it.
40. End Times. The end times are coming ya'll. I'm sure you knew that. Christians are obsessed with this. They read Revelations like it is a guidebook. It is the reason why they support Israel being a nation. The problem with using the Bible as an end time guidebook is that Jesus clearly states that the end times should have happened already. (Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27) Paul clearly believed that he would be alive during the second coming and prophesized as much. (1 Thesselonians 4: 15-17)
Every single one of these points could get a blog post of their own and there are many people out there who have devoted their lives to understanding just one of these points. My point is simply this: The Bible, as I have read it and understand it, has a lot of problems. So many problems that I can no longer believe it to be a spiritual, moral, or historical authority on its own. Even if one of these points was disputed, there are still the other thirty-nine and plenty more to take their place. I can no longer believe because I do not see sufficient evidence for believing and I will no longer allow myself to be controlled by religious superstition, fear mongering, and lies.
This past weekend, my husband and I delved into a few religious philosophical conversations regarding my last post concerning Jesus and relationships and also about praising God when good things happen and not mentioning him at all when bad things happen. Both conversations were framed through the light of this article concerning the prosperity doctrine. (no he did not read the post, I was just talking to him about the subject. This is still a secret blog)
As the article points out, the prosperity doctrine is a fairly new concept that I believe has come about due to the excesses we have in this world and people's desire to want their share. It tells those who have a lot that they have been blessed by God and those who have little that with enough prayer they too can be blessed. I don't know of a single church or pastor who would ever own up to preaching the prosperity doctrine and yet it exists in many churches across America. Sometimes it is subtle, like when someone buys a house and they believe that God helped them get the house. I'm sure it makes them feel good to think that God wants them to have something this awesome and that maybe if he has given you a house, there is a reason for it, either because you deserve it or because he will use your home to further his kingdom. As a former post mentioned, there is also the not-so-subtle, like when a church announces that God wants them to build a couple million dollar facility and all you have to do is give "above and beyond" and you will not only sees God's kingdom furthered in the church, but in your life as well. That God will miraculously pay your bills and provide for you if you "test him in this".
My husband is always quick to remind me that this is a teaching in only a certain number of churches. He is right in that I should not generalize millions of people and their churches. After all, a Methodist church certainly can be very different than a Pentecostal one. However, as this woman pointed out, the prosperity doctrine is everywhere and has invaded many kinds of churches, not just the sentimental emotionally-driven ones. This is the implication I always get from my husband: That the reason these people believe this is because they come from a brand of Christianity that is emotional and illogical. Not like him and the churches he grew up in. I would posit at this point that I think religion in itself is emotional and illogical.
To be clear, he grew up Southern Baptist. Now, I was not raised Baptist, but I have studied their beliefs and attended services and I am sorry, but this is wrong. Baptist churches are just as likely to believe in the prosperity doctrine as any other church. In fact, some of the biggest mega-churches in America come from Baptist traditions.
The real issue with his thinking is that there is this notion that if I had just received the right flavor of Christianity, I would not say the things I say and would still be a believer. Every time he alludes to this I want to start listing all the reasons why I don't believe anymore. The top 40 have to do with the Bible itself and the supposed nature of God. Somewhere down the list are some of my frustrations with the church itself. To be clear though, my frustrations with the way the church handles sex or women, are not the reasons I am no longer a Christian. Prosperity doctrine is a frustrating disease that has permeated the American church (and is spreading globally too), but it is not the reason I no longer believer. How Christians act in very un-Christianlike ways doesn't even have a part in it. Those are things that bother me, but they are not the reason for my unbelief.
My parents raised me in a very mystical form of Christianity. My mother believes in everyday miracles, healing, name it and pray it, anointing of oil, and demons. Yet, I don't see any of this as crazy because when I read the Bible, I see where they are getting this stuff. The Bible does talk about demons, it talks about fighting them, casting them out, and possession. So why is it crazy that someone would believe a person can be demon-possessed if they are a believer? If you truly believe the Bible, then it actually makes sense that you would believe that. The problem for me now, the reason why I find it all so ridiculous is that I no longer believe the Bible is true. I don't think there are demons. I suspect that the demon-possessed mentioned throughout the Bible were people with mental illnesses. Can you imagine having schizophrenia in that time period? So what if other people choose to interpret demons to not mean actual physical ones? It's not like it isn't in there. My husband rolls his eyes at my mother for being so illogical and emotional, but I would posit that she is living her faith in the context of the Bible. He says she is twisting scripture and I know she would say he was the one doing so.
The flavor of Christianity I was given is a bit extreme, but it isn't the reason why I am no longer a Christian. I seriously doubt if I had been raised Church of the Nazarene or Lutheran, that I would still be a believer. In fact, I think that if I hadn't grown up in such an environment, I would have become an atheist even sooner.
You can't give something you don't have. God is love. If you don't have God in your life you can't effectively love someone. Your relationship becomes work you become tired and unhappy. Relationships fail you begin to feel lonely. Nothing works. Easy solution #tryjesus he's all you need. #trustme #ivetriedhim
This was a Facebook friend's status the other day. I find it appalling that someone is suggesting that if you don't have God, and particularly Jesus in your life your relationship is doomed. You will be lonely, tired, and unhappy. As someone who has been living life as an atheist for almost a year now, and was basically living an agnostic life for years before that, I have to call bullshit on this form of elitism.
To believe that you have found the secret to love and marital bliss is just obnoxious. To suggest that if you don't have the Christian God in your life you can't love someone is stupid. And then to condemn such relationships as being unhappy and tired speaks volumes about this persons level of brainwashing.
My own case is anecdotal, but what about the millions upon millions of people who live on this planet who are not Christian and are in marriages. Are we suggesting that there is not a single Hindu couple out there who is effectively in love with someone and as a result is tired and unhappy? Are we saying that Muslims are not capable of deep love and happiness?
Having grown up around this kind of bullshit, I can say that this was a common sentiment within my church community. There was definitely this idea that was passed around that Muslims didn't really love their wives and children. That their marriages were all forced and their children the products of some kind of marital rape. That girl's weren't valued and therefore were treated like dirt by their fathers (and sometimes mothers) and that boys were just raised to be sexist pigs who would perpetuate this lifestyle. There were not exceptions. I was a teenager when I watched a Muslim father on the news cradling his baby daughter, crying tears of joy that she was alive, and then realizing that this idea that they could not love was a lie perpetuated by ignorance and religious prejudice.
So I know where this person's sentiment was coming from. And it is wrong. I have tried Jesus and I found that he didn't have the answers. My marriage is no better or worse now that I believe he wasn't a god.
One would think that when you disagree with someone on so many fundamental levels, you would stop talking to them. Or at the very least, not call them four or five times a week. And yet that is exactly what I do with my mother. New favorite conversation in the best way I can remember:
Mom: I'm going to make this dress for [granddaughter #1], but there will be other grandkids so if she doesn't wear it out they can wear it too.
Me: Wait, I thought [Brother N] and [Sister-in-law] said they weren't having more kids?
Mom: No. I mean your other brothers. But that will be a long time from now.
Me: What do you mean? It could happen sooner. I mean [Brother S] does have a long-term girlfriend.
Mom: Well. (said in a rather exasperated way) Let's hope it doesn't happen like that. Let's hope he marries her first.
Me: But what if he doesn't? I mean, babies happen in and out of marriage. You should know this better than anyone.
Mom: Yes, but mine was a mistake. I love you, but I knew better. [Brother S] knows better. I don't want my grandchildren to be an accident. I hope they plan for it.
Me: But you can have children, out of wedlock, on purpose.
Mom: I hope that doesn't happen.
Me: It's not up to you though. They already live together and have been dating for years. What if they decide not to get married?
Mom: Look you know I would love my grandkids no matter how they got here, but I would prefer they got here the right way. I'm not being judgmental, that's just how God wants it.
Of course, the whole thing was completely judgmental. [Brother S] and his girlfriend seem to have a good relationship and appear to be happy with the way things are. There has been no talk of them breaking up. They love each other and enjoy each other's company. At this point they don't live together and their relationship appears to be more casual in nature, but I can see that changes if my brother goes back to school and gets a more solid job. He is also the only brother who I think would be understanding about this whole deconversion thing. And can I see my brother and his girlfriend moving in together and starting a family, sans a wedding. Yeah, I can. And will my mother be cool with it. Absolutely not. She will let him know and everyone else she knows what a huge mistake he has made. The child isn't a mistake, just all the choices that led to the creation of said child. As a form of rebellion, I am now rooting for my brother and his girlfriend to move in together and have a kid. I don't think a person's ability to parent has anything to do with a ring on a finger or vows.
At the first of our mandatory adoption training classes this past weekend, the instructor asked the innocent question of, "Do you think people are capable of change?" Out of 15 people, 9 people raised their hands, 2 (including me) gave the iffy hand gesture, and 4 did not. One was my husband. She immediately zeroed in on him and demanded to know why he didn't believe people were capable of change. Now, there is a case to be made that this was a matter of definitions and semantics, but basically he said, People don't change. They can grow and learn, but who you are as a person, your personality and your past, do not change. She did NOT like this answer and drilled him a bit before asking, "Does anyone else think people can't change?" Those other three hands were nowhere to be seen. Whether this will hurt our chances of adopting will have to be seen, but let's dig into this a bit shall we...
Firstly, we have to define change. For the purposes of our foster care/adoption class, change was supposed to mean that someone can quit being an abuser and get their children back from the system. Can people stop abusing their children? Of course. So by that definition people are capable of change. On the other hand, if we are talking about people changing personalities or becoming completely different people, I don't think they are. There are people out there that have terrible senses of humor. They can read joke books, watch comedians, and go to improv shows, but none of that is going to make them into a comedian if they don't have an innate sense of humor and comedic timing. An angry person may learn how to control their anger and channel it in more constructive ways, but that doesn't mean they stopped being angry. For me (and for my husband) when someone talks about change, what I think they actually mean is growth.
Now, you know there is a religious angle to all of this right? Otherwise why I am posting it here? So after this slight verbal debacle, I am talking to my mother on the phone and she informs me that she doesn't think people can change themselves....only God can do that! And then she informs me that she is a completely different person than she was before she was a Christian.
I was young when my mother became a Christian, and sure she made a lot of big changes in her life, but she did not become a whole different person. My mother was a teenage runaway and fought with her parents constantly. She once punched her hand through a plate glass window because she was mad at my dad. After she became a Christian, she continued to have anger issues. My home was one full of screaming, yelling, and physical abuse. Sure, she was "spanking" because God says not to spare the rod, but looking back I see it for what it was. An overwhelmed mom who had a very short fuse. When she became a Christian, she didn't become another person. God didn't change her. Where there changes? Sure. Would I define them as growth? Definitely. Did she become another person who never struggled with her life pre-Christiandom? Nope.
I have relatives who can't stand my mother. They didn't like her before she was a Christian, they couldn't stand her after she become a hardcore Christian, and now that she has mellowed out a bit, they still can't stand her. Why? Because she is still the same person. A bit selfish, a know-it-all, doesn't have a lot of regard for other people's opinions or ideas. It isn't the Christian thing they don't like. It is her. And it is because she is still the same person. I know that there was a lot of things that did change, but not enough to say that it was some miraculous change from God.
The same goes for when we are adopting. No amount of good parenting is going to erase our kids trauma. No matter how hard they try, the effects of abuse, neglect, and loss will follow them for the rest of their lives. Religion will not fix or erase that. At best, it will help with coping. They can definitely grow, learn to deal with their anger or pain in constructive ways, but those things don't just magically go away no matter how much you want them to.
I watch Supernanny a lot and many of the parents don't handle discipline well. Supernanny teaches the parents different more effective techniques to get the desired behavior. Do I think those parents don't occasionally resort to their old methods of discipline? Probably. Because they aren't new people, they just learned something new and grew to become better parents as a result. I often tell people that I have changed a lot in the past decade and a half. What I should say though is that I have grown a lot, because I am still me. I am still an uber organized perfectionist who has trouble relaxing and beats herself up for not being more disciplines even though I am super disciplined. I am still controlling, I have just learned what situations are and aren't in my control and handle them accordingly. Sometimes I still get stressed about it.
And God doesn't have a damn thing to do with it.
Correction: Some of my growth has been the result of God, or more specifically, the lack thereof. Yet, I am still at my core, still me. With or without God, I have not morphed into a new person. I hope this is what my friends and family remember as I begin to tell them about my deconversion.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.