Recently I was asked 2 questions on my Facebook page.

1. Why I am “evangelistic” with respect to atheism?

2. What are the ramifications of believing in Christ if he doesn’t exist? Or if he does exist?

Both are good questions and I’ll try to answer them in this post.

Why I am “evangelistic” about atheism?

Well, why are Christians evangelistic about their beliefs? Anyone who has a Facebook page and has Christian friends are bombarded daily with Christian wall posts, bible verses, thoughts of the day, prayer requests, bible study links, etc. I’m just a drop in the bucket compared to all of them. Why do they feel the need to do this? I suspect there are 2 major reasons:

1. It is so part of their life that they don’t even realize there is a whole non-Christian world out there.

2. It is done on purpose as a witness.

My atheist posts are obviously on purpose.

  • I do it for balance.
  • I do it because I care about truth.
  • I do it because I believe it’s about time we move out of the dark ages and into the realm of reality and rationalism.
  • I do it so people can see that you can be an atheist and not go out and rape, pillage and murder. (Christianity and god are not the basis for morality – far from it!)
  • I do it show that there is morality and life outside of religion.
  • I do it to make people think.
  • I do it because I believe religion imposes a system of bondage on it’s believers, where thought crimes are punishable and every thought must be held captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5).
  • I do it because I believe the scientific method is the best way to determine reality. Belief in an invisible spiritual world, without empirical evidence, is just wishful thinking.
  • And, yes, I do it with the hopes that someone might see that worshipping an invisible sky god is really no different than worshipping Thor or Zeus or pink unicorns for that matter.

I’m really not trying to be condescending. I don’t think Christians or other religious people are stupid – wrong but, for the most part, not stupid. However, I am well aware that most Christians will piously look at me as ill-guided and foolish. After all, scripture does say the “the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God” (I Cor 3:19). I may not think of Christians as foolish, in that I have a good understanding of where they are coming from and the hold religion has on them; however, I’m pretty sure that they think me foolish. (At least if they read and believe their bibles.)

What are the ramifications? Really, what harm comes from belief?

I don’t know what ramifications there are for any particular believer, but in general the ramifications can be devastating if someone really believes their holy book. (Thankfully, most people don’t.) What’s the harm? Well, just for starters:

  • Non-believers can be marginalized and/or persecuted.
  • People can be condemned for the “crime” of loving someone of the same sex.
  • Parents can watch their children die of curable illnesses because they prefer prayer over medical treatment.
  • Parents can actually kill their children because of fear that they might, if they choose against Christ when they grow older, go to hell.
  • Abortion doctors have been killed by those that thought they were doing god’s will.
  • It is unknown how many people have died and will die because of religious opposition to stem cell research.
  • In the political realm, we have Christians who somehow have been convinced that the poor and downtrodden are there because of their own fault and should not be helped but the rich should be given more. This apart from fairly clear commands to the contrary in the bible (see Compassion).
  • We have schools constantly trying to teach religious myths instead of evolution & science in their classrooms, the impact of which is the declining technological and scientific leadership of the US.
  • It can impact/limit the jobs you take, the friends you have, the way you treat your children (spoil the rod?) and how you treat your spouse.
  • Genocide is often based on religious belief.

All of these things have happened and do happen. Even if you, as a believer, would never do any of the above, your support of religious belief lends support to those that do.

As for personal ramifications? I spent 25+ years as a Christian. This means, on average, I spent at least 3 hours a week in church (probably much more). So I’ve “wasted” a minimum 4056 hrs of my life (not including prayer times, seminary, reading “approved” Christian literature, etc.) worshipping a non-existent deity. Never mind the money I gave to the “cause”! If I wasted that much time worshipping Santa, you would think me crazy. This is time & money you can’t get back.

What are the ramifications? What if Christianity is real?

But there are other ramifications too. For me, if I’m wrong, I’m toast. However, I believe the odds are slim and some of those reasons can be found on other pages of this blog. But what about the believer? Is it the safe path, as Pascal’s Wager suggests (see Pascal’s Wager)? Nope. A believer is probably not much safer than me. If this deity cares at all about truth, believers are in a precarious situation. What if Islam has it right? Christians are toast. What if another religion has it right and Christianity is wrong? Christian – you’re toast. Remember believer, you are an atheist when it comes to all other gods. If they exist, they may not be happy about that! But even if you make the big assumption that of all the religions in the world Christianity is the one true one, is the Christian then safe? Many Catholics think protestants have it wrong and are going to hell. The reverse is also true with many fundamentalists even seeing the pope as the anti-Christ. Within some protestant groups, a person’s faith would be seriously questioned if he smoked cigars, drank alcoholic beverages, danced, watched movies, used electricity or play cards. Even Jesus said these haunting words:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt 7:21-23)

All these people thinking they served God only to get the back-hand of eternal punishment. So, if Christ is your chosen deity, belief in him (whatever that may mean and there are many views on that) may not be enough. Which of the 39,000 Christian denominations are the safe ones? They can’t all be correct. This fact alone, tells me that if this god exists and cares about what his people believe, he is incompetent in communicating with his creation.

There are ramifications for what you believe. Belief is not benign.

Over the last few months I discussed 8 reasons that led me away from Christianity and toward Atheism: the conduct of “gods” people, the lack of perspicuity in scripture, “god” being “above” his law, the problem of evil in the world, Biblical genocide, errors in scripture, evolution and the silliness of worship. None of these alone are enough to formulate the opinion that god doesn’t exist, but taken as a whole they provide strong evidence against the personal, Christian god. This god is defined as a god who cares about his people and is intimately involved in their lives and wants them to be emotionally involved with him.

For instance a loving, caring, compassionate, sovereign and merciful god cannot easily be reconciled with evil in the world and the biblical record of genocide commanded by god. Errors in scripture dealing with subjects that can be checked makes it unlikely that there aren’t errors in the spiritual claims that we have to take on faith. Even those “faith-based” passages are unclear enough to create thousands of faith groups and beliefs within Christianity. In addition, the fact of evolution creates all sorts of problems with the classical understanding of the Christian god as a redeemer for a world plunged into sin and darkness through the action of a fictional couple. This is not to say that people don’t feel that such a god exists, but if the evidence is looked at objectively, it is highly unlikely that there is such a deity.

Since I started on this journey a few years back because of the conduct of “gods” people, it is fitting to end this series with a consideration of this topic and it isn’t pretty. Study after study, even those conducted by Christian organizations, have shown the lack of any real difference in the lives of those who claim the Christian label and those who don’t. For example:

  1. The abortion rate is the same or higher among the religious (e.g. Religious devotion does not impact abortion decisions of young unwed women, Religion = higher abortion rate?)
  2. Addiction to pornography is similar (e.g. Poll: Christians addicted to pornography, Porn again, Addicted to Pornography)
  3. Divorce rates may be actually higher than those evil, immoral atheists (e.g. U.S. divorce rates: for various faith groups, age groups and geographical areas, Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians)
  4. Faith seems to have little actual effect on believers lives (e.g. Faith Has a Limited Effect On Most People’s Behavior, Spiritual Progress Hard to Find in 2003, Practical Outcomes Replace Biblical Principles As the Moral Standard)

Gregory S. Paul has shown that societies with high religiosity actually have more societal dysfunction than those that don’t (Journal of Religion and Society Vol 7, Vol 8). This was also shown in a recent book by Phil Zuckerman (Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment). In fact, the lack of a any real difference in lifestyle between believers and unbelievers is a potent argument against the Christian god, especially given the claims the bible makes about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a believers life. This dichotomy has lead more than one person down the road to atheism. William Lobdell in his book Losing My Religion describes his loss of faith:

“If the Gospels were true, then shouldn’t I be able to find plenty of data that showed Christians acted differently—superior in their morals and ethics—from the rest of society? I wanted to see that people were changed in fundamental ways by their belief in Christ. This was a new tack for me. For years, my assumption was that Christianity was true, and my studies and readings focused on shoring up that belief. I used the historical record, the Bible, anecdotal evidence and arguments by theologians and apologists to back up my position. Now, I wanted to take a step back and test my assumption about the truth of Christianity itself by examining how Christians behaved, looking at their actions, not their words.” (Kindle Edition, loc 2677)

I can relate to those words because that was also the start of my journey away from Christianity. I too needed to test my assumptions about the “truth of Christianity” and like Lobdell, I found it wanting.

This is not to say that their aren’t exemplary examples of believers who take their beliefs seriously and live them out to help the poor and downtrodden, devote themselves to prayer and fasting, and seek to make themselves and the world a better place. William Lobdell details such remarkable people, yet these people cross all faith lines and are found in people of no-faith as well. While religion may motivate some of these people, their sacrifices aren’t limited to a particular religion or set of beliefs. So, while real for the individual, a particular belief isn’t a prerequisite for their action (although they may think it). Men and women of deep conviction come from all and no particular religious group.

The fact that people have thrilling emotional stories about what god has done for them and the fact that some believers live astounding lives, is not objective evidence since such stories and lives are also found in other faith groups (and no faith groups) that are diametrically opposed to Christianity. In other words, people have deep religious type experiences regardless of the god or gods they worship. These experiences are very real to the individual and, while confirming for them, actually point against a belief in god since they are experienced regardless of the god(s) worshiped.

Now if only one group of people in one belief system had these experiences, had radically answered prayer in a testable way, had people who led compelling lives that differed greatly from all other faith groups, and demonstrated various well-documented miraculous events, then maybe these experiences would suggest that their god was the only valid one. Much like the Old Testament story of Elijah where he taunted the prophets of Baal to call upon their god to answer by fire and consume the animal sacrifice that was laid out for him. (1 Kings 18: 20-40). Baal was impotent but the god of Israel was not. Why are there no miracles like this in today’s age? Because they are just stories for the faithful and not much else to the “unfaithful”. No religion believes the miraculous claims of a rival religion, but theirs are always “true”.

The fact is, the average Christian doesn’t lead a compellingly different life and, sadly, the actions of some are amazingly immoral, at least by human standards. In fact, the actions of many people acting immorally in the name of god was a driving force that caused William Lobdell to lose his faith. There is good in religion but there is also evil. Now you might think that one shouldn’t reject god because of the actions of his people, but this, in actuality is a shallow argument I once believed. Here is Mr. Lobdell again talking about his article in the Los Angeles Times describing his deconversion:

“My piece did receive criticism, the most consistent being that I had witnessed the sinfulness of man and mistakenly mixed that up with a perfect God. I understand the argument but I don’t buy it. If the Lord is real, it would make sense for the people of God, on average, to be superior morally and ethically to the rest of society. Statistically, they aren’t. I also believe that God’s institutions, on average, should function on a higher moral plain than governments or corporations. I don’t see any evidence of this. It’s hard to believe in God when it’s impossible to tell the difference between His people and atheists.” (Kindle Edition, Loc 3682)

Again, this alone isn’t evidence enough to reject a the Christian god (or any personal deity that is involved with mankind). However when combined with what I have presented over the last few months, I believe that the evidence for the personal Christian god, as most people worship him, is almost nil. That said, there are at least a couple of scenarios that the evidence doesn’t rule out:

  1. It is possible that there is a god who just doesn’t give a “damn” about truth. He doesn’t care what religion you are or what you believe about him, just that you believe. This certainly would explain the large number of Christian denominations and non-Christian religions. It would also explain similar religious experiences regardless of the god or gods worshiped. This deity would spread his “miracles” and “answered” prayer around making it look random and of no consequence. Of course, if such a god existed, he would be capricious in the extreme. To allow people to die for beliefs and doctrines that are of no consequence would be the height of immorality. Also, such a god, is rarely one that is worshiped. Even those religions that think there are various paths to god and that god can be called by many names, usually think their way is the better way. However, the evidence can’t rule out this type of deity, but if such a deity exists he is not worthy of worship. In a sense, such a god would be as mischievous as Loki, the Norse god of Mischief, Deceit and Lies.

  2. It is also possible that there is a deity that many Deists have in mind. A deity that created the universe, set everything in motion and then sits back and watches. Such a Deity rarely, if ever, gets involved with his creation. Such a deity would act exactly as if there were no god and thus fit the evidence, but it is hard to imagine that such a Deity particularly cares about what you believe or whether you worship him, her or it.

Neither of these choices is the comforting father figure most believers worship.

As an atheist and skeptic my unbelief rests on evidence and not faith. If that evidence changes, I am more than willing to change with it.

Many believers don’t think a lot about the worship of their god. It is something they do. Something that is expected. After all there are places of worship on what seems like every corner. Yet, if you stop to think about it for a minute, the whole concept of worship doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why would a perfect God, completely at peace with himself and his power and his abilities, want or need people to tell Him how great He is? Why would he get any pleasure of of such a display? Why would he demand it? Furthermore, if you take the Book of Revelation seriously, heaven is going to be telling god how great he is forever and ever:

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,”Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.” (NAS, Rev 4:8-11)

Is this what a superior being really wants and desires? A human King or Ruler might want this but wouldn’t even such a person tire of this game? Eternity is a long time!

There are actually two main ways of looking at worship.

  1. Worship is for god. As such, god and only god dictates the terms of worship (what pleases and displeases him) and going against those terms is, essentially, treason and results in god’s displeasure.
  2. Worship is for man. As such, man decides how to worship god by deciding what gives him (man) the most pleasure in his worship of god. Under these terms, god has little say in his worship and really doesn’t care how worship is conducted or cares only in the broadest sense, such as you must have a pure heart. God doesn’t get involved with the details of worship.

Of course, as with most of Christianity, there is a broad continuum of thought about worship and what it entails but the two general camps are a good starting point. Simply speaking worship is either God-Centered or Man-Centered.

The Protestant Reformers, especially those in the Calvinist tradition, saw worship as God-Centered activity that requires man to worship god in the manner god prescribes. This is called the Regulatory Principle in Worship and can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith:

The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture. (Chp XXI)

The greatest support of this doctrine comes from the Old Testament, where there is no doubt that god told his people exactly how he was to be worshiped. Failure follow his procedures might even result in death as it did for Nadab and Abihu when they offered “strange fire” to their god:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” (NAS Lev 10:1-3)

It seems reasonable that if god was so particular about his worship in the Old Testament, he would still be particular today. If this is the case, the safest course of action would be to only worship god with elements that can be supported from the Bible and these elements should be centered on god, not man. If this is the correct Doctrine of Worship, the modern Evangelical movement is in big trouble as there is no doubt that it is a man-based, entertainment orientated system. However, even if you grant that the Regulatory Principle should be used in worship the question then becomes: What is exactly prescribed in scripture and how far can we take deriving elements from it?

The Westminster Divines listed what they considered to be essential parts of worship, but the fact is that there is nowhere to be found in the New Testament an order of worship. For something that was so important in the Old Testament, it seems like a glaring oversight in the New Testament. For instance: Do we start with prayer or with music or with a call to worship? Do we allow music? How about musical instruments that didn’t exist in biblical times? Do we use instruments at all? What kind of songs do should be sung (if any)? What kind of beats and tempos and keys? What kind of sermons should be preached (if any)? Should things like dance be allowed or plays or skits or dramatic readings? What about movies, slide shows, or PowerPoint presentations? Should worship be on Sunday or Saturday? What about the 4th Commandment:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (NAS Ex 20:8-12)

For all the talk about the 10 Commandments, there are few Christians that take the 4th Commandment seriously.

If god was so concerned with even the type of fire (incense?) used in the Old Testament, shouldn’t these things matter in the New? I think it should be clear by now, that even those who take a very strict Regulatory Principle stance have a lot of unclear details to sort through and various churches sort through them differently; yet, they are all convinced their interpretation is the true and correct one. After all, if it isn’t, their own theology will condemn them, in that god would be displeased with their worship.

I don’t think there is much doubt that the second way of looking at worship – man-centered – is more popular and more widely used than the first. However, popularity never is a good indication of reading the mind of god. Just a quick reading of the Old Testament shows that doing the popular thing often resulted in death or banishment. Still, it has much to commend it. These services are often, a least on the surface, more joyous in their outpouring of love for their god. If excitement and raw passion are any indication, these services are doing a bang-up job of worshiping god. Yet, in their rejection of a strict Regulatory Principle for Worship they tread a dangerous line of just what exactly should be included in the worship of god.

How far to you go to please and attract men and women into the service? How disorderly can you get and still be “relevant” or pleasing to god? Can a good skit replace preaching? How about orgies? After all, in the past, gods where often worshiped through sexual energy. How about animal or human sacrifice? How can you definitely say no to such acts, if you are only using your feelings to determine what to put into worship. Isn’t appeal to the scripture counterproductive if you aren’t bound to it in the first place?

How then does a believer worship God? Thinking about this problem actually lead me down the road to becoming an atheist.

  1. The whole concept of worship seems silly if it is primarily for god and is dictated by god. As I said earlier, does a supreme being really get off on everyone telling him how great he is and praising him for all he does for and to them whether bad or good?
  2. Worship makes a little more sense if it is primarily for man to express his feelings of awe, wonder and admiration for god. In this case where are the limits, if any? What becomes bad worship and what becomes good? Does it even matter? Is worship is just getting an emotional high, gathering with others who are like minded and giving money for the cause? If it is, then what is the point? Maybe god gets a kick out of seeing the lengths man goes to worship him, but he offers little clear guidance on how it should be accomplished. I’ve actually been embarrassed by seeing how some churches practice worship.
  3. Does god really want us to spend all eternity telling Him how great He is? Is that really what a superior being is? Can any believer actually say they are looking forward to an eternity of this?

Overall, to me, worship seems a little silly and smacks of humanity and kings and kingdoms. A man may want this because of insecurity. But God? If it matters so much to god that he will condemn most of His creation to an eternal hell for not doing it or doing it wrong, then why isn’t his “word” clearer on the subject? After all, the Old Testament had precise rules and regulations. It seems to me that worship is essentially a man-made system that was used to unite a people around a non-existent deity to foster common bonds and goals. It still seems to work this way.

The standard fundamentalist view of Origins is that the universe was created by god in 6-24 hour days some 6000 to 10000 years ago exactly as depicted in the Biblical creation story. The standard explanation is that life is so complicated and shows so much design that it practically proves the existence of god. In addition, evolution is so chock full of holes that creationism is a much better explanation of our origins. Creationism and more recently, the Intelligent Design movement, tells this story to their devoted followers and, to the non-scientifically trained person, it all sounds reasonable especially if a few “scientific facts” can be thrown in for good measure.

The actual fact of the matter is the Universe is some 14 billion years old (Universe 101) and earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old (The Age of the Earth). While we may never know exactly how life started on this planet, there are several theories and we are surprisingly close to creating primitive reproducing life under conditions similar to the early earth. (The Protocell Project, Researchers Build Model Protocell Capable of Copying DNA, Abiogenesis, Abiogenesis FAQ) Once a replicating life form came into existence, the Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection explains the rest. In all actuality, the Theory of Evolution is the best attested fact of all biology. It is confirmed by multiple lines of evidence including: geology, fossil evidence, DNA analysis, anatomy and developmental biology, paleography, plate tectonics, and even direct experimentation. To deny the Theory of Evolution is to close your eyes to an almost overwhelming amount of evidence.

“A denial of evolution – however motivated – is a denial of evidence, a retreat from reason into ignorance” Dr Tim D White (Paleontologist, University of California at Berkeley)

This is not to stay there aren’t controversies within the field and it isn’t to say that their aren’t disagreements as to the processes and methods – that, my friends, is science. Science isn’t theology. It is subjected to evidence and will change when new evidence forces a change. Even so, it is doubtful the the Theory of Evolution will be overturned although, almost certainly, the details of the process will undergo scientific change.

I don’t have the time or space to detail the evidence for the Theory of Evolution but I suggest you break out of the Christian mentality of reading “approved” books and read some real science on the subject. I can highly recommend:

Even a conservative, Republican appointed judge was able to see through the smoke-screen of the Intelligent Design movement in his Dover Trial ruling that you can read here: http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf (It is highly readable for a court document and it should be read by anyone interested in the subject.)

Does the Theory of Evolution make impossible the belief in god or destroy the Christian faith? The answer, for many, is no. The Catholic church, probably learning a bit from it’s previous run-ins with science, sees no conflict between evolution and faith. Dr. Ken Miller (a witness for the plaintiffs at the Dover Trial) and Dr. Francis Collins (appointee to head up NIH and previous head of the Human Genome Project) are both good examples of ardent defenders of evolution yet sincere Christians. Francis Collins is even an outspoken defender and apologist for Christianity. So one can easily claim to be a believer in both Christianity and Evolutionary Biology, but is such a joining rational from a theological or scientific view? I think not. I believe that those who would like to see a compatibility between evolution and Christianity fail to actually grasp the theological issues at stake. The big issues as I see are:

If there was no real Adam and Eve and no real Fall, then how did sin enter the world? This sin is supposedly grievous enough that it required a Savior/Redeemer.

If there was no event which caused a Fall, what is the point of a Savior/Redeemer? What was he to Redeem us from?

These are not trivial issues as they form the basis for conservative, evangelical theology and even Catholic theology. Mess with either and I think you have destroyed the foundation of the Christian faith, if by Christian faith you mean an Evangelical understanding of sin and salvation.

Let me explain.

The classical Christian understanding of sin is that Adam and Eve were created and put into the Garden of Eden, a paradise on earth, as a test of their obedience and love for god. They were told that they can eat of any fruit of any tree except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Both Adam and Eve failed this test (Eve was tempted by the serpent and Adam was tempted by Eve). As a result, god cursed them and the world and threw them out of the Garden of Eden. With this curse sin entered the world. Adam was our “Federal” head in that he represented all mankind (how nice). In Adam, somehow, we have all sinned. Hence the concept of original sin was developed by theologians in all of it’s various flavors. Somehow, to appease god, sin required a sacrifice – a blood sacrifice. (As if a deity is so petty that he requires death to satisfy his wrath or sense of justice.) The details of this sacrificial system are are found in the pages of the Old Testament. The problem was, that the blood of sheep and goats, can’t really take away the sins of man as Hebrews 10:4 clearly states. What was needed was the ultimate sacrifice – a god man. This was Jesus Christ’s role. To be a blood sacrifice for our sins and thus purchase our redemption from sin. Now that man is covered by the blood of Christ, god can be approached and our sins forgiven. However, that “forgiveness” is not automatic. You must believe in Christ in order to be saved and avail yourself of god’s forgiveness and the eternal life in paradise that Christ’s redemption purchased.

Obviously with some 38-39,000 Christian denominations running around, the details differ. Some don’t believe in original sin, thinking that man is born neutral and makes a conscience decision to sin after which he falls under it’s curse. Some don’t believe in the “Federal” headship of Adam. Some believe that Christ died for ALL and so ALL will be saved. But, in general, there is some agreement among Evangelicals about sin, corruption and the need for the blood sacrifice of the god-man Jesus Christ.

So, if man evolved (and he did) and if there was no real Adam and Eve (there wasn’t) and no real Fall from a state of innocence and grace, what was the purpose of the brutal sacrifice of Jesus Christ? The theological problems are immense:

  • How did sin entered the world? Or did it?
  • When was man – a man? In other words, when did he get his soul? Was it an individual pair? A tribe? A community? Was it as a certain point in our evolution or our genetic code?
  • What was the purpose of Christ? If there was no Fall, what was he to redeem us from? Why a blood sacrifice? Was he just an example of selflessness?

What of the Biblical verses that speak of atonement, redemption, Christ’s sacrifice? Do we just ignore them? For example:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom 5:12)

The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification (Rom 5:16)

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5: 19)

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (I Cor 15:21-22)

…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.(1 Pt 1:18-19)

Throw out this understanding of sin and salvation, even with it’s many permutations, and you have to re-interpret the Christian message or at least change is drastically from the standard Evangelical understanding. If you do this, are you then just making a Christ in your own image? You might call yourself Christian, but what does that then mean? Do you just become someone who is enamored with the person of Christ and some of the things he stood for? I know this is done by many people and the more theologically liberal denominations but I’ve never understood the attraction of this watered down Christ figure.

I maintain that without a literal Adam and Eve and a literal Fall, much of the mission and purpose of Christ as detailed in the New Testament, no longer makes sense. Of course, it can all be re-interpreted and modified and refined, but then that brings up other questions about the reliability of god, how he communicates with man and whether we really can believe anything that is written about him. If much of it is parable and allegory, then why the Christian message? Why this version of Christianity and not, for example Buddhism?

In this sense, I believe that a belief in evolution kills an evangelical understanding of Christianity. For me, the entire story of salvation no longer makes sense and throws doubt as to the existence or knowability of the god depicted in the Bible.

I’m not sure that anyone who did not come from a church that stressed the importance of the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy realizes the impact this doctrine has on many believers. About 63% of Americans believe the Bible is literally true with that number jumping to 77% among Republicans and 89% among those who classify themselves as evangelicals (World Net Daily). Even if these numbers seem inflated, there is little doubt that a whole lot of people that think the Bible is some kind of magical book that has no “relevant” errors in it. “Relevant” in that Inerrancy can be qualified in several ways. Two qualifications are very common. The first tries to get around the thorny issue of obvious errors in the Bible. The claim is made that Inerrancy only pertains to the original autographs of the Bible. It’s a clever ploy that can’t be tested since no original manuscripts of the Bible have ever been found. The other main way that Inerrancy is qualified is by stating that the Bible is Inerrant in all that pertains to faith and practice. Again, this is an attempt to get around the obvious errors in the Bible, while leaving up in the air what verses actually pertain to faith and practice. (If you doubt there are errors or as evangelicals like to day “difficulties” in the Bible take a look at Gleason Archers Handbook of Biblical Difficulties. It is written from an evangelical standpoint and attempts to explain the “difficulties” away.)

Why is this doctrine so important to the vast majority of evangelicals? Simply put, it gives the believer assurance and a black and white world. It assures the believer that the ideas and commands in the Bible aren’t man’s opinion but are the very words of god. After all, if Christians are to take their commands from scripture, they better know that those commands are truly from god and not something made up by men. For many, if there is even one error in the Bible, then how would they know there isn’t another and then another? How would they know that the errors didn’t encroach on the realm of faith and practice? After all, if there are errors in facts that can be checked, what makes someone think there are no errors in “spiritual” areas that, by definition, can’t be checked?

I used to believe and defend the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy. I believed that if scripture is the inspired word of god, it should be held to the highest standards of scholarship and investigation and it should pass those tests flawlessly. We shouldn’t have to make excuses. Instead I’ve found that the Bible is usually subjected to the least demanding of standards:

  • Don’t question since every problem has a solution, even if you can’t see it.
  • It just seems like a difficultly but really isn’t in god’s mind (free will vs. sovereignty comes to mind here).
  • History is wrong. The Bible will be proven correct. There is no historic evidence for the Exodus or the plagues of Egypt, but not to worry, the Bible is true and archeology will eventually find the proof.
  • Science is arrogant (as if religion isn’t). The Bible is true when it comes to our origins. Evolution is a myth. The evidence will eventually show it.
  • Don’t confuse errors made by scribes in copying manuscripts with “real” errors. You can’texpect perfection from man.
  • That isn’t a contradiction, you just aren’t understanding it correctly.

We aren’t talking about just a few errors here and their. In the New Testament alone, with some 5700 Greek manuscripts or parts of manuscripts found, as well as numerous ancient translations and quotes from church fathers, there are more discrepancies than there are words in the New Testament. Granted, most of these are minor spelling, word order or word missing errors, but others are not. As one scholar put it:

“If one wants to insist that God inspired the very words of scripture, what would be the point if we don’t have the very words of scripture? .. It’s a bit hard to know what the words of the Bible mean if we don’t even know what the words are! This became a problem for my view of inspiration; for I came to realize that it would have been no more difficult for God to preserve the words of scripture than it would have been for him to inspire them in the first place. If he wanted his people to have his words, surely he would have given them to them… The fact that we don’t have the words surely must show, I reasoned, that he did not preserve them for us. And if he didn’t perform that miracle, there seemed to be no reason to think that he performed the earlier miracle of inspiring those words” (Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman)

I have to agree with Dr. Ehrman here. If every biblical manuscript we ever came across was identical to all other biblical manuscripts, wouldn’t that, in and of itself, point to a powerful god who valued and preserved his word for all mankind? Alas, we don’t have anything close to this.

If god wasn’t faithful in preserving the Bible from the smallest of errors how can we trust scripture when it in comes to the big things? Things like heaven and hell, life and death, belief and non-belief, and the ultimate question for some – What must I do to be saved? While the doctrine of Inerrancy may be a small thing to some people, and you certainly can be a Christian and believe in god without it, for me it was a huge deal. A deal breaker so to speak. If I can’t trust what is in the Bible, why should I believe in it or the god of which it speaks? Frankly, I can no longer do either.

I don’t think there can be any doubt that the god of the Bible not only condones but commands Genocide in both the Old and New Testaments. The Genocide Convention 1948 defines Genocide as:

Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

In addition, the following acts are punishable as Genocide:

Article III

The following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d ) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in genocide.

The Biblical god clearly has no problem with not only commanding Genocide for his followers but also actively partaking in the process:
  1. When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (Deut 7:1,2)

  2. Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby. Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you,(Deut 20:15-17)

  3. He captured it and its king and all its cities, and they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person who was in it. He left no survivor. Just as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir and its king, as he had also done to Libnah and its king. Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. (Jos 10:39-40)

  4. Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt.Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. (1 Sam 15:2-3)

  5. You can’t get much worst than the supposed world-wide flood recorded in Gen 6-8. All done by and for god.

  6. Then there is also the Exodus out of Eqypt (Exodus 11 & 12), where god hardens Pharoh’s heart so he could kill all the 1st born in the nation. Pharoh had no choice in the matter. God acted in such a way that the final plague was a given, not an option that could be avoided.
Now some of you may be thinking that this was the wrathful god of the Old Testament, surely Jesus is kind and loving and would never stand for Genocide of any type. However, even a cursory glance at the Book of Revelations will show you that unless you are of a particular religious belief that will give a jealous, petty and insecure god the love he demands (as if you can demand love from anyone), you are basically going to be exterminated, for “his glory”. That sounds like genocide to me, not to mention the whole concept of hell where most of mankind will burn for all eternity for the high crime of unbelief or wrong belief.

There is no way around Biblical Genocide unless you decide not to take the bible literally, but then you have a whole lot of other problems you have to deal with. However, what I find even more disturbing than a god who thinks genocide is a good idea, is the length that man will go to to defend this tyrant. If you remove the word god and replace it with the name of any human being responsible for the genocides of the past, any normal person would be appalled and any court of justice would find the defense, the defense of a madman.

Read what William Lane Craig, a well know Christian apologist, has to say on the subject:

I think that a good start at this problem is to enunciate our ethical theory that underlies our moral judgements. According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses…If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.

I’ve already dealt with the subject of a King being above his law. How can anyone say we get our morality from a god who is “not subject to the same moral obligations” as man! Especially one who has no qualms about taking “innocent” life! He continues:

What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit. How long they live and when they die is up to Him.

So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them.

Wow. Sorry, I do have a problem with that!

Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

It’s a moral obligation to “put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” when god commands it! Are you mad? Hasn’t god or religion been used to justify many genocides of the past? Just do a quick Google search on “religious based justification for genocide” and see what happens. Even if this was a good justification, how would you know it was god speaking to you?

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command….By the time of their destruction, Canaanite culture was, in fact, debauched and cruel, embracing such practices as ritual prostitution and even child sacrifice. The Canaanites are to be destroyed “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut. 20.18). God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice…

Yeah, I’m sure that ever single person, including children, infants and animals were horribly wicked! But then god can do anything he wants even killing the innocent. Oh wait, Craig is going to talk about the innocent children:

But why take the lives of innocent children? The terrible totality of the destruction was undoubtedly related to the prohibition of assimilation to pagan nations on Israel’s part…Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

What! The “death of these children was actually there salvation“? If Craig really believed this deep down, the absolute best thing anyone could do would be to kill every infant before they can reject their “loving” savior, Jesus Christ. After all, an assured place in heaven for all eternity is much better than to potentially burn in hell for all eternity! I can’t believe this excuse was actually put in writing. It’s amazing what length people will go to to justify an immoral god. (see Reasonable Faith- Subject: Slaughter of the Canaanites for the complete article)

I”m sorry, but no rational person, in this day and age, would approve of Israel destroying every Arab, anymore than they would approve of Islam righteously destroying all the infidels in the world and any tyrant who justified his campaign of Genocide as a mission from god would be seen as mad. I am speaking as a human here, but I can’t worship or belief in such an evil deity.

The problem of evil is an age old problem that has it’s own branch of theology reserved for it -Theodicy. The problem has probably been stated best in a quote usually attributed to Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then He is not omnipotent.

Is He able, but not willing?
Then He is malevolent.

Is He both willing and able?
Then whence comes evil?

Is He neither able nor willing?
Then why call Him God?”


There you have it in a nutshell. Centuries later and volumes of discussion there still isn’t a satisfactory solution for those holding to the goodness of an all-powerful god.

The Westminster divines, in a sleight of hand that would amaze most magicians, got around the problem by simply stating it away:

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” (Westminster Confession of Faith).

God ordains “whatsoever comes to pass” but isn’t responsible for “whatsoever” happens! Huh? Doesn’t god say:

Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? (Amos 3:6)

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isa 45:7)

But god isn’t to blame? Of course not, man is to blame. Paul said:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–(Rom 5:12)

Doesn’t this let god off the hook, so to speak. This is the standard free-will argument that some use to explain evil in the world. However, I don’t think it is a satisfactory answer. There are several reasons why:

1. According to the bible, who created man and who ultimately tested him? God created man with the ability to disobey him but without the knowledge of good and evil (see Gen 2:17, eating of the fruit of the tree gave this knowledge). Without this knowledge how did Adam and Eve even knew what they were doing was wrong! And even if they did, a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient god put them in a situation in which he KNEW they would fail. Since he knew for certain they would fail, one can argue that he wanted them to fail. He wanted all the evil that resulted from that fall to occur. (If he didn’t, he could have easily created Adam and Eve differently.) The evil that resulted from the fall, according to Paul was sin and death. Wonderful. One act of disobedience and a world full of misery. And this god is supposed to be good and merciful and just?

This is like putting a candy jar out in front of your children, telling them not to eat of it and then leaving the room. I’m guessing that most children would eat the candy, especially if they have never been punished before and had no real concept of “no”. And I’m guessing that most parents, in response to that violent disgusting act of disobedience, would throw the child out of the house forever. And I’m guessing, just guessing here mind you, that any parent who did such a thing would be arrested, tried, found guilty and would be serving some prison time. I don’t think any judge would accept the defense of “I told him not to eat the candy. He disobeyed so it isn’t my fault that I threw him out of the house. He is to blame.” To the same effect, god is not guiltless. He can’t wash his hands of the situation and say “It’s not my fault”.

The Islamic sage and heretic Ibn al-Rawandi (9th century) said the following: A God who inflicts illness upon his slaves cannot be counted as one who treats them wisely, nor can he be said to be looking after them or to be compassionate toward them. The same is true concerning he who inflicts upon them poverty and misery. Also unwise is he who demands obedience from a person who he knows will disobey him. And he who punishes the infidel and disobedient in eternal fire is a fool.”

If god exists, maybe he is just a fool?

2. If you want to argue that god needs man to have free-will so that he can know that man freely loves him, then god really isn’t omniscient is he? And then, what about heaven. It will be impossible to sin in heaven, so where is free-will if it is so important that death and destruction are minor problems in comparison? If mans nature is to sin as the doctrine of original sin states, then why couldn’t god create man with a nature not to sin? Wouldn’t that be better than what we have now?

3. We may not be a “free” as we think. Neurology is showing that much of what we think we are freely choosing may be more determined that we think. (e.g. see NY Times: Free Will. Now You Have it Now You Don’t for a quick into into this subject).

What about the justification that god’s thoughts and ways are not like ours? Man’s moral sense, which God supposedly gave us, tells us sin, misery, death, destruction, poverty, natural disasters, etc. are bad things, but the “loving” God says – NOPE. If you had my understanding then you would see all these things show my love for you? If this ridiculous statement was made in another religious system, you would see it for what it is – an empty justification. Tell this to the child starving to death. Tell this to the person ravaged with parasitic diseases, never knowing a day of health in his life as he toils endlessly under the son. Tell that to the parents whose child dies of cancer. Tell that to the 200,000+ people who died in a Tsunami a few years back. Tell this to the citizens of Pompeii as they are covered with volcanic ash. Tell this to the victims of Katrina. Tell this to those who died on 9/11. God’s ways aren’t our ways because fortunately, man, in many cases, appears to be much more compassionate than the all loving God. (Not that man can’t be as mean and cold hearted as god.) Of course, there will always be those who will give praise to God for whatsoever comes to pass. Interestingly, if they see someone in another religious system do that, they pity them and call them deceived.

More than one person has joined the ranks of atheists or agnostics because of this problem. Dr. Bart Ehrman, who was an evangelical before becoming an agnostic said this: “I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life. In particular, I could no longer explain how there can be a good and all-powerful God actively involved with this world, given the state of things.” (God’s Problem. Kindle loc 110)

I have to agree with Dr. Ehrman.

———-

Note: This is a vast subject and I can’t possibly deal with all the justifications and implications of Theodicy. For a good readable book on the subject, I highly recommend Bart Ehrmans, God’s Problem)
An important axiom pertaining to those who rule is simply stated as “a King is not above the Law”. While it certainly has been abused and some have flaunted their lawlessness, the general agreement is that a King, Ruler or Leader is NOT above the law even if it originates with him. This is even stated in the Bible:

Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book… And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left…” (Deut 17:18-20)

Solon (638 BC–558 BC) appeared to have this concept in mind for ancient Athens “by giving common people the power not only to elect officials but also to call them to account” (see Solon) and of course the Magna Carta codified this concept in Western law. Winston Churchill said “..here is a law which is above the King and which even he must not break. This reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter is the great work of Magna Carta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it.” (see The Magna Carta)

Does anyone really respect anyone who thinks they are above the law or that the law doesn’t apply to them, especially when they are rulers or leaders? What happens if this ruler is a god? Obviously, the person is condemned but excuses are made for a “god”. One of the things that I always found amazing were people that would worship a “god” who required, by “divine” law, they do something that the “god” would not or could not do.

For example, the Hare Krishna movement worships the Hindu god Krishna. When I was in college it was hard to escape their proselytizing on campus. Their religion demands sexual purity from their members yet Krishna, their god, is exempt. Krishna is far from pure having upwards of 16,000 wives and then some (Krishna). Now I ask you, if a superior god cannot be pure and cannot control his passion, why is it demanded of his mortal followers? Something is obviously wrong here, but not in the eyes of those in the Hare Krisha movement. The action of gods can always be justified by their believers.

What does this have to do with Christianity? Surely, the Christian god is not above his law? He would never ask a believer to do something that he won’t or can’t do? Well, yes he does. In the case of Christianity, it comes down to forgiveness. The story goes that God is so holy he cannot forgive without the shedding of blood, yet he commands that his followers should forgive. In fact, Christians must forgive without any such such sacrifice or face dire consequences:

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matt 6: 14,15)

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord,how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven…Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matt 18:21-35)

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions. (Mark 11:25,26)

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. (Matt 5:39)

These are clear statements: Forgive or else. Yet, god is exempt. For the crime of disobedience, for acting how god himself created man, the entire world was plunged into death and destruction. Apparently god is unable to forgive his creation unless blood is shed. This is conditional forgiveness. “I will forgive only when my wrath is consumed and it can only be consumed by the shedding of blood.” Where is unconditional forgiveness? Where is turn the other cheek? God can’t, yet, his followers are commanded to “turn the other cheek”. How many millions of people have been supposedly condemned to hell because of the sin of Adam and Eve – a choice they never even made. Forgiveness with God only comes by a blood sacrifice which, according to many Christian doctrines, ultimately required the sacrifice of His Son. From a human standpoint (sorry, that’s the only standpoint I have), this is crazy. If my neighbor stole something from me and asked forgiveness, what would people think if I told him I couldn’t unless I killed my son for him? And, really, would killing my son for something my neighbor did make me feel better? Seriously think about this. Personally I would think that any person would actually be more angry at his neighbor if such a bargain were made. And how would killing my son make any type of atonement for my neighbors sin? (1)

I’m not saying forgiveness is bad, it certainly isn’t and there is much that is noble about forgiving freely and without conditions (and some very real dangers). What I am saying is that if man is capable of forgiving without a sacrifice of blood, indeed without any kind of sacrifice, does that make man more merciful than God? More moral than God? Why is the King above his law? I suppose one could make the argument that god freely forgives his people now, but that “freely” is tied to the blood sacrifice of his son! I suppose one could also make the argument that Christians must freely forgive because of what Christ did for them. Christians are forgiven so they must forgive. But this doesn’t hold water. The fact is many people who are not Christian freely forgive their fellow humans without the need for the torture and death of an animal or person. If man can do it, why can’t a god?

Of course a god’s unwillingness to forgive without serious bloodshed doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist, but if he does mercy is far from his heart. Justice maybe. Mercy, no.

—————-
1. The whole concept of blood atonement is primitive and makes no sense. How is watching an animal (or person) be killed in a ritualistic manner supposed to make a god feel better? If you are angry at someone will watching a goat be sacrificed appease your anger? Would watching a person be sacrificed appease you? How about watching someone torture & kill your only son? Other gods, in other religions required both human and animal sacrifice. How do you see those religions? Brutal? Primitive? Shocking? But the Christian god who required animal (and the occasional human) sacrifices in the OT and required a human sacrifice in the NT, gets a pass from believers. After all, Christ died for them. Exactly how is that either justice or mercy?
One of the basic tenants of scripture that I was taught was the Perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture. As Hodge stated, “Protestants hold that the Bible, being addressed to the people, is sufficiently perspicuous to be understood by them, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and that they are entitled and bound to search the Scripture, and to judge for themselves what is its true meaning” (Systematic Theology Vol. 1). When you are in the “Christian bubble” this sounds true and reasonable. Overall, the scriptures appear to make sense. They seem very clear to you (excepting some difficult passages). Others can’t see what you see because of sin or an unwillingness. I thought that the scriptures clearly taught Calvinism. Others didn’t see it because they didn’t like the implications. We had the truth. They ignored it. The truth is, the scriptures appear clear because in your “group” it is clear. Everyone confirms each other. The books you chose to read confirm it. Everything appears good, reasonable and clear. However, when you begin to think about it, a clue should have been that there are disagreements. There are different denominations that think differently.

In 2001 The World Christian Encyclopedia listed 33,000 Christian “denominations” with 39,000 listed as of mid-2007 and 55,000 projected for 2025 (see Facts and Stats on 33,000 Denominations)! If this isn’t to your liking (some might not like the definition of a “denomination”), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary maintains a detailed listing of 9,000 of these denominations (World Christian Database). Even the smaller number should give one pause when the Perspicuity of Scripture is brought into play. Every one of those 39,000 denominations defends their beliefs from the bible and many think the others are heretics, cults or worst. (They just don’t see what the scriptures clearly teach!) Even if we narrow the scope down to conservative evangelical Christians, they can’t agree on:

1. Baptism – infant, believers only, baptismal regeneration
2. Lords Supper – transubstantiation, consubstantiation, Zwinglian (symbolic), Calvinist (symbolic + spiritual)
3. Salvation – faith alone with no proof in your life (say a prayer), faith + Lordship, faith + works, faith + baptism, faith+baptism+works, faith + gifts of the spirit as evidence, etc.
4. Worship – what goes into a worship service and how we are to worship
5. Prayer – what exactly does it do and whose benefit is it for
6. The Cross – did Christ actually purchase redemption or did he just make it possible
7. Spiritual gifts – Pentecostal gifts or not
8. Not to mention Calvinism vs. Arminism vs. Pelagism

I could go on, but even in this brief list there are huge issues. I know Christians like to make light of these differences saying they are basically “internal” issues and they agree on the majors, but his just isn’t so. Take worship for example. If the Calvinistic position is correct and God has a set way to worship and He takes that seriously, then those who disregard those instructions are calling down wrath upon their heads every time they gather for worship. And if it really doesn’t matter, then the Calvinists are “adding to scripture” and placing a burden on people when no such burden should be imposed. In regard to baptism, if Christians are to baptize infants, those who don’t are breaching the word of God. And if it is incorrect, baptizing infants would be a sin against God. Not to mention that Calvinsim, Arminism and Pelagism are essentially different Gospels. Who is correct? Which one of the 39,000+ Christian variants is the truth?

Is the Holy Spirit then incompetent? Couldn’t a sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent God present his words and commands CLEARLY in the Bible? If you want to play the sin card, go right ahead. It basically means then that no one has the ability to correctly interpret the scripture. How can a Christian possibly know which of the 39,000 variants (if any) has the true Truth? The scripture is about as clear as mud and perspicuity is just a myth to any impartial outside observer.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that god doesn’t exist, but if the Christian god does exist, He is incompetent at best or truth doesn’t really matter to Him.

Many people have asked me why I am an atheist and how I could possibly turn my back on Jesus Christ, after all he has done for me. I hesitate to give a personal story since personal experiences are largely irrelevant. Everyone has a story – the religious as well as the non-religious. Many religious people love their stories and use them as a “testimony” to the power of their god. However, every religious system has similar stories, so such reflection does nothing except to show that people have a story and many justify their beliefs by their story. Some are better than others but unless backed by some type of tangible evidence they are largely untestable. Suffice it to say that I became a Christian at 23 and spent the next 25+ years being committed to and worshiping Christ. Furthermore, I was a committed Calvinist for most of that time, spent a year in seminary, occasionally preached and helped start a church. I would have continued in that vein until a fairly traumatic event happened. In my mind, I simply wanted the Pastor to defend, from the Bible, several issues I saw in the church. I’m sure, in his mind, it sounded like a challenge to his authority and to the unity (actually uniformity) of the church. To make a long story short, I was asked to leave for the “good” of the church. In that moment, essentially 13+ years of investing in people and friendships in that church ended. (It was the if you aren’t for us, you are against us mentality.) To say that I felt “stabbed in the back” is an understatement. I obviously had a huge problem with what happened and the cognitive dissonance caused by it: How the bible says we are to treat others vs how believers treat others. Now there are different ways to handle this situation. You could essentially bury your head in the sand, join another church and continue with life or you can figure out why and how something like this happened. I chose the later. I decided to investigate the evidence for the Christian faith & the psychology of belief. I fully expected to come out of this search a stronger and better Christian. That, obviously, didn’t happen. I came to atheism gradually and not without a fight. It is extremely difficult to come to grips with the fact that you believed a lie and was devoted to that lie for over 25 years. It’s a humbling, traumatic and embarrassing experience.

So, the first reason for my atheism was the conduct of “god’s people”. This isn’t strictly a reason for leaving Christianity since the conduct of any one person or group of persons doesn’t mean that the religion is good or bad or that it proves or denies the existence of god. However, Christianity makes some very specific claims. The most bold of which is that god, through the Holy Spirit, dwells within the believer leading them to truth and helping them lead the Christian life. The fact that many polls and studies have shown that there is very little (if any) difference in behavior between believers (Christians) and non-believers suggests that this Holy Spirit thing is more fiction and wishful thinking than reality. In any case, this “reason” (how I was treated) was the catalyst for my journey.
Over the next few blogs, I will briefly discuss the major issues, during this struggle, that lead me to atheism. They are:
1. The lack of any kind of Perspicuity in the Scriptures
2. God commanding us to do things he himself won’t do
3. The Problem of Evil
4. The Problem of Biblical Genocide
5. The errancy of Scripture
6. The Fact of Evolution
7. Why would a perfect God demand worship?

I don’t expect to convince my Christian friends that their god is make-believe, but I hope they will understand that this wasn’t just a rash reaction to a bad experience.