Friday, January 05, 2007

Reasons Christianity is Bad 2

In my previous post I addressed the first three assertions by Chaz Bufe from his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

(The text in blue is from Mr. Bufe’s pamphlet. I have used ellipses to show where I have condensed the original.)

4. Christianity is extremely egocentric…. Perhaps Christianity’s strongest appeal is its promise of eternal life. While there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim, most people are so terrified of death that they cling to this treacly promise insisting, like frightened children, that it must be true…. Another manifestation of the extreme egotism of Christianity is the belief that God is intimately concerned with picayune aspects of, and directly intervenes in, the lives of individuals…. Again, it’s very difficult to see anything spiritual in such egocentricity.

This one is difficult to deconstruct.

He seems to be saying that it is egotistical to think that God, if he really exists, is interested in the daily lives of individuals. And the hope for eternal life is nothing more that a selfish desire to avoid nonexistence. However, he also seems to believe (though he never really states this in so many words) that Christianity contributes to a low view of the individual because of the emphasis on morality.

Christianity does have a complex view of the importance and value of individual humans. In the first place, humans are created in the image of God. And each human has enormous value as a bearer of that image. However, we have also rebelled against God and have a serious flaw in our basic natures.

Some see this “fallen human nature” doctrine as anti-human. They believe it enslaves people and makes them susceptible to manipulation by “the church.”

As to Mr. Bufe’s stated point, it seems to be irrelevant. If Christianity is false, then it really doesn’t matter whether we can label its doctrines as egotistical. If they are true, then they may be surprising. But they can hardly be dismissed as egotistical. In other words, if Christianity is false, labeling its teachings egocentric is just “piling on.”

And here is the most important point. Calling Christianity egotistical in its basic assumptions is of no help in determining its validity. Either it is true or it is not.

5. Christianity breeds arrogance, a chosen-people mentality. It’s only natural that those who believe (or play act at believing) that they have a direct line to the Almighty would feel superior to others. This is so obvious that it needs little elaboration. A brief look at religious terminology confirms it. Christians have often called themselves "God’s people," "the chosen people," "the elect," "the righteous," etc., while nonbelievers have been labeled "heathens," "infidels," and "atheistic Communists" (as if atheism and Communism are intimately connected). This sets up a two-tiered division of humanity, in which "God’s people" feel superior to those who are not "God’s people."
That many competing religions with contradictory beliefs make the same claim seems not to matter at all to the members of the various sects that claim to be the only carriers of "the true faith." The carnage that results when two competing sects of "God’s people" collide—as in Ireland and Palestine—would be quite amusing but for the suffering it causes.

Yes, some Christians are arrogant. However, to the degree that they are arrogant they have demonstrated that they do not understand the basic teachings of Jesus. It could be argued that the cause of the arrogance is basic human nature rather than something inherent in Christianity itself.

At the heart of Christianity is an awareness that we all are “equal before God.” And followers of Jesus are called to love others and are warned not to think that they are superior.

There have certainly been many atrocities committed in the name of Christianity. But I would argue that these have always been done in spite of the teachings of Christianity, not because of them. This does not mean that Christians bear no responsibility for these actions. It simply means that Christianity itself is not to blame.

The reformers who have spoken out against these offenses have called people to a more faithful practice of Christian teaching, not an abandonment of it. This is profound.
The answer is “more” Christianity not “less.”

6. Christianity breeds authoritarianism. Given that Christians claim to have the one true faith, to have a book that is the Word of God, and (in many cases) to receive guidance directly from God, they feel little or no compunction about using force and coercion to enforce "God’s Will" (which they, of course, interpret and understand). Given that they believe (or pretend) that they’re receiving orders from the Almighty (who would cast them into hell should they disobey), it’s little wonder that they feel no reluctance, and in fact are eager, to intrude into the most personal aspects of the lives of nonbelievers. This is most obvious today in the area of sex, with Christians attempting to deny women the right to abortion and to mandate near-useless abstinence-only sex "education" in the public schools. It’s also obvious in the area of education, with Christians attempting to force biology teachers to teach their creation myth (but not those of Hindus, Native Americans, et al.) in place of (or as being equally valid as) the very well established theory of evolution. But the authoritarian tendencies of Christianity reach much further than this…. If your nonintrusive beliefs or actions are not in accord with Christian "morality," you can bet that Christians will feel completely justified—not to mention righteous—in poking their noses (often in the form of state police agencies) into your private life.

I’m not a Freudian psychotherapist, but I get the sense that Mr. Bufe’s main objection to Christianity stems from what he perceives as its oppression of his “right” to live out his sexuality in whatever manner he chooses to practice it. We’ll come back to this later, when he addresses this issue more directly.

I will agree that there is a vocal group within Christianity who see their mission as shaping culture to reflect Christian morality. They would like to enact laws that conform to the Ten Commandments and the moral teachings of Jesus.

However, I would argue that the idea of respect for the ideas and beliefs of others grows out of Christianity. Furthermore, I would argue that any other basis of societal morality will necessarily lead to oppression.

I don’t have the space or time to make a complete argument here. But “tolerance” is intolerance in disguise. It is an underhanded way for one group to force everyone to adopt its values in the name of tolerance.

In contrast, Christianity is transparent. It is open about exactly what it believes. And one of those beliefs is that people have the right to believe what they choose to believe.

The other problem with Mr. Bufe’s argument is that he fails to recognize that everyone seeks to impose his morality on others. Even libertarians seek to impose their morality on others. The idea that it is wrong to regulate what people do in private is a “morality.”

7. Christianity is cruel. Throughout its history, cruelty—both to self and others—has been one of the most prominent features of Christianity. From its very start, Christianity, with its bleak view of life, its emphasis upon sexual sin, and its almost impossible-to-meet demands for sexual "purity," encouraged guilt, penance, and self-torture. Today, this self-torture is primarily psychological, in the form of guilt arising from following (or denying, and thus obsessing over) one’s natural sexual desires…. Given that the Bible nowhere condemns torture and sometimes prescribes shockingly cruel penalties (such as burning alive), and that Christians so wholeheartedly approved of self-torture, it’s not surprising that they thought little of inflicting appallingly cruel treatment upon others…. While the torture and murder of heretics and "witches" is now largely a thing of the past, Christians can still be remarkably cruel. One current example is provided by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Its members picket the funerals of victims of AIDS and gay bashings, brandishing signs reading, "God Hates Fags," "AIDS Cures Fags," and "Thank God for AIDS."… Christians are also at the forefront of those advocating vicious, life-destroying penalties for those who commit victimless "crimes," as well as being at the forefront of those who support the death penalty and those who want to make prison conditions even more barbaric than they are now. But this should not be surprising coming from Christians, members of a religion that teaches that eternal torture is not only justified, but that the "saved" will enjoy seeing the torture of others.

Here are some of the assertions Mr. Bufe makes:
  • Cruelty is one of the most prominent features of Christianity.
  • Christianity has a bleak view of life.
  • Christianity is preoccupied with sex.
  • Sexual desire is good and should be expressed in whatever manner the individual is inclined to indulge it.
  • Christians who are cruel are cruel because of the teachings of Christianity.
  • Christians want to impose “vicious, life-destroying” penalties for violating moral rules that should never be implemented in the legal code.
  • Christians want to make prison conditions “even more barbaric than they are now.”
  • Christianity teaches eternal torture.
While I will acknowledge that people who call themselves Christians have engaged in cruelty, cruelty is not consistent with the teachings of Christianity. To the extent that people have been cruel, they have been acting in opposition to Christianity. And there is no evidence that Christianity indirectly encourages cruelty without openly advocating it.

While some Christians seem to have a perpetually dour mood, Christianity has a very positive and encouraging view of life.

I wonder who is the one who is obsessed with sex. Does anyone really think that there should be no moral restraints upon sexual desire? What about bestiality? Or pedophilia? The question is not whether we should draw lines but where those lines should be.

I don’t think that there really is such a thing as a victimless crime in the sense that he suggests. Commonly offered examples are prostitution, pornography and drug use. (I am not advocating oppressive laws in these areas.) But these all have real victims. We can argue about how rigidly society should proscribe each of these. But to argue that society has no business regulating these matters is either na├»ve or dishonest.

I wonder where Mr. Bufe got the idea that Christians want to make prisons more brutal. This desire, if it exists, certainly doesn’t grow out of Christian teaching.

While many Christians do understand “hell” as consisting of eternal torture, it is not the teaching of the Bible. The Bible is clear that God takes no pleasure in the suffering of anyone. Hell is a terrible place, but not because God tortures people there. (Maybe I’ll address this more fully in a future post.)

I’ll pick up with Mr. Bufe’s eighth point in the next post.

Let me know what you think.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”


Anonymous said...

Good morals are universal, not exclusively Christian or of any other religion. In fact Confucianism has similar ideas and is basically a social construct. We must not forget that Christianity is ancient and I'm sure that at the time, morals were needed to teach people to love not kill each other. This was over 2,000 years ago and our society and challenges have changed over the years. Perhaps Christian idea of marriage/sexuality were needed when they were a very small sect trying to survive and grow. These reasons really no longer exist. It seems that any "moral" person should know what is right and wrong and not be governed by a literal translation of an Apostles attempt at reconstructing Jesus' words/intentions.

Anonymous said...

Dear dear, it is really a pity to see someone so desperately clinging to their religion. Most of the arguments you stated hear didn't even make sense or just resulted to "well, not all christians do that.."

But the truth is they do, and you are just making excuses. Christians do good things for the ego boost they feel when they do some "righteous." Atheists just do it because they know their existence is short and need to make the world a better place.

Christian morality in general is open to interpretation, just like you weren't taught to read the bible as a child, it was read to you with the interpretations on it all ready.

I'm really sorry to see your mind is still trapped. I'm not an atheist but I'd like to help you leave your oppressive religion. Just find me here.