Saturday, January 06, 2007

What I Don't Like About Christianity

This post is sort of a followup on my post about atheism ("Christmas Sermon for the Heathens").

I have no interest whatsoever in scientific or logical arguments about the truth of religious beliefs. I don't care what people believe about the ultimate nature of reality EXCEPT when those beliefs affect how they behave towards the world. Along those lines, I thought I would share a bunch of things that I don't like about Christianity. [Click Permalink for the rest...]
  1. Emphasis on souls: I don't like the Christian emphasis on immortal immaterial souls. This emphasis puts an artificial separation between humans and other animals (who presumably don't have souls). It also leads to shrugging off the physical body as insignifant, or even a nuisance. To think of bodies as just a shell into which we stuff a pre-existing soul is to miss out on what's miraculous and wonderful about life. To me, the miracle of human life is that our natural, material bodies can give rise to love and science and art.

  2. Emphasis on life after death: This bugs me tremendously, for similar reasons as the above. It encourages people to be dismissive of this precious Earthly life. This was a remark made by Penn Jillette on his atheism: "I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me."

  3. Miscellaneous ridiculous moral rules: Some of the greatest mischief done by Christianity (as well as other religions) has been to punish and shame those who do no harm to anyone. I'm talking particularly about sexual morality. Why should God give a damn whether someone is homosexual, or masturbates? Doesn't He have more important things to worry about?

  4. Intolerance of dissenting thoughts: Surely the most harmful effect of Christianity has been the often violent oppression of those who believe differently, be they Jewish, or atheist, or Pagan.

  5. The emphasis on duty to God: To me it seems that God is a big guy, he can take care of himself. Morality seems to me to be much more about how we treat the little guys---children, the poor, the downtrodden.

  6. The emphasis on what's in your "heart": Christianity has this idea that if a person is evil his entire life, but then sincerely repents on his deathbed, then all is forgiven. I think that's completely backwards. Who cares what's really going on in your heart? Why isn't how you treat others the ultimate criterion for goodness?

I guess what it boils down to is that I'm actually emotionally a pagan, rather than a Christian. I care about the things of this world---the wind, the rain, animals, bodies, food---and not so much about otherworldly things (souls, heaven, etc.) I agree with Penn that the natural world is plenty, and we should appreciate it, instead of pining away for the oh-so-much-more-wonderful world to come.


Blogger Jeff said...

Speaking as a "born-again" believer in Jesus Christ, I agree with you that it is difficult to understand how someone can be evil and do evil most of their lives and then finally repent and "be saved", and yet I know it's true. I spent 27 years running from God myself, and I was as evil as anybody, but by God's Grace, I met Jesus Christ, and my life has never been the same. I still sin and fall, for sure, but it's my heart that's changed. I no longer think the way I used to, and by God's grace I don't act like I used to either. As I tell folks, I may not yet be who I want to be, but I'm not who I was before, either. Knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior changes you in many ways.
In an ideal world, like the Bible describes in the Garden of Eden, we'd all already know God and, like Adam, we'd walk with Him daily in close communion. However, much has changed since those early days, and the sin of man has driven us far from our heavenly Father.
The only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12), and no one who comes to Him will be cast out, including the deathbed repenter of your illustration.
We are saved by grace - by God's undeserved favor - through the blood of Christ. It's His sacrifice on the cross that saves, not a lifetime of "good works". Children of God are, more than anything else, forgiven. That's why even murders can come to Christ later in life. Do they still have to pay for their crimes, even if that includes the death penalty? Absolutely. And should every new child of God begin to live differently - shouldn't they "live Godly in this present age"? You better believe it. It's the ones who simply claim to be God's but live like nothing ever changed who really need to ask themselves what's going on, because to know Jesus Christ and to have Him as your Lord and Savior SURELY DOES make a huge difference in how you live, think and act. It MUST, or else the Bible says you're not one of His at all.
Yes, Daryl, you are absolutely right, being a Christian saved by faith in Christ - regardless of one's age when it happens - will affect us for good in the here-and- now. Jesus made it clear that's what He desired from those who would call themselves Christians. Try not to let the failures of man keep you from the truth of Jesus Christ.

6:39 PM  
Blogger RichM said...

#5: Morality seems to me to be much more about how we treat the little guys---children, the poor, the downtrodden.

You're not the only one who thinks that, it's one of the authentic teachings of Jesus, regarding the people called the anawim in Aramaic. (So if we were to devise a new religion based on the actual teachings of that guy, what would we call it?) It's like there is some kind of circuit in the human mind that quickly filters it out in favor of other distracting notions however.

#6: I think that's why "purgatory" was invented, to mitigate the free pass a deathbed conversion would give a lifelong evildoer - you'd still get to Heaven by and by, but it would take a very long time erasing the bad effects of one's deeds. It's also one of the big issues during the Reformation where the Protestants came down on the side of faith and Catholics on the side of works.

I am more comfortable with the idea of souls in certain circumstances - for instance when one is having to deal with such things as brain death and permanent vegetative states, which seem to me to lack the self-awareness a soul needs to have. It feels like some animals have that self-awareness thing too at some level, so I can go along with some kind of soul there too. (As for plants and inanimate objects, not so much.) People say that the idea of souls existing after death is wishful thinking, and I cannot entirely disagree, so that idea I can take or leave. Ditto with reincarnation or transmigration of souls.

One big good thing that Christianity has in its favor: at least they got away from the emphasis on animal (and human) sacrifice in the ancient world. That had always bugged me, when it came to certain pagans.

The biggest problem I have with Christianity is the quality of certain Christians out there. At least on the plus side, there do seem to be some very good Christians too, much as there admirable non-Christians.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Tim Simmons said...

Nice post, Daryl. To the poster who found something wrong with animal sacrifice, I found it ironic that his religion is based UPON an animal sacrifice - that of a man named Jesus. Your whole religion is BASED on the sacrifice of a "supposedly" innocent man in order to cover the sins of others. How barbaric and ancient can it get?

Now, do you think it is morally right for God to punish someone for someone else's crimes? If not, why did he do that to Jesus? If not, why did God kill David's son just because DAVID sinned with Bathsheba? If not, why did God murder 70,000 Jews just because DAVID decided to count the number of people in his army? If not, why did God have his chosen people murder ALL of the Amalekites (including nursing babies) for something their ancestors did over 400 years earlier?

You either worship the most heinous villain or a myth, my friend.

Daryl, I sent you email in response to your email about Doherty. Did you get them?


12:26 PM  
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11:17 AM  
Blogger Wyatt Roberts said...

"It also leads to shrugging off the physical body as insignifant, or even a nuisance. To think of bodies as just a shell into which we stuff a pre-existing soul is to miss out on what's miraculous and wonderful about life. To me, the miracle of human life is that our natural, material bodies can give rise to love and science and art."

Hey, Daryl...this is a great point. N.T. Wright (my favorite theologian) makes, basically, this very same point in his new book Suprised by Hope. Interestingly enough, he criticizes "the church" for many of the same things you do.

12:26 PM  

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