Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's not to like?

I received an e-mail from a seminary student that I had corresponded with in the past. He's had a few changes in his life but wrote to say:

"I nearly lost my faith, but God found me again. I am no longer at the Seminary as I was when we last spoke but have found a new calling for which to serve. My purpose here is to understand in a very succinct and brief way why you feel Christianity as an institution is irrelevant for our society at large and for you personally.

I promise this is not another back door ploy to bring you to faith. The Spirit will work in you if he sees fit. I honestly respect your opinion and would like to further understand what it is specifically about modern Christianity that doesn't work for you? What are your biggest hang ups with Christians and the church as it represents itself in North American culture?"

I'm afraid this may not be as succint as you might have liked...

As you know, I don't just reject "modern" Christianity or even just Christianity. I reject all religious claims, modern and ancient, as insufficiently supported by evidence and, therefore, not believable. You seem to be asking what I don't like about modern religious, Christian culture...and I'll be happy to tell you, but whether or not I believe something to be true is a separate issue from whether or not I like it.

That said, the modern Christian religion is a mess. There are hundreds of 'official' denominations and given the general level of ignorance people have about the religion they adopt and their propensity for molding it to be what they want it to be, one could argue that each individual has their own denomination.

Fundamentalists have a more literal view of the Bible and pretend to follow it based on a plain reading of the text. If Christianity is true...if there is a god and the Bible is his message to the world, then Fundamentalists are the ones who have managed to get it closest to 'correct'. Yet the actual beliefs of fundamentalists are the most obviously objectionable.

The more liberal varieties have beliefs that are more palatable but they have no sound Biblical basis for their beliefs, they've simply chosen to ignore large portions of the text, ignore the history of their religion and interpret selected passages to support a kinder, gentler Christianity - sometimes in direct opposition to a plain reading of the text (as if their god is simply incapable of communicating clearly). They have no more firm foundation than personal opinion.

There is no clear mechanism for discovering if any of them are correct (if there were, we wouldn't have hundreds of denominations) and there's no good reason to think that any of them might be correct. Modern Christianity, regardless of the denomination, is based on one's personal take on two things: the Bible and the recorded traditions of the church. Every denomination and individual is going to view these slightly differently and they'll support their position with appeals to personal experience and revelation.

Let's assume, for a moment that there is a God and it's the one that Christians are trying to associate themselves with...what can we say about this god? Well, for one, he's apparently very selective about who he reveals himself to. He ignores countless pleas for assistance, revelation, insight and guidance from sincere, desperate people and from reasonable people who could further his cause...yet he'll reportedly give direct input to countless ignorant bigots who couldn't put a cogent sentence together, let alone construct a sound syllogism. He also seems intent on keeping himself hidden and mysterious - which seems strange as he reportedly used to show off with miracles and plagues. Lastly (for this exchange), he doesn't seem the slightest bit interested in correcting people's various misunderstandings or misrepresentations of him. He seems perfectly happy to have countless denominations getting it all wrong.

So, either he's malicious, incompetent or he doesn't exist. (I'm sure there are other options, but those are the 3 most likely).

Christianity, in its various forms is an embarrassment. The literal versions are embarrassing because they're anti-science, anti-humanity, anti-rights, anti-freedom, etc. The liberal versions are embarrassing because these people have clearly figured out what's wrong with the literal version, but they're incapable of letting they support a saccharin, irrational, insidiously poisonous quasi-doctrine which acts as an enabler and shield for the literalists,

There are thoughtful, loving, intelligent people in both camps - yet their minds have been so poisoned by this religious virus that they're incapable of fully recognizing their potential in those and other categories.

Is there anything other than a religion (or similar dogma) that could make a parent hate their child because of that child's sexual orientation or beliefs? ...or make a parent pray over a sick child instead of taking it to the hospital? ... or make someone marginalize the rights of others who disagree on something that does them no harm? ...or encourage someone to hide and protect a child rapist from the law and proper treatment? ...or...

As I mentioned at the outset, whether or not I believe a claim is separate from whether or not I like that claim. In the case of Christianity, I don't believe it because it's absurd and unsupported by evidence - and I don't like it because it's obscene, divisive and harmful. That's true for most, if not all, religions; though some are worse than others. Christianity is one of the worst, partly because of insidious doctrines and partly because of the pernicious effects of the power that comes from the popularity of those doctrines.

There is nothing good and true within religion that requires religion. People have done many good things in the name of religion, but none of those things were predicated on the truth of the religious claims. You can have love, hope, peace, comfort, charity, joy, happiness, and patience without any appeal to any religion.

This is probably the grandest lie that religions like Christianity have propagated; that you 'need' what they're selling in order to have those things - and that those who aren't part of their group are somehow lacking or deficient in those qualities.

I think it's fair to label that lie 'evil'...and as a foundational lie, that turns all benefits of that religion into fruits of a poisonous tree.


  1. I'm just curious if you have any clue this person wrote to you? If there is some obvious reason like "well, he's my cousin and we keep in touch, but I didn't want to ID him on the blog," please feel free to disregard my question. I'm just thinking in terms of reading this as though this was a stranger who had contacted you at some time in the past through your work with ACA. And if he's moved on, I wonder what would make him come back to ask your views on what he's doing now? It seems odd to me. Was there anything in the rest of this correspondence or prior letters that would hint at why you would stand out to him like this?

    Again, I realize I'm assuming he's a past acquaintance from your work with ACA.

  2. Tracie,

    I had to dig to find the answer. He wrote to me in July of 2008 as a Christian who had caught part of the show, found it interesting and wanted me to answer some questions. We exchanged an e-mail or two and I didn't hear anything else from him until today.

  3. Well, you obviously made an impression!...?

  4. I am very interested in what he has to say to this answer... It seems impossible to me to disagree with what you wrote.

  5. "There is nothing good and true within religion that requires religion. People have done many good things in the name of religion, but none of those things were predicated on the truth of the religious claims. You can have love, hope, peace, comfort, charity, joy, happiness, and patience without any appeal to any religion."

    This was my primary thought when I was first asked why I was a non-believer. Of course, you have said it for more concisely.

  6. If "god found him again" he needs to hide better.

  7. I'm interested to hear what our seminarian says in reply...

  8. See, now, this is great. Beautifully said, how ever could anyone disagree with you? The logic, she is brilliant! Yet it slightly disturbs me that this person will - and you know that they will - disregard everything you just said and make up a bunch of half-assed excuses to get past the damningness in what you've just said. Which is disappointing, because it really was a well crafted response.

  9. Great correspondence Matt. My thoughts exactly. These emails are some of the best things that are posted because you really get an idea of how the believer thinks. I just wish I was in a position where they threw themselves my way like yourself.

    t would be great if you can keep us updated on this as I'm very interested in what this guy has to say to this.

  10. Wonderfully written Matt.

  11. i have been listening to AETV for a few years now and it is great to see how your responses have gotten more and more concise and clear. like you, i have tried to emphasize that i don't believe in the gods presented because i have not found enough evidence to compel me to believe. my opinion of the attributes and actions of the gods are a separate matter.
    and sadly, this person will likely just ignore the mail or scramble for more confusing apologetics.

  12. I love posts like this, that summarise so effectively why people reject religious claims.

  13. If "god found him again" he needs to hide better.

    Back in the 50's the glasses with rubber nose attached, with mustache disguise was mass-marketed.

    It was soon discovered that the specific arrangement of elements in that disguise totally scrambled the mind of god.

    Neither god, nor jesus, nor spirit of Holy could find you, and lo was it hence revered as the perfect disguise

    I't's ironic.

    People have been trying to duck god for millenia, but just this simple, and ridiculous dime store novelty could make a mortal as powerful as those who are not trying to duck god who are also invisible, and are neither found by god nor find hym.

    This disguise works for * most gods, it's theology, so I don't expect atheists to be able to comprehend it, it get's real twisty and turny it's like ExTREme !!1! science-plus philoso-thinky knowledge

    * note: if you're going up against the L. Ron Jeremy $cientology Lords, you have to use one of those V Masks and be anonymous.

  14. Great response. Please share with us any reply he or she makes. You did however forget to point out one small little thing... the claims of Christianity are RIDICULOUS!

  15. It's refreshing to read such a succinct and crystal clear distillation of what so many of us think but are unable to find the words.

    Thanks, Matt.



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