What your Pastor doesn’t tell you
This article is addressed to all Christians, specially the so called “true” Christians. Read it and form your own view, but do not ignore its message.
Remember, a belief is a lever, once pulled, move everything else in a person life and they become part of the very apparatus of your mind, determining your desires, fears, expectations and subsequently behavior. Moreover, it is my understanding that a blind belief without rationalizing will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves - socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically.
As a Christian you believe that the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God and that only those who place their faith in Jesus will find salvation after death. Am I right?
You believe these propositions not because they make you feel good, but because you think they are true. Correct?
Before we go any further, I am sure you and I will agree on the following:
If you are right, I am wrong. Or if I win you loose
The Bible is either the word of God, or it isn’t.
Either Jesus offer humanity the one true path to salvation (John 14:6), or he doesn’t
To be a true Christian is to believe that all other faiths are mistaken. Right?
Either the Bible is just an ordinary book, written by mortals, or it isn’t
Either Christ was divine, or he wasn’t
If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the basic doctrine of Christianity is false and the Christian theology is the story of bookish men parsing a collective delusion.
If the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are very grim surprises in store for nonbelievers.
CONSIDER: Every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian. Yes or no.? Yet you do not find their reasons compelling. Right?
The Koran repeatedly declares that it is the perfect word of the creator of the universe- just like you believe the Bible is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. Muslims believe this as fully as you believe the Bible’s account of itself. There is a vast literature describing the life of Mohammad that, from the point of view of Islam, proves that he was the most recent Prophet of God. Muhammad also assures his followers that Jesus was not divine (Koran 5:71-75; 19:30-38) and that anyone who believes otherwise will spend eternity in hell. Muslims believe that Muhammad’s opinion on this is infallible.
Why don’t you lose any sleep over whether to convert to Islam? Can you prove that Allah is not the one true God? Can you prove that the archangel Gabriel did not visit Muhammad in his cave? Of course not. But you need not prove any of these things to reject the beliefs of Muslims as absurd.
The burden is upon them to prove that their beliefs about God and Muhammad are valid. They have not done this. They can’t do this.
Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity.
WHAT YOUR PASTOR DOESN’T TELL YOU
You believe that the Bible is an unrivaled source of human goodness; you believe that Jesus taught the virtues of love, compassion, and selflessness better than any other teacher who has ever lived.
You believe that the Bible is the most profound book ever written and that its contents have stood the test of time so well that it must have been divinely inspired. All these beliefs are false.
Questions of morality are questions about happiness and suffering. That is why you and I do not have moral obligations toward rocks.
Here are perfect guides to morality that are written in the Bible. Pastors, open up your Bibles, and if you have the courage read them to your congregation- but do this before you collect the tithes and offerings. Here are some examples:
God’s counsel to parents is straightforward:
Whenever your children get out of line, you should beat them with a rod. Proverb 13:24
If they are shameless enough to talk back to you, you should kill them. Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Mark 7:9-13, Mathew 15:4-7
You must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshipping graven images, and practicing sorcery.
For a good example of God’s timeless wisdom read: Deuteronomy 13:6, 8-15
Many Christians believe that Jesus did away with all this barbarism in the clearest term imaginable and delivered a doctrine of pure love and tolerance. He did not. In fact, at several points in the New Testament, Jesus can be read to endorse the entirety of Old Testament law. Mathew 5:18-20
Granted, Jesus said some profound things about love and charity, and forgiveness. But numerous teachers offered the same instructions centuries before Jesus (Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Epictetus…) and countless scriptures discuss the importance of self transcending love more articulately than the Bible does, while being unblemished by the obscene celebrations of violence that we find throughout the Old and New Testament.
If you think Christianity is the most direct and undefiled expression of love and compassion the world has ever seen, you do not know much about the world’s other religions.
Take the religion of JAINISM as one example. The Jains preach a doctrine of utter non-violence; you probable think that the Inquisition was a perversion of the “true” spirit of Christianity. Perhaps it was. The problem, however, is that teaching of the Bible are so muddled and self-contradictory (144 such things), that it was possible for Christians to happily burn heretics alive for 5 long centuries. It was even possible for the most venerated patriarch of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed outright (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are; of course, free to interpret the Bible differently.
If you think the Jesus taught only the Golden Rule and love of one’s neighbor, you should reread the New Testament. Pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display when Jesus returns to earth trailing clouds of glory. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, John 15:6
Anyone who believes that the Bible offers the best guidance we have on question of morality has some very strange ideas about either guidance or morality. In assessing the moral wisdom of the Bible, it is useful to consider moral questions that have been solved to everyone’s satisfaction. What moral instructions do we get from the God of Abraham on this subject? Consult the Bible and read Leviticus 25:44-46. By the way the Bible also makes it clear that every man is free to sell his daughter into sexual slavery. Don’t believe me read Exodus 21: 7-11 there is a place in the New Testament where Jesus objects to the practice of slavery. St Paul even admonishes slaves to serve their master well – and to serve their Christian masters especially well. Ephesians 6:5 and Timothy 6:1-4
People have been cherry-picking the Bible for millennia to justify their every impulse, moral or otherwise.
Back to the JAINS, Mahavira, the Jain patriarch, surpassed the morality of the Bible with a single sentence: “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being”. By contrast Christians have done all this and more and killed people in the name of God for centuries on the basis of a theologically defensible reading of the Bible. (By the way, Jains do not believe in a creator deity responsible for the manifestation, the creation, or the maintenance of the universe the universe changes due to interactions between matter and energy in the course of time and governed by the laws of nature with no necessity of a coordinator or regulator.)
How, then, can you argue that the Bible provides the clearest statement of morality the world has ever seen? One of the most pernicious effect of religion is that tends to divorce morality from the reality of human and animal suffering.
WHO PUT THE GOOD IN THE “GOOD BOOK”?
Even if a belief in God had a reliable, positive effect upon human behavior, this would not offer a reason to believe in God. One can believe in God only if one thinks that God actually exists.
Along with most Christians, you believe like mortals like we can’t reject the morality of the Bible. We can’t say for instance, that God was wrong to drown most of humanity in the flood of Genesis. And yet, you feel that you are in a position to judge that Jesus is the Son of God, that the Golden Rule is the height of moral wisdom, and that the Bible is not itself brimming with lies.
We decide what is good in the Good Book.
We read the Golden Rule and judge it to be a brilliant distillation of many of our ethical impulses. And then we come across another of God’s teaching on morality: if a man discovers on his wedding night that his bride is not a virgin, he must stone her to death on her father’s doorstep. Deuteronomy 12:13-21
If we are civilized, we will reject this as the vilest lunacy imaginable. Doing so require that we exercise our own moral intuitions .The belief that the Bible is the word of God is of no help to us whatsoever.
The choice here is: we can confine ourselves to a 1st century conversation as it is preserved in the Bible or a 21st century conversation about morality and human wellbeing. Those that claim to “never doubt the existence of God” should be obliged to present evidence of his existence, and indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day.
Of course, people of all faiths regularly assure one another that God is not responsible for human suffering. If God exists, either He can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamity, or He does not care to. God therefore is either impotent or evil.
THE POWER OF PROPHECY
It is often said that it is reasonable to believe that the Bible is the word of God because many of the events recounted in the New Testament confirm Old Testament prophecy. But ask yourself, how difficult would it have been for the Gospel writers to tell the story of Jesus’ life so as to make it conform to Old Testament prophecy? Wouldn’t it have been within the power of any mortal to write about a book that confirms the prediction of a previous book? In fact we know on the basis of textual evidence that this is what the Gospel writers did.
The writer as Luke and Mathew, for instance, declare that Mary conceived as a virgin, relying upon the Greek rendering of Isaiah 7:14. The Hebrew text of Isaiah uses the word “alma”, however, which simply means “young woman”, without any implication of virginity. So here is a mistranslation from the Hebrew.
Mark and John both appear uncomfortable with accusations of Jesus’ illegitimacy, but never mention the miraculous origins. Paul refers to Jesus as being “born of the seed of David according to the flesh” and “born of woman”, without regarding to Mary’s virginity at all.
The Gospels also contradict one another outright. In fact, there are 144 contradictions in the Bible. Read the book: Self Contradictions of the Bible. By William Henry Burr. 1987
THEIR FACTS OF LIFE
All complex life on earth has developed from simpler life – forms over billions of years. Christians when doubt the truth of evolution is apt to say things like “Evolution is just a theory, not a fact”. By the same token one can speak about “the germ theory of disease” or “the theory of gravitation” without casting doubt upon disease or gravity as facts of nature.
Here is what we know – we know that the universe is far older than the Bible suggests. There is no question that human beings evolved from non-human ancestors; genetics (DNA and mutations) explain this. Consequently, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that individual species were created in their present forms, (Did God create three hundred and fifty thousand known species of beetles? how about viruses. Viruses like HIV, as well as a wide range of harmful bacteria, can be seen evolving right under our noses). Evolution both predicts and explains this phenomenon; the book of Genesis does not. If God created the universe what created God? To say that God, by definition, is uncreated simply begs the question. Stephen Hawking in his book The Grand Design, explain and let me quote: him: “The laws of nature tell us how the universe behaves, but they don’t answer the why? Questions that we posed:
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why do we exist?
Why this particular set of laws and not some other?
He adds:” we claim, however, that it is possible to answer these questions purely within the realm of science and without invoking any divine beings”.
Note to the readers. From the paragraph that starts: “As a Christian…and ends in divine beings” relevant paragraphs and thoughts have been extracted from the books of Sam Harris: The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. Also from the book of Stephen Hawking: The Gran Design. The paragraph between parenthesis after ….reading of the Bible, was extracted from JAINISM from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
* Orlando Huaman is a freelance writer.