Saturday, 19 October 2013

Nine Problems with Christianity


Note: if you believe that Abraham, Moses, etc were prophets of the one true God I respectfully ask that you do not read the following post.

"Dante and Virgil in Hell" (1850) by W Bouguereau 
In my life I find that Christians are everywhere, especially within my extended family. Though I am not a big fan of belittling other belief systems, because the ways to the truth are many, I have had to really think about and be able to articulate why I don't accept their faith – because I am pretty sure I am not the only one who has had to fend off well-meaning evangelists, I thought I would share some of these reasons:

I. Fear (of hell) lies at the core of Christianity I watched my mother die a protracted death (cancer) and witnessed for myself the way her fear of hell (she was not a Christian, but had been raised in a very devout Christian home) needlessly poisoned her final months – I could never wish to be part of a religion that inspires such a morbid dread of the afterlife.

II. I cannot believe that God, as understood by Christians, is real If the Christian God is so powerful why do horrible things happen again and again and again? To my mind there are only two plausible answers to this question: either because he does not exist in the manner that Christians claim he exists (ie, he may exist but is not nearly as powerful as Christians say; this view is the one I tend to adopt) or he does exist as Christians claim but allows awful things to happen because he is cold and mean and is therefore not worthy of reverence. Cicero put the argument more eloquently:
'Either God wishes to remove evils and cannot, or he can do so and is unwilling, or he has neither the will nor the power, or he has both the will and the power. If he has the will but not the power he is a weakling, and this is not characteristic of God. If he has the power but not the will, he is grudging, and this is a trait equally foreign to God. If he has neither the will nor the power, he is both grudging and weak, and is therefore not divine. If he has both the will and the power (and this is the sole circumstance appropriate to God), what is the source of evils, or why does God not dispel them [Cicero, The Nature of the Gods, 3.65]?'
Can a God who allows evil, even while he has the power to stop it, be said to be wholly virtuous? If God is not wholly virtuous, does this not undermine the popular Christian notion of the forces of good (God) versus the forces of evil (Satan)? And does not this dualistic perception of the universe encourage dangerous black and white thinking? It seems that just about everyone who thinks this way is confident that they are good and someone else is evil. I tend to think that labelling someone, or a group of people, “evil” is like a misogynist calling a woman a whore – it is too easy, too swift a judgment, and too often a means to dehumanise and then justify grotesque treatment of targeted individuals. If it is necessary to deal with persons or situations harshly why not be absolutely clear and honest about why this is so (eg, because one harm is the lesser of two harms), for then we might avoid mirroring the stupidity and fanaticism of our foes.

III. Christianity demonises the Gods of the natural world The traditional Christian position on the Pagan Gods is that they represent a “cult of demons” (to quote Pope Gregory I). Thus the inherently sacred status of the natural world, which Pagan religions traditionally pay homage to, is reinterpreted as a collection of demonic forces that must be subjugated, which to my mind is nothing less than perverse. 


IV. Christianity is a prudish religion This has had at least a couple of most unfortunate consequences. Firstly, it encouraged the notion that female sexuality is something that is somehow insidious, thus fanning the flames of misogyny (which obviously predates Christianity) in a most unfortunate way. Secondly, it ushered in an age of extreme homophobia (though antipathy towards homosexuality predates Christianity, one only has to read Marcus Aurelius to realise this); of course foremost this was a problem for homo/bisexuals, but it also engendered a profoundly boring approach to sexuality for everyone else – homophobic attitudes mean that people approach sexuality from a prohibitive perspective. If people are overly concerned about whether or not the kind of love they partake in is sinful or not it must often kill a spirit of exploration and adventure behind closed doors (although admittedly for others the notion that what they do is sinful will provide for them a greater sense of titillation). 

V. (Protestant) Christianity obviates women from the realm of the divine The last time I voluntarily went to church (a long time ago, it was an Anglican church) it was all about brotherly love, the father, the son – where is the feminine divine that polytheistic religions honour? Certainly nowhere obvious in a Protestant church. I wrote an email complaining about this to the priest the next day and he told me that all this is just what it says in the Bible, and he can’t rewrite the word of God. Fair enough, I guess, but unless we are going to acknowledge divine manifestations of the feminine, alongside the sacred manifestations of the masculine, I can’t take a religion seriously. Females are roughly one half of the living population – it is therefore obvious we must make up a significant part of the realm of the divine.

VI. The Lord is my shepherd? I have never understood this metaphor. A shepherd cares for his sheep so he (or his employers) can shear them for their wool and kill them for their meat. How can anyone take comfort in this metaphor?!

VII. Forced conversions are abhorrent I am reasonably sure that at least some of my ancestors, like so many Europeans, were forcibly converted to Christianity. I assume this because, speaking of the Christianisation of Sweden (my mother’s people were mostly from Småland in Sweden), Moberg wrote:
Source: chandrakantmarwadi.com
'The heathens were prepared to put up with the new doctrine, providing they were allowed to go on practicing the old faith in peace. The Gods, they thought, could get on together. Why should the Christian God monopolise human worship? Why only one God? 
There was less tolerance on the Christian side … 
The final struggle between heathendom and Christianity took place towards the end of the 11th century. There were some bloody confrontations. Of King Inge the Elder we hear that he was driven out of the Council of the Svear [ie, the Swedes] with a shower of stones for refusing to preside over heathen sacrifices. The Christians pulled down the heathen temples and burned the wooden images. Just before the end of the century the temples of the Gods at Uppsala, the citadel of heathendom, were [destroyed] … 
… In remote parts of the country the heathen still resisted and there were a few revolts … Men who remained faithful to their old Gods continued to worship them in the depths of the Småland forests, well out of the reach of even the most zealous missionaries. In the end it was the Norwegians who … [in the 1120s under King Sigurd Jordlafar] launched a crusade into Småland and rooted out the last relics of heathendom … 
… Against the refractory Smålanders his success was complete. According to the chronicle he ravaged them with fire and sword … [V Moberg, A History of the Swedish People: From Prehistory to the Renaissance at 79-80]'
This is by no means an unusual tale. It was to be played out again in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Prussia; as it had been played out before by numerous petty kings and not so petty kings of Europe (such as Charlemagne, who massacred 4,500 polytheistic Saxons for rebelling against their forced conversion). Thus Christianity came to culturally enslave the whole of Europe, whose people would, in turn, have a go at using the same religion as a means of subjugation in their colonising efforts a few hundred years’ later. 

I will pause at this point because I know that some readers will guffaw right now and, thinking of the early Christian martyrs, say to themselves sarcastically “and Roman polytheism was itself so tolerant!” In point of fact it was, and is, a whole heap more tolerant than Christianity – far more Pagans have died in the hands of Christian persecutors than the other way around. When polytheism prevailed, ancient Romans did not demand that anyone abandon their own Gods, however, the Roman government of the imperial era did expect that all peoples living within the empire would be willing, if asked, to make prayers and offerings (usually incense) for the well-being of the emperors as an adjunct to the religions of their choice; to not do so was, depending on the particular emperor of the day  for the persecution of the Christians was not continuous but intermittent  considered civil disobedience. This was an unfortunate political position to take and probably assisted in the radicalisation and successful marketing – with every martyr’s death in the arena – of early Christianity. This notwithstanding, the truth is that, as Shelton, a Professor of Classics at the University of California, wrote:
'One of the most noble aspects of the Roman character was its ability to adopt the customs and beliefs of other cultures and to incorporate them into Roman culture [and religion – for example via well known borrowings from Hellenic polytheism]. Many scholars, both ancient and modern, believe that this ability was the source of Rome’s greatness. And until the triumph of Christianity, which was fanatically intolerant and whose growth coincided with the sharp decline of Roman power, Roman open-mindedness had been rewarded by success in building and maintaining an empire [J Shelton, As the Romans Did at 417].'
Street preacher in Atlanta. Source: amusedtolife.com
VIII. Faith is too often used as a means to believe in the unbelievable While faith in a religion can help to ground the confidence of individuals, so that they can explore the path they are on in ever deeper ways (instead being spiritually promiscuous or so racked with doubts that they can only explore a religious tradition superficially), Christians are prone to taking their faith too far. Conviction in the veracity of a spiritual path is one thing, unquestioning faith is another. At the end of the day faith is a state of mind; it is a feeling. It is not a means to move mountains. It cannot make anything whatsoever true. It can only convince whoever has faith that something is true, but it cannot change the truth itself (eg, that mountains cannot be moved by faith alone). The pitfalls of faith, as traditionally understood by Christians, is beautifully demonstrated in the following semi-autobiographical passage in W S Maugham’s Of Human Bondage
'Philip … became very devout … 
He read [the Bible] industriously, as he read always, without criticism, stories of cruelty, deceit, ingratitude, dishonesty, and low cunning. Actions which would have excited his horror in the life about him, in the reading passed through his mind without comment, because they were committed under the direct inspiration of God … one night Philip came across these words of Jesus Christ: 
If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 
And all this, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
... [After thinking on these words for some days Philip asked his uncle, a Vicar, about these words, who responded] "It's a matter of faith." 
"D'you mean to say that if you really believed you could move mountains you could?" 
"By the grace of God," said the Vicar. 
… He had got the information he wanted. His little room was icy, and he shivered when he put on his nightshirt. But he always felt that his prayers were more pleasing to God when he said them under conditions of discomfort. The coldness of his hands and feet were an offering to the Almighty. And tonight he sank on his knees; buried his face in his hands, and prayed to God with all his might that He would make his club-foot whole. It was a very small thing beside the moving of mountains. He knew that God could do it if He wished, and his own faith was complete. Next morning … he fixed a date for the miracle. 
"Oh, God, in Thy loving mercy and goodness, if it be Thy will, please make my foot all right on the night before I go back to school." 
… He said it again in the evening and again, shivering in his nightshirt, before he got into bed. And he believed. For once he looked forward with eagerness to the end of the holidays. He laughed to himself as he thought of his uncle's astonishment when he ran down the stairs three at a time; and after breakfast he and Aunt Louisa would have to hurry out and buy a new pair of boots. At school they would be astounded. 
 
He prayed with all the power of his soul. No doubts assailed him. He was confident in the word of God. And the night before he was to go back to school he went up to bed tremulous with excitement … in Philip's little room it was so cold that his fingers were numb, and he had great difficulty in undoing his collar. His teeth chattered. The idea came to him that he must do something more than usual to attract the attention of God, and he turned back the rug which was in front of his bed so that he could kneel on the bare boards; and then it struck him that his nightshirt was a softness that might displease his Maker, so he took it off and said his prayers naked. When he got into bed he was so cold that for some time he could not sleep, but when he did, it was so soundly that Mary Ann had to shake him when she brought in his hot water next morning. She talked to him while she drew the curtains, but he did not answer; he had remembered at once that this was the morning for the miracle. His heart was filled with joy and gratitude. His first instinct was to put down his hand and feel the foot which was whole now, but to do this seemed to doubt the goodness of God. He knew that his foot was well. But at last he made up his mind, and with the toes of his right foot he just touched his left. Then he passed his hand over it. 
He limped downstairs just as Mary Ann was going into the dining-room for prayers, and then he sat down to breakfast. 
 
"Supposing you'd asked God to do something," said Philip, "and really believed it was going to happen, like moving a mountain, I mean, and you had faith, and it didn't happen, what would it mean?" 
 
"It would just mean that you hadn't got faith," answered Uncle William. 
"Whore of Babylon" (1809) by W Blake
Philip accepted the explanation. If God had not cured him, it was because he did not really believe. And yet he did not see how he could believe more than he did … 
"I suppose no one ever has faith enough," he said.”'
IX. The Book of Revelation – wtf  Finally, the Book of Revelation (the last book in the Bible) is just strange and sick: with its pornographic descriptions of the many “true and righteous” punishments that await “the mother of whores” and millions of others who hurt the narcissistic and domineering pride of God (as conceived by Christians) by failing to revere him. The Book of Revelation tells us that the “time [of the apocalypse] is near” (22:10) – but it was written over 1,900 years’ ago. So the time has been near for over 1,900 years? Enough said.

---------
Postscript (2017): to read a similar critique of atheism, written by me, followed by a list of nine things I like about Christianity please see A Critique of Atheism. I would like to point out that I do not consider myself anti-Christian and generally speaking I am pro-religion (as long as individuals have freedom of conscience).  


Written by M. Sentia Figula. Find me at neo polytheistRoman Pagan and on Facebook.

4 comments:

  1. I'm just exploiting your courtesy to asking you if you can give visibility to a recent post I have written on my blog "E Nos Lase Iuvate" (www.lases.blogspot.it).

    This post can be found at: http://lases.blogspot.it/2013/10/a-school-textbook.html

    My english translation unfortunately is not very good, but I hope to have evidenced the essence of the problem

    I will appreciate also your opinion about this topic.

    Thank you in advance for your kind consideration and cooperation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No problem:) I have posted up a link to this blogpost on the "Roman Pagan" Facebook page (usually at least a hundred people see posts on that page and sometime 1000s are reached), which I am the admin on. I don't think you are on Facebook so fyi it says "An outstanding blogpost from Carmelo Cannarella looking at the problem of Christians rewriting, appropriating and misunderstanding Pagan history and achievements: "Using just few words, they cancel thousands of years of culture, symbols, myths, traditions, values." See more at lases.blogspot.it. Note that it is translated from Italian." I hope that is ok with you?

      Great post btw, I often feel frustrated by the children's' books I have dealing with ancient Rome (or Greece or Vikings) - there is a tendency to mock or undermine the indigenous religions of Europe in these books. However, fortunately, this attitude is not universal. I think the Percy Jackson movies (I haven't read the books) are fantastic.

      Delete
  2. Thank you so much for your relevant contribution in this effort in defending culture from ignorance,,,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. no worries at all - helping to vanquish ignorance and delusions is perhaps the most noble thing we can do in life.

      Pax et Fortuna:)

      Delete