Happy Thor’s Day.
August 2019 Revision Notes:
It has been almost a year since I wrote these originally starting in November of 2018. When I got to the rotation in Odin’s Eye the last time where I was going to deal with these objections again, I saw no need for revision but rather simply laid it out there that no one had responded to them to that date and moved on into the rest of the Rotation for Odin’s Eye.
This time though I feel that I need to spend four weeks of Odin’s Eye doing some revisions that will either clarify my position, add some other thoughts or edit for other issues. Such edits will be marked by italics. When archived, they will appear under the original post on this Page: My Four Theological Objections to Christianity
Mostly though this is a cut and paste with some revisions. As the series goes on there will be more revisions as I can see the need for things to change a bit in the other three objections.
In part four, I felt the need to add a few paragraphs for hopefully a clearer explanation. But also there are some additional arguments that trouble me about the whole afterlife thing with Christianity. I also completely rewrote my conclusions.
I am wrapping up my four main theological objections to Christianity with the simple but profound fact that the god of the Bible is very suspect in as far as whether or not he is just and acts with justice. I would go so far to say that the god of the Bible does not follow his own clearly stated guidelines for justice – 1) “Eye for eye, tooth for a tooth” and 2) Restitution Included. Namely that the punishment should fit the crime and that restitution when merited should be offered. This is the standard of justice found in the Torah or Law of Moses. Jesus of Nazareth takes this on in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 pointing out that the principles of justice were still valid and in fact because things should be done for the love of God, they were even more challenging. God expects Christians to still be just and follow his principles of justice. The issue is: does the god of the Bible follow his own rules. I would say not.
From a standpoint of my own faith, the biblical god’s justice, and in particular the doctrine of Hell, has always been a problem. My standard answer throughout my days as a pastor to others that asked was that the justice of God was a mystery. That someday, we would know it all and see that this god was just to send people to hell. Even if they were people who we loved and who this god claimed to love. But it was more than that as some of the stories of god executing justice were a little lacking justice themselves.
Job’s trial is a good example where God allows the Devil to kill all of Job’s children and servants save a few and does it simply to test Job to see if he will remain faithful. The Biblical god’s answer of – “I am god, that’s why.” is a little lacking in reasoning for a supreme being for one and the whole situation is lacking in compassion not just for Job but for all the people slain for another. They all lived and died simply to satisfy a bet between the Devil and the almighty is a little much to reconcile with the idea of God is love. Stuff like this definitely tests your faith and it should.
The thing is most religious responses to the justice of God dilemma is either to cite ‘mystery’ (read – I don’t have a reasonable answer, so I am going to punt) or our ignorance. Simply put they both attempt to give a god a different standard of justice than we follow. How convenient, but also telling that we cannot even use the standard of justice of ‘eye for an eye’ with the biblical god. The very standard that this god gives, he does not follow.
The fact that I used to come up with this double standard for god myself bothered me for years when I realized that is what I was doing. A standard of justice is only viable if it is evenly applied to all. It should be logical and consistent enough that it CAN be applied to all without exception. We have learned not to tolerate double standards between those that lead and those that follow, so why here? Why does this god of the Bible get a free pass for being hypocritical?
Religion does its damnedest to keep us from seeing this, and it does it by trying to make God so high his different standard of justice is justified. It sounds like a ruling religious class seeking to justify why they can impose rules on others that they don’t have to follow themselves. After all, they are ‘men of God’ and so as Cardinal Richelieu points out in the Three Musketeers movie in 1993 – “The Cardinal is not subject to the laws of men”. Easy to justify if you create a different standard of justice for your god and you then say you are subject to that standard, not the standard of men.
But the Biblical God fails theologically and it comes out best in the doctrine of Hell and final judgment. Everything we will do is in a short temporal time of existence but everything about the final judgment of the god of the Bible is eternal. In short, this god is going to punish us in a way that is eternal and permanent for our behavior in temporal and non-permanent existence. This includes annihilation and eternal punishment views. The only thing that might save Christianity here as far as theology is actually the idea of purgatory where the punishment is redemptive and non-permanent. But even here there is a postulate that punishment can last centuries compared to the shortness of life.
So being burned like the rich man is said to be burned is somehow eye for eye and tooth for a tooth? In that story, the rich man is burned not because he defied god but because he had a good life and Lazarus was rewarded because he had suffered in life. Go look at the story (Luke 16) yourself, this is the rationale that is given. So because a guy had it good he is punished with burning fire? How is this eye for an eye? Justice would have been to have the two trade places for a second life, not that he is burned for a long time.
There is little justice in this story, just a god who on the one hand in the Old Testament tells people who prosperity is a sign of God’s blessing and then turning around and saying though that if you do become prosperous, the biblical God is going to burn you as punishment for it. In a full analysis of the biblical account not only are there many accounts where god’s justice is a little suspect but where he violates the very rules he sets forward because he gets jealous or angry. Like the other mythologies, the biblical god is very human and reflects probably more of the attitude of the author of that particular passage than the almighty that actually might exist.
More troubling to me recently in August of 2019 is the fact that no theology of damnation other than purgatory by the Catholics, and even then it only works for Catholics, allows people who gain heaven to appeal for those that they love in Hell for God to be merciful. I have to ask what kind of compassion anyone has that would allow their loved one to burn for all eternity? I mean if someone I love like my children or grandparents were in the eternal lake of fire and I knew this, I would have enough compassion on them to be in front of God every single moment of eternity begging for his mercy for them. How can you even say you have a compassionate heart if you believe that your fellow human beings are going to be burned forever and ‘that’s just the way it is.”
But that brings up a question of God’s mercy. Could you burn one of your children, parents, friends, etc. with fire forever simply because they violated your rules or didn’t believe something you told them? For me, that is definitely a ‘no’. My love for them far exceeds my desire for them to be under my control and doing things as I wish or that they absolutely believe me. If that is true for me, why is God then an unmerciful bastard about this? How is it that he the God that IS Love, has less compassion for some of his children than me? Perhaps because he is a concoction of men who were in power that desired to control through fear? Yeah, I would bet that is it.
For me personally, I come back to the quote I have used before. If the god or gods are just then they will judge us based on the virtues we lived by. If they are not just, then they do not deserve to be served. If there are no gods then, we should live in such a way as to be fondly remembered. I worry less about an afterlife; because regardless, it is this life I must live either way. I choose to live based on virtue because, in the end, it is all I really have. My own personal responsibility for the life I live is mine alone. Cue Robert Heinlein.
I will revisit these objections in the future with other thoughts. For now, if anything, these objections have gotten stronger and more detailed and still form a bedrock of why I think not only is Christianity a bad Idea, but I am now convinced it is largely a fraud. I would also contend that it has been used, much like Islam and Judaism as well, to deceive, control and manipulate others.
The most troubling thing to me is I know many Chrisitan friends and former friends have read these and you know what? Crickets. Silence. My eternal fate is not so important that they would even try to answer. Perhaps the real truth is that these objections have no answer and the basically constitute the god Yahweh to the rest of mythology and as another concoction of men and his flaws simply are a reflection of their thoughts about him being flawed. Because they had flawed standards of justice and ulterior motives, the God they created’s execution of justice reflects this.
It also speaks to the real beliefs of Christians. I know for a fact, that many do not actually believe. I was minister for 20 years and I lost track of the number of people in my churches who when questioned, basically had done one of the following: 1) They had picked and chosen what parts of Chrisitan doctrine or the Bible they liked and discarded the rest. 2) They didn’t really actually believe anything, they just went along with it for the community and to keep family happy. When questioned further, it all came back to one of what I call my four objections in some form as to why they didn’t believe or what they had chosen to discard. It for all of them had basically become tradition, not real faith or spirituality.
This to me now is the most damaging thing – why have spirituality in your life that is not genuine? Why do you have a part of your life basically be a fraud? Would it not be better to be truly honest with yourself about where you are spiritually speaking? It is my four objections that started me on the path to honest spiritual reflection and being truly who I am. I am now better for it and a better person in many respects. Mostly, I have stopped being a liar. This is the first real step down the path to finding truth.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.