From Atheism to Christianity – A Review – Part 5

This is Part 5 of this glorious series responding to this article.

As Lewis puts it in Mere Christianity, the difficulty we face as fallen human beings, whether we realise it or not, is that we are alienated from our Creator because the moral imperfection we have inherited from our rebellious ancestors – our wrong thoughts and motives, as well as our bad behaviour – inevitably separates us from God. This may seem unjust, extreme, and hard to believe, since we are accustomed to being a mixture of good and bad (‘nobody’s perfect!’ we say), and cannot, in our fallen state, altogether help being imperfect. But the problem is that our Creator God is not only Love, but Goodness and Justice personified, and therefore infinitely ‘holy’ – to use the language of the Bible. This means that He cannot overlook our moral failings and be united to us in love, since His perfect character is repelled by our sinfulness. His justice demands that the human race should bear the full destructive consequences of turning away from Him and flouting His will. We personally may not have rebelled against God at the dawn of history, but like all human beings since that time, we have been morally and spiritually damaged by the severance of that spiritual umbilical cord between God and Man which used to exist in the Garden of Eden. God’s love and goodness and joy can no longer flow unimpeded through us, because our human nature has been corrupted and we have become broken vessels that cannot retain the water of divine life. That is to look at our situation from God’s point of view. If we examine it from our own human perspective, the problem doesn’t get any easier. In order to be reconciled to God, the debt owed to Him by our wrong-doing must be paid, but we are morally and spiritually bankrupt. Reconciliation with God also requires perfect repentance, but it takes a good person to repent since repentance involves not only eating humble pie and saying sorry to God, but also surrendering our lives to Him. If we want to reconnect with our Creator, we must abandon our self-centredness, but the problem is that the worse we are, and the prouder we are, the harder it is for us to do this.

An entire paragraph of religious nonsense written by a man clearly unfamiliar with the Old Testament or even with the unpleasant and brutal parts of the New Testament. As I have pointed out before, the God of the Bible is not loving and he is certainly not moral or holy. He is a murderous, genocidal maniac who makes Hitler look like an awesome guy by comparison. Goodness, Love, and Justice personified would not order or directly commit mass murder and genocide on multiple occasions. Goodness, Love, and Justice personified would not kill billions of people in very unpleasant ways (see the book of Revelation, if it were to come true in today’s modern world) simply for failing to believe the right things about the correct god in the correct way. Goodness, Love, and Justice would not send even a single human being to a place where they would be tormented endlessly without any hope of reprieve, forever, for ANY reason.

Fallen human beings? That myth is based on an absurd ancient creation myth involving two obviously mythical people, a talking snake, magic trees, and magic fruit! Mankind is not “fallen”. We simply are what we are as a result of millions of years of biological evolution, and like every other creature on this planet, we have evolved to be suited to our environment. Otherwise, we would not be capable of surviving. We are not perfect, but there never was a time when we were! Human nature is not broken or corrupted. I have been on this earth for 48 years now, and yes I have met some bad people in my time, but the vast majority of the people I have met have been good, whether they were religious or not. And, it just so happens that I have many friends online at http://www.ex-christian.net who, like me, used to Christians. We are not bad people because we don’t believe in God and we don’t believe in Jesus anymore. The people I know over there are all good, kind, decent, moral, loving, caring and compassionate. And they almost all are now atheists! Glory!

Given this dilemma, what did God have to do to resolve it? How could He reconcile His justice with His mercy? How could He save the human beings He had created in love from the consequences they had brought upon themselves by the misuse of their free will? How, in other words, could God save us from death and separation from Him in eternity? And let’s be clear what this involves, however upsetting it may be. To be separated from God in eternity, means to be consciously and forever separated from the source of all life, all love, all joy, all truth, and all beauty. That is an indescribably terrible fate, about which Jesus spoke with real horror in the Gospels, but it is what we all risk if we refuse to accept God’s rescue plan for ourselves. So what, then, is God’s rescue plan? How can we be reconnected with our Creator?

The God of the Bible is not just and he is not merciful. God did not create us. Like all other living creatures on this planet, we are the product of millions of years of biological evolution. If I remember correctly, the earliest hominid species is approximately two billion years old, but don’t quote me on that… Consequences because two obviously mythical people ate magic fruit from a magic tree because a lying talking snake talked them into it? Gimme a fucking break… The God of the Bible is not life, love, joy, truth, or beauty. READ YOUR OWN DAMN HOLY BOOK and rip those damn Jesus Goggles off when you do it, and you will see that for yourself! The words which Jesus allegedly spoke were put into his mouth decades after he allegedly lived and died by anonymous authors who most certainly were not eyewitnesses of the events portrayed in the Gospels. It’s been a while since I actually read any of the Gospels, but I’m pretty sure it was Jesus who introduced the morally reprehensible concept of Hell to scripture. If he would send me or any other human being there for ANY reason at all, then he is not good, loving, or holy and he is not worthy of worship. God’s rescue plan was to sacrifice Himself to Himself to save us from Himself, which is absurd!

According to Lewis, God could only save us by becoming a human being and dying on our behalf, because only in this way could He enable us to go through that process of dying to self without which true repentance and reconnection with Him is impossible. Just as we are enabled to think because God created our minds and nurtures our intelligence, so, argues Lewis, we can now repent of our sins and give ourselves to God, because the capacity to die to self is now part of God’s divine nature in Jesus, and can therefore be communicated to us through our union with Him. Our ability, if we choose, to be reunited with God, was also won for us by Jesus because, as Man, and therefore our representative, His death on the cross paid the debt owed to God’s justice by human sin. Like a judge who imposes a fine on his guilty son and then takes off his judge’s robe and pays that fine himself, so Jesus, God the Son Incarnate, suffered the penalty of sin in our place. But since He was and is divine as well as human, He overcame death and rose from the grave on our behalf, having torn down the barrier separating fallen human beings from their Creator. That is the meaning of the Atonement and the Resurrection.

Stories of dying and rising gods were around long before the time in which Jesus supposedly lived and died. This is yet another paragraph of mythological and ridiculous religious nonsense. God did not create our minds and he does not nurture our intelligence. Our brains and our minds evolved over a period of several million years, as did our intelligence. Vicarious substitutionary atonement is a barbaric doctrine that has no place in our modern civilized world, yet it is embedded within our common Western psyche as being something good and holy. I wrote recently on the subject, and here’s the link:

http://religionisbullshit.me/doctrine-substitutionary-atonement/

This video from Christopher Hitchens on the same subject is also good:

This concludes Part 5 of this glorious series. Part 6 is coming soon! Glory!

The Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement

This article is on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, which of course, is absolutely crucial to the Christian religion. In simple terms, it is the claim that one man’s sacrifice paid the price for the sins of many and satisfied the judgment and justice of God. But, is this doctrine actually true, does it make sense and, separated from its religious context, how should it be viewed by modern 21st Century people?

I firmly believed for 15 years of my life that Jesus Christ had paid the penalty for my sins against God when he died on the cross some 2000 year ago. And, of course, I believed that his resurrection assured me of an eternal life in Heaven with him. I accepted this Christian “history” as factual for many years, but by the time I reached the age of 34 in late 1999, I had many doubts and many questions about my faith that I could no longer conveniently write off as coming from the devil. I got on the Net as it was in early 2000 and went looking for information critical of the Bible and the Christian religion. I was on an honest search for answers, since what I was hearing from the popular Christian apologists of the day wasn’t satisfying me at all. I came across sites such as http://www.infidels.org and http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/ and, of course, http://www.exchristian.net. The rest, as they say, is history. It wasn’t long before I was free of the fundamentalist Christian cult, but I was left with psychological and emotional baggage that would take years to process and work through.

I have had fourteen years to think about and learn about the Christian religion and Christian doctrine from a non-believing atheist perspective, but it has only been recently that I have really seriously thought about the central Christian doctrine of substitutionary atonement. My conclusions are that it is a barbaric doctrine by today’s moral standards, and that in addition to that, it doesn’t make logical, rational sense.

Christians believe that there is one God who expresses himself in three separate but equally divine Persons — the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. This attribute of God is commonly known as the doctrine of the Trinity, but even it doesn’t make rational sense and is difficult for Christians to explain, except through bad and very loose analogies such as the three physical states of water. As they explain it liquid water, steam, and ice are all water though they exist as water in different forms. In the same way, the three members of the Trinity are all God, in different forms.

But, at any rate, the reasons that the doctrine of substitutionary atonement no longer makes sense to me are that is barbaric, it doesn’t make sense that the death of one man can pay the penalty for the wrongdoing (sin) of another, and the doctrine of the Trinity — which is absurd in and of itself — makes the doctrine of substitutionary atonement absurd.

Let’s consider the sacrifice Jesus supposedly made in light of modern standards of morality. According to the Christian story, Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1, 1:14), and he came to this earth to teach us who God is and then, as Christians believe was prophesied centuries earlier in the Old Testament starting with Genesis 3:15, he was beaten and died an excruciatingly painful death on a Roman cross. This act, supposedly, was to pay the penalty for the sins of all of mankind and to satisfy the judgment and justice of God. This all sounded wonderful beyond measure to me for many years. I was awed that Jesus loved me so much that he was willing to go through the kind of pain and suffering that he is depicted as enduring in the Gospels and to die for me. The thought that “I am so bad and so evil and so depraved that I killed Jesus” never once crossed my mind. I was just awed by what I saw at the time as an incredibly amazing act of divine love. But now… I see it as simply barbaric. Consider the flogging and crucifixion of Jesus as it is so graphically depicted in Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ.

According to the Christian story, Jesus was beaten and crucified to pay the penalty for our sins, and at least in churches that I attended, we were made to believe that Jesus had us personally in mind when he endured this brutal suffering and death 2000 years ago. But… it is an act of brutal barbarism that no longer makes sense to me. Supposedly, Jesus was God in the flesh, so God was sacrificing Himself to Himself to save us from Himself. The absurdity of that reality aside for the moment, how does the brutal beating and death of one man, Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago have any bearing on any of us living today? What meaning did it really have for those living even at that time? It no longer makes sense to me that one man can pay the penalty for the wrongdoing (sin) of another. And really, for an all-loving and all-knowing God, is the brutal beating and crucifixion and sacrifice of Himself to Himself as his one and only begotten Son the best way he could think of to deal with the problem of sin and to absolve us of them? This doctrine may have made perfect sense to the Bronze Age minds of men living 2000 years ago in a world much more brutal than our own, but to the modern 21st Century mind, when it is stripped of its religious context, it is simply brutal, and it makes no rational sense.

When I hear the story of the brutal beating and crucifixion of Jesus now, I no longer feel awe or thankfulness or even guilt or shame. All I feel, quite honestly, is horror and disgust that such a brutal and barbaric doctrine is at the heart of an ancient religion that still dominates Western thought and culture in our modern 21st Century world.

Relevant resources:

Christopher Hitchens on the subject of Vicarious Redemption

My friend Richard shares his thoughts on the subject of the sacrifice Jesus supposedly made:

http://reckersworld.jimdo.com/religion/christ-s-death-redundant/