From Atheism to Christianity – a Review – Part 4

This glorious post is Part 4 of a glorious review of this article. Parts 1, 2, and 3 can be found here, here, and here.

In addition to convincing me of the inherent reasonableness of the New Testament record of Jesus’ miracles, Lewis’s writings also helped me to understand why the Christian concept of God as a union of three persons within one Godhead (the ‘Trinity’) made sense, and why ‘God the Son’, the second person of that ‘Trinity’, had to come down into our world as Jesus, to ‘die for our sins’ and conquer death on our behalf.

There is nothing reasonable about miracles, whether we are referencing the alleged miracles of Jesus or the alleged miracles of Allah (such as Muhammad’s winged horse flying to the moon), or the alleged miracles performed by Hindu gods (such as Ganesh drinking milk). As I have pointed out in previous posts, the Gospels are not history. They are myth written decades afer the supposed life and death of Jesus, and not much else. There is absolutely nothing sensible about the doctrine of the Trinity! The Trinity is three Gods who are also somehow magically Each Other, yet they are also somehow magically separate and distinct co-eternal Persons who are all equally divine and all God. Please explain to me how this absurd nonsense “makes sense” to you. I would love to know… The concept that God had to sacrifice Himself to Himself to save us from Himself makes no rational sense at all! There is no such thing as sin. Sin is a religious concept with no demonstrable basis in reality. Myths about dying and rising gods have been around for thousands of years, yet not a single one of them is real and not a single one of them has actually conquered death, and that certainly includes Jesus.

As Lewis explains in his most readable book, Mere Christianity, God is Love personified since, as our Creator, He is the divine source and origin of all human (and animal) love. But since love involves relationships between people, we should not be altogether surprised to discover that God in His own Being is a loving union of three distinct persons – described in the New Testament as ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and ‘Holy Spirit’. It is of course true that this revelation may at first appear startling and strange, but it does not seem unreasonable once you think about it. The same thing applies to the apparently perplexing and contradictory notion of unity in diversity. How can God be a union of ‘three-in-one’? Well, says Lewis, what appears to be an impossibility in our dimension of being is not necessarily an impossibility in God’s dimension of Being. To use his very helpful analogy, you can’t picture a union of six separate squares in a two dimensional world, but you can picture a cube in a three dimensional world. So just as a cube is one body made up of six separate squares, so God is one Being made up of three separate persons. Again, this revelation may come as a shock, but it does not seem unreasonable. And this, argues Lewis, is another reason why Christianity has that strange ‘ring of truth’. It gives us information about God which no-one would ever have thought of making up, yet still manages to make some kind of sense. It involves a mystery about God which goes beyond our human understanding but not against it, which is surely what we ought to expect if there is a God.

The God of the Bible is hardly love personified, and he could hardly be said to be the source of all human and animal love. Try actually reading the Old Testament and then try, after reading the numerous accounts of God either ordering or directly committing mass murder and genocide, telling me that this God is loving. Even the New Testament doesn’t cast God in a very good light. In Acts 5, he murders two people simply for lying to him about their finances, and if the book of Revelation were to come true in today’s modern world, billions of non-Christian people would die horribly and then be sent to hell to be tormented endlessly with no hope of reprieve, forever. For a fuller treatment of the character of the Bible God, please see these links:

http://religionisbullshit.me/the-character-of-the-bible-god-2/

http://religionisbullshit.me/character-god-revisited/

The doctrine of the Trinity doesn’t make sense to me no matter how much I think about it. Three Gods who are somehow magically Each Other while at the same time being three separate and distinct Persons does not make rational sense! Every argument I have heard in defense of the Trinity has not made sense or has been absurd, and this one is no exception. That’s always a defense of religious concepts that are irrational, isn’t it? They are a “mystery that is beyond our human understanding.” I think it is much easier and much more honest to simply call it the absurd mythological bullshit that it is! Christianity has no “ring of truth” to it whatsoever, and of course concepts such as the Trinity can be made up by men, and that it obviously the case here! Nonsensical doctrines and obvious myths is not at all what I would expect from a real, existing God who was interested in revealing himself to mankind. If God actually exists, he could easily clear up the religious confusion that exists in the world by making an appearance and letting us know who he is and what he wants of us. Yet, thus far, except in the stuff of ancient myths, he has failed to do so.

I must emphasise, at this point, that the Christian concept of the Trinitarian nature of God is not something that Christian theologians simply invented many decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection. It emerged quickly and naturally as Jesus’ first disciples and followers came to understand the logical implications of His life and teachings, and reflected on what He Himself had said about His relationship and union with His ‘Father’. And since love was and is at the heart of that relationship, and explains why God created the universe and gave us the gift of life, it also tells us why His rescue plan for the human race necessitated His arrival in our world as a human being, and His cruel death under Pontius Pilate.

The alleged resurrection (Magical Undeadening) of Jesus is an obvious myth, and not a real historical event. Of course Christian theologians invented the Trinity just as they invented everything else about the religion. Religion is entirely man-made and that is a glaringly obvious fact to everyone except the religious, of course. The doctrine of the Trinity was not made official in Christian thought until the Council of Nicea in the year 325 AD. Relevant link:

http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/beliefs/trinity.htm

God’s “rescue plan” is absurd! God had to brutally torture Himself and sacrifice Himself to Himself to save us from Himself? Or, in more humorous terms, Jesus (the Magic Sky Man) had to be brutally tortured by the Sky Him version of Himself and then He had to sacrifice Himself to Himself to save us from the Holy Farter version of Himself? Just how, exactly, does this absurd nonsense make rational sense to you?

As I have already pointed out, the God of the Bible is not loving, and he did not create the universe. I will not get into a deep discussion of cosmology because it’s not my field of expertise at all, but the universe was created approximately 13.7 billion years ago by the process known as the Big Bang. It had absolutely nothing to do with a god speaking a powerful magical spell from Nowhere, presumably in Hebrew, as the Bible absurdly asserts. It is absurd to think that a God would create this enormous universe, which consists of billions of galaxies, with mankind in mind. As Carl Sagan so beautifully put it in his Pale Blue Dot:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

This concludes Part 4 of this glorious series. Part 5 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/