20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity (Part II)

Posted: March 9, 2014 in Catholicism, Christianity, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
Tags: , , , , , ,

20reasons-e-book-72by Chaz Bufe

(20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity is now available as a low-price e-book on all of the common e-book retail sites.)

 

11. Christianity has an exceedingly narrow, legalistic view of morality. Christianity not only reduces, for all practical purposes, the question of morality to that of sexual behavior, but by listing its prohibitions, it encourages an “everything not prohibited is permitted” mentality. So, for instance, medieval inquisitors tortured their victims, while at the same time they went to lengths to avoid spilling the blood of those they tortured—though they thought nothing of burning them alive. Another very relevant example is that until the latter part of the 19th century Christians engaged in the slave trade, and Christian preachers defended it, citing biblical passages from the pulpit.

Today, with the exception of a relatively few liberal churchgoers, Christians ignore the very real evils plaguing our society: poverty; homelessness; hunger; militarism; a grossly unfair distribution of wealth and income; ecological despoliation; corporate greed; overpopulation; sexism; racism; homophobia; freedom-denying, invasive drug laws; an inadequate educational system; etc., etc.—unless they’re actively working to worsen those evils in the name of Christian “morality” or “family values.”

12. Christianity encourages acceptance of real evils while focusing on imaginary evils. Organized Christianity is a skillful apologist for the status quo and all the evils that go along with it. It diverts attention from real problems by focusing attention on what should be private sexual matters, and when confronted with social evils such as poverty glibly dismisses them with platitudes such as, “The poor ye have always with you.” When confronted with the problems of militarism and war, most Christians shrug and say, “That’s human nature. It’s always been that way, and it always will.” One suspects that 200 years ago their forebears would have said exactly the same thing about slavery.

This regressive, conservative tendency of Christianity has been present from its very start. The Bible is quite explicit in its instructions to accept the status quo: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13:1–2)

13. Christianity depreciates the natural world. In addition to its morbid preoccupation with sex, Christianity creates social myopia through its emphasis on the supposed afterlife—encouraging Christians not to be concerned with “the things of this world” (except, of course, their neighbors’ sexual practices). In the conventional Christian view, life in this “vale of tears” is not important—what matters is preparing for the next life. Of course it follows from this that the “vale of tears” itself is quite unimportant—it’s merely the backdrop to the testing of the faithful.

The Christian belief in the unimportance of happiness and well-being in this world is well illustrated by a statement by St. Alphonsus:

It would be a great advantage to suffer during all our lives all the torments of the martyrs in exchange for one moment of heaven. Sufferings in this world are a sign that God loves us and intends to save us.

This focus on the afterlife often leads to a distinct lack of concern for the natural world, and sometimes to outright anti-ecological attitudes. Ronald Reagan’s fundamentalist Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, went so far as to actively encourage the strip mining and clear cutting of the American West, reasoning that ecological damage didn’t matter because the “rapture” was at hand.

14. Christianity models hierarchical, authoritarian organization. Christianity is perhaps the ultimate top-down enterprise. In its simplest form, it consists of God on top, its “servants,” the clergy, next down, and the great unwashed masses at the bottom, with those above issuing, in turn, thou-shalts and thou-shalt-nots backed by the threat of eternal damnation. But a great many Christian sects go far beyond this, having several layers of management and bureaucracy. Catholicism is perhaps the most extreme example of this with its laity, monks, nuns, priests, monsignors, bishops, archbishops, vicars general, cardinals, and popes, all giving and taking orders in an almost military manner. This type of organization cannot but accustom those in its sway—especially those who have been indoctrinated and attending its ceremonies since birth—into accepting hierarchical, authoritarian organization as the natural, if not the only, form of organization. Those who find such organization natural will see nothing wrong with hierarchical, authoritarian organization in other forms, be they corporations, with their multiple layers of brown-nosing management, or governments, with their judges, legislators, presidents, and politburos. The indoctrination by example that Christianity provides in the area of organization is almost surely a powerful influence against social change, a powerful influence against freer, more egalitarian forms of organization.

15. Christianity sanctions slavery. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the African slave trade was almost entirely conducted by Christians. (Today, it’s almost entirely conducted by Muslims.) Christian slavers transported their victims to the New World in slave ships with names such as “Mercy” and “Jesus,” where they were bought by other Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. Organized Christianity was not silent on this horror: it actively encouraged it and engaged in it. From the friars who enslaved Native Americans in the Southwest and Mexico to the Protestant preachers who defended slavery from the pulpit in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, the record of Christianity as regards slavery is quite shameful. While many abolitionists were Christians, they were a very small group, well hated by most of their fellow Christians.

The Christians who defended slavery and engaged in it were amply supported by the Bible, in which slavery is accepted as a given, as simply a part of the social landscape. There are numerous biblical passages that implicitly or explicitly endorse slavery, such as Exodus 21:20–21: “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.” Other passages that support slavery include Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9–10, Exodus 21:2–6, Leviticus 25:44–46, 1 Peter 2:18, and 1 Timothy 6:1. Christian slave owners in colonial America, and the preachers who provided them with “moral” guidance, were well acquainted with these passages.

16. Christianity is misogynistic. Misogyny is fundamental to the basic writings of Christianity. In passage after passage, women are commanded to accept an inferior role, and to be ashamed of themselves for the simple fact that they are women. Misogynistic biblical passages are so common that it’s difficult to know which to cite. From the New Testament we find “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. . . .” (Ephesians 5:22–23) and “These [redeemed] are they which were not defiled with women; . . .” (Revelation 14:4); and from the Old Testament we find “How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4) Other relevant New Testament passages include Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 11:9, and 14:34; and 1 Timothy 2:11–12 and 5:5–6. Other Old Testament passages include Numbers 5:20–22 and Leviticus 12:2–5 and 15:17–33.

Later Christian writers extended the misogynistic themes in the Bible with a vengeance. Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, wrote:

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die. . . . Woman, you are the gate to hell.

One can find similarly misogynistic—though sometimes less venomous—statements in the writings of many other church fathers and theologians, including St. Ambrose, St. Anthony, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nazianzum, and St. Jerome.

This misogynistic bias in Christianity’s basic texts has long been translated into misogyny in practice. Throughout almost the entire time that Christianity had Europe and America in its lock grip, women were treated as chattel—they had essentially no political rights, and their right to own property was severely restricted. Perhaps the clearest illustration of the status of women in the ages when Christianity was at its most powerful was the prevalence of wife beating. This degrading, disgusting practice was very common throughout Christendom well into the 19th century, and under English Common Law husbands who beat their wives were specifically exempted from prosecution. (While wife beating is still common in Christian lands, at least in some countries abusers are at least sometimes prosecuted.)
At about the same time that English Common Law (with its wife-beating exemption) was being formulated and codified, Christians all across Europe were engaging in a half-millennium-long orgy of torture and murder of “witches”—at the direct behest and under the direction of the highest church authorities. The watchword of the time was Exodus 22:18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and at the very minimum tens of thousands of women were brutally murdered as a result of this divine injunction, and the papal bulls amplifying it (e.g., Spondit Pariter, by John XXII, and Summis Desiderantes, by Innocent VIII). Andrew Dickson White notes:

On the 7th of December, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII sent forth the bull Summis Desiderantes. Of all documents ever issued from Rome, imperial or papal, this has doubtless, first and last, cost the greatest shedding of innocent blood. Yet no document was ever more clearly dictated by conscience. Inspired by the scriptural command, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” Pope Innocent exhorted the clergy of Germany to leave no means untried to detect sorcerers . . . [W]itch-finding inquisitors were authorized by the Pope to scour Europe, especially Germany, and a manual was prepared for their use [by the Dominicans Heinrich Krämer and Jacob Sprenger]—“The Witch Hammer”, Malleus Maleficarum. . . . With the application of torture to thousands of women, in accordance with the precepts laid down in the Malleus, it was not difficult to extract masses of proof . . . The poor creatures writhing on the rack, held in horror by those who had been nearest and dearest to them, anxious only for death to relieve their sufferings, confessed to anything and everything that would satisfy the inquisitors and judges. . . . Under the doctrine of “excepted cases,” there was no limit to torture for persons accused of heresy or witchcraft.

Given this bloody, hateful history, it’s not surprising that women have always held very subservient positions in Christian churches. In fact, there appear to have been no female clergy in any Christian church prior to the 20th century (with the exception of those who posed as men), and even today a great many Christian sects (most notably the Catholic Church) continue to resist ordaining female clergy. While a few liberal Protestant churches have ordained women in recent years, it’s difficult to see this as a great step forward for women; it’s easier to see it as analogous to the Ku Klux Klan’s appointing a few token blacks as Klaxons.

As for the improvements in the status of women over the last two centuries, the Christian churches either did nothing to support them or actively opposed them. This is most obvious as regards women’s control over their own bodies. Organized Christianity has opposed this from the start, and as late as the 1960s the Catholic Church was still putting its energies into the imposition of laws prohibiting access to contraceptives. Having lost that battle, Christianity has more recently put its energies into attempts to outlaw the right of women to abortion.

Many of those leading the fight for women’s rights have had no illusions about the misogynistic nature of Christianity. These women included Mary Wollstonecraft, Victoria Woodhull, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Margaret Sanger (whose slogan, “No God. No master,” remains relevant to this day).

17. Christianity is homophobic. Christianity from its beginnings has been markedly homophobic. The biblical basis for this homophobia lies in Genesis, in the story of Sodom, and in Leviticus. Leviticus 18:22 reads: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination,” and Leviticus 20:13 reads: “If a man lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

This sounds remarkably harsh, yet Leviticus proscribes a great many other things, declares many of them “abominations,” and prescribes the death penalty for several other acts, some of which are shockingly picayune. Leviticus 17:10–13 prohibits the eating of blood sausage; Leviticus 11:6–7 prohibits the eating of “unclean” hares and swine; Leviticus 11:10 declares shellfish “abominations”; Leviticus 20:9 prescribes the death penalty for cursing one’s father or mother; Leviticus 20:10 prescribes the death penalty for adultery; Leviticus 20:14 prescribes the penalty of being burnt alive for having a three-way with one’s wife and mother-in-law; and Leviticus 20:15 declares, “And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast” (which seems rather unfair to the poor beast). (One suspects that American Christians have never attempted to pass laws enforcing Leviticus 20:15, because if passed and enforced such laws would decimate both the Bible-Belt population and the cattle industry.)

Curiously, given the multitude of prohibitions in Leviticus, the vast majority of present-day Christians have chosen to focus only upon Leviticus 20:13, the verse calling for the death penalty for homosexual acts. And at least some of them haven’t been averse to acting on it. (To be fair, some Christian “reconstructionists” are currently calling for institution of the death penalty for adultery and atheism as well as for “sodomy.”)

Throughout history, homosexuality has been illegal in Christian lands, and the penalties have been severe. In the Middle Ages, gay men were sometimes burned at the stake in continental Europe, while England adopted the marginally less horrific form of execution, hanging. One member of the British royalty caught having homosexual relations suffered an even more grisly fate: Edward II’s penalty was being held down while a red hot poker was jammed through his rectum and intestines. In more modern times, countless gay people have been jailed for years for the victimless “crime” of having consensual sex. It was only in 2003 that the Supreme Court struck down the felony laws on the books in many American states prescribing lengthy prison terms for consensual “sodomy.” And many Christians would love to reinstate those laws. Having failed in the U.S., American evangelicals are now pushing foreign governments to impose brutal anti-gay laws. Their most spectacular successes have come in Uganda and in Russia (where the Putin government has also imposed anti-blasphemy laws).

Given continued Christian homophobia,  the ongoing wave of gay bashings and murders of gay people should come as no surprise. Christians can find justification for such violence in the Bible and also in the hate-filled sermons issuing from all too many pulpits in this country. If history is any indication, the homophobic messages in those sermons will continue to be issued for many years to come, as will the violence stemming from them.

18. The Bible is not a reliable guide to Christ’s teachings. Mark, the oldest of the Gospels, was written at least 30 years after Christ’s death, and the newest of them might have been written more than 200 years after his death–and all of them by authors with little, probably no, written documentation to guide them. As well, these texts have been amended, translated, and re-translated so often that it’s extremely difficult to gauge the accuracy of current editions—even aside from the matter of the accuracy of texts written decades or centuries after the death of their subject. This is such a problem that the Jesus Seminar, a colloquium of over 200 Protestant Gospel scholars mostly employed at religious colleges and seminaries, undertook in 1985 a multi-year investigation into the historicity of the statements and deeds attributed to Jesus in the New Testament. They concluded that only 18% of the statements and 16% of the deeds attributed to Jesus had a high likelihood of being historically accurate. So, in a very real sense fundamentalists—who claim to believe in the literal truth of the Bible—are not followers of Jesus Christ; rather, they are followers of those who, decades or centuries later, put words in his mouth.

19. The Bible, Christianity’s basic text, is riddled with contradictions. There are a number of glaring contradictions in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, including some within the same books. A few examples:

“. . . God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”
(James:1:13)
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.”
(Genesis 22:1)

“. . . for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever.”
(Jeremiah 3:12)
“Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn forever. Thus saith the Lord.”
(Jeremiah 17:4)

“If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.”
(John 5:31, J.C. speaking)
“I am one that bear witness of myself . . .”
(John 8:18, J.C. speaking)

and last but not least:

“I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
(Genesis 32:30)
“No man hath seen God at any time.”
(John 1:18)
“And I [God] will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts . . .”
(Exodus 33:23)

Christian apologists typically attempt to explain away such contradictions by claiming that the fault lies in the translation, and that there were no contradictions in the original text. It’s difficult to see how this could be so, given how direct many biblical contradictions are; but even if these Christian apologetics held water, it would follow that every part of the Bible should be as suspect as the contradictory sections, thus reinforcing the previous point: that the Bible is not a reliable guide to Christ’s words.

20. Christianity borrowed its central myths and ceremonies from other ancient religions. The ancient world was rife with tales of virgin births, miracle-working saviors, tripartite gods, gods taking human form, gods arising from the dead, heavens and hells, and days of judgment. In addition to the myths, many of the ceremonies of ancient religions also match those of that syncretic latecomer, Christianity. To cite but one example (there are many others), consider Mithraism, a Persian religion predating Christianity by centuries. Mithra, the savior of the Mithraic religion and a god who took human form, was born of a virgin; he belonged to the holy trinity and was a link between heaven and Earth; and he ascended into heaven after his death. His followers believed in heaven and hell, looked forward to a day of judgment, and referred to Mithra as “the Light of the World.” They also practiced baptism (for purification purposes) and ritual cannibalism—the eating of bread and the drinking of wine to symbolize the eating and drinking of the god’s body and blood. Given all this, Mithra’s birthday should come as no surprise: December 25th; this event was, of course, celebrated by Mithra’s followers at midnight.

Mithraism is but the most striking example of the appearance of these myths and ceremonies prior to the advent of Christianity. They appear—in more scattered form—in many other pre-Christian religions.

A Final Word: These are but some of the major problems attending Christianity, and they provide overwhelming reasons for its abandonment. Even if you dismiss half, two-thirds, or even three-quarters of these arguments and the evidence for them, the conclusion is still irresistible: It’s time to abandon Christianity.

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Comments
  1. […] (We looked at these in more detail in 20 Reasons to Abandon  Christianity, Part I and Part II. Here, we’re only hitting the low […]

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  2. […] 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity (Part II) […]

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  3. […] 30 Reasons to Abandon Christianity, by Chaz Bufe (Fall 2017). A much expanded version of 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity, originally a pamphlet, and which is now available in updated e-book form. The original text of 20 Reasons is available here in part 1 and part 2. […]

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