Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

We hit 100,000 views a few days ago, and to celebrate (if that’s the right word) we’re listing the best posts we’ve published, divided by category. Here’s the first installment.






This is the first of several “best of” posts we’ll be running over the next week or two. The following installment will cover several categories: Economics (much more on capitalism there), Gardening, Interviews, and Journalism. We’ll also be putting up multiple installments devoted purely to humor, because humor posts comprise by far the largest category on this blog — over 500 total, out of the roughly 1,500 we’ve put up so far.


DEATH, n. For Christians, a blessing — the gateway to heaven, the portal to paradise. It speaks volumes of the generosity of Christians that they so freely bestow this blessing upon their enemies, yet routinely do all in their power, even in extreme old age, to deny this same blessing to themselves.

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover

QADIYA, Iraq — In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

–Mauricio Lima, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape,” New York Times 8-13-15

* * *

Before you begin spouting your canned response, “ISIS is a perversion of Islam” or it’s a “misinterpretation” of Islam,  please think about this: What kind of religious scriptures lend themselves to such “perversion” and “misinterpretation” on a mass scale?

And before you Christians start feeling too self-righteous about this, please consider that slavery flourished for over 1,500 years in Christian lands, with Christian scripture supporting the practice. Of course, Christian apologists use the same excuses as Muslim apologists: the practice of slavery resulted from “perversion” or “misinterpretation” of scripture (in this case Romans 13:1-2, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9-10, Exocus 21:2-6, Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-46, 1 Peter 2:18, 1 Timothy 6:1). Again, what kind of religious scriptures lend themselves to such “perversion” and “misinterpretation” on a mass scale?

Is this systemic “perversion” and “misinterpretation” evidence that Christian and Muslim scriptures “encourage morality,” or is it evidence that they encourage the worst types of immorality?

Is this mass “perversion” and “misinterpretation” evidence that Christian and Muslim scriptures were divinely inspired, or is it evidence that they were written by all-too-human savages?



Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In Christianity, neither morality nor religion is in contact with any point of reality. Nothing but imaginary causes (God, soul, ego, spirit, free will–or even ‘unfree will’); nothing but imaginary effects (sin, salvation, grace, punishment, forgiveness of sin). An intercourse between imaginary beings (God, spirits, souls); an imaginary science of nature (anthropocentric, absolute lack of the concept of natural causes); an imaginary psychology (nothing but self-misunderstandings … repentance, remorse of conscience, temptations by the devil, presence of God); an imaginary teleology (the kingdom of God, the last judgment, everlasting life). This purely fictitious world is greatly to its disadvantage, distinguished from the dream world in that while the latter reflects reality, the former falsifies, depreciates, and negates it. When once the concept of ‘nature’ was devised as a concept antithetical to ‘God,’ ‘natural’ had to be the word for ‘reprehensible’; that whole fictitious world has its root in hatred of the natural …”
–Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ



“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

A Memorial and Remonstrance addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785

* * *

Quoted in The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations

Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If Christianity were right, with its theories of an avenging God, of general sinfulness, of redemption, and the danger of eternal damnation, it would be a sign of weak intellect and lack of character not to become a priest, apostle or hermit, and to work only with fear and trembling for one’s own salvation; it would be senseless thus to neglect eternal benefits for temporary comfort. Taking it for granted that there is belief, the commonplace Christian is a miserable figure, a man that really cannot add two and two together, and who, moreover, just because of his mental incapacity for responsibility, does not deserve to be so severely punished as Christianity has decreed.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human



Enhanced by Zemanta

Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations


by Chaz Bufe, compiler/editor of The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations, and See Sharp Press editor

I was talking yesterday about the fear of death with one of the See Sharp Press authors, and how incongruous it seems that religious “believers” are so often terrified of death. The author mentioned that his  sister teaches at a Catholic university on the West Coast, and during a recent conversation she’d said that one of her colleagues, a Catholic priest, was dying of cancer.  When the priest told her of this, she’d said to him that his religious faith must be a great source of comfort. He admitted that it wasn’t, and that he was terrified. Score one for the priest: at least he was honest about it.

That begs the question, why are so many devout Christians, who stoutly maintain that they look forward to everlasting life in heaven, terrified of death? The obvious answer is that their actual beliefs do not match their professed beliefs. They desperately want to believe in an afterlife, but they don’t actually believe in it.

This explains a lot, including why “believers” routinely do everything in their power, even in extreme old age, to stave off death. It also explains why they’re so often hostile to atheists: the pointed words of nonbelievers threaten to burst their carefully constructed wishful-thinking bubbles. If “believers” actually believed, they wouldn’t care what atheists say. But they do. Like frightened children, they stomp their feet, howl angrily, and lash out at those who say anything that calls their wishful thinking into question.

A related aspect of this childish clinging to comforting illusions is that “believers” are pathetically eager to hear their “beliefs” parroted by others. The “reasoning” is that if everyone says their particular brand of bullshit is true, it must be true. Hence childhood religious indoctrination. Hence the perennial popularity of priests and preachers, no matter how transparently phony. Hence the huge industry in Christian books and videos, almost all of which flatter their fear-driven consumers (“the chosen,” “the elect,” “God’s people”), and tell them exactly what they want to hear.

In itself, this is enough to explain why so many Christians are terrified of death. But there’s one additional reason: atheists accept death as inevitable. For the most part we’re far from happy about it, but we accept it.  And most of us have had decades to come to terms with our own mortality. Religious “believers,” on the other hand, have spent their entire lives pretending that death doesn’t exist. They’ve spent their entire lives not coming to terms with it. So when they come face to face with death, they’re terrified.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Disbelief 101 front cover


Excerpted from Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism, by S.C. Hitchcock

In our culture, perhaps no single word conjures up such positive overtones as the word faith. Religious people often proudly proclaim themselves to be “people of faith.” Children are taught that faith is an important aspect of their upbringing. “We’re raising our child in faith” is a common parental boast.

Faith is a central aspect of Christianity and Islam. But even religions that claim not to put a high premium on faith (that is, those that don’t claim it’s the golden ticket to heaven) still need faith. Religious Jews need to have faith that there is worth in carrying out the same rituals as people who lived and died thousands of years ago in a desert. They need to have faith that there really is a savior on the way. Hindus must have faith in myriad (it doesn’t hurt to look up a word now and then) gods and to have faith that good works will move them up the reincarnation chain to enlightenment. Buddhists have to have faith that the serene feeling that they get from meditation is somehow more spiritual than the feeling I get after going for a jog. In one way or another, faith, the ability to “believe,” is an important aspect of all religions.

But why is “faith” held in such high regard. What does it mean anyway? The Oxford Dictionary defines faith like this:

1. complete trust or confidence 2. firm belief, especially without logical proof. 3. a system of religious belief; b. belief in religious doctrines.

Isn’t this a strange set of definitions? First of all, faith implies a firm belief. The person of faith is usually a person who strongly believes in something. People of faith have little or no doubt about what they believe in.

Okay, you would think that people would have this kind of faith in things that have been proven to work, that is, things that have been proven true. I have unswerving faith that dawn will come tomorrow. It’s come every day for billions of years! And I have faith that the gravity which has kept the Earth swirling around the sun will continue to work tomorrow and the next day and the next. Why? It’s always worked. It’s easy to have firm belief in something that is proven by evidence to be true.

And yet, the next part of the Oxford definition makes the first part seem bizarre. Faith is not just a firm belief; it’s a firm belief, especially without logical proof.

Now wait a minute. How can anyone have a firm belief in something without proof for it? If I were to say that I had a firm belief in the existence of sound-carrying angels or an Invisible Flying Clown, people would think I was weird. If I said I had firm belief that the Invisible Flying Clown would rescue me if I jumped off a building, I’d be considered insane. After all, gravity is known to exist. One can have real faith in gravity. If something goes up, it comes down (unless it leaves the Earth’s gravitational pull), but to put so much faith in something for which I have no evidence, to the point where I’d wager my life on it, would be nuts.

Let’s revisit a slightly different version of an example I used earlier, but go into greater detail. Let’s say there’s a very religious farm family living out in the middle of nowhere, and the youngest boy has his leg mangled in a farming accident. The boy’s mother and father, having been raised to have faith in the power of god, simply cover the boy’s leg with a sheet and pray for him.

After one day of this, the boy is in extreme shock and delirium from pain and loss of blood. The mother calls her pastor who contacts the other members of the church, and they gather to pray for the boy’s healing. The boy gets worse and worse despite the prayers. One of the members of the congregation finally suggests that the mother and father take the boy to the hospital. They don’t, thinking that if they show a lack of faith in god he will take the boy’s life. The boy is only appearing to get sicker and sicker to test his and their faith.

The boy dies.

Any rational person, even a deeply religious one, would consider the actions of everyone involved, except for the injured boy, to be criminal. Why? Isn’t faith a good thing, and the more faith the better? Why should having so much faith in god be a criminal and negligent act? Why should it be considered child endangerment?

Many religious people would answer that, while they believe in a god, they also believe that he wants them to visit a doctor. Most people see no contradiction in taking a loved one to the hospital and then praying to god for his or her recovery while that loved one gets all the help of modern medical science.

But if you really have faith, why go to the hospital?

In his wonderful book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, wrote about a study called “The Great Prayer Experiment.” It involved 1802 patients in six hospitals. All were recovering from the same type of heart surgery. The patients were divided into thirds. One group was prayed for and knew it; the second group was prayed for and didn’t know it; and the last group was not prayed for and didn’t know it.

It turns out that those in the two groups that were unaware of their prayer-status had no difference in their health or recovery. The only ones to show a difference were the people who were prayed for and knew it. They “suffered significantly more complications than those who did not [know they were being prayed for].” (p. 63) Dawkins attributes this to the added stress the knowledge brought.

This should have been an unnecessary study. A simple look at history shows that prayer does nothing. The infant mortality rate used to be much higher than it is now. Plagues used to ravage medieval Christian Europe and the Islamic nations of the Middle East. I presume that many people in these deeply religious societies prayed often and fervently and died horrible deaths regardless. Nobody in America dies of plague or smallpox anymore. Is it because we pray harder than our medieval predecessors? Or is it because science has given us better medicines?
Do we no longer have epidemics in this country be-cause god likes us better than people in the past, or is it because we discovered that sanitation and hand washing are effective in preventing outbreaks?

Ask yourself why it is that you’re supposed to have just the right amount of faith. You’re not supposed to have so much faith that you actually expect god to do anything useful, like heal the sick or rescue the helpless, but just enough so that you believe in very old texts and in wild stories. Believe just enough, the church seems to be saying, to get your behind in the seats every Saturday or Sunday.

Why do all religions put such a high premium on faith? Why do they ask their followers to “grow in faith,” when clearly growing too much in faith can become a problem and can even land you in jail? What do the religions want? They want your faith to grow, but only in certain untestable areas. Religious Jews want you to have faith that a messiah is coming to save the world and that the books of the Old Testament are literally or figuratively true. They want you to have faith that Jesus was not a messiah, or savior. The Christians want you to have faith that Jesus was the son of god and that he was born of a virgin, walked on water, healed the sick, talked to Satan, was crucified for the sins of humanity, and that he died and came back three days later. The Muslims want you to have faith that Jesus was a prophet, but not the son of god, that god is named Allah, and that his true prophet was Mohammed, who was visited by an angel in a cave and spent his life conquering territory to spread Islam, taking many underage “wives” along the way.

How can these linked religions all exist? Simple: none of them have any evidence for their claims, so there’s no way to test their validity. Each claim, without any real evidence to back it, is just as valid as the next. It is the absence of evidence, of logic, of reason, that forces all religions to put a high premium on faith. Because they have no evidence for their claims, they have to make it a virtue to believe in things that are illogical—even though in any other area to have faith in something without evidence is crazy.

Every single religion in the world teaches that you exist for only one reason: to find and believe in that religion, whatever it may be. They all teach that god went through all the trouble of creation just so you can have free will and discover his one true religion.

And most people believe that the one true religion is whichever one they grew up with.

How do the many churches of the world sell something as blatantly stupid, as sadistic, as faith? Well, they promise a lot, don’t they? These religions claim that faith is the one thing that god requires. Many believers of various sects of Christianity and Islam think that god requires that we believe in him despite all evidence against his existence and the truth of the scriptures. It is a virtue, for example, to believe in creationism and not evolution because of all the evidence stacked against the idea of creationism; and the fact that there is not a single shred of real evidence in favor of creationism is only a test of faith. God wants to see if you will trust your own mind over the ancient holy texts he had written on his behalf. If you trust your own mind, if you lose faith that these comically flawed documents are the actual truth, then you will be punished. If you keep your faith, then you will be rewarded.

What are the rewards for having such faith, we might ask?

Heaven. A place of eternal bliss.

When do you go to heaven?

After you die!!

Of course, our next question is obvious: If you don’t go to heaven until after you die, how does anyone know it exists? I think you know the answer:

You have to have FAITH!!!

And if you don’t believe in all of this nonsense, what do the many religions of the world say awaits you?

Hell. A place of eternal torment.

Take a wild guess when you go. That’s right: after you’re dead. (You’re getting good at this.) And how do we know that hell exists if people only go there after they’re dead.

Drum roll, please . . .

You have to have FAITH!!!

Oddly enough, these extremes of reward and punishment, heaven on one hand and hell on the other, are enough to scare many people into being religious. Many people go to church and give money to it like they put money into a retirement account, hoping to do just enough to get into the nice gated community that is heaven and, perhaps more importantly, avoid that nasty slum called hell.

Isn’t this insane? Isn’t this a crazy wager? What if you picked the wrong religion? What if you’re Catholic and god is a Southern Baptist? What if you’re a Hindu and god is an African Animist?

What if god wants you to conclude he’s not there, and the only people who get into heaven are those wicked atheists? Why not? If you believe in a god who enjoys playing little games, how hard is it to believe in a god who tells everybody he wants them to believe in his holy books, but who really wants them to buck the system and not believe?

Of course, I don’t believe any of this for a second. Many Christian and Muslim religious people are put off by the notion that people of other faiths, billions of people, are going to go to hell. And yet, if religious people want to believe that god lets people of all faiths into heaven, then what’s the point of believing in any particular religion?
You see the problem? If you can get into heaven being a Buddhist, Muslim, Jain, or whatever, then why should you come to—and give money to—some Christian church? From the point of view of members of any particular religion, it makes no sense to say that everyone gets into heaven; and yet it seems cruel to condemn most of humanity to hellfire for believing, with total faith, in whatever holy book and religion happened to be fashionable in the area in which they were born.

This is a real problem for those seeking to sell religion, so they mostly ignore it. In America, it is a social convention not to argue about religion. We seem to have a policy of, “if you don’t mess with my nonsense, I won’t mess with yours.” It’s downright impolite to bring up the topic of logic to a religious person.

If you ever ask people who attend a “megachurch” why they give money to it, when it’s plain for anyone to see that the tax-free cash is being used to build media empires and to line the pockets of already wealthy preachers, they’ll probably look at you funny. The truth is they don’t care where the money goes. They give the money because they have faith that god is pleased with them for giving it, and is building them a nice retirement condo in the clouds.
Because religion is a business built on faith, it has to make faith into a virtue. Religions have to get to you when you are young and plow into your impressionable mind the idea that faith is a good thing, that it’s the only thing that matters, that it’s important. Not total faith, no, just enough faith to believe what god’s spokesmen (and it is almost always men) are telling you, even when what they’re telling you is complete rubbish.

Religions have to do this. After all, faith is their only product. Faith may consume your whole life and a good deal of your money and your intellect, but it costs religions next to nothing to produce it. And the best part? Every indoctrinated child grows up to sell the product to the next generation.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Disbelief 101: A Young Person's Guide to Atheism


Excerpted from Chapter 2 of Disbelief 101:  A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism, by S.C. Hitchcock

Many religious people view atheism as simply another form of belief, no different from Christianity or Hinduism. It’s not. It’s the absence of belief. However, for a moment let’s accept the assertion that atheism is a form of religion. (I don’t really accept the idea that atheism is another type of faith, and I’ll explain why in a moment. But for the sake of argument let’s accept the assertion that atheism is just another “belief.”)

Imagine if, of all the world’s religions, one of them, say some little-known Christian church buried deep in Alabama, began to work miracles. Let’s say that the members of this church, when they prayed and did their rituals, were actually able to heal the sick in high, statistically verifiable percentages. Let’s say this church eradicated smallpox, and through its members’ prayers sent people halfway across the world in hours, and to the moon in days. Let’s say that its ministers were able to stare far out into the cosmos and down at the tiniest particles. There would seem to be nothing, given enough time, that these believers couldn’t accomplish through their religion’s rituals.

Wouldn’t this little church win converts from all around the world? Wouldn’t a religious sect with this kind of real-world power become completely dominant? It would be considered the one true faith. According to those who look at atheism as a belief, there is such a religion. It is called atheism, and it works precisely because it is so different from all of the other religions. Where the other religions assume that there are gods and a spirit world, atheism assumes there are not.

Let’s define the “religion” of atheism in this way: “Atheism believes that questions of the natural world can be solved by beginning with the proposition that there is no god. Instead, the atheist looks at evidence before making a claim.”
Okay, now let’s assume that this “religion” of atheism has a ritual; it’s called the scientific method. We’ve all learned it. One asks a question, sets up a hypothesis, runs an experiment, and then examines the evidence.

Atheism has now been defined as a “religion” with a core “theological” doctrine, and a “religious” ritual. We could stretch the metaphor to include labs as places of worship, etc., but it’s unnecessary.

Let’s now imagine our religion of atheism in the real world, where it must compete with other religions for followers. It’s just one more piece of lettuce on the salad bar of religious belief.

The atheists, using their atheistic rituals, have conquered many of humankind’s most destructive diseases. They have created artificial limbs, the telephone, flight, advances in agriculture and medicine. They have even managed to predict the weather. (Talk about prophecy!) They have created weapons technology capable of destroying the entire world many times over. Is this not a powerful religion? Has atheism not truly discovered the ways of god by simply assuming that there isn’t one?

Imagine if any single religious sect could claim the kind of success in real-world results, for good or bad, that atheistic science has. Can you imagine if an evangelical Christian church could pray a man into orbit? Would they hide this away and say that god works in mysterious ways, or would they scream it from the rooftops and win converts because of their supernatural miracle?

Atheistic science has been too successful. It makes the miraculous commonplace. If ever the world was destroyed nearly entirely, and some new race of intelligent beings, mired again in religious mumbo jumbo, discovered that we, the ancients, knew how to fly and how to prevent plagues, and could see hurricanes coming, wouldn’t they think we had some powerful religion indeed? And if we could explain it all to this new race, wouldn’t they be surprised to find that not a single one of our miracles was the result of prayer or religious ritual? That there wasn’t a single word in any of our holy books about nuclear physics, about bacteria or viruses, about meteorology? We did the miraculous, we would have to say, by assuming that miracles don’t exist and by ignoring the false teachings in our holy texts.

So if atheism is just another “belief,” why doesn’t atheism have a massive following? Why are atheists instead a small minority in America? Why are we reviled and pushed out of politics and public conversation?

It’s because the advances of science are never described as being successful primarily because science assumes there is no god. Imagine a newspaper article that described a breakthrough in the creation of a smallpox vaccine:

A group of atheists, working under the always successful assumption that there is no god and that the natural world operates without any supernatural help, found today that smallpox is in fact created by microscopic entities called viruses. Now that this evidence is in, the scientists can work on the creation of a vaccine using weakened viruses to strengthen the body’s immune system. Another victory for the atheistic world view.

Don’t you see? Everything that works in the world, everything that humanity has created works because we assume there is no god. Cars work because we assume that no god will help run them if there’s no gasoline or engine. Diseases are cured because we assume that god has nothing to do with them; so scientists look for other causes. Buildings stand because we build them strongly, knowing that the hand of god won’t hold them up.

Imagine building a car with no engine, and assuming it’s going to run on “god power.” What irony! After centuries of priests and shamans praying for signs and praying that a god or gods interfere with human lives, the only thing that has worked in the real world is to assume that god doesn’t exist! To assume there is no god is to get off on the right foot every single time.

Let’s imagine a situation where a child is badly injured. The child’s deeply religious parents, assuming there is a god who works miracles, pray over the child in their home and do not take her to the hospital. The child dies. In this case, aren’t the parents guilty of a crime? Don’t we all, deep down, know that it’s criminal to pretend there is a real god in certain situations? That injured child should have been taken to a hospital, where the doctors, who would assume that there is no god (through their actions if not their beliefs) would hopefully be able to repair her body and keep her alive. If there is a god, why does he demand that we deny him in order to make anything work?

Why don’t we begin to define atheism as a religion? Not only that, but let’s define everything that works as atheistic. Atheistic car mechanics, atheistic doctors, atheistic custodial workers. We could go on and on. Not a single profession in the entire world achieves results by assuming there is a god. That is, except for the religious profession, which exists only to perpetuate its religious beliefs. But, you might say, don’t many religious professionals do a lot to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and all that? Don’t religious people often do good things because of religion? Sure, but why do they have to do it? Because they know god won’t. Religious people themselves have to achieve real-world results in the same way that everyone else does: by assuming there is no god who’ll do it for them.

If we did define atheism as a religion, then maybe we’d start to win converts in the same kind of numbers that Jesus and Mohammed have.

But we don’t. Atheism is not a religion. What is it then? It’s an offshoot of scientific inquiry. Let me explain.
In the not so distant past, just a few centuries ago, people would look at the world and make guesses about how it worked. If a person was smart or well educated and wrote a guess down, then people began to believe it. Let’s use an example you may have learned in your science classes: that of meat and maggots. It was once believed that if you left meat out in the open it turned into maggots. After all, that’s what you saw if you left the meat out and came back a few days later. In fact, the idea that meat turns into maggots is just one of a seemingly infinite number of explanations for maggots.

Well, it’s simple to test whether or not this is true. You put meat in two jars and put them both on a window sill. Cover one with a cloth and don’t cover the other one. A few days later the uncovered jar will have maggots and the covered one won’t. Interesting. Now you know that meat doesn’t just turn into maggots. But you still don’t know that maggots are fly larvae. It could be that the sun helps the meat turn into maggots. So try the experiment again with the jars in the shade. When the results are the same, you’ll know that the sun is not a cause of maggots. But, if you’re watching, you’ll notice that flies are all over the meat in the uncovered jar. Could there be a connection? If you watch long enough, and closely enough, you’ll see that, yes, the flies are laying eggs in the meat. The hatched larvae must live off the nutrition in the dead flesh.

By collecting evidence, you found the truth. And the truth is useful because you can build upon it. Once you discover, for example, that maggots eat only dead flesh, you’ll find that they are excellent for cleaning the dead skin out of gangrenous wounds. This is an effective, though disgusting, medical procedure.

We reason in such a way. You begin by understanding something concrete and then building on it. Let’s say that we don’t know how sound works and that several of us are sitting around talking about the problem. One guy states that sound is caused by tiny little angels flying out of our mouths and entering the ears of the people we’re speaking to. Any time there’s a noise, it’s the work of angels. If it’s a really loud noise, then there are bunches of angels. The problem is that the angels get tired. If they have to fly too far, they give up or just fall down.

So this man creates a device that he thinks will carry the angels, and the sound, for long distances. It’s a complicated machine, a large pipe with holes on the sides. Every five feet, the inventor has placed strong but silent fans. The fans are at the holes to give the angels a burst of wind to help carry them farther on.

Once the contraption is built, the man stations himself at one end of the pipe and puts another person at the opposite end a mile away. He speaks and the powerful fans start whirring.

Now, let’s imagine that this inventor is in competition with a man who closely studied sound and discovered that it has a tendency to smash into an object, like a tree, but then seems to wash around the tree so that some of it comes around the other side. In fact, it acts rather like a wave.

This man realizes, because of previous scientific discoveries, that electricity, alternating current, is also a wave, and that it travels through wires. Well, if he wants to carry sound over long distances, it’s not just a matter of turning the sound wave into an electrical wave, but changing it back into sound at the other end. So, he invents a device called a telephone that translates sound waves into electrical waves when you speak into it, and turns them back into sound waves when you listen to it.

Obviously, this is just a thought experiment. No one person could discover the nature of sound and invent the telephone. This is something that happens over generations, but it illustrates my point. If you start with a belief that has no evidence to back it up, then you’ll get nowhere. The long-pipe/angel/fan machine obviously won’t work, because there are no angels.

The telephone will work because there are sound and electrical waves. In the beginning, to say that angels carry sound or to say that sound is made of invisible waves may sound equally valid, or equally crazy, but one statement has the power of evidence to back it up and the other doesn’t.

Likewise, if we begin with the idea that prayer really heals people, we will get nowhere. Prayer doesn’t heal people. Prayer affects viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells about as much as ancient or tribal people dancing around a fire and killing animals for sacrifice does.

So, let’s compare prayer with our example from above about the tiny sound-carrying angels. A contraption designed to convey sound-carrying angels over long distances doesn’t work. Why? Simple: because there are no angels. Likewise, praying to god to heal someone doesn’t work. Why? Simple: because there is no god

The thing is, atheism is not a religion. Atheism is a simple statement of disbelief in any kind of supernatural force. This statement can be made with words such as “I don’t believe in a god or group of gods.” Or, it can be made with actions such as when someone goes to the hospital because he knows that god won’t heal him. (And, I’m sorry, but the notion that god chose to heal a person through the creation of hospitals makes no sense. Where was god for the thousands of years that people got sick before hospitals existed?)

Once you’ve made that statement of disbelief, then you’re free to think about every topic, be it moral or scientific, through the use of reason and your own intellect rather than by searching some holy book for the answers given by “prophets” of questionable sanity. Religions are an end. Atheism is a beginning.

Every religion claims that human beings are put on this Earth for the express purpose of discovering that religion. Atheism says no such thing. Atheistic scientific inquiry is merely a tool that anyone can use. It’s like a hammer. And anyone can use a hammer. Scientific inquiry is like that. It doesn’t require that you convert to any ideology in order to use it.

Even a deeply religious person can use the experimental method and have it work. To be an atheist merely means that you don’t believe in anything, be it god, an Invisible Flying Clown, or sound-carrying angels, without evidence.
But wait! The religious person might be yelling at this point. You can’t prove there is no god through scientific inquiry. He could easily exist and just chooses not to answer prayers. You can’t prove that something doesn’t exist! That’s true. I can’t prove that there aren’t sound-carrying angels, either.

But, a liberal religious person might say, god does exist but he doesn’t answer prayers or interact with the natural world at all. Then, I, as the skeptic, would have to ask: “How do you know he exists?” After all, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. Prove to me he exists. If he doesn’t answer prayers, if he doesn’t interact with the natural world, then how do you know he’s there? And, given the fact that he is either actively involved in the evil of the world or completely detached and uncaring, why do you think he is good?

The religious person will undoubtedly answer with the most harmful word ever concocted in the history of humankind.


[more on this in a subsequent post–ed.]

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.”
“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.


by 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.)



This essay briefly looks at many of the reasons that Christianity is undesirable from both a personal and a social point of view. All of the matters discussed here have been dealt with elsewhere at greater length, but that’s beside the point: the purpose of 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity is to list the most outstanding misery-producing and socially destructive qualities of Christianity in one place. When considered in toto, they lead to an irresistible conclusion: that Christianity must be abandoned, for the sake of both personal happiness and social progress.

As regards the title, “abandon”—rather than “suppress” or “eliminate”—was chosen deliberately. Attempts to coercively suppress beliefs are not only ethically wrong, but in the long run they are often ineffective—as the resurgence of religion in the former Soviet Union demonstrates. If Christianity is ever to disappear, it will be because individual human beings wake up, abandon their destructive, repressive beliefs, and choose to be here now, in the only life we have.

1. Christianity is based on fear. While today there are liberal clergy who preach a gospel of love, they ignore the bulk of Christian teachings, not to mention the bulk of Christian history. Throughout almost its entire time on Earth, the motor driving Christianity has been—in addition to the fear of death—fear of the devil and fear of hell. One can only imagine how potent these threats seemed prior to the rise of science and rational thinking, which have largely robbed these bogeys of their power to inspire terror. But even today, the existence of the devil and hell are cardinal doctrinal tenets of almost all Christian creeds, and many fundamentalist preachers still openly resort to terrorizing their followers with lurid, sadistic portraits of the suffering of nonbelievers after death. This is not an attempt to convince through logic and reason; it is not an attempt to appeal to the better nature of individuals; rather, it is an attempt to whip the flock into line through threats, through appeals to a base part of human nature—fear and cowardice.

2. Christianity preys on the innocent. If Christian fear-mongering were directed solely at adults, it would be bad enough, but Christians routinely terrorize helpless children through grisly depictions of the endless horrors and suffering they’ll be subjected to if they don’t live good Christian lives. Christianity has darkened the early years of generation after generation of children, who have lived in terror of dying while in mortal sin and going to endless torment as a result. All of these children were trusting of adults, and they did not have the ability to analyze what they were being told; they were simply helpless victims, who, ironically, victimized following generations in the same manner that they themselves had been victimized. The nearly 2000 years of Christian terrorizing of children ranks as one of its greatest crimes. And it’s one that continues to this day.

As an example of Christianity’s cruel brainwashing of the innocent, consider this quotation from an officially approved, 19th-century Catholic children’s book (Tracts for Spiritual Reading, by Rev. J. Furniss, C.S.S.R.):

Look into this little prison. In the middle of it there is a boy, a young man. He is silent; despair is on him . . . His eyes are burning like two burning coals. Two long flames come out of his ears. His breathing is difficult. Sometimes he opens his mouth and breath of blazing fire rolls out of it. But listen! There is a sound just like that of a kettle boiling. Is it really a kettle which is boiling? No; then what is it? Hear what it is. The blood is boiling in the scalding veins of that boy. The brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The marrow is boiling in his bones. Ask him why he is thus tormented. His answer is that when he was alive, his blood boiled to do very wicked things.

There are many similar passages in this book. Commenting on it, William Meagher, Vicar-General of Dublin, states in his Approbation:

I have carefully read over this Little Volume for Children and have found nothing whatever in it contrary to the doctrines of the Holy Faith; but on the contrary, a great deal to charm, instruct and edify the youthful classes for whose benefit it has been written.

 3. Christianity is based on dishonesty. The Christian appeal to fear, to cowardice, is an admission that the evidence supporting Christian beliefs is far from compelling. If the evidence were such that Christianity’s truth was immediately apparent to anyone who considered it, Christians—including those who wrote the Gospels—would feel no need to resort to the cheap tactic of using threats to inspire “belief.” (“Lip service” is a more accurate term.) That the Christian clergy have been more than willing to accept such lip service (plus the money and obedience that go with it) in place of genuine belief, is an additional indictment of the basic dishonesty of Christianity.

How deep dishonesty runs in Christianity can be gauged by one of the most popular Christian arguments for belief in God: Pascal’s wager. This “wager” holds that it’s safer to “believe” in God (as if belief were volitional!) than not to believe, because God might exist, and if it does, it will save “believers” and condemn nonbelievers to hell after death. This is an appeal to pure cowardice. It has absolutely nothing to do with the search for truth. Instead, it’s an appeal to abandon honesty and intellectual integrity, and to pretend that lip service is the same thing as actual belief. If the patriarchal God of Christianity really exists, one wonders how it would judge the cowards and hypocrites who advance and bow to this particularly craven “wager.”

4. Christianity is extremely egocentric. The deep egocentrism of Christianity is intimately tied to its reliance on fear. In addition to the fears of the devil and hell, Christianity plays on another of humankind’s most basic fears: death, the dissolution of the individual ego. Perhaps Christianity’s strongest appeal is its promise of eternal life. While there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim, most people are so terrified of death that they cling to this treacly promise insisting, like frightened children, that it must be true. Nietzsche put the matter well: “salvation of the soul—in plain words, the world revolves around me.” It’s difficult to see anything spiritual in this desperate grasping at straws—this desperate grasping at the illusion of personal immortality.

Another manifestation of the extreme egotism of Christianity is the belief that God is intimately concerned with picayune aspects of, and directly intervenes in, the lives of individuals. If God, the creator and controller of the universe, is vitally concerned with your sex life, you must be pretty damned important. Many Christians take this particular form of egotism much further and actually imagine that God has a plan for them, or that God directly talks to, directs, or even does favors for them.1 If one ignored the frequent and glaring contradictions in this supposed divine guidance, and the dead bodies sometimes left in its wake, one could almost believe that the individuals making such claims are guided by God. But one can’t ignore the contradictions in and the oftentimes horrible results of following such “divine guidance.” As “Agent Mulder” put it (perhaps paraphrasing Thomas Szasz) in a 1998 X-Files episode, “When you talk to God it’s prayer, but when God talks to you it’s schizophrenia. . . . God may have his reasons, but he sure seems to employ a lot of psychotics to carry out his job orders.”

In less extreme cases, the insistence that one is receiving divine guidance or special treatment from God is usually the attempt of those who feel worthless—or helpless, adrift in an uncaring universe—to feel important or cared for. This less sinister form of egotism is commonly found in the expressions of disaster survivors that “God must have had a reason for saving me” (in contrast to their less-worthy-of-life fellow disaster victims, whom God—who controls all things—killed). Again, it’s very difficult to see anything spiritual in such egocentricity.

5. Christianity breeds arrogance, a chosen-people mentality. It’s only natural that those who believe (or play act at believing) that they have a direct line to the Almighty would feel superior to others. This is so obvious that it needs little elaboration. A brief look at religious terminology confirms it. Christians have often called themselves “God’s people,” “the chosen people,” “the elect,” “the righteous,” etc., while nonbelievers have been labeled “heathens,” “infidels,” and “atheistic Communists” (as if atheism and Communism are intimately connected). This sets up a two-tiered division of humanity, in which “God’s people” feel superior to those who are not “God’s people.”

That many competing religions with contradictory beliefs make the same claim seems not to matter at all to the members of the various sects that claim to be the only carriers of “the true faith.” The carnage that results when two competing sects of “God’s people” collide—as in Iraq, Ireland, the Indian subcontinent, and Palestine—would be quite amusing but for the suffering it causes to the innocent.

6. Christianity breeds authoritarianism. Given that Christians claim to have the one true faith, to have a book that is the Word of God, and (in many cases) to receive guidance directly from God, they feel little or no compunction about using force and coercion to enforce “God’s Will” (which they, of course, interpret and understand). Given that they believe (or pretend) that they’re receiving orders from the Almighty (who would cast them into hell should they disobey), it’s little wonder that they feel no reluctance, and in fact are eager, to intrude into the most personal aspects of the lives of nonbelievers. This is most obvious today in the area of sex, with Christians attempting to deny women the right to abortion and—ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence—to mandate ineffective abstinence-only sex “education” in the public schools. It’s also obvious in the area of science education, with Christians attempting to force biology teachers to teach their creation myth (but not those of Hindus, Native Americans, et al.) in place of (or as being equally valid as) the very well established theory of evolution. But the authoritarian tendencies of Christianity reach much further than this.

Up until well into the 20th century in the United States and other Christian countries (notably Ireland), Christian churches pressured governments into passing laws forbidding the sale and distribution of birth control devices, and they also managed to enact laws forbidding even the description of birth control devices. This assault on free speech was part and parcel of Christianity’s shameful history of attempting to suppress “indecent” and “subversive” materials (and to throw their producers in jail or burn them alive). This anti-free speech stance of Christianity dates back centuries, with the cases of Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruno (who was burnt alive) being good illustrations of it. Perhaps the most colorful example of this intrusive Christian tendency toward censorship is the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited Books, which dates from the 16th century and which was abandoned only in the latter part of the 20th century—not because the church recognized it as a crime against human freedom, but because it could no longer be enforced (not that it was ever systematically enforced—that was too big a job even for the Inquisition).

Christian authoritarianism extends, however, far beyond attempts to suppress free speech; it extends even to attempts to suppress freedom of belief. In the 15th century, under Ferdinand and Isabella at about the time of Columbus’s discovery of the New World, Spain’s Jews were ordered either to convert to Christianity or to flee the country; about half chose exile, while those who remained, the “Conversos,” were favorite targets of the Inquisition. A few years later, Spain’s Muslims were forced to make a similar choice.

This Christian hatred of freedom of belief—and of individual freedom in general—extends to this day. Up until the late 19th century in England, atheists who had the temerity to openly advocate their beliefs were jailed. Even today in many parts of the United States laws still exist that forbid atheists from serving on juries or from holding public office. And it’s no mystery what the driving force is behind laws against victimless “crimes” such as nudity, sodomy, fornication, cohabitation, and prostitution.

If your nonintrusive beliefs or actions are not in accord with Christian “morality,” you can bet that Christians will feel completely justified—not to mention righteous—in poking their noses (often in the form of state police agencies) into your private life.

7. Christianity is cruel. Throughout its history, cruelty—both to self and to others—has been one of the most prominent features of Christianity. From its very start, Christianity, with its bleak view of life, its emphasis upon sexual sin, and its almost impossible-to-meet demands for sexual “purity,” encouraged guilt, penance, and self-torture. Today, this self-torture is primarily psychological, in the form of guilt arising from following (or denying, and thus obsessing over) one’s natural sexual desires. In earlier centuries, it was often physical. W.E.H. Lecky relates:

For about two centuries, the hideous maceration of the body was regarded as the highest proof of excellence. . . . The cleanliness of the body was regarded as a pollution of the soul, and the saints who were most admired had become one hideous mass of clotted filth. . . . But of all the evidences of the loathsome excesses to which this spirit was carried, the life of St. Simeon Stylites is probably the most remarkable. . . . He had bound a rope around him so that it became embedded in his flesh, which putrefied around it. A horrible stench, intolerable to the bystanders, exhaled from his body, and worms dropped from him whenever he moved, and they filled his bed. . . . For a whole year, we are told, St. Simeon stood upon one leg, the other being covered with hideous ulcers, while his biographer [St. Anthony] was commissioned to stand by his side, to pick up the worms that fell from his body, and to replace them in the sores, the saint saying to the worms, “Eat what God has given you.” From every quarter pilgrims of every degree thronged to do him homage. A crowd of prelates followed him to the grave. A brilliant star is said to have shone miraculously over his pillar; the general voice of mankind pronounced him to be the highest model of a Christian saint; and several other anchorites [Christian hermits] imitated or emulated his penances.

Given that the Bible nowhere condemns torture and sometimes prescribes shockingly cruel punishments (such as burning alive), and that Christians so wholeheartedly approved of self-torture, it’s not surprising that they thought little of inflicting appallingly cruel treatment upon others. At the height of Christianity’s power and influence,  tens of thousands, quite possibly hundreds of thousands, of “witches” were brutally tortured and burned alive under the auspices of ecclesiastical witch finders, and the Inquisition visited similarly cruel treatment upon those accused of heresy. Henry Charles Lea records:

Two hundred wretches crowded the filthy gaol and it was requisite to forbid the rest of the Conversos [Jews intimidated into converting to Christianity] from leaving the city [Jaen, Spain] without a license. With Diego’s assistance [Diego de Algeciras, a petty criminal and kept perjurer] and the free use of torture, on both accused and witnesses, it was not difficult to obtain whatever evidence was desired. The notary of the tribunal, Antonio de Barcena, was especially successful in this. On one occasion, he locked a young girl of fifteen in a room, stripped her naked and scourged her until she consented to bear testimony against her mother. A prisoner was carried in a chair to the auto da fe with his feet burnt to the bone; he and his wife were burnt alive . . . The cells in which the unfortunates were confined in heavy chains were narrow, dark, humid, filthy and overrun with vermin, while their sequestrated property was squandered by the officials, so that they nearly starved in prison while their helpless children starved outside.

While the torture and murder of heretics and “witches” is now largely a thing of the past, Christians can still be remarkably cruel. One current example is provided by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Its members picket the funerals of victims of AIDS and gay bashings, brandishing signs reading, “God Hates Fags,” “AIDS Cures Fags,” and “Thank God for AIDS.” The pastor of this church reportedly once sent a “condolence” card to the bereaved mother of an AIDS victim, reading “Another Dead Fag.”2 Christians are also at the forefront of those advocating vicious, life-destroying penalties for those who commit victimless “crimes,” as well as being at the forefront of those who support the death penalty and those who want to make prison conditions even more barbaric than they are now.

But this should not be surprising coming from Christians, members of a religion that teaches that eternal torture is not only justified, but that the “saved” will enjoy seeing the torture of others. As St. Thomas Aquinas put it:

In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful and that they may give to God more copious thanks for it, they are permitted perfectly to behold the sufferings of the damned . . . The saints will rejoice in the punishment of the damned.

Thus the vision of heaven of Christianity’s greatest theologian is a vision of the sadistic enjoyment of endless torture.

8. Christianity is anti-intellectual, anti-scientific. For over a millennium Christianity arrested the development of science and scientific thinking. In Christendom, from the time of Augustine until the Renaissance, systematic investigation of the natural world was restricted to theological investigation—the interpretation of biblical passages, the gleaning of clues from the lives of the saints, etc. There was no direct observation and interpretation of natural processes, because that was considered a useless pursuit, as all knowledge resided in scripture. The results of this are well known: scientific knowledge advanced hardly an inch in the over 1000 years from the rise of orthodox Christianity in the fourth century to the 1500s, and the populace was mired in the deepest squalor and ignorance, living in dire fear of the supernatural—believing in paranormal explanations for the most ordinary natural events. This ignorance had tragic results: it made the populace more than ready to accept witchcraft as an explanation for everything from illness to thunderstorms, and tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of women paid for that ignorance with their lives. One of the commonest charges against witches was that they had raised hailstorms or other weather disturbances to cause misfortune to their neighbors. In an era when supernatural explanations were readily accepted, such charges held weight—and countless innocent people died horrible deaths as a result. Another result was that the fearful populace remained very dependent upon Christianity and its clerical wise men for protection against the supernatural evils which they believed surrounded and constantly menaced them. For men and women of the Middle Ages, the walls veritably crawled with demons and witches; and their only protection from those evils was the church.

When scientific investigation into the natural world resumed in the Renaissance—after a 1000-year-plus hiatus—organized Christianity did everything it could to stamp it out. The cases of Copernicus and Galileo are particularly relevant here, because when the Catholic Church banned the Copernican theory (that the Earth revolves around the sun) and banned Galileo from teaching it, it did not consider the evidence for that theory: it was enough that it contradicted scripture. Given that the Copernican theory directly contradicted the Word of God, the Catholic hierarchy reasoned that it must be false. Protestants shared this view. John Calvin rhetorically asked, “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?”

In more recent times, the Catholic Church and the more liberal Protestant congregations have realized that fighting against science is a losing battle, and they’ve taken to claiming that there is no contradiction between science and religion. This is disingenuous. As long as Christian sects continue to claim as fact—without offering a shred of evidence beyond the anecdotal—that physically impossible events (“miracles”) occurred (or are still occurring), the conflict between science and religion will remain. That many churchmen and many scientists seem content to let this conflict lie doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Today, however, the conflict between religion and science is largely being played out in the area of public school biology education, with Christian fundamentalists demanding that their creation myth be taught in place of (or along with) the theory of evolution in the public schools. Their tactics rely heavily on public misunderstanding of science. They nitpick the fossil record for its gaps (hardly surprising given that we inhabit a geologically and meteorologically very active planet), while offering absurd interpretations of their own which we’re supposed to accept at face value—such as that dinosaur fossils were placed in the earth by Satan to confuse humankind, or that Noah took baby dinosaurs on the ark.

They also attempt to take advantage of public ignorance of the nature of scientific theories. In popular use, “theory” is employed as a synonym for “hypothesis,” “conjecture,” or even “wild guess,” that is, it signifies an idea with no special merit or backing. The use of the term in science is quite different. There, “theory” refers to a testable, well-developed, logically consistent explanation of a phenomenon, and an explanation that is consistent with observed facts and that has withstood repeated testing. This is very different from a wild guess. But fundamentalists deliberately confuse the two uses of the term in an attempt to make their religious myth appear as valid as a well supported scientific theory.

They also attempt to confuse the issue by claiming that those nonspecialists who accept the theory of evolution have no more reason to do so than they have in accepting their religious creation myth, or even that those who accept evolution do so on “faith.” Again, this is more than a bit dishonest.

Thanks to scientific investigation, human knowledge has advanced to the point where no one can know more than a tiny fraction of the whole. Even the most knowledgeable scientists often know little beyond their specialty areas. But because of the structure of science, they (and everyone else) can feel reasonably secure in accepting the theories developed by scientists in other disciplines as the best possible current explanations of the areas of nature those disciplines cover. They (and we) can feel secure doing this because of the structure of science, and more particularly, because of the scientific method. That method basically consists of gathering as much information about a phenomenon (both in nature and in the laboratory) as possible, then developing explanations for it (hypotheses), and then testing the hypotheses to see how well they explain the observed facts, whether or not any of those observed facts are inconsistent with the hypotheses, and whether or not the hypotheses can generate accurate predictions. Those hypotheses that are inconsistent with observed facts are discarded or modified, while those that are consistent are retained, and those that survive repeated testing and can generate accurate predictions are often labeled “theories,” as in “the theory of relativity,” “the theory of gravity,” and “the theory of evolution.”

This is the reason that nonspecialists are justified in accepting scientific theories outside their disciplines as the best current explanations of observed phenomena: those who developed the theories were following standard scientific practice and reasoning—and if they deviate from that, other scientists will quickly call them to task.

No matter how much fundamentalists might protest to the contrary, there is a world of difference between “faith” in scientific theories (produced using the scientific method, and subject to near-continual testing and scrutiny) and faith in the entirely unsupported myths recorded 3000 years ago by slave-holding goat herders.

Nearly 500 years ago Martin Luther, in his Table Talk, stated: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.” The opposite is also true.

9. Christianity has a morbid, unhealthy preoccupation with sex. For centuries, Christianity has had an exceptionally unhealthy fixation on sex, to the exclusion of almost everything else (except power, money, and the infliction of cruelty). This stems from the numerous “thou shalt nots” relating to sex in the Bible. That the Ten Commandments contain a commandment forbidding the coveting of one’s neighbor’s wife, but do not even mention slavery, torture, or cruelty—which were abundantly common in the time the Commandments were written—speaks volumes about their writer’s preoccupation with sex (and women as property).

Today, judging from the pronouncements of many Christian leaders, one would think that “morality” consists solely of what one does in one’s bedroom. The Catholic Church is the prime example here, with its moral pronouncements rarely going beyond the matters of birth control and abortion (and with its moral emphasis seemingly entirely on those matters). Also note that the official Catholic view of sex—that it’s for the purpose of procreation only—reduces human sexual relations to those of brood animals. For more than a century, the Catholic Church has also been the driving force behind efforts to prohibit access to birth control devices and information, and abortion—to everyone, not just Catholics.

The Catholic Church, however, is far from alone in its sick obsession with sex. The current Christian hate campaign against homosexuals is another prominent manifestation of this perverse preoccupation. Even at this writing, condemnation of “sodomites” from church pulpits is still very, very common—with Christian clergymen wringing their hands as they piously proclaim that their words of hate have nothing to do with gay bashings and the murder of gays.

10. Christianity produces sexual misery. In addition to the misery produced by authoritarian Christian intrusions into the sex lives of non-Christians, Christianity produces great misery among its own adherents through its insistence that sex (except the very narrow variety it sanctions) is evil, against God’s law. Christianity proscribes sex between unmarried people, sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, bestiality,3 and even “impure” sexual thoughts. Indulging in such things can and will, in the conventional Christian view, lead straight to hell.

Given that human beings are by nature highly sexual beings, and that their urges very often do not fit into the only officially sanctioned Christian form of sexuality (monogamous, heterosexual marriage), it’s inevitable that those who attempt to follow Christian “morality” in this area are often miserable, as their strongest urges run smack dab into the wall of religious belief. This is inevitable in Christian adolescents and unmarried young people in that the only “pure” way for them to behave is celibately—in the strict Christian view, even masturbation is prohibited. Philip Roth well described the dilemma of the religiously/sexually repressed young in Portnoy’s Complaint as “being torn between desires that are repugnant to my conscience and a conscience repugnant to my desires.” Thus the years of adolescence and young adulthood for many Christians are poisoned by “sinful” urges, unfulfilled longings, and intense guilt (after the urges become too much to bear and are acted upon).

Even after Christian young people receive a license from church and state to have sex, they often discover that the sexual release promised by marriage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. One gathers that in marriages between those who have followed Christian rules up until marriage—that is, no sex at all—sexual ineptitude and lack of fulfillment are all too common. Even when Christian married people do have good sexual relations, the problems do not end. Sexual attractions ebb and flow, and new attractions inevitably arise. In conventional Christian relationships, one is not allowed to act on these new attractions. One is often not even permitted to admit that such attractions exist. As Sten Linnander puts it, “with traditional [Christian] morality, you have to choose between being unfaithful to yourself or to another.”

The dilemma is even worse for gay teens and young people in that Christianity never offers them release from their unrequited urges. They are simply condemned to lifelong celibacy. If they indulge their natural desires, they become “sodomites” subject not only to Earthly persecution (due to Christian-inspired laws), but to being roasted alive forever in the pit. Given the internalized homophobia Christian teachings inspire, not to mention the very real discrimination gay people face, it’s not surprising that a great many homosexually oriented Christians choose to live a lie. In most cases, this leads to lifelong personal torture, but it can have even more tragic results.

A prime example is Marshall Applewhite, “John Do,” the guru of the Heaven’s Gate religious cult. Applewhite grew up in the South in a repressive Christian fundamentalist family. Horrified by his homosexual urges, he began to think of sexuality itself as evil, and eventually underwent castration to curb his sexual urges.4 Several of his followers took his anti-sexual teachings to heart and likewise underwent castration before, at “Do’s” direction, killing themselves.


1. A friend who read the first draft of this manuscript notes: “My moronic sister-in-law once told me that God found her parking spots near the front door at Wal-mart! Years later, when she developed a brain tumor, I concluded that God must have gotten tired of finding parking places for her and gave her the tumor so that she could get handicapped plates.” As Nietzsche put it in The Anti-Christ: “that little hypocrites and half-crazed people dare to imagine that on their account the laws of nature are constantly broken—such an enhancement of every kind of selfishness to infinity, to impudence, cannot be branded with sufficient contempt. And yet Christianity owes its triumph to this pitiable flattery of personal vanity.”

2. The Westboro Baptist Church directly addresses the question of its hatefulness and cruelty on its web site ( “Why do you preach hate? Because the Bible preaches hate. For every one verse about God’s mercy, love, compassion, etc., there are two verses about His vengeance, hatred, wrath, etc.”

3. The repeated mention of this sin in medieval ecclesiastical writings leads one to wonder how widespread this practice was among the Christian faithful, including the Christian clergy. One 8th-century penitential (list of sins and punishments) quoted in A.A. Hadden’s Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents states: “If a cleric has fornicated with a quadruped let him do penance for, if he is a simple cleric, two years, if a deacon, three years, if a priest, seven years, if a bishop ten years.” Similar lists of sins and penalties can be found in many other penitentials.

4.Given his religious background, and that his cult mixed Christianity with UFO beliefs, Applewhite was quite probably aware of the divine approbation of self-castration in Matthew 19:12: “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs , which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

English: Israel Zangwill עברית: ישראל זנגוויל

English: Israel Zangwill עברית: ישראל זנגוויל (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

JEWS, n. A people uncontaminated by the New Testament, but who, unfortunately, have not escaped the attentions of those who are. As Israel Zangwill stated over a century ago, “The Jews are a nervous people. Nineteen centuries of Christian love have broken down their nerves.”

–From The Devil’s Dictionaries.

Definition, but for the Zangwill quote, by Chaz Bufe.

Front cover of The Devil's Dictionaries

leadby Earl Lee, author of Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity and Raptured; Earl also wrote the scholarly foreword to The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition and co-authored the original story on which Kathy De Grave based The Hour of Lead


Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus.

I know this because he mows my boss’s yard every other Thursday. Or maybe you’re thinking about Little Jesus, who worked at the meatpacking plant until the INS raided the place and sent him back to Mexico.

Then again, maybe you’re thinking about the Jesus who is the mayor of Garden City, Kansas. A Republican woman (who was just elected to State Bored of Education) said that he wasn’t born in this country and he had no business serving as mayor. But Jesus says that he was born in Garden City and so was his dad … but she’s not so
sure about that.

Then there’s The Big Lebowski‘s “Don’t fuck with the Jesus.”

And then, of course, there’s also the Jesus that the Southern Baptists talk about. That Jesus hates Catholics, homosexuals, Muslims, liberal Democrats, and a lot of other people. That Jesus is not so sure about women or
blacks, either.

I guess there’s even a Jesus who goes to the Catholic Church. He hates protestants, communists, atheists, abortion doctors, and women who use birth control. I’ve never met this Jesus, but I think he must have a son, Jesus Jr., because I read in the newspaper that a Catholic boy named Jesus accused the priest of molesting him. I don’t know what Jesus Sr. thinks about all this, but he must really like that church a lot, because he still goes there and takes communion from the people who molested Jesus Jr.

Anyway, yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus. There are lots of Jesuses. Some of them are nice guys and some of them are not.

(This post originally appeared on Earl’s blog, Kiss My Left Behind,)

Enhanced by Zemanta