9/27/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy unoder ~
Welcome to the second part of my examination of some of Christianity's most problematic doctrines and tenets.
In the first part, I covered Original Sin, the existence of Satan, suffering for god and spreading the word to name a few areas of concern, but it doesn't end there. Read on to find out more.
Problem 8 : Demons! Demons! Demons!
Pentecostal Christians in particular will attest that this strain of the religious virus sees demons E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. Secular music? Demons! Secular movies? More demons! Video games? Demons! Pokemon? Harry Potter? Anything that people generally enjoy, that makes them happy? Well, you get the idea.
Along with the threat of hell and the devil, many Christians see the world we live in as a playground for demons that are lurking everywhere, possessing and deceiving humans. They use fear of possession to try and stop you from doing things they do not want you to do, and some even go as far as to catalogue literally hundreds of demon types, their properties and how they work, which is somewhat ironic given their demonization (pun intended) of things like Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering.
I spent a good portion of my late teens and twenties petrified of demons, I even remember reading somewhere that demons could be transmitted through premarital sex, that people literally swapped demons every time they had sex without a ring on their finger. Even watching certain movies or learning a martial art supposedly resulted in demonic possession, and demons even supposedly “made” people gay. Then there were the truly frightening deliverance ministries, where people go to have demons cast out of them. I remember reading many accounts of such activities from books where people were allegedly healed or “delivered” from bad habits by writhing hysterically on the floor as a minister shouted at the evil spirit “in the name of Jesus”. Now, I have to wonder how if this is really as effective as fundamentalists claim, that there are never any reports in the media or in scientific journals on the success of such methods.
Of course, we know the demonic melodrama is just superstitious nonsense at best and a scare tactic at worst, but it is a very effective method of control for those that believe it. That said, few Christians ever seem to address or question the gaping flaw in this obsession with the diabolical: if god is so powerful, then how is it these demons have so much sway and influence? How is it that even Christians themselves can become possessed by evil spirits? How is it that through “spiritual warfare” demons have free reign to torment and harass believers? And why does the all powerful, almighty god seem so powerless in doing anything about it? Again, within Christianity, demons seem more ubiquitous and influential than angels or even god himself, and with all the causes of demon possession and demon swapping going on, one can only conclude that if these demons were real, they’d outnumber not only the angels, but people too. So much for the power of god.
It’s almost laughable that through this sort of teaching, Christianity has convinced millions of grown adults that they are actually monsters underneath their bed.
Problem 9 : Sex is evil, sex is sin…
Pretty much everybody who has come out of the other side of Christianity has a story to tell about ruined relationships and sexuality. In reality, humans are sexual beings by nature, and our sexuality is necessary for our survival. However Christianity distorts this, turning our natural urges and inclinations into something wicked and sinister.
Anything that can be seen as alluding to sexuality in any way is considered sinful. It is taught that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but not only that, so are sexual thoughts and “sexual sins” such as masturbation. This obviously causes confusion to a young person growing up and developing their own sexual identity. As a result of this conflict between the dictates of religion and your own nature, you find yourself in a perpetual state of inner turmoil. Sexuality then feels more like a burden or a curse. Sexual thoughts, rather than being natural to the adolescent mind are seen as the whisperings of demons, and the young believer is supposed to purge the filth and smut from their mind with constant prayer and petition. Abstinence from any sort of sexual behaviour or anything that might lead to it is mandatory and non-negotiable.
Of course sexual thoughts never fully go away, but they’re not supposed to, and as the young believer gets older and their needs continue to not be met, the torment only gets worse. For me, as a young man out in the world surrounded by women I was attracted to, I felt guilt and shame for my so-called “impure thoughts”. I also felt frustration at not being allowed to pursue a normal relationship with women that may involve sexual intercourse (I was bluntly told that sex outside marriage was a one-way ticket to hell). As I was supposed to be saving myself for marriage, I prayed and held on in faith waiting for god to bring this elusive “special person” into my life at the right time. However, god’s “promise” in this regard seemed elusive and distant, which only exacerbated my angst and turmoil. I’d find myself thinking I wanted to marry every girl I dated when the truth was, I just wanted to scratch the itch afforded to me by my own human nature. I liken the experience of trying to maintain sexual purity against such overwhelming odds to being desperate to pee but being told that you can only relieve yourself in your own toilet; and as it happens, you’re several hundred miles away from home and don’t know when you’ll be back or, for that matter, if you will.
What’s worse, the reasons I was given as to why god had not answered my prayers about providing a mate were often contradictory or just plain confusing. I was told it wasn’t the right time, that I wasn’t praying hard enough, that I had “hidden sin” or that I was putting my desires before god and my prayers were being ignored for that reason. Great, so god gave me natural urges so he could torture me with them and psychologically hold me to ransom. Obviously, none of this helped.
However, the most damning indictment of Christianity’s obsession with sexual purity can be seen when it is contrasted with the violence that makes up much of the Old Testament in particular. It would seem that god has no problem with starting or sanctioning countless wars (along with the gruesome bloodshed that inevitably follows), but doesn’t want humans to freely express physical love with one another. Killing another human being in the name of god then is more righteous than having sex with someone who is not your spouse.
Problem 10 : The end is nigh!
Since the beginnings of Christianity, the religion and its followers have been obsessed with the end of the world. The world as it is, is seen as faulty and broken, so Christians fervently await a time when Jesus returns in the clouds and fixes everything (after a prolonged period of tribulation which sees most of creation die grisly deaths before facing never ending torture in the afterlife).
In Jesus’ day, Christian adherents believed “The End” would come in their lifetime, and even though this did not happen, each subsequent generation has continued believing along the same lines regardless. Current events of a given time are interpreted as signs of the times. Wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, pestilences and progress; all of these things are repeatedly held up as signs that the end was upon us, despite the fact that there has never been a time in recorded history when any of those things didn’t occur, making Jesus’ original “prophecy” seem conveniently open-ended, vague and malleable.
Strangely, as each generation comes and goes without the world ending, rather than question the validity of such claims, Christians have actually become more fervent in their anticipation, so much so that many seem to welcome global catastrophes with glee. When 9/11 happened in the US, (followed by the 7/7 bombings here in the UK some years later), Christians were almost pleased about it, because to them, it meant “Jesus was coming soon”. Whenever wars and skirmishes flare up in the Middle East (especially in Israel), the same thing happens. In fact, may Christians would rather see turmoil in the Middle East instead of peace, and consider a would-be peacemaker to be the Antichrist (partly why Obama is so readily demonised by the same fundamentalists who were quick to rally behind Bush’s war efforts). With little to no concern for the lives lost in such tragedies, Christians embrace these things with selfish abandon, excited for the day when they’ll be whisked into the sky by Jesus and given a ringside seat from which they can watch The Tribulation.
My problem with this aspect of Christianity is twofold. For one, it robs young people in particular of any hope for the future. If you’re brought up to believe the world will end in your lifetime (as I was taught), you spend a great deal of time regretting the things you’ll never get a chance to do. Psychologically, it’s a terrible thing to do to a person; it gives them nothing to live for and, with the threats of eternal damnation for “falling away” from the faith, turns life into a grim endurance test, robbing it of any joy or purpose.
Secondly, it completely destroys any sense of compassion for humanity or the planet itself in the mind of the believer. If you think Armageddon is imminent, why do anything to help the environment? Why try to help the poor and needy, especially as Jesus says “The poor you will always have with you”? Also, as mentioned above, when large scale disaster strikes (the Japanese earthquake and tsunami or the attacks in Norway being other recent examples), it’s a reason to be cheerful, a sign the end is near.
As a believer, why contribute anything toward world improvement when you believe your god is going to suddenly blow everything up one day like a child stomping all over a sandcastle? Surely, it’s just easier to rest on your laurels, content that even as the world burns, you’ll be OK because god loves you and you’re going to heaven no matter what. Just sit back, do nothing to make the world a better place and wait for your cosmic daddy to take you away from it all. The world is evil anyway. It and its inhabitants deserve to perish.
In reality, the doomsday doctrine tends to be peddled by older believers who’ve already lived their lives. It fosters an attitude of sheer selfishness in those who want it to happen and utter fear in the young and impressionable (especially given the horrors detailed in Revelation). It forces believers to live for tomorrow and not today, and is just another reason why Christianity is antithetical to progress, encouraging laziness and a dispassionate, socially irresponsible attitude in the heart of the believer. The next problem follows on from this.
Problem 11 : God’s not a respecter of persons (except when he is)
A thorny one, this.
If the Old Testament is to be believed, the god who created the universe and everything in it loves everybody equally but also has favourites: the biblical Hebrews and their descendents, the Jews.
If the Old Testament is to be believed, the god who created the universe and everything in it loves everybody equally but also has favourites: the biblical Hebrews and their descendents, the Jews. This, for me was always one of the most glaring contradictions within the religion, and one I just learned to completely ignore. It is also placed strategically on that dangerous intersection between religion and politics, making it very difficult to challenge without false accusations of anti-Semitism. Even so, I never understood how god could have a favourite race of people, who were also allowed to terrorise, rape, pillage and conquer at his command, as seen in the OT. This is not an issue many Christians like to question, especially in the light of Dispensationalism in which believers see the modern day issues in Israeli the will of god.
Dispensationalist Christians support the Israeli conflict not out of any genuine love for those they consider god’s “chosen”, but because it suits them. To the Christians, siding with Israel no matter what is a good way of making the end of the world come quicker (as mentioned in Problem 10). As such, Christians in positions of influence and power try their best to orchestrate war in the Middle East and Israel as it meets their own ends. The lives lost in such conflicts appear to mean little to the Dispensationalists; particularly the Palestinians who follow Islam. Through this belief, their compassion is eroded and the entire issue simply becomes a matter of black and white. Us vs Them. Good vs Evil. To reasonable and rational people, it makes no sense, but to those raised on and indoctrinated with stories of biblical genocide, it makes perfect sense.
From their pulpits, Dispensationalist preachers indoctrinate the minds of compliant believers with a very biased, one-sided agenda, using allusions to non-existent prophecies and carefully selected scripture to get their flocks to agree to something that, in any other circumstances would be seen as abhorrent in the same way much of the world now views slavery, the founding of America and the apartheid regime of South Africa’s past. All in all, it paints a truly chilling picture as to what Christians will support in the name of their One True God.
Problem 12 : Anti-science
It’s no secret that Christians love to have their cake and eat it, and this is as true with science as it is anything else.
As a Christian, you are taught to largely disregard science and progress as it comes from the minds of fallen and sinful men. Instead, the bible which is seen as “god’s word” is held up as the only truth. Thus, when scientific discoveries contradict biblical myths, the Christian is expected to ignore the scientific view in place of stories they themselves would consider mythical if espoused by other faiths. At the same time, Christians are quite happy to reap the benefits of scientific discovery when it suits them. It’s genuinely comical to see Christians using the internet, a product of science and technology, to try and undermine the importance of science. Christians also own computers, drive cars, visit the doctor, use mobile phones and then turn around and say that science and progress is wicked and that man’s wisdom is “foolish”.
Interestingly, many Christians also refuse to acknowledge psychotherapy for mental problems, seeing it as a satanic endeavour. Instead, they prefer to rely on prayer and superstition (as outlined in Problem 8), which only serves as a placebo at best and at worst, exacerbates such issues. Some particularly radical believers even choose not to go to the doctor for physical ailments. As a result, these unfortunately deluded people miss out on the benefits of both modern medicine and psychotherapy, but will pray futilely for healing whilst the people they care about suffer and die needlessly.
Since its inception, Christianity has fought tooth and nail against scientific progress of any kind. Historically, the likes of Galileo and Hypatia were targeted by the church for having the bare faced temerity to learn about the natural world and teach others. Christians also block scientific advancements that don’t conform to their literalist interpretations of scripture and attack proponents of science whilst at the same time claiming to be persecuted. The level of hypocrisy and self-deceit amongst believers who take this view is truly astounding.
The biggest problem with Christianity’s never ending crusade against science is that it invariably slows down progress (as with the Dark Ages). Contrary to what believers like to think, science does not set out to disprove Christianity intentionally. It simply seeks to find out more about the natural world, and oftentimes ends up treading on the toes of Christian dogma which, already certain of its rightness, does not even give scientific discovery any due consideration (one only has to look at the age old controversy surrounding evolution to see that). By some measure of hypocrisy, Christians insist that unbelievers explore their faith with an open mind, but do not extend the very science that enriches their own lives the same courtesy.
Problem 13 : Do as I say, not as I do
With the benefit of hindsight, I am truly baffled that I was able to remain a Christian for so long when I consider the double standards of the bible’s god. He issues commandments to his followers and then breaks them with impunity. He tells us not to kill, then kills millions upon millions. He says “In your anger, do not sin” and then spends entire chapters ranting about his wrathful vengeance on those who don’t acknowledge him. He says “Love your enemies” and then smites his own enemies at the drop of a hat (with the exception of Satan who inexplicably continues to get a free pass). When humans do any of the aforementioned (unless sanctioned by god), then it is sin. When god does those things or tells others to do so, he is moving in “mysterious ways” and we just have to accept it.
Furthermore, Christians are told to automatically forgive those who wrong them (even if the person guilty of the wrongdoing hasn’t even sought forgiveness), but god only forgives those who beg and plead first. It would seem that even though god is supposed to be the bigger “person”, his mercy is conditional, whereas the mercy of humans is to be granted freely. When humans choose not to forgive, it’s a sin, when god does, he is being “just”.
Christians justify these double standards in their minds a number of ways. One way is to say that god is “sovereign” and can therefore do as he wishes, and another is to assert that since god is supposedly all-loving, that anything he does, even if it seems barbaric, cruel or hypocritical to us is still good. However, the latter argument renders the term “good” meaningless; it’s no longer about the perceived morality behind certain actions, but whatever god chooses to do at any given moment. This sends out mixed messages to the believer whose sense of right and wrong is essentially defined by god’s caprice. The logical conclusion to this sort of thinking is psychotic or disturbed people committing atrocities in the name of god. The problem with the former argument is that it makes god no different from a despotic or corrupt ruler since god is free to do whatever he wishes, yet his creation have to do exactly what he says. This particular teaching is clearly designed to make people compliant and subservient and therefore easier to control by any authority figure, particularly as the bible states that all authoritative institutions are sanctioned by god.
Problem 14 : Filthy rags?
On my way out of Christianity, like many ex-Christians, I entertained Christian Universalism for a short while. It was during this time that I started to really think about the things I’ve written here (leading me to eventually abandon Christianity altogether), but it’s also when I started to realise the problem with the orthodox Christian doctrine on faith versus works. It became untenable to me that a god of love, infinite mercy and compassion would be more concerned with what a person believed rather than what they did or how they lived their lives.
As I explored this, I realised why there is so much hypocrisy amongst the so-called body of Christ. Christians have little to no motivation to try to be good because they already believe they are good in spite of what they may do simply because of what they believe. This explains why Christians (including the many that barge on into this site) are so pompous, insensitive and full of themselves. Their beliefs give them a false sense of entitlement and superiority where they believe they have a right to say what they want to whomever they want as long as the gospel is being preached. Some will even go as far as to actually tell lies to get their point across. With regard to the issue of faith over works, it is patently obvious why so many Christians fall on the side of faith; it offers the path of least resistance and allows them to indulge their worst traits, safe in the knowledge that unlike the rest of us “sinners”, they are not perfect, but forgiven.
Common sense alone should tell anyone that if the Christian god did exist, there is no way he could possibly favour faith over acts of love and still be considered loving or just. Now with more enlightened eyes, I can see that faith is stressed to the non-believer to make Christianity seem accessible (“All I have to do is believe a story, ask Jesus into my heart, and all my sins are wiped away – woo!”), and once they have taken the bait, then prohibitions are used to keep them under control with scare tactics employed to stop them from turning away. Christianity then, is a very well devised system of psychological domination designed to manipulate the wills of those under its thrall and keep them in their place, all masquerading as something worthy and good, which is perhaps the biggest “sin” of all.
So there you have it, an exhaustive list of my biggest issues with Christianity. Several years ago, I would never have dared to write this, choosing instead to simply ignore my doubts. I would’ve consoled myself with the standard apologetics and pat answers trotted out by most Christians despite knowing full well that they didn’t adequately address my concerns. I would’ve told myself that my human reasoning was foolish and that as a sinner, there was no way I could ever understand the higher ways of a perfect god and that I should just trust and obey.
Now that I am free of the shackles of Christianity, I can embrace the doubts I was previously too scared to consider and look at them critically and objectively. Thus, writing this has been almost therapeutic for me, allowing me to finally say things I’ve thought about for much of my Christian life. I can only hope that you as the reader got as much from reading this as I did writing it.