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Reason vs. Culture

By Peacefully Hiding ~

It's easy to be a brash teen and rebel against everything, particularly deep abstract ideas, because as a teen we don't really understand everything so well. Again, abstract ideas are an easy target. Christianity is one of those ideas. It's easy to dismiss because it's actually very complex. It's woven into so much of our culture we often don't realize it. 3/4 time in music: a dedication to the trinity. Derivations of Gothic architecture: derivations of tributes, again, to the trinity. Many institutions and conventions are modeled on what we've inherited. When you really look around you you see God and Christianity is represented quite extensively, and this is sensible as Christianity has been the dominant religion of Western thought for hundreds of years. But to a teen Christianity is probably no more than an edict by their parents: go to church, dress nice, keep negative thoughts to yourself, CONTROL YOURSELF!

When we are teenagers trying to find ourselves it's easy to rebel against these restrictions and believe we are what we say we are. But then life has a way of turning the tables. Perhaps we get married and our spouse believes differently. Perhaps we join a church and see it really isn't full of nitpickers and blindly devoted followers. Perhaps we see church members doing good things within their community. Perhaps we see desperate people find help through the church they otherwise couldn't. All these things have and continue to happen all the time and are compelling reasons for a once rebellious teen to shift his opinion of the church and bible. Really, how hard is it to go along with a bunch of very nice people?

A better way to put it is a test of non-faith. If every religious person did things you approved of, even thought were very good for society, would you accept them and their religion? Would you adopt their religion if there were no scandals, no bad history and easy to accept? What if you were a guy and the only hot women were Christian? Or a woman and all the respectable men in town were Christian? We are human after all.

Such was my past and I imagine many adults have gone through the same thing. But what pulled my mind away from 'the faith'? Simply, the Bible.

My logic is thus. First it is the 'inspired' word of God. Inspired meaning some men wrote it feeling 'inspired'. That's problem number one. We see a very male perspective throughout the whole thing and, more specifically, a male Jewish early history perspective. When I read it I feel like I'm peeking into the wishes, dreams, hopes and fears of one single, narrow mindset. A mindset that has since evolved, as most modern Jewish men can't seriously believe every word to be divine or even reasonable by any stretch.

The fact that women had no hand in its creation is part of this problem. I'm a male and even I can recognize that this intentional exclusion of female authorship is bound to give a skewed perspective of anything, much less an 'inspired' perspective. The treatment of women throughout the book is less than inspiring, even though the book occasionally counter-balances this, it never gives them more than second class treatment while blaming them for many social problems.

Biblical authorship, is the first aspect of Christianity that distances me. The second is content. From the very beginning logic, reason and truth are completely discarded. Let us accept that the world was created in a day along with the idea that a day in God time is simply different than human time. A disturbing thought, but a place to start measuring how valuable the bible is. This God sets up a place where his own creations are bound to fail and, if he knows all, then he knows this. HE KNOWS HE'S GOING TO THROW HIS MOST BELOVED CREATIONS OUT OF PARADISE AND INTO THE HARSH WILDERNESS!!!! And this is 'love'?

I'm not a Christian. I do actually believe there is a God but I just don't think our bible or much of mankind's thoughts can adequately describe or define what God might be.Think about it, let's imagine you owned a dog food factory that placed all the dog food in your backyard garden. Then let's say you got two dogs (male and female) and set them in that garden, told them not to eat the dog food and left them on their own for awhile. WHAT would you expect to happen? Would you be surprised if they ate the dog food? Would you then grab them by the collar and kick them out to the curb forever? Sound kind of harsh?

And this is the relationship between God and man throughout the book. God knows his creation will not behave the way he wishes and goes so far as to destroy it but never quite does.

And then you get absurd tales like Noah's Ark thrown in between for good measure. Two animals of EVERY species? On one boat? No problems with the animals eating one another, plenty of food for all, no problem with natural ecosystems and... PLEASE!!!!

But say you skip the many illogical stories in the bible and take them as fables, fair enough. Then you still have other edicts in the old testament that are painfully absurd. No getting anywhere near a woman having her period and no eating pork. Complete prehistory mindset that just gets overlooked, which is to say modern priests and preachers can admit that these pieces of the bible have no basis for support in modern healthcare but can't admit that perhaps other parts of the bible are equally inapplicable. THAT pushes me away.

Eventually, the idea of 'God' having a relationship with man is set aside and the old Testament ends. We never see him talking to people or performing odd changes in physics the way he does in the Old Testament again. And I wonder, is that because people have the tools to actually record such wonders and investigate their truthfulness?

But we move to the new Testament. A Savior is born. And perhaps this man, Jesus, really was. But was he all that the bible says he was?

My problem with the idea of a biblical Jesus is his followers. According to the bible they see him perform miracle after miracle. He's turning water to wine, feeding hoards with a single loaf of bread, walking on water, bringing life to the dead, yet they CONTINUALLY doubt the man. THAT IS COMPLETELY ILLOGICAL. If I saw a guy literally walk on water I would probably think he could do all kinds of other things and I sure as heck wouldn't have any questions about whatever he was saying. SERIOUSLY! Think about it. We're modern people, we've seen a lot of seemingly magical things. Planes fly, flat panels speak and sing. These people had only known farming and Roman ideas at best. They see a guy walk on water and then they're like, 'do you REALLY think you can bring this guy back to life?' Heck, even the locals saw many of his 'miracles' and they give in to Roman authority. How can this be? Is it perhaps the 'miracles' were made up after a figure died?

And what about Jesus being resurrected and meeting back up with the disciples. They've spent the last few years of their lives with this guy, gave up everything to follow him, watched him tried and put to death but seeing him up close, they just have no idea WHO he is. Really? Seriously?

OK, OK. Let's say we accept all of that. Let's just say we accept that Jesus was really the Son of God. Though I don't see why we need a son, holy ghost and god that all fill the same function, how one can kill oneself and still be god, etc. but that's just more mind bending stuff you have to do if you try to fit it all together. But let's say you ignore quite a bit of the bible and accept Jesus at his word. You accept him into your heart and you're saved from a firey hell his father made for you. Again, we go back to the idea that God's creation doesn't behave the way he wanted (even though he was responsible for creating it) and so he must punish it in a painful burning hell forever because of this. But proclaiming a faith in Jesus and being baptized should get you out of that pickle. Well, depends on who you ask. Baptists say, 'yes', Catholics say 'yes, if you admit your sins to another guy who REALLY believes this stuff', Amish say, 'nope, you have to earn it every day' Does ANYONE know the truth? It doesn't seem so. Seems like a bunch of 'interpretation' of an 'inspired' word. Whose interpretation is correct? What about Jesus' words. Seems you can take them at face value, right?

Well, so it would seem until we get to 'Revelations'. In that one there's going to be a judgement and a lot of people are going to hell. Doesn't matter if they were raised as Buddhists (like most of the world actually is), they're going straight to the fiery pit with Hitler. That is, unless Hitler happened to pronounce his faith in Jesus before he committed suicide, then Hitler will be waving happily and comfortably above from heaven while others burn painfully forever.

And as if that isn't bad enough what else can anyone say about Revelations with a straight face? The absurd imagery, the bizarre numerology, the insanity, all of it is a big, unnecessary show of force and mindlessness. Why would God need to put on such a show? Who is it for? The condemned? Isn't going to a painful hell enough? And if it really is such a grotesque ending to life as we know it wouldn't it be better to keep it a surprise rather than tell mankind from the get go? Revelations is enough to send me away from the concept of Christianity.

But then there are other issues. Let's take Heaven for instance. The descriptions of it, again, point to prehistoric Jewish male minds. Streets of gold: Why? Maybe I prefer brick. Maybe seeing tacky gold streets are hell to me. Why streets at all? Maybe I like grassy fields. And what about my body. Do I get the one I had when I died, when I was young, or the one I always wanted? And what about the singing praises. I really don't like to sing all the time. It hurts my voice. Maybe I want to do other things, like jet ski. Can I jet ski while everyone sings? Will time be divided up so I can rotate the schedule? Can't I just do that here on Earth? And what about those serial killers that 'repented'. I don't want to be anywhere near them when I get to heaven. Seriously, God may have forgiven them but that doesn't mean I have. They hurt so many people in such terrible ways. Must I be forced to see them? I never want to. If I ever wanted there to be a hell that's what I'd want it for but even that just doesn't make me feel good. Can't they just be erased from all existence? And can someone who doesn't believe in the big show but asks for that forgiveness ever really fit in heaven?

No one really knows because there's nothing to know. Heaven is all in our heads.

Once you can honestly accept the bible is a well-intended but poorly constructed concept of morals you may leave it, as I did, but there's one thought that you have to get over otherwise you're doomed. I think this is what really scares people the most. That thought is, 'what happens if I ditch the bible? Will I be a morally responsible person?'

In fact, I sometimes think some people think that any denial of the bible's authority is a license to misbehave. 'If the bible is bunk I can do what I want!' And this scares them. It should, as we are all capable of terrible things. All of us. We may not act on them, ever, but they are there. The bible may define this as 'original sin', I believe it is simply our biological origins set against our environments. If we're in an environment where all our needs are satisfied then it's easy to be morally 'well-behaved'. When our needs are not met we may disregard our moral 'compass' to meet them. Perhaps in the future we will recognize that morals are a human idea that are a bit removed from natural reality for biological organisms. But can we be 'good' without the bible?

Absolutely. It is a choice. It does require a responsible attitude and awareness of our choices. Perhaps we who live without the bible's guidance feel even more responsible for our actions because we have no one to blame when we know our choices before us. We can't pin our mistakes on Jesus or God. And maybe, if there is a real God, that was the whole point of Genesis. That we find our way in this harsh world and take responsibility for ourselves. Maybe we have a greater responsibility to behave than just because 'God said so!'

And I extend this to our treatment of Christians, Jews, Muslims and the rest of humanity. I believe most people WANT to do good things. I've seen evidence of it at many churches I've visited and been a part of. Also, I've found that many at church are just as confused as a normal person might expect and don't fully buy into everything espoused by the pastor. Would we honestly expect everyone to agree completely on one thing ever? And when they do they may even define certain aspects of their faith differently than one another so that one person's 'repent' means something very different than the next. Which is to say, I don't push my beliefs on anyone and if anyone wants to push theirs on me I simply listen with respect. Respect is what civilized people SHOULD offer one another.

And so, I'm not a Christian. I do actually believe there is a God but I just don't think our bible or much of mankind's thoughts can adequately describe or define what God might be. I have done good and bad but I always try to do my best. I hope that anyone who makes the steps I have find comfort in taking responsibility for their own moral behavior and find all the pleasure of heaven around them.


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