10/23/2016 | Share this article: View CommentsBy WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
In a Pew Research poll of 2010, it was found that atheists and agnostics, on average, had a greater knowledge of Christianity than Christians. Apparently, the average Christian doesn’t spend a lot of time reading the Bible or actually thinking about his religion.
This is written to help Christians to examine their religion more closely. Of course most Christians will stop reading at this point, thinking that to question their faith is a sin against god. I contend that to avoid thinking is a very regressive and foolish policy. After all, thinking is what got us out of the caves and into houses, and – if you wish - out of false ancient religions and into modern ones. If god and/or nature gave us brains, then surely we were meant to use them.
Through my own study of Christianity, I have arrived at 5 questions about Jesus that seem to me to present very serious logical problems for Christianity. Surely there are other very good questions, but I think these will serve our purpose as well as any.
I have read quite a lot of Christian apologetics and never found compelling pro-Christian answers to any of these questions. Perhaps the Christian reader can do better? Or, wouldn’t it be interesting to ask your pastor these questions?
These questions might be thought of as the elephants in the room of Christian theology; the elephants that Christians don’t seem to notice – or if they do, don’t want to think about.
1) Why did Jesus wait thousands of years to appear on this earth?
Anthropologists tell us that modern man has been on the earth for roughly 200,000 years. Christian evolution-deniers would counter with 6 to 8 thousand years. Either way, mankind was struggling to survive and understand his purpose in the world for many thousands of years before Jesus arrived. That means man was worshipping false gods, and living by and killing each other over false rituals and moral teachings for thousands of years before Jesus finally came down to set them straight and give direction and purpose to their lives. Essentially then, didn’t Jesus just write off all those generations of humans as not particularly important? Is this what we should expect from a compassionate, loving god?
2) Why did Jesus appear only once, and only to the Jews in Israel?
Why didn’t Jesus also appear to the humans of other parts of the world? Because he didn’t, thousands of older, false religions continued to direct the lives of millions of people, and some still do. Also, Jesus never came back to head off the influence of Mohammed and now there are over a billion zealous followers of Islam in the world – and Islam is growing faster than Christianity. Doesn’t it seem like Jesus made it extremely unlikely that all the world’s people will one day understand that Jesus is the way, the one and only savior?
Some Christians might argue that Muslims have only themselves to blame for not accepting the message of Jesus. But, consider for a moment that nearly all Muslims were born into and grew up in Islamic families and cultures and have heard virtually nothing about Christianity. For most of them, to consider that their religion is false is a sin punishable by a ticket to hell. Moreover, most predominantly Islamic nations punish apostasy (renouncing Islam); in 13 countries, leaving Islam calls for the death penalty. Thus, there are extremely powerful incentives for Muslims to embrace Islam throughout their lives.
3) Why did Jesus repeatedly predict the apocalypse which never happened?
There are at least 5 passages in the New Testament where Jesus clearly prophesizes that the end of the world would come soon (Matt 10:23, Mark 13:30, Mark 9:1, Mark 14:62, Matt. 16:28). Some apologists like to argue that, to a god, 2,000 years could be like a few days to us, but that is irrelevant. The Bible was written for the instruction of man, and no normal man would think that “soon” could mean 2000 years later. Anyone hearing Jesus’ words would obviously interpret “soon” to mean within a few years at most. In fact, this is corroborated by Jesus’ words in Mark 13:30: “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.” That generation passed away nearly 2,000 years ago now, and still no apocalypse.
All the available evidence suggests that Jesus was just plain wrong and that he had no idea when the world would end. We have all seen cartoons of the white-robed, sandaled, long-haired, bearded young man standing on a soapbox holding up a “The End is Nigh!” sign. Now, was Jesus really any different?
4) Why is Jesus so accepting of hell?
In western prisons, torture is forbidden. You can hold prisoners and keep them away from the rest of society, but you don’t torture these helpless people; that is deemed “cruel and unusual punishment.” Doesn’t it seem like, in this instance at least, western governments are more compassionate than Jesus?Jesus is portrayed in much of the Bible as a forgiving figure of surpassing kindness and sympathy for the human condition. Yet, Jesus seems to have no problem at all accepting that his father (or himself?) created a torture facility meant for the eternal torment of most humans following their earthly death (“…narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt. 7:143))
Some apologists are fond of arguing that Jesus doesn’t send people to hell, they send themselves to hell. But I’m not talking about who does the sending, I’m talking about the fact that a hell was created in the first place. Obviously, if there’s really a hell, then it was designed with the express purpose of torturing humans. So who was the designer and builder? Interestingly, there is no mention in the Bible that hell was meant for rehabilitation of sinners. No, there is no rehabilitation, just one-size-fits-all eternal punishment. Modern prisons in the western world at least claim to be aimed at rehabilitation of prisoners.
In western prisons, torture is forbidden. You can hold prisoners and keep them away from the rest of society, but you don’t torture these helpless people; that is deemed “cruel and unusual punishment.” Doesn’t it seem like, in this instance at least, western governments are more compassionate than Jesus?
5) Why did Jesus never write anything?
Everything we know or think we know about Jesus comes to us second-hand (or 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.). This is for the simple reason that Jesus, as far as anyone has ever been able to discover, never wrote anything down. The story of Jesus and his philosophy was written by others, and in most cases we don’t even know who those others were, or anything about their reputations for veracity. And, they freely admit in their writings to having a pro-Jesus agenda.
Doesn’t it seem odd that the most important message ever transmitted to mankind came second-hand? According to New Testament scripture, that Jesus did thus and such, and said this and that, are merely claims by others. Jesus never testified on his own behalf. Thus, everything you have ever heard about Jesus is just hearsay; the kind of evidence that is almost never admitted in court proceedings. Don’t you find that a bit troubling?
According to scripture, Jesus’ followers often called him “Rabbi,” and Rabbis have traditionally been educated, literate men. So, doesn’t it make sense that Jesus was capable of writing if he wished to. And besides, does it make any sense at all that a god could be illiterate?
In part because Jesus never wrote anything, there are many historians and biblical scholars who don’t believe there ever was a real Jesus. They think the whole Jesus story is mere myth, and some have compelling arguments supporting their claims. If there was even a small fragment of writing that could be traced to Jesus, we would at least know that Jesus really existed. As it is, not only his miracles, but even his very existence has come to be questioned among learned men. Doesn’t this seem like a sloppy way to instruct people on the most important matters in their lives?
Perhaps none of these questions is sufficiently damning in itself to cause one to jettison his religion, but, taken together, they clearly make a case that should be considered seriously. Unfortunately, most Christians are careful to avoid any sort of discussion which calls their religion into question. They’ve made up their minds and that’s that.
Some Christians will say that we shouldn’t expect to be able to understand Jesus’ ways. But, if we refuse to think about difficult religious questions, then how are we to judge which religions make sense? The MINIMUM REQUIREMENT for believability of any god should be whether it makes sense to us. How else are we to disqualify the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Ganesh, the Hindu god with the head of an elephant? And, as far as understanding Jesus’ ways, shouldn’t we expect that Jesus could and should make sense to us if he expects us to believe?
Remember, if all a jury ever heard was the prosecution’s arguments, with no defense, then every defendant would be judged guilty. Ignoring the arguments of the other side is not only intellectually dishonest, but can be dangerous to the truth . . . and one’s peace of mind.