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The Problem with Extreme Christians

By Wertbag ~ 

Most modern Christians will look at the more extreme examples of believers as following false teachings or being led astray, but with numerous different interpretations and significant differences in what is taught, it is often not hard to see how the teachings and bible can lead to some extreme results without having to drift far away from what is written. A mild version of this are the many convents around the world who preach a fallen world. The nuns in these closed off communities will often pray for death, believing that Earth is a test and heaven in the reward, so once you die your worries are over and you'll be in paradise forever. They see the world as full of sin and temptation, but if you are locked away then you avoid drinking, smoking, drugs, anger, lust, stress, magic and anything that could let a demon enter your life. From an unbeliever's view this is just sad, with the people wasting their lives, achieving nothing and adding nothing to the world. Are they happy? Probably an individual question, but they are certainly fearful and look forward to death, so don't have a positive outlook on the world.

There are more harmful extremes, including groups who want a Christian theocracy. This is an easy one to understand, if you believe that Christianity is true, sin is evil and "the fool has said in his heart there is no God", then putting the righteous in charge makes sense. Some want to keep western democracy, but have only Christians in charge, while others think it should be fully church run. The line of thinking that "others" are bad, and it is their sin that causes the problems in the world, quickly leads to bigotry and the suppression of rights. Whether it be outlawing gay rights, trans rights, women's rights, the rights of other "false" religions or the rights of unbelievers, there will be restrictions imposed on those who are not in the group with the power. The western world is built on the secular ideal of separation of church and state, but of course to a true believer that rule should only apply to everyone else, because they have the truth.

Christians will look at extreme Muslim groups like the Taliban and say how horrific their laws are, while ignoring the history of their own church inflicting the same punishments. While the Taliban will kill gay people today, Christians did this previously and there are undoubtedly those who still would if the legal protections were removed. For centuries we had the inquisition throughout Europe, where devout Christians were given power above the law, and the horrors they unleashed are talked about till this day. Their extreme punishments and brutality were easily supported by biblical verses, things like "you shall not let a witch live" cannot be mis-construed, and we have many examples of God destroying those He doesn't like from setting bears on the children for insulting the prophet, to butchering the followers of Baal for failing Elijah's test, to massacring the Israelites for worshipping the golden calf, to stoning to death sabbath breakers. It is clear God wants such punishments handed out by his devoted followers, so while we see their actions as abhorrent and extreme, it is really not drifting far from what the bible says should be, and has been, done before.

There was the recent story of a mother who drowned her children to death in a bathtub. She handed herself in to police and said that what she did guaranteed her children would now be in heaven. She was unsure if her actions would send her to hell, or if faith only salvation is a thing, then her personal sacrifice and murder out of love would see her reunite with her children once she dies. Either she goes to hell, the ultimate sacrifice of love to save her children, or she goes to heaven because of her faith and love, either way the children are saved. It is hard to argue this logic as that is where faith only salvation should lead. When we have Christians saying Jeffrey Dahmer will have reached heaven due to his faith, it is hard to imagine a woman who was nowhere near as horrific, would be punished if he isn't.

One place of disagreement that has led to very different outcomes is the idea of a new covenant. This idea is that the laws presented in the OT were only meant for the Israelites at that time and are therefore all obsolete and do not apply to modern Christians. This view allows Christians to avoid the laws such as "you shall not allow a witch to live" or that Sabbath breakers should be killed, by saying those are OT laws. This appears to be an effort to cancel the laws that are horrific to our modern sensibilities so that Christians can realign with modern morals. This is at odds with Matthew 5:18 which says, "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.". This has said to Christians for thousands of years that the laws God put down have not passed away and should be followed to this day. Some sects of both Jews and Christians do, taking great lengths to avoid anything that could be considered work to be done on the Sabbath. Considering laws such as Sabbath breaking was given by God Himself and considered so bad as to be worthy of death, it does seem strange to hand wave away such a thing and say working weekends is now fine.

Of course, this idea that the OT laws still applies has led to groups such as the Soldiers of Christ, who admitted to kidnapping and murder of atheists, bombing abortion clinics and murdering abortion doctors. They believe they were justified by the bible and their killings were for the greater good and believe that it is what God would want. Looking at God's commands in the OT, it is hard to say they are wrong.

The common argument put forward by apologists to counter this is the idea of intrinsic value. We are all made in the image of God and He says, "love thy neighbor", so any hatred or violence against other people isn't matching this ideal of love. This of course runs contrary to the OT stories, where being in the image of God was no reason not to be killed or to become a slave, and no reason not to beat your slaves. Love thy neighbor, unless he breaks the Sabbath, then stone him to death, has a very different ring to it.

Originally posted in the Reasons for Disbelief thread on Ex-Christian.Net