My Problem with Christian Theology

11 05 2011

I’m not an atheist. I know. I’m sorry. Maybe a pantheist? A theistic-agnostic? An apatheist? A Gnostic? A mystic? A pagan-feminist? An explorer? A miscreant? Maybe I’m a permutation of the above. But I’m not religious either. For me, religion and spirituality are two separate things entirely; to confound the two constitutes a false equivalency. Spirituality is the practice of learning about and communing with the dead, the afterlife, and the nature of the universe from a personal and largely but not exclusively intuitive perspective; it is mysticism. Religion is the organized governmental or ecclesiastical control of these tendencies for a base, mundane purpose, such as social control, wealth, or power. Religion is the exploitation of spirituality.

Based upon my readings a posteriori, reflections a priori, and personal experiences, I consider the theory of life after death plausible–even reasonable (cf. Susan Blackmore vs. Pim van Lommel). I also believe strongly in the theory of evolution. So, there you go. Try to wrap your heads around that clusterfuck, bitches.

That disclaimer aside, there is a long list of problems I have with Judeo-Christian theology. This is already so obvious to the average free-thinker that I almost feel silly saying it, but I shall forge ahead nevertheless.

I had problems with Christianity very early on. I remember getting a paper-back edition of the New International Version (contemporary retard version) of the Bible for my birthday in 1986 (I would have preferred a dusty old volume commissioned by King James himself—but, unfortunately, it probably would have been made of vellum and leather, and I am pescatarian going on vegetarian). To the delight of my keen and lustful child’s eye, it came with tiny little gold stickers with which to mark noteworthy Bible verses. After playing around with the stickers (I loved stickers and even had a sticker-book with unicorns in it), I quickly grew disturbed by the things I read about in this most revered of tomes. I began to annotate the margins with statements showing my contempt for and indignation over the commandments made therein. How dare they! There was no way I was going to demand that women submit to me just because I had a penis. I was irate. How arrogant! That is the last man on earth I want to be. (I like to think I was rather precocious for an eight year-old boy.)

But that’s not all. As I grew older and developed more sophisticated thinking skills, I centred my attention on the core doctrine of evangelical Protestantism–salvation through blood sacrifice. Yes. You heard me right. Blood sacrifice. Basically, like the Jews, Protestants believe that Yahweh (God) requires blood to be drawn in order to forgive humans their sins. Originally, the Israelites had to slaughter animals in order to propitiate Yahweh and mollify his wrath, because recompense had to be made somehow. After a couple of millennia, Yahweh decided to incarnate as a human being named Yeshua, or Jesus, and have himself sacrificed instead of an animal. Humans would go to heaven if they accepted this sacrifice, and they would go to hell if they rejected it. And there were no good deeds other than this deed that one could perform to please God, no matter how hard one tried. One had to accept the sacrifice of the Christ-avatar. And, ooooh, you HAD to believe this, everybody at church said. You HAD to!

Put in these terms, the doctrine just plain sounds barbaric, and the attitude of its defenders primitive, desperate, anti-rational, and cult-like. But let us deal one-by-one with the problems underlying this doctrine.

The first problem is with the whole idea of blood sacrifice. Christianity is inextricably intertwined with it. Whether the sacrificial victim is an animal or an avatar (god-turned-human), it is still a victim of blood sacrifice. Only once the Hebrew war-god Yahweh’s appetite for blood is sated will he overlook the human transgression for which the slaughter was performed. It doesn’t matter to Yahweh that the animal being slaughtered is totally innocent, and that the sinner gets away scot-free. Indeed, the fact that the victim is innocent pleases him even more– the whole idea is that the victim has to be faultless and perfect for the sacrifice to have any currency. In essence, Yahweh is a vengeful and blood-thirsty sadist who gets a kick out of seeing innocent things slaughtered. But even if the sinner is guilty, why require of them a sacrifice rather than a reform in their behaviour? Oh, that’s right, because blood, pain, and fear are more exciting for sadistic Bronze Age war-gods. Why did we ever give up the whole blood sacrifice thing? Oh, wait, that’s right. Christians still require it–it’s just that the deed has already been done for them.

If you think that is twisted beyond imagining, consider the whole trinity thing. For most Christians, God and Jesus are literally the same being, along with the Holy Spirit (which is supposed to be some kind of entity that is active in people’s daily lives). God simply became Jesus to perform his earthly duty and get sacrificed so that the Jews wouldn’t have to keep slaughtering goats. (The only difference is that the victim is now a human. Wow. What an improvement.) But if God is Jesus, and God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then God basically committed suicide when Jesus was sacrificed on the cross. But isn’t suicide wrong for Christians? And don’t their Ten Commandments teach them that killing is wrong? If so, God isn’t setting a very good example by committing suicide to redeem humans. On top of that, Jesus is constantly referring to God his “Father” as if God is somebody else. But if Jesus and God are the same entity, wouldn’t this mean that Jesus is slightly schizophrenic? And yet Jesus, or God, is supposed to be perfect. So, basically, God had himself tortured to death so humans would pity him, so that he would thereby propitiate himself (???) and satisfy himself that those who lavished him with attention should go to heaven.

Doesn’t that seem childish and manipulative? Like throwing a temper tantrum? It’s a bit anthropomorphic—like a sublimated expression of human insecurities. But I thought God was supposed to be better than that. Oh. Wait. That’s right. We are all made in God’s image. Which suggests God is a petty war-god just like us. So what is the point in believing in him?

On top of that, we have the whole doctrine of grace thing, which states that God accepts redemption not through good deeds, but through his own charity, so long as the individual accepts the blood sacrifice. Belief in that sacrifice is the only deed the individual can perform to appease Yahweh. Nothing else they ever do–no matter how noble–will match in value the acceptance of a blood sacrifice of an innocent being, and good deeds are only a by-product, or the “fruits”, of the ultimate good deed—propitiating Yahweh’s bloodthirst. But, if we think about it, this is not exactly charity, is it? If God requires a blood sacrifice, he still requires payment of some sort, so he is not exactly showing the sinner clemency. He is still stipulating a condition for redemption. What of true magnanimity? In addition, why shouldn’t God require the sinner to pay for their sins by performing good deeds? Of what use to anybody is a slaughtered goat or man? The most logical way of repaying a transgression is by performing its opposite act, thereby replacing what has been lost. For example, if I steal something from somebody, I can correct that wrong by replacing the stolen item or performing some act which returns things to their better state. And this does not happen when one does something totally irrelevant and slaughters a goat or tortures a Jewish spiritual teacher on a cross.

On top of this, just to bring the bile to the very tip of your tongue, the Roman Catholics still cling to a rite that recalls cannibalism and vampirism. It’s called the doctrine of transubstantiation. While the Protestants believe you get to heaven solely by accepting the blood sacrifice of the Christ-avatar, the Catholics believe you can get to heaven by this as well as several other rites, called sacraments. One of these sacraments is the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the parishioner consumes a piece of bread and some wine. For Catholics, during this ritual the bread literally turns into the flesh of Christ, and the wine, the blood of Christ. The logical conclusion is that the parishioner is consuming the flesh and blood of a human being—the sacrificial lamb, which is Christ, who is God. So, for them, God became a human being whose flesh and blood one could consume to gain eternal life (go to heaven and escape hell). Does this not seem savage and bizarre?

I won’t mince words. Christian theology, as it is normally taught, is based on bloodlust, violence, misogyny, slavery, animal cruelty, death, and torture. (And the only way Christ miraculously rises from the dead, as Christians often point out he does, is by being tortured to death in the first place.) Christianity devalues altruism and extols as the only good deed the validation of blood sacrifice, for its god is appeased only through the performance or acceptance of such sacrifice, and not through anything like feeding the hungry or giving to the poor. These are merely subsidiary to the prime act—to shed blood in order to appease an angry, sadistic god. In addition, it requires the subordination of females to males, to which I can never assent. Certainly there are Christians who believe this is hogwash, and who emphasise all of the good things Jesus did and taught, but for the most part, the prevailing doctrine of this religion is the acceptance of the tortured death of their leader to pay for their sins. I don’t know about you, but I cannot be a part of such a religion. I find it abominable.

I believe in life, love, beauty, happiness, liberty, equality, pleasure, gentleness, empathy, and compassion. It is this constellation of virtues that should be the common denominator for every act we perform. I hope I can find other people who hold these values for their own sake.



6 responses

11 05 2011

Wow — firstly, I had no idea you weren’t an atheist, and, secondly, I had no idea about the demand for blood sacrifice!

Dani once told me about a quote she’d heard, it went: “Religion is for people who are afraid of Hell, spirituality is for people who have already been there.”

My big problem with religion is that it doesn’t allow people an opportunity to think for themselves; for example, why should people not harm, kill, rape, or steal from others? Because it’s WRONG — as an atheist, I’ve got a little moral compass inside that sees suffering and tells me the difference between right and wrong. It also tells me that sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong (like Mormons raising funds for Prop 8 in California) and infringing on the civil rights of others is wrong. Where do religious people get their morals from? A BOOK — which is often interpreted and twisted in cruel and hateful ways that can encourage polygamy, discriminate against same-sex unions, and demand obedience from women. Arrgh!

11 05 2011
Miriam Martin

Yes! In addition to these points, it is also a religion created by men with an interest in securing the concentration of private property in a few hands, quashing rebellion, and keeping women enslaved in order to guarantee paternity for purposes of inheritance. But, human element aside, the dictorial and barbaric god that you describe, if he existed, would be seriously due for some revolutionary overthrow! Fortunately, he doesn’t exist (thank god!) Great piece, thanks for describing it so well (and so unappologetically).

13 05 2011
Brandon Arkell

Thanks so much for your feedback, guys! I appreciate your insight, and you’ve made some good points. It’s important to remember that there were economic and political motivations for the advent of Judaism and Christianity as well. Sometimes it’s all very selfish and practical.

13 05 2011
Brandon Arkell

Christine —

Good quotation! And I can be a pantheist and agree with you on ALL of those points. For the most part–I will concede that Buddhism and Taoism, in fact a lot of eastern philosophies, are quite exceptional–religion is just a structure to serve a few by controlling and violating the many. It is not exactly humanitarian. For me, spirituality has been the victim of ecclesiastical government (religion). This means that personal, experiential understandings about cosmology have been co-opted by a well-organized body of power-seekers and exploited to serve very evil purposes. For me, this has nothing to do with the meaning of life, which, for me, is to be as good toward other people as you can.

13 05 2011
Brandon Arkell

Christine —

Oh, and I really tried to emphasise the sanguinary aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition because, while modern-day Christians don’t perform sacrificds, it is all still predicated on sacrifice. The whole point is that a sacrifice HAD to be performed–the sacrifice of Jesus, who was God killing himself–so that humans could please God. At the core of it all, a sacrifice of some sort has to be performed at some point in time, and humans have to be acquiescent in it. That’s what is so twisted to me.

13 05 2011
Brandon Arkell

Thanks again, Miram, for providing such valuable insight into the economic, sexual, and political motivations for the advent of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It really does show us how base, trivial, and surprisingly amoral the tradition can be. It’s all about money, power, land, goods, and control of women’s reproduction. How unsurprisingly un-spiritual.

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