To me, the challenges against the claims to the historicity, ethical coherence and relevance of Christianity begin with the points and questions listed below and build from there. If Christians are not able to establish reasonable (not exhaustive or perfect) answers to these issues, I don’t know how they can sincerely assert that their faith is true. It goes back to the adage of “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.
1. At least 300 million years of sentient animal suffering for creatures as large as rodents and dogs existed before humans arrived and inherited this situation. Horrendous pain was and is an intrinsic feature of the cosmos and biological life. Predation, disease, starvation, terror, depression, loneliness, birth defects, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, famine, hurricanes, meteors, tornadoes, etc. Further, predators were uniquely designed for killing other animals, just as certain kinds of diseases were designed to infect and diminish the health of living things. These facts directly contradict the idea of an all-good God who could have made a pleasant world and then humans caused the environment to change toward regular suffering and serious difficulties.
2. There is no evidence that a fall of humankind occurred.
3. There is no need for salvation unless one accepts the pure assertions of the Bible that humans are fallen from a perfectly healthy moral state at some time in the past for which we have no evidence or realistic description.
4. There is no realistic model proposed for how humans could function in a world without cell death (as this is how the Garden of Eden is often described, to various degrees). What we know as “human” includes things like a metabolism, between 50% and 90% of cells within our bodies being microbial (without human DNA) after birth onward, producing waste products that decompose, etc.
5. How is it possible, believable, intelligent, fair or wisely designed that one significant rebellion by the first humans would ruin the prospects for an inherently high quality of life for all future humans and seriously endanger them toward eternal torment unless they made the right kind of decision in response to a very confusing world full of suffering?
6. How is it possible, believable or fair that a good, competent, intelligent and wise God would make a cosmos and moral system that is so frail that it will collapse into radical disarray after just one significantly bad choice by two human beings?
I appreciate your points and have heard alternate versions of a few. I’d point out, however, that to argue against ”Christianity” is to argue against a wide variety of beliefs that have the sole common grounds that they use an interpretation of the Bible and think Jesus was exceptional. (I avoid ”extraordinary” or “divine” as there are sects that avoid even those claims.) As a Catholic my faith rejects literal interpretation of the whole Bible with the thought that some parts … creation, Eden … are poetic or metaphorical. The church has also taken the approach that there’s only one truth and if a biblical interpretation is contradicted by science then the interpretation must be wrong … not that they don’t do their best to question science longer than is necessary. In short, Christianity isn’t a megalithic entity. It’s more like a gravel mound with some 13,000 Protestant sects just in the U.S. and several divisions among those calling themselves Catholic.
Thank you for that feedback, curmudgeonlyreader.
It’s true that Roman Catholicism has many differences of interpretation, structure and emphasis in comparison to Protestantism.
My critiques of Christianity generally, and to various degrees, apply to all forms of Christianity, East or West, liberal or conservative.
Even with a more liberal or metaphorical interpretation of Christianity, the blame for the existence of heavy suffering and pain in the universe is almost always put upon humans. To me, this is absurd and inhumane. I don’t think that one can rationally and sincerely look deeply at the natural world and then conclude that God is perfectly loving or just. The only way to reach such high views of God is to depend on some added philosophy, theology or revelation.
All branches of Christianity agree on the Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed. Though liberal Christians waiver on various aspects of these creeds, their faith still begins here. That is more than enough content to justify my critiques. All of my complaints and concerns about the ethical validity, historicity and relevance of this faith are rooted in an evaluation and experience with its core and universal elements.
For example, consider my article titled, “Christ’s Numerous Failings”:
I’d love to hear what you think of this relatively short post as a whole, but here is an excerpt to begin with:
God in Jesus Christ (“on his own” during his human incarnation, at least apparently, or by means of his interdependent harmony with the Father and Holy Spirit), throughout the Old and New Testaments to varying degrees, commanded or supported these terrible things directly or indirectly (mostly directly): eternal hell based on a short earthly life, genocide, misogyny, slavery, polygamy, seasonal and colonial warfare, theocracy, capital punishments for moderate sins (such as a female lying about her virginity — which modern science has shown to be impossible to prove medically, or cursing one’s parents, or working on the Sabbath, or not keeping a known dangerous bull locked up if the bull later kills a person — but if a slave is killed the owner only has to pay a fine, or being the victim of rape if one is an engaged woman and the rape occurs in a city), animal sacrifice, excessive judgment on the vast majority of humans who did not have biblical revelation until the last few hundred years, and many other things.
These are things that Jesus never challenged because, as the New Testament and history of orthodox theology repeatedly states, he was the God of the Old Testament. Even if a believer takes a more liberal viewpoint and downplays or denies the divinity of Jesus, the same basic argument remains in tact. This teacher from ancient Galilee supports in full the God and writings of the Old Testament. He innovates on the earlier scriptures, but doesn’t contradict them. In fact, he says that he has come to fulfill the law, not abolish it.
Andy, I’ve been scouring your oeuvre, as your character intrigues me deeply. You sport a brain with leaps of horsepower; WordPress has a great incidence on Catholic/Spiritual takers, and since I lurk among the mires of poetics, I have discerned that roughly 45-47% of all poetic execution within the WordPress platform is of theological nature. And not in opposition, may I need that separation, but in tribute.
I, however, do not share of such beliefs, similarly to what you do. I believe, however, that spirituality holds the grip of its own truths, and syphons any reasonable draw by means of Absolution.
Kierkegaard told us that sense perception would invariably progress with diminishing returns, and as such, epistemology was bound to devolve into misery and weariness; under pylons of Platonic “cave perceptives”, one could assume that the volatile way in which we acquire our perceptions is detrimental to reaching material truths, and therefor, we must “leap into faith”. What cannot be justified, needn’t justification, as he told us, because it existed as a Divine plan that would ultimately safe-keep our permanence.
I, as many have, respect the incredible intellect of Kierkegaard, as well as his rightful shots at modern epistemology; but, the solution, is absolutely inadequate. The basilar nature of any religion relies simply on opposition, on outcasting realities that differ to one’s own, of assuming one is merely inept of attaining enough resolve to stratify reality as a unified scape. The Kierkegaardian Problem then unfolds into submission, something he began to be known for, rather than courage. Better yet, courage to submit, which compounds the peculiar nature of his thinking.
There are many, many others, which I could discuss with you, and probably you hold more knowledge of them than I do; from what I’ve gathered, you are quite smarter than I am. From Decartian’s proof of God through abound mathematics, that miserably failed; to Camus’ theory of the Absurd, adding to the very human nature of happiness as a forgery of happiness, as a purely perceptive controller; and even under de’wing of poets, such as Sebald’s many writings, or Eliot’s specifics of Biblical symbology to undermine the very nature of assumption under the poetic spectrum.
Furthermore, I could (and have), bout with many who justify that Absolute with knowledge, when there is none; I’ve once did so on my blog, with one individual who claimed to speak directly with God after he sustained heavy head injuries and acquired Savant Syndrome, and also claimed to prove God’s existence through Quantum jibby-jabber. As long as the Human mind disregards the origin of perception, the rules are non-existent, and thus, completely malleable. As such, I’ve since desisted on debating these issues, because after hours of brain-grinding in order to relate into spiritual realms, a Christian can merely say that they believe, and I can merely say that I don’t, and the only product is a haggard view of each-other’s intellects.
Even so, I’ve given up, and that does not mean you have to; I respect your resilience in countering the Absolute, and I offer whatever humble assistance I may provide, and a dedicated viewership, from here-on-out.
Thank you for those detailed reflections.
My views on theology continue to evolve. I call myself a theist-in-protest. My upbringing and life choices in my twenties (I’m now 42) were so deeply religious that it may be impossible for me to become an atheist. Christianity and a God-consciousness are part of me.
I see many good and healthy teachings in Christiainity and Bible, but the bad and toxic elements seem to far outweigh the former. That’s largely what this site is about. I gradually came to that conclusion and it deepened my convictions as a non-Christian. I explain this journey here:
Practically, I’m a secular Enlighetenment humanist.
I agree with you that religious thinkers like Kierkegaard have brilliant insights to share.