Why I Never Have Doubts about Leaving Christianity
I’ve talked to ex-Christians who say that every so often they have residual doubts about leaving Christianity. Myself, I never have such doubts about leaving Christianity and here is why, first generally, then specifically.
I came to my decision step-by-step, assiduously, over decades. I proceeded humbly, with an open mind, reading, thinking, and brooding over every issue.
After coming to a decision against Christianity in my late thirties, I wanted to make sure that I was right, that I wasn’t missing some esoteric insight or attitude that might yet make sense of Christianity. I embarked on a mission to informally debate knowledgeable Christians of every stripe. I talked with hundreds of them, including some top Christian apologists. I sat down with William Lane Craig (the best Christian apologist out there, in my opinion) for an hour and a half. With Hugh Ross (a legitimate astrophysicist) for two hours. With Hank Hanegraaff (“The Bible Answer Man”) for six hours over two days. With Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft (often referred to as the C. S. Lewis of our age) for twelve hours over several weeks. And these men, all extremely bright and knowledgeable, did not have good answers. I concluded I was right.
Specifically, here’s what I think are the top ten arguments against Christianity. The Christian response is in italics, followed by my rebuttal to their response.
10. An Unloving God – The God of the Old Testament is deeply unkind. He unnecessarily drowns millions of animals in the Flood story, with not one iota of compassion expressed (Gen 7:4).
It’s just a story, a cautionary tale.
There’s no such thing as “just a story.” Stories reveal mindsets. Maybe you can worship such an insensitive, cruel God; I cannot.
9. Male Chauvinism – The Christian God is male chauvinistic. First Corinthians says “the head of every man is Christ… the head of woman… is man.” (1 Cor 11:3)
Certainly, there is male chauvinism in the Bible, but it reflects the culture of the times, not the actual values of the biblical God. The Bible is very clear that God created both men and woman equally “in His own image” in Genesis 1:27.
“In His own image” is not the same thing as “equal in value and rights.” That Genesis passage is just empty rhetoric, contradicted by the more specific First Corinthians passage. And contradicted as well by Genesis 2:18, which specifically designates Eve as a “helper” to Adam. If equality between the sexes is God’s intent, then why is subordination specifically endorsed in these passages? What a great opportunity to clearly establish equality, missed.
8. False Prophecies – The Bible’s prophecies are phony. Jesus could not have been the Messiah born in Bethlehem, because that Messiah was supposed to be a… MILITARY leader (Jn 7:42, Mic 5:2-6).
Well, Christians sometimes make too much of some prophecies.
It’s not a matter of making too much of some prophecies. It’s a matter of fundamental dishonesty, to claim predictions have miraculously come true when they have not. New Testament writers mine the Old Testament and pick out elements of a passage that match but ignore the elements that do not match. Correlations deliberately drawn, do not equal predictions miraculously fulfilled.
7. Science – The biblical God doesn’t even know the nature of His own creation. The earth is NOT set on pillars (1 Sam 2:8). Ostriches are NOT uncaring parents (Job 39:13-16). And a basin, of given dimensions, cannot hold twice as much water as it can mathematically hold (2 Chr 4:2-5).
The Bible is not a science book; it’s a book about spirituality.
Why would a rational human being think that a book with blundering errors in matters of science, is somehow trustworthy in matters of spirituality? You should take to heart one of Jesus’s good teachings: “…whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Lk 16:10)
6. Homosexuality – The biblical God condemns homosexuals. That is sheer human bigotry (Lev 20:13).
If God is who He says He is, that is His prerogative, to lay down sexual ethics.
This discrimination by your God is yet another proof that He is false. Any perceptive person can see that sexual orientation has nothing to do with people’s morality, any more than being left-handed does.
5. Theology – Basic Christian theology is immoral at the deepest level. One man cannot take on the sins of other men (Rom 5:19, Heb 9:28); we are all responsible for our OWN behavior. And right BELIEF (Mk 16:16) is not the prime virtue. Right BEHAVIOR is.
Well, unlike Fundamentalists, I don’t view Jesus’s death on the cross as his dying for our sins, as some sort of correction on a cosmic balance sheet. I view his sacrificial death as an affirmation of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.
On the importance of belief, the point is that genuine, sincere belief, invariably leads to good behavior.
OK, that is a more rational assessment of Jesus’s death. But, regarding belief, you still have a necessary dichotomy; you still have to make a choice as to which is more important, belief or behavior. The thief on the cross goes to heaven because of his facile faith, but the lifelong good atheist goes to hell. That is your theology, and it is unfair. It denotes an egotistical God of power, not a God of love and justice.
4. Jesus – Jesus was certainly courageous, and impactful. But he does not qualify as the proposed Son of God, or even a wise man.
But even if one doesn’t accept him as the Son of God, Jesus is universally regarded as a transcendently wise man!
That’s because people have been culturally indoctrinated to think so. But if you look at him objectively, he was not that. Rather, he was a religious extremist, who constantly exaggerated for the sake of impact, at the expense of truth. Throughout history, humanity has been prone to lapping up the overstatements of charismatic mystics.
Claiming you can move a literal mountain (Mt 21:21), or walk on water (Mt 14:31), through just faith, is extremist. Threatening eternal condemnation for non-belief in him, is extremist (Jn 3:18). Labeling remarriage adultery, is extremist (Mk 10:11). Praising self-castration for the kingdom of God, is extremist (Mt 19:12). Advising forgiving a person 490 times, is extremist (Mt 18:22). Claiming the world is about to end in his lifetime, is extremist (Mt 24:34).
Jesus accepted the barbaric God of the Old Testament as his God. Jesus taught the concept of hell. Such a man is a religious extremist, not a beacon of morality, though, admittedly, he effectively serves as one because people focus on his good teachings and ignore his bad ones.
3. Contradictions – A valid holy book would not contradict itself, as the Bible constantly does.
But if you look at any alleged contradiction more closely, you’ll find that there are resolutions. And even if there is not a good resolution, all that would mean is that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is not true, NOT that Jesus was not who he claimed to be.
I know you Christians have an endless supply of “could-have-been” scenarios to “resolve” contradictions. But the fact that there are so, so many of them that need “resolving,” is not a good sign. I think David committing only one sin all his life, yet committing another sin, is an absolute contradiction, without a resolution (1 Kg 15:5 ≠ 2 Sam 24:10). One does not equal two. Nor does seven equal five (1 Chr 3:19-20).
You might have a case if biblical contradictions were just minor factual matters, like Jesus claiming the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, when technically it is not. Or, the resurrection accounts not matching on details. But, you have no case when we look at moral contradictions.
The biblical God regards David as “a man after My own heart” (Act 13:22), yet he was a murderer, killing a man to get his wife. Not to mention his practice of mutilating the corpses of his enemies (2 Sam 4:12, 1 Sam 17:51). This is not a man after the heart of any God worthy of worship.
2. Immoralities – A book filled with God-directed immoralities cannot be a valid book. The biblical God orders genocides (Ezk 9:5‑6), prohibits handicapped people from approaching the altar (Lev 21:17-23), sees nothing wrong with being happy to dash the enemy’s babies against a rock (Ps 137:9), commands you to stone to death friends and family who leave the religion (Dt 13:6-10), and has no problem with slavery, referring to human beings as… “property” (Lev 25:44-46)!
Slavery in the Bible was not like the slavery we’re familiar with in our own country’s history. Biblical slavery was essentially indentured servitude.
You are lying. Non-Hebrew slaves are referred to as “property” and “permanent slaves” (Lev 25:46). You were allowed to beat them (Ex 21:21). And the master, not the slave, owned the children of slaves (Ex 21:4). That is slavery; that is not “indentured servitude.” Jesus himself had no problem with slavery (Lk 12:47, Jn 13:16, Lk 17:7-10).
1. Hell – The concept of Hell is obscenely cruel, unjust, and unloving.
God does not send us to Hell. It is our own free-will choice. We send ourselves to Hell.
Free will is not the issue. The cruelty of the punishment is. You are so indoctrinated to automatically ignore the relevant aspect of any issue and proceed to pontificate on irrelevant aspects. I see it again and again, Christians deflecting to some related, but not relevant, point, instead of honestly facing an issue.
If you think a God who has a Hell… NEVER-ending, severe, torture for conscious beings (Rev 14:11), that such a God is a just, and loving, God… then you are profoundly immoral on this point, having allowed yourself to be horribly brainwashed by your religious culture. Utter cruelty does not equal love. If there is a real God, I have no doubt He is ashamed of you for believing such an idea.
And spare me your interpretation of Hell as essentially separation from God, a dismal place without love. You cannot discount the imagery Jesus used, of flames, fire, and furnace. That’s imagery for severe, active suffering, not just separation.
Spare me your interpretation of Hell as simply annihilation. Yes, there are passages you can cherry-pick to support annihilation, but most of the other passages support eternal conscious torment, and you cannot just discount them.
What’s a reasonable person to conclude? I conclude: 1) That the Bible contradicts itself on the issue of Hell and is therefore not trustworthy. 2) Jesus is not God’s representative, because he left his afterlife doctrine in such a muddled state, and did not make it clear that eternal conscious torture is in no way an expression of love or justice.
I have no doubt that Jesus was a religious extremist. That is the way he spoke. He had some inspiring, insightful, valid ideas, but also some over-the-top, untrue, unacceptable ones, Hell being the worst of these.
Thus, for these reasons, fellow ex-Christians, I have no doubts whatsoever about leaving Christianity. And neither should you. As Judge Judy says, “If it doesn’t make sense, then it’s not true.”
As a Soft Theist, believing in the probability of a general God, I believe that common sense – reason – is the true voice of God, not the voices of religious extremists throughout history.