I was a Christian for what felt like a considerable period of time, but compared to other people, I suppose four or five years is a very short amount of time to be in a religion. I was about twenty when I left, and I certainly do not regret my decision. Overall I found myself content, but towards the end of my trek I felt increasingly dissatisfied and emotionally…unwell, let’s just say. By the same token, I wouldn’t say that I regret having become a Christian. It’s part of my personal history, and is therefore part of who I am. It’s a period of my life that I left behind, but there’s no denying the mark left on me. Whether its nature is positive or negative I cannot say. Furthermore, I do not necessarily hate Christianity…well, I’ve grown to dislike contemporary Christianity, at least as I experienced it. Perhaps I also dislike the Christianity that follows faithfully from the Bible, at least some parts of it. But then, perhaps not. For all I know, I’ve only experienced contemporary Christianity — whatever the hell that is.
The point of this post is not to gain attention. This is mostly for myself: I want to put down, once and for all, why I will never come back. Still, I want to point out what I enjoyed, or what I perceived to be the most positive aspects of my experience. If, per chance, people reply to this, that’s fine. They can reply however they want — they can even try to persuade me back, if they’d like. Do what they like, this is for my own closure.
1. Community — At least as I experienced Christianity, there was a strong emphasis on community. I felt, on the whole, like I was part of something bigger than myself. This is, of course, an important part of being human. It seems like we all want to feel that. I don’t lack this currently, though. Through philosophy, I still feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself: the search for truth, wisdom, and understanding.
2. Acceptance — For the most part, I felt accepted by others, regardless of my flaws, quirks, etc. Well…quirks…that’s another thing all together. I sometimes had the feeling that some of my personal traits marked me out in a less-than-favorable way. On the whole, though, I never felt actively stigmatized in virtue of my personal traits, even though there were some who kept their interactions with me somewhat minimal. Whether or not it was because of those particular traits, I have no clue. But then again, that’s normally how human interactions work. Perhaps I expected too much.
Unfortunately, in terms of the good, that’s about it. Perhaps someone who knew me can insist that I experienced more good things. Of course, it’s up to me to decide whether or not the suggested things were actually good. In any event, here comes the real substance of the post…
Why I’ll Never Go Back
What I’m about to list are arguments that most every Christian is familiar with. Indeed, as a Christian I was familiar with them. I was never able to come up with a satisfactory counter-argument to them. I don’t think it’s possible. Perhaps a philosopher who is primarily concerned with the existence of God can give satisfactory answers to the arguments, but if there are any, they have escaped me.
1. God is Either Callous or Impotent — We’ve all heard this argument before, I’m sure. However, I think it’s more potent if we add things from the Bible: Obviously, there’s a lot of evil in the world. Not only that, but that evil is caused by people, and supposedly people are innately sinful. Supposedly, God has the power to mete out justice. Now, ask yourself this: if a judge has the means to sentence a criminal to death (supposing that criminal deserved it), and there’s a guarantee that the sentence would be carried out immediately, would it be just for the judge to wait or act immediately? Intuitively, the just thing would be to act immediately. God, however, does not do that. Supposedly, God has multiple ways of rectifying these situations. It would be just for God to mete out justice via punishment, but perhaps it would also be just if God were to change the relevant parties from the inside out completely. God does neither, apparently. There are two immediate conclusions: he is either callous or impotent.
One could reply that he waits out of wisdom, but the question isn’t one of wisdom. The issue examined here is one of justice. If God has the ability to immediately deal with evil, and if he is a maximally good being, it seems to make sense to say that the just thing would be for God to act immediately. I would invite others to offer a reason why we should think of God’s duties as being different from that of a regular judge. For my part, I can think of none: if, like in the real world, God could hold the relevant criminals away in a cell until they swear to change their minds, that would be fine. They wouldn’t be able to harm others or do various other kinds of evil deeds. However, God doesn’t do that. So I ask: why would it be acceptable to think that God doesn’t have a duty to act immediately?
Consider another analogy: if there’s a serial murderer on the loose, arguably the police have a duty to look for him. Now, we can’t blame them for not capturing him immediately, since their knowledge is imperfect. God has perfect knowledge, however. Why shouldn’t he be held accountable for not dealing with injustices immediately?
It seems to me, given God’s attributes, that we should hold him accountable for not doing something about evil. Either that, or he doesn’t have the attributes he’s purported to have.
2. What’s Up with the Devil? — ‘Lucifer’ became ‘Satan’ when he rebelled against God. God created ‘Lucifer’, knowing that he would become ‘Satan’. God also knew that ‘Satan’ would be responsible for creating all sorts of evil on earth. Why did God create ‘Lucifer’? More importantly, why didn’t God destroy ‘Satan’? Alternatively, why didn’t he make Hell a better prison for ‘Satan’? Seriously, there are some design flaws with that place if ‘Satan’ was able to get out and tempt Adam and Eve.
There were several points where God could have intervened in ‘Satan’s’ machinations. Supposedly, if he had done that, the world wouldn’t be such a screwed up place. Once again, the conclusion is the same: God is either callous or unjust for not doing anything.
3. The Resurrection is Question-Begging — Here’s what I mean: the only way that the resurrection could have happened is if an omnipotent God existed. In itself, that’s not a huge problem. But here’s what the problem is: there aren’t any arguments that can suggest the existence of an omnipotent God. There’s probably an ontological argument for it, but whether or not it’s any good is another question all-together. Think of all the arguments you know: the cosmological argument, the design argument, the ontological argument. If they are any good, they can establish that some kind of God exists. However, they cannot establish his specific nature apart from the fact that he’s the ‘greatest’ or ‘perfect’ (what exactly constitutes ‘greatest’ and ‘perfect’, anyway?), or that he at least had enough power to create the universe, get life started, etc. For all we know, that single act might have drained his power. These arguments can’t establish anything beyond that.
One could say that there are natural signs that indicate God’s nature and power, but one person’s natural sign is another person’s purely empirical experience and nothing more. In other words, your subjective experiences are not enough to establish something about the nature of a deity.
Since we can’t establish the existence of a omnipotent deity, we can’t establish that the resurrection — the cornerstone of Christian doctrine — happened. In other words, we can’t establish that the consequent of the following obtains: “If there’s an omnipotent God, the resurrection is possible.” Now, one could say that the historical evidence points to Jesus’s resurrection. If it happened, that means it’s possible. However, from that we cannot conclude that there’s an omnipotent God: we’d be committing the fallacy of assuming the antecedent.
Really, these are just some of my beefs with Christianity. However, I can think of no logical solution to them. One could reply that there is no logical solution to these problems, true, but we have to accept that God is good and all-powerful on faith. To which I reply: yeah, it certainly seems that way. You’ll have to excuse me, though, if I choose to reject the Christian God on the basis of arguments that leave me with no doubt regarding either the callous quality of his character or his lack of omniscience and omnipotence.
True, logic is not all that matters — we cannot live our whole lives on logic. Hell, I still consider myself agnostic. The best arguments for the existence of a deity are inductive in nature, which means that the conclusion is never certain. Still, I find them convincing enough that I’m willing to concede that some sort of deity (probably) exists, even though I have no certain evidence or arguments for its existence. You could say that I am making a bit of a leap of faith in conceding that. However, given Christian doctrine, I cannot concede that the God of the Bible exists. For my part, I find the arguments impassible and damning. Even though they did not lead to my rejection of Christianity, they will certainly sustain it.
Feels good to get that off my chest. We will now return to our original programming — philosophy and ethics! (Technically I just did philosophy of religion, but whatevs.)