In my debates with Christians, I sometimes discuss my opinion that, when read objectively, the Bible and Christian theology make no rational sense. Some examples:
- God sacrificed his son (who is also himself) to himself, as the means of absolving the sins of many billions of humans, past, present, and future. Jesus died, went to hell, and was resurrected 3 days later. So, he suffered for about a day, and then gave up a weekend, in exchange for all of God’s other children gaining eternal life. While crucifixion, by all accounts, is a horrible way to die, it pales in comparison to the prolonged suffering of many of God’s other children (e.g. many cancer victims).
The supposed need for the sacrifice was because “The wages of sin is death.” … SOMEBODY had to die, in order to wash away our sins, and Jesus (aka God) died so we wouldn’t have to (though of course we still do, at least physically). But (per Christians theology) God made all the rules, but is not bound by those rules. So why couldn’t god just send Jesus (i.e. himself) down for a visit, teaching all the stuff he wanted to teach, and then go directly back to Heaven?
But even the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 24:16) declares that one may only be punished for their own crimes.
16 Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for their own crimes may persons be put to death.
- The sacrifice was trivial, compared to the enormity of what was attained in return.
- Punishment by proxy is inconsistent with any reasonable concept of justice, and with the Old Testament teachings, and therefore with claims that God is just.
- Worse yet, God punishing himself, to enable OUR salvation is positively absurd.
- The very concept of the Trinity – One God in three persons/entities (i.e. 1=3 in mathematical terms). Even theologians don’t REALLY understand what that means. And of course, there are some Christian denominations that reject the concept of the Trinity, arguing (with strong Biblical support) that the Trinity is essentially veiled polytheism. Trinitarian’s response to Unitarians is the “No true Scotsman” fallacy – “They’re not really Christians if they don’t accept Jesus’ divinity.”
- The entire creation myth, which has been overwhelmingly disproved by science. We KNOW that the universe is some 14 billion years old, and that life on Earth evolved from simple forms to the diversity and complexity we have today. We do NOT yet know what caused the big bang, nor do we know how life originated on Earth. But science is getting closer by the year, in answering those very difficult questions, and the smart money says that these questions will one day be answered, and NOT by the “god of the gaps” explanation. So while I won’t claim that science has disproved the notion of a god as first-cause, for either the big bang, or the origins of life on Earth, it HAS disproved all the rest of the Genesis creation account. I’ll talk to this in more detail one day, in another post.
- The Great Flood myth, that is absurd for countless reasons, such as:
- Where did all the water come from?
- Where did all the water go?
- How did animals get from remote continents and return to them?
- How did all the animals fit on the ark?
- How did the ark hold sufficient food (for a year) for all the animals?
- How did just a few people feed, water, and clean up after all those animals every day?
- How did freshwater fish and saltwater fish survive in the same oceans?
- The story of Joshua, in which the sun and moon stood still for a about day, so Joshua could continue his attacks. We know this could only happen if the Earth suddenly stopped rotating on its axis, then resumed about a day later. The Earth spins at a rate of about 1000 mph at the equator. It doesn’t take a genius to imagine all sorts of cataclysmic side effects from suddenly stopping (or starting) that rotation (massive earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.). And there would be geologic evidence of it. Christians at this point will now respond with “The whole thing was a miracle. God could EASILY have prevented all those side effects.” And while its impossible to argue against that claim, there’s another big problem. There’s no mention of the sun and moon stopping, by any other contemporaneous civilization. It’s a safe bet that folks would have noticed this. It would have been a REALLY big deal, and they’d have written about it.
- And there are a number of internal contradictions within the Bible, such as:
- Jesus’ last words (“It is finished”, “Father, Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” or “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”)
- The manner of Judas’ death (by hanging or from a fall?)
Many Christians recognize that most/all of these stories can’t be literally true. though even that group, for the most part, accepts the doctrine of the Trinity (Unitarians excepted), as well as the theology surrounding Jesus’ sacrifice as atonement for our sins. But Biblical literalists insist that they MUST be true, because (they say) the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. And this latter group dismisses any and all evidence that stands in the way of their literal interpretation of the Bible. As proof that the Bible is the word of God, they point to (you guessed it) the Bible, which explicitly states that it’s the Word of God. In other words, in a classic example of circular logic:
- The Bible says it’s the Word of God
- God doesn’t lie
- Therefore the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
On numerous occasions, when I’ve pointed out the irrationality of various Bible verses/stories, the believer’s response has been something like “You can’t understand the Bible, because you’re not a believer. You need to have the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible. With this statement, they’re implicitly agreeing that the verses/stories actually ARE irrational, since reason alone cannot make sense of these verses/stories.
That same argument has also been frequently used by believers in discussions about why we should become Christians. When I’ve pressed them as to why I should become a Christian, when the Bible has so many irrational parts, the usual response is that I must take a leap of faith – i.e. choose to believe in spite of the nonsense, receive the Holy Spirit, and THEN it will all make sense to me.
So then I ask, “But why should I choose Christianity, of all the thousands of world religions (or none), in which to take that leap of faith. To this question they have no real answer, other than going back to arguments about why the Bible is true, pointing to fulfilled prophecies (a topic I’ll defer for another time), etc. Or they argue that we should choose Christianity, because Christianity is a unique religion, to which I reply that by definition, EVERY religion is unique in one way or another. This leads to the response that Christianity is MORE unique than the rest – which is clearly debatable, and is irrelevant in any case, since uniqueness is no measure of truth.
I’m not trying to single out Christianity as being any less rational than other religions. I focus on it, because it’s the one I was raised in, and that I therefore understand. Based on my limited understanding of a few other religions, I have no reason to believe that Christianity is unique in its irrationality.