I received an e-mail from a seminary student that I had corresponded with in the past. He’s had a few changes in his life but wrote to say:
“I nearly lost my faith, but God found me again. I am no longer at the Seminary as I was when we last spoke but have found a new calling for which to serve. My purpose here is to understand in a very succinct and brief way why you feel Christianity as an institution is irrelevant for our society at large and for you personally.
I promise this is not another back door ploy to bring you to faith. The Spirit will work in you if he sees fit. I honestly respect your opinion and would like to further understand what it is specifically about modern Christianity that doesn’t work for you? What are your biggest hang ups with Christians and the church as it represents itself in North American culture?”
I’m afraid this may not be as succint as you might have liked…
As you know, I don’t just reject “modern” Christianity or even just Christianity. I reject all religious claims, modern and ancient, as insufficiently supported by evidence and, therefore, not believable. You seem to be asking what I don’t like about modern religious, Christian culture…and I’ll be happy to tell you, but whether or not I believe something to be true is a separate issue from whether or not I like it.
That said, the modern Christian religion is a mess. There are hundreds of ‘official’ denominations and given the general level of ignorance people have about the religion they adopt and their propensity for molding it to be what they want it to be, one could argue that each individual has their own denomination.
Fundamentalists have a more literal view of the Bible and pretend to follow it based on a plain reading of the text. If Christianity is true…if there is a god and the Bible is his message to the world, then Fundamentalists are the ones who have managed to get it closest to ‘correct’. Yet the actual beliefs of fundamentalists are the most obviously objectionable.
The more liberal varieties have beliefs that are more palatable but they have no sound Biblical basis for their beliefs, they’ve simply chosen to ignore large portions of the text, ignore the history of their religion and interpret selected passages to support a kinder, gentler Christianity – sometimes in direct opposition to a plain reading of the text (as if their god is simply incapable of communicating clearly). They have no more firm foundation than personal opinion.
There is no clear mechanism for discovering if any of them are correct (if there were, we wouldn’t have hundreds of denominations) and there’s no good reason to think that any of them might be correct. Modern Christianity, regardless of the denomination, is based on one’s personal take on two things: the Bible and the recorded traditions of the church. Every denomination and individual is going to view these slightly differently and they’ll support their position with appeals to personal experience and revelation.
Let’s assume, for a moment that there is a God and it’s the one that Christians are trying to associate themselves with…what can we say about this god? Well, for one, he’s apparently very selective about who he reveals himself to. He ignores countless pleas for assistance, revelation, insight and guidance from sincere, desperate people and from reasonable people who could further his cause…yet he’ll reportedly give direct input to countless ignorant bigots who couldn’t put a cogent sentence together, let alone construct a sound syllogism. He also seems intent on keeping himself hidden and mysterious – which seems strange as he reportedly used to show off with miracles and plagues. Lastly (for this exchange), he doesn’t seem the slightest bit interested in correcting people’s various misunderstandings or misrepresentations of him. He seems perfectly happy to have countless denominations getting it all wrong.
So, either he’s malicious, incompetent or he doesn’t exist. (I’m sure there are other options, but those are the 3 most likely).
Christianity, in its various forms is an embarrassment. The literal versions are embarrassing because they’re anti-science, anti-humanity, anti-rights, anti-freedom, etc. The liberal versions are embarrassing because these people have clearly figured out what’s wrong with the literal version, but they’re incapable of letting go…so they support a saccharin, irrational, insidiously poisonous quasi-doctrine which acts as an enabler and shield for the literalists,
There are thoughtful, loving, intelligent people in both camps – yet their minds have been so poisoned by this religious virus that they’re incapable of fully recognizing their potential in those and other categories.
Is there anything other than a religion (or similar dogma) that could make a parent hate their child because of that child’s sexual orientation or beliefs? …or make a parent pray over a sick child instead of taking it to the hospital? … or make someone marginalize the rights of others who disagree on something that does them no harm? …or encourage someone to hide and protect a child rapist from the law and proper treatment? …or…
As I mentioned at the outset, whether or not I believe a claim is separate from whether or not I like that claim. In the case of Christianity, I don’t believe it because it’s absurd and unsupported by evidence – and I don’t like it because it’s obscene, divisive and harmful. That’s true for most, if not all, religions; though some are worse than others. Christianity is one of the worst, partly because of insidious doctrines and partly because of the pernicious effects of the power that comes from the popularity of those doctrines.
There is nothing good and true within religion that requires religion. People have done many good things in the name of religion, but none of those things were predicated on the truth of the religious claims. You can have love, hope, peace, comfort, charity, joy, happiness, and patience without any appeal to any religion.
This is probably the grandest lie that religions like Christianity have propagated; that you ‘need’ what they’re selling in order to have those things – and that those who aren’t part of their group are somehow lacking or deficient in those qualities.
I think it’s fair to label that lie ‘evil’…and as a foundational lie, that turns all benefits of that religion into fruits of a poisonous tree.