I was sent this list of 10 “biblical” beliefs that poison Christians, hosted on a site that opposes ‘spiritual abuse’. It’s a weirdly twisty look into the views of a fairly liberal but clearly fervent Christian — I actually agree with them that a lot of these beliefs are actively harmful, but the reasoning they use to reach that same conclusion is odd, to me. That makes it interesting to read, because it provides a peculiar perspective on concerns that are familiar to atheists.
So each of the ten statements consists of a claim that the author disagrees with — I’ve put those in bold. Don’t charge in all shouty about how that stupid statement is wrong, because that’s a position the author shares with you. Then they explain why that’s wrong, and that’s where it gets a bit skewed, because the rationale often consists of assertions that God doesn’t work that way. Well, yeah…there is no god, and you have no more ability to say what it thinks than the most hidebound orthodox conservative Christian fanatic.
Then each statement ends with a positive claim about how things really are. I’ve put those in italics.
We are worthless.
Truth: People are never worthless, regardless of their lack of merit.
That’s one of my big irritations with Christianity: the doctrine of original sin, and the idea that we are all inherently evil, requiring some strange kind of redemption-by-proxy to be good. The author’s ‘truth’ sounds very humanist, but they arrive at it by way of the assumption that God “delights” in us. It’s a weak resolution of the problem: how do they know? Maybe God is a hateful psychopath who is looking for any excuse to torture us.
Who we are, as men and women, is defined by the roles we play.
Truth: Faithfulness to who God made you to be, not role-playing, is the mark of manhood and womanhood.
This one is pretty much a defining characteristic of the conservative Abrahamic religions: the group has control over private sexuality and gets to tell each member how they should live. Once again, I agree with the author’s conclusion, but find it weird to see it phrased as “who God made you to be” rather than just “who you are”.
Church leaders have “spiritual authority” over you.
Truth: Spiritual authority belongs to God alone. Follow his voice.
We start to drift apart here. I see no virtue to denying the authority of an institution to instead claim that you, personally, are following the direct orders of God’s voice. How about denying the existence of “spiritual authority” altogether?
Distrust all emotions.
Truth: God gave you feelings as a gift. Listen to them. Like a gauge on a dashboard, emotions are helpful indications that something needs attention.
Wait, wait, wait…Christians do this denial of the importance of emotions, too? I thought the Vulcan stereotype was an atheist ideal! Apparently, detachment and reliance on prayer and bible-reading are the religious strategy for avoiding emotions. Huh. You learn something every day.
I don’t think of emotions as a gift, though (and they’re definitely not from a god) — they’re part of your psychological well-being.
Distrust your thoughts too.
Truth: God gave you a mind as a gift to use to create, explore, understand, gather wisdom, and ward off enemies and imposters.
Now I’m feeling some sympathy for the poor stunted Christian. They’re told they can’t trust feelings, but they can’t trust logic and reason, either? So they’re just stuck with accepting what they’re told by religious authorities? Tragic.
I agree with that ‘truth’. Now the author just needs to go a little further and use their mind to reject faith and religion altogether.
Yet you are special to our group.
Truth: You are special no matter where you choose to serve. You don’t need institutions making you special.
Oh, yes, that special Christian smugness. That one just annoys.
Beauty, pleasure, and rest are an ungodly waste of time.
Truth: God created rest and beauty for humans to enjoy. All of God’s gifts are spiritual.
I have never understood the appeal of Puritanism, and I’ve always suspected it’s just an aspect of the impetus to control others in the group. Once again, though, declaring that beauty is a gift from God, rather than an aspect of human perception, grates. No, it’s not.
Suffering is a sign of a true believer.
Truth: Spiritual growth comes through vulnerably receiving and living in God’s love. Suffering is no thermometer on God’s blessing nor spiritual growth.
Also known as the Mother Teresa gambit. I hate it. This is one of the more destructive views in Christianity: it leads to both the justification of the status quo (your suffering is as god wills it, and you are just racking up the points with Jesus for your pain) and the perversions of the prosperity gospel.
I dislike the author’s answer intensely. Spiritual growth is a meaningless concept, but there is the implication that it can be measured. Not be suffering, we are assured, but by…what? They don’t say. I’d suggest that the usual Christian substitute measure is by smugness.
Let the “weaker brother” rule.
Truth: God calls us to become grown-ups in the Fruit of the Spirit and disciple those who are weak.
I confess, I have absolutely no idea what the author is talking about here. This some esoteric doctrine within certain kinds of Christianity, I take it, and I had to look it up. I still don’t get it.
Shaming and scaring children is godly discipline.
Truth: Unless we become humble like children, we will not see the kingdom of God. Teaching them that their bad choices come from being inherently bad little people will drive them away from the love of God and others. Their voices count as much (if not more so) than adults, especially over grave matters. Listen with integrity and respect and then act accordingly.
I’m glad a Christian is speaking out about this, but once again, the reasoning is bizarre. Be kind to children, not because God will reward you or because to do otherwise might scare them away from your faith, but because they are human beings who also deserve respect. It has nothing to do with an imaginary deity.
I have to add an 11th belief that poisons Christians, and if only the author recognized it, they’d realize that it’s right there at the foundation of their ten bad beliefs. And that root problem is faith. They’re still infected badly with it.