Arguments For and Against Christianity

I started this article to help me decide whether or not to continue with my religion. I set out to build a balanced and unbiased list. But there turned out to be more arguments against than for.

The article is not a continuous prose, but rather a series of short independent items. So you don't have to read right through it; just look at the headings and read any items that grab your attention.

Responses to any of the points are welcome. Click the 'Contact and Discussion' button on the home page.

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Arguments that the Christian story is true

How did the universe come about?

We don’t know how the universe came about or why it is here. Saying God made it for his pleasure provides an answer.

[Though then we still don’t know how God came about or why he is here, so the question has just taken a step backwards rather than being answered.]

Faith healings

Some people seem to have experienced faith healings that aren’t likely on medical grounds.

Faith healing

[Though often the healing is only temporary and might be better explained by a form of hypnosis. Also, there are many demonstrated cases of fraudulent claims of faith healing in churches. Finally, the proposition that faith healing proves the truth of one particular religion is contradicted by the fact that such healing is an aspect of many religions.]

Fulfilled prophecy

The Old Testament contains prophesies which seem to have been fulfilled.

[But there are thousands of verses in the bible which could be taken as prophesy and very few are actually claimed to have been realised. Also, most prophetic statements are so vague and interpretable in so many ways that it would be surprising if something in history couldn’t be matched to at least a few of them. There are prophesies about Christ’s death which were fulfilled according to the gospels, but it must be remembered that the gospels were written by believers partly to encourage others to believe and these writers would have had a vested interest in tweaking the story to make it sound like the prophesies were fulfilled. There is generally no corroborating evidence from unbiased sources that these prophesied events actually occurred. Some prophesies are much more specific, like those of Daniel, but with these, there is generally no good evidence that they were written before the events described actually happened.]

Scientific evidence

Many people cite scientific evidence for the existence of God, for example that something as complex and beautiful as the Earth, the sky or a frog couldn’t come about by chance, the problem of the 2nd law of thermodynamics or the fact that an eye couldn’t evolve from nothing.

[These arguments are generally based on misinformation, a lack of understanding of the science and processes involved and/or faulty logic. Christians generally do not want to know the errors in their view because that might adversely affect their faith and having faith is their primary duty to God and more important than being correctly informed.

The second law of thermodynamics is often quoted in arguments against evolution, saying that the law states that in natural processes entropy always increases, yet the appearance of life on Earth represents a clear decrease in entropy. This sounds convincing until one realises that the law is mis-quoted and in fact says that the entropy of a closed system increases. The Earth receives energy from the Sun and so is not a closed system.]

Happiness from being religious

Many people have a need to believe in God and often report being happier once they become religious.

[Though the belief that one has a god to look after them and love them, having a purpose in life and assurance of a tear-free life after death are enough by themselves to make one happier without the need for any god behind the beliefs. While believing these things can make people happier, this is no proof that their beliefs are founded in truth.]

Free Trip to Heaven

Finely tuned universe

The physics of the universe is very finely poised between states which would not allow life or even matter to exist.

[Though the anthropic principle offers an alternative explanation for this and there may be other reasons we are not aware of why this has to be the case.]

Personal experiences

People claim to have personal experiences of God – unusual emotional states, visions, voices, occurrences that seem miraculous and so on.

[Though psychological and other explanations are often possible. Such experiences might be convincing to those who have them but are not a lot of help to those who don’t.]

Apostles martyred

Tradition has it that most of the apostles were martyred. It seems unlikely that they would be martyred for a message that they didn’t really believe and so must have truly believed it.

[However, there is very little historical evidence for the martyrdom of the apostles. Most of the stories seem to have been made up by leaders of the early church to help convince people of the truth of the Christian story and to encourage them to be prepared to hold to the faith even in the face of death. Also, we don’t really know that what they believed was the same thing as what was eventually written in the gospels and epistles, which was largely based on Paul’s theology.]

Christianity spread very quickly

Christianity spread very quickly through the Roman empire and beyond, suggesting that there was something in it.

Roman Empire

[But there were things about Christianity that would have seemed attractive to people at the time.

  1. The generally prevailing belief in the Roman Empire and elsewhere prior to Paul was that, after death, one lived an unpleasant shadowy semi-existence without a body in Hades/Sheol under the Earth. This wasn’t something to look forward to. It was believed to be impossible to lead a proper life without one’s body. Very few people were ever reunited with their body to lead a proper life and, in these few cases, the evidence was generally that their body had disappeared after their death. This resurrection was also only possible if the body was kept in good condition, e.g. not burned, rotted or dismembered. Paul presented a picture where all Christians would have a new body after death and so would live a proper and pleasant life. This would have had wide appeal. Christ’s resurrection was given as the evidence for this and this explains why the resurrection is such an important part of the Christian story. It seems likely that the story of universal resurrection was invented by Paul to appeal to the people and that this became the central point of the Gentile version of the faith. When Mark’s gospel was written for a Gentile audience some 10 to 20 years later, it naturally incorporated this idea. The other gospels, written another 20 years after Mark, elaborated upon it.
  2. The Christian message embodies the idea of justice. The good will get their reward and the bad, even if they get away with it in this life, will get what they deserve in the next. To many, this can be a satisfying thought. For those who accept the religion, it also provides motivation to be good to one’s fellow humans, particularly their brothers and sisters in the faith - and people like being part of a community that is good to them.
  3. Christianity had a god (Jesus), who was like the common people, not like the aristocratic and heroic gods of the Greek and Roman pantheons. This god made man in his image, so man has value, and God loves each person. This contrasted with the uncaring attitudes of the pagan gods. It should be said that, in much of the Old Testament Yahweh was a pagan god with an uncaring attitude. But he is quite different in the New Testament, to the extent that the Gnostics considered them to be two different gods.
  4. Christians were encouraged to love and look after each other, especially those in need (the poor, sick, widowed etc.). Christians thus formed communities and being part of such a community was, to many people, far preferable than being socially isolated. Many of these communities provided welfare, health care and education to their members – they wanted people to be able to read the scriptures. (This sort of thing was common in Jewish society, but not in pagan society.) They also ensured that their members were buried properly when they died – something very important in Greek culture, but which couldn’t be relied upon in non-Christian society. The Christian social structure was eventually seen as advantageous to the running of the empire and this offered a reason for Constantine to accept the religion and thus, to some extent, to take over the Christian establishments.
  5. Christianity was more compatible with many of the ideas of Greek philosophy (especially Middle Platonism and Stoicism) than the Greek/Roman paganism of the time.

Perceived Problems with the Christian story

God is love

God is said to be Love (1 John 4:16, John 3:16). But imposing unending, unbearable torture on 98% of humanity is not what most people would call 'Love'. This is especially true in the case of people who were never told about God and so had no way of believing, in the case of those who don’t have the mental capacity to believe and in the case of people who die as babies. [Many Christians say that babies go to heaven even though they don’t believe. If that is the case, then the best thing a Christian can do for their baby is to kill it and so guarantee its place in heaven rather than risk it growing up wayward and ending up in hell. Christians will in general not do this, however. In fact, most even oppose abortion of babies who are unwanted and very unlikely to be brought up in the faith.]

Satan

Satan got the better of God in the Garden of Eden with the result that most of mankind became subject to eternal punishment. Either God wanted Satan to do this, in which case it can’t be said God is good or loving. Or God didn’t want Satan to do so, in which case God is less powerful than Satan. If that is the case, then maybe we should worship Satan instead. After all, we only have God’s word for it that Satan is the bad guy and Satan hasn’t made any threats to torment us with fire and brimstone for all eternity. In the Old Testament, God killed a bit over 2 million people and that doesn't include the flood. Satan's tally was 10 - all in the book of Job and all with God's consent.

Satan

God knows the future and would have known before he made Satan that Satan would set himself up against God and then lead mankind into sin and consequent punishment. Yet he still created him that way. Clearly that was his intention all along.

Or, of course, the whole story is a fabricated myth.

God’s inability to forgive sin without a sacrifice

Christians assert that God cannot forgive man’s sin without a sacrificial death even if he wanted to (Hebrews 9:22). This implies that there are rules to which God must adhere. The originator of these rules must be a higher, more powerful god. Yet the bible claims that God is sovereign and all powerful. God tells us we should forgive others for all the wrongs they do, even the most heinous, rather than demand a death, but he can’t forgive us, even for the slightest wrong, like coveting our neighbour’s ass, without someone having to die.

The holy spirit leading the church into all truth

Jesus told his disciples that, after he left, the Holy Spirit would come and lead the church into all truth (John 16:13). Ever since then, the church has not been able to agree on the truth and has broken up into thousands of factions with different versions of the truth, all supposedly guided by the same Holy Spirit. In general, the history of the church (and of pre-Christian Judaism) is not what one would expect if they were being guided by a loving and all-powerful god but is exactly what one would expect if Christians and Jews were people with no coordinated guidance squabbling amongst themselves.

Paulism vs the disciples

After Jesus’ death, the apostles and disciples who had spent time with Jesus and been taught by him stayed together in Jerusalem and formed the first church. They saw Jesus as a human messiah who would lead the Jews to freedom from the Roman oppressors and bring in a new era where all the world would adopt the Jewish faith, submit to Yahweh and live in peace and righteousness. Paul, who never met Jesus in the flesh, taught the gentiles that the Jerusalem church was wrong and that they could be Christians without following the Jewish laws. He also taught that Jesus was God and his sacrifice on the cross paid for their sins.

Peter and Paul

Paul’s faction eventually became dominant and ‘orthodox’ while the apostles’ faction was declared heretical and died out. In the bible Jesus says, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law . . . Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished . . .’ (Matt 5:17-18), contradicting Paul’s position.

The bible is vague and ambiguous

The bible is said to be the word of God. (If it isn’t then what other source of information do we base our beliefs on?) Yet the bible is very vague and ambiguous on important points and many passages on which important doctrine is based are open to alternative interpretations (e.g. Eph 2:8). Thus the bible doesn’t give us a clear understanding of the way things are supposed to be. One could be excused for thinking that God’s word to us should contain clear and definitive statements on things like what we have to do to go to heaven (i.e. what determines if someone is saved), what happens after we die and the nature of God, Jesus and the supposed trinity. It gives vague and contradictory information on such matters and this has been the cause of much of the disagreement and division in the church (and most of the excommunication, torturing and killing of heretics). The lack of clear information is what one would expect if the bible were written by different people who, though not quite sure of the answers, were giving their opinions anyway; it is not what one would expect of the word of God.

The bible is self-contradictory

The bible is very self-contradictory, both in small and major points (see here), thus indicating that it cannot all be correct. We therefore cannot be certain of the correctness of any statement in the bible.

The old testament doesn’t match history or geology

The Old Testament doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny. It is what one would expect from a leadership trying to get compliance from a people, not what one would expect from a true story of people guided by a real God.

Marine fossils at high altitudes in the Himalayas are explained by many believers by saying that the force of water in the flood produced catastrophic tectonic changes, pushing deep ocean areas up into high mountains and vice versa and totally changing the arrangement and shape of continents and oceans. The geography of the world would have been unrecognisable after the flood. And yet, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers which flowed from the Garden of Eden are still there.

Much of the old testament is polytheistic

Much of the earlier writings of the Old Testament were by people with polytheistic beliefs. See Genesis 1:26, Genesis 3:22, Genesis 11:7, Exodus 12:12, Exodus 15:11, Exodus 18:11, Deuteronomt 32:8-9, 2 Kings 3:27, Psalm 82:1, Psalm 82:6, Psalm 86:8, Psalm 95:3, Psalm 97:7, Psalm 135:5, among others. It was only after exposure to almost monotheistic Zoroastrianism during the Persian period, that the writings of the Jews became solely monotheistic.

No special insight in God’s word

It would have been easy for God to put some insight into the bible that mankind could not have had until after we are sure that the bible was finalised, e.g. some modern physics or astronomy. Instead, it is exactly what one would expect if it were written by people with the very limited understanding of nature that prevailed at the time of writing. It is not consistent with modern knowledge of nature: much of it is clearly wrong in terms of the picture painted by modern science.

[It might be said, on the other hand, that God made the world in 6 days in 4004 BCE, but that he made it look like it was billions of years old so that he could fool people into not believing and send them to hell. But it isn’t clear why a god who loves us would want to do that.]

The creation story is uninformed

It is sometimes said that the Genesis creation story was written the way it was because that was all man at the time was capable of understanding. That is not true; the following would have been quite understandable (as well as providing evidence that the writer knew something that mankind hadn’t yet worked out.

Nearly 14 billion years ago, God produced a lot of gas. And a lot of space to put it in. Over the billions of years, the gas, which was like the air on Earth, gathered together into stars and the stars produced dust. Some of the stars exploded, throwing their gas and dust into space. The Sun is a star which formed 4.5 billion years ago from the gas and dust from earlier stars. Going around the Sun, planets also formed: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and others too far away to see.

The planet Earth is a ball of rock made from dust with soil and water on its surface and surrounded by a layer of air. The Moon is a smaller ball of rock going around the Earth.

Over time, living things developed on the Earth, at first too small to see. Their offspring were like them, though not always exactly. Some variations were more able to survive and reproduce, so over billions of generations, living things slowly changed, giving rise to plants and animals and eventually humans and the other life we have around us now.

The way Genesis was written clearly shows that the writer didn’t know how things had happened and that it is not, therefore, the word of God.

Anomalies in creation

It seems unlikely that God would make a universe with trillions of galaxies to give man a place to live on one planet.

Galaxies

Having made all that out of nothing, it seems he needed a handful of dirt to make a man and a rib to make a woman. The order of creation is different between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. It is not possible for both to be correct.

An infinitely long wait

The bible says that God has always existed. He created the heavens and the Earth at a point in time for his pleasure. But he sat there in the emptiness doing nothing for an infinite number of years before doing so.

Selling possessions

In the gospels, Jesus makes it clear several times that a fundamental requirement of following him is to sell all one’s possessions and give the proceeds to the poor (e.g. Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22). In Acts, the requirement seems to change to selling everything and giving the money to the church. In fact Ananias and Saphira were struck down dead by God for selling property and only giving part of the proceeds to the church (Acts 5:4). However, Christians nowadays almost universally do not sell their possessions and give the money away. Are they really Christians?

Many Christians are still evil

Becoming a Christian is meant to cause a fundamental change in one’s nature from evil to good. 1 John 3:9 says: "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God." This generally isn’t seen: many Christians through the ages have been quite evil and many non-Christians have been quite good. Much killing and torture has been carried out in the name of a God who wants his people to love, forgive and encourage one another. Marcellinus wrote of the First Council of Nicaea in 325CE that, “The enmity of the Christians towards each other surpassed the fury of savage beasts against man. And if this is true of “the family of God” – and it is – then what hope do the outsiders have of ever experiencing compassion and mercy and extravagant love from the Church?”

Many convinced by false religions

Most of the world’s people have religious beliefs and are convinced of their truth, even though most of them must be wrong. This shows that people find it very easy to believe in and be totally convinced by unfounded religious world views.

Confirmation bias

A feature of the human mind is confirmation bias – a greater willingness to accept evidence that supports our belief than to accept evidence that goes against it. Evidence for the Christian story will be embraced enthusiastically by Christians and treated with suspicion by atheists; evidence against the Christian story will be embraced enthusiastically by atheists and treated with suspicion by Christians. Our initial beliefs are generally based on an emotional response to what we are told rather than on careful assessment of evidence for and against. Once we have adopted our position, confirmation bias then makes us fairly immune to evidence against our belief, thus guaranteeing its continuation. This applies to Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and all belief systems. The only situation where confirmation bias can be to some extent nullified is where we make a point of critically appraising and comparing belief systems in a deliberately unbiased way, something which is discouraged in most religions.

Childhood indoctrination

Most people adopt their world view on the basis of what they are told when they are young and this generally depends on what the people around them believe. People usually adopt the religion of their community. If you grew up in the middle east, you would probably be convinced that Islam is the truth. If you grew up in America, you would probably be convinced that Christianity is the truth. If you grew up in China, you would probably be convinced that both these views are wrong. What we believe tends to depend on where we grew up. This is more compatible with the idea that religion is the result of indoctrination than that it is the result of divine grace and guidance.

Sunday School

We tend not to consider the evidence against our religious views because that could dent our faith and faith is often considered to be more important than truth. But of course faith in something that's not true is of no value.

Faith vs common sense

There are two ways to learn about the nature of our world and our life. One is to look around us and to use logical reasoning to draw conclusions from what we see; the other is to pick a person and believe everything they tell us and to refuse to look at any evidence to the contrary. The former approach might be called ‘common sense’; the latter approach is called ‘faith’. Christianity (and other religions) require faith, presumably because using common sense would lead people to different conclusions.

Faith is in people, not God

The only way to avoid God’s eternal punishment is to have faith. Abraham is our example of faith. God spoke to Abraham and told him things. Abraham believed him. And so Abraham was saved. (Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness – Romans 4:3.) However, God doesn’t speak to me, at least not in a way that I’ve ever recognised. So I have nothing from him to believe. Instead, I have to believe what other humans tell me. The story of Thomas illustrates this. In John 20, after Jesus had died, the other disciples told Thomas that he was alive again. Knowing from past experience that dead people didn’t generally come back to life, Thomas was dubious. Later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and rebuked him for not believing the other disciples. Thomas was rebuked not because he didn’t believe God, but because he didn’t believe the other disciples. So, for us, having faith means believing what other people tell us. This might be in person or through writing – like in the bible. Our faith then is in the people we choose to believe, not in God. The trouble is that there are lots of different people telling us lots of different things, and nothing to tell us which is right and which is wrong. Get it wrong and we get what’s coming to us. We tend to believe the story of the person who gets to us first – often our parents or Sunday school teachers. Once we are convinced to have faith in what that person tells us, the taboo on entertaining any evidence to the contrary makes us immune to any competing stories.

Faith requires certainty

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Heb 11:1). There are many religions with people certain of their truth. Those religions can't all be right, which shows that it is possible to be certain and yet wrong. Anyone who realises this cannot then be certain. Thus thinking people cannot have faith and so cannot be saved. Salvation is only for the stupid. Intelligence is a curse which condemns us to everlasting torture.

Atheism correlated with education

Educated people, equipped with in-depth knowledge of the world around them and trained in assessing evidence and drawing valid logical conclusions from it, tend to be atheists. Academics are mostly atheists. People with little knowledge tend to be religious. (Tell a four-year-old about a fat man in a red suit who climbs down the chimney at Christmas and he will believe you without question; tell a 24-year-old who hasn’t heard of Santa the same thing and she won’t – because she knows more about the world she lives in.) In the dark ages, most people never went far from their village, except maybe to fight a battle, and most of their knowledge of the world beyond what they could see came from the priest at their church. Not having the knowledge or logical skills to see the flaws in the message they were given, they generally believed it whole-heartedly. The proportion of atheists in the world has steadily increased as we’ve become more educated and knowledgeable, and the proportion of atheists in countries with a high level of education is higher than the proportion in countries with a low level of education. Ignorance isn’t a pre-requisite for religion, but it certainly seems to help.

We are selected on the basis of our beliefs, something we cannot control

It is hard to understand why God would select people on the basis of what they believe rather than on the basis of their character or whether they are good people. The scientific view is that what people believe depends on what they have seen and been told earlier in life. A given brain and a given set of experiences will lead to a given set of beliefs. No one can voluntarily change their beliefs without new evidence. I can't voluntarily believe there's a dragon in my bathroom unless I have good evidence. I can say I believe it, but that would just be a lie. The bible agrees that we cannot believe something through an act of volition: it says that faith is a gift from God (Ro 12:3), not something we can achieve by ourselves. Either way, we have no control over what we believe. As such it is hard to see why people who believe the wrong thing should deserve eternal torture. Many people who are very devoted to their god and who lead very selfless lives will go to hell because their experiences led them to choose the wrong god and because the right god didn't intervene with the gift of proper faith.

Belief doesn’t guarantee picking the right religion

If one does believe in God, how is one to know that Christianity is His preference rather than Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnessism, Zoroastrianism etc. If you don’t pick the right one, you still go to hell. Adherents of each religion are all equally and totally sure that theirs is the right one and the others are wrong. In terms of actually making people religious, Islam probably has the best track record (though that might be partly because apostasy and speaking against the religion (blasphemy) are punishable by death).

Hajj

God doesn’t intervene to spread Christianity

One would think that God would have wanted all the world’s people to be Christian, but he allowed Mohammed to start another religion which later took over many of the lands in which people were Christian and eventually saw the conversion of most of these peoples to Islam. All it would have taken to stop Mohammed was a judicious heart attack, though he chose not to do that, even though he was quite willing to strike Uzzah down dead for touching the Ark of the Covenant when he tried to stop it from falling off the cart it was being carried on when the oxen nearly upset it (2 Samuel 6:6-8). It would seem that God is more concerned about the ark being touched than about millions of people being led astray and going to hell.

No personal feedback or help

Despite years of seriously trying to follow God, know his will and avoid sin, I very rarely felt anything that could be seen as guidance (and when I did and followed it, it just as often didn’t turn out well). I seemed to be no more likely to get things if I prayed for them than if I didn’t. This is despite the fact that the bible promises us that God will give us whatever we ask him (Matt 18:19, Matt 21:22, Mark 11:24, John 14:13, John 15:7, John 15:16, John 16:23-24, 1 John 3:22, 1 John 5:15). Also I never had any success against sin beyond what one would expect from simple human effort. Many prominent Christians turn out to have led quite sinful lives, totally incompatible with the views they espouse.

Predestination

Predestination is a paradox which arises from the predicates that there is a God who knows and controls everything and that humans (and demons) have free will to work against God’s plan. A paradox in a philosophical system is generally taken as a demonstration that some aspect of the system cannot reflect reality. The bible states that God pre-destines some for salvation and others for damnation (John 6:65, Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:5). In this case, it is hard to see why the damned deserve to be tortured for eternity. The bible contains many passages indicating that God determines all our actions and many passages indicating that we have free will. People tend to choose one lot and ignore the other. They don’t see it as inconsistency because they start from the assumption that every word of the bible is true and thus that apparent inconsistencies result from their lack of understanding rather than being actual.

Jesus’ Birth

The first gospel written was Mark in about 66-70 AD. It has nothing about Jesus’ birth or early life. Matthew and Luke were written in the 80s or 90s using Mark and other sources. There were prophesies about the Messiah widely accepted by Jews at the time: that he would be descended from David, be born in Bethlehem, be born to a virgin and come out of Egypt. The birth stories in Matthew and Luke fit with these prophesies. It seems quite possible that the bits which purport to fulfil these prophesies were added to provide evidence that God was behind it all.

Nativity

By the time Matthew and Luke were written, it is unlikely that anyone would have still been around who knew anything about Jesus’ early life, so the authors could get away with writing anything. The events surrounding Jesus’ early life wouldn’t have been public knowledge anyway, but would only have been known by his parents, who would certainly have been dead by the time Matthew and Luke added them to the gospel. It is unlikely that the magi would have recorded them for posterity as they went back home. And the shepherds would probably have been illiterate and not too concerned about recording history.

The claims made about his early life have no historical support outside the bible. In fact, the birth story seems unlikely on historical grounds. Firstly, Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census of Quirinius (Luke 2:2), then fled to Egypt because Herod (the Great, 37-4 BC) decreed that all boys in and around Bethlehem under two should be killed (Matthew 2:16-18). But Herod the Great died 9 years before the census. The Census was held when Herod’s son, Herod Archelaus, was deposed when Rome established direct rule over Judea under Quirinius in 6 AD. So even Herod Archelaus couldn’t have given the decree. Secondly, by Roman custom, the census would have required people to be counted in their own town, not in the town of a distant ancestor, so they wouldn’t have needed to go to Bethlehem.

Jesus’ Resurrection

The earliest known version of Mark (the first gospel) ends with Joseph of Arimathea putting Jesus into a tomb and rolling a stone in front of it. Mary Magdalene saw this. It doesn’t mention any guards. Two days later, Mary M and two other women go to the tomb, worrying about how the three of them will move the stone that one person put there. They see a tomb without Jesus’ body and a man saying that he has risen and gone to Galilee. But the women didn’t say anything to anyone because they were afraid (Mark 16:8). These were the only eyewitnesses of the empty tomb and they didn’t tell anyone, so one wonders where the story came from. Mark records no post-resurrection appearance of Jesus except in the appendix added later (Mark 16:9-20). The later gospels give accounts of the resurrection and appearances, though the three accounts are quite incompatible with each other.

Development of the resurrection story

As the four gospels give different and totally incompatible accounts of what happens after Jesus was dead and buried, it would seem that the gospel writers started with some basic report (which might have been no more than the fact that when someone went to the tomb to spice the body, they found the body wasn’t there, as in the original Mark), and added in elaborations to make the story more compelling.

Things Christians should be able to do

The appendix to Mark says, ‘And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.’ (Mark 16:17-18). This is clearly not the case, proving that not everything the gospels (and bible) say is true.

Preachers in America have actually handled snakes and drunk poison in front of their congregations to demonstrate their faith in the absolute truth of the bible. Of course, the results have generally been tragic.

Anaesthetic

In hell we will no longer have our body, but we will be conscious of pain. (If we weren’t, then being there wouldn’t matter and the punishment would be pointless). If this is true, then consciousness and pain do not depend on the physical body. Why then do we lose consciousness and not feel pain when the physical body is put under general anaesthetic?

Why did God create us in physical form?

Heaven and Earth will pass away (Matt 34:35, Luke 21:33) and then all humans will exist in spiritual form only – either in heaven or in hell. This will then be perfect and will remain the case for the rest of eternity. One wonders why God bothered making us in imperfect physical form first rather than going straight to the preferred form. Making us in physical form seems to have required the creation of a vast universe governed by rules so complex that physicists are still a long way from working them out. It also meant that the vast majority of us are made unsuitable for heaven, whereas he could have made us all spiritual and suitable.

Drawing lots

In Acts 1:24-26, the disciples prayed for God to show them which of Barsabbas and Matthias should replace Judas as the 12th apostle. Then they drew lots. (See also Proverbs 16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.) If this approach is appropriate, why do Christians not use it today rather than having long-drawn-out processes for making important decisions? Surely, we could determine once and for all whether Jesus is divine or whether the spirit proceeds from the father and the son or whether women should be ministers or whether a priest is guilty of child abuse by praying for guidance, then drawing lots. But most Christians won’t accept that method, even though the bible indicates that it is valid. Clearly, even those Christians who claim that the bible is the inerrant word of God don’t really believe it.

‘Christian’ men still have their right eyes

In Matthew 5:27-29 Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.”

Lustful look

Matthew 7:21 says: “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Presumably, if Jesus tells us to gouge out our right eye, then that is the will of his father in heaven.

So most Christian men should have gouged out their right eye. As they’ve invariably not done so, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Will there be any men there at all? Maybe the gay ones won’t have trouble with this command, but they won’t be there anyway, for a different reason. It seems heaven will be populated by women. Maybe there is method in the madness of the male god.

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Image Acknowledgements

Faith healer: The Courier Mail
Church sign: Wikimedia Commons
Roman Empire: Sharklord1 on DeviantArt
Satan: Tom Cool on Flickr
Peter and Paul: Wikipedia
Galaxies: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski, Wkilmedia Commons
Sunday School: Denish C on Flickr
Hajj: Photo by Konevi, Free Sock Photo
Nativity: PxHere
Lustful look: Courtney Carmody on Flickr