Monday, February 7, 2011

A temple on a house of cards. (Theoretical, historical and empirical objections to Christianity.)

In previous posts, we have already discussed the definition of atheism and consequently where the burden of proof lies.  Today, I'll go over a quick summary of my basic objections to Christianity; for followers of other religions, I will begin with basic theism, so hopefully I will encourage some thought on your part as well.  

Beginning with first assertion that Christianity must make, which is that there is a sentient, omnipotent, omniscient entity existing independently of the observable natural universe and the laws which govern it- I object.  In my opinion, there is no evidence for such a being.  There is no mystery observable in the universe at this time which would point to such a being; there are myriad theories one may choose from, and there exists no evidence which would justify any sort of special consideration being given to this being described above, which, having now defined it, I shall refer to as God.  Even the Cosmological Argument, which has been one of the most convincing arguments thus far in the long history of supernatural beliefs, really does not get us quite as close to God as we would hope- in no way would the duties described in the First Cause argument which are attributed to God require such things as intelligence, omnipotence, or even sentience.  I also present to you a dilemma which revealed itself to me recently as I mused over the compatibility of such a being with our natural universe and our uncertain philosophies:  If God created everything, including the laws of logic which govern our reasoning, and, indeed, our synthetic judgments, then such a being would exist independently of said laws.  If this is true, then these laws in no way apply to God.  If this is true, how can we hope to prove his existence using laws that do not apply to him?  In my opinion, this paradox makes proving God with logic rather like trying to find the square root of blue, or trying to multiply by happiness.  We are using two concepts which are incompatible with each other.  It would seem, if my logic holds, that we are reduced to falling back upon revelation by way of such documents as the Bible- and I am about to explain just how unreliable I think such a revelation is.

Let us say that I am proven errant in my analysis of theology, and I admit the hypothesis of a God is logically defensible.  Our second hurdle is how we may come to a solid conclusion concerning his wishes and his goals for us- or whether he even considers it necessary to inform us of his cosmic plan.  Christians claim the Bible is God's word, revealed to us through his son Jesus Christ, who manifested himself on earth as a physical being (namely, a man) but shares God the Father's divine nature.  But why, exactly, should we believe the Bible?  We have a collection of books written by clearly uneducated men, most likely revised, edited or even rewritten in the subsequent couple of centuries after Jesus the Christ's alleged ministry (30-33 C.E.).  Even the Gospels are estimated to have been written about fifty years after Jesus' time on Earth, in the mid-80's of the first century.  Now, we have absolutely no proof that these gospels were actually written eyewitnesses; in fact, Luke is the only one who even claims to be writing history.  These gospels contradict each other constantly in everything from geography to genealogy to theology, often offering contradicting accounts of various parts of Jesus' ministry.  To make matters worse, every unbiased, reputable historian at the time fails to make any mention of Jesus during the time of his ministry- in fact, the earliest mention we have of Jesus is a paragraph written by Tacitus, a Roman historian, in 64 C.E. where he makes a brief reference to Christ as the leader of the cult of Christianity who suffered the death penalty at the hands of Pontius Pilate.  Unfortunately, the gap of about thirty years gives Christianity more than enough time to spread by word of mouth, and any historian could easily echo what the Christians themselves were saying.  We end up with no records of the Christ within decades of his ministry, and the documents written after Christianity had gained traction in Palestine are either simply repeating Christian beliefs or they are blatantly biased, such as is the case with the Gospels.  As if this was not bad enough, then these books were selected from hundreds of Christian texts at the Nicene Council in 325 C.E. and then labeled as the Word of God.  Even if these documents were not fabrications, the odds that the Council of Nicea selected the correct books from hundreds of frauds are quite hopeless.  Once we acknowledge the fantastical content of these writings, trusting the modern Bible as anything resembling truth seems rather silly, especially when we consider the tenacity with which every word of the Bible is scrutinized in an attempt to interpret Jesus' exact teachings to the most infinitesimal detail; even the slightest misinterpretation or alteration of a key verse could alter or even destroy the scriptural foundations of significant Christian teachings.

Now, there is another justification of belief in Christianity that is not a defense of historical reliability of its teachings or its founder.  It is, I believe, most accurately summarized by a quote from the brilliant and delightful Christian author C.S. Lewis: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. "  Now, I believe that Lewis has given a wonderful analogy here, but it stands on faulty ground.  Lewis' version of Christianity very well may give him a satisfactory explanation for the nature of the universe and of reality (I make a distinction between the two here because it is quite obviously a belief of Christians that reality contains far more than this universe), but the Bible is such a messy collection of contradictory doctrines that it is quite easy for anyone to read the Bible, do a small bit of personal interpretation, and see exactly what they want to see.  This is really not the fault of the reader- I would never accuse Lewis of being the type who is easily duped- but rather the fault of the Bible itself.  In accepting one claim, one must reject another, and so on, making it quite impossible for any man to accept the whole of Biblical moral teachings as valid and divinely inspired.  

In conclusion, for one to convert me- or any sensible man, for that matter- from atheism to Christianity, one cannot simply approach me with a Bible and a head full of assumptions.  This would be rather like trying to build a house and beginning with the second floor; no man will be surprised when the bricks fall to the ground with nothing beneath them for support.  One must prove God, along with his specific attributes; then prove that God does have a plan for us and has revealed it to us, then prove that the Bible is this revelation, then somehow explain the miserable inconsistency and unreliability of the Bible and reconcile it as the unchanging, unfailing Word of God.  This, I am reasonably sure, will not happen.


  1. I believe we covered much of this in our discussion last night as the majority of my conversations with you often turn to theism.

  2. Leo, its my first time on the blog, a good way to share your thoughts.

    I have a question (actually many:) but I'll start with one. You mention "un-biased and reputable historians" by which you contrast to the writers of the Gospels as "blatantly biased." How do you justify such a strong assertion? Xairh!

  3. Well, Andrew, I think it is rather easy to see the bias in the Gospels... they are quite clearly making an effort to convince the reader of Christianity. Jesus glorifies a blind, unquestioning faith in such instances as Thomas doubting the resurrection- "Blessed are those who have not seen, yet still believe."

  4. If you mean biased as having a point to make, then of course the gospel writers were biased - as are you and I. "Blessed are those who have not seen, yet still believe" itself is points to those who believe the witness of John's Gospel (a major theme of his.) Does the fact that they believed the veracity of what they observed nullify their eligibility as witnesses?
    My question however, concerned Tacitus. Why do you clear him of bias charges? Is it because his report is more to your liking? Or do you have some other criterion? Xairh!

  5. By accusing them of bias, I mean that they are altering/twisting/creating facts to support their agenda, namely the agenda of converting readers to Christianity using such tactics as fear, threats, and the praise of belief without due cause as I illustrated above. The belief of the authors is quite impossible to verify; we do not know who the authors were, much less their reasons for writing such texts. As for Tacitus, I daresay his report is not to my liking, as he does mention Christ as though Christ were a real historical figure; however, I'm afraid his mention doesn't hold much water several decades after the end of Jesus' ministry.