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In the beginning…

April 11, 2009

Since this is a particularly special weekend for Christianity (as well as several other pagan traditions which are not celebrated as widely, if at all anymore), I figure it’s worth honing in and discussing exactly what this is all about. 

According to the Christian tradition, God sent Jesus down to die on the cross as payment for our sins. According to modern Christianity, we are all born sinners due to the “fall” of man. Christians parrot the line that the “just” payment for sins is death, but what’s so just about it? 

I’m going to let one of my new favorite channels on YouTube, QualiaSoup, creator of last week’s video on Open-Mindedness, do the talking for me this week, with two of his videos: 

The first, In the beginning, God created injustice, expresses my problem with the idea of “sin” that Jesus supposedly came to pay for.

The second, Hell: an excessive punishment, details the problem with the punishment that Jesus supposedly saves us from. 

There is no justice in punishing one person for someone else’s transgressions, nor in punishing infinitely for finite transgressions, nor in murdering an innocent in place of the guilty. The entire system of Christian cosmology, what is being celebrated this weekend, is an unjust, immoral, and inexcusable mythology. 

The injustice of it isn’t what bothers me, since I don’t believe it’s true. It’s that so many people have been brainwashed into thinking that if such a thing were true, it would be just, myself once among them. 

Tomorrow, I’ll respond to the assertion that Jesus sacrificed himself for my sins with a simple question: what sacrifice?

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14 Comments
  1. What sacrifice? It is the same sacrifice one must perform when they go to Confessions: something totally unrelated to the “sin” such as reciting rosary prayers for murder or dying on a crucifix for a bunch of other people telling a fib. 😛 (I am exaggerating… a little.)

    IMHO, Jesus got off easy. If any one person had done all the supposed crimes as judged by God that everyone else had done, a mere, single death would hardly account for it all. Of course, though, Jesus having an inside angle as the son of God, the Judge, gets him a light sentence, where as the rest of us are still damned. If we are still sinners in the hands of an angry God from birth, what was the whole point of Jesus saving us by dying?

    More importantly, what sins?

    In any case, what I am doing this weekend is just participating in festivities (outside of working). This weekend means to me whatever I want it to mean.

  2. I am almost embarrassed to admit this, but it just came into my head.

    You do realize that history is filled with groups that believe in God (Jewish, Muslim, Deist, Philosophical Theist), yet reject and hate the ever-loving hell out of Christianity.

    • dorkmanscott permalink

      Yes, I do realize that; it’s also filled with groups that believe in multiple gods, or monotheistic gods quite unlike the “western” one that you like to write with a capital G, groups that believe that everything in nature is god, and groups that believe in no god at all.

      Are you making a point or are you just mentioning that you’ve realized Christianity isn’t the only game in town? I certainly hope you’re not trying to appeal to popularity with some variation of “the fact that so many people have had some form of theistic belief makes theistic belief credible.” You’re not going to pull out that logical fallacy, are you?

      I mean, you do realize that most everything I’ve said regarding the total lack of evidence for any god applies to — you guessed it — any god, right? I’m hitting on Christianity this weekend because of Easter, but my point has consistently been that there is no reason to postulate the existence of any god at all, much less to say that it is the particular god of a particular mythology.

      • Out of curiosity: If you could sit President Obama down and talk about his faith (and his attendance at Church today), what would you say to him? (Just curious is all.)

      • Ray permalink

        Although to be fair, you have yet to do a long post about Judaism or Islam on their holy days. I’m guessing that has to do with your experience with the Christian faith, its the easiest to comment on.

        And I notice that your problem with the belief in God has more to do with the actions that man does in the name of God (or adhering to a belief in God).

        So I ask this. Lets say hypothetically if the Christian faith had done everything it claims to do (love one another unconditional, etc) do you think you would have just as a big of issue with a belief in God?

        • dorkmanscott permalink

          Although to be fair, you have yet to do a long post about Judaism or Islam on their holy days. I’m guessing that has to do with your experience with the Christian faith, its the easiest to comment on.

          There’s also the fact that the entire country revolves around these holidays. Without looking at a calendar, could you tell me when Ramadan starts?

          And I notice that your problem with the belief in God has more to do with the actions that man does in the name of God (or adhering to a belief in God).

          Then you notice incorrectly.

          My problems with the belief in gods are, in this order:

          1. They are irrational.

          2. They have a net negative effect on the believers and the culture.

          If you take the time to really read my posts regarding rejecting theistic beliefs, what you’ll actually notice is that my problem has mostly to do with the fact that it is not a justifiable claim.

          Believing a god exists and agreeing that god is good are essentially mutually exclusive.

          Not believing Dumbledore exists doesn’t detract from the fact that I believe the character is good, if flawed.

          Believing that Hitler existed doesn’t detract from the fact that he was a man who did great evil in the world.

          So I ask this. Lets say hypothetically if the Christian faith had done everything it claims to do (love one another unconditional, etc) do you think you would have just as a big of issue with a belief in God?

          You say “etc” as though there is a generally-accepted collection of claims that the Christian faith makes. What do you mean by “etc”?

          Do you mean obeying the Mosaic law, in which case damn near everyone should be stoning everyone else to death?

          Do you mean giving up all one’s possessions and turning your back on your family and friends to follow Christ?

          Going ahead and assuming you mean the Christianity of convenience that most people follow (i.e. not actually following the Bible at all, just being nice and slapping a Christian label on it for no real reason), everybody in a religion being nice doesn’t change the fact that the religion is irrational.

          Now, admittedly, if there were a particular religion whose adherents were more likely to be objectively “moral” than the general population, then there would be a reason to give at least some consideration to the notion that said religion or philosophy had some genuine value above all the others. But that would not inherently mean that their god-claim was true.

          (If they made a god-claim at all. Prison statistics indicate that the religious philosophy least represented in prison populations is atheism. The majority of criminals identify as Christian.)

          In point of fact, the Baha’i faith basically is already what you’re talking about. They are non-violent, they are tolerant of all other religions, they believe that all religions have some truth to them, and they treat each other and non-adherents with kindness and compassion at all times. In fact, unlike Christianity, kindness, tolerance and compassion are pretty much the sole moral dictates of Baha’i.

          As a philosophy, I think Baha’i is fantastic, and every adherent I’ve ever come across has lived their philosophy to a T. But their god-belief is just as irrational and apropo of nothing as any other religion, and so while I generally agree with their philosophy, I reject their god-claim as much as any other.

          No, the only thing that would have the effect of giving me less of an “issue” with belief in a god would be if there were evidence presented that indicated that the god was even likely to exist.

          Whether or not I would consider that god good, even once I did accept that he existed, is another story.

          • Ray permalink

            I’m sorry if you think I don’t read your entries, I do. And I’m sorry if I my phrasing was confusing, but inadvertently but you still answered my question. Anyway, suppose Baha’i had replaced Christianity as a dominant religion, and if it kept to its values then it could not be a rallying cry/cover story for so many acts of destruction. I really don’t think then that your emotional response to religion would be as powerful. Not that you would believe in God any more (or at all) just that you wouldn’t get so worked up over people believing in God. I mean what is the harm of believing in God if that belief doesn’t prevent you from accepting other trains of thought that contradict your own. My belief doesn’t stop me from having discussions or calls me to destroy opposing views. And as a Theist with these views I’m not alone. I just seem to be one of the few that are vocal.

  3. There is also the small matter of interpretation. I have found that the words in other languages, which we interpret to mean for, by, of and from, can mean a different one of those words depending on the context or colloquialism. It is such a small change, but it makes a huge difference.

    It is just that, if such a situation exists (as is common among different languages) with “dying for our sins”, it could mean He died from or by our sins, but that is conjecture.

    I am interested in seeing the original texts and looking at all the other possibilities of interpretations that may be discounted by those regarded as authorities on the texts. Maybe, one day I will have the chance.

    • Ray permalink

      The idea of paying for past sins done by others is kinda lame. I honestly think that the idea of “original sin” might have come out of the understanding that “hey you know what, we are kinda selfish by nature, so that means we can sin.”

      • Ray permalink

        forgot to add to that “and do regularly. We really should stop that.” =)

        • Are you saying that the original sin is not gaining the knowledge of good and evil against God’s request? If so, what would be the sin that doomed all of mankind to be guilty?

          In the matter of Michael’s “protesting” of Theism, I do not see an emotional response. I do see examples that try to appeal to a sense of logic. I cannot speak for you, but perhaps, you interpreted that to be cold and angry. Logic and be very unyielding like that.

          Saying his responses are emotional is trying to use his personal character in an argument. I do not think his character is a valid avenue to pursue in these discussions. Then again, I looks like he does try to bring the personal character or morality of religious ideals into play. Then again… again, that could easily be seen as comparing different aspects of the beliefs which state different standards of morality at different times for the same events by different people.

          I also have to question why you mentioned his selection of Christianity in response to the post if it was not intended to mean something. As he stated, many events that still affect a lot of us in the USA, regardless what we believe, are related to Christianity. Making observations on the events as they happen does not mean he has targeted one religion.

          Now, I disagree with Michael on his second point:
          They have a net negative effect on the believers and the culture.

          Without completely removing the religions, we cannot know if people would behave one way or another. The standard of negative and what constitutes the factors for net effects are also unclear.

          PS. I know some about one practice during Ramadan because my parents were in Saudi Arabia for seven years (for a two-year job). I find it strange that self-abuse is supposed to help someone understand those who may be less fortunate and focus on the teachings in their Qur’an. Is it that difficult to understand? Also, should one set aside time to follow their beliefs over any other times? Then again as one who was one of those less-fortunate people as a child, I might have an advantage on that specific aspect. Hunger sux.

          • Ray permalink

            I know Mike isn’t cold and angry, and I’m not attacking his character. I just know that as a human being we have knee jerk reactions to things. And not that I care he has a potty mouth sometimes, frankly I love it. I just know that even I’m emotional when I learn about the messed up things that my church has done to my own culture.

            That is why I’m glad you brought up your second point, there is no real way of knowing for certain that people would have developed their behavior. I’d like to think it would have balanced out, but I can’t ignore other instances where religious leaders HAVE fought and died for human rights using the teachings of their faith as a guide line.

  4. dorkmanscott permalink

    I’ll grant you that we can’t know how human behavior would have developed without religion, but we can know some things with relative certainty.

    For example, now that stem cell research is going to get the funding it needs and the restrictions on stem cell harvesting have been lifted, we will see how fast the technology advances and what diseases and handicaps it can overcome. Then everyone who opposed stem cell research is, in my opinion, directly responsible for all deaths and suffering from curable diseases that occurred during that time. Because if it hadn’t been for them, there would have been a cure.

    That’s one example but you can go back through history and see all the times that religion set civilization back decades or even centuries — which we do know in hindsight because we see how fast things advanced when religion was periodically shoved aside. They aren’t called the Dark Ages for nothing.

    I doubt that you could argue that the Crusades or the Inquisition or 9/11 or the recent Gaza conflict would have been as likely to occur without religious mythologies butting heads.

    And no, I’m not ignoring the cases where someone has done something good for their religion, but more often than not they’re fighting against their religious precepts to do so, instead of with them. They are things that I believe they would have done anyway, as they are the kinds of things (like helping the sick) that people of all faiths, including no religious faith at all, are willing to do.

    Even granting for the sake of argument that they did it in the name of their beliefs and specifically and solely because of those beliefs, that’s why I said the net effect is negative. You add up the good and the bad, even cheating by letting the good that probably was unrelated to the faith be included, and I think the bad still stacks higher up.

    So why not do the good things you were going to do anyway, and toss out the fairy tales that make some people do bad things they weren’t likely to do otherwise?

    • I doubt that you could argue that the Crusades or the Inquisition or 9/11 or the recent Gaza conflict would have been as likely to occur without religious mythologies butting heads.

      You do not feel that someone could easily use another reason to do the same things?

      You add up the good and the bad, even cheating by letting the good that probably was unrelated to the faith be included, and I think the bad still stacks higher up.

      Does the bad actually stack higher or do you just think it does? (Burden of proof, dude.) 😉

      I also cannot help notice you mentioned specific events that I believe account for a much smaller portion of time than the remaining history of religions, not mentioning that things we might consider to be negative effects on individual lives might also be much less than what we might think are positive ones that they attribute to their Faith. Of course, this equally is conjecture, too, as we would need to be mind-readers throughout history.

      Without knowing what effects it will have on the way people make decisions, can you be sure that removing the dangling carrot will make people try just as hard to be good?

      I see no harm in trying, though, but I do not think a mass exodus (no double pun intended, but I like it) of Theistic faith would be all that good. I feel people would need to understand the implications and how to handle things before abandoning the fairy tales. (i.e. Attempts to change people to democracy in a matter of months have not had awesome results.)

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