This list may be hard for Christian friends and commenters to read, but please persevere.
I do not describe myself as being a Christian. I don’t feel I can. Here’s why.
Reasons of Belief
1. There is no God. Not in that sense, anyway.
Christianity talks about God as a distinct conscious being: a person. Someone who can be present or absent, who has desires, a will, thoughts, and emotions. One who can act physically. Eventually he will live on Earth among human beings in a great city. We call this the ‘theistic’ model of God. This super-human theistic God was the pattern of most religion until very recently, and it is obvious that it is God made in the image of man. God is like us, only bigger, better, wiser, kinder, more powerful. But ultimately human. It is a deeply primitive notion that I can’t take seriously.
2. I don’t buy the Jesus story.
Here is my story about the Greek man-God Theosozei, born when Zeus impregnated the girl Pikra, who had been forewarned by a vision of Hermes. Though a god himself, he lived life as a mortal, showing his divinity by doing many amazing deeds, until his mortal body was put to death by his enemies. But, how amazing, his immortal soul returned from Hades to climb the slopes of Olympus in glory.
Sound likely as an actual historical set of events? Of course not. We’re so familiar with the story of Jesus that we can forget how utterly absurd the claim that it actually happened.
3. There is no supernatural.
Coincidences happen, and it is a universal human reaction to see some purpose in them. People cry out in fear or ill health, and some get better. People access changed states of mind, and interpret it as spiritual gifts or spiritual possession. Every example of the supernatural has an alternative, perfectly natural, explanation. Whenever we can check, the natural explanation is the one that turns out to be true.
4. The bible is a mess, historically and morally.
Almost every historical claim the bible makes is either suspicious or refutable. It is full of horrible morality (more on that later) and inconsistent teaching. Jesus is not consistently a great moral teacher. It is golden rule one minute, then hating your father and mother the next. It is ministering to lepers here, and cursing fig trees there. The bible is a perfectly unremarkable ancient collection of stories and lore: an inconsistent foundation on which to base either belief or morality.
Reasons of Association
5. Christians form the bulk of the immoral majority.
I’m passionate about the empowerment of women; about economic justice; about free human sexuality; about science; about welfare for the needy; about peace.
There are those who oppose me on these issues. Who want women to submit to male authority; to champion the rights of big business over their workers; to condemn those with a different sexuality; to hamper science education; to eliminate welfare safety-nets; to bomb countries who don’t do as we wish.
On these moral issues, the bulk of the immorality is dressed in religious garb.
6. Faith in dogma is anathema to human understanding.
Through history, human life has been short and difficult. Humanity has made hard won breakthroughs in knowledge: understanding of the causes of disease, or the ability to irrigate crops against drought. Knowledge of other people and other cultures has been crucial for driving social change. None of this hard-won understanding came from dogma. Faith in theological answers distracts from facing reality honestly. I cannot support an institution who’s aim is to increase the amount of theological faith in the world.
7. Churches are dishonest about their member’s faith.
A large number of church-goers have problems with a naive face-value Christianity. Nobody wants to talk about it. A veneer of belief coats every surface, hiding doubts.
Most people I know in Church are pluralistic, maybe even universalist, but can you imagine a service dedicated to Rama one Sunday? Or a sermon on the historical Jesus, even? Not a chance. Churches pretend to be orthodox, because that façade is more important than the actual beliefs of their members.
Reasons of Morality
8. The orthodox Christian God is a deeply immoral character.
The Christian God is not good. He is vain, violent, jealous, judgmental, and tyrannical. Hitler and his gas chambers can’t hold a candle to the God of the flood and of a fiery Hell. Kim Jong Il was modest compared to the worship God demands.
9. The afterlife limits humanistic morality.
Belief in a judgement after death is comforting when justice is lacking. But we shouldn’t be comforted. We should be pained, constantly and severely, at injustice. Pained to the level of doing something about it. Doing something now, so justice is done now. The idea that God will take care of it later is hugely immoral. I don’t believe it makes people less likely to act unjustly, but it does lessen our motivation to act against injustice.
10. Cultivation of guilt is abusive.
You are a sinful individual. Without God’s help you are utterly despicable and worthy only of condemnation. Your litany of sins is long and ever-growing. You cannot do anything good or beautiful or worthwhile in your own strength.
This is the very definition of emotional abuse, the messages that victims of abuse suffer, until their self-worth is so small, they feel they deserve their treatment. To the extent Christianity teaches this, it is deeply malevolent.
But I Agree, and I’m A Christian…
So do many of my believing friends.
Why don’t I just be a Christian in the same way: with a mythological God, Jesus’s finer bits of morality, and a liberal stand on social issues? If I called myself a Christian, and lobbied for this, I’d help Christianity steer a more moral course.
The real reason I am not a Christian is that I choose to say I am not. The reason for that choice is a post for another day…
How about you? Why are you a Christian, why are you not? If you are, why do these issues not affect you? Or am I just plain wrong?