Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Debunking Anti-Christian Myths

On Monday, I answered 10 questions aimed to guide people away from Christianity. Today, I'd like to undertake a similar but slightly different approach. I have taken 20 statements attacking Christianity from a lengthy atheist editorial, and I will refute the veracity or insinuated implications of each one. Due to the length of these writings, I will take only excerpts, and will separate this exercise into two days: today and Friday. Thursday's post will be some unrelated thoughts on the separation of Church and State. This is extremely long, but I didn't write all of it: more than half of it is copied from the below link. Feel free to skim the link stuff and read my stuff to save time.

The original text from that website is in italics. My responses are in regular font. Please do not confuse the italic text for my opinions!

1. Christianity is based on fear. While today there are liberal clergy who preach a gospel of love, they ignore the bulk of Christian teachings, not to mention the bulk of Christian history. Throughout almost its entire time on Earth, the motor driving Christianity has been—in addition to the fear of death—fear of the devil and fear of hell. One can only imagine how potent these threats seemed prior to the rise of science and rational thinking, which have largely robbed these bogeys of their power to inspire terror. But even today, the existence of the devil and hell are cardinal doctrinal tenets of almost all Christian creeds, and many fundamentalist preachers still openly resort to terrorizing their followers with lurid, sadistic portraits of the suffering of nonbelievers after death. This is not an attempt to convince through logic and reason; it is not an attempt to appeal to the better nature of individuals; rather, it is an attempt to whip the flock into line through threats, through appeals to a base part of human nature—fear and cowardice.

Historically that is true. Today, in my church and the VAST majority of Protestant Christian church’s, that’s utterly and entirely false. Throughout history, preachers realized that threats were more effective than bribes, and unfortunately they based much of their teachings on persuading Christians to avoid hell and get to heaven by describing vividly horrific scenes of death. Christians were taught to be “God-fearing.” However, this is a horrible misinterpretation of Jesus and his life, and was a result of a power hungry church, NOT a flaw in the core beliefs called Christianity. I am a Lutheran, a Protestant, and above all a Christian but I believe God and his earth are to be loved, not feared. The argument states that “many fundamentalist preachers still openly resort to terrorizing their followers with lurid, sadistic portraits of the suffering of nonbelievers after death.” This is a grossly exaggerated description but I agree that is not what Christianity is about, it’s not what I believe, and I feel those fundamentalists are out of line. In fact, I don’t even believe in hell in the traditional, fundamentalist state. It may exist in some form, but it’s certainly not a fiery place with a horned devil inflicting physical pain.

2. Christianity preys on the innocent. If Christian fear-mongering were directed solely at adults, it would be bad enough, but Christians routinely terrorize helpless children through grisly depictions of the endless horrors and suffering they’ll be subjected to if they don’t live good Christian lives. Christianity has darkened the early years of generation after generation of children, who have lived in terror of dying while in mortal sin and going to endless torment as a result. All of these children were trusting of adults, and they did not have the ability to analyze what they were being told; they were simply helpless victims, who, ironically, victimized following generations in the same manner that they themselves had been victimized. The nearly 2000 years of Christian terrorizing of children ranks as one of its greatest crimes. And it’s one that continues to this day. 

As an example of Christianity’s cruel brainwashing of the innocent, consider this quotation from an officially approved, 19th-century Catholic children’s book (Tracts for Spiritual Reading, by Rev. J. Furniss, C.S.S.R.): 
Look into this little prison. In the middle of it there is a boy, a young man. He is silent; despair is on him . . . His eyes are burning like two burning coals. Two long flames come out of his ears. His breathing is difficult. Sometimes he opens his mouth and breath of blazing fire rolls out of it. But listen! There is a sound just like that of a kettle boiling. Is it really a kettle which is boiling? No; then what is it? Hear what it is. The blood is boiling in the scalding veins of that boy. The brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The marrow is boiling in his bones. Ask him why he is thus tormented. His answer is that when he was alive, his blood boiled to do very wicked things. 

There are many similar passages in this book. Commenting on it, William Meagher, Vicar-General of Dublin, states in his Approbation:
"I have carefully read over this Little Volume for Children and have found nothing whatever in it contrary to the doctrines of the Holy Faith; but on the contrary, a great deal to charm, instruct and edify the youthful classes for whose benefit it has been written."

Again, this is totally untrue in today’s Christian world. The article reference a book from the 1800’s! These teachings are absurd, and certainly not practiced on any notable scale today. Besides, while these excerpts are frightfully and gruesome, it cannot be doubted they were effective; the aim has always been to do good things and to make the world a better place by following Jesus’ teachings,  and while the means for distributing that message were often unnecessarily harsh that is still an admirable goal.

3. Christianity is based on dishonesty. The Christian appeal to fear, to cowardice, is an admission that the evidence supporting Christian beliefs is far from compelling. If the evidence were such that Christianity’s truth was immediately apparent to anyone who considered it, Christians—including those who wrote the Gospels—would feel no need to resort to the cheap tactic of using fear-inducing threats to inspire "belief." ("Lip service" is a more accurate term.) That the Christian clergy have been more than willing to accept such lip service (plus the dollars and obedience that go with it) in place of genuine belief, is an additional indictment of the basic dishonesty of Christianity. 

How deep dishonesty runs in Christianity can be gauged by one of the most popular Christian arguments for belief in God: Pascal’s wager. This "wager" holds that it’s safer to "believe" in God (as if belief were volitional!) than not to believe, because God might exist, and if it does, it will save "believers" and condemn nonbelievers to hell after death. This is an appeal to pure cowardice. It has absolutely nothing to do with the search for truth. Instead, it’s an appeal to abandon honesty and intellectual integrity, and to pretend that lip service is the same thing as actual belief. If the patriarchal God of Christianity really exists, one wonders how it would judge the cowards and hypocrites who advance and bow to this particularly craven  "wager."

He wouldn’t. Anyone who try’s to teach the word of God through threats isn’t really teaching the word of God. The “Lip service” you mention is a greedy practice by the corrupt or misguided clergymen of centuries ago. Pascal was a brilliant man, but his “wager” was not one of his main teachings. His “wager” was merely an insurance blanket, a last ditch effort if all else failed to persuade someone to embrace Christianity. I wholeheartedly admit it’s a silly concept. But I’m happy the argument brought up Pascal, because he is a perfect example of a the fusion of science and religion. Pascal lived during the enlightenment, a time of scientific advancement and a strong emphasis on reason and logic as a means to truth. Pascal was a brilliant contributor to the science of his time (anyone familiar with mathematics will recognize Pascal’s triangle), but was also a devout Christian. He dedicated much of his life to promoting the idea that science and religion were not in any way at odds, an idea I wholeheartedly support.

4. Christianity is extremely egocentric. The deep egocentrism of Christianity is intimately tied to its reliance on fear. In addition to the fears of the devil and hell, Christianity plays on another of humankind’s most basic fears: death, the dissolution of the individual ego. Perhaps Christianity’s strongest appeal is its promise of eternal life. While there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim, most people are so terrified of death that they cling to this treacle promise insisting, like frightened children, that it must be true. Nietzsche put the matter well: "salvation of the soul—in plain words, the world revolves around me." It’s difficult to see anything spiritual in this desperate grasping at straws—this desperate grasping at the illusion of personal immortality.

Oh come on, that’s so narrow minded. Obviously when people speak of eternal life they do not mean the physical body will continue to live forever. Listen, I have NO CLUE what awaits me after death. I have faith there is some form of conscious existence, but I highly doubt it has anything to do with my body or physical, selfish pleasure, as the above insinuates. I don’t think heaven is angels playing harps on a cloud with a golden gate, in fact I have no idea what heaven is like. The idea of a non-earthly existence is beyond human comprehension, because the human mind does not possess the capacity to truly understand things beyond its own experience. This is where faith comes in; I know in my gut, for complicated reasons I’ll explain later, that there is a divine being (heretofore referred to as God) of some sort. I believe Jesus was the human manifestation of that divine being, and that the Bible expresses God’s will for us through Jesus’ teachings. The idea of life, or even existence, is impossible for our puny human brains to comprehend; what defines existence? What does it mean to be? I sure don’t know, but I do know that when I die my existence doesn’t just terminate. I believe in some form of afterlife not because I’m desperate or selfish, but because I believe my existence is not defined by my heartbeat.

Another manifestation of the extreme egotism of Christianity is the belief that God is intimately concerned with picayune aspects of, and directly intervenes in, the lives of individuals. If God, the creator and controller of the universe, is vitally concerned with your sex life, you must be pretty damned important. Many Christians take this particular form of egotism much further and actually imagine that God has a plan for them, or that God directly talks to, directs, or even does favors for them.(1) If one ignored the frequent and glaring contradictions in this supposed divine guidance, and the dead bodies sometimes left in its wake, one could almost believe that the individuals making such claims are guided by God. But one can’t ignore the contradictions in and the oftentimes horrible results of following such "divine guidance." As "Agent Mulder" put it (perhaps paraphrasing Thomas Szasz) in a 1998 X-Files episode, "When you talk to God it’s prayer, but when God talks to you it’s schizophrenia. . . . God may have his reasons, but he sure seems to employ a lot of psychotics to carry out his job orders."

In less extreme cases, the insistence that one is receiving divine guidance or special treatment from God is usually the attempt of those who feel worthless—or helpless, adrift in an uncaring universe—to feel important or cared for. This less sinister form of egotism is commonly found in the expressions of disaster survivors that "God must have had a reason for saving me" (in contrast to their less-worthy-of-life fellow disaster victims, whom God—who controls all things—killed). Again, it’s very difficult to see anything spiritual in such egocentricity.

I don’t feel I am helpless in an adrift in an uncaring universe. I feel God has a goal for humanity, and as a human I play an individual role in attaining that objective. My actions and beliefs are entirely up to me, but there is some guiding force that helps things happen the way they do. I do not feel my prayers will influence God’s will, or that God will literally pop a bearded head out of the sky to “speak to me”. I do know, however, through personal experience that praying to God and verbally expressing your feelings, wishes, graciousness, faith, and love are exceedingly rewarding, and can lead you to truths you would never have come to had you not spoken these thoughts aloud. In this way God can “speak to you” or communicate a certain message merely through the teachings he has already given to us through his son. Egotism or thinking individuals are important enough to warrant God’s “attention” has nothing to do with it. The ignorance of this argument is revealed in it’s attempt to humanize God, depicting it as a person with a fixed amount of time which he must divvy between who deserves it most. Such a simple and inaccurate caricature of divinity is just as ignorant as the author makes Christians out to be.

5. Christianity breeds arrogance, a chosen-people mentality. It’s only natural that those who believe (or play act at believing) that they have a direct line to the Almighty would feel superior to others. This is so obvious that it needs little elaboration. A brief look at religious terminology confirms it. Christians have often called themselves "God’s people," "the chosen people," "the elect," "the righteous," etc., while nonbelievers have been labeled "heathens," "infidels," and "atheistic Communists" (as if atheism and Communism are intimately connected). This sets up a two-tiered division of humanity, in which "God’s people" feel superior to those who are not "God’s people." 

That many competing religions with contradictory beliefs make the same claim seems not to matter at all to the members of the various sects that claim to be the only carriers of "the true faith." The carnage that results when two competing sects of "God’s people" collide—as in Ireland and Palestine—would be quite amusing but for the suffering it causes.

Historically, this is totally true. Even today religious conflicts are abundant, albeit much less with Christianity than with Islam or Judaism. But I don’t feel this way. I believe religion is a personal decision, I recognize that if I were born in the Arab world in all likelihood I would be Muslim too, and I respect our difference in belief. I also realize that all the world’s major religions, despite differences in details and disagreements on the nature of divinity, basically advocate the same core principles of peace, love, happiness, respect, and generosity. The golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, is written in literally every major religious text in hundreds of languages. Far more unifies the world’s religions than that which separates them, which makes it especially easy to embrace other religions peacefully and respectfully.

6. Christianity breeds authoritarianism. Given that Christians claim to have the one true faith, to have a book that is the Word of God, and (in many cases) to receive guidance directly from God, they feel little or no compunction about using force and coercion to enforce "God’s Will" (which they, of course, interpret and understand). Given that they believe (or pretend) that they’re receiving orders from the Almighty (who would cast them into hell should they disobey), it’s little wonder that they feel no reluctance, and in fact are eager, to intrude into the most personal aspects of the lives of nonbelievers. This is most obvious today in the area of sex, with Christians attempting to deny women the right to abortion and to mandate near-useless abstinence-only sex "education" in the public schools. It’s also obvious in the area of education, with Christians attempting to force biology teachers to teach their creation myth (but not those of Hindus, Native Americans, et al.) in place of (or as being equally valid as) the very well established theory of evolution. But the authoritarian tendencies of Christianity reach much further than this.

I don’t do that. Again, I respect all people’s right to disagree and I support evolution. I’m not authoritarian. Most Christians aren’t. A select few do, and that’s unfortunate, but the excesses mentioned here are no different in Christianity than they are in government or science or a dozen other fields. Politicians assert their views as superior to others and often act in an authoritarian manner; do you suggest we should abandon government too? The feeling that your belief is correct and is the only one worthy of consideration is a fault of human nature, not of Christianity.

Up until well into the 20th century in the United States and other Christian countries (notably Ireland), Christian churches pressured governments into passing laws forbidding the sale and distribution of birth control devices, and they also managed to enact laws forbidding even the description of birth control devices. This assault on free speech was part and parcel of Christianity’s shameful history of attempting to suppress "indecent" and "subversive" materials (and to throw their producers in jail or burn them alive). This anti-free speech stance of Christianity dates back centuries, with the cases of Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruno (who was burnt alive) being good illustrations of it. Perhaps the most colorful example of this intrusive Christian tendency toward censorship is the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited Books, which dates from the 16th century and which was abandoned only in the latter part of the 20th century—not because the church recognized it as a crime against human freedom, but because it could no longer be enforced (not that it was ever systematically enforced—that was too big a job even for the Inquisition).

Christian authoritarianism extends, however, far beyond attempts to suppress free speech; it extends even to attempts to suppress freedom of belief. In the 15th century, under Ferdinand and Isabella at about the time of Columbus’s discovery of the New World, Spain’s Jews were ordered either to convert to Christianity or to flee the country; about half chose exile, while those who remained, the "Conversos," were favorite targets of the Inquisition. A few years later, Spain’s Muslims were forced to make a similar choice. 

This Christian hatred of freedom of belief—and of individual freedom in general—extends to this day. Up until the late 19th century in England, atheists who had the temerity to openly advocate their beliefs were jailed. Even today in many parts of the United States laws still exist that forbid atheists from serving on juries or from holding public office. And it’s no mystery what the driving force is behind laws against victimless "crimes" such as nudity, sodomy, fornication, cohabitation, and prostitution. 

If your nonintrusive beliefs or actions are not in accord with Christian "morality," you can bet that Christians will feel completely justified—not to mention righteous—in poking their noses (often in the form of state police agencies) into your private life.

No, you cannot bet that. You can bet that Christianity has had an unfortunate history of abuses on freedom…just like virtually every government in the world. Every nation on every corner of the globe has practiced the oppression of freedoms at some point in their history, often cruelly and violently. Yet I highly doubt the author would argue to abandon civilized government! The truth is that humanity, not just Christianity, has a bloodthirsty, unfair, and lengthy history of wrongdoing. Illuminating individual incidents in the centuries old history of a modern institution is not a reasonable argument against the merit of that institution today or the ideology it is based upon.

7. Christianity is cruel. Throughout its history, cruelty—both to self and others—has been one of the most prominent features of Christianity. From its very start, Christianity, with its bleak view of life, its emphasis upon sexual sin, and its almost impossible-to-meet demands for sexual "purity," encouraged guilt, penance, and self-torture. Today, this self-torture is primarily psychological, in the form of guilt arising from following (or denying, and thus obsessing over) one’s natural sexual desires…
…Given that the Bible nowhere condemns torture and sometimes prescribes shockingly cruel penalties (such as burning alive), and that Christians so wholeheartedly approved of self-torture, it’s not surprising that they thought little of inflicting appallingly cruel treatment upon others. At the height of Christianity’s power and influence, hundreds of thousands of "witches" were brutally tortured and burned alive under the auspices of ecclesiastical witch finders, and the Inquisition visited similarly cruel treatment upon those accused of heresy…

…While the torture and murder of heretics and "witches" is now largely a thing of the past, Christians can still be remarkably cruel. One current example is provided by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Its members picket the funerals of victims of AIDS and gay bashings, brandishing signs reading, "God Hates Fags," "AIDS Cures Fags," and "Thank God for AIDS." The pastor of this church reportedly once sent a "condolence" card to the bereaved mother of an AIDS victim, reading "Another Dead Fag."(2) Christians are also at the forefront of those advocating vicious, life-destroying penalties for those who commit victimless "crimes," as well as being at the forefront of those who support the death penalty and those who want to make prison conditions even more barbaric than they are now.
But this should not be surprising coming from Christians, members of a religion that teaches that eternal torture is not only justified, but that the "saved" will enjoy seeing the torture of others. As St. Thomas Aquinas put it:
In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful and that they may give to God more copious thanks for it, they are permitted perfectly to behold the sufferings of the damned . . . The saints will rejoice in the punishment of the damned. 

Thus the vision of heaven of Christianity’s greatest theologian is a vision of the sadistic enjoyment of endless torture.

This argument yet again mentions unwise, unfair, and unreasonable actions undertaken “At the height of Christianity’s power and influence.” Once again, the author minces his words. This was not at the height of Christianity, but the height of a flawed and power hungry Catholic Church. The church body is and was a group of humans, who through a flawed interpretation of the Bible committed some horrible crimes, even if their intentions were usually good. The Christianity I believe in advocates none of the elaborate horrors described above; the continual assaults on the misdeeds of centuries ago only serve to magnify the glaring lack of connection to today’s world and the beliefs that the vast majority of today’s Christians hold. That church who pickets and sends letters is a ridiculous cult; the argument against Christianity as a whole is akin to arguing that since the KKK was from America, America must be evil. I have yet to read a reason that attacks the ideals of Christianity instead of the misdeeds of a small minority.

8. Christianity is anti-intellectual, anti-scientific. For over a millennium Christianity arrested the development of science and scientific thinking. In Christendom, from the time of Augustine until the Renaissance, systematic investigation of the natural world was restricted to theological investigation—the interpretation of biblical passages, the gleaning of clues from the lives of the saints, etc.; there was no direct observation and interpretation of natural processes, because that was considered a useless pursuit, as all knowledge resided in scripture. The results of this are well known: scientific knowledge advanced hardly an inch in the over 1000 years from the rise of orthodox Christianity in the fourth century to the 1500s, and the populace was mired in the deepest squalor and ignorance, living in dire fear of the supernatural—believing in paranormal explanations for the most ordinary natural events. This ignorance had tragic results: it made the populace more than ready to accept witchcraft as an explanation for everything from illness to thunderstorms, and hundreds of thousands of women paid for that ignorance with their lives. One of the commonest charges against witches was that they had raised hailstorms or other weather disturbances to cause misfortune to their neighbors. In an era when supernatural explanations were readily accepted, such charges held weight—and countless innocent people died horrible deaths as a result. Another result was that the fearful populace remained very dependent upon Christianity and its clerical wise men for protection against the supernatural evils which they believed surrounded and constantly menaced them. For men and women of the Middle Ages, the walls veritably crawled with demons and witches; and their only protection from those evils was the church. 

When scientific investigation into the natural world resumed in the Renaissance—after a 1000-year-plus hiatus—organized Christianity did everything it could to stamp it out. The cases of Copernicus and Galileo are particularly relevant here, because when the Catholic Church banned the Copernican theory (that the Earth revolves around the sun) and banned Galileo from teaching it, it did not consider the evidence for that theory: it was enough that it contradicted scripture. Given that the Copernican theory directly contradicted the Word of God, the Catholic hierarchy reasoned that it must be false. Protestants shared this view. John Calvin rhetorically asked, “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?”

Yawn. More attacks on centuries old Catholics. I agree Catholicism entirely screwed up the past. We get it, and I doubt even the most devout fundamentalist would disagree. So can we please move on? The vast majority of these first 7 ½ reasons are irrelevant to the questions at hand.

More lately, the Catholic Church and the more liberal Protestant congregations have realized that fighting against science is a losing battle, and they’ve taken to claiming that there is no contradiction between science and religion. This is disingenuous at best. As long as Christian sects continue to claim as fact—without offering a shred of evidence beyond the anecdotal—that physically impossible events occurred (or are still occurring), the conflict between science and religion will remain. That many churchmen and many scientists seem content to let this conflict lie doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

I suppose I am “disingenuous at best” then because I absolutely believe that there is no conflict between science and religion whatsoever. One is the how, the other is the why. For more on that, see yesterday’s post.

Today, however, the conflict between religion and science is largely being played out in the area of public school biology education, with Christian fundamentalists demanding that their creation myth be taught in place of (or along with) the theory of evolution in the public schools. Their tactics rely heavily on public misunderstanding of science. They nitpick the fossil record for its gaps (hardly surprising given that we inhabit a geologically and meteorologically very active planet), while offering absurd interpretations of their own which we’re supposed to accept at face value—such as that dinosaur fossils were placed in the earth by Satan to confuse humankind, or that Noah took baby dinosaurs on the ark.

Huh? I really laughed out loud at that, that’s utter garbage as far as I’m concerned, I’ve never heard anyone argue any of those things. And those who do are certainly not your mainstream Christian.

They also attempt to take advantage of public ignorance of the nature of scientific theories. In popular use, “theory” is employed as a synonym for “hypothesis,” “conjecture,” or even “wild guess,” that is, it signifies an idea with no special merit or backing. The use of the term in science is quite different. There, “theory” refers to a well-developed, logically consistent explanation of a phenomenon, and an explanation that is consistent with observed facts. This is very different than a wild guess. But fundamentalists deliberately confuse the two uses of the term in an attempt to make their religious myth appear as valid as a well-supported scientific theory. They also attempt to confuse the issue by claiming that those nonspecialists who accept the theory of evolution have no more reason to do so than they have in accepting their religious creation myth, or even that those who accept evolution do so on “faith.” Again, this is more than a bit dishonest. 

Thanks to scientific investigation, human knowledge has advanced to the point where no one can know more than a tiny fraction of the whole. Even the most knowledgeable scientists often know little beyond their specialty areas. But because of the structure of science, they (and everyone else) can feel reasonably secure in accepting the theories developed by scientists in other disciplines as the best possible current explanations of the areas of nature those disciplines cover. They (and we) can feel secure doing this because of the structure of science, and more particularly, because of the scientific method. That method basically consists of gathering as much information about a phenomenon (both in nature and in the laboratory) as possible, then developing explanations for it (hypotheses), and then testing the hypotheses to see how well they explain the observed facts, and whether or not any of those observed facts are inconsistent with the hypotheses. Those hypotheses that are inconsistent with observed facts are discarded or modified, while those that are consistent are retained, and those that survive repeated testing are often labeled “theories,” as in “the theory of relativity” and “the theory of evolution.” 

This is the reason that nonspecialists are justified in accepting scientific theories outside their disciplines as the best current explanations of observed phenomena: those who developed the theories were following standard scientific practice and reasoning—and if they deviate from that, other scientists will quickly call them to task. No matter how much fundamentalists might protest to the contrary, there is a world of difference between “faith” in scientific theories (produced using the scientific method, and subject to near-continual testing and scrutiny) and faith in the entirely unsupported myths recorded 3000 years ago by slave-holding goat herders. 

Nearly 500 years ago Martin Luther, in his Table Talk, stated: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.” The opposite is also true.

Although I believe in evolution and the scientific method and insist that science and religion do not contradict one another, there is a certain merit to the argument that scientists asserting reason as superior to faith are being just as arrogant and stubborn as those asserting faith as superior to reason. Reason and feeling are two entirely separate methods of knowing; it goes back to the old ideological debate between the Enlightenment movement and the Romanticism movement. Atheists long belabor the circular arguments of those advocating faith, without realizing their use of reason is equally centrifugal. Atheists love to point out that the justification for acquiring knowledge through faith is faith itself, which makes means there is no justification unless we assume the conclusion is true. But do they not justify their search for knowledge through reason with more reason? What’s to say reason is superior to faith? What’s to say conclusions drawn via evidence or logic are superior to those drawn though feeling and emotion? Now I’m getting a bit over my head in deep ideas here, and I have nothing against logic and I embrace both means of knowing in my everyday life. Still, I feel it is arrogant to assume that the ideas garnered through the logical capacities of human beings are sufficient to understand all things. Perhaps a human understanding heaven through logic is akin to an ant trying to understand the internet through logic; it is impossible for that being to fathom with his logical brainpower, but that doesn’t mean heaven or the internet do not exist. Another way to put it is that Christians have knowledge of faith, while atheists put faith in knowledge.

9. Christianity has a morbid, unhealthy preoccupation with sex. For centuries, Christianity has had an exceptionally unhealthy fixation on sex, to the exclusion of almost everything else (except power, money, and the infliction of cruelty). This stems from the numerous "thou shalt nots" relating to sex in the Bible. That the Ten Commandments contain a commandment forbidding the coveting of one’s neighbor’s wife, but do not even mention slavery, torture, or cruelty—which were abundantly common in the time the Commandments were written— speaks volumes about their writer’s preoccupation with sex (and women as property).

False. The Bible, and nearly all holy books of the world, instruct you to treat others with kindness, love, and respect. Again, the saying “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” comes to mind. Just because individual sins are not spelled out by name doesn’t mean they are in line with the basic precepts of the Bible.

Today, judging from the pronouncements of many Christian leaders, one would think that "morality" consists solely of what one does in one’s bedroom. The Catholic Church is the prime example here, with its moral pronouncements rarely going beyond the matters of birth control and abortion (and with its moral emphasis seemingly entirely on those matters). Also note that the official Catholic view of sex—that it’s for the purpose of procreation only—reduces human sexual relations to those of brood animals. For more than a century the Catholic Church has also been the driving force behind efforts to prohibit access to birth control devices and information—to everyone, not just Catholics.
The Catholic Church, however, is far from alone in its sick obsession with sex. The current Christian hate campaign against homosexuals is another prominent manifestation of this perverse preoccupation. Even at this writing, condemnation of "sodomites" from church pulpits is still very, very common—with Christian clergymen wringing their hands as they piously proclaim that their words of hate have nothing to do with gay bashings and the murder of gays.

Homosexuality is undoubtedly a hot topic among both the religious and the non-religious. Each is entitled to their own opinion, and mine is that being gay is NOT a choice, that you are born with your sexual preference predetermined. And even if this were not true, I would still demand that gays get the same rights as everybody else (my views on gay marriage will be spelled out next week!)

But regardless of your personal beliefs, the above attack on Christianity is once again an attack on a few misguided individuals who happen to call themselves Christians, not an attack on Christianity. Those misguided people kill and assault other human beings and treat them nastily; what could be less Christian than that? Just because they claim to be acting on behalf of Christ doesn’t mean they actually are. The argument’s repeated attempts to define the beliefs of all Christians by those of a radical minority are a pathetic attempt to poison the well of Christianity, to discredit his opponent using a straw man, regardless of what they actually believe.

10. Christianity produces sexual misery. In addition to the misery produced by authoritarian Christian intrusions into the sex lives of non-Christians, Christianity produces great misery among its own adherents through its insistence that sex (except the very narrow variety it sanctions) is evil, against God’s law. Christianity proscribes sex between unmarried people, sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, bestiality, (3) and even “impure” sexual thoughts. Indulging in such things can and will, in the conventional Christian view, lead straight to hell. 

Given that human beings are by nature highly sexual beings, and that their urges very often do not fit into the only officially sanctioned Christian form of sexuality (monogamous, heterosexual marriage), it’s inevitable that those who attempt to follow Christian “morality” in this area are often miserable, as their strongest urges run smack dab into the wall of religious belief. This is inevitable in Christian adolescents and unmarried young people in that the only “pure” way for them to behave is celibately—in the strict Christian view, even masturbation is prohibited. Phillip Roth has well described the dilemma of the religiously/sexually repressed young in Portnoy’s Complaint as “being torn between desires that are repugnant to my conscience and a conscience repugnant to my desires.” Thus the years of adolescence and young adulthood for many Christians are poisoned by “sinful” urges, unfulfilled longings, and intense guilt (after the urges become too much to bear and are acted upon).

Even after Christian young people receive a license from church and state to have sex, they often discover that the sexual release promised by marriage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. One gathers that in marriages between those who have followed Christian rules up until marriage—that is, no sex at all—sexual ineptitude and lack of fulfillment are all too common. Even when Christian married people do have good sexual relations, the problems do not end. Sexual attractions ebb and flow, and new attractions inevitably arise. In conventional Christian relationships, one is not allowed to act on these new attractions. One is often not even permitted to admit that such attractions exist. As Sten Linnander puts it, “with traditional [Christian] morality, you have to choose between being unfaithful to yourself or to another.”

One of the first things I thought of upon reading this argument was “A Brave New World.” The idea that humans should just act upon whatever “urges” they feel, and that any belief system that disagree is worth abandoning, is certainly not one I agree with. Males often feel the “urge” to have sex with a woman who may very well not wish to have sex with them. By this article’s logic the man should just rape her, because after all it is a sexual urge. In times of heightened fury and rage, murder can also be a natural human urge. Yet the “urge” to do something does not justify the action. I believe in a phrase called “mind over matter,” which asserts that we humans have complete mental control over our physical actions. If I feel the urge to have sex when I shouldn’t, my decision to or not to do so is entirely within my control. And I do not believe that humans should engage in an activity merely because we have the “urge” to do so. 

For centuries, the majority of Western civilization has been Christian, marriages have been heterosexual and divorces illegal, and non-marital sex was a legally punishable crime. I’m not saying I agree with those laws, but people have lived monogamous sexual lives for centuries without protest. I believe in love that goes beyond the pleasures of the flesh. If this connection of souls is stripped away, and all that remains is the connection of body parts, then how is human intercourse any different from that of animals? Marriage is not supposed to be a union of two people who want to have sex, but a union of two people who love each other so much they wish to spend the rest of their lives together. That connection does not “ebb and flow,” and “new attractions” do not “inevitably arise” from it. Obviously, human genitals know nothing of love, but married couples should; this, not sexual desire, is what should keep a marriage together.

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