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Moral Christianity?

March 20, 2010

I’ve been reading a lot recently about the history of the Christian and Jewish faiths, the history of the bible, and various interpretations of what the bible has to say. The more I learn, the more immoral Christianity as a religious idea seems.

This is not to say that Christians themselves are immoral; on the contrary, the vast majority (and certainly all that I know directly) are very moral people. It’s some of the central concepts underlying Christianity that I take issue with.

I think it’s impossible to argue with the statement that the god of the Old Testament is immoral. He was a genocidal, jealous, angry sadist who routinely ordered other people to murder, steal, rape and enslave. He didn’t necessarily restrain his wrath for those that we might feel “deserved” it. He (allegedly) wiped out most of humanity with a flood, saving Noah and his family. Presumably not everyone on the planet was sinful; what about unborn babies and young children? In Kings, god send two bears to kill 42 children for teasing a bald man. By reasonable standards this is more than a little disproportionate. There are many, many more examples, and thankfully the writers of the old testament were careful to record the actual numbers killed by god in his many and varied killing sprees. It’s a lot. Jason Long in Biblical Nonsense puts it at millions killed by god himself, with millions more killed on his orders.

The Old Testament also contains ridiculous numbers of laws to live our lives by, including many that allow slavery, sexism and bigotry. Probably not a moral code to life a good life by. I’m sure that most Christians would respond this by saying that the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus replace the laws and teachings of the Old Testament. But (if we are to believe the bible as a source of Jesus’ sayings), Jesus confirms on several occasions that he is not here to destroy the old laws, but to fulfil them. I’m sure there’s an apologetic answer to this criticism, but it would seem that to deny that the teachings of the Old Testament have a lower value than the New Testament is to ignore some of what Jesus had to say.

So, the New Testament. It’s only here that we first hear about hell. Jesus is portrayed as a nice, caring, compassionate man, but he makes it clear that if you don’t listen to his teachings you’re going to burn in hell for eternity. Here’s a another great example of gods apparent sadism. An all-knowing god created humans safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of them would spend eternity in hell. Is hell a suitable punishment for me as an atheist who has arrived at this position exercising my free will, presumably free will given to me by god?

Jesus died to forgive my sins.Accuse me of being cynical, but I don’t quiet buy this as a method of forgiveness. If I hurt you or offend you, I would want you to forgive me, and would have to work for this. For someone else to offer to forgive me is immoral. For me to contemplate accepting is immoral.

A final argument  is a bit more recent. The papal letter to Ireland about the child abuse scandal was signed yesterday. Is prayer, reflection and superstitious ritual really an appropriate response? An article by Christopher Hitchens on the role of the pope in the covering up of child abuse (something strangely absent from his letter) is here. The article also shows how inadequate the term “child abuse” is to describe some of what has happened.

I’m obviously a long way from fully understanding this aspect of Christianity but thought I’d put my current state of mind down “on paper”. Any thoughts?

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