Christianity vs. Logic, round 1
The amount of contradictions in the christian bible is probably enough to publish a contradictionary on the topic. If you’re pressed for time and looking for some snappy questions that will befuddle your religious foes, read only the bold sections. My interest in the topic dates way back: in my own words, i was “tearing holes in the stocking of religion to reveal the leg of truth” in 2006. Having conferred with my trusty sidekick, bitchslap chicken, on the matter, I noticed and documented the following conundrums within christianity – things that would make no sense even if one was to take certain christian assumptions for granted:
a) Does heaven promise happiness?
Families often disagree on the “god” issue – but how do the religious plan on enjoying their stay in heaven when they expect your sorry arse to end up in hell? Surely such an occurrence would dampen the whole “eternal bliss” scenario. How could the parent of a child condemned to hell ever forget about their suffering and plight and enjoy any of the promised happy fun times with Jesus in heaven? It is possible that god gives such unfortunates a dose of amnesia to allow them to be perpetually happy and fulfilled as advertised in church? Is this the best that christian parents of heathens like myself can hope for in an afterlife? Being tricked into contentment by way of a amnesia ray a la Men In Black, a procedure that essentially lobotomises a vital part of them and blinds you to the existence of those who you so cherished? This scenario is reminiscent of the nauseating forced happiness that one experiences on extacy; for those who have avoided this experience, just pretend you’re Neo and instead of finding out the disturbing truth you choose the other pill and slip back into the predictable life within the matrix.
Perhaps god somehow redefines what is important to heaven-dwellers; would this be any less appalling? Sure, there could be things that would lose some of their importance in light of eternal life – one would re-evaluate one’s petty mortal worries such as bills and “success”, but if they were to just cease caring that their partner or child was eternally damned, there would have to be some mind-tampering going on in heaven, tampering that robs people of the right to choose what can matter to them – this choice is essential for free will. No matter how amazingly pimped out heaven is, if people are allowed to retain their memories and their mortal attachments and cares, there will be no peace or serenity for them, but only the anguish of knowing the tragedies befalling those close to them. This isn’t how it is advertised.
I have asked people approaching this position (or so they think) – nearing death, having reared two free-thinking agnostics and predicting they will one day be in heaven whilst the fruit of their loins rotts in hell. I was shocked by their indifference to the proposed situation – I was informed that there are places that one can see from heaven to hell to get their fill of mourning, after which they begin their lives of eternal bliss. The fools! The normal human grieving process is temporary because the tragedy grieved is temporary – I for one would find it extremely difficult to enjoy my good fortune whilst those I cared about suffered. The Christians also acknowledged that the level of care they would retain for their sons would be severely diminished and thus they could retain an upbeat demeanor throughout their stay, even during the mourning period.
Bolderdash! If I didn’t have the capacitive to feel negative emotions and have negative thoughts, I wouldn’t be me any more. This is why I avoid extacy – it is a substance that, whilst undeniably intensifying one pole of the human experience, not only neglects but outright forbids the experience of the other side of the spectrum. When happiness is your sole emotional response to this complex and often cruel, unusual world, you get a very eerie sense that something’s not quite right, though, if still under the influence, you are not bothered by this at all – in fact, you’re probably happy about it.
To add to this problematic heaven scenario is the fact that without negative emotions, one would not be able to fully enjoy, or even distinguish, the fact that one is happy. If life was one huge orgasm, we would soon lose interest, because monotony is unbearable and variety is the spice of life, or so they say. Interestingly, I recently read of a woman who suffers from uncontrollable, frequent orgasms – she is indeed sick of them, she cannot bear having conversations with her parents out of embarrassment and she is forever exhausted. I can’t believe so many people are striving to get to a place and they haven’t even considered the consequences for themselves if such a place did exist. There have been several attempts to undermine the above argument; I will briefly outline and undermine these to avoid further “counterarguments” along these lines. Apparently, negative emotions are the result of sin and thus don’t exist in heaven. Sadness, longing, and sympathy are all productive negative emotions; to classify all unpleasant feelings as a side effect of sin is to devalue the experience of life, a common repercussion of religious thinking. A depressed person will experience more negative emotions than a healthy person; to suggest that this is mirrored in their behaviour by a higher correlation of sinful acts is absurd, as most people are aware, depression is a debilitating illness. Depression is the result of chemical imbalances in the brain; to maintain that depression is an ethical disorder one would have to hold that committing sins affects our levels of neurotransmitters as well as the metabolic rate of their absorption… It is true that when an individual acts in a manner that strays from their particular code of ethics, they may feel regret or shame as a result. However, to hold that all negative emotions come from sin is absurd. Firstly, one only feels bad when one acts out of accordance with their own ideas of ethical standards, not God’s. It is plausible that what is considered a sin could bring pleasure and what is not a sinful act could result in shame. Emotions are common amongst all mammals, is it thus possible for animals to sin? We certainly know that they experience negative feelings, but since animals are defined as incapable of committing sins, our identically functioning mammalian brains must be working differently. Mammals must experience negative emotions due to environmental disturbances, social dynamics, personal losses and regrets, dietary or hormonal deficiencies and the like, whilst humans, despite apparent correlations between biological, social and personal issues and their moods, somehow derive their negative emotions from actions alone – not genes, not market crashes, not from traumatic experiences but sins that they commit. Pure dribble.
Neuroscience allows us to predict how a person is likely to feel, we can measure levels of neuradrenalin (energy) dopamine (motivation) and seretonin (happiness) levels of the brain and accurately predict and treat mood disorders. Isn’t that much more amazing and beautiful than simply attributing everything bad to sin and the devil, and anything good to god?
Now that we have the tools to understand the human mind, why revert to our primitive ways of explaining the world? Happiness is caused by seratonin, how can people seriously think that your “soul” will drift up into heaven where you will prance around with god all day and be infinitely happy when the mechanism that we now know is necessary for feeling happy remains in the body? And if sin is the cause of low levels of happy chemicals, why aren’t christians outraged about anti-depressant medications helping people “cheat” their way out of feeling bad for a supposed sin?
Are the chances of getting into heaven really fair for everybody?
Walter Ego is currently 20 years of age. He won’t be smelling the foul stench of his own mortality for a number of years, and presently, he is an agnostic. However, if we revisit Walter in 50 years, and he is still alive, he is far more likely to rely on the daily crutch of some form of religion because:
He has become somewhat senile.
He knows his life will end soon and it is frightening and unnerving to accept his mortality.
It is impossible for him to imagine nonexistence since he has been existing his entire life and knows nothing else.
iv. He has lost bowel control and his quality of life has withered to a level that leaves him relentlessly unsatisfied, so he yearns for something more, something beyond what has become of his life.
Can call it whatever you want, you can call it a spiritual awakening and closeness to god prompted by a near death experience or a miracle. I call it fear. Regardless, Walter has little say over how long he survives; sure he can add a few years with diet and exercise or lose a few by smoking, but in the grand scheme of things, the age of our demise is not under our control. If Walt happens to get pulverised by a speeding truck at the tender age of 21, he will end up in hell according to christianity, for he is not yet a believer. If, however, he avoids the accident and lives to the ripe old age of 71, he will go to heaven because of his conversion. How can our supposed eternal destiny be hinged upon a matter of chance? How could the relatively insignificant detail of the date of our demise decide whether we spend forever enjoying ourselves in heaven or rotting in hell? Granted, a deceased 21-year old walter would have had the opportunity to accept Jesus into his heart during his fleeting time on this earth, but at that time in his life, having been exposed to the information that the world randomly bestowed upon him, and with the use of the intellect that god supposedly gave him, he could not help but suspend judgement on the matter. The question remains, how can the trivial matter of someone’s early death limit their chances of heaven membership to such an immense extent? Some of us are given several decades to find our faith whilst others are left to rot in this sordid cesspool we dub society for over seventy years. Of course one is more likely to ignore reason and consider God’s existence a plausibility when death is imminent. I recall hearing that the system is supposed to treat everyone as equals, each “soul” having equivalent opportunities for being “saved”?
It becomes blindingly obvious that the system is, if it exists, extremely biased, when one considers the impact that one’s country of origin/upbringing can have on their likely religious choices. Worse still, this arbitrary factor is entirely out of the individual’s control. Most of us have been born and raised in western countries, abound with christian churches, swirming with seniors equipped with pamphlet upon pamphlet to inform us of the key character in christianity – Jesus. God, according to christianity, will not permit anyone to enter the pearly gates unless they have made friends with his son. If you’ve heard about Jesus but die while contemplating rival prophets, or you’re just getting to know Jesus and aren’t quite ready to let him in, or you’re born in a country where christianity is the minority religion – no heaven for you. How likely, in our society, is it that someone will convert to Hindu, Islam Buddhism or Mormonism? About as likely as your average hindu-raised Pakistani is to throw out his monument to Ganeesh and buy a bible after receiving a pamphlet from the only christian church in his town. Yet, if our Hindu friend has been priviledged enough to learn about Jesus thus, in the eyes of christianity, his failure to accept him will result in a one-way ticket to hell. When you think about it, if christianity were true, missionaries must put more people in hell than most sins combined. Perhaps heaven is filling up, and this is part of their master plan.
Foreigners aside, to what extent can 21-year old Walter be held responsible for his agnosticism? Sure, he weaved his way through life making decisions here and there, but he cannot be blamed for the information he encountered, unless, he intentionally sought out one-sided arguments and skewed information to rid himself of this belief. Even if he had done this, the fault would lie with God, whose sloppy mind-wiring resulted in the confirmation bias that threatens to thwart our search for any truth regarding something we have already formed a belief. For we will tend to discount the evidence against our hypothesis and perceive the supporting arguments to bear more weight. Walter, using the reasoning powers bestowed by god and the information he has encountered, through no fault of his own, cannot bring himself to believe in God. Walter WANTS to believe. It would make life so much less complicated, it would end his nihilistic despair, it would stop him feeling so alone, and a jesus in your heart is a great insurance policy in case of any errors in his calculations. Unfortunately, god help him, he can’t. But God doesn’t help him, he sends him to hell, in his “infinite wisdom”.
What difference does it make whether a man can swallow the codswallop collectively called Christianity before he dies or not? Should not the virtues of his character be the determinants of his soul’s eternal resting place, rather than his gullability, durability or nationality? Anyone with enough moral fibre in their diet should be safeguarded from a hereafter bunking with satan. Anyone who refuses to ride the Jesus bandwagon is banished to the fiery depths of hell in christianity, and the magnitude of this preposterous condition of entry hurts my brain.
This requirement is reminiscient of a teacher failing students who don’t attend his son’s birthday party. Were he a real God there would be nothing we could do to offend this all-knowing being. He would immediately trace any mean-spirits to traumas of the past, and no sin could stir such a hypersympathetic entity to warrant his fury and vengeance. These are human qualities, they’ve made their way into our concept of god because it was us who created him! Spitefulness, envy towards other gods, annoyance that his son has lost his celebrity status over the centuries – these are all human failings that would be absent in a truly perfect being. Fiddlesticks, the more I cover, the more i uncover; weaning society off of religion is going to be a Herculean task.
Does god know when a person is due to die, even before they are born?
This opens a wormhole of problems and conundrums if it is in fact what Christians believe. He is omniscient, but does that omniscience extend through the fourth dimension? If so, it calls into question the existence of our free will. Any attempt at suicide before the person’s “due date” would be pre-determined to fail. In fact, everything we do, every decision we make that in some way influences the course of our lives (and i think we’ve all heard enough about butterfly wings flapping causing tornadoes to realize that this could include the most insignificant of choices) – it would all have to be pre-determined in order for God to produce an accurate due date. it is impossible to look into the future without pre-defining what people would do to achieve that state of events, and if God can know what we will do before we do it then there really is no free will, whatever we happen to do, we could not have done otherwise. Compatibalists might dispute this, but the common notion of free will is the ability to have done otherwise. If everything we’ve ever done has already been factored into God’s plan, and his predictions are infallible, then mankind doesn’t have free will. Before a baby is born God could know where it would end up after death! And yet, the whole purpose of our plight here on earth is, supposedly, to utilise this great “free will” tool that God has bestowed upon us. If God sees into the future, the bible contradicts yet again. God gave us free will, so the bible contradicts yet again, if he is able to see into the future.
Unfortunately, the problem with all of these arguments is that eventually, a religious person will bark a typical non-falsifiable claim at you that you can do nothing about due to its unfalsifiable nature. Religion rests on these uncertain pillars, and nobody can knock them down entirely – however it would be silly to base your life on such an unstable structure. So they’ll give you the old “you can’t possibly understand what it would be like to be in heaven, it’s beyond anything you know or can know” or the old “it’s god’s big plan that you can never see”; and you’re left speechless, homicidal with rage at the ignorance exhibited by the person whose eyes you were trying to pry open.
I’m done, there are many more but alas, my fingers are about to fall off and your concentration probably drifted off paragraphs ago. Please let me know if the bible has any safeguards or loopholes against these arguments, and if the questions i have based the arguments on are correct.
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Tags: agnostic, atheism, atheist, Christianity, death, heaven, Jesus, mocking christianity, Religion