An Answer For Dave Green

One of my real life friends (and former co-photographer for the Atlanta Roller Girls), Dave Green, posted this on his Facebook page over Easter weekend, and I feel compelled to answer him more thoroughly than a Facebook post would allow.

Dave said:

So… I read all these posts against God and “Christianity” (although different words are used for it), and I am reminded of two things:

#1: God didn’t screw all this up. PEOPLE screwed it up and continue to do so, and always will. All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God.

#2: People don’t get riled up over Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age, Wicca, Islam (although that one could be debated – but not for it’s teachings outside of violent interpretations), Atheism, Satanism, etc, etc, etc…

NONE of them get people heated up like the name of Jesus.

Jesus pissed people off in His time here on Earth because He challenged their thinking (hey, you guys aren’t doing the right things – you’re being ceremonious and image-conscious instead of helping and loving each other).

Here we are, a couple thousand years later, and Jesus is still just as controversial now as He was then. It doesn’t take a genius to see the constant attack on God and “Christians,” although it is disguised with other words, like “open minded”, or using comedy as a shield, or as blatantly as “you don’t think like I do, so you are a closed-minded racist homophobe anti-woman anti-freedom anti-good-things bigot”.

And trust me, it goes the other way. Many “Christians” take it too far and start judging others. Once again, PEOPLE screw it up.

“but…”

SOMETHING. HAPPENED. A couple thousand years ago, and we’re still arguing about it today.

God is good all the time. People screw it up. I had to read the Bible for myself and see what the rabbis hadn’t told me and what the works was misinforming me about.

Let’s start with #1. Screwed what up? The world? Christianity? What exactly is screwed up? I am going to be presumptuous and say Dave is talking about Christianity (correct me if I’m wrong, Dave).

One of the questions and doubts that lingered in my mind from the time I was old enough to wonder about such things to the point where I became a full blown atheist was, “If this Christianity thing is so great, why is it so hard to believe, and why are there so many types of Christians?” I finally got to the theological point where I actually agree with Dave’s assessment. Human beings took a mythos, a theology, and started wrapping their own rules, customs, traditions, and interpretations around it – twisting it to fit their own political and social needs. People built religious systems that best suited their needs.

The take-away I get from this is that there is no such thing as a “pure Christianity as Christ intended”, but myriad forms of Christianity – many in direct conflict with others – that really mean nothing. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a “Christian” since there is no agreed upon definition of Christianity, even among, especially among, Christians!

On to #2. Even though “Christian” is now so diluted that it doesn’t really mean much, according to Pew Research, more than 78% of Americans identify as Christian, while 0.7% identify as Buddhist, 0.4% as Hindu, 0.6% as Muslim, and another 0.4% as New Age (no indication given for Wicca). In the 113th Congress, there are 3 Buddhists, 1 Muslim, 1 Hindu, 1 Unitarian, and 1 “unaffiliated”. 0.0% of those other faiths have nationally recognized holidays and festivals.

Put simply, from a broad cultural, social, and political perspective, non-Christians don’t matter a whole lot. It may surprise you to know, however, that in those societies where Christianity is the minority, there are indeed skeptics and atheists as well. Unfortunately, many of those other countries are not nearly as democratic and free as the US so their atheists tend to keep their mouths shut if they want to stay alive.  Our dear ally, Saudi Arabia, just declared that all atheists are to be considered terrorists which will effectively quench any religious dissent.

We only get “heated up” about Jesus when Jesus is used to justify discrimination, dumb down education, or otherwise exercise social or political power. Speaking directly to Dave here (who is a converted Jew), how long were Jews blamed, persecuted, vilified, and even killed for being the religion that “murdered” Jesus (2014 years, since it is still happening)?

No one is more judgmental of Christians than other Christians. Dave did it in his own post –  Many “Christians” take it too far and start judging others. There’s even a name for that kind of judgement called “The No True Scotsman Fallacy“, where a no one who claims to be X could behave in a way that you, as another member of X, don’t agree with. Christians do this all the time. How do you feel about the Westboro Baptist Church? Or Seventh Day Adventists? Or Mormons?

The not numbered point of something happened a  couple thousand years ago is best answered as – yes, something did happen. The Roman Empire began to fall apart. Rome has over-reached its military, economic, and political power and began to crumble. From the ruins of those crumbling empirical outposts came leaders and heroes – some mostly legend, some based in fact. More importantly than what happened in what is now Israel is what happened hundreds of years after the events – when a whole bunch of religious and political leaders got together under the commands of their king and decided which hand copied versions of oral traditions would be put together to form the official canon of the Christian world.

Yes, the Bible is a book created not by God, but by a committee of politicians and priests – all with their own vendettas and demands. The history of the Bible is much more impressive than the book itself. But it is all man made, so again I agree with Dave’s first point – people screwed it up.

“God is good all the time”? Based on what? Even reading the Bible shows a vindictive, jealous, and petty deity. Starting in Genesis – punishing Adam and all of mankind for something Eve did, to murdering the world in a flood, to genocides, slavery, incest, murder – the character of God is far from anything we would call “good”. He comes across as an abusive spouse! “I’m only doing this because I love you, and if you would just do exactly what I say I wouldn’t have to hurt you.”

If you had a gazillion dollars and the most powerful military force on the planet, wouldn’t you use that wealth and might to put a stop to what this picture shows? That would be a “good” use of your power and might. (Please don’t throw the “free will” argument here – look at that kid. Do you think he has exercised “free will” to starve to death?)

So, Dave, this is the long answer to your Facebook post.

Comments

  1. Dave Green says

    Thank you for your reply, Ed. I respect your views, and welcome the questions/challenges presented.

    I was raised as a pretty radical Jewish kid, and I used to pull Christians into arguments about why Christianity was all screwed up.

    Then I read the Bible for myself… Instead of just believing what I was told was in there.

    People have misused the Bible to commit some really terrible acts. It’s very sad to see when it happens.

    There is much to respond to in your post, but just not effectively in this medium (and more enjoyably over a couple beers). There are a couple points that I should make, though.

    First, a question: have you read the Bible for yourself? Or do you (as I did for decades) simply accept what others tell you is in there?

    If not, it would be good to do so, even from just a purely intellectual standpoint and so that what you say is in there truly is, and in the proper context.

    I would also remind that we don’t think as God does. His thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways, so we really have no basis to criticize what he “should” be thinking.

    But most importantly, though… Is Jesus.

    My post about Him compelled a response. Here we are, a couple thousand years after His sacrifice and resurrection, and it’s still a hotly debated subject. Nothing else inspires that kind of response and attention.

    Why is that?

    More importantly, what will each of us do with His sacrifice on your behalf?

    • Ed Selby says

      There is much to respond to in your post, but just not effectively in this medium (and more enjoyably over a couple beers). There are a couple points that I should make, though.

      mmmmmm – beer

      have you read the Bible for yourself?

      It would be intellectually and theologically dishonest of me if I hadn’t. Certainly I have – thoroughly. You will find that most, if not all, atheists who “converted” from a faith tradition have read more of their faith’s texts than the average believer. As I said in my “Easter Is Stupid” post, it was reading the Bible that contributed the most to me becoming a non-believer.

      Here we are, a couple thousand years after His sacrifice and resurrection, and it’s still a hotly debated subject.

      I agree here. Had it not been for the political power of the church and its unique ability to squelch dissent and doubt, I think this subject would have been dismissed long long ago.

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