Chapter for "Christianity is not Great," edited by John W. Loftus
Published in Freethought Today, May 2012
RELIGIONíS BUCKET LEAKS LIKE A SIEVE
By James A. Haught
The worst aspect of Christianity is that it makes no sense -- and most of its 2.2 billion believers around the planet cannot see the illogic.† Let me explain:
More than any other faith, Christianity teaches that an all-loving, all-merciful, all-powerful, benevolent father-creator made the universe and everything it contains.† Ministers focus on God's special fatherly love for his favorites, people.
But if a supernatural spirit made everything, he also made breast cancer that kills women, leukemia that ravages children, brain tumors, malaria, tapeworms, spina bifida, Down's syndrome, flesh-eating bacteria and many other torments that sicken or kill his human offspring.† Further, he must have made tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, floods and sundry disasters that mangle and maim great masses of people. Remember the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that drowned 200,000, mostly children? Did "our father which art in heaven" just watch as a spectator?
How many desperate parents pray fervently for God to save their cancer-stricken children -- to no avail? Their anguished hopes find only silence.
In addition to this cruelty toward people, the animal kingdom that the loving creator supposedly made -- "every living creature that moveth" --† is a hell of killing and eating. Tennyson wrote of "nature, red in tooth and claw." (1)† Did you know that rabbits scream when ripped by a fox's fangs?† I heard it once, and I still feel my shudder.† Also, with my grandchildren, I put corn in trees for squirrels -- until a hawk swooped away with a muncher.
Mark Twain wrote: "The spider kills the fly, and eats it; the bird kills the spider, and eats it; the wildcat kills the goose; the -- well, they all kill each other.† It is murder all along the line." (2)† Charles Templeton, a brilliant Canadian evangelist who toured with Billy Graham, later lost his faith and denounced the absurdity of believing in a kindly father-creator. Here's his observation:
"All life is predicated on death. Every carnivorous creature must kill and devour another creature. It has no option.... Why does God's grand design require creatures with teeth designed to crush spines and rend flesh, claws fashioned to seize and tear, venom to paralyze, mouths to suck blood, coils to constrict and smother -- even expandable jaws so that prey may be swallowed whole and alive?... Life is a carnival of blood.... How could a loving and omnipotent god create such horrors?" (3)
Some insects even plant their eggs inside others, so the hatching offspring can devour the hosts alive, from within.† If a mighty Intelligent Designer devised all these things, he's a monster, not a merciful father.† No human would be so cruel. Why would anyone worship such a vicious creator -- and insist that the heavenly father is Pure Love? See what I mean about illogic?
Rationality doesn't rule out a malicious, sadistic creator-god, but it definitely scuttles the possibility of a merciful one. In philosophy, this inescapable conclusion is called the "problem of evil." It was first articulated 24 centuries ago by Epicurus in ancient Greece. Ever since, holy men have twisted themselves into pretzels trying to concoct rebuttals that hold water, but they all leak. A successful rebuttal is impossible. Instead of trying to warp reality to fit theology, a wise person concludes that there is only one believable answer: An all-loving, all-powerful father-creator cannot exist. Nature alone wrought the world's evils.
Christianity is illogical in various other ways.† Consider these:
---- The bewildering dogma of the Trinity says father, son and holy ghost are separate, yet the same being, and all three have existed eternally. Does this mean that Jesus impregnated his own virgin mother, causing himself to be born?
---- Homo sapiens sapiens has existed in fully modern form for perhaps 100,000 years, more than 3,000 generations. But Christianity has existed only 2,000 years. Some churches say Jesus is the only conduit to heaven. So what happened to the 2,940 generations of people who died in the preceding 98,000 years? Posthumously, were the "saved" among them declared retroactive Christians?
---- Hundreds of past gods and religions have vanished -- such as the Aztec faith, whose priests sacrificed victims to an invisible feathered serpent. Are Christianity's three gods (or one) less perishable?
---- Many Christian end-of-the-world predictions -- including a 2011 one by an American evangelist -- proved false. New predictions undoubtedly will emerge, and be just as silly.
---- No scientific evidence supports any of the church's miracle claims. The only supposed proofs are ancient writings similar to mythology tales.
---- It's often asserted that Christianity makes people better. If so, why do hundreds of priests and evangelists molest children and commit other "black-collar crimes"? And why did believers inflict centuries of faith-based killings in Crusades, witch hunts, the Inquisition, Reformation wars, pogroms against Jews, drowning of Anabaptists, etc.?
---- Most of the brightest thinkers throughout Western history -- philosophers, scientists, writers, democracy reformers and other "greats" -- have doubted the church's supernatural claims. Current skeptics stand alongside those towering minds.
In the face of such evidence, why does much of humanity still believe in a father-god? Sigmund Freud saw a clear explanation, as follows:
Tiny tots see a huge father looming over them, loving them, punishing them, protecting them. The image embeds in the infantile subconscious. Years later, when their biological father has lost his awesome majesty, they're told that an invisible, divine father looms over them, loving them, punishing them, protecting them. Bingo -- the buried subconscious image makes the god claim seems true.
"The god-creator is openly called Father," Freud wrote. "Psychoanalysis concludes that he really is the father, clothed in the grandeur in which he once appeared to the small child. The religious man... looks back on the memory-image of the overrated father of his childhood, exalts it into a deity, and brings it into the present and into reality. The emotional strength of this memory-image and the lasting nature of his need for protection are the two supports for his belief in God." (4)
When all evidence and knowledge are tallied, thinking people should reach the inevitable conclusion that all gods, devils, heavens, hells, angels, demons, miracles, saviors and other supernatural entities are just fairy tales -- fantasies that grew in the fertile human imagination.
Evangelist-turned-skeptic Charles Templeton ended his book, Farewell to God:
"I believe there is no supreme being with human attributes -- no god in the biblical sense -- but that all life is the result of timeless evolutionary forces.... I believe that, in common with all living creatures, we die and cease to exist."
An honest person can reach no other conclusion.
(1) Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H. (1850)
(2) Mark Twain, Letters From the Earth, Perennial Library, 1974, p. 13
(3) Charles Templeton, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith
(4) Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis, 1933