sent in by Steve
I have spent much of the past year reevaluating my lifelong encumbrance with Christianity. Here and now I relinquish all claims to its glorious promises. I have come to understand the concept of God in a new light. Perhaps man was not created in God’s image as we’ve been taught. On the contrary, perhaps God was created in ours. We’ve taken our limited understanding of the ultimate absolute and applied to God our temporal characteristics. In doing so we have limited the unfathomable, unknowable expression of oneness to a caricature of ourselves. This would explain the obvious evolution of God from the earliest writing of the Hebrew scriptures to the writings associated with the new covenant. God shouts from the mountains in the beginning in peals of thunder, tempests and fire. Then God steps behind the scenes speaking only through the prophets and at their bidding. In the new covenant, God is banished to the realm of spirit and mystery. Finally, God cannot be heard except through a “still small voice” in the ear of only an ardent believer. Perhaps as we’ve evolved in our understanding of the mechanisms of life our need for God has diminished. We’ve replaced God (gods) with our understanding. One by one, discovery by discovery, we’ve retired God from our daily experience.
Most of my life I’ve been a fundamental, born again Christian. I’ve bought into the doctrines of fundamental Christianity and ultimately found that it is clearly not the fact based biography of a God incarnate carpenter who wandered around Palestine preaching to the masses. Rather, it resembles more a collaboration of numerous mythical religions assembled generations later by authors unknown. Despite the abundance of historical records which exist from that time period (Rome was a very advanced civilization and Jerusalem a focal point of Roman rule) there exist perhaps two paragraphs gleaned from several sources that even imply that a Jesus (and there were many Jesus teachers/leaders at the time) described in the Biblical account ever existed at all. Neither of these sources are a contemporary account of the events alleged. In fact there exists no record, not even in the biblical accounts, from a source contemporary to Jesus. No first person narrative stating “Jesus and I went to the market to buy fish today”, or “Jesus informed me that he is God today”. Even the Gospel accounts are not first person . One is led to believe that each was penned by its stated author. Nowhere in the text of the gospels can this correlation be gleaned. The earliest of them (Mark) was penned around 150 C.E. Don’t you think that out of the multitudes who were supposedly following Jesus in this highly metropolitan area someone might have written “Holy cow, you’ll never guess what I saw today!” Nothing! Antiquity remains silent. The arrangement of the New Testament books implies a chronology that is inconsistent with fact. The accepted dates of each “book” roughly starts with Revelation and ends with Matthew. The Pauline letters preceded the Gospels. Hence, no mention in Paul’s letters about any of the quite amazing claims which grew larger with each telling. In fact Paul never indicates that he has any knowledge of a real Jesus. At least in the old testament God spoke “face to face”. Here we have to believe Paul’s vision bore God’s imprint and was not the result of a bad antipasto. Take any miracle which occurs in more than one account and watch the progression from simple statement to embellished doctrine.
Faith, being either the absence of reason or a launching point from it, absolves the faithful from any fidelity or responsibility to the empirical truth. Divine “truth” has historically been merely a commodity to be bought and sold. Malleable in nature, used by the church and its sententious, charismatic leaders to achieve the only thing it ever desired with its myopic aphorisms; money and power. Evidentiary, objective, reasonably documented truth is not to be found anywhere in the bible or in the early history of the church. The bible, being unencumbered by the need for historical accuracy, is free to create fictitious characters to suit its purposes. It is actually easier to worship the idea of Christ and conform to the cycle of religious piety, than to adhere to his teachings. The abstemious Christ, the reluctant messiah of the Gospel accounts, would scarcely be recognized if he appeared in a Cathedral today.
The pages of the old testament are filled with the promises of God to His chosen race. Almost none of them were ever kept. The Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Babylonian captivity, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Romans, the destruction of the temple, the razing of Jerusalem and the diaspora each diluted those sacrosanct promises. “But if only the Jews had accepted the mission of Jesus this could have been averted and paradise regained.” We could reenter that innocent state of the original sinning pair replete with their amentia and their childlike understanding. Philosophy tells us that what separates us from the animals is our ability to question our existence. Perhaps Adam and Eve’s only flaw was their propensity to discover and know. I would never quench the fire of inquisitiveness in my two children and prefer their blind obedience to my word. I’d rather they searched for meaning, expanded their realm of knowledge, broadened their intellect and having steeped in wisdom returned to me to one day to proclaim “I have learned much from you Dad, your were right”. What earthly parent would open the cookie jar, place it in the middle of the room, say “don’t touch” and then consign his beloved progeny to the care of an evil baby sitter knowing they had neither the knowledge of what constituted good or evil or the mental capacity to evaluate the consequences? This is exactly the story line in the book of Genesis. What kind of sin is the desire to know good and evil anyway? What is wrong with wanting to be like your parent? Isn’t the knowledge of good and evil part of the process of becoming fully human? Perhaps some people desire the blissful ignorance of the garden. I would prefer the opportunity to make mistakes and to grow. If God truly had created us in His image then perhaps this is an inherited flaw.
The challenge of growing up is learning which stories are useful reality constructs and which are poetic metaphors. How can you accept the story of the garden as anything but an allegory of creation? Amazingly, upwards of half the population believe this was a literal occurrence. Given the conflict between the scientific and religious explanations of life most prefer the latter as it conforms to a deep seated need to believe that we are the center of all that exists and that an unseen hand will assure our eternal protection. (It was only 10 years ago that the Catholic church framed a formal apology to Galileo for his heliocentric statements) Religion allows us to look out at the vastness of the cosmos and not be intimidated by our apparent insignificance but take comfort in the belief that it was all created for our benefit. We have the answer to the three questions Gaugin posed in his painting; “From where did we come”, “What are we here for”, “Where are we going”. We summarily reject science and its “sterile” explanations because of the way it makes us feel ignorant and impotent almost on a daily basis. How many people can explain how a microwave oven functions, much less how a telescope launched into space can capture vivid pictures of countless galaxies out there in the blackness, each with trillions of stars, and potentially, planets much like our own. We run to the bosom of science for its medicine and its technology, but flee its explanations for the working of our universe and our infinitely small place in it. Wherever it is possible to find out the explanation of something we should not have recourse to faith . However, we prefer to hold fast to the nativity scenes, miracles, angels, prophecies and revelations which are more the fodder of supermarket tabloids and children’s fables than useful information. The dubious miracles of the scriptures are a tenuous foundation upon which to build a faith. Parlor tricks and sleight of hand may have impressed the multitudes, but no one is founding a religion on David Copperfield or Seigfreid and Roy. Greater miracles are with us each moment of the day in the replication of DNA and the discovery of new galaxies. Perhaps a belief in miracles is the last bastion of the faithful, however ephemeral, that science reluctantly takes away.
For the first time in my life I feel free to appreciate my humanity and all its uncertainty, joy, sorrow and questions without awaiting some divine retribution for being me. Like Shakespeare said “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so”. I love life and the joy of living each day. No promise of a heavenly home with streets of gold is necessary to enjoy my simple life in my little world. I only hope to make my life a meaningful one and touch those around me with kindness and comfort as we each try to work out our own salvation.
Became a Christian: Infant
Ceased being a Christian: 45
Labels before: Catholic, Baptist, Assembly of God, Pentecostal
Labels now: Pagan
Why I joined: I Needed Answers
Why I left: The Answers Didn't Add Up
Email Address: ssmigs at sbcglobal.net
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)