This is a continuation from the previous post entitled Hard Questions about God that I Wished Someone had Asked Me Earlier.
The Bible:* If God’s extensive moral code from the Old Testament is good and if His law is perfect, why does so much of it no longer apply today? Why create a set of rules and commands that change? If the New Testament is the newer revelation that should be followed instead, why are so many parts of it now ignored? Why is it that when we discover contradictory verses or verses that are found to be immoral, disturbing, or scientifically inaccurate –why does the church then decide that they must be a metaphor for something? Why were the first 3 gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) not even written by actual apostles of Jesus, and even worse, why were all four gospels written anonymously? Why was there much dispute by the early church regarding which books were inspired or not inspired by God? Why, for example, was the gospel of Peter and the gospel of Thomas considered abhorrent and uninspired but the other gospels (which often disagree in detail) were considered inspired and inerrant? Why did it take several hundred years (long after the apostles had died) to have all of the books currently found in the New Testament be recognized and accepted? Why would divinely inspired books require intense debate regarding inerrancy by the early church? And why does the Catholic church still disagree with protestants and include 9 additional books (the Apocrypha) which Protestant churches reject as being uninspired and filled with error?
If Jesus was bringing the most important message to humanity it would ever receive, why didn’t he write that message down himself? Why allow it to be passed around in an oral tradition for decades (and we know how reliable that is), before it’s finally written down? Why do we only have late copies of copies of copies of copies that have discrepancies, and which aren’t even written in the language that Jesus and his disciples spoke? And if the words of those books and letters are so important, why didn’t God make sure the original manuscripts survived? Why send us this supposedly vital message in a book that’s so hard to understand and interpret that we have 40,000+ different christian sects, each interpreting the book in a different way?
“Then I began to see that not just the scribal text but the original text itself was a very human book. This stood very much at odds with how I had regarded the text in my late teens as a newly minted “born-again” Christian, convinced that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and that the biblical words themselves had come to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
As I realized already in graduate school, even if God had inspired the original words, we don’t have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost.
Moreover, I came to think that my earlier views of inspiration were not only irrelevant, they were probably wrong. For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place.
Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them.”
— Misquoting Jesus – Bart D. Ehrman, American New Testament scholar, current James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In summary, if the message of the Bible is so important, why couldn’t an omnipotent God have provided it timely, without error, clearly written and without dispute on authorship and free of contradiction? Or is it possible that significant portions (or even a majority) of the Bible is actually myth, legend, or grossly exaggerated accounts from antiquity?
Effectiveness of the Gospel: Why does the Christian gospel sound more like a cycle of abuse rather than truly good news? The Bible declares the doctrine of original sin with eternal damnation as the punishment for man’s evil deeds. Why is it “good news” that humans are put into severe psychological distress by creating the ultimate double bind? The Bible declares man as guilty and responsible, with eternal punishment at stake. Yet you have no real ability to do anything about it. Why is it a good thing that one must conform to a mental test of “believing” in an external, unseen source for salvation, and then maintain that state of belief until death? Since a person cannot ever stop “sinning” altogether and therefore must continue to confess and be forgiven by an invisible being, how is it not a cycle of abuse when all a person can do is hope that they have met the criteria despite complete lack of feedback about whether they will actually make it to heaven? Salvation is supposed to be a gift of love, but for the sincere believer, the result is an unending cycle of shame and pleas to an invisible being who never actually answers. And this is a good thing?
If the gospel of Christ is incredibly powerful and if it’s absolute truth, why do churches make it a point of targeting children with a philosophy of get ’em while they’re young? Could it be that children are just easily indoctrinated with the odd teachings of the Bible because children have already been conditioned to believe whatever adults tell them? Would Christianity be as prominent today if children were “off limits” to religious teaching? If only adults were exposed to the gospel message, would there be a change in the number of people in churches? And if that’s the case, what does that say about the actual power of the gospel message?
If the gospel message of Jesus is truly transformational, why are divorce rates among Christians and unbelievers the same? Or even higher among protestants? And for those who consider pornography a grave sin, why do we see no difference between the secular population vs. the Christian population? In fact, why do we find that protestants are even more likely to view porn even though they cite guilt as an inhibitor? Why do we often find that some of the most judgmental, hateful and intolerant people are those of the Christian faith? If Christianity is transforming and if disbelief in god is evil, why do we find that the prison population of the U.S. is largely absent of those who are atheist or agnostic? In fact, why do those in prison who identify as Catholic and Protestant constitute nearly 75% of the incarcerated while less than 1% are atheists or agnostics?
Competing Faiths: If Christianity is the only message with absolute truth, why do we see an overwhelming pattern of children who believe what they are raised in, regardless of the religion involved? Children of Muslims become Muslims, children of Mormons become Mormons, Hindus raise up new Hindus, etc. If your specific religious faith is primarily a factor of the country you were raised up in, how does that show that it’s truth? Why do we find a long history of mankind having invented various gods? Sun gods, moon gods, war gods, love gods, demigods and immortals. There are gods with names that start with every letter of the alphabet except “W”! Why do we so easily discount and disregard the hundreds of man-made gods that have come before, but Christians know for certain that Yahweh and Jesus are real, even though his promise to return during the lifetime of his early followers failed to happen? How many centuries have passed since his promise of “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place“?
Prayer: If your daughter suddenly became gravely ill, would it be more important to take her to the doctor, or to pray for her? If you feel that both are important, which is more effective? If you found out that you had breast cancer, would medical treatment be more effective? Or prayer? If your brother or sister suffered a horrific accident that led to the loss of an arm or leg, would prayer ever restore that missing limb? If no, why not? If Jesus promised that prayer could move a mountain, why has an amputee never had their limb restored by prayer? Why have faith healers never cured anyone with a clear physical disability? Is it possible that prayers have no effect and just merely make the believer feel better?
Why do the millions of prayers by mothers in Africa go unanswered as they watch their children die of disease and starvation? Why do over 7 million children die every year from hunger, disease and illness if prayer is effective?
And why does God hate the children of Africa?
Or is it more likely that the god of the Bible is the man-made concoction of earlier tribes in their attempt to explain the world and to also give themselves the license to kill other tribes and take their land?
* (My thanks to ubi dubium at https://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ for his comments to my previous post which I gratefully used in the first section about the Bible).