Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Problem With The Christian Doctrine

While scanning newspapers online recently, I came across this article about a Baptist pastor saying that the Jews would burn in hell because they didn't accept Jesus. While he's somewhat apologetic at causing offence, his comments are still indicative of his views on the matter. The more damning aspect of the Christian Doctrine is that one needs to accept Jesus as a personal saviour in order to be spared an eternity of torture. This archaic and draconian tenet is to me the most disgusting element of the Christian doctrine.

The fall of Adam
In the beginning, there was an answer: 42. But what was the question? God didn't know so he made the earth to calculate the ultimate question. From the earth came all life, but for his greatest creation he used his pottery skills to craft it out of clay. And low and behold, there stood Adam. Adam was lonely as all golems are, so God created Eve who had the pleasure bits that would occupy Adam's mind. But like all woman who aren't confined to the kitchen, Eve went rogue and took advice from a talking snake. After all, she had no knowledge of good and evil. So Adam and Eve were cast out into the world, knowing they had condemned mankind for all eternity.

God gave mankind free will, yet not the knowledge to exercise free will. Ironically enough, by eating from the tree man gained knowledge of good and evil and would have been able to make an informed choice. Adam may have had free will but without knowledge of right and wrong it's hard to exercise free will properly. One might even conclude that to punish someone who was God-given ignorant for an action that was well beyond their control is extreme, and that to punish all mankind for that moment of judgement he never had.

So now everyone is a sinner and has to atone for that absence of judgement on the account of Eve. If only God didn't put that talking snake in the tree, or he didn't put the tree there at all. God's supposedly omniscient so he would have known what was going to happen before it happened. There was no need to have anything there at all. But of course any rationalisation on why the tree was there is post hoc reasoning on account of us. Maybe the tree was there so man could exercise free will, maybe it was there because it was part of a divine plan. That's the great thing about theology: it doesn't matter what the justification is because it can be justified in any way. After all, we can't know the mind of God and hell is reserved for anyone who bothers to question Him.

Now of course, Adam and Eve is nothing more than an allegorical tale. There was no creation, no garden of Eden and no fall from paradise. The whole story is downright silly, and I really can't understand how anyone could think it's a literal story of human history. But it's central to the Christian doctrine of original sin, without it there is nothing that Jesus needs to atone for.

The resurrection of Jesus
So after four millennium of punishing people through genocide, and other atrocities, God decides that the vile corrupt creation deserves a chance to atone. So his plan? He comes down to earth to impregnate a virgin so she can give birth to God. Only it's not God, it's God in human form. Now in human form, Jesus becomes a cult leader, saying a few profound things (and a few inane things as well, but it's not like he's God or anything) and getting a bit of a following. He eventually gets punk'd by Judas so he can get tortured and die in order to redeem mankind for the sin that he put on them in the first place. There's only one condition: you have to believe in God in order to be saved.

Why God had to come down in human form is again a matter of theological interpretation. Why couldn't God just have atoned mankind with the raising of an eyebrow? Why did God have to come down in human form in order to do so? Again, we can't know the mind of God so any questioning as to why is blasphemy. It's another post hoc rationalisation of the content, any interpretation we give of the gospels is nothing but post hoc reasoning. How is a modern interpretation by a liberal Christian sect any better or worse than the Catholic interpretation or a Baptist one? They all claim that their interpretation is the correct one, yet they all suffer from pushing their own biases into their interpretation.

When it comes down to it though, most of these interpretations have one central tenet: atonement through faith. So it doesn't matter what you did in life because we are all sinners, if there is a belief in Jesus then one will be saved. Not about works, not about being a good person, but when it comes down to it faith is all that matters. This fundamentalist interpretation is quite a frightening prospect, it ties non-belief with eternal punishment and all those who don't accept Jesus into their heart will suffer the consequences of the fall.

Most people throughout history have not heard of Jesus, they would all be condemned. In a Christian society making a choice is possible, but for those who have never heard of Jesus are condemned to suffer for all eternity for the crime of simply being born in the wrong place and time. But it's God so we can forgive him for infinite punishment of people who had no choice in the matter and still call God all-loving. After all, those who question whether God is all-loving will feel the wrath normally reserved for the children of the Nile.

Non-literal interpretation
It must be recognised that there are as many interpretations of the afterlife as there are those who believe in the afterlife, and there are many sects of Christianity which don't hold the fundamentalist interpretation that is part of Evangelicalism. The main argument here is a rejection of the central tenets that are most amplified in Charismatic circles; the absolute nature of the belief is at odds with a secular multicultural society. As the good pastor found out, saying that those who don't accept Jesus will be eternally tortured doesn't make for good interfaith relations.

No comments: