In my last post I addressed 10 questions Atheists are commonly asked. I decided it was only fair to follow up with 10 questions for Christians. After all if someone says they are an Atheist, they are often called upon to give an explanation of themselves and to argue their case. Yet being a Christian requires no explanation or proof. In fact most people live their entire lives without anyone questioning their beliefs. Few if any Catholics ever wonder why they are Catholic and not Protestant. Few know anything about non-Christian religions and therefore no thought is given to the religion of their birth. Hardly any ever sit down and ponder the arguments for and against the existence of God, it is simply assumed. Hopefully these questions will make people at least think.
(The questions are in bold and the explanation is in normal font. If you choose to answer these questions, you only have to answer the bold, the rest is just explanation.)
1. How are you sure your religion is right when there are thousands to choose from and you are Christian simply due to birth?
Religion is like a lottery, you are assigned a random belief based solely on the choice of your parents, which is pretty much decided based on where you live. There are thousands of religions in the world, each claiming their own miracles and holy books as proof. Seeing as you didn’t choose your religion based on any examination of its claims or with comparison to other religions (it’s impossible to do a comparison with them all) how do you know you’re right?
2. Has science made God obsolete?
Religion had an original purpose in explaining the natural world. Thousands of years ago people didn’t know where life came from, why people got sick or why the seasons changed. So they created elaborate stories to explain it (take the Greek myths for example). However, as our knowledge of science grows larger, the room for God shrinks more and more. We now know how people get sick and how to cure it, we no longer believe they are possessed by devils (as the Bible said) and that prayer is the answer. We know the true source of thunder and weather so we no longer do rain dances or ascribe it to God.
Evolution dealt the strongest blow, by nullifying religions strongest card, how did we get here? Longer could religion claim sole knowledge of the origin of life, now there was a secular proof that has dominated everywhere but the backwaters (which unfortunately includes parts of the American Republican Party). Likewise physicists are making important discoveries into how the universe was created (Big Bang Theory, Higgs Boson etc.).
If God is no longer the main explanation of the natural world, does this make him less relevant and important? True, this was not religions only purpose, but it was a major component of it. Do we need God anymore to understand the world?
3. Why does God not stop mass murder and genocide?
It is hard to pick up a history book without coming across a description of a brutal massacre. The 20th century contained horrific scenes of genocide from Armenia to Cambodia, to Rwanda, and of course, the Holocaust. Why did God let these things happen? He is supposed to be loving, protector of his children and enemy of evil. Did he not make a covenant with the Jews that he would protect them? The Old Testament is full of examples of him intervening to help them win minor skirmishes, why could he not stop their near annihilation?
In Night, Elie Wiesel describes his imprisonment in Auschwitz under the Nazis. One day the camp was forced to watch the hanging of a child, who being so light for the gallows took an agonising 30 minutes to die. Wiesel records that he heard someone muttering, “Where is God?” to which Wiesel replied, “Hanging on the gallows”. If God cannot stop the sheer evil of the Nazis, then is he as good as dead?
4. How did Jesus’ death take away our sins?
Christianity is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus. This supposedly removed our sins. But how? How does one person take the sins of the whole world? How can he take responsibility for sins that had not even been committed? By people who weren’t even born yet?
If our sins are forgiven, does that mean everyone will go to Heaven? If all our sins are forgiven, then what is the point of Hell? Surely Jesus’ death made Hell redundant? What is the point of all the rules of religion if, even if we break them, Jesus’ death means they are forgiven?
5. Is it right that all non-Christians will go to Hell?
Imagine if you were born in Iraq and like everyone else there, you were raised a Muslim. This was the only religion you were familiar with and you knew next to nothing about Christianity. You are still a good person, you raise a loving family, and you are kind and friendly. You give to charity and help those in need. You pray every day and observe the various religious rules. You are by all accounts a good person and model for others. Are you telling me that this person will now go to Hell for not being a Christian? (The Bible is clear that this is a requirement for entry into Heaven) Are you telling me that you will now suffer for eternity due to the fact you were born into a non-Christian country? What sort of vindictive God would do this? While every Western jerk goes to Heaven because they were born Christian?
Are the Jews condemned to an eternity in Hell because they did not accept Jesus as their saviour? What about all the people born before Christianity? Even poor Moses and Abraham who did everything God asked of them, does the No non-Christians rule apply to them? Seeing as religion is a lottery, is it right that being unlucky in birth condemns you to an eternity in Hell?
Allow me to put it bluntly. Is Gandhi going to Hell because he was a Hindu and not a Christian?
6. Is God a dictator?
Have you ever noticed the similarity between God and a dictator? Both claim to love you and both demand unconditional loyalty in return. If you criticise a dictator you sent to a concentration camp and if you criticise God you are sent to Hell. Like a dictator, God’s word is law. Whatever he says goes. No matter how cruel or absurd it is, no dissent is tolerated. The Old Testament is a list of the brutal crushing of everyone who disagreed with God. Whole civilisations were exterminated for not bowing down before him. His behaviour is that of a megalomaniac tyrant.
Blind obedience is what is required most and like a tyrant, God’s ego needs constant feeding. Creating the universe apparently wasn’t enough, he also needs every town and village to have a monument to him. His subjects must constantly praise him, while asserting how worthless they are compared to him. Christians aren’t required to bow before him like Muslims, the line is drawn at kneeling.
Like a totalitarian dictator God aims to control every aspect of his subjects’ life. There are rules guiding almost everything people do. The Old Testament contains over 650 laws that we are supposed to obey (though Christians have silently and without explanation have ignored most of these rules). Even thought crime is punished. There is no escape from this celestial dictatorship that is everywhere, knows everything and can do anything. It is a nightmare worse than 1984.
7. What’s the point of prayer?
Prayer plays a large role in Christianity. Jesus repeatedly (Matthew 21:21-2, Luke 11:9-13, John 14:13-4) said that pray can achieve anything, even move mountains into the sea. Then why are prayers so rarely answered? Think of those who are sick and people pray for them, but they die anyway. Some argue that this is because God is mysterious and has his own plan. If so, then what is the point of prayer? If God has a plan that can’t be changed then prayer is useless. If his mind can be changed (really, it only takes one person’s request to change the mind of the master of the universe?) then why doesn’t it work more often? There are millions of sick, injured, poor people in desperate conditions, if God can help some of them, why can’t he help all of them? Isn’t he all-powerful?
Has anyone noticed the correlation between the amount of people who are saved from death thanks to pray and the quality of that country’s hospitals? The most religious part of the world (Africa) where presumably the most praying occurs, is also the place where life is hardest, with disease, poverty, war and famine. Whereas the most secular part of the world (Europe) is where people live the longest and are the richest. I’m not saying correlation is causation but . . .
8. What is the difference between something that cannot be seen, heard, touch or detected by any of our senses or any scientific measurement device, and something that doesn’t exist?
If I gave you a box and told you that it contained a species that could not be detected by any sense or even the most powerful microscope, in fact there was no way of detecting its existence at all, what would be the difference between this and giving you an empty box?
Is God invisible or just not there? It is strange to see theologians jump through the most absurd hoops to come up with descriptions of God (“He’s spaceless, timeless, everywhere, nowhere, beyond the laws of physics, outside the universe etc. Often it sounds like they’re making it up as they go along). Have you ever wonder what God is? What is his power source? Everything has a power source and seeing as God can supposedly hear every thought, he must run a pretty massive supercomputer to process it all. Some say he doesn’t need that because he’s God, but simply saying that doesn’t make it true. You can’t randomly ascribe powers, you have to prove it.
While we’re on the topic, where is Heaven? It has to be somewhere otherwise, how do we know it exists? After all, didn’t Jesus and Mary ascend to Heaven? Their bodies had to go somewhere. If Heaven isn’t a physical place, then when we die do our souls just disappear? Heaven is supposed to be above and Hell below, but we’ve checked and they’re not there. Are we looking in the wrong place?
9. What do you think of Hell and the Devil?
The Devil is like your ancestor who was a racist, they used to be a big part of your family, but now you’re too embarrassed to talk about them. It used to be commonly believed that Devil went around tempting people and causing evil. I haven’t heard much about him lately, whatever happened to him?
Is it just me or is Hell the most vile and horrific concept? Eternal punishment in the most gruesome torture. No levels of degree to take into account the severity of your crime, just a one size fits all, where serial killers get the same treatment as the people who didn’t go to church very often. Why is there Hell, I thought Christianity was all about forgiveness? How could you enjoy Heaven knowing that people are being horrifically tortured? Plus for eternity? Isn’t that extreme? They are few crimes that deserve that level of punishment.
10. If there was a God do you not think he would have written a better book than the Bible?
The Bible is supposed to be the word of God, the book that will convince us all to do as he says. If so, do you not think he could have done a better job? I mean the Bible has got to be one of the worst books ever. It is incredibly dull and boring, filled with completely useless knowledge. As a general rule, if you want to convert someone, don’t bore them to death. Surely, the creator of the universe for whom all things are possible could have written an interesting book that made sense?
Not only is it mind numbingly boring, it is completely ridiculous. Most of the stories daft and pointless and read like they were written by someone who spent too long in the sun. It is so riddled with contradictions that there are Bible quotes to support both sides of almost any argument. It is constantly tripping up over itself and tangling itself up so that almost every statement has its equal and opposite a few chapters later. To say nothing of all the failed prophecies.
It is also a book full of God slaughtering vast numbers of people for the most trivial of reasons. Entire civilisations are wiped out in mass genocides that God apparently approved of. There is a disgraceful amount of sexism, homophobia, racism, intolerance, hatred, anti-Semitism, bigotry and defence of slavery. There are rules condemning people to death for the most absurd reasons. If it was published today, it would be denounced as a disgusting and morally reprehensible book.
So there are my 10 questions for Christians. These are meant as serious questions to get people thinking and create a dialogue. I am not trying to offend or provoke anyone. Atheists are regularly grilled on their beliefs (as they should be) so it is only fair that Christians too think about their beliefs. I would like to invite my Christian readers to answer these questions and I am genuinely interested in their responses. There are many things in life that are just taken for granted and assumed without reason. We should not let our minds stagnate into unquestioned belief. Assume nothing, question everything.