Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Answers to 10 Questions for Your Pastor

On another blog, I saw these challenging questions. Although the questions are aimed at the Christian believer -- and I am neither -- I think it's a useful exercise for the Atheist to take a crack at them, too.

Here goes.

1. Why is God called loving or merciful when, in the Old Testament's stories of the Israelite conquest, he specifically orders his chosen people to massacre their enemies, showing no mercy to men, women, even children and animals?
My answer: Because people seek the interpretation that accords best with their axioms. If God's loving-kindness is taken as axiomatic, then an answer can be devised to fit with it.
2. Does it make sense to claim, as the Bible does, that wrongdoing can be forgiven by magically transferring the blame from a guilty person to an innocent one, then punishing the innocent person?
My answer: No, not really. This is quite a horrible idea.
3. Why does the Bible routinely depict God as manifesting himself in dramatic, unmistakable ways and performing obvious miracles even before the eyes of nonbelievers, when no such thing happens in the world today?
My answer: Because we know our world better than ancient people did. We know its geography, peoples, history, and physical laws better than they did. We understand human biology better and we have better medicine. We today can communicate both with people we know and whom we don't know across great distances. Our modern mindset is quite different from the ancient mindset, such that I doubt we can conceive of God or "the supernatural" in quite the same way as people actually did in biblical times. We don't see miracles now because we have learned there really aren't any
4. Why do vast numbers of Christians still believe in the imminent end of the world when the New Testament states clearly that the apocalypse was supposed to happen 2,000 years ago, during the lifetime of Jesus' contemporaries?
My answer: Because the modern faithful believe their teachers. Then, they believe the teachings of the teachers. They find little reason to challenge either because most everyone around them seems like a believer.
5. Why do Christians believe in the soul when neurology has found clear evidence that the sense of identity and personality can be altered by physical changes to the brain?
My answer: Because they distrust science and prefer the idea that "some things are forever beyond the grasp of human design."
6. If it was always God's plan to provide salvation through Jesus, why didn't he send Jesus from the very beginning, instead of confusing and misleading generations of people by setting up a religion called Judaism which he knew in advance would prove to be inadequate?
My answer: Dramatic license?
7. Since the Bible states that God does not desire that anyone perish, but also states that the majority of humankind is going to hell, doesn't this show that God's plan of salvation is a failure even by his own standard? If this outcome is a success, what would count as a failure?
My answer: I think it would rather show that God failed in his creation. He should have made better creatures. And what happens to all the little animals?
8. Why didn't God create human beings such that they freely desire to do good, thus removing the need to create a Hell at all? (If you believe this is impossible, isn't this the state that will exist in Heaven?)
My answer: Because it's more satisfying to hit a baseball that's been pitched to you than one resting on a tee. I think this might be an answer of great sublimity...or utter horseshit.
9. Is it fair or rational for God to hide himself so that he can only be known by faith, then insist that every single human being find him by picking the right one out of thousands of conflicting and incompatible religions?
My answer: No way. But the Stalinist thing is part and parcel of the God job.
10. If you had the power to help all people who are suffering or in need, at no cost or effort to yourself, would you do it? If so, why hasn't God done this already?
My answer: Yes, I would do it. God has not because he cannot.


  1. It appears you are insufficiently impressed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. I urge you to reconsider Him. You may complete disregard church and all forms of organized Christianity. They are entirely beside the point - and, most of the time, actually distracting to it.

  2. Mike,

    I have considered him. There's simply not enough evidence to tell whether or not there was a "real" Joshua the Messiah. I suspect that the figure depicted in the canonical gospel stories is a composite of real messianic candidates and invented myth.

    As ugly as organized religion can be. I don't any specific animosity towards it. It is what it is, so to speak: a way of organizing people and marshaling authority.

    As for Christianity, it really can't be anything but an invention. The Hebrew Scriptures are not credible sources of fact. The canonical gospels are not credible. Reality tells us that the miracles recounted in the main texts of Christianity are not plausibly considered genuine miracles.

    I urge you to reconsider Jesus. Do you really and truly think there was a guy who was the actual son of a god and was really-really dead for days and then came back to life and then puttered around before physically ascending to somewhere in space?


Feel free to comment if you have something substantial and substantiated to say.