Initial Reflections on Christianity

I recently read selective passages of the Bible in order to attain a fuller understanding of the religion and its criticisms. As a result of this, I have come to some initial reflections that I would like to state here. But first, let us take a look at two passages from the Bible, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

God tells Moses to tell the following to the Israelites in Leviticus 20:9-13:

If anyone curses their father or mother, they must be executed. They have cursed their own father and mother; that person’s blood is on their own heads. If a man commits adultery with a married woman, committing adultery with a neighbor’s wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress must be executed. If a man has sexual intercourse with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness. Both of them must be executed; their blood is on their own heads. If a man has sexual intercourse with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be executed. They have acted perversely; their blood is on their own heads. If a man has sexual intercourse with a man as he would with a woman, the two of them have done something detestable. They must be executed; their blood is on their own heads. 

Paul says the following about gentiles in Romans 1:26-32

That’s why God abandoned them to degrading lust. Their females traded natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations. Also, in the same way, the males traded natural sexual relations with females, and burned with lust for each other. Males performed shameful actions with males, and they were paid back with the penalty they deserved for their mistake in their own bodies. Since they didn’t think it was worthwhile to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to a defective mind to do inappropriate things. So they were filled with all injustice, wicked behavior, greed, and evil behavior. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, and malice. They are gossips, they slander people, and they hate God. They are rude and proud, and they brag. They invent ways to be evil, and they are disobedient to their parents. They are without understanding, disloyal, without affection, and without mercy. Though they know God’s decision that those who persist in such practices deserve death, they not only keep doing these things but also approve others who practice them. (Bold added) 

Just to clarify, the reason why I began with these two sections was because they were cited as examples of how cruel and violent the Bible was. I do believe that the passages are cruel and violent, but I do not necessarily believe they are representative of the entire book. On the contrary, I am fully willing to admit that the majority of the Bible says good things.

The first thought that I came to after reading those two passages was the fact that there are a couple of possibilities of how those passages are reconcilable with an all-loving and all-good God. One possibility is that the passages are simply false. Another possibility is to claim that it is, in fact, a good thing for all those people to be executed. However, the Christians who I spoke with do not seem to want to accept either of these possibilities. They seem to want to assume that the entire Bible is really the word of God, and that it is not good to execute those groups of people. The problem with this position is that it seems to contradict the idea of an all-good God. And I cannot imagine a context in which this contradiction would not take place.

In response to this issue, Christians I know have defended the religion by pointing to certain passages in the New Testament that suggest that some of the laws in the Old Testament should no longer be followed. But this response does not address the issue that I have raised, for if God is all good, then why would he have said the cruel things he did to begin with? Do Christians believe that before Jesus it was actually good to execute those people? If not, then why did God say to do it? It seems to me that an all-good God would not have said those things in the Old Testament. Furthermore, this defense does not address the issue that God tells us in the New Testament that gentiles are deserving of death. This problem alone already suggests to me that Christianity is not entirely coherent, which I take as a sign of its (partial) falsity.

The second thought I had after reading those passages was that even if there were many clear contradictions in the Bible, many people would still probably be Christian simply because of the fact that they want to be. And I do not necessarily have a problem with this. Even if it were proven that Christianity were false, I would be okay with people being Christian if it gave them comfort and made them more moral.

The last thought I had was that if the people who are Christian now were of a different religion and they were exposed to the contradictions in the Bible, they would probably find it sufficient to disregard Christianity as the one true religion. In other words, I doubt that the vast majority of people are willing to read other religions with the same charity as they do with their own, which suggests that if people of one religion were to read the holy text of another religion and find it less convincing, it would probably be because of their bias and not the implausibility of that other religion.

To end this entry, I would like to say that I wish more religious people recognized that their religious beliefs are largely due to where and when they were born and raised. Christians should recognize that if they had been born and raised in Pakistan, they would most likely be Muslim. And if they had been born and raised in ancient Greece, they would probably believe in Zeus. Since the truthfulness of a religion does not depend on accidental factors such as place and time of birth, it follows that the recognition of such contingencies should lead to modesty of conviction. In other words, religious people should not be so convinced that their religion is the true one, unless they have done the necessary research to justify that conviction, which most probably have not.