Many people in America equate Christianity and being Christian with being good, honorable, moral, righteous, and emotionally healthy. A “Christian person” is often used to describe someone who is respectable and admirable. And yet, there are many aspects of Christianity, and its progenitor Judaism, that we now know are immoral, wrong or bad.
In the beginning, according to legend, a god (Yahweh) created humans. The female was either created at the same time as the male and was equal, or was created after the male as a “helpmeet,” and was inferior. This later version of the fable says she was created from a male rib because God could not make a nonhuman animal that was a suitable companion for the man. This second version of female creation is preferred by most Christians and has caused monumental harm to females for thousands of years. Not only are females considered by many to be subservient and required to be obedient to males, they are considered responsible for the fabled “downfall” of humanity. Eve is blamed for eating a forbidden fruit and for convincing Adam to do the same.
The idea that an all-powerful and all-knowing god would create people and then place an enticing item in the center of their “paradise” but forbid them from having it, would be considered cruel by most people. What God was supposedly denying humans was knowledge. How were they to know right from wrong before they knew good and evil? Why would an all-mighty god want only obedient, ignorant humans? Why would Eve be cursed and her descendants punished forever for being curious and gullible to the most “subtle” creature on earth when she had no life experience or education? Why would her punishment be to endure painful childbirth and to be “ruled over” by her “husband”? Why would Adam and all his descendants be punished by having to work hard to eat? The dogmatic precept that people are inherently and unavoidably bad is emotionally harmful, especially when taught to children.
Embedded in these stories is the concept that people can be punished for things their ancestors did. Modern humans tend to believe that we are each responsible for own behavior. We do not “inherit” evil behavior and should not be punished for the wrongdoing of others. “Original sin” is a horrible concept that promotes poor self-esteem, self-loathing, guilt, and shame. It is completely contrary to our description of babies as innocent.
In the story of Cain and Able, Yahweh disregards Cain’s offering of crops he had grown while honoring the animal sacrifice of Abel. Not surprisingly, this angered Cain. Just to try to please a displeased god, Cain killed his brother. That was certainly an overreaction of a person excessively concerned with God’s approval. God acted as if he didn’t know what Cain had done. Then God decided to punish Cain for what God had provoked by making Cain’s farming forever unproductive.
Christians worship a god who is repeatedly disappointed with his own creation. This god severely punishes and kills people for being the way he made them. Some people claim God gave humans “free will,” and their sinful behavior is their own choice and their own fault. Wouldn’t an all-knowing god know this? If an outcome is clearly predictable, does it justify punishment? Why would you create something to be a particular way & then be upset when it behaves in that way?
The mythology of Noah and the flood is another example of an incompetent creator. It describes “the wickedness of men [as] great in the earth.” “And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” Evidently even a supernatural god makes mistakes and has regrets. So God decided his best option was to kill all humans and all other living animals. I have no idea what “wickedness” the animals had committed. But God decided Noah was a “righteous man, blameless in his generation.” God’s absurd plan was for Noah to build a boat and take his family and a few individuals of every animal “kind” on earth (either a male and female of each kind or seven pairs of “clean” animals and two pairs of “unclean” kinds) and have it rain for forty days. The story claims the water covered all the mountains and drowned every living thing. I’m not sure how it drowned the fish, but that’s the story. I guess the point is to scare everyone. After 150 days, the boat came to rest on a mountain. Then three months later, the tops of mountains could be seen. In spite of seeing mountain tops, Noah had to send a raven and a dove twice to check for dry land. The second dove came back with an olive leaf. That’s amazing in itself only 47 days after seeing mountain tops. Surprisingly, the first thing Noah did to please God was to sacrifice several animals. It seems like an odd choice when only a few animals existed. A more pleasant allegory from this episode was imagining rainbows as symbols of God’s promise not to flood the earth again. By the way, very similar flood stories existed in many cultures before this one was written.
The pleasant rainbow allegory was followed by a punishing moral tale of son Canaan seeing his drunken father’s “nakedness.” For that accidental event, Canaan was cursed by Noah to be a slave to his brothers. Evidently seeing your father’s penis is a terrible sin. That contrived message may contribute to human shame about our bodies, especially our genitals.
Then we have stories of Abraham, considered one of the great Hebrew patriarchs. He lied to an Egyptian pharaoh that his wife, Sarai, was really his sister just to save himself from imagined harm and endear himself to the pharaoh. Abraham prostituted his wife to the pharaoh and became rich. When the pharaoh discovered the deception, he kicked Abraham and Sarai out of Egypt. Evidently, lying and prostituting your wife to a ruler was acceptable to God because Abraham was greatly rewarded. Then Abraham was ordered by God to circumcise himself and every male he owned, and that barbaric practice was born. Abraham also tried the same lie again claiming his wife was his sister. He excused it again as a way to protect himself and because Sarah (name changed) was actually his half sister. Each time, his lie got him great wealth.
Another Abraham story says God tested Abraham’s loyalty by ordering him to sacrifice his son Isaac. It’s a classic example of what terrorists do to test the loyalty of their victims with threats of pain and death. It’s a method to instill obedience and fear that would seem unnecessary for a deity.
While Abraham’s son was spared in the last second, Jephthah’s daughter was not. Jephthah promised God to sacrifice the first person who exited his house when he came home if the Lord would help him kill his enemies in battle. Jephthah won the battle, gave God the credit, and slaughtered his daughter when she was the first to greet him when he arrived home. Evidently, honoring a foolish promise to God is more important than a person’s life, and sons can be spared, but not unnamed daughters.
The story of Abraham’s family member Lot is also a disgusting tale. When two strangers came to Sodom, Lot invited them into his house because that was the hospitality custom of the time. When a city mob demanded that Lot let the men come out so they could “know” them, Lot offered his two virgin daughters to the mob instead. Two girls being raped presumably was preferable to two men being raped. This story has been used as an excuse to persecute homosexuality for centuries. After Lot left the city with his wife and two daughters, his wife was killed by God for turning to look back at the home she was leaving. Once again, women are so unimportant we don’t even know her name. Later, the daughters got “righteous” Lot so drunk he passed out. His daughters were so worried about not having children that they raped their unconscious father to get pregnant. This is an admirable family?
All of these legends set up the idea of requiring a savior – Jesus. The core concept of Christianity is that we humans are so inherently bad that we must be redeemed by a deity. This redemption story includes a few other disgusting beliefs. An omniscient, omnipotent god requires sacrifice and death to be pleased. Judaism has for centuries required pervasive sacrifices of “unblemished” animals to beg forgiveness from Yahweh. Severe sin even included behavior that would today be considered trivial, such as working on the Sabbath, planting two crops in the same field, making clothes out of two materials, worshiping a different god, insulting God, disobeying a parent, or a female having sex outside of marriage (while males could have hundreds of concubines).
Christianity escalated these primitive ideas to the need to sacrifice an “unblemished” human being. Why would an omniscient deity require a human sacrifice for humans to be “saved” from their own god-given nature? Why would God find it necessary to rape a young, betrothed woman so she would give birth to a human who was sinless enough to be sacrificed? Mary did not consent to being pregnant, and church doctrine requires Mary to be a virgin. Since God is considered omniscient, the killing of Jesus by the Romans is with God’s full consent. Although the most popular version of the Ten Commandments in the Hebrew scriptures claims that killing is a bad thing, Christians consider this killing the greatest good. They even proudly wear the Roman execution device.
The crucifixion of Jesus brings up several other disturbing concepts most people now consider immoral, or at least irrational. Mary has to be a virgin for Jesus to be pure enough to be sacrificed, and the Catholic Church even declares Mary’s birth and conception as sinless and sexless (immaculate). In Christianity, female virginity seems to be sacred, justifying a religious obsession with sexual restrictions. We no longer allow one person to be punished for the crime of another. Substitutionary atonement has caused incredible guilt in countless people who consider themselves responsible for the death of Jesus. In spite of this “godly” sacrifice, sin still occurs and people still have to be “saved.” Preachers throughout the centuries have terrified gullible individuals with the threat of eternal torture in hell.
Hell may be the most wicked, despicable invention of Christianity. The idea that any behavior or thought is so bad that it requires eternal torture is absolutely reprehensible. It is especially despicable when it is used to terrify children and vulnerable adults into being “good.”
Some people may argue that I’m criticizing a fundamentalist version of Christianity, and that modern Christians don’t take these stories literally. While it may be true that Christianity is becoming more progressive, the centuries of horrible abuse – torture and killing of women wrongfully accused of being witches; abuse, fear, hatred, and discrimination against homosexuals; the Crusades and other religious wars; pogroms of non-Christians; denigration of women; and ongoing sexual abuse of children – cannot be ignored. It is not worth the time and effort to attempt to reform an institution with such harmful core precepts. Although some Christians do much good, so do many atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other freethinkers. It is much more commendable to do good things because they are good rather than because of fear of eternal torture or the promise of a great reward.
There are many more damaging stories in Christianity (and other religions), but remember Voltaire’s truth — “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Leave the superstitions of religion and be a freethinker.