Readers, please help me out here -- leave a comment below, giving one or more reasons not to be a "Christian" (however you want to define the term).
These can be your own reasons for not being a Christian. Or they can be reasons that you've encountered from the unchurched or from non-Christians.
I'm interested in building a collection of such reasons, and maybe tackling some of them in subsequent postings. At the least, they're likely to provide food for thought. It's probably been done before, but what the heck ....
(Make no mistake about it: I regard myself as a Christian, although some traditionalists would disagree with me. My interest here is in identifying obstacles to faith, because identifying such obstacles can be a first step to helping to overcome them.)
Let me start things off by paraphrasing some of the reasons that I've heard or read, or that have occurred to me, in recent weeks:
- Why on earth should I believe in God?
- So many Christians are just plain weird.
- I don't understand this business about a personal relationship with Jesus.
- There are all these other gospels out there -- why should I believe the ones in the Bible?
- The Bible was wrong about a lot of things - why believe it at all?
- Jesus said he'd return soon, but obviously he didn't.
- If Christianity were true, it would have already taken over the world.
- We'll never know which religion is true.
- If Jesus defeated sin, why does it so obviously still exist?
- The claims of orthodoxy are bootstrapped.
- Traditionalist Christians don't seem to think it's possible for God to ever change his mind.
- A thousand-page book can't contain everything God will ever have to say to us.
Reasons not to become Christian:
1) "Unless you forgive your brother (sister) from your heart the same thing (as happened to the man who did not forgive the debt of a former friend) will happen to you (that is be cast into prison to pay the last penny.)"
Christianity's God seem to really insist on forgiveness. I don't want to forgive, therefore I do not want this God.
2) The sower sows the word everywhere, including places where it will not bear fruit. I want assurance that I will naturally prosper and become fruitful; therefore the gospel is not really good news because it preaches uncertainty.
3) It appears that we all must lose our lives, whether we are one of those who wants to save it or we are one of those who are willing to lose it for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. This is not really good news either. Therefore the so-called good news is not really good news, since it makes me worry and uncertain.
4) We have been transferred to the kingdom of God's son... this is worrisome since it is also said that unless we wake up Christ will come to us as a thief in the night. No one talks about waking up with much deliberation (so how can I confidently carry this out) and it sounds like Christ, if he can be known as a thief in the night, is not pleasant. This is not a comforting reality. Therefore, I prefer to consider reality as other.
5) It appears that Christians are not any better off than anyone else as regards God's judgement since even those who call Lord, Lord, can be cast into "the exoteron skotos" (the outer darkness). And also that Christians must work out their salvation in fear and trembling. This does not seem pleasant or even reasonable of a God who claims to be loving.
6) Aside from these scriptural anxieties there are facts having to do with actual Christian life: Christians do not usually seem to love one another better than anyone else (I think). Though there have been moments when I wondered. Parish life is sometimes brutal.
7) Clergy of all stripes and levels can be blockheads, much more so than some laity who indeed have shown themselves in my opinion to be prophets and apostles. And this strange Church still seems to want clergy!
8) The Church itself has become diverse and strange, with all sorts of types and sorts. It is an unreliable instrument.
Posted by: Mark Diebel | October 23, 2004 at 12:40 PM
The issue I run into most often (I am gay) is the unbelievably horrendous treatment of gay people by the Christian Church.
And of course this is true.
Posted by: | October 24, 2004 at 07:38 PM
Some people do go to churches for philosophical reasons. I think this is secondary to going to a place where people generally seem like you do. Then you learn to think like them. When the "orthodox" claim that liberal theology matters, they are wrong. Conservatives are simply better at using modern technology to get their point across, and take advantage of human gullibility. They create enough anxiety so that people feel the need to keep going.
Posted by: John Wilkins | October 27, 2004 at 07:47 AM
Hi, I'm a 19 year old biomedical and psychology student from lancster UK, came across this site accidently (mainly due to my poor research skills!) but I do find this interesting and willing to have an open discussion with you, here are a few points I have..excuse the spelling...
1.)If god is willing but not able to stop suffering in the world but doesn't, then he is not omnipresent, if he is able but not willing then he is not good and loving as the bible teaches...
2.)Religion in general (not just christianity)has been used to support, justify and protect almost every violent or repressive movement in history. Millions of people have died in wars, crusades, inquisitions, witch hunts and other murderous acts attributable to religion
3.)I find the bible frankly immoral! -
It is for example pro - slavery!!! e.g
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ." (Ephesians 6:5)
(and sexist) - "When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do." (Exodus 21:7)
4.) Bible is inconsistent - Mark 16:2 says that on the day of the resurrection certain women arrived at the tomb at the rising of the sun, but John 20:1 states that they arrived when it was yet dark.
Luke 24:2 tells us that the tomb was open when the women arrived, but Matthew 28:1-2 indicates that it was closed.
4.)Religion and christianity rejct science!. Science is logic, reason and proof - religion is on illogic, faith and the absence of proof... many examples including evolution/creationism but my favourite is the talking snake in genesis!!!
I have a few more arguments but theres a brief opener, would be pleased for someone to e-mail me back.
Posted by: Tom Day | March 22, 2006 at 07:40 PM
Good questions / points all, Tom. I'm no theologian, but let me try to tackle them.
Tom writes: 1.) If god is willing but not able to stop suffering in the world but doesn't, then he is not omnipresent, if he is able but not willing then he is not good and loving as the bible teaches...
This is the problem of theodicy. Religious believers have wrestled with it for centuries.
Personally, I'm unpersuaded by the underlying premises. It's not at all clear to me that God is omnipresent, or omniscient, or omnipotent. Those premises, it seems to me, lack a plausible evidentiary foundation. If people want to believe them, that's fine, but they shouldn't act on those beliefs in a way that would adversely affect others.
My own conjecture? Suffering is a consequence of our participation in the continuing creation, handicapped by our limited intellectual and moral capabilities. I certainly can't prove conclusively that the creation is in fact continuing, but it seems a reasonable bet (and we act all the time on the basis of reasonable bets that fall far short of mathematical certainty). It's also reasonable to think that humanity has contributed, and continues to contribute, to the "cosmic construction project."
Fairness is definitely an issue for this view. At least in this life, the payoff for suffering doesn't necessarily accrue to individuals. Individually, we all suffer to a greater or lesser extent — and we all die. But I think there's a case to be made that humanity learns, and learns a lot, from our collective experience with suffering, and even from our experience with evil. (I see this as possibly being the kernel of an argument for the existence of a heaven of some sort, but I'm still working on thinking through that possibility.)
This view is somewhat similar to, but also different from, the Calvinistic theodicy described in the Wikipedia article.
Tom writes: 2.)Religion in general (not just christianity)has been used to support, justify and protect almost every violent or repressive movement in history. Millions of people have died in wars, crusades, inquisitions, witch hunts and other murderous acts attributable to religion
Agreed. Mass movements are seldom unmixed blessings. We see the same problems with patriotism, for example, as well as with movements such as communism that at least claimed to be trying to advance the human condition. Still, it'd be a shame to throw out the baby with the bath water; all-or-nothing thinking often sacrifices too much.
Tom writes: 3) I find the bible frankly immoral! ... 4.) Bible is inconsistent ....
Many modernist Christians would agree with your point 3 with respect to portions of the Hebrew Bible, and also with your point 4 in some noteworthy respects.
Personally I take a much less exalted view of the Bible than do many traditionalist Christians. The latter have an unfortunate tendency toward bibliolatry, treating the Bible almost as a golden calf. I think of it as simply a very selective set of writings (i) whose human authors did the best they knew how, (ii) which in many respects are right on target, but (iii) were subject to human error in their writing, copying, translation, and interpretation. See this set of postings for more on this subject.
Tom writes: 4.) [sic; actually 5] Religion and christianity rejct science!. Science is logic, reason and proof - religion is on illogic, faith and the absence of proof... many examples including evolution/creationism but my favourite is the talking snake in genesis!!!
Few modernist Christians regard the Bible as a science textbook. Most modernist Christians (and many scientists) regard science and religion as being compatible. In a nutshell, if we love God with our whole minds (as well as with our whole hearts, souls, and strength), and trust in him that things will work out OK, then we won't fear facing the facts, whatever they are. As the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor once put it in a PBS interview:
This ties in nicely with science, in that openness to truth quickly leads one to the realization that all our knowledge is provisional. That's demonstrably true in science. I'm not persuaded it shouldn't be true in religion as well.
Tom, I suspect you're probably wondering, why should one be a Christian. You might want to take a look at this posting, which traces some of the steps in my own journey from childhood faith, to 30+ years of agnosticsm, and back to faith of a different kind.
Thanks for posting your points; feel free to offer others.
Posted by: D. C. | March 22, 2006 at 10:43 PM
if god is such a loving god why did my only daughter die of SIDS?????
Posted by: marie | June 25, 2008 at 12:13 PM