Christianity is a horrible thing to believe

by Thomas

I sincerely and wholeheartedly hope Christianity is false. I wish this one for one simple reason. If Christianity is true billions of people are being mercilessly tortured in a place called Hell.

Hell is an unimaginable place. To be burned for a second, for example when cooking, produces a sharp and excruciating pain. The thought of having every part of your body burned by fire and sulfur, without death and without relief is hideous. It is way beyond world history’s most repulsive torture chamber. Beyond the physical torture there is spiritual and emotional agony, relentless desolation and anguished regret.

Hell is for ever. Not for a second, not for a day, not for a year, not for a billion years, not for a billion, billion years. The penalty for not believing the Gospel is as endless as it is brutal.

If Christianity is true every single American who died before 1492 is burning, as is everyone from my home country of England before about AD 300, along with virtually everyone from the great and ancient civilisations of China, India and the Middle East. According to my upbringing nearly every departed Catholic, most liberal Christians, all Jews (after 33 AD), all Muslims, all Hindus, all Buddhists, and all Agnostics/Atheists are today receiving exquisite torture at the hands of the Almighty. And not just them. It is personal. If Hell is true my much loved Nanna is there, burning away this evening, screaming in agony because she thought the evidence for Christianity was a little too thin.

Christians delight in the truth of their faith, even when it means torture for billions. I have woken up. This now horrifies me. If I could make a choice between heaven for me and hell for the billions, or the peaceful sea of oblivion for us all, then I chose nothingness. To the Christian my choice is shocking and Blasphemous, but I think it is the moral choice.

Here is an illustration. You get to choose the outcome for a group of one hundred people. With option 1 the whole group get put in an oblivious drug induced coma for the rest of their natural lives. With Option 2, two of the people are flown to Grand Cayman where they get to live in the Sun, with their every social, medical, recreational and emotional need met by a group of loving friends and a wonderful attentive spouse. The remaining 98 are moved to a dark underground torture chamber where they are burned with acid and fire to the point of pure agony but not death, and are kept in solitary confinement and are emotionally and physically abused in every way for the rest of there natural lives. It’s your choice. Option 1 or Option 2. If you have any doubt, put your family in the group of 98. You are a caring person, and so, accepting that neither choice is great, you chose option 1 and save the suffering. If I could choose, I’d choose that Christianity is fiction.

Christianity tells us to be selfless, so surely it is not very Christian to wish Christianity is true. Shouldn’t Christians wish they could swap their heaven for oblivion and save billions from Hell?

No! I hear the Christian say. It is indeed sad that Hell exists, but it is just, and without Hell we are without God, and without God our life is without meaning and purpose. That would be terrible. Overall it is much better that Christianity is true. Please think! Imagine your beautiful daughter burning in the abyss for ever. Why shouldn’t she? Lots of daughters are. Tell me this horror is a price you are willing to pay for having God give you meaning, rather than having to find your own.

I have described why I don’t want Christianity to be the truth. It is because I care about people suffering. However of course my desire for it to be false has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it is false.

However, thankfully and objectively, Christianity is almost certainly not true. There is compelling evidence from many witnesses.

Why Christianity is almost certainly not true

Witness 1: Science

I agree with the Young Earth Creationists. If Genesis can not be taken literally and does not describe events that happened 6-15,000 years ago then the Christian faith falls apart. If the earth is ancient and the fossil record truly shows life, death and suffering long before the fall, then sin is not the cause of death and the Bible is disproved! Further more Jesus believed in a literal Adam. If we don’t believe Jesus got it right when he said death entered the world through the one man Adam – we have no right to believe Jesus at all. Belief in the young earth 6 day creation is essential to belief in Christianity.

I also agree with Old Earth Creationists. They say the scientific evidence that the earth is old, and that evolution has occurred is overwhelming. According to these Christians we cannot ignore these facts and need to work them into whatever religious views we are going to have.

Here are some of the facts:
  • Annual melt rings in the Antarctic go back continuously as far as they have been dug out, 700,000 years so far. The air trapped in the ice shows climatic changes over the last 700k years. This is like finding a living tree with 700,000 annual growth rings.

  • Other species of Human such as Homo Erectus were real, and had human and ape-like characteristics. I met a skeletal one at Oxford’s natural history museum together with his more ape like and more human like cousins. My ten year old asked me “was Homo Erectus on the ark Dad?” Good question! Homo Erectus are incompatible with the story of Adam and the ark, but they are real.

  • We can see how geographic dispersion and the isolation of populations have driven evolution. Why did all the Kangaroos all hop off the Ark and go to Australia? Molecular evidence shows how these populations have actually evolved in their local geographies.

  • The fossil record has simple life forms in its most ancient strata, moving through increasingly complex life forms such as fish right up to mammals in the more recent past. Fossils of different evolutionary ages are not mixed up and found together as you would expect with a simultaneous creation of species and a global flood. A mammal fossil in the Cambrian would disprove evolution, but there is not a single one. The fossil record is totally at odds with the 6 day creation model.

  • We can see billions of light years into space and we therefore see events in space that occurred billions of years ago. The various "explanations" for this lack credibility or any evidence other than the Bible.

  • Radio metric dating suggests an ancient earth. There is no evidence for the reducing half-lives required to make these methods inaccurate enough for a young earth. If half lives were reducing incredible heat would have been discharged which has not happened.

  • There is no global flood in the geological column. Even creationists can’t agree where it is meant to be. If it was true it would stick out like a sore thumb.

There is only one conclusion if both the Young Earth and Old Earth Creationists are right, and both their arguments above are compelling. Even taking views only from Christians we see that Christianity cannot be true. The only conclusion is that Earth is ancient, life did evolve, and Genesis is wrong. There was no first Adam and hence no second.

Science is not the only witness, the Bible itself provides us with a whole family of Witnesses against the truth of Christianity.

Witness 2: Factual Errors in the Bible

If the Bible is the true Word of God is must be without a single error. However it does contain errors. Turn to Leviticus 11. Verse 6 tells us Rabbits chew the cud. They don’t. It was a popular misconception at the time but an omniscient God should have known the correct biology. Verse 20 also tells us insects have 4 legs. Verse 19 tells us bats are birds. If the Bible has errors it is not the inerrant Word of God. These are errors.

Of course apologists do take a stab at explaining the errors. I’ve seen a two inch thick book explaining Bible "problems". For example the author of Leviticus was trying to say that Rabbits "appear" to chew the cud not that they actually did. This does not work -- you can't say Jesus "appeared" to die on the cross, so why rabbits “appear” to chew the cud? Even the need for several hundred pages of often implausible excuses for "apparent" errors surely itself tells us something about whether God or men inspired the Bible.

Witness 3: Bible Contradictions

There is huge literature on this subject. I suggest my reader types “Bible Contradictions” into Google and researches both sides of the argument. The Christian who has never done this should be prepared to be shocked.

I will take just one of many, many examples. Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 contain a census of the Exiles who returned from Babylon according to their family groups. The details are exactly the same in many respects. For example there were 2172 descendants of Parosh in both accounts. However there are also contradictions. For example Ezra has 775 descendants of Arah while Nehemiah has 652. The apologist points to the time difference of the two books and suggests it was actually a census of the returnees’ families at the time of writing rather than actually of those returning to explain the differences. This would be at least plausible if all the family groups had minor variations in numbers representing a few decades of births and deaths. But 22 of the 39 groups have exactly the same number and the overall total is the same at 42,360 (although neither version correctly adds up to 42,360). It is clearly the same census but with contradictions. The statistical chances of 23 of 40 family sizes staying exactly unchanged through a few decades of births and deaths while 17 vary as expected is effectively nil. There was one census and the Bible record of it contains mistakes. Either that or God miraculously controlled the populations in such a way as to create the overwhelming impression to the open minded reader that the Bible is not trustworthy.

Another category of contradictions occur where a doctrine is inconsistent throughout the Bible. Take the doctrine of Hell itself. You would never derive it from the Old Testament. Most of the Old Testament teaching about life after death suggests all both good, and evil, go to a shadowy place under the earth called Sheol. Job (see chapter 3) seems to believe death is a peaceful oblivion. There are some references in the more modern book of Daniel which could be claimed to point to New Testament style of eternal torture. However it can’t honestly be argued that Hell is the same concept in Old and New Testaments. Evolution of doctrine from older to more modern Bible books occurs across a range of subjects such as the nature of God, the method of salvation, the chosen people and moral rules.

The Christian cannot really deny this but explains that God in his grace has progressively revealed more of his ideas to subsequent generations of his people, and we now know more of his thoughts than they did before. This seems very strange. For example it means a God who never changes and does not want anyone to perish, condemned almost everybody who lived before the New Testament to a Hell they could not have possibly known existed. A much more satisfying explanation is we are simply witnessing an evolution in man’s thinking about theology during the 1500 years the Bible was penned. For example history suggests Hell was invented outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the years after much of the Old Testament had been already written. This perfectly explains why it was not available as a concept to Old Testament authors.

Another simple contradiction of Bible doctrines arises from the problem of evil. God is author of everything that is. God is perfectly good. But everything is not perfectly good. Therefore God must be the ultimate cause of evil. Therefore God cannot be perfectly good. I once believed this was a deep mystery. Logically however the problem of evil is only a deep mystery in exactly the same way as 2 + 2 5. Most people are quite happy to use logic to call 2 + 2 5 a contradiction, and the problem of evil deserves exactly the same designation.

Witness 4: The Moral Law

One argument from religious apologists is the argument of the "moral law" which is written in the hearts and consciences of man-kind. We have knowledge of right and wrong, which while imperfect, did not arrive through evolution and is an echo of God's image written in our hearts.

If we accept this proposition it can give us another test for Christianity. Does the moral law written in the Bible match the one written in our hearts? If it does the God of the Bible could be the God who made us. Let’s look at some examples:
  • Deut 21:18-21 – I have a stubborn and disobedient son. I love him deeply but find his behaviour difficult to manage. So what does the Bible recommend? It recommends taking him to the community leaders so they can organise having stones thrown at him until he is dead.

  • Deut 13:6-11 – My departure from the faith has been influenced by my brother who pointed out to me for the first time some of the issues I am writing about. What does the Bible recommend for him? This verse suggests a stoning to death would appear to be in order. The New Testament is much gentler suggesting just that it would be better if a Millstone was tied round his neck and he was drowned. Deut 17:2-7 recommends a stoning for all who bow down to other Gods. Hardly freedom of thought and religion.

  • Exodus 20:21 – I am a CEO. So what does the Old Testament say about employee relations? We find slavery set out as a great source of workers and this verse makes quite clear that since a slave is your property it is quite acceptable to beat him as long as he can get up within 2 days of receiving the beating.

  • Deut 25:11-12 – So what should you do if in defending you in a fight with another man your wife grabs your attacker’s balls? Well that would hardly be fair play. This verse recommends amputating the wife's offending hand without pity.

  • Deut 22:23 – This verse says that if a woman is raped in a town, she clearly did not scream loud enough, and hence should be stoned to death.

  • Numbers 15:32 – This verse suggest we should kill people caught gathering sticks on a Saturday.

  • Psalm 137 – Tells us that act of dashing infants to death on the rocks should be a source of happiness.

  • Numbers 5:11-31 – Tells us the procedure if we suspect suspected our wives may have been unfaithful. (A procedure not available to jealous wives incidentally). The wife is to be made to drink water mixed with dirt from the floor. If eating the dirt happens to make her ill then even in the absence of any other evidence she has to bear the guilt of her alleged actions. And the Old Testament punishment for adultery was, of course, death. If eating dirt makes you ill you should die.

  • Lev 11:10 –We are to find sea food detestable, even my favourites crab and shrimp.

Does this guidance really reflect your conscience? Is the author of this morality really the person that made your conscience? Does your conscience allow you to ever see the dashing to death of infants as a source of happiness?

Christians talk a lot about understanding these laws in the context of the times. However here is what Jesus said about them.

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matt 5:18)

The Moral law may be a witness for the existence of a creative moral power in the universe. However it is a powerful witness against the author of the Old Testament being the creator of the human conscience.

Witness 5: Prayer and Broken Promises

From Luke 7: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

But I asked for a live baby (surely a good gift), and I was given a dead one. If Christianity is false, then praying is talking to someone who does not exist, and getting a stone or a snake, or losing a child, is to be expected.

However if Christianity is true praying is a conversation with an all-powerful God who makes great promises about the effectiveness of prayer.

James 5:14 guarantees healing for faithfully offered prayers for the sick. This procedure (prayer and anointing with oil) is carried out regularly by the church. There seems to be no qualification on its effectiveness apart from faithfulness. However one hundred percent of faithful but terminally ill people I know who have sincerely followed this instruction are, sadly, dead.

John 14:12 says anyone who has faith in Jesus will be able to do greater things than him. Jesus raised the dead, healed the blind, fed the multitudes, and turned water in to wine. Jesus has a billion followers today, and not a single one of them has ever verifiably done a single thing as great as any of these. Is this not deeply suspicious?

If Christianity is true we should expect that praying to the Christian God to should have a radically different impact than praying to other Gods such as Allah or Zeus. However I can honestly say that 20 years of my own sincere prayers achieved nothing different than if had they been offered to Luke Skywalker.

This does not mean coincidences don't happen. In Britain we do not go to the beach in January. It is 40F and raining generally. I live in central Britain and the total coast line is 8000 miles long. On the spur of the moment I traveled to a random beach one January, 150 miles from home. I walked down the beach in the rain, no one was there, but then round the corner came my VP of Sales together with his 22 year old intern. They were having a secret relationship and had decided to go somewhere far away where no one from the office would see them together, but they randomly got rumbled by me on their first weekend away! My point is that deeply improbable things happen all the time, and are often seen as answered prayer. I’d challenge anyone to produce evidence of a single verifiable answer to prayer, which could not be a simple coincidence like the incident above. I would be more than willing to change my mind.

The ineffectiveness of prayer is, in fact, a strong witness against the truth of Christianity. Perhaps there is an obvious reason why God does such a good impression of not existing.

Witness 6: Prophecy

Ultimate Questions, the well known evangelical tract by John Blanchard says of the Bible: "In no other literature can we find scores of clear and detailed prophecies made by men claiming to speak from God, and later fulfilled to the letter. The odds against this happening by chance are too vast to be taken seriously." Those odds have been calculated mathematically by various apologists. The chances of Old Testament prophecy about Christ coming true without divine intervention have been said by some apologists to be in the region of 1 in 10 to the power 38. Such odds would be compelling (even with 30 zeros removed) so it seems at last we have a miracle that we can actually test today.

To provide proof for Christianity it is necessary that the prophecies were verifiably written before the fulfillment, that the fulfillment happened, rather than somebody just claimed it happened, and that there is something specific and improbable about the prophecy made. To provide the overwhelming case claimed there must be many examples of this with tiny combined probability, and additionally there must be no failed prophecies. By a failed prophecy I mean a prediction that has not come true, and cannot in the future. A single definite failed prophecy in the Bible amounts to disproof that it can be trusted as God’s word.

Let's look at an example of fulfilled prophecy, one I have seen taught to my children in Sunday school as a reason to believe. Matt 2:14 tells us that flight to Egypt by Jesus and his parents was a fulfillment of a prophecy made by Hosea. We find the reference in Hosea 11:1. Have a look at Hosea 11:1. It is simply a reference to the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt and nothing to do with the Messiah whatsoever. My children's Sunday school teacher was being utterly (if perhaps unknowingly) dishonest in teaching it as an evidence based reason to believe.

My failed prophecy is from Ezekiel 29:19-20. This time we have a very specific prophecy: “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will carry off its wealth. He will loot and plunder the land as pay for his army. I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD.” We have a very specific prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar, from the context a person who had just fought Tyre and was to be personally rewarded for his efforts in this respect on God’s behalf, would conquer and plunder Egypt. He would clearly need to do this in his lifetime. Only history tells us he didn’t.

It is outside the scope of this article to discuss every Bible prophecy but other than in the book of Daniel, where there is good evidence they were written after the event, they really do not meet the criteria for providing proof. Again it’s worth searching “Unfulfilled Prophecy” and similar on the web to see this “evidence” crumbling.

The apologist tells us that although it is not apparent verses such as Hosea 11:1 are prophecies, since the New Testament authors were inspired by God then they can be trusted when they explain what the Old Testament was actually prophetically saying even when this is not obvious from the Old Testament alone. Maybe so, but don’t pretend a miracle or evidence to believe. They also say we should read Ezekiel in its proper historical setting. The prophecies that did not work out can be understood poetically, and did not necessarily have to come true in history. Of course the ones that did come true are not poetic but powerful evidences.

A much more honest conclusion given the contrived fulfilled prophecies, together with the definite presence of failed prophecy, is that the Bible is not a miraculous future telling book, but the work of men, who were keen to give their message credibility by designing links with the older Scriptures.

Other Witnesses

There are many other witnesses.

Many of the doctrines and stories of Christianity such as God-men resulting from virgin births, sacramental meals, baptism, healing blindness with spittle, turning water in to wine and many others appeared first in pagan religions which pre-dated Christianity. (Try “POCM” in Google). This is not something taught in Sunday school and is a bit of shocker for most Christians when the extent of the non-originality of Christianity is revealed. When confronted with this the apologist claims that what in fact happened was that the Devil used his limited but real (and presumably God-given) powers of foreknowledge to create myths similar to Jesus, before Jesus, so when the Jesus came it would look like he had been constructed from previous religions and so people would not believe he was genuine and hence the Devil would achieve his goal of deceiving people. This explanation stretches credibility to an almost embarrassing point. It seems much more likely that the New Testament authors did actually borrow from pre-existing material.

Or what about the fact that the canon of scripture was agreed, by a committee, hundreds of years after the event? Before this competing Gospels were in wide circulation. The Gospel of John can be attributed to an Apostle, was in wide circulation in the early church and was written several decades after Christ’s death. If you disbelieve it you go to Hell. The Gospel of Thomas can be attributed to an Apostle, was in wide circulation in the early church and was written around the same time. Some scholars think it is earlier than John, some later. It is heresy and if you believe it you go to Hell. Partly at least it seems because Irenaeus, the 2nd century bishop of Lyons, believed there should be four Gospels like there are four winds, North, South, East and West and hence no room for Thomas.

Textual criticism clearly shows how the text of immutable word of God changed, not massively but in significant details, during its first centuries in circulation. Surely something that should not happen.

To conclude

Christianity is a horrible thing to believe, and fortunately we really do not need to, because it is demonstrably false.

I cannot claim to know with what to replace it, or have any explanation of why we are here. I equally don’t understand how my Lexus works, but that does not mean I cannot be sure it does not run on fairy dust. In the same way I am equally happy to stare at the stars, the sea, the mountains, and my children’s faces, in humble awe and be glad that I am, at least, here for the ride.

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