A Non-Christian's Twenty-One Theses
1. The Christian religion posits an all-powerful, omnipresent god who cares greatly about human beings as a whole and, indeed, who is concerned with each of us as individuals. Yet, in scrutinizing what is alleged to be god’s magnificent creation, the most conspicuous fact given by observation is god’s utter absence from it. If god exists, he is a silent, inert sluggard who cannot be bothered to make his existence manifest, despite the fact that, in biblical times, he was full of wonders, miracles and prodigies.
2. The Bible, which, according to Christians, is the inspired word of an omniscient god, does not contain the slightest shred of internal evidence to support that contention. Indeed, every single sentence in the entire tome could have been written by any first century commoner with the rare talent of literacy. Men’s ignorance in biblical times was so comprehensive as to be rather shocking; the Bible fully captures, and credulously regurgitates, the ancient ignorance of its time.
3. On Christianity, god is interested in human salvation, and the religion quite clearly holds that salvation is achieved through saving faith. It is interesting, then, that god has not been more proactive in disseminating this rather important point, given the fact that, even now, there are remote places that the Christian message has not yet penetrated. Christianity’s slow spread by the efforts of man indicates god, if existent, does not much care whether his message is heard.
4. With its bizarre tales and miracle claims, the Bible reads like any common collection of mythology. A world in which a virgin birth occurs, men rise from the dead, miraculous healings are effected and street magic is not mere illusion bears no similarity to, and has no relationship with, the world in which we find ourselves, where the laws of nature are immutable. When one reads mythology and legendry, one finds precisely the same topsy-turvy world one recognizes from the Bible.
5. Although even some Christians discount the factual veracity of most of the Old Testament, many still dogmatically hold to the myths about Moses and the Israelites. The best available evidence indicates the flight from Egypt, wandering in the desert and conquest of the Promised Land did not ever occur. Indeed, rather than the Israelites conquering Canaan following the Exodus, most of them, in fact, had always been there. That is, the Israelites were simply Canaanites who forged a distinct culture. The Old Testament contains nothing more than self-aggrandizing folktales.
6. One of the few theological tenets that are clearly open to scientific experimentation is prayer. And, in fact, the efficacy of intercessory prayer has been tested in a rigorous and credible way. The Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP), supported by the John Templeton Foundation, which attempts to wed religious and scientific thinking, found that intercessory prayer had no effect on complication-free recovery from coronary artery bypass graft surgery. In this case, prayer was tested credibly and it comprehensively failed.
7. The fact of Darwinian evolution by natural selection contradicts biblical Christianity and shows it to be false. Although some proportion of Christians has succeeded, in their minds, in melding the Christian faith with recognition of Darwinian fact, this seems a fruitless exercise. There is not a whisper of Darwinian understanding in the Bible, which, as Christianity’s foundational text, purports to speak to questions of origins. Any “harmony” between Darwinian thought and the Bible is the product of an elaborate construct invented by scientifically aware Christians.
8. The Christian religion is fantastically solipsistic with respect to the human animal and its place in the cosmos. The Christian message specifically says that humans are god’s special creation—made in his image—and that, of all the creation, he is principally interested in us. This notion, of course, arose in a time of immense ignorance of the cosmos. We are a single species, on a single planet, part of a single solar system, in a single galaxy, in an almost unimaginably vast universe. Humanocentrism is a luxury of ignorance we can no longer sustain.
9. To cite god is to invite an infinite regress from which there is no escape. Any god character who is complex enough to design a universe—let alone to monitor every human being who has ever lived, listen to and answer prayers, and send a son to die for our sins—is statistically improbable exactly because of that complexity. Inasmuch as Christians offer no explanation for god’s existence, it is all but ruled out simply because of the statistical improbability of unexplained organized complexity. We can explain the human brain’s evolution; Christians cannot explain the organized complexity of god.
10. The faith to which one adheres seems, in the majority of cases, to be quite directly determined by (a) the faith of one’s parents and (b) the dominant faith of the society in which one is raised. Young children trust their parents—a fact that, quite clearly, has evolutionary benefits generally. However, it also means they are susceptible to parental religious inculcation, from which it can be difficult to liberate oneself. One wonders how many people adhere to Christianity, or any faith, as adults simply because they were raised that way.
11. Homo sapiens sapiens have walked the Earth, in something approaching modern forms, for the last 100,000 to 200,000 years. This is scientific fact, and no thinking person entertains Young Earth creationist piffle. This means, then, that for tens of thousands of years human beings lived, struggled, suffered and died—and Heaven watched, arms folded, in silence. After this interminable wait, which likely lasted well over 100,000 years, god decided that maybe it was time to intervene. His method of intervention? A nauseating human sacrifice in a very remote part of Palestine.
12. The world looks exactly as we would expect it to look if there was no god and no special interest in human affairs. Our planet is plagued with natural disasters in which people are killed indiscriminately—without any regard for their supposed righteousness or evilness. We do not find the slightest hint of ultimate justice in the cosmos. And god, who supposedly loves humans so dearly, demonstrates his laziness again. When there is a hijacking, he never zaps the hijackers with heart attacks. When a crazed gunman is on the loose, he never turns the bullets into popcorn. Love is in evidence; hate is in evidence. Only god is not in evidence.
13. Christianity loves to cloak itself in the raiment of meekness and humility, endlessly drawing attention to how humble it is. Christians call themselves lowly, sinful worms in god’s eyes, desperately in need of redemption through saving faith in Jesus. Although Christianity features an unquestionable tendency toward self-debasement, it is also fantastically arrogant. Fearing that the creator of the universe is upset with you is equally solipsistic—indeed, betrays equal arrogance—as enjoying peace from the belief that the creator of the universe is pleased with you.
14. The notion of an afterlife—surviving one’s bodily death—seems completely incompatible with our current scientific understanding. A blow to the head can rob one of one’s memories. Neurodegenerative disease, in some cases, can result in what might be described as the loss of the self. Phineas Gage suffered a traumatic head injury, the lasting effect of which was a dramatic change in personality. As Victor Stenger notes, neurological and medical evidence strongly indicates that our memories, emotions, thoughts and, indeed, our very personalities reside in the physical particles of the brain or, more precisely, in the ways those particles interact. What, then, would make it into the afterlife? Vague, impersonal energy?
15. To threaten small children with damnation to hell strikes me as a particularly hideous form of mental abuse. Our imaginations seem to be most vivid when we are children, and our credulity is at its peak. To small children, weeping and gnashing of teeth, not to mention lakes of fire, are not metaphorical descriptions of existence apart from god; to the undeveloped mind, they are real and haunting. One can only hope, when they grow and mature, they realize, to be a deterrent, hell’s awfulness must at least be commensurate with its ludicrousness. Because hell is infinitely silly, to deter anyone at all, it must threaten infinite punishment.
16. On Christianity, moral facts exist, because Christians stipulate that morality—what is good and what is evil—flows directly from god’s nature. They contend that god’s nature is unchangeable—cannot be otherwise—and, therefore, morality is objective. Yet, in conducting an evidence-based interrogation of the natural order, one finds no moral facts. Earth’s biodiversity is a bare fact. A conclusion flows naturally therefrom: A fact necessarily exists about the origin of, or explanation for, Earth’s biodiversity. Nowhere do we find the necessary existence of a moral fact, or any evidence that one exists.
17. If, as Christians say, morality flows directly from god’s nature, then any behavior god exhibits, and any action he commands or endorses, is necessarily righteous on the Christian view. In Genesis 19:4-8, the Bible character Lot offers his two virginal daughters up for rape to the men of Sodom, who surround his house. In 2 Peter 2:7-8, Lot is called “righteous” three times. The Bible, on Christianity, is the word of god; therefore, one must conclude Lot’s offering his two virginal daughters up for rape is consonant with god’s objective morality. Deuteronomy 7:1-5, Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and Joshua 10:28-40 demonstrate that god, whose very nature defines what is moral, sometimes commands genocide.
18. Men have been inventing deities for millennia, and Yahweh is just one in the near-infinite troop. As H.L. Mencken observed, the graveyard of dead gods, wherever it is, is well populated. I have little doubt that Yahweh’s grave is already dug, and that perhaps it is alongside the final resting places of Resheph, Baal, Anath, Astarte, Ashtoreth, Hadad, El, Addu, Nergal, Shalem, Nebo, Dagon, Ninib, Melek Taus and Yau. Then again, Yahweh’s grave might be closer to those of Amon-Re, Isis, Osiris, Ptah, Sebek, Anubis and Molech. RIP Yahweh.
19. Human beings, although clearly the most advanced species currently living on Earth, are easily deceived, deluded, confused and baffled. Our minds are well adapted for survival and for dealing with “Middle World,” where things are not microscopically small or cosmically very large, but they are still evolved organs with inherent limitations. Through a long period of trial and error, we can now conclude that marshaling evidence—relevant facts—is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience. If Christianity is to be accepted, it must be on the strength of its evidence.
20. On scientific thinking, hypotheses are meritorious only to the extent that they (a) make predictions, (b) enable those predictions to be tested and (c) find that, upon testing, the predictions are confirmed. The Christian hypothesis, to its detriment, is exceedingly bad at having its predictions be confirmed. Let us take Genesis, for example. The creation chronology presented in Genesis represents a testable prediction. In recent times, science has been able to test that prediction. Rather than being confirmed, the prediction failed, because Genesis’ creation chronology is wrong. This is a strike against the Christian hypothesis. Archeological disproof of the Exodus narrative is another strike against the Christian hypothesis.
21. It has been said some people are so constituted that they cannot believe in god. I am not such an individual, insofar as I invite convincing evidence of god’s existence and workings. I shall not fall prostrate to god’s feet in any case, but I would believe god existed if the evidence were sufficient. Any moral opinions I articulate, including those in which I deem god’s actions evil, are expressions of my deepest nature; I am constituted as I am, and I can neither help nor change what fundamentally strikes me as grave evil, which would prevent me from worshipping god, irrespective of evidence for his existence.
The road to truth is paved with evidence.