The Grotesqueness and Absurdity of Christianity

Introductory Remarks
Topic I: Religion and Life in This World
Part I: Otherworldliness and Asceticism
Part II: Ethics of the Bible

By Keith Allen

In Association with

The Grotesqueness and Absurdity of Christianity
10 June, 2010 (revised 24 August, 2010)

Introductory Remarks
Topic I: Religion and Life in This World
Part I: Otherworldliness and Asceticism

Part II: Ethics of the Bible
Topic II: The Reliability of the Bible
Part I: The Nature of Testimony
Part II: Inaccurate and Inconsistent Statements about the Physical World
Part III: Inaccurate and Inconsistent Statements about History
Part IV: Bible Stories as Metaphors

Topic III: The Problem of Evil
Part I: Original Sin
Part II: Free Will
Part III: God's Benevolence and the Nature and Purpose of Evil

Introductory Remarks

Christianity truly is grotesque. There are numerous aspects of the religion that are utterly gruesome or disturbing, that should horrify any person living today, so long as he is neither utterly devoid of compassion nor lacking the most meager sense of decency. Of course, even a heartless scoundrel, if he possesses a modicum of honesty and anything more than the most rudimentary intellect, should still turn from the religion, since it is based upon thoroughly unreliable testimony and is suffused with so much that is completely absurd that the entire system is an assault on reason and an offense against intelligence.

Admittedly, the religion's ridiculousness and ugliness have not always been so obvious. There was once a time when Christianity so dominated European culture that any intellectual endeavor had to be pursued either within the context of the religion or with the blessings of its temporal hierarchy. Any reasoning that contradicted Christian doctrines was likely to put the person following such heretical thoughts in danger, possibly even of losing his life. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the most sophisticated systems of philosophy from such times support the religion. I might add that these systems, which are frequently impressive displays of logic and ingenuity, are genuinely worthy of admiration (even if they often include defenses of the indefensible), as are the truly great thinkers who produced them, persons who, moreover, ought not to be faulted for not seeing the weaknesses of the religion they supported, since they did live in an intellectually confined world in which, as I have said, heterodoxy could be lethal.

The days of a single orthodoxy are, however, over. The world we live in today is quite different from that of the past. It is teeming with a variety of intellectual traditions, both philosophic and scientific, and though we can be ostracized for advocating some of these, we can still expose ourselves to them. Being thus free both to search for the truth and to be honest about the evidence presented to us, we who enjoy this present liberty cannot but discover the horrors and grotesqueries of Christianity. These are not only numerous and extreme, but some of them also entail such ridiculous consequences that they reveal the falsity of the religion. The age of the theologian has, consequently, come to an end.

Unfortunately, though their church has been weakened by centuries of attack, there are still innumerable Christians who are eager to suppress intellectual discourse and impose their bigoted ethics on others. It is in opposition to these persons, who are a real danger to freedom, compassion, and progress, that I make my accusations.

For its advocacy of a primitive morality which is hurtful both to its practitioners and others, I condemn Christianity, for its dependence upon thoroughly unreliable sources, I reject it, and with its contradictory doctrines I refute it. The religion is hurtful in practice, unjustified, and demonstrably false.

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Topic I: Religion and Life in This World

Part I: Otherworldliness and Asceticism

Christianity's worldview, its devaluation of the physical universe in favor of an imaginary spiritual plane, its claims that God's "kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36) and that "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24), has done tremendous harm to every culture that the religion has influenced. Countless opportunities to relish life have been squandered by countless Christians as a result of their believing that this world and the delights of this world are evil, that they, and all other human beings, are somehow guilty for tasting these pleasures, and that they must, for that guilt, endure punishment, whether this is self-imposed in this life or is inflicted by god in an otherworldly hell. What is more, not only has the religion caused ordinary people to make their lives less enjoyable, but it has also led many of its more devoted adherents to strive actively for personal misery.

There can be no denying that numerous individuals, often of dubious mental health, have been prompted by the religion to perform savage, absurd, and revolting acts of penitence to free themselves of any attachment to their bodies, to tear themselves, as gruesomely as possible, from the fetters of this "vale of tears" (as the world is characterized in the Salve Regina). Fortunately, the briefest of descriptions of even a few of these sad creatures should be sufficient to make my point. St. Simeon Stylites squandered a large portion of his life dwelling on top of various pillars. The last of these, on which he spent twenty years, was sixty feet high and six feet wide. Perched there, exposed to the elements and isolated from temptation, he starved himself and preached to anyone who would come to listen to his ravings. St. Abraham Kidunaia "walled up the door of his cell, leaving only a little window through which food could be passed...His only remaining possessions were a cloak, a goatskin garment, a bowl for food and drink, and a rush mat on which he slept. 'He was never seen to smile..and he regarded each day as his last...And, what is even more surprising, never once, in fifty years, did he change his coat of goatskin.'" (Butler's Lives of the Saints, Walsh, ed., pp. 81-82). One more example should suffice. St. Rose of Lima lived in a shed in her parents' garden and, having heard others praise her beauty, "used to rub her face with pepper, in order to disfigure her skin with blotches. A woman happening one day to admire the fineness of the skin of her hands and her shapely fingers, she rubbed them with lime, and in consequence was unable to dress herself for a month" (Ibid., Walsh, ed., p. 260). Imagining the sufferings these people inflicted upon themselves is thoroughly unpleasant, but worse than this is the realization that innumerable others have been tricked into thinking such masochistic actions are admirable and have been inspired by these examples to do harm to themselves when they might not otherwise have done so.

That said, such extreme, grisly, and genuinely disturbing asceticism has never been performed by the majority of Christians, since most people, remaining affected by their natural impulses as living beings, even if they are corrupted by religion, still want to live in this world. Nonetheless, a significant number of deluded individuals, living at every time Christianity has existed, have, as a result of being misled by the teachings of that faith, indulged in various forms of self-harm, in flagellation, self-starvation, and physical disfigurement. I am truly horrified to think of how Christianity has caused so many human beings to injure and torture themselves.

Such practices, I should add, are not things that have come to be appended to the religion, which are not integral to it. They have been performed by Christians throughout the religion's history precisely because they are based on injunctions and ideas stated in the Bible itself. Let us remember that Jesus himself said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Many of Paul's admonitions elaborate on this. "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (I Corinthians 9:27). Even more explicitly, he stated, " If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience" (Colossians 3:1-6). Later developments of these doctrines into macabre ballets of self-torture in various Christian traditions are nothing more than attempts to flesh out concepts that are present in the religion's scripture.

This glorification of asceticism is, moreover, grounded in the religion's fundamental disdain of the physical world. The goodness of both the discarnate soul, which is pure and god-like, and heaven, its perfect and immaterial true home, are repeatedly contrasted in the New Testament with the evil of both the body, which is the seat of sin, and this world, which is a deadly wilderness, where the enfleshed, imprisoned soul dwells in exile, beset with temptations. A few samples from that text should illustrate my point and demonstrate how much the sinfulness of the physical body is stressed and set against the purity of the spirit.

We read:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16).

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Galatians 16-17).

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin...For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not...For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin (Romans 7:14,18, 22-25).

With such claims, the real, this world, and all the wonders, beauties, and pleasures that can be found in the numberless physical entities existing therein, are rejected as sinful, and the unreal, the realm of the spirit, is lauded as worthy. Even the simple joys of this painful yet beautiful universe, the tastes of its various foods, the pleasures of its diverse sexual acts, the majesty of its natural features, the sweetness of the relationships existing among its inhabitants, the rejoicing in the works of art or systems of philosophy created by the skills and minds of men, and so on and so on, are, at most, reduced to mere expressions of the divine will or, at worst, denigrated as aberrations.

St. Augustine of Hippo, for example, rails against the pleasures of the flesh and warns his reader against indulging in them. He claims that there is "an ominous kind of enjoyment" in eating and that food should be viewed merely as a necessary medicine, since taking pleasure in food is a "snare of concupiscence" (Augustine, Confessions, R.S. Pine-Coffin, trans. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1961, 1985 reprint), X.31, p. 235). The good saint was no more comfortable relishing the delights of the other senses. St. Augustine's battle with the joys of the flesh was, perhaps, the most violent struggle against his body that he fought, and he moans that "Nothing prevented me from plunging still deeper into the gulf of carnal pleasure except the fear of death and your [god's] judgement to come" (Ibid. VI.16, pp. 131-132). His (probably related) dread that the sight of beautiful shapes and colors might take possession of his soul prompted him to ask for god's help to avoid "being caught in a trap" by such allurements, which are "sweet and tempting, but dangerous" (Ibid., X.34, p. 240). St. Augustine goes on to thank god for freeing him from his enthrallment to the delights of sound, though he does worry that, when listening to hymns (which he concedes are a profitable use of music), he might pay too much attention to the music itself and so let it lead him astray. Even the sense of smell, the pleasures of which, he says, do not tempt him, made him nervous, since (this life being the "perpetual trial" that it is) he was wracked by the fear that he could be wrong about such a lack of temptation (Ibid., X.32, p. 238). Though St. Augustine is unusually systematic in his denunciations of the pleasures of the body, he is hardly alone. A dread of the physical world pervades Christian thought, and this fear, which is often transformed into loathing, both of the world and of anyone who indulges in its delights, whether this person is the Christian himself or someone else, has adversely affected many adherents of the religion.

There are, consequently, unnumbered millions of ordinary people, many living today, who, though they might not burn the skin from their hands, wear hairshirts, or whip themselves, still have turned their backs on this world and its joys while pining away for some Cloudcuckooland. Instead of relishing the here and now, they have cast away opportunities for real delights for empty promises of something better. Listening to the teachings of their religion, these Christians have denigrated the enjoyment of food and drink as gluttony, of sex in its countless forms as licentiousness, and have even attacked art, whether by demanding that it whore itself by serving some doctrine or by condemning some entire medium, as the religion has, for instance, frequently been opposed to the theater (e.g., until the modern age, actors in Catholic nations were often denied burial in hallowed ground, and some Protestant states banned theatrical performances altogether, as was the case in several American colonies). Indulgence in any of these delights has been characterized as 'worldly,' and rejection of them as 'godly,' thereby devaluing the former and valuing the latter, which misguided characterizations have led innumerable men and women to reject the marvels of this world or, at the least, to burden themselves needlessly with guilt for having enjoyed these. Sadly, by so shunning the real and adoring the imaginary, these pathetic, deceived creatures are throwing their lives away, or, at the least, wasting countless opportunities for joy.

I am not being unduly harsh in saying this, either. A person is, after all, nothing but a physical being. I have never been shown even the shakiest evidence that there is anything to a person other than his body, while I have been shown considerable evidence that the mental activities ascribed by Christians to the soul can be explained by actions of the brain. It would, consequently, be foolish of me to posit anything else to a person besides his body. Similarly, I have strong evidence that bridges stand as a result of particular substances being arranged in particular ways, which substances and arrangements are together sufficient to explain how a bridge stands. I have no evidence that bridges are really supported by invisible, immaterial fairies. Nor do I require the existence of such creatures to explain how bridges stand. I do not, as a result, posit the existence of bridge-supporting fairies. With regard to the case at hand, the nature and actions of a human being can, as I have said, be explained by his body, which is known from observation (that is to say, the nature and actions of the body can, in many cases, be seen in daily life, and, when they are not amenable to being so observed, they can still be discerned through scientific investigations using rigorous methods and specialized equipment). Medical science has even demonstrated how particular areas of the brain are responsible for certain types of cognitions, certain emotions, certain mental capacities and the like, and how stimulation of or damage to any of these areas can affect the mental functioning of a person. As a result of this empirically demonstrated linking of consciousness to brain activity, it is unnecessary to posit the existence of some other entity, some soul, evidence of which is completely lacking. I must, as a reasonable person, thus conclude that I am nothing more than my physical body. There simply is no reason to posit the existence of something totally unneeded and totally unsupported by empirical evidence, namely a soul.

Happily, nothing is more noble than the physical, though Christianity endlessly teaches that the physical is wicked, polluted, or simply base. The human body is a not a temple of the soul, some container of a treasure that can itself be discarded. A person's body is who that person is. It is itself the treasure. It is all there is of a person and so contains the whole of a person's worth. We should, therefore, relish this body and the world around us, which affords us so much delight, and not live with some hope of coming to another world after death. Paradise is here and now.

Even when Christians do appreciate the beauties of this world, they generally seem to do so because these things display the skill of some maker, because they point to something that is supposedly greater than they are. I thoroughly disagree with such a viewpoint. It devalues the things of the world, which can (and should) be appreciated because they are beautiful in themselves. They are not signposts pointing to unseen marvels on the other side of death; they themselves are marvels. They are, in fact, the only marvels, as the unseen marvels on the other side of death are just illusions. Unfortunately, Christianity turns us away from the real, making us think it is without worth, and directs our eyes to the imaginary, making us think that mere chimeras are what actually have value. The way the religion steals people's lives away with empty promises of some otherworldly paradise while preventing them from immersing themselves in the intoxicating, numinous magic of the wonders of the here and now all around them truly is grotesque.

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Part II: Ethics of the Bible

Though Christianity's otherworldliness is repulsive, the morals of the religion are just as disgusting. I am thoroughly horrified by the ethics of the Bible, both as these are stated in injunctions and as they are expressed in the actions of god and his righteous followers. The book, rather than being the pure spring of morality, is a fountain of pollution spewing out the most repugnant of effluvia. Though the Bible's moral code is tempered with the occasional compassionate sentiment, the book, more often than not, provides instruction on how one should not behave.

We need not even have a precise definition of morality to establish the immorality of the Bible. The actions endorsed therein are contrary to virtually any rational system of ethics. Let us simply define as immoral any action that falls within two categories: 1) any action that inflicts suffering upon an individual for violation of some injunction which is justified by tradition or revelation but which cannot be justified by reason (which is, thus, arbitrary and liable to be violated by those who, though rational and inclined to ethical behavior, do not have access to that injunction or have access to other personally weightier injunctions, which, though similar in nature, demand contrary actions), and 2) any action that causes suffering to another living being without there being, as a consequence of that action, a benefit that outweighs this suffering, a benefit that, moreover, could not have been achieved by lessening the suffering caused, given the capacity of the agent performing the action.

Now, first of all, there is present in the Bible the idea that only a single god exists, one that accepts only those who embrace his favored ideology. Jesus, after all, states, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Matthew 12:30). In fact, all those persons who do not follow this one true god face an eternity in hell. The Bible is again quite precise about this. It says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). Such an unbeliever really does not have a pleasant future according to the Bible, for "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

This exclusivism, which is so nicely put by St. Cyprian of Carthage in that charming phrase he originated, "Outside of the Church, there is no salvation," is, frankly, monstrous. It is an offense against common sense and the most elementary sense of decency. For one thing, this demand by god that men believe in him without proof is utterly unfair to those who have heard of him but who, being reasonable men, demand some proof of his existence, however slight. One does not, after all, believe any statement of importance without some proof, whether this is sensory perception of the entities about which the statement has been made, corroborative testimony, or simply an inference about the honesty of the testifier based on prior experience of his veracity and accuracy. In this case, god, if he does exist, has provided us with absolutely no sensory evidence of his existence; there are, moreover, the voices of other religious teachers, which not only fail to corroborate his claims, but actually contradict them, and, since god's testimony is known only through the Bible, and can be tested only by testing the veridicality of the Bible, we are forced, being reasonable persons, to doubt the accuracy of that testimony since we cannot fail to notice inaccuracies in the Bible, which even point to that text not having been composed by men guided by divine revelation. God, though he claims to be just, is instead being utterly unfair to those who have heard his word. Of course, this one true god is even more unfair to all those unfortunate enough to have been raised in regions of the world where his worship is not the dominant religion. In his boundless mercy, he excludes from heaven every such person, and, I might add, every child who died before being baptized. This idea is clearly conveyed in the text of the Council of Florence, which states, "But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains" (Council of Florence, Session 6). God, it would seem, wants us to roast in hell, but then perhaps he's planning a celestial barbecue for his saints, with the great mass of humanity to be served up as the main course.

In fact, this doctrine of exclusivism is nothing more than an expression of tribal bigotry, of a fear of those who are different, who are, because they are different, evil and dangerous, mingled with an extreme self-affirmation that overcompensates for one's fallibility and that allows the Christian to feel right and noble at all times, assured that whatever he is doing he is doing rightly, because he is one of the few who serve the one true god, even while he arrogantly looks down with disgust and hatred at all who dare differ from him. I can certainly see how such a doctrine would have psychological appeal for the converted, a capacity for evoking fear in weak minded and doubtful heathens, thereby prompting them to convert, and utility to the ecclesiastical hierarchy, since, by keeping the fearful Christian in the church and bringing into it the fearful non-Christian, it would help to diminish competition.

Such a vision is hardly surprising, however, considering that the god of the Bible himself is like some homicidal, psychopathic super-villain who is brutal to and demanding of his followers while even crueller to those who oppose him. He commands his people to commit countless acts of savagery in the Old Testament and goes on, in the New Testament, to control a harsh, unforgiving, and militaristic universe in which he and his servants wage an interminable war against Satan and his minions (i.e., everyone who isn't a Christian).

The god of the Old Testament really is a nasty character. At one point, he is described as having killed twenty-four thousand people with a plague as punishment for a Jewish man's having married a Midianite woman, and having only stopped the plague's depredations when one of his decent servants stabbed the mixed couple to death (Numbers 25:6-9). Later, Moses, following god's will, ordered the Israelites to exterminate the Midianites, except for their virgin daughters, whom god's chosen were to take as sex slaves (Numbers 31.15-18). God, apparently, hated Midianites like Hitler hated Jews. Of course, god seems to hate everyone who doesn't adore him and is quite willing to kill such persons for the sake of his followers. He, for instance, smote an army of Ethiopians that opposed Asa (2 Chronicles 14:8-12) and delivered both the Canaanites and the Perizzites into the hands of the Israelites, who slaughtered them by the tens of thousands (Judges 3:28-29). This same god butchered every first born child in Egypt, irrespective of the deeds of their parents (let alone their own actions), only because he himself had caused the ruler of that nation to make a particular decision (Exodus 11:1–12:33). He even had Moses command his men to kill three thousand of his own people for their adoration of an image of a calf (Exodus 32:26-28).

God is not simply vicious to his enemies, however. He can be extraordinarily cruel to his servants as well. I cannot but mention how god commanded Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a human sacrifice. Though an angel did intervene at the last moment and prevent the murder, god, by testing his follower in such a wildly sadistic manner, must still have put the man and his son through an horrific and heart wrenching ordeal (Genesis 22). He is even more vicious to Job. After god gambled with Satan about whether Job would remain as faithful to him in adversity as he had been in prosperity, god allowed the latter to torment that man in innumerable horrific ways, including even the murder of his children. Though Job, in the end, does regain his former prosperity, this no more justifies god's allowing him to be outrageously victimized than would a similar outcome justify the persecutions of a human tyrant, nor does this restore the lives of Job's slaughtered children. The wrongs committed, or allowed to be committed, remain wrongs.

The brutality of god and his faithful can be especially vicious when directed towards women. There is, for instance, the story of the Levite whose concubine left him to return to her father's house. In this, it is related how, after the man had journeyed to the house of the runaway concubine's father, regained the girl, and was travelling back to his home, he stopped in Gibeah, where he lodged in the house of an old farmer. While he was there, a group of men beat at the door and demanded that the old man give them the Levite so that they could enjoy him sexually. To avoid being so used, the Levite showed them his concubine and offered her to them. Apparently finding her to be an acceptable alternative, the men gang raped the woman throughout the night with such brutality that they killed her. The following day, the Levite, having found her corpse upon the threshold of his host's home, threw it upon his ass, took it home, chopped it up into twelve parts, and sent one of these to each of the tribes of Israel so that they would know the wickedness of the men of Gibeah (Judges 19).

This is hardly the only instance in which women are brutalized by god or his servants. While waging genocidal war against the Ammonites, Jephthah vowed that if god gave him victory over his enemies, he would make a burnt offering of the first thing that came out from his house upon returning home (Judges 11:30-31). God, in his goodness, saw fit to answer this prayer and allowed Jephthah to commit a great slaughter of the Ammonites. Jephthah then returned home and first saw his daughter, but, being a good and faithful man, he did not flinch from fulfilling his vow. He sacrificed her to god, murdering his own child (Judges 11:39), an act which is never condemned in the Bible but instead, given Jephthah's later repute as a good and faithful man (Hebrews 11:32), appears to have been condoned.

I will admit that god is no more cruel to those women who overtly oppose him or his people, but then, he still is just as cruel. He does, after all, turn Lot's wife into a pillar of salt for the heinous crime of looking back at the home she was fleeing because god was planning to burn to death every other citizen, man, woman, and child, of that city (Genesis 19:24-26). He also causes his fanatical, bigoted worshippers to murder the foreign demoness Jezebel, who dared worship some other deity, that of her childhood, and to leave her corpse in the dust to be devoured by dogs (II Kings 9:30-37). There is also that first of sinners, Eve, who, for the horrendous crime of eating a piece of fruit, is told by god that "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:16).

While, in the New Testament, god might not be quite as actively violent to the living as he was before, he is still just as bad. For one thing, he fails to repent of his former sins and ask man to forgive him. I, for one, would be more than willing to pardon god for committing even the disturbing atrocities he boasts of committing in the Old Testament were he simply to express regret, but he never does so. What is more, god reveals that he is ready to commit further crimes, both in the present and in the future. While god, in the Old Testament, tortured, murdered, and otherwise victimized both his followers and their foes, he, at the least, never showed interest in them after they were dead. His cruelty was severe, but it was limited. In the the New Testament, god usually allows sinners to commit their sins with impunity in this life, but afterwards, in the next life, he torments them without end in ways far more savage than anything he had inflicted upon human beings before. In this new revelation, it is revealed how sinners, upon death, are to be plunged into an eternal darkness (Jude 13) of everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8-9), where, eaten by worms (Mark 9:43-49), they will ceaselessly weep and gnash their teeth (Matthew 8:12; 22:13). Unsatisfied with this regular revenge upon all those persons who fail to grovel before him, god also promises a future of true horror. He reveals how he will someday preside over the Apocalypse with all its myriad pornographic horrors, including plagues, attacks by weird monsters, and mass killings, that will end with god's enemies, human and supernatural, being thrown into a lake of fire and brimstone while the deity and his angels relish their agonies (Revelation 14:10-11, 20:10). The god of the Bible is one of the most cruel, violent, petty, and unfair rogues to have appeared in any literary work.

After all, not only are the punishments of hell, being eternal, disproportionate to the crimes for which they are inflicted (no matter how severe these were), but they are, moreover, decreed by a being who claims to be all merciful and loving. Whoever is making such claims must surely be lying. God, if he exists, must be a fiend. For one thing, the punishments of hell are not intended to lead wayward children to heaven. They are nothing more than acts of retaliation, and I, for one, do not hold that the infliction of punishment, unless corrective, is an expression of love. God apparently believes that revenge is justice. Of course, this is a god who is incapable of unconditional forgiveness. Flawed, petty, and spiteful as I am, I can forgive others even though they are unrepentant, even though they hate me. It is disturbing to imagine the universe being run by a being more flawed, petty, and spiteful than I am, a being who will only forgive those who beg him to forgive them.

God's actions do not exhaust the immoralities propounded in the Bible, however. There are, in addition, the endless vile moral injunctions contained in that text, which are far too numerous to list here. I'll just note that, in one place or another, the Bible states that women who have premarital sex should be stoned (Deuteronomy 22:20-21), that men who have sex with men are sinful (Romans 1:26-27), that women ought to obey their husbands in every way (Ephesians 5:22-24), that women should, moreover, dress modestly, always be subject to men, remain quiet, and never teach (1 Timothy 2:9-14), that transvestism by both men and women is offensive to god (Deuteronomy 22:5), and that a father has the right to sell his daughters into slavery (Exodus 21:7). There is, moreover, a fantastic variety of sins listed in the Bible for which persons are to be executed. These monstrous commandments to kill one's fellow living beings would have us put to death those poor sinners guilty of working on the sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17, Numbers 15:32-56), of disobeying their parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), of worshipping gods other than that of the Bible (Deuteronomy 17:3-5), of proselytizing for such deities (Deuteronomy 13:6-9), of patronizing wizards and mediums, of having sex with a person of the same gender, of committing bestiality, and even of being the animal sexually assaulted (for a long list of these and many others, see Leviticus 20). Clearly, I could give many further examples, but I think my point is obvious. The moral injunctions of the Bible are frequently cruel, horrid, and utterly immoral. They are the products of a brutal, ignorant people who were fearful of outsiders and lived in a primitive, superstitious age. They certainly are not arrived at by means of a rational examination of human desires and interactions which might point to what these should be.

Much of the Bible, in fact, consists of a litany of crimes either committed by god and those obedient to his will or given as injunctions by god to his faithful. The book teaches men to worship a monstrous celestial rogue and to behave like rogues themselves, denying themselves the ordinary but marvelous pleasures this world offers and, at the same time, tormenting and victimizing their fellows.

Quite simply, the Bible is no guide to morality. Although there are, without a doubt, many genuinely beautiful stories and inspired moral commandments included within the Bible, these can be arrived at by reason, without recourse to revelation. At the same time, that text includes countless vile narratives, sadistic injunctions, and utterly repugnant doctrines that, having been accepted by innumerable persons who have accepted the Bible to be revelation, have prompted such men to do hurt to themselves and to others. Regrettably for the Christian, if he is to claim that the Bible is the source of morality, then he will have to accept the latter sort along with the former. If he rejects the latter, then it is clearly because he admits that the Bible is not the font of morality, that, perhaps, reason is, and that the Bible is moral only on those occasions when it, by accident, agrees with such reason. Accepting the Bible as the source of knowing morality entails accepting as moral much that is utterly immoral, that is opposed to reason, compassion, and, frankly, common sense. Accepting reason as the source of knowing morality means accepting only the noble, since the ignoble will be disregarded as irrational. In other words, while commandments to be honest, to be merciful, and not to commit murder, as well as the Golden Rule, can and have been arrived at by means of empirically based logic, commandments to persecute unbelievers, witches, breakers of tribal taboos, and those who perform various unfashionable sexual acts, which belong to a primitive code of behavior, are accepted now only because they are sanctified by their being understood to have been ordained by a deity.

I will not, I should add, accept the excuses of those who, upon reading of some moral horror demanded by god in the Bible, claim that such an injunction cannot be accepted since it, by being immoral, must not have been intended literally. Such a person is clearly not looking to the Bible as the source of his morality. He has moral standards he has arrived at by other means and is applying these to the Bible. When the Bible matches up with these, he declares it to be literal. When the Bible does not match up with these, he declares it not to be literal. Though such an individual may be loathe to admit it, it is obvious that the Bible is not the source of his morality, and that, for him to trick himself into accepting its validity, he must read it in a selective way so that it conforms with his moral standards.

Admittedly, as nasty as is the Bible's moral vision, this nastiness simply proves that we would be better off not following its practical teachings. This, however, is not itself proof that the Christian god does not exist. The universe could well be run by the fiendish deity portrayed in the Bible. It does, however, make clear that the god of the Bible is hardly omnibenevolent. The deity venerated in that book is cruel and violent, and he promotes an ethical code that is brutish, xenophobic, bigoted, and dangerous. The Bible, frankly, is a pit of immorality and evil which should, by no means, be followed.

By Keith Allen

Grotesqueness and Absurdity of Christianity, Topic II
Grotesqueness and Absurdity of Christianity, Topic III

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