The Bizzaro Beliefs of Christianity

Most Christians have not thought deeply about their faith. Most of them just believe in God and the resurrection of Jesus. They claim to do so because of the arguments and the evidence. Based upon these two beliefs they believe the whole Bible. And so ends most of their attempts to understand what they believe.

But behind these Christian beliefs are a quagmire of other ones that can best be described by an outsider like me to be nothing short of Bizzaro. Let me explain.

Christian scholars wrestle with trying to make sense of the trinity by arguing over how such a being is best defined who exists in the first place. There are social Trinitarians and anti-social Trinitarians. Both sides accuse the other side of abandoning the Chalcedon creed, either in the direction of tri-theism, or in the direction of denying there are three distinct persons in the Godhead. Then there are some Christians who maintain the Father eternally created the Logos and the Spirit, while others claim that three persons in one Godhead is simply an eternally brute inexplicable fact. [It’s hard enough to conceive of one person who is an eternally uncaused God, much less a Godhead composed of three eternally uncaused persons that make up the Godhead].

This Godhead is also conceived of as a timeless being who was somehow able to create the first moment of time. How a timeless being could actually do this is extremely problematic. For if his decision to create a first moment of time is an eternal one, then there could be no temporal gap between his decision to create the first moment of time and the actual creation of the first moment of time. If there was no temporal gap between God's eternal decision to create a first moment of time and the creation of that first moment, then his decision to create would alone be sufficient for a first moment of time to be created. God could not eternally decide to create at any future point since there is no future point for him to create since he's a timeless being. Hence, either the universe is eternal or God never decided to create in the first place.

From here it only gets worse.

We are told that the Logos, the 2nd person of the trinity, became a man. No conception of this God-man in the flesh has yet been able to stand scrutiny. How, for instance, can such a being be 100% God and 100% man with nothing left over? All attempts to solve this problem have failed. But we’re not done, for we’re told this God-man atoned for the sins of man. No sense can be made of how the death of Jesus actually forgives sins. Theologians must punt to mystery with all of the above problems and say they just cannot explain them. Of course not!

This God-man was a unique never-before-existing being who is described in the creeds as one unified person. Here, an additional problem surfaces. Where is the human side of this God-man now? Since this human side of the God-man was sinless he couldn’t be destroyed, nor could this human side of the God-man be separated from the divine side, for such a being was now one person according to the creeds. So theologians have concluded that the trinity includes an embodied Logos. Now we have a trinity with an embodied 2nd person in it. Picture this if you will!

Just step back for a moment and ask yourself so far if this isn’t best described as a bizzaro set of beliefs!

Stepping forward a bit, the people sent to hell retain their free will, since it’s argued they continue to rebel in hell, while the people who enter heaven have their free will taken away to guarantee there will be no future rebellion in heaven. If free will is such a great gift why reward people by taking it away from them and punish people by having them retain it? That makes little sense to me. Bizzaro.

In the end, the God who created time must forever be subject to events in time. He cannot become timeless again, for to do so would destroy all that happened in time as if these events never happened in the first place. So although God existed outside of time before creating the first moment of time he must now forever experience events in time. Whereas before creation he was a timelessly existing being he is now going to experience a sequence of events that is never ending.

I’ve only touched on a few of the beliefs needed to make sense of Christianity. There are many others, and some Christians have different scenarios. But from an outsider perspective this is simply a bizzaro set of beliefs. Who in their right mind would embrace Christianity if he or she heard about them all when first being challenged to believe? Very very few people. That’s what I think. What do YOU think?

36 comments:

kiwi said...

Religious beliefs are certainly bizarre.

But I suppose a person could answer that every worldview has bizarre features. And also that most atheists do not think deeply about naturalism as well.

Anyway... I think what ultimately matter is: is there a hope one day to make sense of our worldview? Naturalists have a lot of work to do, but we can reasonably expect to learn more and more about the universe with the scientific method.

But what new information or empirical observation could help us understand the trinity? If after 2000 years, Christians still struggle to make sense of various Christian concepts like the Trinity or the human/divine nature of Jesus, well... In my view, it makes Christianity an unsatisfying worldview, unless some people are satisfied with the "it will remain a mystery" answer.

Anthony said...

John, this is so true. You and I grew up influenced by Christianity, so we accepted those ideas without question. So when we matured in our faith we didn't question such ideas as trinity, incarnation, timelessness, etc. we strove to come to a "deeper" understanding of them. Now that we are on the outside looking in it does look bizarre. It reminds me of how most evangelical Christians, who know very little about Mormonism, think how bizaro that faith is when they are first introduced to it.

BobCMU76 said...

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Trinity and Christology as koan...

That's how I live with the bizarro.

Any distinctive answer is the wrong answer.

Other things, I just don't think much about. Even the Bible shows a number of "Yah, but..."s about second coming and life after death and such, and the answers were clearly grasping for something to make all the pieces fit together. And maybe they all do. Or maybe a new paradigm moves the boundaries of doubt elsewhere.

But kiwi is on the mark. It's futile to base one's confidence in salvation upon one's understanding of salvation. At least if we take God's word for it, and God stopped talking before the talking was done. We can't compell Him to tell us more than He has, and we really don't trust (Bahaullah, Joseph Smith, Branch Davidians) claims that He's said something new and different and more clear of late.

So we're left rehashing the same ol' same ol'.... with new forms of meta-analysis born of scientific inquiry, though unable to borrow the methods of the same, able to gleen the insights.

The issue is... are molecular biology and modern cosmology and subatomic particle physics a distraction or a direction in search of more fruitful meditation upon the great koans of Christianity?

Philip said...

Bob,

It's fine that you are satisfied with and indulge in Christianity's lack of sense.

But for people who care whether or not things make sense, koans are nonsense and therefore have no use. We're comfortable in stating the logical answer: there is no sound of one hand clapping.

(btw, please let me know if I'm misrepresenting you in any way, but it honestly sounds like you enjoy the fact that Christianity makes no sense)

Mind Candy said...

It is sad. We attempt to explain the unexplainable.

You grip over our belief of an uncaused God, but if he created this universe then he is outside this universe and its laws need not apply. If we were to know all of the facts it is it my suspicion that "What caused God?" is simply a meaningless question. Much like how long were Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Meaningless because there was no "TIME" until after the fall. It simply did not exist. I mean sure time as in the cycle of day and night, but not time in the form of entropy => night had no more meaning than it is time to rest and day similarly had no more meaning than I had better get up. The question of how many of these cycles had passed stops just sort of being nonsensical. (The only thing that stops it from being absurd is that I am sure that God counted. Even if the total wound up being 1,438,345.55, so what? What does that mean? Day one was the same as day last.)

Like wise everyone stumbles over the trinity. If we could understand it then God wouldn't really be that God like would he. Moreover if we HAD to understand it in order to attain salvation or some exalted grand poo-ba position in heaven then that would leave many people out of the equation entirely.

Theology imperfectly answers the questions because in the end the question that we ask it is "Who is God to me?" and then the reciprocal "Who am I to God?". Neither of the answers of these questions need to have space/time wrapped up into them nor should they. It is the unbeliever that professes to know all things that misses the finer points of the universe that he calls home in search of some smug satisfaction of illusory superiority. I prefer to think of them as cocks on the farmers fence proudly waiting to pronounce the coming of the dawn (and perhaps claiming to have caused it) all the while ignorant of what happens near dinner time.

Even if we could answer these questions to their fullest. So what? That would edify only people like me who have a hadron for theoretical physics. Who is God to me/ Who am I to God? Nothing about branes or extra dimensions needs to be added.

All I can do when I read this slander is to shake my head and say a prayer.

"And professing to be wise they became fools."

Humility always looks good.
Chris

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John,

I don't know. I'm ALMOST sure you didn't get any of this from the apologetics conference...If you did, I'l like to know the professor who taught this. For instance you said this:

"This God-man was a unique never-before-existing being who is described in the creeds as one unified person."

That's not even the Biblical concept of the God-Man. The God-Man eternally exists...

Then regarding free-will you said this:

"Stepping forward a bit, the people sent to hell retain their free will, since it’s argued they continue to rebel in hell, while the people who enter heaven have their free will taken away to guarantee there will be no future rebellion in heaven"

Where is that at and who teaches it? Once again I'd like to know so I can research the concept...

Then it would seem that in your understanding the universe or material existance would be at a minium at least as eternal as God therefore making the Universe eternal...isn't that kind of pantheistic?

I don't know, but I am wondering were these concepts something that you constructed or are they something that is taught. If so I've NEVER heard a reputable Christian scholar teach any of this....so that's BIZZARO to me.

So far as the Trinity is concerned, I would expect that humanity, from the time that an infinite being revealed himself to humanity would develop and struggle with the concept of exactly what Trinity is. I would expect that human understanding being limited would grasp and regrasp the concept and never fully comprehend it but apprehend it. This poses NO problem to me as this is what I expect, for if I understood it all then the being would more than likely be a construct of men or my mind...

Thanks.

Dave said...

>in the end the question that we ask it is "Who is God to me?" and then the reciprocal "Who am I to God?"<

Chris, those are questions you ask because you start with your own cock-sure presumption a god exists.

I may be crowing on a fence, and maybe the farmer plans to roast me eternally for a dinner that will never end, but you, Chris, have hoisted yourself on your own petard.

That's because you offer no evidence for the existence of your god, indeed you proclaim that evidence is not available. You say you god is outside the space-time continuum.

How is it you are privy and certain of this "knowledge" of a god - a god of whom you say nothing can be known?

Dave said...

District Supt. Harvey Burnett wrote:

>reputable Christian scholar<

Oxymoronic.

>for if I understood it all then the being would more than likely be a construct of men or my mind<

Yes, now you've almost got it. When you finally figure it out, you'll come to just that conclusion.

dM said...

"Like wise everyone stumbles over the trinity. If we could understand it then God wouldn't really be that God like would he. Moreover if we HAD to understand it in order to attain salvation or some exalted grand poo-ba position in heaven then that would leave many people out of the equation entirely."

Faith requires us to check our brain at the door. It hates reason, and defies understanding. Somehow we as humans need faith to make sense of our lives (the irony).

kiwi said...

If after 2000 years we still struggle to make sense of a concept, a likely explanation is that the concept is incoherent.

The problem I see with the Trinity, besides not making a lot of sense, is that it adds a layer of unnecessary complexity to the God hypothesis.

Even if we assume for the sake of the argument that naturalism is a failure and we need to posit a God to make sense of the universe, then for the sake of simplicity, we would posit the most simple conception of God we can think of. (Such God would conceptually correspond to the Islamic God).

Of course, maybe reality doesn't correspond to the most simple scenario we can think of. But... That's how rational human beings make sense of the universe; we constantly seek the most simple explanation.

Samphire said...

dm wrote: Faith requires us to check our brain at the door. It hates reason, and defies understanding. Somehow we as humans need faith to make sense of our lives (the irony).

I can make sense of my life without faith. It's Hitler's I have trouble over, with or without faith.

BobCMU76 said...

Kiwi -- why can't Occam's razor compel us toward the simplicity of a prime mover? Sometimes I hear as much straining to avoid any hint of non-naturalistic cause as we Christians strain to envision the particulars of these vague promises we hold as our hope.

Phillip, not a problem, I have fun, when I can, ridiculing the pomposity of reason, whether from Atheist zealots or Calvinist crazies. Rational discourse and scientific inquiry are useful tool and have been successful, to the exclusion of any alternative, in bringing light into our homes and ease and dispatch to our journeys, and many other good things, like the ability to sit in pajamas and talk about interesting things with inspirational people while waiting for the dawn and breakfast.

But when people asked Jesus about how to get from here to there, Jesus pretty much boiled it down to "follow me," but he told people to reframe the problem. To reboot, start in the beginning with different premises and different process than what's been successful for them in other things. I refer specifically to John 3, with its many metaphors, including "born again."

Now, you may characterize arational methods as off-the-wall, fruitcake frenzy, and I assure you, that's just me, Sideshow Bob. I point to Tao as a disciplined, fruitful path to self-discovery and contemplation of ultimate concerns. That's how I strive to approach Christianity. I may find that other tools suit the challenge. Certainly rational methods aren't useless, but I'm reminded again and again of Jesus telling the successful people of his day that all their scholarship and erudition has left them undiscerning of what was plainly in front of their face.

To a man with a hammer, everything is a nail. Split that hair with Occam's razor.

John W. Loftus said...

District Harvey. Every position I mentioned is argued for by a respected conservative theologian, philosopher or apologist. See what I mean? YOU don't know this, do you? You don't realize what it takes to be consistent in your faith. You might be described as the kind of person I wrote about in the beginning of this post.

Harvey said..."This God-man was a unique never-before-existing being who is described in the creeds as one unified person."

That's not even the Biblical concept of the God-Man. The God-Man eternally exists...


No, not at all. William Lane Craig and Moreland argue that if this were the case then it would deny the incorporality of the Trinity from the beginning.

Harvey said...Where is that at and who teaches it (free will denied for heaven and granted for hell?)? Once again I'd like to know so I can research the concept...

James F. Sennett and Paul Copan for starters. Sennett in "Is There Freedom in Heaven?" Faith and Philosophy, 16 (1999). On hell see C.S. Lewis and Paul Copan in "That's Just Your Interpretation" pages 101-109. There Copan also discusses the options regarding free will in heaven.

With regard to the Father eternally creating the Logos and Son, this is the standard Nicean subordination view defended by Richard Swinburne in "Could there be more than one God" Faith and Philosophy, July 1988.

William Lane Craig defends the outside/inside time chage with regard to God.

Any other questions I missed?

zilch said...

Bob, you ask:

why can't Occam's razor compel us toward the simplicity of a prime mover?

I know this was addressed to kiwi, but I hope you don't mind my €0.02 worth. I suppose a "prime mover", whatever that is, is arguably simpler than a Triune God. But it's not simpler than positing no God at all.

In fact, it seems a bit disingenuous to characterize a "prime mover", if that means God the Designer of the Universe, as "simple". In our experience, designers are more complex than what they design. That would mean that God would have to be even more complex than the Universe, and that naturally begs the question, who designed God?

Of course complex things and beings are not necessarily designed: they can evolve. But then we must ask, where did God evolve, and where did he get His order from?

All the answers I've heard so far appeal to word plays, magic, or mystery. But I can do that too, without invoking God, and my answer, although no more factual, is at least simpler, and it explains just as much (or as little), so it is preferable.

Anthony said...

Chris and Harvey,

The problem with both of your comments is that you are approaching things from the inside. Your whole worldview and theological construct is built upon and based in God revealing himself in the Bible. Without the Bible you have no foundation to base your opinions on and unfortunately for you the Bible has been shown over and over again to be a human work, not one from a god, not one showing evidence of being from divinity.

Without the foundation of the Bible there really is no basis for Christianity, whether fundamentalist, conservative, liberal, new age, or mystical.

Yes, Harvey, I'm sure you'll run to your favorite apologists and make all kinds of claims and counter claims, I've heard it all before.

But even many conservative Christian scholars are beginning to admit the problems of the Bible. Much of my deconversion was due to the evidence provided by these Evangelicals trying to be honest with the evidence of evolution and biblical criticism.

Jason Long said...

I've always said that if you believe in a god who can do anything, you're willing to believe anything. I think that sums it up.

BobCMU76 said...

zilch, I gotta tell you, sir, you've got me flummoxed. That's one helluva an argumment (since Sarah Palin came along, my colloquialisms have become trite. But I was talking this way before she took the stage and trivialized it, and I mean to continue).

I have to admit that the notion of primordial simplicity is central to my thinking, right or wrong. Void and without form and all that.

It's not impossible (but quite bizzaro) to imagine some kind of platonic realm where information and ideas are processed before being implemented. In fact, the Trinity supposes that such a process requires discourse, which a triune God can enjoy while a singular deity sits in silence.

Was God ever a child? Is He still? Was he ever of a stage comparable to a zygote? Is such a model even valid?

Somehow, Einstein was flummoxed by a notion of a beginning. He never did embrace it. If Einstein can't get his mind around it, I doubt I can. It's entertaining to try. Another koan. Hawking is said to have responded to the question, "What came before the Big Bang?" with "What's north of the North Pole?"

BobCMU76 said...

zilch, if I might resemble Ms. Palin in droning on and on and on, as I commonly do....

I never much bothered with the anthropic argument that says physical constants are arbitray, and somehow fine tuned for the benefit of sentient observers, as a universe without such would be meaningless, with nothing to give meaning to it. Or some such. I'll let other people play with that premise, and eavesdrop on occasion.

I do know some six day creationists who propose that such physical values (no longer constants) are mutable over time. I don't know what to make of that.

But, in my deity-less imaginations, I make appeal to "divinity" which need not be understood in a theistic or even deistic sense, but just represents what I guess I'd call the inertial forces which guide cosmic events (inertial, as opposed to personal, as even deism proposes a cosmic personality)

What I'm getting at, is that there's nothing north of the North Pole, but much above it. And I ask, how complex, and how eternal?

Are the governing forces of the cosmos something which preceeded time, itself? The Big Bang is a marvelous koan. hear me clap.

zilch said...

Bob- say what? Cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

Jason said...

John,

The doctrine of the Trinity and hell-going are absolutely bizarre. I'm happily agreeing with you 100% on this one. :)

BobCMU76 said...

zilch -- nobody who knows me ever asks me to clarify, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and take that as a rhetorical.

Cheers from Virginia, where if you hate the weather, just wait 5 minutes, and you hate it more.

philip m said...

John,

I think we as humans do this all the time, inlcuding with respect to our worldviews, when we believe a statement with low or no evidence because it is the corollary of another statement which has high amount of evidence.

For instance, you are an atheist because you think there is good evidence that atheism is true. Now, life forming on its own might be the most improbable thing in the world, but you still believe it as a corollary of your belief in atheism. Similarly, like Reppert argues, you believe in a universe which starts as many pieces of physical matter each causing the next to go in the direction their collision predicted, a process which eventually leads to the existence of beings who can think and reason.

Bizzaro anyone

So if we have a good amount of evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, then that in turn validates his theology and the theology of his immediate followers. Their theology states that he was God, and that there is also God the Father and the Holy Spirit. So far we are perfectly rational in holding these beliefs. We do not have access to the supernatural realm like scientists who can observe experiments from behind the glass: the best we can do is take the testimony of someone who has validated themself as an authority.

But I don't actually even really sense the incoherency in these things in the first place. Just because people struggle to agree on language-based definitions of the content of a worldview does not mean that worldview cannot be mentally pictured in a coherent way.

That God is timeless is an extrapolation, as are most of the attributes we give God. I don't think anyone would claim to know that feature of God's nature, and what exactly it means, with such confidence as to be able to guess with any certainty what the timeline of events was when God was/decided to create/actually did create, etc. That there's a personal being who created the universe does not seem like some bizzare scenario at all to me. It's nothing like a universe popping into existence out of nothing, for instance.

Jesus was embodied and had thoughts like a human does - that is, experienced a stream of consciousness based on what was happening around him. But he had power over nature, knew the thoughts of others, and was totally good. Doesn't seem too crazy. Speculation about his state now is not entirely interesting - he exists, ontologically, that's what we know. We need not emphasize to ourselves that we can't see him anymore.

Jesus's sacrificE was analagous to sacrifices for sins in the Old Testament, only since he was sinless His sacrifice was sufficient for all.

Free will is valuable because we can choose to be in a relationship with God, and thus enjoy him forever in heaven. It preceding us knowing God face-to-face allows us to choose to know God, thus allowing arriving to mean more to us than if we were simply forced to go. And I'm not sure people in hell will be much celebrating their free will at that point. Free will is like money, in that it only matters if you have in the right context. Having a gazillion dollars will not matter if you have it on mars, since there's nothing you can do with it there. Similarly, paying all your money to go to heaven makes it so you know you spent your money the best way possible, and can now enjoy what you decided to use it on. Not bizzaro at all!

And there's nothing that doesn't makes sense about the last thing you mentioned.

I think you are on the wrong track when you wonder how many people would believe these things if they heard about them all at once. First of all, the plausibility of ideas are related to the plausibility of other ideas. I could care less whether or not if I went up to someone and told them, "I believe a person existed 2000 years ago who was both completely God and completely man!" they thought I was crazy, because if they have no knowledge of the evidence for Jesus then of course they aren't going to understand why someone would believe that. All these things fit together such that if you just truncate some of them, or you don't appreciate certain portions of the evidence, you won't understand why people would accept it.

Furthermore, I want to reemphasize that people mostly believe on the basis of their immediate knowledge of what the universe is, that is, the direct evidence. When people hear about Jesus and see the evidence for God, it may end up seeming that is the way the universe is. We recognize that we are in a handicapped epistemic position so we can't know everything, but this is what we have the most direct evidence for. What the best extrapolations are for what was before and what is to come is of some interest, but is minor in importance. There certainly doesn't seem to be anything that effects the probability of whether or not it's true. You're just claiming it's weird, not damaging, which isn't surprising given that you're just pointing into the dark and claiming that we can't figure out what is there exactly.

When you have to start coming up with bizzare hypotheses about the direct evidence is when you have problems. For instance postulating en masse visions of a man raised from the dead, thus forcing people to come up with the idea that their deceased teacher was God, had done a bunch of miracles he hadn't done, had sent another person of a supposed Godhead called the Holy Spirit, and that their job was to tell everyone about this. So really if Christian beliefs are so improbable, you've got a problem on your hands. You've got to come up with an equally improbable way they decided to invent all these "bizzaro" ideas for no reason based in reality. Good luck. Suggestion: include *lots* of alcohol. Perhaps a frat house with all the disciples binge-drinking for a few years. It is too bad LSD wasn't invented until the 20th century.

Again, it was nice meeting you John!

Tommy Holland said...

God being "outside" of time is incoherent. If the believer conceives of God existing in heaven (or somewhere) and then deciding to create the universe and then creating the universe, then God is behaving in a sequence. He's acting as if in time, but before time exists.

Besides, if space doesn't exist, then "where" did God place the universe? In what yet-to-be-created place did God place the universe?

Also, if you agree with the homily "the gates of Hell are locked from the inside" then you agree that the denizens of Hell have retained their free will. It doesn't matter if the Bible teaches it--there are countless Christian concepts not taught in the Bible. The "rebellious for all eternity" meme was coined to reconcile the cruelty of Hell--after all, we certainly can't blame God for Hell if its residents want to be there, can we?

So if God sends people to Hell, then he's cruel. If the people of Hell insist on remaining there, then they have free will, which we're told is the one thing God can't interfere with, which means he's malevolent. Either way, God and Hell cannot exist at the same time.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Philip M,

Thanks my brother you hit it on the head when you said this:

"You've got to come up with an equally improbable way they decided to invent all these "bizzaro" ideas for no reason based in reality. Good luck. Suggestion: include *lots* of alcohol. Perhaps a frat house with all the disciples binge-drinking for a few years. It is too bad LSD wasn't invented until the 20th century.
"


That's the thing they can't seem to realize...their reinvention of the truth is stranger than any fiction ever.

Excellent post.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John,

I'm still unconvinced. now I will admit I don't know the full contet of the arguments of some of these that you mention but I find it hard to believe that any Christian would believe that The Son came into existence after God.

Maybe this is a semantic, but Jesus was/is eternal with God the Father.(John 1:1) That's classic and basic Christianity and I'm CERTAIN William Lane Craig doesn't teach that. He may teach that Jesus came to this world in a point in time and that's just true, but that doesn't address the eternality of the Son.

Final thought here, you guys seem to miss that God is NOT outside of our time continuum. He is and has always been both inside and outside of the continuum, otherwiise he wouldn't be omnipresent. MN hold that the continuum is closed, if it is it's certainly not closed to God.

Thanks.

zilch said...

philip m- you say:

It is too bad LSD wasn't invented until the 20th century.

LSD wasn't "invented" per se- it was synthesized from ergotamine, which is derived from the ergot fungus, which infects grains such as wheat. The hallucinogenic effects of ergot, along with those of other entheogenic fungi such as amanita muscaria and psylocibe cubensis, have been known about for well over two thousand years. While there's no evidence that they played a role in the writing of the Bible, the possibility cannot be ruled out.

Russ said...

"The Bizzaro Beliefs of Christianity" start at the first chapter of Genesis and they course through the three quarter of a million of words in the Bible to the last chapter of Revelation. But, they don't stop there - they can't stop there - because there is so much bizarro in Christianity that it can't all be squeezed into the Bible. So, the extra-Biblical bizarro of Christianity pours out onto humanity as billions upon billions of words of theology, apologetics, doctrine, dogma, edicts, white papers and bulls. Clearly, the god that is hailed as having inspired the Bible, is such a poor communicator that for every word that is in the Bible, millions of additional words are needed outside the Bible to try to explain their meaning. That's bizarro all by itself, but in Christianity, the bizarro runs deeper, much deeper.

One could spend a lifetime listing the bizarro in Christianity, so I'll list just a few to add to the one above and to those that Mr. Loftus listed in his post.

There are more than 30,000 distinct Christianities around the world with many more, sometimes hundreds, being added every year. These are today's Christianities, and tens of thousands of others have come and gone over the last couple thousand years. Among these myriad current Christianities, their commonly mutually exclusive distinctions are so great that there exists no point of shared doctrine among them. Many of these distinctions are of the "you're going to hell and I'm going to heaven" variety.

All that ties this great mass of disparate sects together is the word "Christianity," and, in a broad sense, the word Christianity is meaningless in all but a congregation specific sense. To a specific Pentacostal sect, "Christianity" is the word they use to describe themselves. To a specific Catholic sect, "Christianity" is the word they use to describe themselves. But, if we compare the beliefs and behaviors of that Pentacostal sect to the beliefs and behaviors of that Catholic sect, we see plain as day that they are not talking about the same "Christianity." Their gods command different beliefs and behaviors from them. That is, they believe in and worship different gods.

Not all Christianities believe in a god.

Not all Christianities believe in a divine Jesus.

Not all Christianities believe that the Bible is the word of a god.

Not all Christianities even believe that the Bible was inspired by a god.

Some Christianities believe in hell; some Christianities do not.

Some Christianities believe their god sends transgressors to hell; other Christianities do not.

Many, many Christianities believe that you must believe precisely what they believe or you will burn in hell.

Some Christianities believe that your afterlife destination, heaven or hell, was chosen for you before there was a you, in fact, before there was a universe.

Some Christianities believe that your afterlife destination will be determined by whether you are baptized with oil, or water, or holy water, or in a river, or in a dunk tank.

Some Christianities hate homosexuals; others do not.

Some Christianities believe in original sin; others do not.

Some Christianities claim to be Biblical literalists but they do not realize that it is impossible to be a sane, moral person and be a Biblical literalist. Not one single Christian believes the entire contents of the Bible; they all pick and choose their favorite bits and claim that that's what they believe while blithely ignoring the rest. It's noteworthy that no self-proclaimed Bible-believing Christian who claims that every syllable of the Bible is part of the true word of a god, and who uses those syllables to justify their hatred of non-believers and homosexuals, overtly demonstrates their lack of faith in their god and their lack of belief in their Bible when they refuse to lock their menstruating wife or daughter in a shed, fail to sacrifice a dove when menstruation is over, refuse to maim persons for petty crimes, chooses not to follow the divine command to kill persons who work on their sabbath, and almost always refuses to kill apostates. There are no Biblical literalists.

Some Christianities believe that their living, breathing twenty-first century clergyman is Jesus himself; others do not.

Many Christianities claim that faith is of ultimate importance, but simple reason shows that they are clearly deluded. Imagine the first Christianity with members contentedly professing their faith, when POW! someone devises a different faith leading to the second Christianity. Then, POW! a third, POW! a fourth, and on it goes. Numerous Christianities, numerous faiths, and numerous gods.

Yes, Christianity is not only bizarro, but it wanders off into stupid, freakish, incoherent, and immoral, then staggers into intentionally incomprehensible. The annual increase in the number of Christianities only serves to make Christian screwiness and weirdness ever more intense and inscrutable. People should not even pretend, much less profess, to be Christians.

In today's e-mail, I received an essay from Harry T. Cook, an Episcopalian clergyman from just outside Detroit, MI (harrytcook.com). His essay puts a nice fine point on Christianity's bizarro.

Here's an excerpt:

"In the course of mulling 40-plus years of research and analysis of New Testament and related texts, I came some time ago to the provisional conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth might well be in great part a creation of the gospel-writing generation -- a kind of composite character. I have been so bold as to publish some of the fruits of my research."
Rev. Harry T. Cook

Other notable quotes from Harry(used with permission):
"Supernaturalism is phony-baloney stuff. Nature is enough for human beings to deal with. I give it no thought whatsoever."

and

"I do not consider morality or ethics to have a supernatural source. The celestial hand proffering the etched tablets to Charlton Heston (apparently unarmed at the time) is a metaphor representing the much longer and more difficult process the ancient Hebrews endured in figuring out how to keep people from killing each others. They figured out that if you made stealing taboo, fewer people would kill to get. And if you made envy taboo, few people would steal. Since it was the elders in the early tribes who figured out that stuff, it was necessary to mandate the honoring of father and mother, and after those early generations passed away, successor elders transferred the tribal honor to the spirits of the dead elders and, finally, to an unseen god whence the elders had come in the first place."


Some Christians who comment on this site will claim to know that Harry is not a real Christian and will further claim to know that their god will burn poor Harry for eternity.

Yes, Mr. Loftus, Christianity is BIZARRO.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Russ,

Your whole post was based on your misapplication and total lack of understanding of the difference between orthopraxy and orthodoxy.

The Christian set of beliefs were established rather early stated and affirmed by all apostles and people who didn't function within those set of beliefs were not Christians...

That there were a set of Christian beliefs that exist to this day is really not in question. That there are people who claim to be Christian while not holding or adhering to Christian beliefs is just a sign of the world we live in.

Dr. Bauer held to much of what you assert and his theories are old hat and invalidated even amongst liberal scholars.

Thanks.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philip said...

Bob,

Why are you comfortable in obeying Jesus' "follow me"? Why are you content to go "Ah, a command: I must follow it"?

Why do you have such low standards of evidence for a worldview that demands you dedicate your life to it? Don't you value your life more than that?

BobCMU76 said...

Phillip -- the conversation here has become more interesting, so I'll step back a bit and listen. But to answer your question briefly, God's silence is kind of convenient because there aren't so many commands. At least not in a micro-management sense.

Au contraire!

Being assured that divine personality is unappeasable and beneficent (both though are arguable conclusions if the Bible is accepted as God's own words. See the QED post by exapologist) I can follow Jesus into places where peity would have me avoid. I can take the time to be of aid to the mugged traveler, rather than hurry to my duties in service of appeasement of a vindictive God.

One does not ask too much evidence when told he is free.

Russ said...

District Supt. Harvey Burnett,

Your statement, "Your whole post was based on your misapplication and total lack of understanding of the difference between orthopraxy and orthodoxy," is a smokescreen pure and simple. You are an obscurantist charlatan, Harvey.

You, better than most, must know, or at least you very well should know, that what you tell your congregation about your church's teachings is what those teachings are. As such you have defined Christianity for those inhabiting your little corner of the world. Your congregants will rarely question or dispute you in any way; they will not research your conclusions. When they walk out that door following a church service, they are confident that what you have said is all that is necessary to keep them on the path to the promised land.

How do I know? According to Princeton Theological Seminary a few years back, in fundamentalist Christianity only two to three percent of clergy have actually fully read their Bible and among fundamentalist laymen its less than one percent. There exists no orthodoxy or orthopraxy. Your congregation, as you well know, are looking to you to make it up, to tell them how it is.

There does not exist anything resembling a True Christianity clearinghouse. I, myself, a complete materialist atheist, can open a Christian church and have all the legitimacy that you possess after all the years you've been evolving the message as you've gone along.

Though you might be paid clergy you have no better understanding of the words in the Bible than anyone else who can read and sports a high tolerance for nonsense. What is more likely, in fact, is that for having inherited someone else's theological interpretations, you can't look at the Bible and see it for what it is: a human-authored book containing all the ignorance, hatred, and vile biases of the Middle Eastern desert tribes from a few thousand years ago. You get paid to keep saying what you say, but for all the gusty blowing you have no Biblically-derived special insights to the human condition, and I'd gladly bet big bucks that your particular congregation shows no signs of better life outcomes than nonbelievers. In fact, precisely the opposite will undoubtedly be the case.

Clearly, you must be of the opinion that yours is that special Christian church which engages in orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Otherwise you have intentionally doomed yourself and your parishoners to the blessed fiery furnace. So, you would contend that you have the tools to do the best for your congregation, but I can tell you unequivocally that you do not. As a fundamentalist Christian sect in the US, your church members will be well above US averages in rates for domestic violence, alcoholism, obesity, divorce, violent crime, abortion, teenage pregnancy and infant mortality, and they will be well below the US averages for income, educational attainment, and access to healthcare. What's more, attending your church will not improve their situations at all. They give you money that pays for your place of business, pays you a salary, pays your health insurance, sends your kids to college, when those funds would be better spent on their own healthcare, physical fitness or education. Giving you their money, at your urging, no doubt, to have you tell them to have faith, when that money could be used to enhance future prospects for them and their children is reprehensible. They have been so psychologically damaged by religion that they can no longer follow the best course of action for themselves and their families. But you are cared for, right Harvey?

Right here, right now their lives are diminished by your influence and, for many of them, what they are doing at your behest to make your life better will serve to assure they remain ignorant and impoverished in the future. On your personal blog you advocate that your congregation vote against their own economic best interests based on your single issue of abortion. You are not even doing what is best for them on a human level. Among US Christian sects, the Pentacostal sects trade the top spot for abortion rates back and forth with Catholics, so in spite of your sermonizing, and venting about your god's wrath, your church members take advantage of legal, safe abortions at just about the highest rate of all US Christian sects. Ironically, the abortion rate in Denmark is about one percent of what it is for US Pentacostals, and the Danes self-identify at about sixty five percent non-believers.

Harvey, you said, "The Christian set of beliefs were established rather early stated and affirmed by all apostles and people who didn't function within those set of beliefs were not Christians..." I guess modern Christians didn't get the memo. Christianity has never been "a" religion or theology. It has been constantly evolving since its fabrication in the mid first century. If you consider there to be an orthodoxy or orthopraxy, you have either made it up yourself or you have inherited one invented by another regular ol' human being. If your life circumstances had New Thought Christianity or one of the process theologies paying your bills, you would be advocating as strongly for them. Read Dan Barker or Charles Templeton, or Mr. Loftus, Harvey. They were all in your shoes when they had a change of thought and they became better people.

You want others to see Christianity as a rational worldview when, in other comments on this site, you have claimed that demons, ghosts and witches are real. Recently, in Nigeria hundreds of children of Christian fundamentalist believers have been victimized by their parents because their ignorant and morally vile clergy have told them to do so. Like you, Harvey, those clergy get paid to exorcise the evil spirits. The parents who have gorged themselves on the Christian fare served up by those heartless Christian clergy are very poor and without the resources to pay the fine Christian fraud, they rid themselves of the imaginary evil by whatever means they can dream up.

Some of the children have been turned out, abandoned by their parents, while others have been cut to pieces, burned alive, beaten with hammers, been doused with acid, had nails pounded into their heads, had limbs chopped off, been run over with vehicles and beaten with clubs. Know this, Harvey, NO child has ever been possessed by demons and NO child deserves to be treated like your fellow clergy and their followers have done. Have you ever told a parent to kill their possessed child, Harvey? Any body of ideas that can kill off a parent's natural inclination to defend their child's life and well-being, in this case Christianity, deserves to be wiped from the face of the earth. It tears my heart out to see news reports wherein a four year old abandoned child needs to carry a sign proclaiming, "I am not a witch," because through religion the adults around him have lost their minds.

Like you, Harvey, those parents and clergy have lost the capacity to see the world as it truly is. Persons like you can't even be outraged by such inhuman treatment of a child since you think those insane clergy are actually doing what is best for the child. Ghosts, demons, witches, gods, and devils are all imaginary entities which you think are real because you have learned to intentionally misread and misattribute reality and, of course, you can augment your income pretending such things are real. Note that atheists never get possessed by demons. Maybe if you stopped believing in them - that is, fabricating them in your own mind and inculcating them in your parishoners - you could rid yourself and your congregation of them, too. Then, the world would be a little safer for the innocent.

Yeah, Harvey, you can throw up all the smokescreens you like but it will not make Christianity, its professionals or its practioners any less bizarro.

BobCMU76 said...

Russ...

We pretty much all have been acculturated to some ethical standards that make us cringe at the thought of family situations like that portrayed in the movie Carrie. Upon what basis, though, ought we trust our guts in this matter? These appeals to sentiment are touching, but as manipulative as strings in a soundtrack.

I shudder sometimes too, when I think of what Psychiatry does and has done to our kids in the name of Enlightened altruistic concern. How altruistic when the shrinks in mid six figures are preditating upon families in the low five figures.

BobCMU76 said...

Debunking Psychiatry

Peter Breggin and Thomas Szasz are a good place to start.

Retired At 40 said...

Boy Russ, when you get on a tear, you really get on a tear. All I can say is "Amen Brother!!" Preach on!

AdamKadmon said...

I like to think I'm a Christian (i.e., Christ Like). Lol, I like to think that, anyways, even though I'm often NOT!

I've been to sooo many different Churches and I have to agree with you 100%. I've been to Nazarene, Church of Christ, Church of God, Assembly of God, Baptist, etc., and even in some of those, like the Baptist for example, you can find different teachings from one church to another. The Baptist church down the street will not teach the Trinity while the one your at will. Confusing!