It’s funny that whenever I tell a believer that I’m an atheist, they always start asking me questions. I don’t really mind, I realize that I might very well be the first atheist that they’ve ever met, and I’m happy to put to rest some of the church-given notions about us. However, what continues to amaze me, is that these questioners who are VERY happy to question my beliefs, so rarely question their own.
With that in mind, I have drawn up several questions that I would like Christians to ponder. And it’s not for my own edification that I ask them, but for theirs. I hope that if they honestly consider these questions, they might realize for themselves just how much of their own skepticism and rationality they have been sidelining.
So, let’s get started:
- What, exactly, is your basis for believing that the Bible is true, not necessarily the word of God, but true? Remember, your answer can’t be “Because the Bible says it’s true.” ANY book would be true by that measure, and any religion would be true by that measure. They can’t ALL be true because they contradict each other. Further, if you’ve read it, you know that it’s not a good book. The Biblical God doesn’t exactly set a good example. He’s a ruthless dictator and the book is full of His atrocities. His single most frequent interaction with “his chosen people” is to kill them (or give them plagues, which kill them).
Is it just because your parents told you that it was true? And that most of the people you know think that it is true? Really, think about it, what real, extra-biblical basis do you have to believe it is the work of a God?
- In the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, if the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge contains the knowledge of Good/Evil and Right/Wrong, then how could Adam and Eve have known it was “wrong” to eat the fruit before they did? They couldn’t have known what right and wrong meant. Also if God had explained to Adam and Eve what right and wrong were before they ate of the fruit so that they would understand why it was wrong to eat the apple, then wouldn’t He have essentially given them the knowledge that he had just forbidden them to have? Remember; THIS is the Original Sin, this story is the basis for the need for salvation in all of Christianity.
Moreover, why did God put the Tree-of-Knowledge in the Garden of Eden in the first place? Especially if He knew what was going to happen? Isn’t He supposed to know everything that will ever happen? It would have been so easy just to place it on the other side of the world; or on the Moon for that matter. Why does it seem that He was just setting a trap for humanity?
- How could an all-loving God send ANYONE to hell? Remember, He is supposed to love us more than any parent ever loved their child. Note that He isn’t using hell as a remedial instructional punishment like a parent would. A parent punishes a child in order to teach them to behave better. Here, God is punishing sinners just for the sake of inflicting pain and suffering. There is no lesson to be learned or benefited from this type of punishment.
Which is worse, Hitler killing 8,000,000 people (Jews, homosexuals, atheists, gypsies, etc.) or God keeping hundreds of millions of people alive just to torture them for eternity, some simply for not believing in Him, or even a particular version of Him? According to the teachings of Christianity, all of the Jews that Hitler tortured and killed were then promptly sent to hell for not believing that Christ was the savior; and according to the Bible, these are God’s chosen people!
- If God is all-loving, how could He allow children to get cancer? Heck, compared to God, ANYONE on Earth would have more love and compassion for children. I can’t imagine a single human that would intentionally give cancer to a child, or even ALLOW them to get cancer if they could prevent it.
Also, in a court of law, if you know about a crime that is about to be committed, and don’t try to report or prevent it, you’re considered an accessory to that crime. That would mean that God and Jesus, who know everything that is about to happen, are accessories to every child-murder, rape or kidnapping that happens anywhere on the planet.
- Why did an all-loving God create evil? (Isaah 45:7)? Or for that matter, allow the king of evil, Satan, to live amongst us, with super powers to boot! How are we, as mere mortals, supposed to know what is true if Satan is there to plant false evidence and create illusions to fool us? You can’t conclusively say that Satan didn’t create the Bible itself. If you compare God and Satan based just on their atrocities in the Bible, Satan would come out looking pretty good! The only people in the Bible that Satan killed were Job’s family, and then only when God said it was OK.
- How could God make the eating of shellfish and ham or a woman wearing a man’s clothing abominations? Not just dangerous but abominations! That puts them right up there with homosexuality.
- How could an all-loving God command his chosen people to kill babies, and children (Hosea 13:16, Isaiah 13:15-18, et al.)?
- If I only have to have Faith to believe, how do I know what to believe? Every different sect of Christianity says I have to have Faith to believe what they say is true.
- How could Satan think that he could have a revolt against someone who is all-knowing and all-powerful? How could there even be a war in heaven, when God would know about it beforehand, and could just snap His fingers and wipe out all opposition?
- Why did God want to kill Moses right after sending him on the mission to free the Jews from Egypt (Exodus 4:24-26)? And THEN why did a foreskin-ectomy by Moses’ wife stop him?
- For that matter, what’s with God’s obsession with foreskins? Isn’t God supposed to be a perfect being? Why would a perfect being design men with foreskins, then command us to cut them off!?
- Why did God send Moses to Egypt to free the Jews, and then “harden Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 7:3) so that he would not let the Jews leave, thereby making it necessary to set his 10 plagues loose on Egypt? Doesn’t that pretty much negate Pharaoh’s free will in the matter, and punish all the people of Egypt because of it?
- Why would God condemn his own son to torment and death at the hands of the people that He was planning to forgive anyway? Why not just forgive them? Was that not in His power? Indeed, according to Christianity, what is NOT in His power? He’s omniscient but couldn’t figure out another plan wherein his son wouldn’t have to be tortured and killed but would still achieve His goal of forgiveness?
- If God is constantly curing illnesses through prayer, and faith-healers, why can’t He regrow an arm or a leg? You never see that happen. The cures that we are told DO happen are always internal, and therefore unverifiable. Also, if He really loved us and wanted us to believe in faith healers, why doesn’t He command His faith healers to go to hospitals and heal those there? Why do you never see faith healers successfully healing people in hospitals?
- Why does God let Catholic priests victimize children? Do you think that those children are not praying for it to stop? Why doesn’t God do something about it? Tracy Harris of the Atheist Experience out of Austin, Texas said, “If I could stop a person from raping a child I would. That’s the difference between me and your god.” That doesn’t say much for your god, but it stands to reason if god is evil, or not real.
- Why does God let televangelists take money, in His name, from the old and infirm who cannot afford it, and who will suffer because of it?
- If God is everywhere, then where the heck was He when the serpent was tempting Eve? Was he just playing a game with humanity at the time of its greatest crisis? What kind of being would do that?
- If Christians are forgiven, and they know they will be forgiven no matter what they do, why should they refrain from doing evil? Atheists don’t have that expectation for forgiveness, and they don’t go around killing and stealing. They know they have to live with the consequences of their actions, in the real world; and that it’s the only world they’re going to get.
- How can God blame us for our imperfections when He made us that way? That is, if He didn’t want us constantly fornicating, then why did he make our sex drive so strong? If the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination, why does He create people gay? And NO, it’s not a choice. Their sexual-orientation is no more a choice than yours is. Could you choose to be gay if you’re not? Could you choose to not be attracted to the opposite sex?
- How can God be surprised or angered by anything we do when He’s supposedly all-knowing? And why does God repeatedly get angry in the Bible and demand vengeance, when we succumb to the weaknesses that He put in us in the first place? This would mean He’s not all loving and that He is subject to human emotions.
- If God tells you to do something horrible, like he did with Abraham and “Son of Sam” would you do it? Wouldn’t you just think: “This order can’t be from God, God is good, and this is an awful thing to do.”
From If God is dead, is everything permitted? By Elizabeth Anderson
“Kant advances a moral criterion for judging the authenticity of any supposed revelation. If you hear a voice, or some testimony purportedly revealing god’s word, and it tells you to do something you know is wrong, don’t believe that it’s really god telling you to do these things.
“I believe that Kant correctly identified the maximum permissible moral limits of belief in extraordinary evidence concerning god. These limits require that we reject the literal truth of the bible. My colleague James Tappenden argues that such a liberal approach to faith is theologically incoherent. Perhaps it is. Still, given a choice between grave moral error and theological muddle, I recommend theological muddle every time.
She is in essence saying, If you receive a thought that you believe to be from God, judge it for its moral worth. If it’s not good, then it’s not from god. (Remember to believers, God is not the only supernatural being that has this telepathic ability.) Doing this shows that our own morals prevail over a “revelation” from a supposed deity. And if we judge the Bible by these criteria, it would be shown that major portions of the Bible have to be rejected as the passages could not be from a good God. How much of the Bible would we have to throw out then?
- If this life is infinitesimally short, and the next one eternally long, then why should we try to do anything other than “praise the Lord” while we’re here? Why go to school or pursue a college education? Why do anything other than just study the Bible and wait? Would you have us all be like the holy men of India or monks of the old world, who do nothing but study scriptures?
If so, you might as well turn off your computer and TV. Park your car and throw away your cell phone. Modern society would soon crumble into dust. The entire world would revert to medieval times (or before). Doctors would no longer have colleges to go to, scientific research would grind to a halt, all production but food and clothing would stop, and all other training would end.
Please, consider these questions honestly. Then, if any of your answers still involve supernatural beings, or where your “soul” will spend eternity, refer to Chapter 4.
6 thoughts on “22 Questions for Christians”
Answers to 22 Questions
Note: I’m not sure if I believe in God or not, or if I believe in an afterlife or not, but during my answers I’ll assume God exists and there is an afterlife.
(1) It depends on what you mean by true. If you mean everything must be taken literally, then you’re right, the Bible is not true. However, I believe that people wrote the Bible and wrote down the stories in the Bible, whether they meant them to be true stories or myths.
You are correct that all religions aren’t true. You’re also correct that God is frequently portrayed as a ruthless tyrant. I’m tired of Christians who try to make excuses for God. A lot of the laws and stories and commands are horrible, genocidal, infanticidal, mysogynstic, racist etc.
Some Christians try to get around this by saying that Jesus is the true revelation of God. One author, Brian Zahnd (who I love to read) says “God is like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. We haven’t always known this, but now, we do.”
Problem is, not even Jesus always seems like loving and moral. I don’t really have an answer to be honest. I’m still struggling and trying to figure things out. There are some things he taught that are revolutionary and those are the things I try to live by: love, non-violence, peace, caring for the marginalized, social justice, empowerment of women (including myself).
(2) I have asked myself the exact same question. My answer is that I think Genesis was a myth that didn’t literally happen. But I take away the lesson that men and women are equal, and that we’re designed to eat plants. (I’m vegan.)
(3) Some Christians believe in annihationalism or universalism. Check out rethinkinghell.com where I think they make a good case for annihilationism. There are also Bible passages that are universalist. I have no idea what’s true. I’m hoping universalism. I imagine that there’s a waiting period where God helps people confront the harm they’ve caused others and helps them to recover from the harm they’ve suffered from others. He helps them to change and to heal and when they’re ready, they reconcile with each other.
(4 and 5) I’ve wondered the exact same thing. Perhaps a partial answer is that God wants people to be good because they want to be good and choose to be good. Not because they’re forced to be. Our culture believes in the myth of redemptive violence that says that we just need to kill the bad guys to create peace. But when we do that, it just creates more violence in a never-ending cycle. We glorify power and force and strength and mock humility and gentleness and service. I think we’ve projected onto God what we think he should be. If God were to become a human, we might expect him to come in grandeur and splendor. We might expect him to come as a leader to wipe out our enemies, but he instead comes as a helpless baby, born of a peasant woman, living an ordinary life as an ordinary Jew working an ordinary job for most of his life.
Here’s a good extended quote from “A New Kind of Christianity” by Brian McClaren:
Revelation is not portraying Jesus returning to earth in the future, having repented of his naive gospel ways and having converted to Caesar’s “realistic” Greco-Roman methods instead. He hasn’t gotten discouraged about Caesar seeming to get the upper hand after his resurrection and on that basis concluded that it’s best to live by the sword after all (Matt. 26:52). Jesus hasn’t abandoned the way of peace (Luke 19:42) and concluded the way of Pilate is better, mandating that his disciples should fight after all (John 18:36). He hasn’t had second thoughts about all that talk about forgiveness (Matt. 18:21–22) and concluded that on the 78th offense (or 491st, depending on interpretation), you should pull out your sword and hack off your offender’s head rather than turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39).
He hasn’t given up on that “love your enemies” stuff (Matt. 5:44) and judged it naive and foolish after all (1 Cor. 1:25), concluding instead that God’s strength is made manifest not in weakness but in crushing domination (2 Cor. 12:9). He hasn’t had a change of heart, concluding that the weapons he needs are physical after all (2 Cor. 10:3–4) or that the enemies of the kingdom are flesh and blood after all (Eph. 6:12), which would mean that the way to glory isn’t actually by dying on the cross (Phil. 2:8–9), but rather by nailing others on it.
He hasn’t sold the humble donkey (Luke 19:30–35) on eBay and purchased chariots, warhorses, tanks, land mines, and B-1s instead (Zech. 9:9–10). He hasn’t climbed back to the top of the temple and decided he made a mistake the first time (Matt. 4:1–10), or concluded that from now on he’d be smarter to follow Peter’s Greco-Roman “human” strate-gies (Matt. 16:23). He hasn’t decided that the message of the cross is a little too foolish after all (1 Cor. 1:18) or that Christ killing his foes is way more exciting than that lame, absurd “hippie” gospel of “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
He hasn’t decided that my loyal critic was right, that nobody can be expected to worship a king they can beat up (Matt. 27:27). He hasn’t de-cided that a tattoo down his leg would look a whole lot tougher and ma-cho than scars in his hands, feet, and side (John 20:27).
What Revelation actually tells us, that the humble man of peace is Lord. It confesses, in the midst of persecution and martyrdom, that the poor unarmed Galilean riding on the donkey, hailed by the poor and hopeful, is the one to trust. It invites us to pledge allegiance to the one who rules by his own example of service and suffering rather than by making examples of others.
Revelation celebrates not the love of power, but the power of love. It denies, with all due audacity, that God’s anointed liberator is the Divine Terminator, threatening revenge for all who refuse to honor him, growling “I’ll be back!” It asserts, instead, that God’s anointed liberator is the one we beat up, who promises mercy to those who strike him, whis-pering, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The suffering, serving one who bled on a cross—not the one with a commitment to make others suffer and bleed—is the King of kings and Lord of lords. In response to the crucified one’s name—not Caesar’s or any other violent human’s—every knee will gladly bow.
If you don’t want to worship a guy you can beat up, then I might humbly suggest you reconsider Caesar and the Greco-Roman narrative. It sounds like “Christ and him crucified” is not for you. At least not yet.
Excerpt From: “A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith” by Brian D. McLaren.
(4 and 5 continued) I know even this doesn’t answer the question.
So another thought: Maybe God doesn’t prevent evil because He can’t. Maybe he’s not omnipotent.
(6) I don’t think God commanded that. I think Moses or somebody else did.
(7) I don’t believe he did this either.
(8) Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true. On the other hand, us humans are finite creatures with finite perspectives and we’re going to get it wrong. There’s no guarantee that we’re going to get it right. There is an objective reality, but that reality has to pass through subjective layers: our brains. I like to see my beliefs as not a destination I’ve arrived at, but a journey that I undertake.
(9) See last sentence of (4 and 5 continued)
(10) I don’t believe God did that either. Maybe it was a evil being. Or maybe the entire story was made up.
(11) Exactly my thought process. I’m against circumcision. It’s stupid.
(12) I’m not sure if the Exodus even happened. If it did, I’d say maybe an evil being did all the plagues and everybody blamed it on God.
(13) Greg Boyd makes this exact point in his sermons. There are other ways of viewing the crucifixion other than penal substitution (which I don’t believe in). A major theme in the NT is that of “Christus Victor” Christ is Victorius, which views the cross as a mysterious and paradoxical way that Jesus defeated Satan and the powers (are they actual beings or symbolic of evil systems? I don’t know.)
God is the victim. He’s not the one that is punishing or torturing anyone. He’s the one who allows himself to be punished/tortured rather than take revenge and kill his enemies.
(14) Yes, I wonder this too. Just what exactly is the point of prayer anyway? It seems silly to ask God for anything when there are so many other people suffering far worse than I am. And just why would God act in my case but not theirs? I don’t really pray very much. When I do, it’s because someone has asked me, or I feel a compulsion to. I guess it’s comforting. And maybe it’s not about getting God to do anything, but about changing and forming our own hearts. It’s kind of hard to hate someone while wishing God to do good to someone and bless them. Of course, people can be hypocrites and prayer certainly isn’t anything magical that makes people good. But it can be a way to help you be more compassionate.
(15) See last sentence of (4 and 5 continued)
(16) See last sentence of (4 and 5 continued)
(17) See answer to question 2.
(18) Atheists (and people in general) DON’T always experience the consequences of their actions. And btw, if Christians only do good to avoid hell or whatever, that’s a bad reason too. Goodness is an end in itself. Do good because you WANT to do good, because you ARE good.
(19) I don’t really know how to answer the first question. I’m not sure where I stand pre-marital sex. I definitely support informed consent. But a possible problem with your argument is that a rapist could make the same argument, i.e. “ “Why did God make our sex drive so high? It’s not my fault no one wants to sleep with me.” If we can expect someone to abstain from raping people, then sex is something that can be abstained from.
As for homosexuality/sexual orientation, I think either the Bible verses have been misinterpreted, or they’re just wrong. I’m bi. That’s the way I am. I believe in commitment and monogamy. I just haven’t met anyone yet (man or woman). I’m also gray-sexual, but I do struggle a lot with loneliness and a lack of emotional intimacy. But obviously that’s not something I can force on anyone nor do I do want to. So I have to learn to live with it, while seeking opportunities to meet more people and develop more and deeper friendships.
(20) Some Christians are open-theists. They believe that the future is open, i.e. it’s not set in stone, it hasn’t happened yet, so there’s nothing for God to know. And if he is a person, then why wouldn’t he have human emotions? Shouldn’t he be angry when people hurt each other? Shouldn’t he be sad when people are in pain? Shouldn’t he be happy when good things happen? Since all of these things happen all the time, I imagine that God feels all emotions simultaneously, but I don’t really know how that would work.
(21) Absolutely not. If God wants me to kill somebody, he can go f*** himself.
I think of it as a dialogue. Some things in the Bible are bad and should be rejected. Some things are good and we’re the ones that need to be challenged by it. Other things are good and we know they’re good, we just don’t do it, and reminders can help keep us on the right track. How do we know which is which? We just do the best we can, and be open to change. We especially take notice of what harms people and what helps them to flourish.
(22) What exactly are we going to do in the next life? Sit around and play harps or twiddle our thumbs? No. We’re going to do stuff much like we do now. We’ll be responsible for taking care of and maintaining the planet. Taking care of the animals. Building things. Art. Music. Explore space. Create new technologies that improve life even more.
So basically, I ask myself, “What kind of person do I want to be?” Do I want to be a kind person? A loving person? (Yes, duh!) So I’ve chosen to try to do what I can to help the environment, I’ve chosen to go vegan. I’m trying to eat and live healthier. I also know that I fail and that’s ok. The next morning I get up and try again. It’s like training for a marathon. You don’t start the first day running a 5k. You start with something smaller and build your way up to it.
So that’s how I view this life. How do I learn to become a better person? What kind of things can I do now that will help me to do harder things later? Rather than focus on the right beliefs, I try to focus on the right attitude, the right heart, the right character, the right actions etc.
I like this quote attributed to Marcus Aurelius:
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
Go to a kingdom hall of Jehovah’s witnesses, ask for an elder, ask a those same questions. Listen with an open mind, because everything I read, I can tell you don’t get it. It’s what Satan does. It’s good to question those thoughts, but if you really want to know the answers, you have to listen with an open mind and heart. A lot of the things you mentioned about the way god treats people, or allows people to be treated is simply because it’s not in his hands. He gave the world to Satan. If you don’t believe that, then read about Satan tempting Jesus. He told Jesus that he could have the whole world. It’s because he could. Jesus replied with “get behind me Satan”. But the power of the world is in Satan’s hands until God destroys him and all the wickedness. That’s why everything seems so messed up, God could stop it all, but why not? Because he’s going to destroy all wickedness and since we live with free will, maybe there are enough people he doesn’t want to see die that he’s waiting for them to turn to him. That’s what I think
Thanks for writing. I don’t believe that God, or the Satan, is real, or souls, or Sin, or the hereafter. You have about 20 different things that need to be demonstrated before I’ll believe the underlying stories about them. I simply posted the questions so that Christians (and believers of all stripes) would take 2 minutes to actually think about the conundrums. Even IF the powers that you speak of are real, they are very serious problems with the stories. BUT FIRST, before you’ll convince me that the stories are real, you’ll have to convince me that those supernatural things exist. And THAT hasn’t been done in 2000+ years. Please THINK about those questions, and don’t just push them off to some “elder”. THAT’s exactly what they want you to do. Religion is a means of control. Don’t be a willing slave. Question what you’re being told, and demand real answers, not just anecdotal evidence.
And please give me ONE good reason why I would trust YOUR elder for the true gospel, when the world is full of people claiming to know which religion religious sect and church correctly represents god belief? I simply require evidence that God is real, and not received ANY valid evidence for even that claim. OR even the claim that SOULS are real.
Or you could visit almost any Psych ward and find someone who “speaks to god, and is divinely inspired.”
Hi there. I think your questions are great. Thank you for posting them. Would you mind if I use them in some of my classes and written material for the purpose of helping Christians deal with questions like these? As a Christian, I think you are right, most Christians don’t know how to cope with these questions and I would love to work with your list as a starting point for some of the work that I do, which is to teach Christians how to engage history and science to understand our faith better, instead of ignoring those disciplines and hoping for the best. Or avoiding these types of hard questions. That’s not productive and its not relational. Anyway, let me know if we can use the list. Thanks, Holly