Is Christianity false or is it just mean and judgmental?

Have you noticed lately that there is a decided lack of atheists who argue against Christianity on factual grounds? Instead of constructing arguments against Christian theism, what I am seeing more and more of is that people try to say that Christianity makes some group feel bad, and therefore Christianity is not worthy of pursuit and engagement.

Here’s how it works. You have a person who has some sinful habit or other that they don’t want to give up, and they notice that people are judging them and saying that what they are doing is wrong. And they feel bad. And they decide to attack Christianity to make the Christians stop judging them. So how do they do it? Do they argue that the concept of God is logically incoherent? No… Do they argue that some instances of evil and suffering are gratuitous? No… Do they argue that the universe is eternal so that it had no Creator? No…

What do they do?

What they do is pick on some statement by a conservative Christian that makes them feel bad, and then claim that they are victims of meanness. And apparently, making someone feel bad is some sort of disproof of Christian theism. Why is that? It’s because we have decided as a culture that the purpose of religion is to make people feel good about themselves and to be “nice” to other people. And by “nice”, we mean not making other people feel bad about the sinfulness of their behavior. So people are making Christianity irrelevant just by assuming that the purpose of life is happiness, and that any religion that makes people unhappy can be dismissed.

Before, people thought about Christianity as something that you investigated, and that was either true or false. People understood that Christianity made claims about the external world that were either true or false. For example, Christianity claims that the universe had a beginning in the finite past. And the people who disagreed with Christianity would try to produce arguments and evidence that the universe was eternal, as with the steady-state theory or the oscillating model of the universe. And people were willing to change their behavior to match what was true, even when it made them feel less happy. But not any more.

I think somehow, as a society, we have internalized the following beliefs:

  • God wants me to have happy feelings
  • the purpose of religion is to give me happy feelings
  • God’s moral will for me is that I be “nice” to others
  • being nice to others means accepting whatever they want to do as “good”
  • accepting whatever anyone does makes them like me
  • when people like me, I feel happy, which is what God wants
  • there is no need for me to study God’s existence
  • God exists when I want to be comforted, and doesn’t exist when I want to sin
  • there is no need for me to study God’s character
  • God’s character is pretty much like my character, whatever I want is fine with God
  • there are no moral rules or obligations from God that apply to me
  • religions are all the same, I choose the one that makes me feel happy

So you can see that someone who believes things like this can claim to be a Christian, but would actually attack real Christians who hold to the old view of exclusive factual claims and moral judgments. The real Christians are people who have studied these questions, who know that God exists, and what he is like, and accept the Bible’s moral teachings as authoritative. So you could have a famous pastor who defends the Bible’s prohibition on sex before marriage, and have someone feel bad about being judged, and then a bunch of these “the purpose of life is happiness” people will appear and chastise that pastor for making people feel bad. And many of them will claim to be Christians, and attend church, too.

Now notice that this mob of happy-feelings people are not going argue against the pastor using the Bible, because the Bible is pretty clearly against fornication. What they’ll do instead is they’ll pick out some piece of the Bible that seems unfair, like the slaughter of some group of child-sacrificing pagans, and they’ll rail against that Bible passage in order to discredit the Bible’s authority on moral questions. And then the good conservative pastor is made to feel bad because he has broken those unwritten laws – he made someone feel bad using this evil book.

No factual claims about God’s existence were made. No historical arguments were made. No evidence was presented. The mere fact that the Bible is mean to talk about killing the poor Canaanites is used to prove that the Bible has no moral authority at all, on any issue. “It’s mean” entails that it’s false. And you can have people who read the Bible for devotions, who sing in church, and who lead worship, who think that the Bible is false because it’s mean, and it’s mean because it can be used to judge people and make them feel bad.

An example

Now consider single motherhood, as in this case.

Excerpt:

She tells her children to do as she says and not as she does.

But the words of mother of 14 Joanne Watson – who receives more than £2,000 a month in state handouts – have fallen on deaf ears.

Her 15-year-old daughter Mariah is pregnant, the father has ‘left the scene’, and the youngster is about to start living off benefits.

Mrs Watson, 40, is raising her giant brood alone after parting from her husband John, 46, three years ago, and breaking up with subsequent partner Craig le Sauvage, 35, last year.

Despite this, she has still managed to squirrel away enough cash for a £1,600 breast enhancement and a sunbed. She claims she has always encouraged her daughters to use contraception – but, inevitably, it seems they would rather follow the family tradition.

Mariah’s pregnancy comes after Mrs Watson’s oldest daughter Natasha, 22, got pregnant with her son Branford, now six, when she was 16. Her second eldest daughter Shanice, 19, also got pregnant at 16 with her 22-month-old son Marley.

Mariah says she has no concerns about becoming a teenage mother, as it seems the most natural thing in the world. Initially, she and her child will be supported by the taxpayer.

She is expected to move into a housing complex for single mothers and will receive supplementary benefit and child allowance for her baby.

The youngster, who is due to have a boy, said: ‘I’m not nervous. I’ve been around babies my whole life so I know what to expect and that I can handle it. The father isn’t involved and I don’t want him to be either. I’m really excited and think I will be a great mum.’

Now there are two responses to this from people who profess to be Christians. The first response, my response, is to make a general argument against having sex before marriage, using the latest statistics to show the harm that fatherlessness causes to children, and more evidence besides. My response is not to pick on any one person, but to set moral boundaries, to make moral judgments against the selfishness of parents, and to not celebrate and subsidize anything that will harm innocent children. I don’t want to make anyone person feel bad, I just want to say what the evidence is. However, even a general argument using evidence does make some people feel bad, so I am judged as “mean” for giving my opinion and backing it up with evidence.

But there is another response. This response comes from someone who professes to be a Christian, but they are actually a “God wants me to be happy and to be nice to people so they will like me and then we’ll all be happy” person. They would never dream of judging anyone for anything they do. And they are very angry with me for getting my moral rules out of that horrible Bible, and for using facts and evidence to make people feel bad. They believe in compassion, which is the idea that says that the moral boundaries of the Bible are false, and that we have to celebrate and subsidize any and every variation on the traditional family, regardless of the harm caused, so that the selfish adults don’t feel bad about their destructive choices.

And what do we make of a person who feels that saying “it’s wrong” is mean, because it makes a guilty person feel bad? Well, here is the truth. A person who argues against the Bible based on the happy-feelings model is no friend of God, and no friend of the victims of selfish actions. They may think that they are being a good person by affirming the decision of the 15-year old to have a child with no father, but they are not good. Stealing money from their neighbors without providing anything in return isn’t good either. They may satisfied their invented happy-feelings God, but they have grieved the real God, and hurt the real child. And they did it by refusing to set clear moral boundaries.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

2 thoughts on “Is Christianity false or is it just mean and judgmental?”

  1. Been a while since I’ve commented.

    I think you’re correct sir. I’m not sure on a period of time when this “kissie kissie, hand-holdy, hippie Jesus” thing started but I do know it’s gross. I’ll just be honest, it’s gross. This flavor of Christianity is what I grew up and I didn’t want anything to do with it. It upsets my stomach. When I encounter it, I need to drink a bottle of pepto…you know, the pink stuff.

    Seriously though, these christians are clearly on a flight from boredom. This kind of person you described doesn’t want anything to do with a God who requires sacrifice from his children, instead they want this cosmic, hippy, brother to tell them, “Just do what you feel man…it’s all good…I’m all about peace, pleasure, and happiness.” Well that’s nice, but what world is he governing? Or maybe the god is an african woman? Still, the character traits of the god are the same, whatever mask the worshippers place on the deity.

    One message from the bible the pleasure seekers don’t recognize, that I think stands out quite boldly, is a message of: suffer from discipline, or suffer from regret. Now, I don’t mean this in a self-flagellation way. What I mean is we can suffer from sanctification or we can suffer from the regret of not submitting ourselves to God. The main message of the bible is the gospel first and foremost, but I do think there is a message of discipline all over the pages of the bible too, which is something people stuck in the aesthetic life just do not want to understand.

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  2. Hello, just came across your blog and it looks like a good place to ask questions. Here are a couple thrown at me by my skeptic friends, questions that seem to be based on facts.

    1. God sends His son among the Jews, and He teaches them a lot of things. However He doesn’t leave anything written by His own hand. After His death, his followers start writing down the Gospels, however, and curiously enough, the oldest New Testament writings come from someone who never met Jesus (Paul) and are dated at least 15-20 years after the events. On the other hand the oldest Gospels themselves are dated at least 30-35 years after Resurrection. And all of them are not in the language Jesus spoke, but in a different language altogether. Why did God, in His omnipotence (He surely could have done it) and omniscience (He should have known all the terrible consequences of such confusion) not care to put His teachings in writing right away in and in the originals they were spoken, but left us instead with those 30 years old (at least) copies of copies of translations?
    2. On top of this, the first writer (Paul) never quotes the Master directly, never quotes anything from the gospels, never says a word about Jesus’ teachings. His only topic is His death and resurrection, like His years on Earth didn’t matter a bit. And throughout his letters Paul boasts and praises “his gospel”. But who was he? It looks like he appointed himself apostle, by pretending to have had an encounter on a road, but all we have is his words, nothing else. What did he do after supposed encounter? Went away for 3 years and preached his own gospel. Then stayed with Peter 14 days only. So Peter and the others spent 3 years with the Master, and all Paul needs is 14 days? Tough to swallow! Then he goes away again for 14 years. This to me looks like a very long period in the life of a fledgling new faith. Why do we have to believe Paul?

    I have tried to find resources that could help me find answers, but had no luck so far. One theologian even told me that “Paul certainly met Jesus in his own way”, which to me seemed extremely disappointing answer for a scholar.
    Any input or references would be most appreciated.

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