I was raised in a Catholic household, but I have to say that raising consisted basically of learning that Jesus was a pretty nice guy and his example of kindness and sacrifice was one that we were to emulate. In many ways I still have no problem with that worldview.
Once I got to college, ironically a state college, I ran into fundamentalists who seemed to know a different god. This lead me to consider the entire bible. Fundamentalists claimed to believe that everything in the bible was real, but after I read it, I realized the book as a whole is just too ridiculous to believe. I also realized that I didn’t need any kind of god, especially the one in that book, to continue to be generally kind to people.
One of the things that made the least sense, when run through a logic filter, is the whole “salvation drama” that supposedly runs through the whole book.
The drama goes something like this: our ancestors committed a heinous sin (disobedience) that was so horrible that it filtered down to their descendants. In fact, people were so horrible (in some way unexplained) that a few generations later god decided to start over by killing pretty much every living thing on earth. But even this did not correct the problem, people were still horrible. He tried to get some obedience by just smiting some random bad people (Sodom) but people overall were still horrible.
Finally he sent his son, knowing full well that we horrible people would kill him, which we did. But by killing our god, the horrible people apparently finally appeased the anger of their god by spilling his blood (WTF??). His anger appeased, the horrible people are now eligible to go to heaven after they die, as long as they are not quite so horrible and/or acknowledge the truth of this crazy story.
The way some people interpret Paul makes more sense, some people think that Paul is saying that Jesus was accidentally killed by the devil and his demons in a spiritual realm by mistake. This inadvertent sacrifice appeases god’s anger, saving mankind. At least in this case the killers and the saved are different entities, so this makes a bit more sense.
But as for the usual story, there is so much insanity, I don’t even know where to begin.
First of all, there are lunatics like Ken Ham who want to prove to the world that god is some kind of sociopath that he kills, not just evil people, but every living thing on the earth. He is willing to spend millions of dollars to absolutely “prove” this! Even little babies and all the animals. And in so doing, absolutely nothing gets better. In fact, god’s own “righteous man” invents alcoholism and incest right after being “saved” and Ken Ham wants all of us to believe that all of us are literally descended from drunken, child molesting Noah. Why would you even want to believe such a thing? I would rather believe I am related to bonobos, thank you.
God strikes me as being like a farmer whose herd of cows that doesn’t give much milk. He randomly picks two of them, slaughters the rest and then wonders why the new herd isn’t any better. And this is an omniscient being? If god was so disappointed in the human race, why not wipe us all out and start over? Create a new planet. Maybe this time not create us in his image so we would be less horrible. But no, he had another plan. Just as crazy as the last one.
So, god sends his son to earth to show us how to be less horrible, which is nice, but the real point is to get himself killed by us — which somehow is going to forgive us for being horrible, I am not even sure how. Perhaps one reason that this does not work out so good is that the “sacrifice” of Jesus just is not that big of a deal.
Christians like to wax poetic about the “sacrifice” of Jesus, a la Mel Gibson, but really what was the big deal? Tens if not hundreds of thousands of people were crucified by the Romans and other ancient tyrants, and frankly Jesus wasn’t even all that brave about it. The night before, he sweats blood in terror of what is about to happen and on the cross he disses god — “Why have you abandoned me?” Jesus the whiner. Plenty of people have faced their impending death with more dignity than this. What makes it worse is that Jesus wasn’t even really facing “death.”
Presumably, being god, he knows that he is to rise again. He knows that he is only going to hell for a cup of coffee. A day and a half dead? You should be so lucky. A day and a half dead is enough to forgive the sins of all mankind? A bit of flogging? Characters in Quentin Tarentino movies go through more suffering than this.
No wonder it doesn’t seemed to have worked all that well.
Only a small percentage of Christians actually believe that Jesus’s sacrifice actually saved all of mankind. And the Universalists were widely reviled as heretics. What did the rest of mankind get from Jesus, according to most Christians? Not too darn much really. I ask Christians all the time, “Did Jesus die for ALL of our sins?” And the answer, invariably is “Umm, actually no.”
In Catholic theology, you still have to pay for the sins you actually commit by an unlimited time in purgatory. This is like being told that the governor issued you a pardon, but you still have to serve the rest of your prison sentence anyway. And who goes to heaven right away? The saints, that is those that do much more good than harm (at least according to the church). And who goes to hell? Those that reject god, we are told. So, it seems you get to heaven or hell by your own efforts. And the rest of us still have to be “cleansed of our sins.” What exactly did Jesus die for anyway?
It seems to me that if there are god given moral absolutes (like “Thou shalt not kill,”) and you are sent to hell for violating those absolutes, then Obama is currently making a greater sacrifice than Jesus did. Obama is ordering drone strikes, which surely kill innocent people, in violation of the commandment. Obama is risking hell for all eternity to keep us “safe.” And what is his thanks? To be reviled by so-called Christians who question his Christianity! But surely he is potentially sacrificing much more than Jesus — eternity versus a day and a half in hell.
Seriously, what did Jesus accomplish? Is hell closed? Is the devil dead? Do people not sin any more? Do people not die any more? No difference whatsoever, really.
And anyway, what kind of all powerful being needs some kind of blood sacrifice to forgive the “sins” of creatures who can’t actually hurt him (her or it) in any way. If your dog disobeys you, do you slaughter all dogs for all time? Who would even want to worship such a narcissistic creature such as the god we are presented with in Abrahamic religions?
Theists sometimes say we atheists don’t want to believe in god because we don’t want follow the “moral” laws that he has laid down. This, for me is somewhat true. I truly hope that we do not live in a universe or even on a planet that is ruled by the god that is described in the bible.