Initially this post was set up as an escape hatch. It was a link I could drop like a ninja smoke bomb so I could make my exit from conversations with vicious trolls and hate-filled, vitriolic atheists. But lately it has transformed into a personal filing cabinet for links that are helpful in dispelling common myths about Christianity.
It morphed because I slowly came to see that Christ did not shy away from difficult conversations, even in the face of crucifixion; and many was the apostle, saint and martyr who gladly went down to death in peaceful defense of the faith. They knew something that it took me a while to see, which is that many people who are angry, nasty and mean are in intellectual, emotional or spiritual darkness and pain. They need help.
So these days I’m not running too much.
I’m happy to engage anyone in conversation anytime. Please click here to schedule a meeting. I am here to offer pastoral care, intellectual conversation, interviews, and so on. As an interfaith minister, deacon and seminarian in the Old Catholic line, the alleviation of suffering is my calling, and my duty is to be an apostle and a witness for the reality of Christ.
(A) General Questions
- There is a 99.99% chance that you are not the first person in history to attack Christianity with the question, issue or method you are currently using. Christianity has successfully defended attacks by very smart people for over 2,000 years. This field of study is known as Christian Apology or Apologetics, and the Library of Congress lists over 5,000 books under this subject heading. Start by reading some of the previous scholarship. If you have a scientific, hyper-rational bent, I recommend William Lane Craig’s book Reasonable Faith. If you prefer a more light-hearted, literary approach, you must start with C. S. Lewis. He’s the most famous and popular Christian apologist — an atheist intellectual who converted to Christianity and wrote about why.
- “Why do we need religion? Why can’t people just be good because it’s the right thing to do?” Because people aren’t all that good, and it’s very hard to make them. There’s an enforcement cost that bogs down society in general and gives birth to totalitarianism. But you can inspire them to be good by giving them responsibilities. About 40,000 years ago humans starting working on systems called “religions” to arrive at and assign responsibilities so as to solve this problem. Religions are not superstitions. They are sociological technologies. One of them changed the world in ways that have never been equaled. Read Dominion by Tom Holland for more details.
- “If God is good, why is there evil in the universe?” This is called the problem of evil. There are lots of answers to this question. I like Christianity’s.
- “If God created the universe, what created God?” The universe was created out of the initial singularity by the Big Bang. Before that there was no space-time, no matter, and no energy — that’s a scientific fact. Therefore the creator of the universe is timeless and immaterial. If you say it’s possible for things to exist without a cause, then you are a believer in magic.
- “How is Christianity any better than the silly myths that came before it?” The myths that preceded Christianity were low-resolution pictures of the truth that was coming, kind of like the way the icon of a disc on the desktop of your computer is a low-res representation of the hard drive in your computer. C. S. Lewis deals with this beautifully.
- “What makes you think you’re so smart?” I don’t. But I do understand what it’s like to be confused about religion. I spent most of my adult life as a religionaut and spiritual seeker before finally re-embracing Christianity. I used to believe most of the anti-Christian myths myself. This allows me to be calm, polite, and measured. Anyway, I’m not that smart. I’m just a guy who made lots of mistakes, wasted a lot of time, and now wants to be a simple priest and alleviate suffering.
- “If God is real, why doesn’t He stop ______?” Fill in the blank with your choice of horrible tragedy, natural disaster or crime, such as death by hurricane or clergy sexual abuse. God is not responsible for human acts of evil resulting from free will, nor is He responsible for acts of nature. If people had no agency and there was no nature, the universe would be a giant depressing clockwork — static, rhythm-less and dead. Thank God it isn’t. Also see #3 above.
(B) General Christianity Myths
- Religions do not cause wars. Religion has been a factor in less than 7 percent of all wars and in less than 2 percent of all people killed in warfare.
- Miracles aren’t made up by crazy people. Things we can’t explain happen all the time. Ask anybody you know and you’ll get dozens of examples of spontaneous healing, freak events, and other improbable “coincidences.” If one in a million of them is “real,” there have been millions of miracles. C. S. Lewis wrote a book called Miracles that I highly recommend. If you’d prefer a shortcut, watch this video.
- “It’s impossible for somebody to be raised from the dead, so Christianity is obviously made up.” Obviously it’s impossible, which is what makes it a miracle. That’s why a religion sprang up around this one guy named Jesus who rose from the grave after three days. You should know that nobody attacked Christianity in its infancy by contesting the empty tomb — not even Jewish or Roman authorities — which is why many modern atheist historians do not. And you should ask yourself why hundreds of people claimed to be witnesses to the risen Christ and were willing to be crucified and die rather than deny what they saw. It’s also useful to note that the gospels don’t make it 100% clear what happened. In Mark, Jesus just disappears from the tomb and that’s it. In other Gospels he appears but the apostles don’t recognize him at first. What happened or didn’t happen isn’t all that clear. Most Christians understand that and are okay with it.
- “God is your invisible friend or a flying spaghetti monster.” Billions of Christian believers over the last 2,000 years have not attested to the reality of a flying spaghetti monster. Would you convict someone of a crime based on eyewitness testimony? Then why not believe billions of witnesses of Christ? This is called the “argument from reason” and lots of really smart people seem to like it and/or have a hard time refuting it.
- Christians are not blind automatons. The word “Israel” means either “God struggles” or “to struggle with God.” Either way, Christianity is a conversation between God and humanity spelled out in 73 volumes.
- Christianity doesn’t owe its popularity to forced conversions. Isolated cases occurred. But, for the most part, people dropped pagan religions like a hot potato and picked up Christianity instead. And the world is better for it. Start here.
- Just because some Christians don’t practice what they preach doesn’t mean that Christianity stinks. Don’t make a short list of radical, stupid, and/or evil Christians and say “see, Christianity stinks.” This is the dumbest thing I ever heard. All doctors aren’t perfect, but we don’t give up on medicine do we?
- Christianity isn’t some childish belief system you can outline on a 3″ x 5″ index card and then poke holes in. Christianity has been developed by the the greatest minds of the last 2,000+ years. The Bible is a library of books that is completely unique for having been compiled by means of a multi-generational collaboration by thousands of authors across several millennia. Its 73 books are complex, universally relevant, inspirational and interconnected to a degree you cannot possibly imagine.
- The Correlates of War Project — the world’s largest database of war data
- The Encyclopedia of Wars (1997)
- The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. All anti-Christians should start here. A reformed atheists and great writer — nobody explains Christianity better.
- Jordan B. Peterson videos. If you don’t want to read books but you insist on being anti-Christian watch as many videos as you can on this video channel.
- Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Vandals brought the Roman Empire to its knees. And then they converted to Christianity. These were some of the most terrifying, brutal, powerful tribes ever known. Were they converted by force? Were the Vikings? The Celts? The native tribes of the British Isles? The mere thought of it is absurd. My people are Scottish by name and blood, and we are pretty hard-headed. Try converting me by force and see what you get.
- See Bible link below.
(C) Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse Myths
- Catholic clergy aren’t more likely to abuse children than other clergy, nor have they been more likely to do so than men in general, or even more likely than public school teachers.
- Clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church can’t be blamed on celibacy, homosexuality, or on all-male clergy.
- Almost all of clergy sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church occurred during the 1960s and 70s.
- Most clergy sex offenders aren’t pedophiles in the popular sense — most offenses were against post-pubescent teens, not young children.
- Six Myths About Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, Pyschology Today (online, March 24, 2010)
- THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF SEXUAL ABUSE OF MINORS BY CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND DEACONS IN THE UNITED STATES 1950-2002
(John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Feb. 2004)
(D) Christian Belief Myths
Before we even get going, I want to point out that most Christians are not anti-science. In fact, many sensible Christians have a much more practical, common sense relationship with science than some atheists. Watch this video for a 7-minute intro to this idea.
Okay, so there are 2.4 billion Christians on the planet, belonging to hundreds of wildly divergent denominations. It is virtually impossible to make sweeping statements about what Christians do and do not believe.
- All Christians do not believe in a literal Heaven and a literal Hell.
- Furthermore, Christians do not agree on the definitions of certain key words, such as “salvation,” “heaven” “hell,” and so on.
- All Christians are not Bible literalists who believe Earth is only 6,000 years old, flat and other silly things.
- Christians are not generally motivated by fear of hell or promise of heaven. Salvation is achieved through some combination of either grace (a free gift from God) and/or works (doing good stuff in the world).
- All Christians are not fundamentalists.
- All Christians are not opposed to science.
- Most Christians do not hate gays.
- Christians do not despise the world and live for the next life to the detriment of this one. Despising the world is actually a pretty heretical belief in the eyes of most Christians. Probably the most famous Bible quote of all time is, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NRSV)
- “Incorporeal things are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us.” [St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Supplement, Q69, a1, reply 1 written 1265–1274] 750 years ago, one of the greatest theologians in history plainly said that heaven, hell, purgatory, and so on are not physical places we can comprehend.
- The human with the highest living IQ, Chris Langan, as attempting to prove the existence of God using mathematics.
- List of Catholic clergy who made important contributions to science
- Pope John Paul II discusses HEAVEN, HELL AND PURGATORY
- List of Christian denominations by number of members (Wikipedia)
- Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors: United Methodist Church reaches out to people of all classes, colors and sexual orientations
(E) Bible Myths
Most Christians — especially members of the clergy — don’t believe the Bible was magically written by God. Or even that it was written by the people two whom the individual books are attributed for that matter. That’s because…
- The Bible is not just “some old book.” The Bible is a library of 73 books, and it is an incredible feat. Somehow, thousands of authors, editors and scribes, working in different times across millennia, managed to bring together this library of books in such a way that the disparate volumes form a cohesive narrative structure. See the diagram below. The Bible makes something like Wikipedia look like a tri-fold pamphlet. You might even say that it’s a miracle.
- The Bible doesn’t promote violence, or misogyny, or any of that. It contains stories with controversial themes — kind of the same way that a documentary about drug addiction might show drug use without promoting it. And it contains all of the outdated ideas that we’ve improved upon too. The great thing about Christianity is that its definition of “good” has evolved over time because Christians have generally tried to be humble. God is the highest possible good, and beyond our comprehension. As our vision gets better, “God” and “good” get better!
- People who study the Bible and think it’s important are not uneducated and/or backward. Most of the smartest people and greatest scientists of past and present were and are Christians. See references in previous section.
- Biblical laws were not and are not backward and draconian, nor are they evidence that Christianity is outdated and backward. The Hebrews were the first culture in the Ancient Near East to abolish physical punishment for property crimes, the first to establish a single code for all social stratum, the first to do away with divine kings, and so on. Compare the law of the Hebrews to those of their neighbors and you will see that the Hebrews’ are far more progressive. The philosophy that gave birth to those laws allows for the laws to be updated — see #2 above.
- Just because the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) contradict each other doesn’t mean that the Bible is a nest of lies. The founders of the early Christian churches were aware of the contradictions — they just didn’t care all that much. Apparently they were more open-minded that most people are nowadays.
- Biblical laws, rules and customs cannot be taken out of context and used to prove points. The Bible is a library of 73 books written across millennia that document the centuries-long struggle of Jews and Christians to figure out exactly what the laws and rules should be. Of course there are contradictions. Copernicus and Ptolemy contradict each other regarding the correct model of the solar system, but we don’t claim that Astronomy itself is invalid. Also, it’s useful to note that the book of Proverbs is not a book of religious laws. It is called Proverbs because, as it happens, it is a book of proverbs, the ancient Hebrew equivalent of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Why do uneducated people insist on attacking Biblical material without any sense of appropriateness or context? “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” ~Proverbs 26:11
Introduction to the Hebrew Bible – Prof. Christine Hayes (RLST 145 — Yale Open Courses website)
Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature — Prof. Dale Martin (RLST 152 – Yale Open Courses website). [Note: If you think it’s important, which it isn’t, but you might think it is if you believe in common myths about Christianity, Prof. Martin is gay.)
The Hebrew Bible — Rabbi Shaye Cohen (Harvard 2013)
The Bible is the first hyperlinked document. Click graph below for an overview or click here for the creator’s blog and the details.