Friday, January 29, 2010
Why I Stopped Being A Christian.
WHY I STOPPED BEING A CHRISTIAN ¬ Tunde Aina “Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for believe, he would be satisfied with bad ones” ¬ Bertrand Russell “Most people who are religious believe in the religion of their parents; but beliefs that depend on accidents of birth prove nothing.” ¬ D. Kolak & Ray Martin The year was 1979. At 13, I was a second year student of Ikeja Grammar School. During Bible Knowledge Class, a student read aloud the story of “Exodus from Egypt”. Hear the Bible in Exodus: And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” What? That statement hit me like a thunderbolt! How could God harden someone’s heart, thereby compelling him to do his bidding, and then turn around to punish the helpless man, his household, his livestock and entire people! I felt disturbed. I felt embarrassed. I was hearing that tragic story for the first time. The first time? Certainly not! I had been brought up in a Christian home, with strict Christian precepts. My father was a foremost Elder of the Christ Apostolic Church. His own father was a pastor and a church founder. By age 12, I had read the Bible right through -– from Genesis to Revelation. I resolved to take the matter up with my revered Sunday School Superintendent, Pastor/ Evangelist S.D. Olawepo (now deceased). His explanation was that God had to punish the Egyptians for enslaving the Israelites who were God’s chosen people! His explanation made matters worse and raised even more questions: Why should God have a chosen people? Is he a tribal God? Is he not the Creator of all the peoples? Every race? Is he a partial God? And why kill all the innocent first born sons of the Egyptians? Why kill the livestock? Was he engaged in power-play with Pharaoh? Might is right? … Little did I know this was just the beginning of my being overwhelmed by an avalanche of questions, and more questions, but no answers. I went back to reading the Bible. Myriads of such unanswered questions assailed my young mind. I began to question very many orthodox beliefs, much to the chagrin of my parents, who could not help me in my quest for more knowledge of truth and life. Within the following three years, I read the Bible through yet again, with an alert sense of reason, trying to make some sense of the senseless stories of war, torture, rape, and extermination of whole races; of incest, lies, betrayal and murder; of massacre of even innocent babies; of sacrifices; of atrocities and blood-dripping altar of the Judeo-Christian God. More questions assailed me: How come God forgot to create the sun until day four? Such that plants and herbs came before the sun? What was responsible for photosynthesis? Without the sun, there was day and night? How come that God did not know that the moon is not a source of light? In the Garden of Eden, why should God have planted the tree bearing forbidden fruit in the midst of the garden? Would any wise parent deliberately place poisonous substances within reach of his children? What would we think of such a parent? Why didn’t God warn Adam and Eve about the ubiquitous snake? Why should he curse the ground on account of Adam? Why place an eternal curse on the woman? Why didn’t he show leniency to our first parents as first offenders? And, worse still, why curse generations yet unborn? Is the act of visiting iniquity of the father on his children fair? What would we think of a man who does the same? More questions; no answers! From Genesis 6, why did God allow his sons to come to seduce daughters of men, such that they bred generations of giants? Why did he have to wipe out the innocent with the guilty in a world-wide flood? Couldn’t he determine those guilty? What wrong could children and dimpled babes do? What did the animals do wrong? From his relationship with the Jews: How could God love Jacob and hate Esau, even before they were born? Is that not favoritism? Why is he a jealous God? Is he feeling threatened by His creatures and idols? Why be so vindictive and cruel? Why kill his people for desiring a change of food from manna? Why did he encourage slavery and branding of slaves in Exodus 21? Why kill Uzzah for trying to keep the Ark from falling (I Cro. 13:9-10)? Why did he demand human sacrifice in Leviticus 27:28-29? Why did he acquiesce to the sacrifice of Jephthah’s only child as burnt offering in Judges 11:30-39? During the time of Moses, did God really command: “kill every male among the little ones…keep the young virgins for yourselves (Numbers 31:17-18)? What manner of tyranny is this? What kind of God would order wholesale massacre of innocent children and whole nations? The greatest acts of genocide were committed by the Israelites on the commands of this God? Can the Devil do worse than these? Is the Bible describing God or a blood-thirsty Demon? During the reign of King David, why should God have spared David’s life, after committing adultery (with Uriah’s wife) and murder (of Uriah himself)? Why, if he must kill anybody, did he not kill David, the sinner? Why kill David’s innocent child? Is that his standard of justice? When God was angered that David numbered the people of Israel (II Sam. 24), why did he not kill David? Why kill 70,000 innocent men in place of David? He killed 50,070 for looking into the Ark (I Sam.6:19)? From the story of Job, why did God continue to relate with Satan familiarly? Why should he condone the killing of Job’s ten innocent children, his servants and livestock? What wrong did they do? Was it just to win a detestable bet with his arch-rival, Satan? Was that a just reward for Job’s uprightness? From the New Testament, why should a supposed Almighty be incapable of forgiving sin, unless there is bloodshed? Is he a blood-sucker or a Vampire? Why should the altar of this strange God drip with blood of any kind? Why should he send his Son to die for the sins of the world? Can the world be civilized by the example of murder and bloodshed? Why should the innocent suffer for the guilty? Would that be justice? Why should any God sentence people to eternal damnation for unbelief? A criminal could believe on his death bed and go to heaven? A righteous man goes to hell for unbelief? Our righteousness like filthy rags? A sinner is to suffer an eternal, infinite punishment for finite sin? Would that be justice? Going To The Roots For years, these and similar questions assailed my young mind. Day and night, I contemplated them. I prayed. The thoughts kept coming. I talked to the clergy to no avail. The questions planted the seed of doubt in my mind –- doubts about the veracity of Christian teaching. My vistas began to expand, as more questions came rushing through: What if it is a lie? What if the Bible is not God’s Word, as I was brought up to believe? What if God’s Word lies in something other than the Bible? Would I have the courage to let go? How did the Bible come to us anyway? God’s Word? Who declared it so? Are such authorities credible? Did they have an agenda? Could they have fabricated the absurd, unbelievable stories? Thus a seeker was born. I became a seeker after Truth -– one not satisfied with the orthodox Christian worldview. The ensuing quest led me to dig into the history of the Bible and the Christian Church; and what I discovered was not complimentary to Christianity or its “Holy Book”. Unmasking The Bible I searched various libraries and encyclopaedia until I got materials about the Christian Ecumenical Councils, where Christian Creeds, the dogmas, were formulated. I read about all the seven general Ecumenical Councils, paying special attention to the first four – the Council of Nicaea, of Constantinople, of Ephesus, and of Chalcedon. The Christian Council of Nicaea was convened under the Emperor Constantine, the Great, and under Pope Sylvester I, in the year 325. It debated the divinity of Christ; and after fierce doctrinal disputation between the Alexandrian and Arian schools of thought, voted to declare Jesus as God, of the same substance with the Father. The Council eventually formulated the Nicene Creed, repudiated Arianism and, under threat of banishment, forced many of those against the creed to endorse accent. The Council of Constantinople was convened in 381 under Emperor Theodosius I, and the Pope Damase I. It developed and fine-tuned the Nicene Creed further, by introducing the Holy Spirit into the Godhead, to complete the Trinity doctrine. The third Christian Ecumenical Council was held in Ephesus in the year 431 under Emperor Theodosius II and under Pope Celestin. This Council repudiated the teachings of Nestorius, who had argued that Jesus had completely separate human and divine natures. This Council also proclaimed the virgin Mary as the Theotokos (more commonly known as “Mother of God”), which was later repudiated by the Assyrian Church of the East. The next Council was that of Chalcedon in 451, under Emperor Martian and Pope Leo I. This Council reversed its earlier decision on Nestorianism, by delineating two separate natures of Christ, human and divine. It formulated the Chalcedonian Creed in which Jesus was declared “truly God and truly man”. This was the Council that divided the Eastern (Oriental Orthodox) from the Western Churches. The Church Council of Laodicea of 364 was non-ecumenical, but it ordered that religious observances were to be held on Sundays, not Saturdays. Thus Sunday became the new Sabbath, and Christians were free to work on Saturdays. Three other Ecumenical Councils were held at Nicaea and Constantinople, while the Catholic Church held several other Councils at Lateran, at Lyon, Constance, Trent etc. At these Councils, men vested divine authority on themselves; they formulated and developed what would be the article of Christian orthodoxy. I educated myself about how men voted for books that will make up their “Holy Book”. They voted many to be doubtful, and declared others as having been inspired by the Holy Ghost! Undated books -- written by nobody knows whom, nor when, nor where; collected by oral tradition (hearsay), after several intervening decades between the time of writing and the purported events –- had become the Word of God and was to be known as “The Holy Bible”! I read about the forgeries and interpolations carried out by so-called Church fathers, some of whom later admitted having lied in honour of God! In all the disputations arising from the Councils, such was the malice and stupidity of men that they preferred to pass their lives worshiping a book received from barbaric, ignorant savages -- a book with little mythical tales, with little order or method, serving only to foment divisions. The divisions led to the bloodshed and savage massacres of the ignoble Crusade era. For over a thousand years, early Christians steeped the history of the world in blood, in the most malevolent doctrinal wars, crusades and Inquisition. It is sad, but true, that the history of the Church only proved right the words of Blaise Pascal that, “men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”. Disgusted, I turned to Science. I needed to know more about life, about Creation, the earth on which we live, and the world around me in general. I was undaunted by the task ahead, as reading had always been a great hobby of mine. I could no longer trust a book which erroneously informs me that the languages of the world started spontaneously when God became threatened by the exploits of puny humans at the Tower of Babel. I could no longer trust a transmission that narrates a foolish story of how Joshua stopped the sun on its non-existent course, in order to prolong day-light enough to complete his insane butchery of fellow humans! Aren’t such silly stories on the same level as fairy tales of “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Cinderella”, or the sun-god, “Hercules”? I grew tired of reading mythical tales of a talking serpent, a talking ass, a floating iron; of a whale swallowing Jonah, of bush that wouldn’t burn, of angels co-habiting with daughters of men, of dead decomposing bodies coming out of their graves, of bodies floating to heaven, and of a blood-thirsty, cruel God – a God that repents! I was tired of Jehovah, the jealous one, eternal torturer of his own people, the destroyer of the first world, toddlers and all, killer of innocent babies and children! the terrible, tribal God of Israel who ordained criminals as kings and called them men after his heart – what a heart! Thus, for a time, I abandoned the delusions, the obscene myths that make the Christian theology. I studied Geography and Astronomy – just a little, and obtained a faint conception of astounding astronomical spaces, of the galaxies, and “the stars also”. I discovered that the “inspired writer” of the Book of Genesis had no knowledge of astronomy. Whoever wrote the story of Joshua stopping the sun and the moon was as ignorant as Koma people. I had no choice but to give up the Old Testament on account of its absurdities, its ignorance and its cruelty. It is a lie! But if its obscene stories are true, I detest its god! I went a step further with the New Testament, and eventually, had to give it up because it vouched for the truth of the Old and was founded on it. After all, if the foundation be destroyed, what would become of the super-structure? Good riddance! My Forays Into Other Paths Having discarded the faith of my birth, with its myths, its superstition and fables, I decided to examine some other paths and teachings. Could there be a true Word of God out there? Perhaps my parents were deluded; perhaps others had the true faith? I read the teaching of Jehovah’s witnesses; and, with all its distaste for Christendom, is still founded on that book of lies and absurdities called “Bible”. Then I read books and magazines of various sects, even became registered member of some of them. I read the enthralling Book, “In the Light of Truth” -- The Grail Message, four times over, and was a member of the Grail Movement for nine years. I read the “Science of Self Realisation” by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada – a text of the Hare Krishna Movement. I read other “Holy Scriptures: the “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is”, the “Srimad Bhagavatam”and the Zed-Aventa; the Book of Mormons, and the Holy Koran. The spiritual exercises of Eckankar – The Religion of the Light and Sound of God -- attracted me so much that I became a member for four years. I perused its Scripture, “Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad”, and reveled in its “Thirty-five golden keys”. I enrolled for a mystical course in Buddhism, and read numerous books and magazines of the Ancient Mystical Order of the Rossi Cruci ( AMORC). The mystical books of Lobsang Rampa did not escape my attention; neither did those of White Eagle Brotherhood of America. I did not spare the fabulous “Lost Books of the Bible” and the mythical “Forgotten Books of Eden”. I ventured into Scientology, and also into the “Vasudera” of Confucius. I pored over avalanche of books on the “saviors” or avatars of mankind including those of Mithra, Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Horus, Osiris, Krishna, Jesus, Baldur, Mohammed, Lao-Tsu, Abd-ru-shin, Bramah, Vishnu, Arjuna, and several modern-day Masters or Teachers. I employed my love of reading to great effect. Next, I examined the works of great Philosophers and Thinkers -– old and modern. I read about Socrates, about Plato, and about Diogenes. I studied Thomas Paine, including his classical work, “The Age of Reason”. I became absorbed with the controversial works of Charles Darwin, and I read his popular “Origin of Species” and “The Descent of Man”. Bertrand Russell fascinated me, so did Herbert Spencer. I found the works of Burns, Volney, Laplace and Humboldt compelling. I valued Zeno and Epicurus. I was enlightened by Robert Ingersoll, mystified by Cains Smith, dazed by James Frazer; and I became an acquaintance of Richard Dawkins through his works. Through all these, I grew, I believed, I doubted, I discarded. I recited mantra; engaged in spiritual exercises; I fellowshipped, and I worshipped. As I grew, I loved; I revered; was born-again. I erred; I retraced my steps; I back-slided; I learned. I adored; I cherished; was deluded. Through all these, I matured. In my study of the various religions, teachings, philosophies and pathways, I have come to realize that virtually all religions were established the same way. They all have their holy books, their christs or avatars, their apostles and their rituals. I found that the religion of a people was their science, their explanation of the world – of life, of death and of hereafter. I see faith in religion as a prop which some of us can do without; after all a healthy man does not require crutches to walk. I realize that the choicest gift of man is his ability to reason. Lose it or ignore it, and you leave yourself wide open to the possibility of being imposed upon. Reason is our only true religion; with it every error is doomed! I reject faith as a valid tool for knowledge, as it imposes no limits at all! I realize that many people would rather die than think; in fact most do. I subscribe to knowledge, the sacredness of doubt and the value of evidence, believing that belief without evidence is nothing but superstition. Thus I agree with the eminent Bertrand Russell who declared in his essay titled; “Human Society in Ethics and Politics”: There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not real, he becomes furious when they are disputed. Conclusion Why did I abandon Christianity? The focal point of Christian theology, the unjust doctrine of vicarious sacrifice, is based on the fable of the fall of man. Think of it: A man and a woman – nobody knows where or when – are, at the instance of a wily serpent, supposed to have tasted the fruit of a tree. The enslaved religious mind, with its crouching imagination, pounces upon this flimsy, fanciful tale with the appetite of a carrion crow, and exalts it to the dignity of an excuse for the eternal damnation of the whole world! Dazzling, isn’t it? Throughout the last 400 years, during which the growth of science had gradually shown men how to acquire knowledge of the ways of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology; in anatomy, physiology and biology; in psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another. After being worsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology; they fought against Darwin in biology, and at the present time they fight against scientific theories of psychology and education. At each stage, they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recognized for what it is. Anyone who knows anything about the origins of Christian teachings, creeds and tradition would know that there is nothing original in Christianity. It borrowed its every teaching from earlier traditions. It even borrowed its Christ! Thus, the words of Confucius and Buddha, avatars who lived 500 – 600 years before Jesus were re-robbed as the words of Christ. Christianity and its festivals; its sacraments, its virgin-birth; its doctrine of salvation; death, resurrection and ascension of its Christ – none of these is original to Christianity, as the same story had been told of Krishna, of Mithra, of Horus, of Marduk, and several “saviours” of mankind in their mould, long before the Church fathers plagiarized ancient scriptures and fabricated their own story; it is an old wine in a new bottle. And I dare say, like my friend, Thomas Paine, “I disbelieve them all”!!! Robert Burns, the philosopher and poet did hit the nail on its head when he declared: All religions are old wives’ fables, But an honest man has nothing to fear, Either in this world or the one to come. Recommended For Further Reading: • Attenborough, D. (1960) Quest In Paradise • Alpine, R. (1948) The Trial of Evidence • Ball, M.D. (2001) Best-Selling Errancy • Cains, Smith (1985) Seven Clues to the Origin of Life • Dawkins, R. (1996) Climbing Mount Improbable • Dawkins, R. (2006) The God Delusion • Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics • Ephraim, E. (1978) When God Is Silent • Frazer, J.G. (1994) The Golden Bough • Harrison, S. (1989) Truth In Chains • http://www.americanhumanist.org • http://www.infidels.org • http://dwindlinginunbelief.com • http://www.evilbible.com • http://quackwatch.org • http://www.snopes.com • Ingersoll, R. (1888) Which Way • Ingersoll R. (1892) Christmas Sermon • Kolak, D. Believing In Belief • Paine, T. (1792) Age of Reason • Plimer, I. (1994) Telling Lies for God: Reason Vs Creationism • Russel, B. (1955) The Will To Doubt • Russel, B. (1957) Religion And Science • Shermer, M. (2006) The Soul of Science • Stanton, E.C. (1922) Dare To Question • Teller, Woolsey (1932) The Atheism Of Astronomy • White, A. (1936) The Warfare of Science With Theology • Wilpert, L. (2006) Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief