Christianity Stifles the Search for God

Richard CarrierIn the following 12 minute conversation (really more of a monologue), Richard Carrier explains why he is not a Christian. One of the reasons that I really like Carrier is that he isn’t an idiot. Unlike most atheists, I feel that he would understand where I come from. I’m an atheist but I understand the purpose of religion and I think those unanswerable questions are the most important questions there are. As I always say, my thinking about these issues never leads to answers, but it does lead to better questions. And that’s all I want: more insightful questions.

When it comes to the issue of Christianity, I am a pretty typical atheist. Christianity is a pretty silly religion. I don’t say that to be mean. All of the Abrahamic religions are silly. Anyone who thinks that they really answer the fundamental existential questions must have a very primitive notion of what those questions are. The Bible answers the great questions as much as Hugard and Braue’s Expert Card Technique. Look, both of those books are great—there is no question of that. And I love them both for completely different reasons. But neither has helped me understand my existence, which is so improbable that it can be treated as a singularity. (On the other hand, the Bible has some great stories in it and ECT has some swell card tricks.)

Carrier presents four reasons why he isn’t a Christian. The first is that God is silent. This is the biggest reason for me. If God cared about us at all, why did send his only begotten son to a backwater and then expect word to travel? Was it all part of God’s plan that billions of people should burn in hell because they just happened to grow up learning a different religion? Really?! If that is really who God is, he is either so unknowable or so evil that he does not deserve to be worshiped. This is like Theology 101. And I has a question to all the Christians in the US, “Do you think it is a coincidence that you think Christianity is true and you just happened to be born in a country that is overwhelmingly Christian?” Come on!

The rest of Carrier’s reasons aren’t as compelling. The second is basically the argument from evil. Why does God allow so much evil. He follows these with the fact that the evidence for Christianity sucks and that if Christianity were true, we would live in a different universe—one more like that described in the Bible. Christians have arguments for all of this, of course. In fact, they have arguments for every objection that we atheists have. The problem is that as they counter arguments, it becomes clear that only a fool would worship such a god. He is perfectly good, but in a way that we can’t comprehend. That is to say that whatever the hell he does is by definition good, which is what I call evil. What’s more, he is omnipotent, but not so omnipotent that he could provide us with a universe without paradoxes. (Good example: can God create something that is so heavy he can’t lift it?)

As usual, I really want to talk to other people about the wonder that I feel about my existence. People who are into New Age stuff are usually cranks, but they are open minded. Christians, on the other hand, nine times out of ten, just want to quote Bible versus. But there are two problems. First, I already know what the Bible says. Second, I know that the Bible is no more written by God than is Don Quixote. So these people don’t really want to talk about God. They’re more akin to Amway salesmen. It’s sad, really. They have long given up looking for God. And thus, they are dead to him, her, or whatever the hell it might be.

0 thoughts on “Christianity Stifles the Search for God

  1. I’ll throw my 2 cents in, if you’re still interested.
    Just replying to your points – God has to be silent because of our lease on the world. Right now it’s under man’s domain. We have free will and have to ask for intersession, like praying for angels to protect us. And, one of the ways to get to ‘him’ is to get quiet enough to hear the still quiet voice within. I also believe he communicates, when we ask, by how we are able to hear, like through people or even a message in a song on the radio.
    I also think there’s evil in the world and it’s doing a great job of putting babble out there to confuse everyone.
    If you want an answer, keep reaching and seeking, knock and it will be open for you. Just because you didn’t get cookies that one time you prayed, doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist.
    Hope that helps,

  2. @Mary – Thanks for the thoughtful response. When we talk about God, we use metaphors–we can’t help it! You might say you listen to God’s quiet voice. I find eastern metaphors more compelling. I can’t really imagine how God would speak to me directly. However, I can see how I might be able to "plug into" God or wade into his "stream." I tend to think that all of this is the same. And this is why I generally think highly of New Age people, because we are either all right or we are all wrong.

    Just to be clear: my current position is that we are all wrong. But I’m quite prepared to be surprised. Finding myself at the pearly gates after I die (Not that I’d end up [i]there[/i]!) would be no more shocking than any other way that the universe works. The really great paradox of the universe is "Can God create an object so heavy he couldn’t pick it up?" is not actually a paradox.

    Regardless, it is always great to hear from believers who don’t freak out about my rants!

  3. C.S. Lewis and Terry Pratchett have a common theme that makes some sense to me. For C.S. Lewis, if a person faithfully follows the faith they learned, then they have earned their place in paradise; which place, according to Terry Pratchett’s recurring character, Death, is pretty much what you expect, whatever that is.
    I am a searcher rather than evangelical, but both these concepts have been useful for me. Personally, I think it is silly to think we will recognize whatever comes after as it is, by definition, outside of our experience. I guess I am getting old, because what comes after is of great interest to me now.

  4. @MDavis – Wow, such nice comments for what I thought was a fairly nasty article. I hope it isn’t that I’ve just been linked to on a Christian website, "This guy’s ripe for conversion!" :-)

    I did not know that about Lewis, but I’m not surprised. I’ve generally found his thinking on religion to be at least coherent and often compelling.

    We are by our very natures parochial creatures. So we can’t possibly understand the eternal. My thinking is that death is not a doorway but rather an irrelevance. If we are eternal, we must exist in some larger context where this reality is just a simple manifestation. This leads me to where I part company from most religious thinkers: I don’t see how my personality would have any relationship to my soul. But now we are getting a bit far afield.

    I think what we searchers are looking for is a route to the eternal, regardless of what its ultimate meaning is. And there are lots of paths toward that.

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