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THE WORST STORY EVER TOLD
Wayne Everett Orgar
Now that baseball season is well underway, I begin to see those John 3:16 banners on my TV screen, displayed in front of various seating levels. I wonder if the banner promoters really think that people, upon seeing John 3:16, will flip furiously though their dust covered Bibles, read it, drop to their knees and convert. I suspect it is more of an opportunistic "in your face" religious expression rather than a genuine attempt to communicate concern for lost souls.
It's time to revisit the theme of John 3:16 and its implications. For the moment, assume that the Christian god exists and that there is some way to prove that only this one god exists. Focus on the gospel story that has been put forth as this god's plan for humanity. I think it is a terrible story. The story shows no wisdom, originality, love, or understanding of humans and the future. I don't see how any person could find this story of any value.
The gospel story promotes a deliberate plan by this god to establish an eternal punishment for humans. This punishment is given to humans who don't believe in this god and this god's son. No justification is given as to why it has to be this way. This is not love. It is unnecessary cruelty. I can't imagine a better example of hate-speech than to tell someone that they deserve eternal punishment. Using derogatory ethnic terms pales in comparison to this kind of speech. Also, even if you behaved badly for 80 years, an unequal punishment for eternity is not morally just. I am glad we do not get our understanding of justice from the Bible.
The gospel story promotes a deliberate plan by this god to save humans from this eternal punishment. This god will send its son to earth to die. To quote John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. The premise was that the son of god was a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. This theology is nothing new. The theme of a son of god or intermediary who is an atonement for sin can be found in Hellenistic philosophical/religious writings that pre-date this story.
This god gave nothing. The gospel story says that the son went back into heaven after physically dying. Nothing was sacrificed. A true sacrifice minimally requires giving up something forever that you value for the sake of something else. The son of god did not value his human body. "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing...," John 6:63. According to the gospel story, the son of god got his physical body back at the resurrection. So, nothing of value was lost and it was not a permanent loss. It was not a sacrifice. The son of god could always return to earth as a human, so not even the capability of being human was lost. The alleged execution only looked like a sacrifice. The premise is false.
With regard to the suffering in the story of the crucifixion, the son of god did not suffer more than all the other undeserving humans who were executed in similar fashion. I would argue that the son of god suffered less than most since his legs were not broken to hasten death and he supposedly expired quicker than most anyway. All of this points to a typical execution with probably less suffering than what other humans experienced. So, there was no sacrifice and the suffering was not more than what other humans had experienced. Within the context of this part of the gospel story, the son of god actually did nothing special beyond what humans have done.
The story tells us that this son of god would preach of god's plan of salvation to only certain humans in a very small area of the planet. These few humans would go into all the world to tell others and expect that other humans would just believe these supernatural stories without seeing them firsthand.
Do you think it is a good idea to just believe supernatural stories? Would you simply believe a story about someone that was killed and came to life? Is it fair to expect and demand that humans believe the word of a stranger? Is it fair to provide first-hand evidence to a few but not to all humans? Do you think it is right to not give everyone equal evidence? Is it righteous to punish humans for the skepticism that they were supposedly created with? Most people would answer no.
According to the story, the people who supposedly saw these things first-hand didn't understand. Worse than that, only a certain few were supposed to understand. In Mark 4:11 and 12 we read: And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. To use parables to confuse or hide meaning is despicable, especially if the intended result is to avoid salvation. Is this a good plan? Does this show love for humanity?
How was this way out of eternal punishment supposed to be communicated to the rest of the people of that time and the rest of us after that time? According to Mark 16:15, 16, and 20: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned... And they went forth, and preached everywhere...
This interpolated passage is not true. Most of the apostles hung out near Jerusalem according to the story. Paul covered parts of the eastern Mediterranean. The disciples waited for 50 days after the alleged resurrection to start preaching after the Pentecost. Why wait while so many would perish? This god's plan relied on a group of humans who according to the story did not even go into all of the known world, much less "everywhere." The slow travel of this period could not allow this. Since this god knew in advance that this would happen, the plan was not designed to give the saving message to humans before they would perish. How cruel! This god did not send a messenger to all of the millions of people who have ever wondered about a god and the existence of an afterlife, the way he supposedly sent Philip to the Ethiopian man in Gaza (Acts 8:26-39). Was this fair and compassionate?
According to the gospel, some humans purposely got a first-hand demonstration of the power of Jesus while others got a second-hand telling with an occasional miracle or two. Eventually, others got a third or fourth-hand written account with just stories of miracles. The best we can get now is Pat Robertson and the Pope who can't perform a miracle to save their lives. I guess the power of the Holy Spirit just runs out after 2,000 years. Is it fair to intentionally provide unequal evidence?
A better idea would have been for the son of god to stay on earth for a few thousand years, performing miracles and preaching to all the world. Being supernatural, the son of god could have covered much more ground than even 10,000 apostles could. Being a deity, the son of god could have preached everywhere simultaneously. What was the rush to get back to heaven, anyway? A few thousand years on earth would be a drop in the bucket to the son of god. Since miracles were allegedly performed by the son of god to encourage belief, think how much more a host of angels could accomplish spreading the message with the son of god. Think of how many more humans could have been saved from this eternal punishment. Where is the compassion in this plan?
This god did not know about other continents like North America or Australia. Maybe this is why Joseph Smith fabricated the story of Jesus coming to North America. He and the Mormons wanted to save Christianity from some of this embarrassment. I guess the Australians would have to fend for themselves a while longer. Any day now, I expect to hear about a new Christian sect that claims that Jesus lived among the aboriginal people of Australia.
This is nothing compared to the irresponsible behavior of the son of god after the supposed resurrection. Forget WWJD! If I had been Jesus, I would have cared enough to go back to the Roman and Jewish authorities after the resurrection. This would show my power over death and show the truth of my teachings. Then these events could be written down immediately and in varied and unbiased sources for all time. It was absurd for the son of god to slink around in the shadows and allegedly appear to only those that he knew would not document the most important event for humanity. This was a scared and useless savior.
Even assuming a god of minimal power, it would have taken nothing for a deity to cause one of the many historians of the early first century to simply mention once the all-important name of Jesus. "Hey Philo, are you getting any of this down?" probably would have sufficed! What kind of a plan is it to rely on the vague and mystical language of Paul in letters written over 20 years later, a few of which were forged? What kind of plan is it to rely on disparate gospel stories from lost original manuscripts by anonymous authors starting after 70 CE? Even if you believe this story to be true, it shows no compassion for humanity or a desire of this god to tell the world of the wonderful plan of salvation. If you really want and need to believe in a god and an afterlife, I encourage you to seek a god that shows foresight, fairness, and love.
A few Christians who have written to me have admitted that the gospel story did not make sense. However, they thought that god or Jesus did not have to conform to our expectations and could not be evaluated by human reason and experience. This is not a good position for a Christian to take. It is intellectual anarchy at best and at worst, it results in an immoral double standard. It results in the inability to evaluate any supernatural/religious claim if we can not use reason. Does the Taliban really demonstrate love? How can we evaluate the Taliban except through human reason? Christians use intellectual anarchy to justify their own beliefs but they will not allow other religions to do the same. This is an immoral double standard. Buddhism makes no sense to Christians and they reject it as being untrue. But wait, we can not evaluate Buddhism according to human reason. We have to accept it as true because it made sense to Buddha! Substitute any religion that you like. All religions become true.
All ideas are not good ideas. All ideas, even religious ideas (I would say especially), should be subjected to examination through human reason and understanding. It is a matter of fairly applying the same standards of evaluation to the claims of Christianity that Christians have used for other supernatural claims. There is no free pass for Christianity.
August 2003 - For those Christians who claim to get their moral guidance from the Bible, I point out the words of the alleged Jesus: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12, KJV). The only moral way is to allow others to evaluate your religion using the same standards that you use to evaluate other religions, i.e. evidence and human reason rather than accepting faith and subjective experience as demonstrating the truth of the other person's religion. Chrisitanity is indicative of over a century of human writers with a fertile imagination and age-old superstitious beliefs rather than a story of a supernatural intelligence that came to earth with a plan and a new message of love for all humans. Christianity deserves no respect in the marketplace of ideas.