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Abandoning Christianity – My Reasons and My Journey

by Jeff Lewis

I was raised going to a Catholic church. I never quite agreed with all Catholic dogma and traditions, but I definitely considered myself a Christian. I continued my religious practices as I got older. In high school, I read the entire Bible, starting with Genesis all the way through to Revelation. I continued going to mass most Sundays throughout college, and even after college when I'd moved down to Texas on my own to start a new job. It's not that I never had any doubts, but religion gives you a huge incentive to not doubt it, what with the reward of heaven and the punishment of spending eternity in hell. There’s also the social stigma that goes along with doubting religion, not to mention the fact that as an impressionable child, you're told all these things as being true by authorities that you generally trust, and you don’t want to disappoint those people. So, it took me a while to get past all of that and actually look critically at my religion, including the Bible and Christian religious concepts in general.

Now that I have studied Christianity critically, I’ve come to the conclusion, to put it bluntly, that Christianity is not true. In this essay, I discuss my reasons for coming to this conclusion, and a bit about my personal journey in abandoning Christianity.

I have two notes before getting started. First, on Biblical verses, unless otherwise noted, all verses are quoted from the New International Version [1]. Second, as an atheist, I obviously doubt much of what’s in the Bible. However, rather than use the cumbersome wording of ‘supposedly’ every time I mention something from the Bible, I’ll just refer to it matter of factly, and trust that the reader won’t confuse this for an admission of certainty that these supposed events did indeed happen.

Should a Christian Question Their Religion, or What Makes Christianity Special

The first topic I’ll address wasn’t actually the first issue that made me start to question my religion, but it makes for a good starting point for this essay. And that is, why was I even a Christian to begin with? Out of all the religions in the world, why choose Christianity in particular? A similar way to word this would be to ask, if I had been born to non-Christian parents in a non-Christian country, and raised to believe in a different religion, is there anything about Christianity that would convince me to convert to it? I realize this is a very open-ended question, but I think it is a very important issue, especially considering that some people think it’s heretical to question Christianity at all.

Converting others is an important aspect of Christianity (not only did Jesus tell his followers to, but if you believe that acceptance of Christ is the only way to be saved, and you’re also supposed to be good and kind to everybody, it would follow that you should try to convince them to accept Christ so that they can be saved, too). But part of that means expecting people of other religions to question their assumptions and beliefs. If you expect that of other people, why should it not be expected also of Christians?

If you truly believe that Christianity is correct, and you expect people of other religions to be convinced to convert to Christianity, abandoning whatever religion it was they practiced beforehand, then there must be some compelling reasons. There shouldn’t be any danger for a Christian to question their religion and study it critically, since that’s exactly what’s expected of non-Christians. If Christianity is true, and these compelling reasons exist, then critical study should only provide a Christian with further evidence that reinforces their belief.

I think it’s important to bring this up as the first topic in this essay, because it points out that when given the choice between two options, one Christian and one non-Christian, no special concessions should have to be made for the Christian argument. One should be able to approach the choice with an open mind, and choose the option that seems more likely – not approach the choice with a preconception that the Christian option is almost surely right, and put a huge burden of proof on the other option, or to go through a huge amount of rationalization to maintain that the Christian option is right. If one needs to approach the choice “with blinders on,” then that argument for Christianity isn’t very compelling.

There’s one thing I would like to note here about those compelling reasons. I think it’s important that they should be more than just faith, or a vague sense of having felt God’s presence. How many people in religions besides Christianity have just as strong a faith? How many people in those other religions have had similar spiritual experiences, and were convinced that was evidence of their religion. I’ve watched documentaries of tribal shamans driving themselves into trance-like states, where they’re convinced that they’re communicating with their gods [2]. What makes their experience worth any less than a Christian supposedly sensing the Holy Spirit?

Emotional Reasons for Remaining Christian

I’ve noticed that the arguments that many people use for remaining Christian aren’t logical at all, but emotional. In other words, they don’t address whether or not God actually exists, but only how the thought of God’s existence affects how they feel, which I will discuss below.

Meaning of Life, Where Did Everything Come From [3]

One emotional reason for some people is that they feel God gives their life meaning, and that life would therefore be meaningless without God. To address this, one must first ask what the meaning would be if a god existed. Some would say that our purpose is to worship God, and do as he wishes. That’s simply obedience. Those people may go on to say that we’re part of God’s plan, and we have a meaning in God’s plan. That would make our meaning in life the fancy of a deity. For either of those cases, it still raises the question of why God decided on a particular plan or why (as I’ll address later) he decided on a particular set of rules. And further, it assumes that following a deity’s wishes does indeed provide a profound meaning.

Perhaps another way to look at this is to wonder why there is something rather than nothing. Hypothesizing that a god created the universe doesn’t answer the question, because a god is still a something , so there’s still the question of where a god came from in the first place. After I’d already come to the decision that I was no longer Christian, I found a short quote from the philosopher Bertrand Russell that summed up this sentiment quite nicely, “It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu's view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, ‘How about the tortoise?’ the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’ ”

If we say that everything that exists had to have a cause, then it logically follows that deities would also require a cause. If we’re willing to make an exception for deities, how do we justify that exception, and why do we not grant that exception to anything else? And remember, we’re still not exactly sure what came before the big bang, or if that question even makes any sense. It is possible that the universe is itself infinite, repeating big bangs every few trillion years. It’s also possible that there’s a universe nursery, creating big bang after big bang in a grand multiverse. To be honest, we just don’t know, but introducing a deity into the equation doesn’t ultimately solve anything. Even if the deity did exist, it merely shifts the question one step back.

Going back to the original question of this section, if we can’t explain where a god came from, why that god exists in the first place, or why that god has the particular properties it does, what meaning does it add to our existence to say that we’re supposed to serve that god and follow its wishes?

Accountability for Our Actions

Yet another emotional reason that people seem to have for belief in God is based on morality. There are two aspects to this that I am going to cover in this essay – using Christianity as a basis for morality, and accountability for our actions. I’ll cover the former aspect in more detail in a later section, but I’d like to address the accountability aspect here, or more precisely, whether thinking that they’re accountable to God actually makes people behave more morally. But first, I suppose we should define “morality.”

Let me start by saying that the ideas presented in this paragraph were originally inspired from the essay by the philosopher, Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian [4]. So although some of this is my own thought, much of this paragraph is simply paraphrasing Russell’s idea, and then adding my own examples. The issue is what constitutes a moral action? Are certain acts inherently good or bad, or are they good or bad merely because God says so? If actions are inherently good or bad, then we can determine some standards by which to judge people’s actions, and by those same standards, we could also judge God’s actions. If morality is determined by divine edict, then the claim that “God is good” really doesn’t mean all that much, since God’s the one that gets to define “good.” “Good” and “bad” would be entirely subjective to the whims of God. To paraphrase a comment I once read on the Internet, God could tell one person to step on a crack, and tell the next person not to, and if they both stepped on the crack, one would be a good person and the other would be bad. (To say that God wouldn’t do that, because he’s good, is admitting that there is a concept of good and bad outside of God.) Or, to use an example from the Bible, in the 4th chapter of Genesis, God is clearly upset with Cain for him having killed Abel, showing that he disapproves of murder (even though he won’t directly issue the commandment against it until Exodus). But when he commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, Abraham is expected to carry out that command, and not question the fact that he was just told to kill an innocent person. The fact that God stopped him at the last moment doesn’t change the motivations or actions of Abraham – he was ready and willing to kill his son.[5]

So, if you consider good morality to be following every last command of God to the “t,” and you believe in the Christian God, then no, a person can’t be moral unless they’re a Christian. But let’s look at a definition that’s a little bit looser. For the sake of this argument, let’s define good morality as following the Golden Rule – doing for other people what you’d like them to do for you. Throughout the entire world, there are people that live by this philosophy, Christian and non-Christian alike. There are entire nations where Christianity is either a minority religion, or even practically non-existent, where people would be considered moral under this definition [6].

There was a study by Gregory S. Paul, titled "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies", published in the Journal of Religion and Society [7]. It shows the correlation between the number of people in a nation that believe in and worship a creator, versus different problems that that nation faces. To quote the study,

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies... The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a 'shining city on the hill' to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health.

Although “a creator” does not necessarily mean the Christian God, so some of the respondents may have been practicing other religions, the surveys were conducted primarily in countries where Christianity was the majority religion. And Christianity is certainly the majority religion in the United States. I know statistics can be taken many different ways, correlation is not causation, and there are certainly many factors contributing to problems in the U.S. But, what I think is important to take away from this study in regards to this discussion, is that the more "Godless" nations are not doing any worse than the religious nations in terms of "societal health," and in fact could actually be considered to be doing better. By this measure, Christianity does not necessarily lead to higher morality, and as demonstrated with the actual evidence of this study, abandoning Christianity certainly doesn’t lead to the moral collapse of society.

Remaining Christian to Avoid Hell

One of the biggest emotional reasons, and one which would have the most dire consequences if the God of the Bible existed, is the fear of eternal damnation to hell. This is a very hard reason to argue against logically, since it’s instilled into most Christians from the time of early childhood, and because the potential outcome carries such high stakes. This particular emotional obstacle was the hardest for me to overcome, personally. However, looking at it logically, if Christianity is false, then this is an empty threat. Also, Christianity is far from the only religion that requires belief in its deity lest you be punished. Islam, the second most popular, and currently the fastest growing, religion in the world (at least, according to some studies [8]), requires that you follow that particular religion if you don’t want to spend eternity in hell, and there are countless other religions with their own versions of hell. So if the threat of eternal damnation is what’s inspiring you to remain religious, and considering that other religions carry the same threat, perhaps it would be a good idea to look at the other reasons that you’ve chosen that religion, so that you can be really sure that you’ve chosen the right one. (This is commonly referred to as the “avoiding the wrong hell” problem.)

Biblical Contradictions [9]

Rejecting the Bible as being divinely inspired was one of the major events leading to my abandonment of Christianity, and internal contradictions within the Bible were one of the major reasons that I rejected the Bible as being divinely inspired.

There are many, many numerical contradictions in the Bible, places where events are mentioned in multiple places in the Bible, and small details like the age of when a king started his reign, or the number of soldiers in an army, will be different between the different versions. Just to give one example, in the King James Version of the Bible, 1 Kings 4:26 says, “And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots…” while 2 Chronicles 9:25 says, “And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots…” [10] Yes, these are just small differences, probably due to scribes making mistakes during copying or translation, but there are many of them, and it definitely illustrates that not every word in every translation of the Bible is necessarily accurate. And these are the errors that have shown up in surviving manuscripts. None of the original manuscripts still exist, so how can we know which words might have been copied erroneously early on, and propagated to all current versions of the Bible that we have? For a book supposedly inspired by an omnipotent god, any errors should cause one to question the validity of the supposed inspiration.

Moving away from the minor contradictions, there are still numerous contradictions of more importance. These actually affect the meaning of certain passages in non-trivial ways. Obviously, with as many people that have studied the Bible over the centuries, these contradictions haven’t gone unnoticed. People have come up with rationalizations to try to explain them, but some of these rationalizations seem pretty outlandish. In light of the discussion earlier in this essay, I do not think that a person should have to go through such mental gymnastics – if Christianity is true, and especially if the Bible is divinely inspired, the evidence in favor of it should be compelling.

One of the contradictions that seems least ambiguous to me is whether people will be punished for the actions of their parents. Numerous passages deal with this topic, but I’ll just look at two in particular. Exodus 20:5-6 states, "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments." Compare that to Ezekiel 18:19-20, which states, "Yet you ask, 'Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?' Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him." I have never seen a good rationalization to reconcile this contradiction.

Moving to the New Testament, another contradiction concerns what is necessary for one’s salvation: actions, faith alone, or some combination? (Other passages also mention baptism.) Consider Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Compare this to 2 Thessalonians 1:8, “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus [emphasis mine].” There are several other such passages that agree with either one of these two.

Morality of the Bible

I briefly discussed morality above, and said that I would return to examining the Bible as a guide to morality. This also covers an argument I’ve heard, that practicing Christianity, even if untrue, would result in being a better person. This section will obviously require, as was done above, that we use a definition of morality outside of, “God commanded it.”

The first area I’ll discuss is slavery. Although this is not a contemporary issue, I think it is a moral issue that most people can agree upon – slavery is bad. To treat another person as property, as opposed to a rational, thinking, feeling being, is just plain wrong. If the Bible were a good guide to morality, one would think that it would condemn this practice, especially considering all the mundane aspects of life for which it does have rules. In fact, during the Civil War, many southerners used Bible verses as a defense for slavery. [11]

Some people have tried to argue that the Bible does not condone slavery, but rather that since slavery was so entrenched in society at that time, the Biblical rules were meant to prevent the mistreatment of slaves. This argument seems very weak to me, as there would be no reason for an omnipotent god to be worried about the social conventions of any particular time. Others have argued that the Bible is not referring to slavery in the same sense as what occurred in recent history in the U.S., but more as indentured servitude (in many versions of the Bible, “slave” has been translated as “servant.”). While it is true that some Hebrews did become indentured servants, there were also true slaves in the modern sense. They were definitely treated differently than free men. There are actually quite a few passages in the Bible that deal with slavery, but I think it will only take a few to illustrate the intentions of the writers.

First, consider the following two passages from Leviticus, the first dealing with how to punish someone for killing “a man,” and the second dealing with how to punish someone for killing a slave. Exodus 21:12 states, “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.” While Exodus 21:20-21 states, “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.” Notice that the Bible only says that a man should be “punished” for killing a slave, not “put to death.” Granted, it could be argued that the implied punishment is death, but consider the latter part of the passage. As long as the beating isn’t so severe that the slave can’t walk after a couple days, then the Bible says that there was nothing wrong with what the person did. (Some translations, such as the King James Version, don’t even mention recovery. They say that the slave must merely survive for a day or two after the beating, after which it would seem okay if the person died.) And finally, notice that the Bible specifically identifies the slave as property.

As I wrote above, there was a distinction in the Bible between Hebrew slaves and foreign slaves. Hebrew slaves were to be released after six years. The following passage gives some rules on how to treat Hebrew slaves:

If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,' then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. (Leviticus 21:2-6)

Notice what type of freedom the “servant” has. If he gets married while serving his master, his wife and children will belong to the master, and will not be permitted to go with the man when he gains his freedom. If he wishes to stay with his family, he must pledge his life to his master, remaining his “servant” for the rest of his life.

There are many other passages of the Bible dealing with slavery, but I think just these few illustrate clearly enough the Biblical position on slavery. Slaves were considered property. It was permissible to treat them differently than free men. A master could beat a slave to within an inch of their life, as long as he didn’t kill them (or according to some translations, as long as they lingered for a few days before dying). And even if he did kill them, the punishment wasn’t as bad as if he had killed a free man. I think this certainly calls into question using the Bible as a basis for morality.

To move on, let’s look at the morality of some of the acts that God has demanded of the Jews. There are numerous cases of genocide in the Bible, where God has commanded his followers to destroy entire cities – men, women, children, and even infants. Consider the following passage:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' (Exodus 21:5-6)

Next, consider this passage, where God commands the destruction of 60 entire cities:

Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan with his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei. The LORD said to me, "Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon."

So the LORD our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors. At that time we took all his cities. There was not one of the sixty cities that we did not take from them—the whole region of Argob, Og's kingdom in Bashan. All these cities were fortified with high walls and with gates and bars, and there were also a great many unwalled villages. We completely destroyed them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying every city—men, women and children. But all the livestock and the plunder from their cities we carried off for ourselves.” (Deuteronomy 3:1-7)

And for the last genocide that will be mentioned here (although certainly not the last of the cases in the Bible), consider this passage, which not only advocates mass murder, but also keeping virgin girls so that the men could have their way with them. This is not a direct quote from God, but Moses acting as the leader of the Israelites, telling them what to do. Considering that just a few verses later, God spoke to Moses, and only spoke of dividing the spoils of war, not condemning these actions, it does not appear that God had a problem with what the Israelites did.

‘Have you allowed all the women to live?’ he asked them. ‘They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.’ (Numbers 31:15-18)

I’ve used these examples of God commanding massacres, as opposed to ones like the Passover story from Exodus [12] where God caused the deaths directly, because it could be argued that when God killed all of the first born sons of Egypt, it was through divine intervention, so it’s possible that the deaths were quick and painless, even if it still seems cruel by our standards. But that’s not what happened in these passages. To put all of these acts into proper perspective, imagine a situation similar to the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in the 1990’s. These were murders carried out by soldiers with knives, swords and spears. These were messy, bloody, cruel affairs.

While not on the same scale as the above genocides, consider the following passage where God sent bears to kill 42 youths, for a crime that doesn’t appear to be a very bad one. This passage, while not stating it explicitly, certainly seems to suggest that God himself sent those two bears to kill those people.

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria. (2 Kings 2:23-25)

And for the final example that I will include in this essay, I ask the reader to consider the entire book of Job. To win a wager with Satan, God allowed Satan to torment Job. First Satan took away all of Job's possessions, then he afflicted him with sores from head to foot, that made him suffer so much that he wished his life would end. But Job remained faithful to God the entire time. In the end, God finally did give everything back to Job, but one must certainly question the reason for the whole ordeal in first place. (To the people who like to say that God always answers every prayer, and sometimes the answer is “no,” or that everything has a purpose that is a part of God’s plan, you could add that sometimes the plan is just that God wants to win a bet.)

Purpose of Jesus’ Death & Resurrection, Animal Sacrifice

Before I started to question my religion, the purpose of Jesus seemed clear: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV) There is still some debate among Christians as to whether people are saved through faith alone, or also through actions, but the majority view seems to be that acceptance of Christ is certainly one of the requirements.

However, having admitted to myself that I doubt Christianity, the entire logic of Christ dying for our salvation just doesn’t seem to make sense. What is the point of an all-powerful God sending his son to be crucified, and then being resurrected and ascending into heaven? How does this crucifixion forgive humanity of all of their sins? Why was it necessary? I can understand the symbolic meaning of God (or at least part of God) becoming human to show that he shares in our suffering, and I can even understand Jesus being an example as to how to live our lives (even if I personally don’t agree with all of the moral teachings [13]), but I just do not understand the necessity of the crucifixion and resurrection, and how this act has forgiven humanity of their sins.

Some people talk of Christ’s death as the ultimate sacrifice. The role of sacrifice in the Bible had always given me an unsettling feeling when I was a Christian – why would an all-powerful god be concerned with blood sacrifice? I understand the symbolism of sacrifice – to show your devotion to God by giving up something precious to you, and the Bible does talk of non-animal sacrifices, such as grain, that by themselves would go along with that concept. But there are other passages which deal with the actual killing of animals, and in particular blood, that seem to indicate that it’s more than just this symbolic gesture that makes a sacrifice important. Consider the story of Cain and Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. (Genesis 4:2-5)

This story definitely seems to indicate that it was animal sacrifice that God preferred.

I won’t go into an exhaustive discussion for the evidence of this, but I will list a few passages of the Bible that confirm that it was actually animal sacrifice and blood that God was after, and not just symbolically giving up something precious.

  • “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.” (Leviticus 17:11)
  • “If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He is to present the bull at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it before the LORD. Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull's blood and carry it into the Tent of Meeting. He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the LORD, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary. The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense that is before the LORD in the Tent of Meeting. The rest of the bull's blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering—the fat that covers the inner parts or is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the covering of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys- just as the fat is removed from the ox sacrificed as a fellowship offering. Then the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the inner parts and offal- that is, all the rest of the bull—he must take outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown, and burn it in a wood fire on the ash heap.” (Leviticus 4:3-12)
  • “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.’ ” (Genesis 8:20-21)

These are far from the only passages in the Bible that deal with animal sacrifice, but I think they show quite clearly that the Bible presents a God desiring animal sacrifices. The passage from Leviticus is much ado about nothing if the sacrifice was merely a symbolic gesture (and many passages from Leviticus are just as detailed in how to perform these animal sacrifices). And the passage about Noah (and several unmentioned passages in Leviticus and Numbers) makes it clear that God finds the smell of burnt sacrifices to be pleasing.

One must wonder, what is it about animal sacrifice that would be so pleasing to an all-powerful god? He has the power to do anything he wants, so there can’t be anything about a mystical power of blood. And he’s omniscient, so he knows what’s in people’s hearts, whether they’re truly sorry for their sins, or truly grateful for what he’s provided, so it would seem like a sacrifice is superfluous. So why the demand for blood? It seems to me that this sacrifice is a relic from a more primitive tradition from which Judaism evolved.

So, if people are going to argue that Jesus’ crucifixion was some type of perfect sacrifice, this seems to indicate that God did indeed want animal sacrifices. But because they were merely animals, their blood wasn’t good enough. What was truly needed to forgive the sins of all of humanity was the blood of God incarnate. I don’t think many Christians actually feel this way, but from the way sacrifice is presented in the Old Testament, I don’t think it’s very easy to argue for Jesus’ death being merely a symbolic sacrifice. No matter what way you look at it, I still fail to see the logic behind Christ’s death being a necessity for humanity’s forgiveness, and I fail to see why God would demand animal sacrifices in the first place.

Science, Evolution, & the Age of the Universe

I want to briefly touch on the topics of evolution, and the age of the earth and the universe. First, let me note that acceptance of the scientific consensus on these issues does not necessarily, or even usually, lead to the rejection of Christianity. Many, many people have found ways to reconcile this scientific knowledge with their religion. I had found ways to rationalize this knowledge with the stories of Genesis, so these issues in and of themselves would not have lead me to abandon Christianity had I not studied some of the other issues that are noted in this essay. However, these discrepancies did sow the first seeds of doubt in my mind, and are issues that many Christians, particularly fundamentalists, seem to have a problem with, so I will address them briefly. And the way I will address them is to give a very brief description of how science works.

Science is a method to answer questions about our universe. Based on the evidence that you have, you come up with a way to explain it. Then, you figure out ways to test if your explanation is right or wrong. If the new evidence fits with your explanation, you figure out new ways to further test your idea. If the evidence doesn’t fit, then you work on coming up with a new explanation. (I’d like to avoid semantics, since these words carry different meanings in science than in everyday language, and their distinctions in science are more shades of grey that haven’t been totally agreed upon, as opposed to absolutes that can be rigidly defined, but to put it in terms that people will recognize from their grade school science classes, when you first come up with your explanation before you’ve done any testing, it’s referred to as a hypothesis, and then once your explanation has a little more to back it up, it’s referred to as a theory. However, in many instances as used popularly, theory and hypothesis are interchangeable. That’s why, for example, referring to the “Theory of Evolution” is not necessarily implying doubt that evolution occurs, while “String Theory” is still hotly contested.)

So, while the scientific method never gives absolute certainty about anything, what is done is to build evidence to increase your confidence about an explanation. And even after you have a fair level of confidence in your explanation, it’s always possible that some new evidence may come along that forces you to rethink that explanation. That’s not a shortcoming – it’s keeping an open mind. And in your course of finding all this evidence, you may be presented with new questions that need their own explanations.

A very good example, that isn’t controversial so nobody should have a problem considering this, is atomic theory. Let’s look specifically at the electron. Three hundred years ago, nobody even had a concept that electrons existed. Throughout the 1800's, electrical charges and some of the fundamentals of nuclear physics were beginning to be understood. In 1897, J.J. Thompson performed his famous experiments that gave us much more knowledge of the nature of the electron. Later, Niels Bohr gave us the "solar system" model of an atom, which said that electrons orbit the nucleus, like tiny planets orbiting a sun. The solar system model has since been shown to be too simplistic, and has been replaced by electrons having probability valences instead of fixed orbits. Additionally, new subatomic particles have been theorized and discovered that are even smaller than electrons. But, even though the solar system model wasn’t exactly correct, it was still more accurate than simply thinking of material as a solid lump (also known as the plum pudding model), and the valence theory that replaced it didn’t call into question the existence of electrons. So you can see how this scientific process has brought us closer to the truth of what an electron is, being revised along the way, while at the same time opening up questions about even smaller particles.

Some people argue that despite any evidence, since nobody has directly observed things such as the early history of the earth, we can’t be positive about what has happened. A common tactic these people use when dealing with someone talking about evolution is to ask them, “Were you there?” (Answers in Genesis is one such organization that uses this tactic. [14]) A good analogy that shows how we can have confidence in something without observing it directly is court trials. When a case goes to trial, neither the judge nor the jury were ever at the scene of the crime. They must make their decision based on the evidence presented to them by the lawyers. And they are able to make their decisions “without any reasonable doubt,” based on the evidence alone. They certainly have enough confidence in their evidence based decisions to send people to jail for life, and in some cases to even sentence people to death.

I’ve spent a little more space on this than I’d intended writing about science, but like I said, evolution and the age of the universe sowed those original seeds of doubt in my mind, so I think it’s important to show why I can be so confident in those concepts. I will not use this essay to go into detail on the evidence for those concepts, but I will say that there is enough evidence that these things can be accepted beyond a reasonable doubt [15]. If it were a court trial, there would definitely be a conviction. As far as evolution, while all of the exact lineages may not be known, and our understanding of the exact mechanisms driving evolution may still be incomplete (i.e. punctuated equilibrium, gradualism, & genetic drift, just to name a few), there really is no serious doubt that evolution has occurred, is occurring, and will continue to occur, and that evolution explains how all of the life on this planet, including humans, is descended from common ancestors that were alive billions of years ago. Similarly, the ages of the Earth and the universe may not be known exactly, but we can say with a very high degree of confidence that the Earth is around 4 ˝ billion years old, and with slightly less confidence that the Big Bang occurred somewhere around 13 billion years ago.

There are two final, related points about science vs. religion that I would like to address in this essay. Some people seem to believe that certain scientific theories, like evolution, or the Big Bang, were invented so that scientists could have an explanation for these things that didn’t include God. That’s not the case. It’s impossible to speak for the intentions of every individual scientist, but in general, scientific theories are invented as the best possible explanation for the evidence, period. And no matter what the intentions of the original person to propose the theory, the theory itself is accepted or rejected in the scientific community based on the evidence. In fact, prior to the theory of evolution, creationism was the dominant scientific theory for how life came to be on this planet, and it was the evidence that swayed most scientists to accept the theory of evolution.

The related point that I’d like to discuss is how some people feel that science and religion are in conflict. There may be something to this, but it’s not because scientists are intentionally trying to disprove religion, or because there necessarily needs to be a conflict between the two. Suppose your religion said that lightning bolts are the sparks created when Thor strikes his hammer against an anvil, while science says that lightning bolts are the result of static electricity in clouds. In that case, there would indeed be a conflict between the scientific explanation and your religious one. Similarly, if your interpretation of Christianity says that the entire universe was created in six days a few thousand years ago, this is certainly at odds with what the scientific evidence tells us. But it was not because scientists approached these issues trying to disprove Norse mythology or Christianity. Any conflicts that do exist between scientific explanations and religious ones are not because of an intentional attempt at disproving religion, but usually because the religious explanations don’t fit the evidence. And like I wrote above, many people have found ways to reconcile these conflicts by interpreting their religion in different ways, such as figurative or allegorical interpretations of the Bible, like I had myself, so science does not necessarily lead to the rejection of religion.

Questions About the World Around Us

I wrote above that science and religion do not necessarily conflict, but in many instances, science has taken on the role of answering questions for which people used to turn to religion. People have a desire to understand why things happen. Whether this is because we’re a social animal, and need to understand the actions of the people around us, or because we’re a technological animal, and need to understand the consequences of our interactions with the environment, or because of some combination of the two, or because of some other reason altogether, I don’t know. But the fact remains that we have a deep desire to understand the cause and effect of the things we see happening around us. In the absence of scientific knowledge, many peoples in the past (and even still in the present) have turned to religious explanations. This is obvious in tribal superstitions, and religions like Greek mythology, but I think it applies to many of the stories from the Bible, as well. In fact, when I was still a Christian, I found many of these stories unsettling, because of their likeness to “just-so” fables. Let’s take a look at just a handful of these questions, and compare the answers that science gives us, to the answers that one might get from a literal reading of the Bible.

  • What causes rainbows?
    Science - It’s caused by diffraction of light rays as they pass through water droplets.
    Bible – They’re a sign of the promise God made to Noah that he would never again cause a global flood (Genesis 9:8-17).
  • Where did people come from?
    Science – Through evolution, over countless generations, due to slight differences between each generation, life has branched from a common ancestor into all the forms we see today, including humans. We are just one branch on this great tree of life, distant cousins of every living organism on Earth.
    Bible – On the sixth day of creation, God made us in his image, as a special creation to rule over all the earth (Genesis 1:26). (The actual wording used when God expresses his wish to create man is, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” I wonder who he was talking to when he said “our.” Apologists will say it was the trinity, or possibly angels, but it seems more likely that it came from a pre-Jewish creation myth that included multiple gods, especially since God doesn’t refer to himself as “our” in other portions of the Bible.)
  • Why are there so many languages?
    Science – Because language changes slowly over time (compare the English of Shakespeare to the English of Mark Twain to the English of today), as groups of people spread across the Earth and became separated, the accumulation of these slight changes over the generations in the isolated populations eventually gave us all the languages we have today.
    Bible – God created all those different languages at the same time he destroyed the Tower of Babel, so that man would never again be able to organize to build such a tall structure (Genesis 11). (The Tower of Babel story also raises the question of why God would be upset by a tall building.)
  • Why do we get sick?
    Science – Most diseases are caused by various germs – bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Others are caused by poisons, while yet others are caused by malfunctions of our own bodies (like cancer).
    Bible – People get sick because they’re possessed by evil spirits. This is especially evident from the multitude of passages in the New Testament where Jesus or his followers cure people by exorcising the evil spirits (There are too many passages dealing with this to list them all, but Matthew 8:31 is a good example, which also shows cruelty to animals).
  • Why don’t snakes have any legs?
    Science – Through evolution, subsequent generations from an ancestral reptile gradually grew smaller and smaller legs to adapt to their environment (possibly an aquatic or subterranean habitat), until eventually their legs disappeared altogether (almost- some snakes still have vestigial hind limbs).
    Bible – Because the serpent tricked Eve into eating the apple, God cursed the snake to crawl on its belly and eat dust for the rest of its life (Genesis 3:14).

Can science answer everything? No. There are still areas that aren’t completely understood in science, and certain questions to which science may never have an answer. But just because science can’t tell me what’s going to happen to me after I die, that’s not a compelling reason to accept Christianity over any other religion, or even to accept any particular religion at all, for that matter.

Christianity in the Context of an Ancient Universe

One of the problems I’ve always had with Christianity is looking at it in the context of the age of the universe. Consider that the universe is around 13 billion years old (at least – the Big Bang may not have been the actual start of the universe, but rather a singularity, before which we can’t determine anything about how things existed), the Earth is 4 ˝ billion years old, and modern humans have been around for at least 100,000 years, possibly almost twice that, not to mention the precursor hominid species that were our ancestors. Why did God wait until around 6,000 years ago to reveal himself? And why was this revelation to a small herding society in the Middle East? And then why, after waiting 12 billion, 999 million, and 994 thousand years after the initial creation to reveal himself (or even 94,000 years after humans first appeared), was he so quick to make a new covenant just a few thousand years later? I realize that this isn’t exactly a fool-proof logical argument, since a god could have whatever reasons it wanted for doing the things it did, but it’s still troubling, none the less. And this argument can be applied to many religions besides Christianity – why have so many of them started within the past few thousand years when the universe is so ancient, and humans have been around for so long.

Inventing a Role for God / Human Arrogance

Christianity tells us that humanity was God’s ultimate goal for the universe, but once you get past the initial creation of the universe, science does give us a pretty good idea of how we came to be. From the initial expansion of the Big Bang, to the formation of the solar system, to abiogenesis, to evolution, science can help us understand where we came from. Since science can explain the mechanisms of how we came to be, that calls into question God’s role in the history of the universe, and puts him in the position of either front-loading the universe at the instant of the Big Bang (so that all of the atomic/chemical/physical reactions from that point on would result in humanity), or tinkering almost imperceptibly with the universe throughout history to guarantee the evolution of humanity. In other words, once the Big Bang occurred, God wasn’t really necessary for the evolution of humans (and as stated above, there’s really no logical reason to require God for the Big Bang, either), but to accept the science and still accept Christianity (like I did), actually requires the invention of mechanisms to allow for God, such as the two discussed above. Looking at this now as a non-Christian, this whole concept seems to be horribly conceited – to believe that the entire universe, in its almost unimaginable vastness and with its nearly incomprehensible age, should exist solely for the benefit of humanity.

Christianity in the Context of Prior Religions

Other than the conflict between science and a literal interpretation of the Bible, another big early influence that made me begin to question Christianity was studying religions that predated it. I will briefly discuss a few examples here.

Noah’s ark is one of the more famous stories from the Bible. It seems very likely, however, that the story is an adaptation of earlier stories, such as the well known Epic of Gilgamesh, and the earlier epic of Atrahasis, which is the earliest known version of the Mesopotamian flood-myth. These stories include the primary god becoming upset with humans and creating a flood to kill them all. Somehow, one man gets warning of the impending flood, and builds a ship before it comes. He takes his family and animals on the ship, and survives the flood which lasts for seven days in most of the myths, and 40 days in the Biblical version. Although there are differences between the various flood myths, there are clearly striking similarities, as well.

Many aspects of Jesus’ life can also be seen in earlier religions. The concept of a God-man, born of a human mother with a divine father, is certainly not unique to Christianity. Hercules is one of the more famous in popular culture. But there were others to which Jesus showed more similarities, including Osiris and Mithras, who were also supposed to have died and been reborn. In fact, so many religions include gods that were resurrected, that some people even use the term “life-death-rebirth deity” to describe these gods (although others argue that this term is too “Christian-centric,” since the resurrection aspect isn’t as important to other mythologies [16]). Osiris supposedly even had a Eucharist sacrament associated with him.

I would like to discuss Osiris a little more, since for me personally, learning about him planted one of the larger seeds of doubt when I was Christian. In the introduction to his translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, (starting on page li) E.A. Wallis Budge wrote,

This is the story of the sufferings and death of Osiris as told by Plutarch. Osiris was the god through whose suffering and death the Egyptians hoped that his body might rise again in some transformed or glorified shape, and to him who had conquered death and had become the king of the other world the Egyptian appealed in prayer for eternal life through his victory and power. In every funeral inscription known to us, from the pyramid texts down to the roughly-written prayers upon coffins of the Roman period, what is done for Osiris is done also for the deceased, the state and condition of Osiris are the state and condition of the deceased; in a word, the deceased is identified with Osiris. If Osiris liveth for ever, the deceased will live for ever; if Osiris dieth, then will the deceased perish.

Later in the XVIIIth, or early in the XIXth dynasty, we find Osiris called ‘the king of eternity, the lord of everlastingness, who traverseth millions of years in the duration of his life, the firstborn son of the womb of Nut, begotten of Seb, the prince of gods and men, the god of gods, the king of kings, the lord of lords, the prince of princes, the governor of the world, from the womb of Nut, whose existence is everlasting, Unnefer of many forms and of many attributes, Tmu in Annu, the lord of Akert, the only one, the lord of the land on each side of the celestial Nile.’

The first paragraph above shows the similarity in roles of Osiris and Jesus – that through their resurrection humans can attain eternal life. The second paragraph shows the similarity in how they are addressed in literature (although it’s conceivable how these lofty praises could be addressed to any powerful figure). Seeing some of the important traits of Jesus in a mythical figure that predates him certainly calls into question the source of those concepts in Christianity [17].

One note I will make on this, in case the reader wants to investigate this topic further, is that in my experience researching topics that cast doubt on Christianity, this area especially required extra care in doing research. It seems that many people, in an attempt to deny the basis of Christianity, are a little too eager to accept claims of previous gods sharing characteristics with Jesus. One must be careful to get information from a reputable source, and verify it from other reputable sources (this is good advice for information in general, but I think especially applicable to this subject). There are many websites which even have bulleted lists detailing the similarities between Christ and other gods, which would seem to indicate that Jesus was practically identical to these earlier gods. My experience in further research to the claims on these bulleted list type sites is that many of the claims are rather tenuous. There are still many similarities, and it seems that Judaism and Christianity did evolve from earlier religions, but the case is a little more complex than simple bulleted lists can do justice to, and not nearly as cut and dried as many of these lists would have it seem.

When I Finally Rejected Christianity

After a long period of reflection, I really had no logical reason to continue believing in God, no philosophical reason to require the existence of a god, and actually had several reasons to doubt the God of the Bible. It still took me a little while to get past the emotional aspect of it, particularly the fear of hell and the sense of disrespecting my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, but I finally just had to admit to myself, that the God of the Bible was an invention of people.

When I finally did admit this to myself, it came with a great sense of relief, while at the same time a great burden of responsibility. On the one hand, I no longer had to worry about all the numerous, and sometimes seemingly arbitrary, rules of the Bible. I could do yardwork on Sundays without fear of dishonoring the Sabbath; I could accept scientific theories on evolution and the origins of the universe without compromise; I could eat whatever food I felt like; I didn’t have to worry about my non-Christian friends going to hell; I no longer had to feel guilty about insisting on equal rights for gay people. But on the other hand, with no God, it means there’s no one watching out for us, and no promise of a perfect afterlife. For all of the people on this planet that are living in horrible conditions, there’s no God that’s going to make their lives better, or give them a reward in Heaven after they die. The only way that their condition is going to improve is if those of us with the means do something to help them. So, now that I’ve rejected Christianity, I feel a greater responsibility to help my fellow humans, since that’s the only help they’re going to get.

Once I admitted to myself that Christianity was a human invention, it was like a flood gate breaking open. It gave me a whole new perspective on life, and an outsider’s view on Christianity. I could see, almost with new eyes, all the logical compromises I had been making to myself to accept Christianity. For one thing, I could look at the Bible objectively, without the preconception that everything in it must be true, and see how it was written by a primitive people without much knowledge of the way the universe actually worked. Genesis made sense. I could now enjoy Biblical stories on the same level that people enjoy other mythology.

One emotional response that I had to be careful not to have was a sense of smugness. Reading what some ex-Christians & non-Christians have written on the Internet, there seems to be a sense, at least as far as religion & logical thinking are concerned, that they believe they are somehow better than Christians, that the evidence is all right there and so clear, that it should be obvious to everybody that Christianity isn’t true. Having gone through the process myself, I can say that it’s very difficult to abandon a religious belief into which you’ve been indoctrinated your whole life, especially when virtually the entire society that surrounds you holds to those beliefs. And I believe that most Christians, despite being misled, are still good people, who are sincerely trying to live their lives in what they believe to be the most moral manner.

Why I’m Not Going to Search for Another Religion

When I first started to really doubt Christianity, I wondered if perhaps I should try to find another religion. Christianity may have been wrong, but maybe one of the others was right. I did look into other religions a little bit. From a superficial study of the world’s major religions, I had one problem with all of them, even if it wasn’t a logically thorough reason – with the age of all of the world’s major religions, why has the world population not come to some type of consensus in all this time? If the arguments in favor of any of those religions were truly convincing, it would seem that these religions would have had more converts. The fact that most religions are perpetuated by indoctrinating children into following the religion of their parents is not a strong argument in favor of any of them.

There are many ways one could classify religions, but for the purposes of the discussion in this paragraph, I’ll divide religions into two very general groups – theistic and non-theistic. Theistic basically means that the followers believe in some type of super-powerful god in the universe (like Christianity, Islam, or Zoroastrianism). Followers of non-theistic religions do not believe in this type of divine being (like Buddhism – at least in principle). For the non-theistic religions, the stakes don’t seem nearly as high. They may be right, or they may be wrong, but I’m not going to be punished by a vengeful God for all eternity if I don’t believe in them. For theistic religions, recall the argument I raised above about religion in the context of an ancient universe – if humans have been around for at least 100,000 years, why are all of the major religions so young? While this is a problem for all religions, it is especially puzzling for the theistic ones – why would a god demanding worship wait so long to reveal itself?

I have another, more practical reason, for not searching for another religion. It’s actually summed up quite well in one of the teachings of the Buddha:

If anyone should say thus: 'I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until the Blessed One declares to me "the world is eternal"... or "after death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,"' that would still remain undeclared by the Tathagata and meanwhile that person would die. Suppose, Malunkyaputta, a man were wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and companions, his kinsmen and relatives, brought a surgeon to treat him. The man would say: 'I will not let the surgeon pull out this arrow until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble or a brahmin or a merchant or a worker.' And he would say: 'I will not let the surgeon pull out this arrow until I know the name and clan of the man who wounded me;...until I know whether the man who wounded me was tall or short or of middle height;...until I know whether the man who wounded me was dark or brown or golden-skinned;...until I know whether the man who wounded me lives in such a village or town or city;...until I know whether the bow that wounded me was a long bow or a crossbow;...until I know whether the bowstring that wounded me was fiber or reed or sinew or hemp or bark;...until I know whether the shaft that wounded me was wild or cultivated;...until I know with what kind of sinew the shaft that wounded me was bound - whether of an ox or a buffalo or a lion or a monkey;...until I know what kind of arrow it was that wounded me - whether it was hoof-tipped or curved or barbed or calf-toothed or oleander.'

All this would still not be known to that man and meanwhile he would die. So too, Malunkyaputta, if anyone should say thus: 'I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until the Blessed One declares to me: "The world is eternal"...or "after death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,"' that would still remain undeclared by the Tathagata and meanwhile that person would die. (The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, pp. 534-535)

There is too much to life to spend all of my time worrying about religion. I think this is especially true if there is no vengeful god running the universe, such as those specified in Christianity, Islam, or countless others. I can try to live my life in what I think is the most moral way, spending my time helping people, instead of wasting my time fretting over ancient teachings, or worrying about philosophical questions that aren’t really going to change my life too much one way or the other. I will still continue to study various religions, both to understand the motivations behind the actions of their followers, and because I think that some of the philosophies and moral lessons are good ones that I can apply to my life. But I’m certainly not going to blindly accept any of those teachings without careful thought, and I’m no longer going to worry about which one of those religions might be the one, true religion to which I should be devoting my life.

Where I Stand Now

To clarify my position on religious matters at the time of writing this essay [18], I'm not absolutely one-hundred percent certain about anything. However, I'm about as sure that the Earth is a globe that orbits the Sun as I am that the Bible was written by people, and that a God as presented in the Bible doesn't exist. I'm not as certain that no type of divine being exists at all. I don't see an absolute reason why there would have to be one, but that doesn't mean that there isn't one, or that a super powerful being didn't come into existence after the universe did. I'm also open to the idea that we have souls and will experience some type of afterlife. So, I may not buy into the arguments of Christianity, anymore, but I haven't rejected a spiritual aspect of the universe, altogether.

I still do have periods where I question if I’ve made the correct decision, or have a certain nostalgia for the comfort I used to get from religion. When I was Christian, at least up until shortly before I became an atheist, I was positive that I was right about the nature of the universe – that God existed and that Christianity was true. Now, I’m pretty darn sure that I’m right in thinking that there isn’t a god, but I don’t have that same conviction. I look back to the time when I was Christian, and knowing how I was so positive then but now think I was probably wrong, I have to admit to myself that there’s a possibility I’m wrong now, too. For another, I live in a society where I’m practically surrounded by Christians, and I sometimes wonder how I can be so sure I’m right when so many people disagree with me. I realize that public opinion doesn’t define reality – just look how many people used to believe the Earth was the center of the universe – but it still makes me question myself from time to time.

However, every time I begin to wonder if I have made the right decision, I go back to the point I made at the beginning of this essay – why Christianity? There are so many religions in the world, and so many that have existed throughout history, why choose Christianity as the one, true religion. Until I see some actual compelling reasons for any of the religions, I’ll go on accepting atheism as the most likely view of reality.

Closing Remarks

This essay is far from exhaustive. There are many other reasons that lead me to reject Christianity, and many, many more specific examples for the reasons I did discuss, but at least this essay covers the major reasons and the thought process that lead me to first question Christianity, then go through the research, and finally to make the decision that I did. I hope that this gives the reader a good understanding of why I’ve abandoned Christianity, and that it might provide a good starting point should the reader wish to research this subject any further.


[1] I’ve since learned that the New International Version is not a particularly good translation, since it was a project of evangelical Christians who let their views influence the translation process, altering the meaning of some passages. The translation I would recommend now is the New Revised Standard Version, or NRSV. More information on Bible translations is available on my website:


[3] I’ve changed this section quite a bit from the way it was originally written – far more so than any other section of this booklet. Remember though, that the main purpose of this booklet is to accurately communicate ideas. I feel that these revisions more clearly express what I was trying to say originally.

[4] I’ve since learned that this idea is actually much older than Russell, dating back at least to Plato. It is commonly called the Euthyphro Dilemma. -

[5] One of the first signs I had that I was truly on the road to abandoning Christianity was when this story was the scripture reading one Sunday morning, and I thought to myself – what a good story this would have made if Abraham had refused God’s command, demonstrating his love for his son by going up against impossible odds against an omnipotent being.


[7] Paul, Gregory S. (2005). Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies. Journal of Religion & Society (Vol. 7). Retrieved April 2006, from


[9] I only discuss a few contradictions in this essay, but there are many of them. Here are a few websites addressing this issue:

[10] Some translations, such as the NIV, rectify this by changing the 1 Kings passage to also ready 4,000, and then adding a footnote saying that the original Hebrew reads 40,000. This kind of harmonizing is rather disingenuous.


[12] Although it should be noted that other parts of the Exodus story certainly paint God in a bad light, such as the earlier plagues that indiscriminately caused suffering among all Egyptians, even their slaves. It’s also the case that Pharaoh was ready and willing to let the Hebrews leave on multiple occasions, but God himself hardened the Pharaoh’s heart to prolong all this suffering.

[13] And while I’m at it, why were commandments okay for the first few thousand years, but then apparently a few thousand years later, God had to set an example for us?

[14] or

[15] For readers interested in evolution, I’d recommend Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True as the best introduction to the evidence that I’ve seen, with Donald Prothero’s Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters being a close second. The website,, is also a very good source.


[17] A related topic is the historicity of Jesus, or in other words, whether there’s even a real person that the mythology is based on. This topic is discussed a bit in the essay, Book Review – More Than a Carpenter.

[18] My position as summarized in this section reflects my feelings when this essay was originally written. In the years since, as I’ve become more comfortable with the idea that there aren’t any gods, I’ve shifted toward strong atheism – that gods really are pretty unlikely. I’ve also come to strongly doubt the existence of souls.