I’m going to start my deconstruction in Chapter 1 page 9-11, where CB discusses the Christian attitudes toward violence and arguing.
<“Conflict can be harmful and is sometimes deeply tragic. Some of the greatest suffering in the world is the result of violence which arose in conflict, and this harm is made all the worse when the origin of the conflict is some misunderstanding. But conflict is also an inescapable part of life, visible everywhere in nature. There will never be peace between the wolf and the deer, or between the salmon and the eagle. To embrace life, one must necessarily embrace conflict, with its joys as well as its sorrows. By contrast, the Christian “just war” doctrine developed by St. Augustine — and inspired directly by the teachings of Jesus — essentially holds violence as permissible only when done in a spirit of reluctance. “What is evil in War? Is it the death of some who will die in any case, that others may live in peaceful subjection? This is mere cowardly dislike, not any religious feeling. The real evils in war are the love of violence, revengeful cruelty, fierce and implacable enmity, wild resistance, and the lust of power…” — Augustine of Hippo. It is clear from Paul’s letters that this attitude was not limited to physical conflict but extended to interpersonal and social conflict as well. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. — 2 Timothy 2:23-25 It is an admirable and perfectly Christian view to hold some things as worth dying for. But it has become more controversial to hold that some things might also be worth fighting for. We are to condemn the sin but love the sinner, making “war” against a specific action, yet carefully separating the morality of the action from the morality of the individual responsible. To hate theft, yet still love the thief; hate murder, yet still love the murderer.”>
This criticism is a frankly unfair, as CB’s main argument against Christianity is that we care for nothing and no one outside of their utility to our own salvation. Yet here he is criticizing Christianity for caring for the individual who has wronged us. It is arguing both sides of the coin against Christians.
Beyond this, it is not an accurate representation of Christian morality. Scripture is clear that people who are evil or unrepentant are to be hated and cast out until they change their ways.
- Proverbs 6:16-19
King James Version
“16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
- false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
- Matthew 3:7
King James Version
“7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
- Galations 5: 7-10
King James Version
“Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.”
- Ephesians 5: 5-7
King James Version
“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.”
- Galatians 1: 8-9
King James Version
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
So, while we are indeed instructed to be loving, forgiving, and kind, especially among the brethren, we are by no means expected to be doormats, or fools, or ignore reality. People are absolutely judged by their morality and actions. My church in particular assembles once a year to proclaim curses against the heretics and the wicked. And there is the famous story of St Nicholas striking Arius at the council of Nicaea. We are certainly willing to fight, we just don’t do so recklessly. We are instructed to do everything we can to avoid conflict, but not to pretend that conflict will not find us. One thing that has stuck with me from my catechism class is that God is infinitely Merciful, but He is also infinitely Just. Sometimes mercy is justice and sometimes justice is mercy, but we are to be both merciful and just in our endeavors to be like Him.
If we were not willing to quarrel we would have been overtaken by the Arians and Gnostics. These instructions aren’t about refusing to quarrel or fight, they are about not seeking out quarrels and fights like many people often do.
The Roman Army was staffed by Christians as early as the 2nd century. Hardly meek pacifists. Read about some of them here. And one of my favorite stories of Christian Martyrs is about a unit of Christian Roman soldiers who refused to make sacrifices unto Roman gods and were forced to stand on a frozen lake until they died of exposure. Read about them here.
On pages 16 – 26 CB gives his background as a young Christian and what ultimately caused him to lose his faith. When CB was in middle school he felt as though God was telling him to send out a scripture in a prayer chain email. He did so anonymously, but he was embarrassed when someone found out it was him and this embarrassment led him to doubt that God had spoken to him. He came to the conclusion that if he had mistaken his own inner thoughts as the voice of God then everyone who has heard God speak must have done the same. This experience and his conclusion were cemented when he read about a similar experience in an Atheist book called Godless by Dan Barker.
But his conclusion is in fact a logical fallacy. Hasty Generalization and Causal Fallacy. I don’t pretend to be educated in logic or philosophy. I had to google these. But I am smart enough to see the failure of logic on my own. CB mistakenly believed that his experience was universal. If I can’t do x then no one can.
This is also one of those places where his experience was informed by a poor imitation of Christianity. You see, in many of the Charismatic, Evangelical, and Non-denominational churches they put a dramatic over-emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Basically, they teach that every Christian is capable of having all the gifts that are represented in scripture by Christ and the Apostles. We can all be prophets, we can all be miraculous healers, we can all be evangelists. This is actually the opposite of what scripture says about the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12 and 13 are a lengthy rebuke against people who seek too much after these outward spiritual gifts. Everyone wants to be a Rockstar Apostle. But Paul says that that the gifts are given as the Spirit requires, and not everyone receives the same gifts or any supernatural gifts. I invite you to read the entire two chapters to get this context. But here is the succent statement:
- 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11
King James Version
“4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”
Chapter 12 ends with Paul saying that rather than getting all worked up over these gifts, there is a better way for the Spirit to live through you. He then goes into the famously quoted “Love Chapter” 1 Corn 13. In short, rather than seeking out these gifts for reasons that are probably your own vanity, seek out ways to love instead.
So CB was set up for failure from the start by his church to think that God will communicate vital instructions for all of us individually. God doesn’t want us all to be evangelists. Most of us are meant to just live out our lives as best as we can with the gift of Faith. If God spoke to all of us, he wouldn’t need the Apostles to write their letters to the churches. In fact, God only speaks to a very few people in scripture. His Prophets, the Apostles, and a couple others. And when God speaks in scripture it is always audible. Often it is done through an angel or a vision, but it is never done so in a way that can be mistaken for our own inner thoughts. There is almost always a literal voice. If God needs something from us that is so important that He will give us individual direction over it, He isn’t going to risk us mistaking His voice for our own imagination.
Now this isn’t to say that we aren’t guided by the Holy Spirit in our spirit for one thing or another. But again, scripture is clear that such things are impulsive and unmistakable. God does not deal in confusion.
Beyond scripture, there are an abundance of accounts throughout the history of the church, even up to modern times, of people hearing the audible voice of God or having visions.
On Page 22 CB makes this statement <“Without meaningful answers to prayer, I could no longer believe.”>
Now this is actually a true argument, that if God doesn’t reveal Himself through prayer, what evidence do we have that He even exists? But he again commits the fallacy of believing that his experience is universal. If God doesn’t directly answer my prayer he hasn’t answered anyone’s prayers. His experience isn’t universal. Nearly every Christian will have a testimony about God answering prayer. Just ask them. That doesn’t mean that God is a genie or a fairy godmother who grants wishes. It just means that sometimes God will make things happen for us that would not normally happen. We cannot command God through prayers or spells. Take what you can get with gladness but be content if nothing happens. God doesn’t owe you anything.
I have my own anecdote for an answered prayer.
My ex-wife had no fallopian tubes. She had one removed because it was blocked by a cyst, but they took out the wrong one and later removed the other along with some of her uterus. We were faithful churchgoers in our evangelical church and one week we have an evangelist come through for a Holy Ghost revival. Now, I’ve since developed a healthy skepticism for these kinds of things. Especially after discovering that this particular evangelist was an actual criminal and con-artist. But in the course of this revival, my barren ex-wife went up for prayer. The evangelist’s wife laid hands on her stomach, without knowing her problem, and prayed. My ex said she felt an immense warmth spread through her stomach. Now, I was convinced that like Sarah in the Bible we were bound to have a miracle pregnancy. My ex didn’t believe it, but I did. Months went by and nothing happened. But I did get a contract job that had extremely rare 100% medical coverage for invitro fertilization, which normally costs about $20k a pop, and often takes multiple attempts for a successful pregnancy. We still needed to cover about $3k worth of other costs associated with it, which might as well have been a million dollars for as broke as we were. But then I got sent on an emergency deployment that had me working 15 hour days 6 days a week for a few weeks. All of a sudden we had the money we needed to get started. If you know anything about invitro fertilization you should know that it only has about a 27% success rate. But our fertilized embryo implanted. Then I got fired from that job for not actually being qualified for it shortly after she got pregnant.
I will admit that there is room for skepticism here. There is a perfectly normal and logical explanation for how this all played out. But if you ask me, my ex and I praying for a baby, my getting a job that I’m not qualified for that just happens to cover 100% of the only thing that could get her pregnant, and that procedure being successful on the first attempt with only a 27% success rate, despite my ex’s less than optimal womb, and then me only keeping that job long enough to successfully get her pregnant; well that’s an awful lot of coincidence on a razor thin probability for it to not be an answered prayer from God. I have no idea why God would make such a miracle happen for me, especially since my ex is a vile and evil woman whom I would eventually divorce. I just know that I prayed for a child and God made something that was virtually impossible happen. And she is an amazing little girl.
I have many other answered prayers, but this is the most miraculous in my opinion. And there are thousands of thousands of other stories of answered prayers, both mundane and miraculous. Some are even documented in secular sources.
On page 25 CB gets into an odd little pickle.
<“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all
faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors
worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and
serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems
undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day
whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors
served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the
Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me
and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
– Joshua 24:14-15
“Grammatically speaking, it is more helpful to think
of this concept literally: the “Gods your ancestors
worshipped across the Euphrates” is better understood in
theological terms as “your ancestors as Gods.” Following
the decisions of one’s ancestors is to put their decisions
above Yaweh, treating them as Gods, perhaps as much
as the gods they worship.”>
CB’s conclusion here is a bit of a reach. When God is speaking to Moses and Joshua and other prophets He frequently identifies Himself as the God of “your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” This particular verse is warning against the worship of idols and false gods, many of whom are named in scripture, but the inclusion of their fathers is plainly subjective. Especially as CB uses this verse to justify his conclusion that seeking Christianity as a way to honor his parents is counter to scripture.
On page 27 CB makes a statement to conclude some other arguments.
<“Christianity pits authenticity against integrity. It tells
you not to trust your own wisdom, yet requires you to
choose God, on the basis of faith without sight. No one
else can accept God’s grace on your behalf. It commands
you to trust in what cannot be seen, and discount what
you can see plainly… and yet seeks credit for all of the
good in this world that we have been instructed not to
attach ourselves to.
In my heart, I know that family is good. That the
nation is good. That care, truth, honor, and beauty are
good. That I am good. Certain things in this world are
good — not because they bear the mark of God, but
because they are beautiful and excellent and worthy of
love, respect, and attention in and of themselves.”>
First, I want to address the idea that Christianity expects you to deny your own senses and reason. This is precisely the opposite of reality. If you have studied the early fathers of the church you will see extremely coherent theology and metaphysics. This is one of the reasons why I am certain that of the many religions, Christianity is the true one. Of all the religions it is the one that most reflects the observable world and human nature. Pagan mythologies are full of fanciful things like lightning being Thor striking his hammer, the world being on the back of a giant turtle, petty gods infighting for power, and other things that are simply silly when examined under modern observations of the universe.
But there are an abundance of scriptures that instruct us to exercise wisdom and critical thinking.
- For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. -Proverbs 2:6
- See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. -Ephesians 5:15-16
- If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. -James 1:5
It’s not that we are supposed to blindly accept what could be a myth. While this child like faith is highly praised, scripture acknowledges that it doesn’t always reflect reality. Debate will arise. Conflict is inevitable. Be prepared to provide answers when people challenge your faith.
- 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.- 1 Peter 3:15-16
The reason why CB has concluded that Christianity commands us to ignore our own wisdom is explained in the 2nd part, where he says that we hold the world to be fallen while he understands that some things in the world are inherently good. The trouble is that not even CB really believes that anything is inherently good, but rather subjectively good. By CB’s given standard, the Alaskan Wilderness is inherently good because it is pure and beautiful. But I saw a movie that was based on a true story called Into the Wild about a young man who flees society to live out in the Alaskan wilderness, but finds it cruel and unforgiving as he slowly starves to death. There are an abundance of such stories where people die horribly at the hands of nature. Nature might be pure and beautiful, but it cannot be said to be truly good, as it is itself completely indifferent to us or our morality.
Family is also not inherently good. My friend, the author Moria Greyland Peat, wrote a book called The Last Closet, which details the physical and sexual abuse she and her brother suffered by being raised by her homosexual parents. Her family was not good at all. When I was researching the concept of White Privilege I found out that 25% of black children are physically abused by their parents, compared to 1 in 100 for white children. 60% report sexual abuse. 72% are born into single parent homes. These families are not inherently good. Scripture details the exact reasons why God ordered the Canaanites destroyed, which was that they engaged in child sacrifice. Murdering your own children is not being a good family. Spartans did this, Romans did this.
Nation is not inherently good. Take the Viking nations for instance. They only took breaks from raping and murdering each other to go rape and murder other people. There are a number of nations that practice things that we in our western culture would consider to be wholly evil.
What CB understands as good family and good nation are only possible under the morality that comes from Christianity. The Christian morality that says every soul has eternal value, so we shouldn’t savage and molest our own children, or murder them. Every soul has eternal value so we should not engage in blood feuds but rather differ to an impartial system of justice (after we have exhausted means of resolution in the church), and only enter into war reluctantly to defend ourselves.
On page 28 CB makes this statement.
<“To respect this essential fact and to live accordingly would not be to live with integrity as a Christian. To live with integrity as a Christian would require me to reject my authentic feelings toward the world — this, in fact, is a Christian duty.”>
This statement gets to the crux of the matter with CB’s criticisms of Christianity, in that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of a few scriptures. In CB’s understanding we are commanded by scripture to have no care whatsoever for the world, our family, or anything else really. Just God. Our only care for anything outside of God depends on how useful it is to us in our quest for our own salvation. Here are some of the verses CB draws from:
- Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:15-17
- “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’- Matthew 10:34-36 NKJV
- So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I will spit you out of my mouth. – Revelations 3:16
Taken by themselves these verses seem pretty self-evident for CB’s case against Christianity. But I’ve found in my years of studying apologetics that many faulty Biblical interpretations come from whenever someone tries to filter the rest of scripture through a verse or two, rather than filtering a verse or two through the rest of scripture.
First, I want to say that generally all of Christianity understand that these verses are not requiring a binary love for God/ Hate for all else. Every church that I’ve ever been to understands that these instructions are describing a hierarchy of Love.
Jesus even teaches this in Matthew 22: 35-40 when he says that the first and greatest command is to Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind, then the second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself. He goes so far as to say that the entirety of the Old Testament can be summarized in these two teachings. Love God and love people.
In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus says that people who love only God will not be saved. He gives a parable of the Judgment where people are condemned for failing to show love to the poor and the hurting, even though they proclaim faith in God.
Ephesians 5:25 gives us instruction to love our wives. Why would we need to be told to love our wives if this is something that is self-evident and part of the inherent good of family? Because Christian morality was something fairly contrary to what the rest of the world practiced. Wives were for breeding or were hardly more than property in most of the world. Or like the Vikings a marriage only lasted until the husband or wife got bored and left.
1 Peter 4:8 goes so far to say that Love covers a multitude of sins. Love is so much a part of what God wants us to do that it reduces our separation from Him.
Colossians 3:23 says to do all things with love, as though unto God.
Does this sound like Nihilism? Does it sound like nothing matters to these people except God? Are Peter and Paul just terrible Christians who are directly contradicting God, or was there something else going on here?
What these verses that CB has pointed out are referring to is the all too inevitable conflict that arises from outside forces. We are seeing it today, with children turning against their parents, friends betraying one another, etc, etc. “If you don’t join me against Trump, you’re dead to me. If you don’t accept and apologize for your white privilege, you’re dead to me. If you don’t support abortion, you’re dead to me”. Evil is always totalitarian. And it will force you to choose between your God and your family, your God and your job, or as we will soon see, your God and your country. In these terrible circumstances we must choose God. We are seldom the ones forcing this choice, but you will at some point have to make it. This is just an acknowledgment of reality. You will be hated. You will be persecuted. You must endure to the end.
This brings us to the end of Chapter 1.