The Psychological Objection

  1. “Religion was made up by weak people who couldn’t handle the realities of life, and indeed death.”
  2. “Religion was man’s first attempt at explaining the world. It worked for a while, but we have better models now.”
  3. “Priests and ministers are insecure people who are trying to control and gain power over people in the most despicable way possible: spiritual domination.”
  4. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed culture, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
  5. “The God-hypothesis simply can no longer be supported.”
  6. “Christianity closed itself completely from criticism: It made even doubt a sin.”
  7. “Religion is a shackle, stifling the beauty of the human spirit.”
  8. “We are to pity the religionist. He simply cannot admit that he is wrong.”
  9. “The reason I became an atheist was because I read the Old Testament. Have you actually even read it?”
  10. “Anyone who talks about love while endorsing a God who commands genocide is severely confused.”
  11. “It is suspicious, to say the least, that we can’t tell the difference between a religious vision and psychosis.”
  12. “Most Christians can’t even name all ten of the Ten Commandments.”
  13. “According to current trends, religion will probably be extinct within the century.”
  14. “Religion is the romantic sentiment that thinks too highly of itself.”
  15. “Faith is holding a belief when there is lack of evidence, even in spite of the evidence. Science has allowed us to have progressed past the point of needing faith.”
  16. “Religion has been the cause of more wars, bloodshed, evil, and general lack of peace than anything else in history. At its core, it encourages strife between neighbors.”
  17. “All men fear the unknown. It is no surprise, then, that religion has been so popular.”
  18. “It is quite elementary to trace the history of knowledge from vague pantheism to polytheism, to the necessary step of monotheism, then the Gospel story, and finally culminating in the Enlightenment, which is mature atheism, high culture, and sensible counseling. It is simply a matter of time until this final stage comes into its own, and what a day that will be!”
  19. “At its heart, religion is a salve for insecurity.”
  20. “Religion died somewhere between the Middle Ages and the Founding Fathers.”
  21. “There is no greater barrier to genuine freedom than the judgment that is omnipresent in the religious temperament. Throw off those chains and enjoy the only life you’ve got!”
  22. “The sexual appetite is far too vast to waste on only one person.”
  23. “If chimps are not monogamous, why do you expect people to be?”
  24. “Marriage kills sexual satisfaction. Ask anyone.”
  25. “Sex is really no big deal. It’s too bad religion hates it so much.”
  26. “Sex is the most beautiful experience a human can have. It’s too bad religion hates it so much.”
  27. “Religion is a nervous grasping at straws to comfort the hurting.”
  28. “Religion runs in families for a reason. Only a father who is trusted can convince someone of something so ridiculous.”
  29. “There is no better example of amoral indoctrination than what the Church does to children.”
  30. “Ask a religious person this and you will be convinced that he is either evil, a lunatic, or a simpleton: ‘What, precisely and in clear terms, do you believe?’”
  31. “God is the adult’s imaginary friend.”
  32. “The need to be loved is the ultimate cause of religious belief.”
  33. “Religious belief is the desperate need to feel good.”
  34. “Hell was a brilliant invention of the ancient priests. What better way to keep the people in line than the threat of eternal suffering?”
  35. Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
  36. “Religion is to be admired in its subtle and unwavering hold it has over even intelligent people. It is to be hated in its crushing, warping, disgusting destruction of the glory of humanity, the only true glory.”
  37. “It is no surprise that Christian art is the worst around. How can you expect a people to produce honesty when honesty is condemned?”
  38. “Why would you question yourself if you think God Almighty is on your side? After all, whatever he tells you to do, no matter how horrifying, has got to be righteous. To contradict His Will is to be an insolent spider, worthy of being damned to the fires of Gehenna.”
  39. “Who tends to be religious? The ones with their head in the clouds, unwilling to deal with real life. Alright, I exaggerate. Sometimes it is those with their head in the sand, ignoring everyone around them.”
  40. “There is no greater impediment to human happiness than desiring divine happiness.”
  41. “The greatest achievement of a man is to remain fresh, to remain youthful, to remain full of vigor. Religion prevents him from living fully, so it must be discarded.”
  42. “Life! Life! That ultimate pleasure, that truest joy! Life, that one that can only be lived and not observed. Life, that one that denies interpretation but embraces experience. Life, that one that cannot be subjugated! That one that throws off even God himself!”
  43. “Man has long built stories for himself to imagine. The Hero, the Bride, the Jester, the Sage, and the Priest. All are healthy ways of finding meaning within life, but none are to be understood to be reality.”
  44. “If you want to have shame shoved down your throat, attend a religious service.”
  45. “Religion is coping with inferiority.”
  46. “God’s wrath is the human desire for revenge.”
  47. “God’s wrath is the personification of disgust.”
  48. Etc.

I made up most of these in about an hour, but they represent a common attitude toward religion and religious people. It seems to me that the statements arose out of the question, “If God is not there, then why does religion exist?” The statements are attempts to explain the presence of believers in God if God is not present. They use psychology to analyze the individuals making religious claims, to try to determine what is really going on underneath the surface.

However, Dostoyevsky astutely observed that “Psychology lures even most serious people into romancing, and quite unconsciously.” Psychology allows us to formulate the most subtle and powerful ad hominem attacks we have yet been able to produce. But at their heart, these attacks are just that. They are ad hominem fallacies, or some other form of fallacy. They may do well in considering religious people given the lack of justification for religion, but they fail to consider whether religion can be justified. Of course they fail in that regard, because they take irreligion as an assumption.

To me, the more interesting and more important question is whether God truly exists, and whether He truly communicated to His creation. I tend to think He did, mostly because Jesus rose from the dead. If this is the case, then all these statements are simply moot points. I could come up with a list of my own to describe atheists. For example, atheists are those arrogant creatures that blocked their ears to the voice of the One who gave them being. Or they are angry at the Book that can expose their foolish life for what it is. I could do that all day long, but it avoids the question of whether the Bible is inspired by God or not.

Let me take two of the objections as a case study. The first will be number 29, “There is no better example of amoral indoctrination than what the Church does to children.” What do I mean by this? To understand, you must put yourself in the shoes of the one who wholeheartedly agrees. They see devout attention to Christianity not as a good, but as an evil. They see it either as stifling, old-fashioned, inherently shaming and judgmental, or something of that nature. With that in mind, how would they look at a father teaching his daughter about God wanting us to be righteous? As something that will warp and distort the child’s view of life. They see it almost as abuse, because they see religion as inherently evil. But let’s say that Christianity actually sets a person free and allows them to live the truest life there is. In that case, the teaching of a child becomes a beautiful thing indeed.

Number 33 says, “Hell was a brilliant invention of the ancient priests. What better way to keep the people in line than the threat of eternal suffering?” Again, let us imagine that all religion is made up and arbitrary. From whence did the concept of Hell arise? One could hypothesize that the priests of ancient religions invented it in order to gain control over the people. Hell gave the priests a power that could not be stolen or questioned. But then again, what if Hell is a real place? Then how dare we not warn our neighbors of their impending doom!

What I’m getting at is, what if God is a real being who is truly there? What if he did, in fact, speak directly to the Hebrews and His words were recorded in the Old Testament? Then of course, all these intelligent accusations would hold no water. So you see, these are sort of interpretations of religion that avoid the truthfulness of religion. And yes, the postmodern mindset is all about avoiding truth claims by sticking to interpretations, but frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I want to know what is true, and I believe it is reasonably possible to have some semblance of a truth claim that is coherent and justifiable.

Now, are the people who say these things to be shunned and shamed by us religious types? I think not. I see the words first as warnings to myself and to the Church. The fact that so many have been shouting these for so long is loose evidence that we have been failing in representing Christ. These attacks obviously fall short of Christ, so if we are like Christ, they will obviously fall short of us. But they are not obviously false. In fact, the reason I could come up with so many in such a short time is because they make so much sense. How many stories have you heard of the vengeful and divisive pastor, who clearly only wants to control people? Or the insecure pastor who is caught in an affair with a young girl from his congregation? I say that that is not where religion comes from, but I am deeply saddened to say that that is where religious people can sometimes go. And when religious people do go there, they create a negative reaction to religion that is based in reality. All these statements are sensible people being cautious because of past experiences.

If we are so desperate to suppress thoughts like these, then perhaps it is because we are terrified of them being true. And perhaps, this is because they are true of us. But fear is not to be encouraged, it is to be confronted. If they are true of us, it is better to know now, so that through the grace of Jesus’ work, we can change. After all, our justification is not by works. We do not have to be afraid to see our ugliness, because God does love us. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Another possible source of fear occurs when we look out into the wide world and see these statements believed so broadly, and are afraid that they will spread. I admit I have some of this fear. False teachers are dangerous indeed. But one, the truth is that God reigns, so our worries can cease. A remnant will always remain. And two, false teachers do exist. So to me, the main question is, how are we to handle them? In my opinion, the answer is with correct and persuasive teaching, partnered with genuine love. Then, those who hear will hear. If supremely false teaching is under our authority, love includes correction and suspension and whatnot. And this is from Scripture. But the people who say things like this are rarely under anyone’s authority, I’ve found.

Therefore, let us come alongside those who have these ideas and consider their thoughts with a discerning eye, with all gentleness and truthfulness. To demonstrate this, I will go through each statement and say a few words. These words are not meant to be final and incontrovertible, just beginnings of discussion.

  1. “Religion was made up by weak people who couldn’t handle the realities of life, and indeed death.” I would contend that religion handles the realities of life better than materialism could ever do. What is the aching pain of bereavement in a world where people are mere molecules? Or even the happiness of two innocents falling in love? Anyways, I wrote a little thing that discusses harsh realities further.
  2. “Religion was man’s first attempt at explaining the world. It worked for a while, but we have better models now.” What better models? Science? What does science say of the joy of childbirth? That it is endorphins? Why does science say we ought not to murder our neighbors? No, science is severely limited in its scope. It is a very powerful tool, but it cannot really contemplate the value of things. We do not have better models for the dreams of poets; we do not have better models for the meaning of Value. Philosophy approaches wisdom sometimes, but Descartes and Hume showed well enough why philosophy is limited. Inevitably, it is always circular reasoning. The way I see it, religion’s handling of value has some real substance to it. Finally, this statement assumes that men invented religion. What if God revealed himself to man long ago, and true religions do not attempt to create a God of the Gaps? That is how I see Christianity. Of course, this objection probably works for the Egyptian or Greek religions.
  3. “Priests and ministers are insecure people who are trying to control and gain power over people in the most despicable way possible: spiritual domination.” This, I confess, is sometimes true. You may have felt this tragedy first-hand. Too many have. Priests and ministers have power to spiritual lead people, and with great power comes great responsibility. But who does not have some of Nietzsche’s will to power within them? Only the saintliest saint in the world. In any case, this objection tells nothing of the truthfulness of the priests’ words. The way I see it, the reason spiritual leaders hold so much sway is because they are speaking deep truths. Spiritual domination is so despicable because it taints and twists the purity of the deep truths we all know to be true, so it is a very powerful way to control people.
  4. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed culture, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Ah, Marx. He is saying that religion is made up by oppressed people because it gives them a hope that cannot be taken away. Well I say, I agree that it gives them a hope that cannot be taken away, and how beautiful this makes it! Describing it as opium is saying people just use it to get a fix in order to stand their life. I say that that is kind of true, but I would phrase it like this: Oppressed people have a strong need to cast their burdens onto the Lord every once in a while, because life is hard and He is true warmth.
  5. “The God-hypothesis simply can no longer be supported.” This clearly requires long conversations to assert with confidence. Simply shrouding the controversy in scientific language does not make it go away. It may be true or it may not be true. It is certainly not true, however, that this claim is universally supported by intellectuals. Furthermore, calling theism “The God-hypothesis” assumes that humans invented the concept, which is the entire debate. If God revealed himself to us, then I’m not sure God-hypothesis is the correct phrase.
  6. “Christianity closed itself completely from criticism: It made even doubt a sin.” I got this from Nietzsche, and it is kind of complicated. If the Scriptures are truly the words of the divinity, spoken directly to each of us personally, and mysteriously, then of course disbelief in them is radical arrogance. However, if they are merely human authors writing wise things, then do not worry yourself about finding fault! So the question is, is Scripture truly the words of the divinity? It turns out that that is not the end either, because interpretation is much harder than the first glance suggests. And even then, I’m not sure that doubt is meant to be hated as it is commonly portrayed. I once heard a series of sermons from an experienced minister who calmly related to us how he often wonders whether anything he believed was true. He said that it took him a while before he found a community that was able to understand this fact of his life, but it was very comforting when he finally did. I think Nietzsche and we could learn from this community.
  7. “Religion is a shackle, stifling the beauty of the human spirit.” Sigh. Perhaps the Jewish law and the Talmud does in the modern, Western iteration of human society, but the kind of shackle that “Love your neighbor as yourself” produces is beautiful. Religion deals with real life, and real life is a shackle. I say that my religion embraces the beauty of the human spirit within life, which is miraculous. We are made after God’s image, after all! Our spirit better be pretty awesome!
  8. “We are to pity the religionist. He simply cannot admit that he is wrong.” It is very easy to think this about people with whom we disagree, because we all know that it can be true. But I try to stay away from thinking this for absolutely as long as possible, because I believe that the issues are actually complex. Maybe an atheist has not heard a clear presentation of the Gospel, and maybe I have not heard the argument that destroys theism. Maybe if either of us heard the right thing, we really would change our minds. It is difficult to tell, so instead of throwing this statement around, we should engage with the real issues. For example, did Jesus rise from the dead?
  9. “The reason I became an atheist was because I read the Old Testament. Have you actually even read it?” Haha, this one. I once heard someone say almost exactly this. But anyone who does not see the immense and intimate poetry of the Old Testament is straight up a blind reader. However, there are indeed difficult passages, and I’m told that Paul Copan can help through those. I haven’t read his book, but I heard a few talks on it that were pretty good.
  10. “Anyone who talks about love while endorsing a God who commands genocide is severely confused.” See above. But to better understand how God can be both wrathful and loving, I would suggest being a parent, or better yet, falling in love with someone with self-destructive tendencies, or better yet, becoming a missionary to a place in the world where Christians are being killed for their faith. In those situations, love and wrath go together quite naturally. The key is that God is loving a people who are not worthy of his love. Yet I agree that this is difficult to understand, so I would again suggest Paul Copan’s book. Another good one would be the Counterpoint book on this topic, which is a forum in which sharp disagreement within the Christian tribe is talked about.
  11. “It is suspicious, to say the least, that we can’t tell the difference between a religious vision and psychosis.” Haha, I very much enjoy this one, too. The premise comes from an episode of House. I think it raises a great point, as I, in my Western mindset, am also suspicious of most religious visions. But if they are legitimate experiences, then it would be wrong to diagnose them as psychosis, despite the fact that it is difficult to tell the difference between the two. It is important to remember that ability to know the truthfulness of something does not relate to the actual truthfulness of that thing. That is, correct epistemology is built upon metaphysics, but correct metaphysics does not necessarily rely on epistemology.
  12. “Most Christians can’t even name all ten of the Ten Commandments.” I admit many Christians cannot, this is true. But this says nothing to the validity or purpose of the commandments. Christians are hypocrites. This doesn’t mean they are wrong. Your job is acting on the truth. As Jesus said, do what the Pharisees say, not what they do.
  13. “According to current trends, religion will probably be extinct within the century.” Meh, I have heard evidence for and against this. Plus, I wish you the best of luck if you try any kind of broad predicting of history. In my view, it is too volatile to predict with much accuracy. Chaos theory and whatnot. And even if religion does nearly go extinct, so what? That doesn’t mean it is false.
  14. “Religion is the romantic sentiment that thinks too highly of itself.” In other words, religion is the imagination run wild. Well in Christianity, it is said that we are made in God’s image and he has given us certain innate pieces of knowledge. If the romantic sentiment is interpreted as a vague intuition of truth, then perhaps it should be taken seriously. Poets often have more important things to say than mathematicians.
  15. “Faith is holding a belief when there is lack of evidence, even in spite of the evidence. Science has allowed us to have progressed past the point of needing faith.” I say that faith is more like the fundamental beliefs of your life that guide your steps and steer your mind. Everyone has faith in something, whether it be religion, science, true love, social reform, or whatever. It is impossible to lack faith and remain sane. So the question is, where should I place my faith? I choose to place it in a person who seems to have risen from the dead.
  16. “Religion has been the cause of more wars, bloodshed, evil, and general lack of peace than anything else in history. At its core, it encourages strife between neighbors.” Perhaps there is something to this. The Crusades are only the beginning of religious tragedies. The thing is, disagreement about very important things does tend to cause strife. Therefore, a sensible conclusion is that religion is very important. Finally, I would contend that my religion, at its core, does indeed encourage love between neighbors, despite intense disagreements. I would say the same of Daoism.
  17. “All men fear the unknown. It is no surprise, then, that religion has been so popular.” Saying that men invented spirits to make the unknown feel known, and thus to remove fear. An interesting theory, and no doubt true in many cases. But one, how do explain the emphasis of mystery that is common in many religions? If religion is meant to destroy the unknown, why has it retained mystery? And two, what if you are just wrong? What if religion was given to reveal actual, real Knowledge about the previously unknown? In that case, it is still no surprise that religion has been so popular, but the underlying motivation is different.
  18. “It is quite elementary to trace the history of knowledge from vague pantheism to polytheism, to the necessary step of monotheism, then the Gospel story, and finally culminating in the Enlightenment, which is mature atheism, high culture, and sensible counseling. It is simply a matter of time until this final stage comes into its own, and what a day that will be!” To my mind, this is the strongest objection of the list. This article paired with The Source by James Michener illustrates it quite well. I think that if religion is false, this is a good way of thinking about it. I admit that it is very believable. But the thing is, what if it is not false? For example, what if Jesus truly rose from the dead? Then, of course, this objection merely shows that even theology is a progressive science.
  19. “At its heart, religion is a salve for insecurity.” Christianity gives us an unseeable being that does not cease loving us, and this is what insecure people need most of all. To feel loved. Of course, this is what we all need, because really, everyone is insecure. So yeah, of course religion is a salve for insecurity. It allows me to replace self-esteem with God-esteem, which is awesome. In fact, in my experience, it is not quite a salve, but a solution. It removes my insecurity, while miraculously granting me humility. Perhaps this is just because of its psychological astuteness, but I tend to think that it has so much psychological knowledge because it was given and revealed by the One who created our psyche.
  20. “Religion died somewhere between the Middle Ages and the Founding Fathers.” When people say, “God is dead,” it means that society does not genuinely believe in Him anymore. They are saying that society does not take the claims of religion seriously, especially intellectual society. Well I say, tell that to the billions of people in the world, including many intellectuals, who are devout. This one can actually be disproven.
  21. “There is no greater barrier to genuine freedom than the judgment that is omnipresent in the religious temperament. Throw off those chains and enjoy the only life you’ve got!” I am sorry if you have personally experienced the kind of judgement that religion can bring. I would like to listen to your story. But I’ve found that the truly religious are the most kind, compassionate, and forgiving people I’ve ever met. And I am not committing the No True Scotsman fallacy, because I can point to six or seven people who do capture what I mean. Christianity, when fully received, makes life a true joy.
  22. “Marriage kills sexual satisfaction. Ask anyone.” Tim Keller has said that there is actually some good evidence that this is false. Apparently, after five years of staying together, married life generally starts being quite nice, for the most part. Anyways, even if it were true, maybe it doesn’t matter. Perhaps marriage is about more than sexual satisfaction? It is difficult to see the point of this objection until we reach…
  23. “The sexual appetite is far too vast to waste on only one person.” Ah, so this is the real claim. I see it as a doubt of the monogamous life. I have toyed with this doubt, mostly because the Bible doesn’t ever explicitly reject polygamy. But the thing is, why do so many people say that they have lived great lives being faithful to one spouse? Or even celibate! What! If the sexual appetite is too vast to waste on one person, surely celibacy is impossible. But no, it actually isn’t. Maybe you feel like your appetite is huge, but could it be that you are being influenced by many factors, like the ever-present scantily clad beautiful woman or cute guy in ads? Or the general lack of caring, indeed the excitement, over promiscuity? Or maybe you are actually looking for genuine intimacy, or perhaps power over another person? Maybe these circumstances have helped you reach the decision you have. Anyways. Maslow didn’t necessarily get it all right. All this is to just throw doubt in the mix, because I think this is a difficult question, to be solved by someone who has more time to do detailed research. Kierkegaard lived by the phrase, “Doubt everything, including your doubts.” Maybe humans have a biological need for multiple sex partners, but maybe they just don’t. If they do, monogamy is a tragedy. If not, then it is not a tragedy. What even is a “need” anyway? But this is long enough already.
  24. “If chimps are not monogamous, why do you expect people to be?” Well, because chimps and people are quite different. And if religion is true, people are not exactly animals, while chimps are only animals. So that would make us even more different.
  25. “Sex is really no big deal. It’s too bad religion hates it so much.” I happen to think that sex is a big deal. I think sex and intimacy are inextricably linked. You may disagree, but that is how I see things. This is why rape is so evil. Because sex is a big deal. It is a serious thing, not to be trifled with. I can’t speak for all religions, but I know that Christianity does not, in fact, hate sex. Just read Song of Solomon! That is straight up erotica, in our Holy Bible! We don’t hate sex, we just take it seriously. But back in the day, children also inevitably came from sex, so that made it even more of a big deal. Not necessarily now, but obviously children and sex are still linked, and children are a big deal.
  26. “Sex is the most beautiful experience a human can have. It’s too bad religion hates it so much.” We agree that sex is among the more beautiful experiences a human can have. Maybe not the most, but it’s got to be up there. But why? I say that it is not only because of sensual pleasure, but because it is always symbolic of being spiritually naked with each other. Open, vulnerable, exposed, bare, known, intimate. This is not necessarily beautiful, but it is necessarily profound. It is either profoundly good or profoundly bad. That’s the thing about vulnerability. Even further, my religion talks about sex as a binding force. It makes one flesh from two, every time, no matter the intention of the two people. You may certainly disagree with this metaphysical claim, but consider religion’s approach to sexuality with this in mind. So again, religion doesn’t hate sex; it takes it seriously.
  27. “Religion is a nervous grasping at straws to comfort the hurting.” We see people who are hurting, and we know of certain doctrines like “God is in control,” so we just throw them at the hurting people. Sometimes this is an accurate portrayal. But what if those doctrines are correct? Then it is not grasping at straws, but it is comforting the hurting in the truest way there is. It is a comfort based in reality, which is what we need.
  28. “Religion runs in families for a reason. Only a father who is trusted can convince someone of something so ridiculous.” Well for one, not all children of Christians adopt their parents view, and not all Christians come from Christian families. So clearly, this objection is false. In any case, all beliefs tend to run in families, so it really isn’t surprising that religion is included in that. It is a little bit surprising in the Calvinist view of unconditional election, which I hold to, but that is for another time.
  29. “There is no better example of amoral indoctrination than what the Church does to children.” I discussed this up above already.
  30. “Ask a religious person this and you will be convinced that he is either evil, a lunatic, or a simpleton: ‘What, precisely and in clear terms, do you believe?’” Haha, this is a funny one. The thing is, religion is quite a vast and profound system of beliefs, so it can be difficult to explain clearly. Of course, it can be explained clearly, but sometimes it is hard to do on the spot. I mean, ask the average Republican or Democrat to explain his view of politics and you will think he has no idea what he is talking about. But I agree that we Christians could get better at this.
  31. “God is the adult’s imaginary friend.” If He does not exist, then I can see how this statement works. He is similar to imaginary friends in some ways, such as an unseeable person who is always there to comfort. Of course, He is very different in other ways. But if He does exist, then He is not imaginary at all, but is a real comfort. So the question that we should ask ourselves is, does He exist?
  32. “The need to be loved is the ultimate cause of religious belief.” It seems to me that every person has a very deep desire to be loved. Perhaps the creators of religion were downtrodden and hated by everyone around them, so they invented a God to give them love. A God that could not be seen, so could not be verified, and so could not be taken away. But then again, perhaps there is actually a God who loves us unconditionally. If this is the case, then religion is the true answer to our deepest desire, and this is like discovering a jewel buried in a field, a jewel that is so beautiful that we sell our entire house to be able to buy the field, so that we can delight in the jewel for the rest of our days.
  33. “Religious belief is the desperate need to feel good.” In other words, religious people just can’t handle the realities of life, so they make up a whole mythology to make themselves feel better. Perhaps this is what is going on. Or, they are rejoicing in the actual and true Good News as delivered by the God-Man, Jesus.
  34. “Hell was a brilliant invention of the ancient priests. What better way to keep the people in line than the threat of eternal suffering?” Also discussed this up above.
  35. “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Haha, I’ve always laughed at this quote. I come directly from the Puritan tradition, and I can see what they are saying. But of course, this is a parody of history. Puritanism talks a great deal about joy.
  36. “Religion is to be admired in its subtle and unwavering hold it has over even intelligent people. It is to be hated in its crushing, warping, disgusting destruction of the glory of humanity, the only true glory.” Assuming that religion is a Machiavellian power grab, the “subtle and unwavering hold” it has over people is to be lamented and attacked. But perhaps the reason it holds people to itself even unto martyrdom is because it is the truth. Furthermore, I’ve found that Christianity very strongly respects humanity. After all, God specifically said that he made us in His own image. That’s kind of a big deal. He even came down from eternal bliss to walk a weary life on earth and then be killed by the ones He loves. I’d say that religion does not destroy the glory of humanity.
  37. “It is no surprise that Christian art is the worst around. How can you expect a people to produce honesty when honesty is condemned?” Yes, Christian film and music has not been the greatest of late. I admit this is a good critique of the current American Christian culture. But really that’s all it is, a critique of the current American Christian culture. This wasn’t valid fifty years ago and I imagine it won’t be valid in another fifty years. In any case, the critique doesn’t harm Christianity itself. I’ve found that church culture can sometimes be like a country club, where everyone puts up a front. But the Bible is not like this. King David was deeply self-expressive. I know several Christian communities that are the same. So, as I see it, honesty is not condemned.
  38. “Why would you question yourself if you think God Almighty is on your side? After all, whatever he tells you to do, no matter how horrifying, has got to be righteous. To contradict His Will is to be an insolent spider, worthy of being damned to the fires of Gehenna.” Yes, the results of the Crusades and Islamic terrorism are ample examples of this. But what if God Almighty actually did show up and command you to do something? Then perhaps you ought to do it. I understand that since some evil people believe God is on their side, it casts suspicion on all people who believe God is on their side. But this does not mean that God is, in fact, on no one’s side. Finally, I am certain that He did show up and command me to do something. He commanded me to love Himself and to love others. I don’t think many people would argue against that commandment.
  39. “Who tends to be religious? The ones with their head in the clouds, unwilling to deal with real life. Alright, I exaggerate. Sometimes it is those with their head in the sand, ignoring everyone around them.” I’ve actually found that neither of these trends tend to be true. But even if they were true, then it is merely an observation. Even if religious people are letting you down, that does not mean that religion is false. Perhaps a better response would be to avoid the pitfalls that others are falling into.
  40. “There is no greater impediment to human happiness than desiring divine happiness.” This is an interesting one. However, consider this. What if God is pleased when we are happy? Then, desiring divine happiness would mean desiring human happiness. But the actual point is that religion tends to make people unhappy. An example would be the medieval monks who lived an intentionally ascetic life. They do things for religious reasons that leave them unhappy. Modern Christians can do this too, like going out of our way to serve the poor, or forgiving someone who deeply hurts us. Sometimes this sacrifice makes us unhappy, so in a sense, desiring the glorification of Christ is making us unhappy. But the thing is, as time moves on and we look back on those periods, our memory of unhappiness fades, and in its place comes a fulfillment. So if we have a reasonable view of God, I would argue that this statement is quite false.
  41. “The greatest achievement of a man is to remain fresh, to remain youthful, to remain full of vigor. Religion prevents him from living fully, so it must be discarded.” At the end of Deuteronomy, it says with honor that Moses remained vigorous his whole life. So no, religion does not need sap us of energy. But sometimes it does, if we are handed a situation in which the religious thing to do is to bear suffering. If your deepest value is to remain full of youth, then by all means abandon religion. But perhaps this is not supposed to be your deepest value. It is a good value, but not the deepest. Finally, religion is often cited as the reason people could carry on, which means it can even grant people vigor.
  42. “Life! Life! That ultimate pleasure, that truest joy! Life, that one that can only be lived and not observed. Life, that one that denies interpretation but embraces experience. Life, that one that cannot be subjugated! That one that throws off even God himself!” This one is similar to the above. Life is just life, and it is to be lived, not analyzed. I sympathize with the sentiment; I too think life is awesome and it is there to be lived and enjoyed. However, I disagree that life is uninterpretable, and I disagree that an interpretation is a subjugation. This is an existentialist mindset, a mindset that, in my opinion, has a faulty conception of freedom. Finally, if God created life, obviously life does not throw off God. The way I see it, God created life and he made it reasonable. Even further, He gave us a book with some cool knowledge, telling us what it is all about. Of course, without God around, life can only be lived, and not observed.
  43. “Man has long built stories for himself to imagine. The Hero, the Bride, the Jester, the Sage, and the Priest. All are healthy ways of finding meaning within life, but none are to be understood to be reality.” This one comes from Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Basically, people construct ideas of who they want to be, and this is a way of coping with meaningless life. We sort of invent meaning. I say okay, but what if there is actual meaning out there? What if the happiness of marriage is not merely a construct to ensure the propagation of the species, but on her wedding day the Bride is experiencing the kind of true happiness that only comes from eternal meaning? And what if the Believer is actually speaking to God through prayer? Or the Priest is actually bringing God’s truth to the people? This does not contradict the ideas of Jung and Campbell, that people innately create archetypes for themselves, but in fact lends it new dignity. Now people are innately doing that because they sense the eternal truthfulness of the romantic view of life, which they have access to through God’s image.
  44. “If you want to have shame shoved down your throat, attend a religious service.” Ah, I sigh with sadness at this one. It can be true that we throw shame unto people. But here is a counter-cultural statement: we often deserve shame. Shame is realizing that we are sinful. But the beauty of the Gospel is that Christ came to take away our shame. Anyways, rejecting religion to avoid shame is perhaps a mistake.
  45. “Religion is coping with inferiority.” It is difficult to acknowledge that you are inferior in something. This phrase claims that the religious could not stand admitting this, so they developed a way to make themselves feel superior in the only way that seemed to matter: religion. Well, okay. Except that many stable and accomplished people are deeply religious. Plus I’m a Calvinist, so I cannot even say that my faith makes me superior. As Jonathon Edwards once said, “I contribute nothing to my salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” So if this was true, the teachings of religion would have to look different.
  46. “God’s wrath is the human desire for revenge.” If a person is deeply persecuted, perhaps in the dark of night their rage overwhelms them and they swear that in the end, God will avenge them. Maybe this starts a trend among the religious and from vengeance springs forth hatred of all oppression, springs forth hatred of sin, springs forth God’s wrath. Or perhaps God is truly angered at oppression, and in the end God truly will avenge them. I tend to think this is the case, since He says so.
  47. “God’s wrath is the personification of disgust.” A tad more sinister than the one before. Maybe someone is disgusted at the moral decay they think they see around them, and, being religious, they attribute their disgust to God. Once it is God’s disgust, the person actually becomes angry, and claims his emotions are because God is feeling the same thing. So his personal disgust travels upwards and he claims that it is part of God’s character to be wrathful at what disgusts him. Perhaps, or maybe he is actually having righteous emotions, wishing that his countrymen followed him in loving God. In that case, his righteous emotions are actually allowing him to understand the emotions of the living God. The distinction is subtle, but it makes all the difference.
  48. You get the gist.

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