Sunday, January 10, 2010

Empty Faith: Saving Faith By Rejecting its Tenets

I must admit, I find it curious that Christians often reject certain claims of scripture but not others. Fundamental Christians who do this strike me as being hypocritical, since they make the bold claim that the Bible is God’s inerrant and holy inspire word. How could any of it be wrong? More liberal Christians who reject the Bible confuse me even more. Many Unitarian Christians, for example, fully reject the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This perplexes me, because even the pious Paul made it known that, 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

As an ex-Evangelical Christian of nearly 3 decades I must say it sounds vaguely heretical by Christian standards. But I get it… I really do. The Bible is inadequate when it comes to answering most of our modern moral dilemmas, and so Christians move away from a rigid legalistic reading of their holy scriptures and try to find balance in their editorial decisions to leave certain bits out. In other words, they let their human conscience guide them to make the right ethical discernment, but then they often attribute this little voice in their head to the Holy Spirit or the ever living Christ. Wrongly so, I might add.

As a liberated atheist though, I won't hold them to such barbaric teachings as those found in the Bible, since I believe our innately evolved moral humanism causes us to be repulsed by such putrid nonsense and reject inadequate teachings such as burning witches or beating your slaves. I feel this selectivity for Christians to choose the moral high ground, so to speak, depicts this higher moral sense in how we as humans have come to act, think, and relate to one another as well as the world around us.

Even so, what intrigues me is how Christians can seem to cherry-pick some bits of scripture, separate the good from the bad, and say they're filled with the Holy Spirit and have been saved by Christ, and this makes you Christian enough, but ignore the consequences of such actions.

If you reject any bits at all this puts the reliability of the whole into question, Christ dwelling or not. You put your entire faith into doubt since it is predicated on what your sacred holy book contains in its tenets of faith.

Since you would have no concept of Christ but for the Gospels and Bible, it doesn't make sense to just reject it when you don't like it, but rely upon it to inform you about your relationship with Christ when it suits you.

It seems a little double-faced to me. You can either take it or leave it for what it is. But you can't just make it into whatever you desire it to be while blatantly ignoring what it is. That's not being objective.

So I'm curious as to what the justification is (other than the little Jesus inside you says... because as mentioned... that doesn't solve the problem) when Christians give themselves the right to abandon scriptural verses which they find unsatisfactory while holding to others they might reject the next time around. It’s just not a good practice for those who swear they live or die by what their faith entails. To disregard elements of that faith arbitrarily merely in order to rationalize and reconcile the contradictions or discrepancies and thereby justify a continued adherence to said faith doesn’t seem to do it any justice. In fact, I feel it not only detracts from faith, making it obsolete, but ultimately, seeks to make it meaningless. After all, if faith can be anything you want it to be, and mean anything you want it to mean, then as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, your faith is empty.

Although it seems to me that most Christians today are doing just this. They're trying to maintain this  sense of evolved morality, claiming it stems from their faith, and at the same time are denying that their faith is predicated and founded largely on immoral tenets--where the capricious nature of the tenets of faith negates the morality they seek--basically they're trying to have it both ways. When it comes to genuine morality, ethical behavior, and doing what's right, this just won't do. Salvaging one's faith by selectively rejecting some of its less impressive tenets meanwhile upholding others, coincidentally to suit whatever purpose you want it to (arbitrarily), is hypocritical practice which leads to a meaningless and empty faith.

Even so, in the end I find myself agreeing with the poet Robert Burns when he writes: 

But twenty times I rather would be 
An atheist clean, 
Than under gospel colours hid be 
Just for a screen. 
(Epistle to the Rev. John M'math, 1785)

In a related article see: Why I Am Not a Christian: Part 2 Biblical Errancy.


  1. T-

    What is absolutely hillarious is as I was about to respond to this post it reminded me of a comment I read on Debunking Christianity. As I go to copy and paste it in my response to you I noticed you already dealt with MMM's comment. I didn't comment on MMM's post because at the time I didn't have the right words to say but then after reading your post here it filled me with the words to say. But I see you already beat me to it. But all is good because that is exactly what I was going to say! =)

    Anyways, I have always found it bewildering how Christians pick and choose what ever they want out of the Bible to fit to their world view and then assert that I have a one way ticket to hell because I don't prescribe to it. Like you said if it wasn't for the damn Bible they wouldn't know anything about the message of Jesus. But then they deem it ok to take whatever they want out of it and leave the rest behind because it is anachronistic, etc...That is like only adhering to some of the laws because you simply don't like the rest. The Bible is either a standing and binding document or it isn't. How can there be any grey area? There is no grey area in laws, you either adhere or not. Plus isn't rejecting certain ideas and creeds in the Bible really putting the human above its master? I mean aren't Christians aspiring to be perfect and all? Aren't they trying to become like Jesus?

    Also, I find it odd that the things that are deemed anachronistic are chucked out. I mean the people who wrote the Bible didn't seem to think they were unimportant. I mean they did write them and all. Then if they believe God did inspire the texts of the Bible what are they to make of those verses? I mean are God's words only good for the time they were written in and for? I mean surely not because they still throw out the Leviticus verse against homosexuals. They still believe in no premarital sex and everything else about sex. Or are only some of God's words intrinsic?

    I just don't see how they reconcile their faith. It is all based on wishful thinking and an illusion. This is what makes me so happy to be free from it. As Pat Condell says, "Thank God for Atheism!".



  2. Yes, all that and more.

    That's one of the reasons I feel like advocating the atheist view--just because it's so much more reasonable, not to say, more sensible, and IMHO, is over all far better equipped to teach us how to get by in life.

    I suppose, to be fair, religion can do this to an extent. But I find that anybody who is serious about leading a good life must, at some point or another, outgrow the simpleness of the Bible, and eventually stop being ignorant as to it all, shed their faith and emerge from the cocoon and begin a life of true freedom--as an enlightened being.

  3. I do not see it as inconsistent to pick and choose. We do it all the time. For instance, I read a blog about my favorite (American) football team, analyzing their play, etc. I do not have to agree with all the author's conclusions to still learn from much of his expertise. Now the ultimate conclusion that liberal Christians draw, that they hear the still small voice of God telling them what to believe and not believe from the bible, I do not share that and do not find their reasons for believing in God that way compelling. But I think that might be separate from their picking and choosing? Does that make any sense?

  4. The picking and choosing is inconsistent when they use it to support their arguments, but will arbitrarily use the same verse to support a different argument at a later time. All the while, not offering any extrabiblical support for their arguments.

    Also it is illogical to drop of canonical verses which once were considered God's authoritative word because they cease to be pertinent or practical when you're a person of faith. It's makes cherry-picking a hypocritical practice sense to deny one verse as divinely revealed but another as not is to pretend to know the mind of God, and that's arrogance.

    So picking and choosing is fine as long as your choice to do it is reasonable and supported beyond the arbitrary practice of quote mining. But there is a difference in using a verse to aid in the critical thinking of what that verse is trying to say (i.e. interpretation) and simply quoting it to support one's devotional Christians, in this case, not to better understand it but just to prove one's faith based position using an capricious methodology as the final verdict. That alone is insufficient to defend one's position.


Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist