The Gathering Storm: Will Christianity Be Held Accountable?

Enough is enough

This comment was posted recently on one of my articles:

“In what year did you become not just an atheist but a crusader against Christianity?
In what year did you acknowledge yourself as a homosexual?”

I found these questions about chronology a bit puzzling, but then it struck me that there was another agenda: to identify me as a zealot, and to make sure people know that I am gay. After all, what could be worse than an outspoken gay atheist?

I answered both questions:

“I had become an atheist by the time I finished my PhD in Biblical Studies in 1975. Even after I had transferred to a secular career, however, I didn’t stop thinking about Christianity; eventually my thoughts about its flaws and contradictions settled into ten categories, hence the title of my book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief.

“With the publication of the book in 2016, I became a public critic of Christianity. Since the year 2000 more than 350 books have been published, explaining, in detail, the falsification of theism—Christianity especially. This has never happened before. Ever. And I suspect it helps to explain the decline of religion, i.e., polling has shown that there are now as many “nones” (people who don’t self-identify as religious) as there are Catholics and evangelicals.

Let’s leave the word ‘crusade’ where it belongs, i.e., in the Christian category of horrors.

“I am 77, and have been with my husband for 42 years (we were legally married in 2008). Certainly by my early teens I realized who I was. My father was a doctor, and his library included Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male—and I discovered there that same-sex attraction is a fact of nature. It never once occurred to me to feel any guilt about who I was, although I do regret the mistakes I made trying to pretend that I was straight, i.e., follow the script that was expected of me.”

Because “crusading” has come naturally to Christians, at least since the time of the crusades—I remember the Crusade for Christ when I got to college—it’s hardly a surprise that I am perceived as a crusader against the faith.

Here is my credential: I am a public critic of the faith. I count myself among those who say, “Enough with magical thinking!” There has been increasing protest against theism since the turn of the century. Most of the nearly 400 titles in the Cure-for-Christianity Library have been published in just the last two decades: many serious thinkers have deemed it worthwhile to oppose a major world religion that causes so much suffering and damage—to which, by the way, inexplicably—so many of the faithful seem oblivious…all the while certain that the church “does so much good.”

By the way, criticism of the faith is not persecution. Outlawing religion—forbidding people to practice their faith—is not the goal, at all: freedom of religion is an absolute. As is the right to criticize and ridicule religion. In the marketplace of ideas, religion and atheism are both fair game.

No, Christians, we are not persecuting you: we’re prodding you to think.

So, Christianity: Why do I oppose thee? Let me count a few of my reasons. Since I am gay, let me start with this:

Aggressive opposition to gay rights

Visceral dislike of gay people was by no means invented by Christianity—it exists in non-Christian cultures as well—but since the rise of the modern gay rights movement, Christianity has been a major voice in the condemnation of same sex attraction. Backed by the famous “clobber texts” in Leviticus and the letters of apostle Paul, Catholics and evangelicals especially have pursued their brutal crusades against gay rights. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were virulently homophobic, and made sure this was Vatican policy, destroying so many lives with their cruel piety. I mentioned this in my article last week on Tom Rastrelli’s book, Confessions of a Gay Priest: A Memoir of Sex, Love, Abuse, and Scandal in the Catholic Seminary; for the big picture, see also Fédéric Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy.

One of the reasons for Trump’s success is the Religious Right’s confidence that they have his—and Pence’s—full support in trying to smash anything that smacks of Gay Rights, especially marriage equality. But beyond that, the climate of hatred and condemnation, boosted by the Bible “clobber texts” and mean-spirited religious zealotry, can be catastrophic for gay youth:

“Research has found that attempted suicide rates and suicidal ideation among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc. (LGBT) youth is significantly higher than among the general population. LGBT youth have the highest rate of suicide attempts.

…the passage of laws that recognize LGBT people as equal with regard to civil rights may have significant positive impacts on the physical and mental health and well-being of LGBT youth…”

It’s tough for many Christians to overcome the arrogance of theology: we know what God wants, so you have to do things our way. But will the demonization of gay people be accepted much longer? Will Christianity be held accountable?

Aggressive opposition to women’s rights: Misogyny

Again, we have to stare down the Catholic Church on this one, which has wide impact because of its 1.2 billion members. The Vatican is openly, aggressively, proudly misogynistic—notwithstanding the adoration of the Virgin Mary. Its refusal to consider the ordination of women (and yes, good pope Francis is adamant about this) is Exhibit A. But the real damage the church does must be considered in the context of global warming and the sustainability of the planet, i.e., the refusal to permit contraception and abortion. Population growth is a major threat to the health of the planet.

Catherine Ingram pointed out in her 2019 article, Facing Extinction:

“In 1952, when I was born, there were approximately 2.6 billion people on earth. There are now 7.8 billion, a more than threefold increase in my lifetime. Our use rate of resources would allow for our planet to sustainably host only about one billion people.

“…the load on resource use is far in excess of its carrying capacity. Of course, the only way we have been able to pull this off is by stealing from the future, just as we might have a garden of food that could last ten people through the winter and instead we have a wild party for a thousand and go through the entire supply in an evening.

“It is also troubling to realize that whatever reasonable measures we might attempt to mitigate our situation, and there are none known that can be done at scale, the addition of roughly 222,000 humans per day (births minus deaths) would curtail our efforts at mitigation.”

The church’s policy, based on entrenched theology, is causing real damage to the planet. Again, it’s tough for many Christians—especially Vatican Christians—to overcome the arrogance of theology: we know what God wants, so you have to do things our way.

But will misogyny be accepted much longer? Will Christianity be held accountable?

Is abortion murder? Is it the destruction of human life? That is, does Catholic/Evangelical theology hold up to scrutiny? Here are three Debunking Christianity Blog articles on this issue:

Does Sanctity-of-Life Rule Out Abortion?

Why Georgia's Abortion Bill Must Be Opposed, Everything You Need To Know, Part 1

Why Georgia's Abortion Bill Must Be Opposed, Everything You Need To Know, Part 2

What the World Needs Now: No More Magical Thinking

“Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards will begin three days of lunch-hour fasts and prayers on Monday in response to the state's spike in coronavirus cases. Acting on requests from Louisiana's faith leaders, Edwards announced the initiative during a press conference last week and encouraged all residents to participate.” So Newsweek reported this week.

We can only hope that the governor has consulted Adam Houge’s book, The 7 Most Powerful Prayers That Will Change Your Life Forever; we wouldn’t want him to be wasting his time with inferior prayers!

I guess he took his lead from the Vice President: the picture of Mike Pence leading his pandemic response team in prayer has gone viral (as Covid-19 continues to do as well). It would seem that his prayer session fell short of its goal. We might be tempted to believe that—What? Prayer doesn’t work? Christianity has done so much damage by encouraging fantasy. The ritual muttering, with eyes closed, in the earnest hope that a cosmic being is paying attention, is the essence of magical thinking.

“In Jesus’ name we pray” is a Christian magic spell, i.e., reciting the name of a holy hero to get a god’s attention.

Darrell Ray notes an even more dramatic example of massive prayer failure:

“It took two world wars for the Europeans to realize that the prayers of millions of people were not answered. It doesn’t take much intelligence to see that the god isn’t working too well when 92 million people died in two world wars.” The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Cultures

It would seem that even prayer experts—those especially devoted to the practice—can be devastated by prayer failure. The death of thirteen elderly nuns in one convent near Detroit is one of the most heart-wrenching stories to come out of the pandemic. Theologians will rush to excuse God—“his ways are mysterious”—but outsiders can draw realistic conclusions about the effectiveness of prayer.

Priests and pastors get away with the claim that prayer works because, well, Jesus:

“Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:23-24)

Even Christians know this is false.

In our own time we have had a much better theologian, superstition-buster George Carlin:

“You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Two reasons: First of all, I think he's a good actor, okay? To me, that counts. Second, he looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn't fuck around. In fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that God was having trouble with.”

“I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same fifty percent rate. Half the time I get what I want, half the time I don't...Same as the four-leaf clover and the horseshoe...same as the voodoo lady who tells you your fortune by squeezing the goat's testicles. It's all the just pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish, and enjoy yourself...”

Just pick your superstition. Pay attention, Mike Pence and Governor Edwards. Yes, this is dangerous religion: pray it away—and pack together in churches…again, because, Jesus. I suspect Christianity does face a gathering storm—of outrage for its complicity in the spread of the pandemic and its embrace of the most dangerous and irreligious president in our history. As one Christian pastor put it:

• “There are many reasons why young people are turning away from the Church, but my observation is, Trump has vastly accelerated that trend. He’s put it into hyperdrive.”

• “White, conservative Christians who set aside the tenets of their faith to support Donald Trump are now left with little to show for it.”

These quotes are referenced in John Loftus’ recent Must-Read article: “On Trump, Covid-19, Cognitive Bias, and Evangelicals.”

Richard Carrier’s article on the harm caused by religion already has become a classic.

Try to push aside the famous creeds, hymns and choirs, rituals and stained glass—and look hard at the core of Christian belief, which has achieved championship status for cult craziness:

An ancient tribal god, whom theologians modified as time went by, got in the mood to forgive human sin, which he took as a personal affront. He decided that a human sacrifice could assuage his anger—but only a special human, his son. Then a man who hallucinated this way into the new cult preached that eternal life was within reach for people who believed that the son had risen from the dead; they would also get to meet Jesus arriving on the clouds. Another early theologian added that eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the holy hero guaranteed eternal life.

I am public critic of Christianity above all because it preserves and champions these grotesque superstitions from the ancient world.

Will magical thinking be in fashion forever? Can Christianity be held accountable? The “nones” are on the increase.

Yes, enough. It’s time to grow up. Timothy’s Ferris’ book, Coming of Age in the Milky Way, can help with that.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published by Tellectual Press in 2016. It was reissued in 2018 with a new Foreword by John Loftus.

The Cure-for-Christianity Library© is here. A brief video explanation of the Library is here.