Two Concise Books that Demolish Christianity

Handy guides to quick deconversion



I suspect many Christians weren’t quite prepared for the battering their faith would take in the 21st century, some of which is self-inflicted. Recently we’ve seen evangelical Christianity in suicide mode in its devotion to Donald Trump…of all people. What a bizarre turn of events. Trump, with no religious sensibilities whatever. 

 

But in the first decade of this new century, we saw the emergence of outspoken, articulate atheism. Books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens were best-sellers, and the impact has been substantial—at least in one respect: these works seem to have prompted a surge in atheist publishing. Sometimes I’ve been tempted to call it a “boom,” but perspective is needed. This surge/boom is still dwarfed by the ongoing glut of devotional books written by preachers intended for the mass market. In one pharmacy near me, there is a rack of devotional books—with an emphasis on the power of prayer—right by the counter for picking up meds.



 

Many of the faithful apparently didn’t notice the new atheist books. When Christopher Hitchens died and it was widely noted that he was famous for his book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, there was an eruption of furious hate from Christians on the Internet. This display of devout ugliness didn’t help their cause. What more did atheists need to say, “enough is enough”—and keep right on publishing? 

 

By my count, well more than 450 books have been published since the year 2,000 on the falsification of theism, Christianity especially (see the link below to the Cure-for-Christianity Library). Do we need any more? Yes, of course we do. Christianity has had 2,000 years of momentum, and the church bureaucracy—in so many different manifestations—is still committed to championing the faith. So the more atheist books the better. The very next one may have the right voice, the right message, to reach wavering folks who sense that Christianity doesn’t merit being “taken on faith.” 

 

Among the 450 books I’ve just mentioned, there are some that present massive evidence that Christianity is false. Above all, the five anthologies edited by John W. Loftus come to mind (see the Loftus Amazon author page)—and he has two more on the way. We could say that these works represent a graduate level course on the deconstruction of Christianity. For those who are up for this level of study: go for it! 

 

But how about a quick, crash course? Many folk might shy away from a 400-page anthology, so the best prescription may be books that can be read in one or two sittings—and that deliver stunning knockout punches. I have two in mind, especially:

 

·      Richard Carrier, Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith


·      Tim Sledge: Four Disturbing Questions with One Simple Answer: Breaking the Spell of Christian Belief

 

The Carrier book is 82 pages, and Sledge’s is 112 pages. They both focus on four issues that falsify Christianity. Of course, there are many such issues, as a perusal of the Loftus anthologies demonstrates, but the four-issue approach is very effective. 

 

Carrier’s four punches:

 

·      God is Silent

·      God is Inert

·      Wrong Evidence

·      Wrong Universe

 

Sledge’s four disturbing questions:

 

·      The Power Failure Question

·      The Mixed Messages Question

·      The Germ Warfare Question

·      The Better Plan Question

 

These are brilliant books. It’s invigorating to discover the details and nuances of their arguments, so I’ll avoid too many plot spoilers here. Please get the books and dive right in. But I do want to draw attention to a few satisfying highlights. 

 

We’ve heard the accusation that “the church is filled with hypocrites,” but that isn’t an argument for atheism. Most of us fall short of the ideals we profess, and, in my experience serving churches, I didn’t find that most of the folks in the congregation turned out to be egregious sinners. There is the claim, however, that God empowers people to change, to behave in superior ways. But setting the bar too high can expose the fallacy of this boast. The apostle Paul wrote that accepting Jesus had transformative powers, e.g., Galatians 5:24, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Many Christians would admit this doesn’t apply to their lives, and Paul himself confessed that this didn’t work for him. He lamented in Romans 7 that sin dwelled within him: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

 

This is what Tim Sledge means by The Power Failure Question

 

“Take a group of these born-again, new creations in Christ—to whom God is giving directions and guidance for day-to-day life—put them in a church and wait. Eventually some of them will get into a disagreement about something. Sometimes they work it out, but often, no matter how much prayer takes place, one group gets angry and leaves, often to start another congregation. Wait a little longer, and the process will repeat—over and over—and that’s one reason we have not only thousands of churches, but thousands of Christian denominations.” (p. 16)

 

“…as I thought about the range of personalities and lifestyles in any congregation I served or visited, I saw a bell curve of outstanding, average, and not-so-great people not dramatically different from the pattern of any human organization.” (p. 17)

 

“Why does faith in the resurrected, empowering Jesus generate such inconsistent results?”  (p. 17)

 

And here Sledge presents something that can be tested: “Christianity claims to be energized by God’s supernatural power and promises to connect you as a believer with this supernatural power.” Supposedly this supernatural power surrounds us, and surely it can’t depend on “believing Christians” to be activated—if God possesses the power that Christian theology claims. 

 

Carrier deals with this problem in his chapter, God Is Inert. There is dramatic lack of evidence that God acts for the best in human affairs, as Carrier illustrates with this example:

 

“Think about it. A man approaches a school with a loaded assault rifle, intent on mass murder. A loving person speaks to him, attempts to help him resolve his problems or to persuade him to stop, and failing that, punches him right in the kisser, and takes away his gun. And a loving person with godlike powers could simply turn his bullets into popcorn as they left the gun, or heal with a touch whatever insanity or madness (or by teaching him cure whatever ignorance) led the man to contemplate the crime. But God does nothing.” (p. 21) 

 

Any mere human could propose ways a powerful God could intervene to stop the crime, well short of the “popcorn” miracle Carrier mentions, e.g., give the guy a flat tire on his way to the school, so that his car ends up in the ditch. That’s beyond God’s power? One devout Christian woman I know, a few days after the Sandy Hook School massacre in December 2012, suggested that God arranged the murder because “he wanted more angels.” This would be an extreme ungodly misuse of power, and it’s an example of the damage theology can do to brains: “We’re gonna hold on to God, even if he is a monster.” What’s the point?

 

Are we any better off with a God…or no God? Carrier observes:

 

“A Christian can rightly claim he is unable to predict exactly what things his God would choose to do. But the Christian hypothesis still entails that God would do something. Therefore, the fact that God does nothing is a decisive reputation of the Christian hypothesis. Once again a prediction is made that consistently fails to pan out. Instead, we observe the exact opposite: a dumb, mechanical universe that blindly treats everyone with the same random fortune and tragedy regardless of merit or purpose.” (p. 20) 

 

So much is made in Christian theology about God the loving father, and Sledge notes that this just so much white noise:

 

“Decent parents protect their kids from danger. If your toddler grabs the liquid Drano container, you don’t watch in silence. But that is exactly what God the heavenly father has done through the ages. He just watches, invisible and silent.” (pp. 45-46)

 

In my new series of posts on the scandal of divine negligence, I draw attention to dramatic examples of God ignoring—or being unaware of—human suffering. Here are the links to What Was God Doing When This Happened?  Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5 

 

Christian apologists have strained every muscle—and dredged up the most specious arguments—to excuse God’s tolerance of evil and suffering. Hence it’s no surprise that this made the Carrier and Sledge lists of four, and they address it with precision.

 

I sometimes wonder how many rank and file Christians grasp the realities of the Cosmos—as we know it today, as opposed to the na├»ve Bible view. How many of them could describe Edwin Hubble’s startling discoveries in the 1920s about the Andromeda galaxy—and the implications for our thinking about God? Christian theology has been traumatized by new discoveries—although theologians scramble to adjust—hence for me, Carrier’s chapter, Wrong Universe, is especially important.

 

“…almost the entire universe is lethal to life—in fact, if we put all the lethal vacuum of outer space swamped with deadly radiation into an area the size of the house, you would never find the microscopic speck of area that sustains life. It would be smaller than a single proton. Would you conclude that the house was built to serve and benefit that subatomic spec? Hardly. Yet that is the house we live in. The Christian theory completely fails to predict this. But atheism predicts exactly this.” (p. 66)

 

“…the universe exhibits no values in its own operation or design. It operates exactly the same for everyone, good and bad alike. It rewards and craps on both with total disregard. It behaves just like a cold and indifferent machine, not the creation of a loving engineer. Christianity does not predict this. Atheism does. Christianity is therefore refuted.” (p. 74)

 

Please pay careful attention as well to Sledge’s chapter, The Better Plan Question, in which he notes the incoherence of the Christian salvation scheme. Among other things, he provides 17 bullet points about the deficiencies in the gospel resurrection stories. If Jesus really did come alive again, supposedly to prove something about the nature of God, why would he appear in secret to just a few selected disciples and friends? 

 

“Better still,” Sledge notes, “the resurrected Jesus could have gone on a Worldwide Resurrection Tour with stops in China and every city, town, and village in the world.” (p. 63) 

 

The flawed stories about the resurrection of Jesus—suffused with folklore and magical thinking—demonstrate how vulnerable Christian theology is. 

 

These two books by Carrier and Sledge are handy introductions to their other works. Visit the Amazon author pages for both to see the full lists: Richard Carrier, Tim Sledge.

 

Also check out their websites: Richard Carrier, Tim Sledge

 

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©, now with more than 450 titles, is here. A brief video explanation of the Library is here.

 







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