Christianity Doesn’t Survive This Fatal Knockout Blow

One of several, actually

Even a casual reading of the Ten Commandments (either Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5) should make anyone skeptical that a supposedly good, competent god had anything to do with it. Here was this god’s big opportunity—alone with Moses on the mountaintop—to let humanity know the best moral principles to follow. Many ethicists have noticed three crucial items that are missing: (1) Thou shalt not engage in warfare; (2) Thou shalt not enslave other human beings; (3) Thou shalt not mistreat or undervalue other human beings because of the color of their skin. These omissions are surely an indication of defective, indeed bad theology.  


Slavery and racism have brought so much pain and suffering to the world. But war has been, by far, the greatest destroyer, especially as weapons have become more and more advanced—very smart people have been hired by military leaders to create devastating killing machines. This prompts us to doubt, on another level entirely, that a good god was involved in the creation of humans.



Our brains are wired for aggression, territoriality, in-group loyalties—hence our endless willingness to go to war. Those who believe in a creator god have to admit that this has to be one of his biggest screwups. In Genesis 6:5-6 we read that god realized his failure:  


“Yahweh saw that the wickedness of humans was great in the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And Yahweh was sorry that he had made humans on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” 


How could the wickedness of humans not have been god’s own design flaw? The author of Genesis was unaware that he was writing bad theology—and it got much worse with the story of the flood: god decided to kill everyone and everything on earth—with the exception of one family, and animals on the ark: “Yahweh said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the humans I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air—for I am sorry that I have made them.’” (verse 8)


How in the world can an all-wise god have made such a huge mistake? More bad theology—and the author of Genesis had no idea he made this goof. His god was modeled on tribal chieftains.  


The biggest challenge theologians face is to uphold the goodness of god in the face of so much suffering. Of course, the flood genocide in Genesis is fiction, but wars, genocides, and plagues have been constants in human history. An early version of the chapter on suffering in my book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief, I had titled, Easy Acceptance of the Very TerribleI dropped it because a few of my critical readers didn’t like it. But I still think this title sums up pretty well the goal of Christian apologists: to persuade the faithful that belief in god is not damaged by very terrible events that have happened for millennia—and that happen every day. 


Author Franz Kiekeben has offered extensive comments on this in an article posted here on 19 October 2023 by John Loftus: The Reality of Senseless Suffering. In his opening paragraph he notes ways in which god may be excused for allowing suffering: “…the suffering serves some greater purpose…or it may be that certain types of suffering are the only way to bring about something of immense value.” Kiekeben goes into great detail analyzing these suggestions, offering this comment at one point:

“This section therefore surveys the main suggestions that have been advanced in defense of God-condoned senseless suffering. Perhaps the simplest among them is that based on God’s supposed inscrutability. As is often said, God works in mysterious ways. Some therefore appeal to our ignorance of his purposes and intentions in order to argue that we may simply be incapable of understanding why he permits senseless suffering. Who are we to say God could not allow such a thing? This suggestion, however, misses the point of the problem. One does not need to understand what God’s reasons might be in order to see the incompatibility of a perfect being with that of suffering that is not justified.”   

There is an endless list of suffering, or horrible catastrophes—very terrible indeed—that rule out a good god who has compassion for humanity. Last October I published an article here titled, World War I: Why Didn’t It Put an End to Belief in God? That orgy of killing went on for four years: “…on average, more than 11,000 people lost their lives every single day of the conflict,” reports Holger Afflerbach, in an article titled “Did They Really Have to Fight to the Finish?” in the September 2023 issue of BBC History Magazine (p. 36, Vol. 24, No. 9). 

Human pride got in the way of shortening the war: “…the enormity of human sacrifices rendered the proposal to end the war completely unattractive. Leaders on all sides were keenly aware that something positive had to come out of the war—and only military victory could provide it.” (p. 36) There was another calamity that followed: the war contributed to the Spanish Flu Pandemic (1918-1920) that killed 25 to 50 million people—some estimates put the death toll much higher. The treaty that ended World War I was a brutal one, and fueled the hatreds that brought on World War II, with even greater loss of life. 

How can we have any tolerance for the feeble excuse that god works in mysterious ways? Mysterious indeed for a loving, caring, competent, all-powerful deity. “This is my father’s world” has a very hollow ring. Indeed, Keikeben’s sums up his article: “…the most reasonable conclusion is that there is senseless suffering. If so, then God does not exist.”

The Christian god—from what we read in the New Testament—keeps a close eye on every human: nothing escapes his notice. He keeps tracks of our words and thoughts. 

So here’s a thought experiment: how do the devout account for these four horrible events that have happened during my lifetime (and this is a very short list)? 

(1)  On 10 July 1944, 462 women and children were murdered in a church in rural France. I described this event in an article here a few months ago: God’s Bad Habit of Oversleeping (here's a 5-minute video I did about it as well). God was not able to somehow prevent this massacre in his church?
(2)  On 25 July 2000, 109 people were burned to death when the Concorde burst into flames on takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport. A strip of metal had fallen off another plane and remained on the runway. It was hit by the Concorde and punctured a fuel tank. A decent gust of wind arranged by the Almighty could have swept the metal strip out of the way.    
(3)  On 26 December 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 225,000 people, many of them babies, toddlers, and children. How does it make sense that the powerful, miracle-working god described in the Bible—who parted the Red Sea—couldn’t have stopped the undersea earthquake?
(4)  On 12 December 2012, Adam Lanza killed 20 kids and 6 adult staff at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. Was it beyond god’s almighty power to arrange for Adam to have a flat tire and crash off the road on his way to the school? Cops could have discovered his weapons…off to jail for him. 

It’s very hard to argue that any of these events happened to bring about a higher good. Indeed the higher good argument is guesswork, speculation, wishful thinking, on the part of theologians who have no evidence whatever—reliable, verifiable, objective evidence—that their god works in this way. The excuse-making is tiring.   

Here’s the hard work for devout folks in this thought experiment: never forgetting for a moment the horror/terror that the victims faced, and without resorting to the excuse that god works in mysterious ways or has a bigger plan, explain why your god just watched these things happen. Maybe your faith in this god is unwarranted. One pious woman I know, ten days after the Sandy Hook School massacre, with a nervous smile said, “God must have wanted more angels.” What more alarming example of easy acceptance of the very terrible could there be? She was willing to make her god co-murderer with the gunman. 

Earlier this week, John Loftus posted here an excerpt titled, “The Parable of the Mysterious Witness,” from John C. Wathey’s book, The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Religious Longing. It’s a quick read, so I won’t give away the punch line of the parable. But here’s the crucial conclusion: 

“…for the believer in the omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent personal god, every horrendous act of evil in the real world, every natural disaster, every injury, illness, and genetic defect that causes senseless suffering has just such a mysterious witness: God himself.” (p. 39)

Devout Christians: please face the implications of horrendous suffering for your cherished ideas about god. 

There are other knockout blows, which I indicated in my subtitle. I’ll mention two briefly.

(1)  The Bible is an embarrassment. Many people have abandoned the faith because of the awful things they find in the Bible, the Genesis flood genocide being just one. Most of the Bible is ignored by the laity, above all because it is boring/tedious. Ask any churchgoer how his/her understanding of god has been enhanced by the book of Ezekiel, or even by Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Don’t be surprised by the awkward silence that follows.                                                                 

Scholar Hector Avalos got it right: 

“If we were to go verse by verse, I suspect that 99 percent of the Bible would not even be missed.” (The End of Christianity, edited by John Loftus, p. 109) That is: those laypeople who do put time into Bible reading must be puzzled that so much of it has so little relevance to their piety or their daily lives. Yet, somehow, this ancient book is still touted as the Word of God.
(2)  The scandal of Christianity splintering into thousands of different, conflicting brands—many of which hate the others—can be traced to the lack of reliable, verifiable, objective evidence for god(s). Revelations, scriptures, visions, prayers, meditations: theologians and clergy are disastrously split—they cannot agree—on the supposed “information” about their god derived from these sources. Because they aren’t sources at all: they are products of imagination. As is the case with hundreds of other gods whom humans have imagined, worshipped and adored, Yahweh—and the more polished versions that theologians have come up with over the centuries—will one day be considered a fossil, a relic from the past. 


David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. He is the author of two books, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, now being reissued in several volumes, the first of which is Guessing About God (2023) and Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (2021). The Spanish translation of this book is also now available. 


His YouTube channel is here. At the invitation of John Loftus, he has written for the Debunking Christianity Blog since 2016.


The Cure-for-Christianity Library©, now with more than 500 titles, is here. A brief video explanation of the Library is here