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Life Arts    H3'ed 7/3/09

Christian Atrocities: Humanity's "Sin" or God's?

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Originally posted:

It seems like I hear a lot that when horrible things happen in the name of Christianity it's because human beings are imperfect vessels and they are corrupting God's message. This assertion allows most Christians to continue in their beliefs while at the same time reinforcing their ideas about humanity's imperfection and wretched state. I'm well aware that Christianity is not the only religion, or group, that does this. But I'm focusing on Christianity because I don't necessarily think that every religion must have the same problems. Some I think at least promote life-affirming values uncorrupted by the ideas of sin, Satan, or hell. I'm also aware that not all Christians believe in these things, but they have traditionally been a defining part of Christian doctrine, and many Christians still do.

Some individuals claim that it was in spite of Christian doctrine that corrupt churches performed great horrors such as the Inquisition. This seems plainly false. While corruption did (and does) abound in Christian churches, it was the doctrine itself that gave rise to such horrors. Our primary problem is not with "evil" men but with an "evil" God (As Nietzsche said, God's only excuse is that he doesn't exist!). It wasn't in spite of traditional Christian doctrine that corrupt churches and individuals caused suffering/stagnation/destruction but directly because of this corrupt doctrine that "good" men were persuaded and "evil" men were empowered to commit horrors.

Taking the Inquisition as one example, the church fathers reasoned thusly: it is better to torture them now if it has the potential to get them to confess their sins and return to Christ than to let them die in their sin and go to a place of eternal torment. And even if they themselves cannot be saved, it is better to sacrifice them than to let them lead others astray to such a fate.

And, I must say, they were right. It is better to be tortured now than to be tortured for eternity. It is better to prevent one from leading others into eternal torment and death. It was the belief that was corrupt and sick, not the decisions made based upon that belief, per se. It was not the men that formed this policy to deal with reality that were necessarily corrupt but rather the "God" that formed the policy of hell for reality-not the institution that was corrupt as much as the doctrine itself.

One may argue that the doctrine of hell was itself the product of a corrupt institution seeking to increase its own power and influence, and this is likely. But the point is that what caused these horrors-namely the beliefs of those ordering them-is for most Christians the same today as it was then. Christians haven't changed, the world has. Fundamentalist Christians still believe that without Jesus one will go to hell. They've just found that their opposition has grown too strong for them to freely commit physical assaults-most of the time. Christians are restrained by secular society. That, and no other reason, is why they behave themselves. And many of them really resent secular society and secular values-values such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, democracy-stuff like that.

"It's not their love of mankind but the impotence of that love that keeps the present day Christians from burning us."

Thanks Nietzsche. But in any event, this climate of rationality-in which ideas such as the existence of hell are not endorsed by the state because they are speculations about a world which we have little, if any, direct experience of and thus no practical understanding for-makes torture of nonbelievers the crime rather than nonbelief. To put it another way, if traditional Christianity has changed it has changed in method only. These Christians have found that the old methods have grown ineffective in that they breed opposition to the church. And in that this opposition has grown stronger than the church, the old methods are especially ineffective. So the style has changed. Instead of torturing people physically they focus on torturing them psychologically and emotionally. On top of that (or maybe as a form of it), they get them to listen to terrible Christian Rock music. Which is an oxymoron, by the way. There's no such thing as Christian Rock, because Rock is about revolution (the individual against the state's tyranny / see School of Rock) and Christianity is about oppression (the state against the individual's freedom).

In short, I want to say that religion is not the problem. Institutions are not the problem. People are not the problem. The problem lies in certain fundamental teachings of Christianity. You can strip away everything else, if they are still there, there will still be problems. Necessarily. On the other hand, if you were to actively remove and oppose them, you could have your institutions and your religion and all the "bad" people in the world wouldn't make that much of a difference.

If you identify with the message of this article, please email it to people, tell your friends, even print out copies to pass around. Together we can raise awareness. Thank you.
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Ben Dench graduated valedictorian of his class from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in the Spring Semester of 2007 with a B.A. in philosophy (his graduation speech, which received high praise, is available on YouTube). He is currently (more...)
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