Does Christianity Set the Moral Bar Low?

The other night, I listened to a Golden Age radio program that featured a phony news interview. Since I didn’t record the program, I am necessarily paraphrasing what I heard, but essentially the sketch had a radio news reporter interview the owner of a company that manufactures ventriloquist dummies. In the vignette, the reporter asked the owner to show him how the ventriloquist dummies work, and the owner responded that he was “not a very good ventriloquist” but that he would give it a try. He apparently picked up one of the dummies and used his inadequate skills to have the dummy say something like, “Hello, I am happy to be here today.”

The reporter responded, “I saw your lips move.” The owner countered, “I told you I’m not very good at this.” The reporter then contended, “There’s something wrong with the dummy.”
  The owner objects that the dummy is fine, but the reporter insists that the dummy didn’t work because he could see the owner’s lips move.

This small vignette actually illustrates what I believe to be the problem with many of the anti-Christian blogs and websites that litter the Internet and relates to the question of whether Christianity makes sense. Even though it has a different name, this is part IV of the series that I have been writing arguing against the position that “Christianity Doesn’t Make Sense.” Part I, Part II and Part III, can be found by clicking the links in the names. In the third part, I began a review of the number one link in response to the Google search “Christianity Doesn’t Make Sense” which turned out to be a blogpost entitled “Ten Reasons Christianity Doesn’t Make Sense.”   In reviewing the blogpost in part III, I stopped before I arrived at the end because I think that the author’s arguments, like so many similar atheist arguments on the Internet, illustrates a point about how knowledgeable Christians that escapes the authors.

In the “Ten Reasons” blogpost, the author starts off strong (at least in the sense that the author makes an effort to use logic), but as he/she continues to write the argument devolves into the usual mischaracterizations about Christian teaching that one comes to expect from Internet atheists. While the author makes some attacks in the first few paragraphs, (e.g., erroneously contending that Jesus effectively teaches that as long as you are a Christian, go rape, murder, commit genocide, enslave and commit every manner of atrocity), his seventh and eighth points abandon all pretense at explaining that Christianity doesn’t make sense and are little more than Christian smears. The seventh point reads:

The bible doesn’t set the moral bar very high.
Let’s face it: Don’t rape people, don’t own people, don’t hate people, and don’t hurt children are kind of no-brainers when it comes to morality. Our friend Jesus and his old man not only failed to make these things clear, but in many instances they encouraged, condoned, or commanded them. Sure, Jesus said a few things about loving your neighbor and being kind to strangers, but he also said that not believing in him was the worst offense a person could commit and that anyone who didn’t believe would burn in Hell for all eternity. And seriously, the Ten Commandments as a basis for all morality? Checking out your neighbor’s wife is worse than raping his daughter? Taking the lord’s name in vain is worse than owning slaves? Nice priorities. Add to this the fact that god himself does not follow his own rules, to which Christians respond that mere mortals cannot understand or judge the morality of god. But if the bible defines morality, and god has a different set of rules for himself than for humans, and we are not allowed to know or understand his rules except that we are expected to do as he says but not as he does, then how exactly does that provide any kind of moral baseline whatsoever?

What should be noted is the way that the author makes the same mistake as the news reporter in the radio vignette: He blames Christianity for the flaws, but Christianity isn’t at fault. He is blaming the wrong thing – and for those of us who understand the Christian teachings, the failings are obvious.  I am uncertain whether this author doesn’t have the mental wherewithal to understand what Christianity teaches or whether he has been duped by others into believing lies and mischaracterizations.

What the author says can be put into a few categories. The first is chronological snobbery. He begins, “Let’s face it: Don’t rape people, don’t own people, don’t hate people, and don’t hurt children are kind of no-brainers when it comes to morality.” With this sentence, the author commits chronological snobbery. Yes, in 21st Century America and most of the world where Christianity has been predominant, these are no-brainers. But are they no-brainers all over the world? Heck, reading the newspaper and seeing the evil taking place in locations like Syria, Iran and Korea makes it pretty apparent that these things are not no-brainers everywhere and within every culture.  And looking back through history, it certainly appears obvious that evil things were more common in the ancient world. But here’s the important point to notice: what Christianity has been teaching was the Christian teaching during the time prior to the Christian influence on the world that made these ideas commonplace. In fact, the idea that we should love our enemies (Mark 12:31), bless those that curse you (Luke 6:28) and pray for those that persecute you (Matthew 5:44) were not only contrary to what the rest of the world thought, but were almost unprecedented teachings.

Second, the author makes the mistake of reading into the Bible. He continues: “Our friend Jesus and his old man not only failed to make these things clear, but in many instances they encouraged, condoned, or commanded them.” Having engaged in discussion with Internet atheists for many years, I know exactly what verses this author is referencing. But with one exception, the verses do not say what the author claims without the author reading into them information that is not there. Where exactly did Jesus or God say, “You are encouraged/condoned/commanded to rape others”? Where did Jesus or God say, “You are encouraged/condoned/commanded to hurt others” or “You are encouraged/condoned/commanded to hurt children?” The answer is nowhere unless you read into the text certain prejudices that are in the minds and hearts of the reader – not the Biblical text.

The one exception is that Jesus did tell his disciples, ““If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) As I said in part III of this series, the simple answer is that Jesus makes these demands in relation to present expectations. He is basically saying, “If you do not choose me over your loved ones, your possessions and even your own life, you are not ready to follow me.” God is not demanding that everyone give up their spouses, their possessions and their lives. Rather, he is merely saying that you are to surrender their place of importance in your life to God. If you are not willing to give up these things in favor of following God, you are not really recognizing God’s rightful place in your life. This is not a call to hate other people. But the fact that the author fails to recognize that the Biblical teaching must be taken as a whole is simply another of the author’s many errors.

I could go on, but Christians should note that this author commits the same three claims that the serpent did to entice Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden. Remember the account from Genesis 3:1-6:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

In the Garden, the serpent first questioned the Word of God with “Did God really say….” The author continues this serpent-like tact by first questioning what God said about things. But rather than directly questioning by asking something like, “Did God really say we are to love our neighbors?”, the author turns it around and implies statements from God that are untrue like, “God encouraged/condoned/commanded people to rape others.”

Second, the serpent in Genesis 3:4 lies about God’s truth when he says, “You will not certainly die.” That was a lie and led into the third thing that the serpent did. But in the case of our author, he also lies about God’s truth. The author states as if authoritatively, “[H]e also said that not believing in him was the worst offense a person could commit and that anyone who didn’t believe would burn in Hell for all eternity.” No, Jesus never said that. Jesus said that He was the only way to heaven, and that those whose names are not written in the Book of Life (meaning, they have not accepted Jesus’ gift of forgiveness for the sins they have committed) would be sentenced to eternal condemnation. But did Jesus say that not believing in Him was the worst offense a person could commit? No, he did not. The author is lying.

The third thing that the serpent did in the Garden of Eden was to lie about God’s motives. The serpent lied and claimed that God didn’t want them to eat from the tree because God didn’t want them to be gods, too. Here too, the author mimics the serpent and lies about God’s motives. This is the fourth error that the author commits in these verses – the author attributes bad motives to God. The author apparently believes that despite the many, many clear Biblical statements that say that God loves the world, that God is a loving and forgiving God, that God desires that none perish, and that God died for the salvation of the whole world, the author wants and expects us to believe that God wants people raped, hurt, and hated. Despite the fact that Jesus corrected the disciples for trying to keep the children from approaching him (which strongly suggests that the children wanted to come to Him), the author wants us to think that God wanted children hurt. The author lies about God’s stated motives.

Like the radio reporter in the vignette described at the outset, the author is misidentifying the problem. God isn’t the problem – it is the author’s own sinful heart and nature that keeps him from seeing what God is saying and what God has done. Sorry, but on top of the fact that this entire argument has nothing to do with the question of whether Christianity “makes sense,” the author’s approach is every bit as vile as the serpent in the Garden. I, for one, won’t take a bite of the fruit this serpent is offering, and neither should you.


The real tragedy is that you must waste your talent answering people who aren't even willing to read the material they attack.

but also, is some of it the church's fault for jot preaching love as much anymore?
BK said…
In what way do you mean that the church is not preaching love as much anymore? I am aware that there are some crazies on the outskirts of Christianity (I would argue who are not Christian) who are preaching hate, but I am not aware of any major denominations that are not preaching love.
I don't mean preaching hate just not love. This guy yesterday JB remarked about him on AW. He thought Jesus actually advocated a bunch of stuff like getting revenge and the like. I know that's atheist ignorance, but no one was setting him straight.

I don't see it. Not to blame the church. And me, I got into insulting back when I was on boards, rationalizing my aggression rather than showing love.

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