I’ve heard the argument that the sacrifice that Jesus supposedly made on the cross to forgive our sins is a free gift many, many times. Some Christians like to bludgeon away at people of other faiths or no faith at all with this argument because it implies that believing the Christian religion is a choice and somehow, many of us have spurned this free gift.
I’m going to make the argument that this ‘gift’ isn’t free at all. If you’re a Christian reading this and Christianity works for you, then all the power to you. It’s your life and if you feel Christianity betters that life, then that’s cool.
However, I do hope that after reading this you will stop making this ridiculous argument when faced with someone who doesn’t believe in your religion.
Off the top of my head, here are a few of the things (bluntly stated) that accepting the blood sacrifice of Jesus could cost me. And again, this is my opinion and I didn't write it with the intent of offending religious people. I am also open to arguments from the other side. So here we go!
1. Individualism: It costs me the ability to be an individual. I do not want to belong to any religious group. I do not even belong to any atheist groups for the same reason. I like having the ability to examine other religions with an open mind without feeling guilt that I’m betraying a dead Messiah. I also like to have the ability to choose what parts of Christianity (or any other religion or philosophy) I agree with and which concepts I would like to practice or discard.
2. Complicity: While Christians celebrate Jesus’ torture and blood sacrifice, I find it to be one of the most abhorrent aspects of Christianity that I can think of offhand. The idea that a perfect creator would need a scapegoat makes no logical sense to me and is not something I find praiseworthy. The way I see it, praising such barbarism makes me partly complicit in the act. I was not consulted before God supposedly made this blood sacrifice on my behalf and I do not believe that any God worth the name would need or want such a brutal murder in its name in order to forgive people.
3. My guilt: It may sound weird to some of you when I say that I want my guilt. It’s a part of me and it ensures that I will think twice before making the same mistake again. Every mistake is a learning opportunity (or that’s how I see it anyways) and I find it especially dangerous to believe that an invisible entity will absolve me of my wrong-doings. I own them. They are mine and part of my journey through life.
4. Burning: I think it’s evil that many Christians believe that God is going to burn people like me for all eternity. I find it very strange that believers can’t understand why someone would think that’s an immoral teaching, even if the person on the receiving end doesn’t believe in hell. I think it’s horrible that we teach small children this concept and scare them half to death with these sorts of teachings. I honestly think it’s ghastly that so many people who just lost a loved one are left wondering if they’re now being burned for all-time. I do not want to adopt this sort of thinking or in any way condone such behavior.
5. Free thinking: I watched an interview once with a religious man who when he was confronted with evidence that what the Bible said was false, said that if evidence is contrary to what the Bible says, then the Bible is always right. I question everything, including my atheism. I do not ever want to hear myself say that homosexuals are abominations because the Bible says so or something similar to that.
6. Morality: I do not want to be confined to having a 1st century talk about morality verses a 21st century one. I do not want to have to filter every moral action through an ancient text. I find it fascinating but dangerous to know that huge swaths of humanity are beholden to ancient literature. To me, it would be like having to filter my decisions by first consulting the Iliad or Macbeth.
7. This life: The idea that this life is just the very first stage in a much longer one, despite the evidence to the contrary ensures that many people are practically yearning for death. I believe it would rob me of the ability to experience this life to the fullest. If there is something after death, then I will be pleasantly surprised but I do not think that it will be anything like what the Christians imagine it to be. I’m thankful that there is absolutely no proof that their version of heaven and hell is any more likely than any other religions.
8. Slavery: Embedded within Christianity are the kernels of slavery. Every time I hear Christians say something like ‘I’m Jesus’ servant’ or ‘I submit myself to Gods will’ I am struck by how much this resembles how a slave might talk about his or her master. I am not a slave and I value my freedom. I value freedom of thought, freedom of speech and yes, freedom of religion. I do not want to be shackled to unsubstantiated writings penned by desert nomads. If they wrote something I agree with, I will credit them for that but in no way do I believe the Bible is the word of God or that the Bible is inerrant.
9. Logic: There are logical believers and I’m in no way implying that there aren’t. However, I find many of the concepts in the Bible to be contradictory, self-defeating and illogical and so far anyways, no believer has been able to convince me that their arguments are either true or logical. In fact, most of the arguments I’ve heard from various believers only serve to convince me that the Bible is indeed illogical and full of harmful (as well as good) advice. I have met and talked too believers who impress me but I’d have to honestly state that I’ve met far more that do the opposite. In order to accept the ‘gift’ that Jesus supposedly gave me, I would have to toss aside logic and doubt and embrace something that I think (so far anyhow) is obviously a myth and not even a very entertaining one at that.
10. Conscience: I couldn’t in good conscience agree to tribal edicts like the one I read about earlier. You might find it hard to believe, but I actually read Christian news sites and these sorts of stories are not uncommon and not something I could ever agree with. Here’s an example of what I'm talking about.
The Reform group of orthodox Anglicans in the Church of England has said it will vote against legislation to allow women in the episcopate.
After years of difficult negotiation, the Church of England General Synod is being asked to give its final approval to legislation on women bishops when it meets in York next week.
Support for women bishops is strong in the Church but there are deep divisions over the provisions that should be made for Anglicans who cannot in conscience accept a female bishop.
Policies like this one among many others, would cost me a terrible price when it comes to my conscience. And yes, I know this story doesn't represent all of Christianity and maybe not even the majority of Anglicans, but I could probably find similarly unconcienable policies throughout organized religion and the very fact that such a policy has remained in the Anglican church into the 21st century, shows how inflexible religious dogma can be and why it can be so dangerous. Also, don't tell me that such beliefs and dogma don't play a key role in behaviour.
Besides all this, if you're a believer, I would like you to consider something else - Christians routinely talk about 'true Christians' and how you will know them by their fruits and so on. Can anyone truly be a 'true Christian' if they were intimidated (death) or threatened (hell) into believing? I think the answer is fairly obvious and I think anything worth the title 'God' would understand the implications.
There are probably many more that I haven’t listed here, but I don’t want this article to become too long. I would also like to leave you with a quote by Christopher Hitchens that I agree with. I think he hit the nail on the head when he said:
I’ll close on the implied question that Bill asked me earlier: Why don’t you accept this wonderful offer? Why wouldn’t you like to meet Shakespeare, for example?
I don’t know if you really think that when you die you can be corporeally reassembled, and have conversations with authors from previous epochs. It’s not necessary that you believe that in Christian theology, and I have to say that it sounds like a complete fairy tale to me. The only reason I’d want to meet Shakespeare, or might even want to, is because I can meet him, any time, because he is immortal in the works he’s left behind. If you’ve read those, meeting the author would almost certainly be a disappointment.
But when Socrates was sentenced to death for his philosophical investigations, and for blasphemy for challenging the gods of the city — and he accepted his death — he did say, well, if we are lucky, perhaps I’ll be able to hold conversation with other great thinkers and philosophers and doubters too. In other words the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure, and what is true could always go on.
Why is that important, why would I like to do that? Because that’s the only conversation worth having. And whether it goes on or not after I die, I don’t know. But I do know that that’s the conversation I want to have while I’m still alive. Which means that to me, the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way, is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet; that I haven’t understood enough; that I can’t know enough; that I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And I’d urge you to look at… those people who tell you, at your age, that you’re dead till you believe as they do — what a terrible thing to be telling to children! And that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority — don’t think of that as a gift. Think of it as a poisoned chalice. Push it aside however tempting it is. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.
These are just a few of the things that the blood sacrifice of Jesus could or will cost you.
It’s too steep a price in my opinion. If you wish to pay it, that’s fine.
As for me...I’ll keep shopping.