The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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The Historical Record

  • Christians Throughout History
  • The Papacy
  • The Protestant Reformers
  • Wars and Persecution
  • Science and Reason
  • Social Progress
  • Modern Fundamentalism
  • Conclusions
  • "Christianity persecuted, tortured and burned. Like a hound it tracked the very scent of heresy. It kindled wars and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions. It sanctified...extermination and dreamt of infinite blisses and crowns it should be crowned with before an electrified universe and an applauding God."
    George Santayana (1863-1952)

    "I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized by its churches, has been and still is, the principal enemy of moral progress in this world."
    Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

    Christians Throughout History

    Before we discuss the behavior of Christians throughout it is important to understand what we mean by Christian. Many believers had tried to argue that those people who committed some of the atrocities mentioned here are not real Christians. It is important for those who think that way to examine the logic behind such a defense. Another related defense is that some of the injustices and atrocities committed by Christians were done in spite of the peaceful teachings of "true" Christianity. This defense is flawed and much of what we shall see in this section is the direct consequence of the Christian monotheistic paradigm.

    Many myths surround the so-called "early" Christians, the followers of the religion during the first three centuries of the religion. That these early generations were important to the nascent religion, no one will deny. For it was during these centuries that the books of what eventually became the New Testament were written, collected and canonized. It was also during this period that the Christian church was founded, grew and consolidated itself. Together with these developments, and perhaps because of them, myths arose about the special nature of these people.

    One of the myth is that the superior teaching of Christianity compared to paganism helped it spread rapidly and permeated all classes of society. The spreading of the religion was supposed to be supernaturally guided such that its rise became inevitable. Another popular myth is that, through no fault of their own, the early Christians were consistently and repeatedly persecuted and many were killed or executed. A careful examination of history however shows these myths to be what they are religious fairy tales.

    Next let us look at some of the early "Church Fathers" so-called because their theologies ended up on side of the victors. We find that their behavior were no better than the average followers. For the early fathers had such hatred for life and sexuality so morbid that one of them actually castrated himself! We will look at five of the most famous of these Church Fathers: St. Ignatius (c35-c110), Tertullian (c160-c225), Origen (c185-254), St. Augustine (354-430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

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    The Papacy

    The pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the highest living authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Lay Catholics are often fed, explicitly and implicitly, with lies, myths and misconceptions about the papacy. Let's look at two popular papal myths. The pope, teaches the church, is infallible. His infallibility was guaranteed by Jesus to Peter, who was the first pope. These two well-known teachings of the Catholic Church are demonstrably false:
    • Papal infallibility is not supported by historical evidence. When the Catholic theologian Hans Kung questioned this doctrine, the current Pope, John Paul II announced that, Kung was to be stripped of all his academic post and told he should no longer consider himself a Catholic theologian.
    • The claim that Peter was the first Pope, the first Bishop of Rome and was appointed to that position by Jesus himself is without any historical support.

    Many lay Catholics probably assumed that the popes in history had been men of elevated piety and morals. Yet this is another belief which is demonstrably false. Many of the past popes had been, well, scoundrels.

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    The Protestant Reformers

    The Protestant Reformation was a pivotal event in the history of western Christendom. A protestant may read with glee the "exploits" of the popes above and may think that his historical forefathers must have been better men. Wrong.
    • Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an anti-Semite, who thought women to be inferior to men and supported the horrible massacre of 100,000 peasants in the Peasants Revolt of 1525.
    • John Calvin (1509-1564) had a general intolerance which lead, in one instance, to his gleefully describing the execution of a theological opponent.
    • King Henry VIII (1491-1547) joined the Protestant movement because he wanted to remarry. His sexual exploits are legendary.
    It is worth noting that, as far as morality and humanity goes, these three were not much different from the popes they despised!

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    Wars and Persecution

    Christianity has always been, at its root, an intolerant religion. This seed of intolerance is planted in the Bible itself. When Christianity gained political prominence and power in the fourth century they immediately persecuted the pagans with political and mob action. The "heretics", of course, were not spared by the loving followers of Jesus.

    It is ironic that the most famous "meetings" between two of the great (as in having many believers-not "great" as in "very good") religions-Islam and Christianity- have been through a series of wars called the Crusades. An estimated nine million people died during these series of wars.

    Christian intolerance extended beyond fighting "infidels". It turned inward as well. The medieval Inquisition caused the death of more than one million people in the crusade against what was considered a "heretical" sect called the Albigensians in the South of France.

    Of course it did not stop there, fresh from this "success" the Inquisition hunted down witches all over Europe. The death toll for the witch-hunts which terrorized Europe for three centuries (from 1487 to circa 1782) has been estimated to be as high as two million.

    The Spaniards learned from these and came up with their own Spanish Inquisition. The death toll here exceeded thirty thousand. The victims ranged from girls as young as thirteen to women as old as ninety. Such was the extend of God's grace!

    The Protestants of course were equal to the Catholics in the prosecutorial glee and zest. For they too persecuted heretics, witches, Catholics and each other!

    Of course persecution was not the only outlet for the Christian. War was another popular outlet for the religious instinct. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a spate of wars between the Catholics and the Protestants. These Wars of Religion were fought in the Benelux countries, France, Germany and the British Isles. The final death toll easily exceeded fourteen million.

    Perhaps on of the most enduring "gifts" of Christianity to the world is anti-semitism. This hatred of the Jews, rooted in the New Testament, propagated by the early Church Fathers gave the church and the laity the excuse to slaughter Jews at the tiniest of instigations. Christianity holds a large part of the responsibility for the holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered in World War II.

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    Science and Reason

    Anti-rationalism, the hatred of reason and knowledge, is deeply rooted in the Bible. Rooted in the Bible, this mistrust of reason was faithfully brought to full fruition by the early church fathers and the christian Roman emperors, who together successfully brought about the demise of Greek learning. We see the fruits of this anti-reason slant in many historical acts:

    • Thus, we are not surprised when we hear that book burning forms a major part of the Christian persecution method.
    • Censorship of course was a natural follow up to book burning and another manifestation for the anti-reason and anti-knowledge slant of the religion.
    • Contrary to what some may believe (after all, aren't there many mission schools all over the place in "backward" countries?) Christianity had always been anti-education, especially secular education. It was the Christian emperor, Justinian (483-563), who had the dubious honor of closing down the last schools of Greek philosophy, thus plunging Europe into the dark ages.

    Perhaps the most clear cut example of Christian anti-rationalism is their historical, and in many cases continuing, suppression of science. Important examples of this include:

    • The arrest of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) for publicizing his findings that it was the earth that orbited the sun and not vice versa (as the Church had erroneously believed).
    • The suppression of medical science began when Christianity took political control of the Roman Empire. After successfully suppressing Greek medicine, it continued to fight any advances in medical knowldege including the ban on dissection of cadavers for anatomical research, the outlawing of the use of anesthetics during childbirth and the condemnation of the live saving use of inoculation and vaccination.

    Of all sciences, the one that threaten Christianity most is the science of evolution. For regardless of what liberal theologians might say, finding out that the apes are our cousins no longer makes us much of a "divine image". Thus the moment Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published his book The Origin of Species in 1859, the Christian response was swift and immediate.

    This attitude of anti-evolution continues well into the twentieth century. The the last quarter of the twentieth century there arose a new manifestation of anti-scientific Christian irrationalism known with the oxymoronic name scientific creationism. It's "science" seems to involve little more than quoting their opponents out of context and invoking miracles when rational sounding arguments fail.

    More recently, scientific creationism have evolved a new species: intelligent design creationism (IDC). Realising the weakness of it predecessor, especially in the latter's inabaility to provide strong evidence for a young earth and for the reality of a world wide Noahchian flood, IDC have decided to minimize their approach to merely pointing out ostensibly designed aspects of biology and the cosmos. We have reviewed these arguments in the another section of this website.

    The current ban on stem cell research is just another manifestation of Christian irrationalism-depriving millions of it's potentially life saving discoveries.

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    Social Progress

    Many lay Christians vaguely believe that their religion had somehow been responsible for many of the social advances of the modern world. Among these include the abolition of slavery, the improvement of the position of women in society [1] and the "civilizing" influence of missionary activities among native tribes all over the world.

    This view, that Christianity had somehow been responsible for social improvements is held not only by the laity but also by theologians and writers as well. For instance under the entry for Slave in The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1894) by M.G. Easton the following passage is included:

    The gospel in its spirit and genius is hostile to slavery in every form, which under its influence is gradually disappearing among men. [2]

    The Christians churches had also taught that it had always been the protector of women. In the early twentieth century it was still possible for the Bishop of London to make such a statement: "the gospel has given women the position she holds today."[3]

    The problem with all these claims are that they are simply not true. The feeling of ex-Christians who came to realized the truth for the first time upon leaving the influence of their religion is akin to someone who had just been swindled. Given below is a bitter denunciation of these false teachings regarding the social good brought by Christianity by the ex-Carmelite nun, Phyllis Graham:

    One of the most irritating tricks of the Christian mentality is the habit of attributing every advancement in social awareness and humane action, on every plane of evidence, to the wisdom and benevolence of Christians inspired by grace and motivated by love. This is a nauseating trait which disgusts, and frequently infuriates, those who have regard for the historical truth and the sheer weight of evidence that cannot be refuted. [4]

    It is the aim of this section to present the reader with what Graham called the "historical truth and sheer weight of evidence that cannot be refuted." For it is true that history shows us that Christianity was not responsible for bringing about these social advances, in fact in some cases it actively suppressed any attempts at social reform.

    Let's first look at slavery. We see that the Bible had never criticized slavery as an institution. In fact in many cases it actually made laws to support it. Actually slavery was already beginning to be viewed as a flawed institution in pagan Rome, however when Christianity came into ascendancy, the leaders of the church, openly supported slavery in word and in deed. Black African slavery was fully supported by the Christian churches in the U.S. Religious arguments, with quotes from the Bible, were prominent in the defense of slavery.

    Next we look at the position of women. Save for a few Muslim countries today, women today enjoys opportunities unparalleled in their history. This major social progress has not been the result of Christianity. The Bible had never held women in high esteem. The Christian theologians, of course, faithfully continued this misogynist tradition. Thus while we find that the position of women were reasonably good in Pagan Rome, it took a turn for the worse when Christianity became the dominant force.

    A modern twist of this misogynist tradition has been the Catholic Church's continued opposition to abortion and birth control. In its battle against abortion, the Catholic Church has entered into an alliance with fundamentalist churches using an ostensibly righteous battle cry: the right to life. With this issue they have found an ardent supporter in the administration of George W. Bush, whose "culture of life" policies have directly led to the deaths of many third world women. It must be remembered that the argument that "abortion equals murder", removed of any theological obscurantism, is a fallacious one.

    Tied in to this misogynist tradition is a perverse view of sex. The Catholic Church's adherence to celibacy for the priesthood is one of the causes of the current scandal of clergy sexual abuse of children.

    Lastly we will look at missionary activities. There is a "romanticized" view of missionary work that needs to be corrected. Missionary activities have wrought much harm on native tribes all around the world. It's methods, far from just preaching the word of God to natives, involve deception, coercion and even kidnapping! It is a known fact that the missionaries have been responsible for many deaths of native peoples all around the world.

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    Modern Fundamentalism

    Until about four decades ago the majority of Christians count themselves in the mainstream liberal churches. In a way the churches’ loose and undogmatic approach to biblical interpretation help in ensuring that the pathological side of faith is kept to the minimum. The involvement of the churches in social issues kept the religion meaningful. In the US, these issues were the civil rights movement and the protest against the Vietnam war. However, once these crises passed and the psyche turns inwards, liberal theology-which as we have seen is essentially cognitively meaningless- was unable to provide the solace that the Christian needs.[5]

    Thus since the second half of the sixties the attendance in mainstream Protestant Churches had dropped dramatically while a corresponding increase can be seen in the evangelical/fundamentalist churches. [6] Lay Christians, grown tired of the liberal theologians' endless and meaningless sermons turned to the fundamentalist churches. While liberal churches begin to lose members, the fundamentalists ones began to gain adherents. The Assemblies of God registered a 300% increase in membership from 1960 to 1979 in the US alone. Many other fundamentalist churches at least doubled their membership within the same period.[7]

    The fundamentalists’ main tenets are that certain biblical teachings represent the rock bottom fundamentals of the faith and cannot be questioned by those who still wants to remain within the faith. [8] Thus, they reject any scientific findings, a priori, that does not square away with these basic beliefs. We have seen in the previous chapters that the complete acceptance of Biblical "truths" has made the fundamentalists anti-science, anti-Semitic, anti-women and anti-social progress. However, they do offer a kind of concreteness and certitude which the liberals lack. And it is this set of simple [but simplistic] answers that attract many to fundamentalism.

    This evangelical fundamentalist revival is a worldwide phenomenon. Countries in the West have been the main epicenter of these phenomena-not surprising as these are the ones that are traditionally Christian. In the United States today there an estimated fifty million born again Christians, who are mostly fundamentalists. At the time of writing (2004), the US has fundamentalist Christians as its President and attorney general. In Latin America, a traditionally Catholic stronghold, an estimated seven percent of the population, or roughly, 35 million are fundamentalists Christians. Europe is also not spared from this looming darkness. In 1991 in England, about a quarter of a million took part in the fundamentalist “March for Jesus”. [9] Third world countries, the traditionally non-Christian ones, have also seen their fair share of evangelism and conversions. The author personally knows some Christian evangelists who try to proselytize in countries, such as Nepal, where the preaching of Christianity is officially banned. We will look at some of the harm fundamentalists do to themselves and to others. It is a warning that if vigilance is not kept, a new Dark Age would again arise.

    In many ways modern fundamentalism harks back to traditional Christianity, to quote from the Bible:

    Ecclesiastes 1:9
    What has been is what will be
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    and there is nothing new under the sun.

    I agree, they are the Christians that are most true to their tradition. Indeed we find that:

    Finally we look at one fringe fundamentalist sect: the Jehovah's witnesses. Despite repeated mistakes in predicting the end of the world they continue to attract believers. And like all Christian sects, they harm these very followers in many ways. Not allowing blood transfusion due to some passages in the Bible has caused needless deaths and suffering.

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    Our conclusions are many:

    • The behavior of prominent Christians and Christian mobs should prove once and for all that religious instructions and contemplation do not lead to moral behavior.
    • Rather than being the cure for the ills of the world, Christianity had, in fact, been responsible for many of its ills: the inquisitions, witch-hunts, wars and persecutions.
    • Christianity was, is and looks like it shall remain as long as it exists, a fundamentally anti-rational and anti-intellectual movement.
    • Christianity, rather than being a force to bring about social change, had always been champions of the status quo. It's historical record on slavery and the position of women attest to this.
    • The Catholic Church continues to cause harm in the world due to its position on birth control and abortion.
    • Modern fundamentalism embodies all the major characteristics of historical Christianity: they are intolerant, anti-reason, anti-women and anti-life. They are without doubt, the "true Christians".
    If this page leaves a foul taste in your mouth, then I have done what I set out to do. To show that Christianity has brought more harm than good to the world.

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    1.Knight, Honest to Man: p49
    2.Easton, Illustrated Bible Dictionary: p636
    3.Phelips, The Churches and Modern Thought: p198
    4.Graham, The Jesus Hoax: p95
    5.Cohen, The Mind of the Bible Believer: p31-32
    6.Gardner, The New Age: p225
    Nelkin, The Creation Controversy: p59-61
    7.ibid: p61
    8.Godfrey, Scientists Confront Creationism: p7
    9.Haiven, Faith, Hope, No Charity: p218
    Edmund Cohen, "The Religiosity of George W. Bush", Free Inquiry Vol 24 No. 4 June/July 2004 p38-40
    Gilbert, Casting the First Stone: p16-17

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    © Paul N. Tobin 2004
    For comments and queries, e-mail Paul Tobin