May 19, 2024

Debate: Is Christianity dangerous?

The following video is a debate between myself and a Christian named Michael Jones, who runs a religious apologetics channel called “Inspiring Philosophy”.

YouTube player

Below is my opening presentation in this debate.

Is Christianity dangerous? It has been called the bloodiest religion in all human history, even compared to Islam. Just look at the series of barbaric atrocities known as the “holy wars” of Christians vs Muslims.

When the Washington Times asked, “Which religion is the most violent”, they noted that “Christians caused fifty times more violent deaths than Muslims just over the last century”. But in all fairness, there are more Christians than there are Muslims—if you accept Catholics as Christian. And Christians don’t usually kill each other over religion, at least not anymore.

The British Raj, or Crown Rule of India could be said to be Christians vs Hindus too. But the purpose of that conflict wasn’t spiritual or theological; it was purely political, Imperialism.

Likewise, Stalin, who was an atheist, had millions of people killed, but not in the name of atheism. That too was political, totalitarianism; wherein the government prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual objection to state policies, and exercises extreme control over public and private life. Totalitarianism is the form of government that Christian Dominionists actually want and are trying to achieve!

They say they want less government, but they really want a grossly over-bloated military and militarized police, which also penalizes expression of uncomfortable opinions, imprisons protesters, and denigrates the press as “fake news”; while allowing unfair religious privileges and unjust exceptions, and governing every aspect of your personal life; especially your sex life, restricting your practice and preference of partners. That’s way too much government for me, and I’m on the left.

Everyone thinks Islam is more violent because the Qur’an says to “kill the infidel”, but the Bible says that too, in Deuteronomy 13 and 17, where you are to kill anyone—even a beloved friend or family member—who doesn’t believe in your god and dares suggest that you shouldn’t either. Numbers 31 says whole communities can be slaughtered, and their preteen children taken into sexual slavery simply for believing in other gods. And of course Exodus 22 says “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

I’m sure no one expects the Spanish Inquisition to come up in this debate. Mark Twain remarked on that saying, “During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.”

Penn State University Professor of Religious History, Philip Jenkins says that "Islamic scriptures in the Qur’an were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible”, that the Bible frequently promotes genocide—more than seventy times. Consequently, the history of Christianity is strewn with genocide justified. He said that “It is often used, for example, in American stories of the confrontation with Indians — not just is it legitimate to kill Indians, but you are violating God’s law if you do not”. Professor Jenkins acknowledges that Christianity is not like that anymore, owing to what he calls “holy amnesia”, where believers conveniently forget or simply fail to notice any of the indefensible atrocities in their supposedly holy writ, as if all that inhuman evil reaped at the hands of Righteous believers in the name of their God was merely symbolic.

Another example of Christian genocide is when the Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews in the Holocaust of World War II. Hitler declared—both publicly and privately—that the anti-Semitism of his “new Christian Social movement” (as he called it) was “based on religious ideas instead of racial knowledge”, and that his initial violent attacks against the Jews in the Kristallnacht was inspired by the Antisemitism of Reverend Martin Luther, father of Protestant Christianity. Hitler also rejected evolution outright in Mein Kampf, wherein he declared himself to be a creationist, and he ordered all of Darwin’s books to be burnt. Hitler believed in racial superiority and eugenics; Darwin did not.

Gore Vidal famously observed that “More people have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ than any other name in the history of the world.” Christian history is rife with centuries of near continuous overlapping wars between Orthodox Christians and Catholics, Catholics vs Protestants, Protestants against Puritans and Puritans against Quakers; all of them killing each other in the name of the same god they all share.

How dangerous is that? If you’re born in a Protestant area, you’d better be Protestant, at least until the Inquisition comes. Then you’d better be good at lying. If you’re born in a Catholic country, you’d better be Catholic. There’s no room for analysis. Either one is a thought crime for which you’re not allowed to use reason. You’re not allowed to think about it, or question what you’re told to believe. Because for most of history, any of you could be imprisoned for your opinion or executed for the capital crimes of blasphemy, heresy or apostasy, which in a secular society are not crimes at all.

Fortunately, the founding fathers of this nation knew that every time religion has ever had rule over law, it has historically always resulted in violations of both life and liberty, where “righteousness” results in a perversion of justice. For example, the Salem witch trials demonstrated precisely why supernatural claims cannot be considered a valid influence over a criminal court case or public policy addressing real world issues. That’s why our founders established this country not on Judeo-Christian principles, but on secular values. Such that in this country, blasphemy is not a crime, it’s a right.

Yet inter-Christian bloodshed continued even in the United States, despite the first amendment, with Executive Order #44. That was signed by the Governor of Missouri in 1838. It allowed American militias to hunt down and kill whole families of men, women and children. We’re not talking about Native Americans either, but white people! It was called the Mormon Execution Order. It’s the reason Mormons had to flee Illinois and Missouri to make a new home in the deserts of Utah. That law was not taken off the books until 1976, during my life time. So Mormons who know their history understand better than most Christians do why you can’t have freedom of religion without freedom from religion; meaning that the state shouldn’t have an official religion. Because then, believers in every other faith become second-class citizens to be oppressed, subjugated, and in many instances killed.

It is true that Christianity was suppressed as illegal once upon a time, in the very beginning. It was blasphemous to the Jews. And the Romans, who had been tolerant of many provincial religions until then, referred to the early Christians as atheists; because they lacked theism, being no more than a heretical cult of self-deluded mystics at that time. But once they had a convert in command, Constantine, all that changed, and those renunciate pacifists suddenly turned into holy warriors of prosperity gospel. Once Christianity was legalized, it was soon illegal to be anything else.

Because every religion is relatively humble, charitable and kind in the minority, but they all become criminally oppressive in the majority. We see that in the Islamification of Europe today, as with the Christianization of Europe centuries ago, and I fear we might see a resurgence of that. Because there are more dangers to Christianity than just the hazards of religious wars.

The threat of Christian Dominionism is the reason I became an atheist activist. Back around Y2K, I heard from religious extremists bragging about how their congregation voted exactly as their preacher instructed, along with an coalition of other churches, illegally voting as a bloc to position certain evangelical judges and senators and so on, in what was later revealed to be the Wedge Strategy. Although the people I was hearing from at that time were working with Reconstructionists from the Chalcedon Institute, who wanted to replace our Democratic Republic with a theocracy that would enforce Levitical law. If you think Shariah law is bad, read Leviticus and imagine our government enforcing that. This country would be worse than any Islamic state, where you can be executed simply for working on weekends, and where you are literally not even free to think your own thoughts.

Christianity is just one of many religions, and all religions are faith-based belief-systems, meaning they have required beliefs and prohibited beliefs, things you have to believe or be damned if you don’t, and things you’re forbidden to think and will be punished if you do. Whereas a secular society allows and encourages free thought and the free exchange of ideas, which Christianity cannot endure or allow.

Even the conservative Senator, Barry Goldwater worried about our current political situation, saying, “If and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise.”

That’s another reason Christianity is dangerous. Because if you elect candidates who are strong in their faith and firm in their convictions, then you’ve chosen leaders and judges who have already decided your fate with a stoic conviction that no logic, reason or evidence will ever correct. Faith means they won’t be reasoned with. If people think that God’s law is higher than human law, then there are Christians who believe they are above the law.

The only Christian principles that actually did influence the establishment of this otherwise secular nation was slavery and misogyny, which is why women were denied the vote until only a hundred years ago. Both of these errors had to be corrected, which was hard to do because “the good book” promotes things that we know to be immoral.

Confederate president Jefferson Davis said that slavery was the main issue behind the Civil War, over and above everything else. He said that slavery “was established by decree of Almighty God”, being “sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation”. So the bloodiest conflict ever on American soil could have been avoided entirely were it not for Jesus’ endorsement of slavery.

Christianity has been used to promote every type of prejudice, beginning with Jesus himself, saying he was only here for his chosen people, denying his gospel to the gentiles, and dismissing Samaritans with a racial slur.

In 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the Doctrine of Discovery, which stated that any land not already owned and controlled by Christians was to be “discovered” (or rather conquered) by Christians. Existing regimes were to be overthrown, their resources exploited and their prior inhabitants enslaved and converted, in order to further strengthen the church.

In 1550, the Church debated whether the native inhabitants of Greater Antilles were “fully human”, as their one defender insisted, or, as his four missionary opponents declared, that they were instead “natural slaves and soulless talking animals in human guise”.

It’s not just centuries ago either. Evangelist Bob Jones said that “If you’re against segregation and racial separation, you are against God”. Oral Roberts held the same position.

I was a boy when the anti-miscegenation law was struck down in 1967. Had I been of my father’s generation, then the marriage I have now would have been illegal, because of my wife’s Vietnamese ancestry, and because of the previous trial judge’s Christian beliefs. He ruled that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. …The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix”.

Ignoring for the moment that none of that raving insanity counts as fact and should never have been uttered by a judge, understand that his exact sentiment is still repeated on the websites of the Ku Klux Klan, who declare that they are exclusively Christian creationists who do not believe in evolution.

Like all Abrahamic religions, Christianity suffers from and imposes sexual repression, such that violent scenes are graphically enhanced and celebrated, but scenes of mere nudity must be censored as pornographic. How can you even pretend to support family values if you think that breast feeding a baby should be done in the unclean conditions of a public toilet rather than at table #5 in the company of family and friends? Who cares if it offends some other guy who calls his wife “mother”?

That’s also why we circumcise baby boys, which is a pointless and potentially dangerous permanent mutilation of the most sensitive organ without anesthesia or consent of a minor and for no good reason, but only to diminish his potential appreciation of sex, an indefensible act of evil.

Protestant preachers are catching up to the Catholic priests in terms of constant confirmations of child molestation, implying that attempts at abstinence or even just prudishness, repulsing at one of our strongest biological drives—not surprisingly—distorts one into fiendish perversion, if they weren’t already that way to begin with.

The few who do brag about having a healthy sex life also say they hate gays even though they’re often caught having gay sex. The Bible belt is also the meth belt, the abortion belt, and the gay porn belt, with self-hating homophobes throughout Fundamentalism.

Much of this bigotry is based on false dichotomies between good and evil, male or female, gay or straight, seemingly unable to accept any concept that isn’t simply binary. So trans people and queer folk might even be killed in the streets because the book of Leviticus says they’re an abomination and their blood will be upon them. Of course it says not to get tattoos or eat shellfish either, but cherry-picking hypocrites don’t pay attention to that part.

The game is to feign persecution while persecuting everyone else. I’ve actually heard Christians complain that they’re not allowed to force their religious opinions and restrictions onto those who believe differently, as if Christians are being oppressed by not being allowed to oppress everyone else.

Christian bigotry is dangerous because the Religious Right are pushing legislation that denies everyone else their rights. So that those of other religions don’t get equal consideration. Those with no religion are forced to conform to and respect someone else’s irrational delusion, while public schools deceive, mislead and indoctrinate with lies and politicized propaganda, and people who are gender queer are denied even the most basic rights. The first time I ever saw Ted Haggard, he was lobbying the Colorado legislature to legalize discrimination against homosexuals to deny them jobs and housing.

Here in Texas, they tried to pass the bathroom bill, forcing everyone to use the toilet that matches their birth certificate. Because some hateful morons in the State Senate think that people who look like women should use the Men’s room and visa versa. But thus far, no trans people have ever molested children in public bathrooms like some conservative Christian politicians have.

So what happens when your slightly masculine-looking great aunt gets ID’d by a cop coming out of the Ladies’ room? Even if she has her birth certificate on her at that moment, there is no way to justify the embarrassment nor the injustice of laws that are written purely to promote discrimination borne of hatred and stupidity.

Now the Vatican has released a statement saying that trans people “annihilate the concept of nature”. This from a criminal organization whose job description is the denial of nature in favor of the super-natural, meaning the crazy crap they made up to extort money and power from the unwary masses. Christianity’s greatest danger—of deception—is undeniable. All religions depend on asserting baseless speculation as if it were a matter of fact, pretending to know things you don’t know, dishonest as that is. There is no truth to any religion, nothing we can show to be true about any of them, but they’re all based on a helluva lotta lies.

Remember when Pope Benedict told people in disease ridden African countries that the use of condoms would actually spread AIDS? Remember when Pat Robertson told his 30,000 some-odd followers to go out and kill homosexuals where you find them, because he said that would prevent earthquakes? Did you see Rick Wyles recently announce that eating plant-based hamburgers was a Satanic plot to change our DNA to prevent our being born again? He’s lobbying for the industrial meat market, no doubt. Remember when Copeland ministries said Christians didn’t need to vaccinate their kids because Jesus “redeemed” them? That bit of brilliance caused their congregation to have a measles outbreak. Christianity is dangerous in that it provides cover for idiocy, dishonesty, paranoid delusions and serious psychiatric disorders.

Asking whether Christianity is dangerous is like asking whether smoking is dangerous. Somehow rock stars like Keith Richards manage to keep smoking even in their seventies, possibly with the help of a lot of other drugs. Some moderate Christians live long lives and seem just fine too. So some say that Christianity is only dangerous if you take it too far, which is definitely true, and there are myriad examples to prove that. But I’ve seen that—just like with addictive drugs—there’s some degree of danger if you take any at all, Religion is like an addictive drug. Some think it’s sexy while others see it as poisonous. That’s why those who quit these addictions also tend to be the most outspoken opponents of those habits. The best champions of reason over religion are those who were once ministers, missionaries, seminary students and so on; who were educated by, and dedicated to their faith before they realized what a problem faith is. Not just that particular faith, but the auto-deceptive nature of religious faith in general.

Faith is not just a synonym of trust. It’s a belief that is based logical fallacies, arguments from authority or subjective impressions, anything but scientific evidence. It’s just a question of how much science you reject. Are you a geocentric Young-Earth Creationist who believes the earth is flat, like the Bible says? No matter what the facts are? Or do you accept evolution as long as you can imagine that it is guided by God? In either case, at least you don’t speak in tongues while drinking Drano and dancing with poisonous snakes. Because you probably already know that even if you had faith enough to fill a mountain, it still wouldn’t move a mustard seed.

Even the slightest acceptance of Christianity still requires some denial of natural science, even if it is just making believe things that are not evidently or even possibly true, like the soul for example; because you have to believe that or else. You’ll face the empty threat of a fate worse than death if you don’t make yourself believe. There’s a definite danger to your ability to reason if you’ve been conditioned to that you must believe man-made mythology of impossible absurdity and for no good reason, even when all the evidence says otherwise.

Christianity is dangerous to children because they’re told that they’re born defective and need to ask forgiveness for even being born at all, and they’d better not think rationally about that or they’ll burn in Hell. Intellectually damaging child abuse.

We’ve seen hundreds of children die in this country because their parents prayed over them but denied them medicine for easily treatable ailments. These kids all died because their parents were effectively wishing on a star, hoping for a magical enchantment that was never gonna make their wish come true.

Religious extremists have a distorted view of family values; where you’re supposed to hold your pretend relationship with your magic imaginary friend above the real relationships you have with your spouse, your parents, or even your children.

Because remember, Jesus said in Matthew 10 that you cannot follow him unless you hate your sister and your brother and your father and your mother and your wife and even your own life. “Call no one father on earth”, he said, “for you have one father—the one in Heaven”. So forget those people who really should matter more by virtue of the fact that they’re really there and you don’t have to pretend that they are.

The cornerstone of most extreme Right-Wing conservative Christians is the abortion issue, misrepresented as if it was ever about killing babies. Ignoring of course that Chapter 5 of the Book of Numbers allows abortion—with God’s direct approval and involvement—even for the trivial reason of suspicion of infidelity. Yet, with recent comments by Clyde Chambliss, sponsor of the Alabama abortion bill, we now have an admission that it’s not about the life of the fertilized embryo, not in a laboratory setting. Because he said that doesn’t count as a baby, nor even as life unless it’s inside the mother. Anti-abortion bills are not pro-life, they’re anti-woman, designed to deny them control of their own reproduction.

Then there’s the issue of morality. Statistically there’s a negative correlation between religiosity and what we think of as moral behavior. I have a list of studies showing that the most religious countries—especially those that are historically predominantly Christian—also tend to have the highest murder rate, and the same is true of the most religious areas within the United States; with special emphasis on hate crimes. Secular nations show the opposite tendencies, where the less religious they are, the more peaceful they tend to be.

According to Sociology Professor Phil Zuckerman, “It is the highly secularized countries that tend to fare the best in terms of crime rates, prosperity, equality, freedom, democracy, women’s rights, human rights, educational attainment and life expectancy. (Although there are exceptions, such as Vietnam and China, which have famously poor human rights records.) And those nations with the highest rates of religiosity tend to be the most problem-ridden in terms of high violent crime rates, high infant mortality rates, high poverty rates and high rates of corruption.”

Here in America, Evangelical Christians are more likely to condone the murder or torture of prisoners, where non-religious people are more likely to consider that morally wrong. Evangelicals also have the highest divorce rate, and the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Here in Texas, we still have the highest rates of repeat teen pregnancy; Which isn’t surprising since “abstinence only” is often taught in place of sex education. Fundamentalist Christians even have a higher rate of abortions, a testament to their hypocrisy.

But it gets much worse than that. Child Protective services and other agencies report a significant majority of abusers and molesters identify as "very religious", and the more religious they are, the worse offenders they are, with more sexual offense convictions against more and younger victims. Yet, believers argue that the less religious we are, the less moral we are. The data—the studies, the polls, the history—do not support their claim.

Even second-hand Christianity is dangerous—to everyone, because now that the Republican Party is almost entirely evangelical and under control of the fossil fuel industry, personified by the Koch Brothers, the Religious Right cannot admit the impact of our industries on the environment without hurting profits in the next fiscal quarter. So the Texas Republican Party Platform says that anthropogenic climate change must be treated as a questionable theory, not to be accepted or believed no matter what the cost of denying this reality will be to our planet or the future of our species.

Christianity is definitely extremely dangerous, even in small doses.

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