Michael Abrahams | Why I walked away from Christianity
I was raised as a Christian and embraced the faith for many years. During this time, I read the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, rejecting all other religions as bogus, believing that Christianity was the only true pathway to God and salvation.
It was while studying at the University of the West Indies that I began to question the rationality of my beliefs. The churches that I had attended were Anglican and Missionary, and the doctrines of many other denominations were alien to me. So I invited Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons into my home and engaged them in conversations regarding their beliefs, as well as entertaining dialogue with Roman Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals and others. What I found to be amazing was the diversity of beliefs among persons claiming to follow the same deity. If you place the Holy Bible on a table and invite members of the abovementioned denominations to discuss various issues, you will never attain full concordance.
So if this is the 'Word of God', why is it not straightforward, but open to so many different interpretations, resulting in division, acrimony, bigotry, a sense of entitlement, intolerance, human-rights abuses and even war?
If you ask any devout Christian, they will tell you that only God is perfect, unlike man.
The Bible consists of books that were written by men. If men are imperfect, it is only rational to deduce that their writings would likely be flawed. There is no logical reason to believe that the Bible is inerrant, but many persons of faith stubbornly insist that it is.
However, if we are to be honest, we must admit that we do not know much about several of the writers and their agendas. There are at least 39 authors, but some are unknown, and we cannot vouch for the sincerity of all whose work is included in the revered tome.
When doubts are cast on the accuracy or veracity of biblical tales, Christians are quick to point out that the Bible was written by “men inspired by God”, quoting from 2 Timothy. This book was written by Paul, just one of many authors whose work is included in the Bible. Many came before him, but several followed, and it is implausible to defend the notion that he could speak for every author whose work was included in the collection of scriptures. My belief is that the Bible was not written by men inspired by God, but rather by men inspired by their belief in a God, which is a totally different ballgame.
I believe in the existence of a supreme being, but the description of God in the Bible is difficult for me to accept. The God of the Bible gave instructions not to “plant your field with two kinds of seed” or “wear clothing woven of two kinds of material”, but had no issue with slavery, which most Christians will agree is barbaric and cruel. There is nowhere in the Bible where God condemns it. As a matter of fact, He gives guidelines regarding how slaves should be managed. God is also referred to as being merciful. But reading the Bible will reveal instances of Him mercilessly slaughtering millions of people, even more than Satan. We are then taught that Jesus is God, but these actions are incongruous with Jesus Christ’s edict to treat others the way you want to be treated.
One of the major issues that I have with religion, including Christianity, is the suspension of rational thinking. I have seen many persons of faith afflicted with this malady of mentation, and it occurs in the educated as well is in those possessing minimal literacy skills. When a Seventh-day Adventist tells me that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, or Jehovah's Witnesses tell me that they have no problem with a dying child being denied a life-saving blood transfusion or a Roman Catholic looks me in the eyes and tells me, with a straight face, that when a priest blesses wine, it becomes literally the blood of Jesus Christ, I have a problem. Many Christians reject the theory of evolution, dismissing and even ridiculing it, while accepting that God made man from dust. Evolution makes much more sense to me than the concept of humans being created from soil particles.
Critical thinking and the ability to think outside the box are crucial for the advancement of any society, but religion has a tendency to confine us to boxes. The construction of boundaries and guidelines regarding how we should live is not necessarily unhealthy. Unfortunately, religion can hold people and entire civilisations hostage to dogmas and doctrines that are placed above the human condition, sometimes to the detriment of our fellowmen and women.
At the end of the day, I realised that my acceptance of Christianity was a result of geography, culture and socialisation, and not necessarily being exposed to an incontrovertible truth. There are more than 4,000 religions and it would be arrogant of me to insist that mine is the correct one, especially when I am not well versed in all the others.
The teachings of Jesus Christ, however, resonated with me in my youth, especially those concerning how we should treat our fellow human beings, although these principles are not unique to the Christian faith. I was taught that Jesus gave instructions to love others, to forgive and to not judge. These principles have stayed with me over the years, and govern my interactions with others. Being human, of course, I fail regularly, as some persons are difficult to love, some have injured me in ways that make forgiveness an arduous task, and it can be challenging not to judge those who have deeply offended me.
But I believe that if we focus more on these principles, and less on dogmas, doctrines and rituals, it would be of immense benefit to our planet.