That is not the same thing as giving up my faith.
Indeed, for a few months I desperately wanted "back in". There is a categorical difference between not having a relationship with God and being unable to have that relationship. Even to this day, if it turns out God exists, then I really want a relationship with that God. Who wouldn't want to be friends with the creator of the universe?
So having lost the evidence supporting my religious faith, I started from first principles, to see if the tenets of Christianity logically made sense. In other words, I wanted to logically test whether Christianity was truth but modern Christians had pursued the faith in the wrong manner, or if the religion just didn't make sense and I should give up on it altogether.
For those of you who aren't that familiar with Christianity, here is the core doctrine:
God loves people, but God is perfect and righteous, and therefore cannot allow sin to exist in his presence. Because all humans are innately sinful and God loves them in spite of this, God devised a plan that would allow him to have a close relationship with humans on an individual level. God sent Jesus, who is himself fully God and fully human, to live a perfect, sinless life and then become a penitence sacrifice for all of humanity. Jesus suffered the penalty of death instead of me so that I could live and have a relationship with God. And Jesus.When I broke the dogma down to this description, there were three potential logical issues that I spotted. If any one of these things is false, the religion doesn't make logical sense. Here are the issues:
- Why can't God let sin exist in his presence?
- Why is the penalty for sin death?
- Why is someone else dieing for my sin considered justice?
I don't have a problem accepting that everyone is a "sinner", meaning that no one lives a perfectly righteous life, never mistreating or hurting other humans, or taking advantage of them. But why is it fair that living unrighteously should be met by death? Jesus himself talks about how some sins are worthy of greater punishments than others, and a spiritual death in hell is clearly the worst punishment someone could earn. By and large, most people never do anything so disruptive to society that death is a just punishment for them. It doesn't make logical sense that all kinds of unrighteousness should be worthy of the same death sentence.
Last, there's the question of why, if I'm guilty and deserving a death, it's fair for someone else to die on my behalf. This kind of thing goes against the basic philosophy of penal systems. If I'm sentenced to serve 10 years in prison, the courts don't consider it fair if someone else chooses to serve 10 years instead, or even 30 years. That option is simply not allowed because it doesn't even relate to the issue at hand. The Bible supports this opinion as well, according to Ezekiel 18:20:
The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.Historically there have been some penal systems that allowed, by consent, some people to receive the punishment intended for others. The result has always been that rich people pay poor people to serve sentences for them, and in most cases the systems were changed to disallow this abuse. So if I really am worthy of death for my sins, I don't logically understand why it would be okay for Jesus to die instead of me. That simply doesn't make sense.
I sent this list of questions four Christians whose opinions I respected. All of them were pastors at the time or had been in the past, and two of them had served time as missionaries in the third world as well. Of them, one actually tried to answer the questions. Two said they would think about it and get back to me, which never happened. The last didn't even respond. And all the answers I received boiled down to, "God knows better than you. It makes sense to God and that's what matters."
I'm sorry, but that's not a strong enough argument for me to base my life around a religion. The overall silence spoke louder than words and confirmed what I had suspected all along: the Christian religion is fundamentally flawed. A God might exist, and I certainly hope he does. But he is not the Christian God. A sentient being that could create the beautiful physics behind our universe can create a religion that doesn't have glaring logical holes in the core of its doctrine.
Now all that said, I'm still a big supporter of many Christian ideals as they relate to society. "Love your neighbor as yourself" is a good general rule for life, and creates a society that's better for everyone as a whole. Just because I've given up religion doesn't mean I've given up ethics.
At any rate, thanks for taking the time to hear my story. Next week I promise I'll be back with more AI themed discussion.