You’re driving down the highway at 85 mph in a zone where the speed limit is 75 mph, and you see a sign that says, “Speed monitored by drone.” You look around, even through your sunroof, and don’t see any drones. But you realize you’re driving very fast and can’t safely scan the whole sky while keeping your eyes on the road. So, you’re not sure if the drones are really up there and that sign is telling the truth. You also don’t want to assume they’re not up there and pay the price of a speeding ticket. So, you slow down… just in case.
Perhaps when you were 15 years old, your mom and dad told you, “God sees everything,” much like the drone you were just warned is in the sky. Suppose your parents also told you, “God told people that masturbating is a sin.” God had never verbally spoken to you, so you hadn’t been able to ask Him if He really said that and how He would punish you if He saw you masturbating. Would you have to pay a fine? Do some extra chores at home? Burn in hell for eternity? You also had never actually seen God, so you weren’t sure where He was that He could see you, but you couldn’t see Him. You weren’t sure He really was there, but you didn’t want to be wrong that He wasn’t and wind up getting caught. So, perhaps you fought your sexual urges and didn’t masturbate. Or maybe you did it anyway but felt incredibly guilty afterwards and also afraid of what awful things could happen to you because of your “misdeeds.”
Christianity, and the Bible that documents its rules, controls human behavior just as effectively as a sign posted on the highway that tells you something you can’t see (e.g., a drone) is watching you and will punish you (e.g., pay a fine) for doing certain things (e.g., speeding). As such, it’s possible that the rules written in the Bible document the desires of the humans who wrote it, without any help or inspiration from a god. It’s possible that Christianity was created by people for people. Take a moment, and ask yourself, “Could the human authors of the Bible simply have been trying to control the behavior of other people, both when in their presence and when they wouldn’t be around to monitor them?”
Regardless of whose rules the Bible actually documents (those of its human authors or of a god), those rules have already dramatically changed once—between Old Testament and New Testament. Who’s to say there will never be a Third Testament that changes the rules, yet again? If humans did change the rules in the Bible and none of those rules were, in fact, divinely inspired, then the authors certainly wouldn’t have been the only people to ever change the rules once they broke them themselves, now would they?
Suppose your boyfriend sends you a text in the morning that says, “I didn’t text you last night because I was working late.” Later that same day, he sends you a text that says, “I didn’t text you last night because I went out with the guys.” If his explanation changed, then at least one of the stories must be a lie, right? Was he at work, or was he out with the guys? Could both excuses be lies? He could be dating another girl and actually have been at her house last night, right? Much like your boyfriend’s story about why he didn’t text you, the story about the path to heaven, which is laid out in the Bible, changed. The guidance in the Old Testament of the Bible implied that the path to heaven is behaving in accordance with numerous strict rules, but the guidance in later chapters (the New Testament) implied that it’s a simple belief that God’s son (Jesus) saved your soul by dying on the cross. So, which is it? Do we need to follow all the rules from the Old Testament, or do we just need to believe Jesus is our savior? Is it possible that neither of those actions or thoughts will get us into heaven? How can the Bible be the ultimate truth when the stories within it changed? If you don’t trust your boyfriend when he changes his story, then why would you trust “God” when He changes His story?
What might a person who is telling you how to get into heaven and avoid eternal suffering be able to make you do? Think about what kind of personal gain might that person be able to obtain from that position of power. Perhaps your money? Your vote? Your life?
In writing this article, it was not my goal to tell Christians they are wrong about everything and that I have all the right answers to some of life’s important questions (e.g., Why are we here? Where did we come from? What happens after we die?). It is my goal to have them question whether they truly have the answers to those questions. I would also like for them to ask themselves four questions:
1. Why do I believe what I believe?
2. Am I undoubtedly sure that what I believe is true?
3. Is it possible I have been lied to by the people who told me what to believe?
4. Do I need to continue to live my life according to the Bible in order to believe in God?
Although I personally do not believe in the Christian god, I do think there might be a loving god or higher power of some kind somewhere, or even everywhere and within all of us. I sincerely hope, for all our sakes, that there is a higher power, but the truth is that none of us can prove whether or not at least one exists. How about we upset the status quo of exclusive religious and non-religious groups, and establish a “Status Quon’t”, in which we all think for ourselves and develop our own personalized belief systems?