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Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in Atheism, Counter-Apologetics, Friday Reads | 5 comments

Good Friday to you!

Right around this time of year, every year, I inevitably get into it with a few of my Christian friends about why Jesus has to die in the first place. For an idea so central to Christian soteriology, I’m always surprised to find that there is not a single consistent answer to this question. Some of the most common answers are (1) So as to appease God’s wrath against sin, (2) So as to level the scales of cosmic justice, (3) So as to build a metaphysical stairway to heaven for mortal souls as the “first fruits of the general resurrection.” There are many other responses, of course. Go ask someone you know who believes in this sort of thing. Then ask another. Keep going, you’ll get a fascinating and bizarre array of responses. Probably the weirdest one that recurs is that it was necessary as a demonstration of God’s Love™ which is to say (somewhat more crudely) that it was a sort of divine public relations stunt. Who doesn’t love a compelling martyrology, right? Not sure whether that one is worth serious consideration, but I’d like to cast some doubt on the other three common replies.

Firstly, the idea of appeasing God’s wrath makes a certain sort of sense, we’ve certainly seen Earthly fathers lash out violently at their sons in moments of uncontrollable anger. (With luck, you’ve only ever read about it.) It is hard to imagine, though, how this can possibly be made to fit in with the idea that God is worthy of worship. Who would bend the knee to a violently abusive Heavenly Father out of anything other than fear? It is even harder to reconcile God’s (purportedly eternal) wrath with the notion that God is perfectly loving. Basically, the sort of people who preach God’s wrath would have us believe that God tortured his son (self) to death in order to save a small fraction of humanity from the torturous fires which God created and condemned the bulk of humanity to endure. Torture for everyone – either vicarious or personalized. Tell us again about how “God is Love.”

The next answer that I usually hear is that God had to kill someone because there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. Think about this for a second. Either God made up this ridiculous and arbitrary rule, in which case he can repeal and replace it with “I’ll forgive whomever I damn well please,” or else God is bound by some absurd cosmic law higher than Himself, in which case, how can He be called Almighty? The usual escape route here is to say that God is bound by His own character, which requires perfect justice, but have you ever met someone who would call it justice to inflict corporal or capital punishment on anyone other than the guilty party? I would like to suggest to Christians that they try to get substitutionary death penalties put on the law books, just to see how mainstream society reacts when we try to take their ideas about “justice” seriously. Oh, we will also need a few born-again volunteers. A blissful afterlife awaits, and you can give a convicted murderer a second chance!

Probably the most bizarrely metaphysical answer I often get is that by dying and resurrecting, Jesus somehow blazed a path for mortal souls to ascend to heaven. Seriously, guys? God can do anything logically possible, but he needs a beta-tester when it comes to relocating souls off the mortal plane? And let’s not even get into the question of whether disembodied minds are a logically coherent idea, that is a whole post unto itself. (Turns out they aren’t.)

No doubt there are many other reasons that have been given by Christians to support the notion that an all-powerful and perfectly loving being somehow lacks the power to simply forgive his beloved creations without killing an innocent person first. If you know of any interesting ones, please leave them in the comments.

  • Leviticus 1:12

    Thank you!!! I was on the right track in refuting the shedding of blood argument with one of my friends. I asked what kind of bloodthirsty monster would write such a law, and is God beholden to some barbaric system of prestidigitation? I was tring to imply the shedding of blood was part of a magical ritual. I like your argments, and I’m going to use them! Stoke the goat head!!!

  • slave2six

    Romans 9 refutes any such arguments anyways. According to Paul, God makes people either to be a “vessel of mercy” or a “vessel of wrath prepared for destruction.” There is no such thing as free will if god makes such vessels, so there can technically be no sin or a need for redemption.

    Perhaps my favorite refutation of “Jesus died for your sins” is in Acts 5 where god offed two people for lying about their finances. Really? Jesus died for your sins and will forgive you for anything except if you withhold money from the church? Riiiiiiight.

    The Christian idea of god is too ridiculous to believe.

  • Jake Mono

    Great arguments. I can never get an answer out of Christians that leaves the scope of theology and gets to the core of the problem. That is, they always point to bible and come up with what basically amounts to a restating of the problem. Yes, we get why Jesus had to die given the premise, but we’re trying to decide if we should accept the premise.

    Another thing is confidence. The bible is supposed to be the voice of perfect wisdom, but why does it never make any sense? Jesus’ death and resurrection is supposed to be the key selling point of the faith, but it seems to only impress people who have already chosen to believe it in the first place. I have more confidence that the bible is mythology than the perfect expression of an almighty god, yet adherents to its words are biased enough to come up with any lame excuse possible while still claiming it’s the obvious conclusion.

  • Johnny_MacD

    Hello Christian. Happy Easter (meh, it’s a cultural holiday for me – you can wish me a Happy Easter, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwansa, Happy Halloween… I’ll take the good wishes and the candy :)

    So, atheism isn’t a “belief” …it’s a lack of belief. Because you have believed in a deity your whole life you can’t conceive that someone simply isn’t convinced by your argument. You think that we’ve rebelled or decided to reject the idea of a god. That’s not the case. For me it was more of a realization that the things I accepted without question made little sense. Once you allow yourself to think critically it becomes impossible to lie to yourself and believe everything you’re told. You know, religion makes some pretty fantastical claims with zero evidence.

    You must realize that you don’t believe in a lot of things that other people believe in. If you are a Christian I might ask you how you became a non-believer in Muhammed – or if you’re a Muslim I might ask you why did you decide to reject Jesus. Why do you hate Odin so much so as to not believe in him. Or…when did you decide to not believe in Santa Claus? What reasoning led you there?

  • Tim Tian

    Spoiler Alert!

    Christianity is just a bunch of nonsense.