Christians’ Favourite Delusions 2: Prayer works.

CaptureThe Bishop of Honolulu, Larry Silva, is upset. He wants true believers to pray away the gay. He’d really like God to stop same-sex marriage from coming to Hawaii. And prayer is the answer, because, without it, God might not be inclined to bother himself.

It worked so well in the UK. Groups of Christians muttering about abomination, sin and damnation petitioned God to stop equality from happening here too. Which is why, last month, the same-sex marriage bill passed into law.

So what went wrong?

According to those who know God better than the rest of us, he’s pretty uncool about the gay (Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 etc) so we might wonder why he didn’t just veto same-sex marriage and have done with it. Maybe, though, he couldn’t be trusted to do the Right Thing, and needed reminding, by the most fallible of human beings, of what it was he was required to do.

Still he didn’t take the hint and even though they told him, God decided in the end – or maybe it was In The Beginning – not to bother preventing same-sex marriage in the UK and in other parts of the world.

So what does this tell us about all those unanswered prayers Christians sent heavenward? There are four possible explanations of why they failed miserably.

Either:

1. God has other plans. Namely, he wants to use same-sex marriage to bring about the End Times (yes, really).

2. The faithful didn’t pray hard enough, – though why intensity of prayer should have any bearing on whether God decides to grant petitions is never explained. Be that as it may, on this occasion Christians just didn’t pray with sufficient feeling to persuade their Heavenly Father to buy them the chocolate bar at the check-out er… prevent gay marriage. (Yes, it’s completely nonsensical, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt here).

3. God doesn’t give two hoots about human politics, institutions, social arrangements… and has no interest in who marries who.

Or,

4. God doesn’t actually exist. How else to explain his unresponsiveness, his perpetual invisibility, his total absence from any sphere of existence outside human imagination?

Whichever alternative applies in this scenario – and let’s be honest, there are no others – it is evident that prayer doesn’t work in the way Jesus said it would (Matthew 18.19, John 14.13 &16.23). Not even the most devout Christians can get it to, demonstrating emphatically that, actually, it doesn’t work at all.

So good luck, Bishop Silva. Looks like we can expect to see same-sex marriage in Hawaii some time soon.

Jesus’ false promises

I'llBeBackIf Jesus was the Son of God, or maybe God himself, as Christians like to claim, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see his promises come true.  After all, if God says he’ll do something, we should expect to see it happen… shouldn’t we?

The fact is, though, that so many of Jesus’ promises have turned out to be false. They haven’t materialised in the time-frame Jesus set for them. Here are just five that turned out to be a complete let down:

1) I’ll be back…

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels… I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28) 

Just in case we don’t get this the first time, he tells us again in Matthew 24:27, 30-31, 34 and Luke 21:27-28, 33-34, while ‘Saint’ Paul peddles the same nonsense in 1 Thessalonians 4.15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15.51-52. Did JC return with the angelic host for company to establish God’s kingdom on Earth before his disciples died? Nope,’fraid not.

2) Anything I can do…

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14.12)

Do we see Christians walking on water? Changing water into wine? Raising the dead? Doing feats even more remarkable than these? We should, if Jesus is telling the truth here. I guess the fact we don’t means this is another fib.

3) Ask and it’s yours…

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14.13)

Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. (John 16.23)

Does he? When Christians ask of him, does he always provide what they ask, as he says he will here and again in Matthew 18.19? Absolutely not, which is why Christians like to tell us God’s answer to prayer is often ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘in a while’. But that’s not what Jesus says here; looks like he got it wrong again.

4) Signs and wonders…

These signs will accompany those who believe: …they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover’ (Mark 16.17).

Clearly, this why we’ve had no need for medicine or hospitals these last two thousand years. The Christians have been taking care of it all. Or perhaps not.

5) God will provide…

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” But strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6.25-7.1)

Which is why true believers don’t need to go out to work to earn money to provide for themselves or their family. Everything they need, the good Lord provides – so long as they ‘strive’ for the kingdom, whatever that entails. Except no amount of chasing the Kingdom of God is going to manifest food and clothing. Jesus must know this because he acknowledges in Matthew 25 that there are people who are hungry, thirsty and without clothes. So why doesn’t God provide for them? It must be that they don’t strive strenuously enough for the Kingdom.

The gospels are full of these empty promises of Jesus’. He fails to deliver on every one, even for those who worship him as God. How would we react if a supposed friend lied to us as often as Jesus does? If we’d any sense, we’d recognise them as a fraud and a failure and send them packing.

Time to do the same to this old con-artist.

Throwing stones

WomanNew laws in Putin’s Russia have seen a wave of persecution directed at gay people. Christian websites have been quick to condemn the torture, beatings and murders that have taken place in recent weeks, pointing out that this isn’t the way to treat others (Matthew 7.12) or to show love for one’s neighbour (Mark 12.31) or to support a minority group (Matthew 25.45).

Oops. I interrupt this post for a reality check.

Needless to say, no Christian website has done this. Some have come out in support of Russia’s punitive new laws, because – well – God hates all that gay stuff, and, as we know, the odd Bible verse that grumbles about it trumps anything Jesus had to say about being nice to each another. Other Christian sites have ignored the subject entirely.

Our very own Christian Voice, while avoiding any mention of the Russian situation, has posted yet another anti-gay piece. Two thirds of their posts are on the subject, because this is what ‘the gospel’ is really all about. Upset that same-sex marriage is now law – even though they prayed really, really hard to the baby Jesus to stop it – Stephen Green’s sidekick, Robin (had to be really) points out that our bodies matter and, though it will come as some surprise to them, gay people don’t understand this.

You can read the full thing here, where you’ll note C.V. tries to avoid the word ‘gay’ and always puts inverted commas around same-sex ‘marriage’; pathetic doesn’t even begin to describe it .

I’ve attempted to comment on the article on the Christian Voice site, but so insecure are the dynamic duo in their faith, they can’t bring themselves to publish dissenting views. So here, with some slight amendment, are the points I made:

Oh, if only those pesky homosexuals were more like heterosexuals – always monogamous, faithful and never divorcing or remarrying.

If only all gay people were Christians, then the morality you espouse – but which not all Christians live by – might apply to them. As it is, it doesn’t.

If only they could have an encounter with Jesus then they’d be cured of their same-sex attraction.

If only there was some proof of this magical cure or that homosexuals need to be ‘cured’ in the first place.

If only gay people could be celibate, because that worked out so well for the Catholic Church.

If only they’d marry a person of the opposite sex and involve them in living a lie.

These are the options. So what is it you want homosexuals to do, Robin?

What indeed? I suspect he and the other Christians who rant about gay people would be happy only if they disappeared from the face of the Earth or if the great Jehovah were to smite them out of existence. What so many Christians seem unable to do is accept and show the love to their gay brothers and sisters that Jesus demands of them.

Why I could never be a Christian

RidiculousIn Through The Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll has the White Queen boast that in her youth she could believe ‘six impossible things before breakfast’. Pfa! Only six? Today’s Christian can beat that with ease, and not only before breakfast!

To be a Christian you must accept through faith, and contrary to the evidence, that:

  • there is a reality above and beyond nature wherein exist angels, archangels, devils, demons, principalities (whatever they are), spirits (holy and otherwise) and God himself;

  • virgins can conceive and give birth;

  • a man who died 2,000 years ago is still alive;

  • this man could, when he lived, defy gravity; control the weather; sweat blood; reanimate corpses (his own included); pass through solid objects and project himself into space;

  • an intangible part of everyone survives death;

  • believing in a magic formula (‘Christ died for me’ or similar) leads to eternal life;

  • after death, believers will live again in an improved copy of the body they had when alive;

  • God reversed the laws on which the universe operates to make all of this possible, because he wanted to sacrifice a part of himself to himself;

  • he can do this because he is God;

  • he prompted men to explain his plan in a special book;

  • all you have to do to live forever is believe this book is true.

In addition to ‘essential’ beliefs like these, there are still more that Christians choose to accept on faith, add-ons that Christians are invited to see as the underpinning of ‘important’ doctrines. While not absolutely crucial, they are recommended as a means of adhering to (uncorroborated) biblical truth. Consequently, we find Christians who believe that:

  • God created the universe 6,000 years ago (because this is the time-scale that can be calculated from the Bible’s genealogies);

  • dinosaurs and humans co-existed (because this must be the case if the creation stories in Genesis are literally true);

  • evolution didn’t happen; God created the Earth and everything on it in just six days.

  • reality can be changed by the simple expedient of asking God to change it (prayer);

  • God directly controls the weather (omnipotence/divine irritability);

  • Jesus is coming back – with a selection of scenarios available to true believers about what this will be like (the second coming);

  • all unbelievers will be consigned to hell / oblivion / annihilation: again, take your pick (judgement).

There is not one scrap of evidence outside the special book that any of these items of faith are true. None is verifiable, and consequently none has ever been verified (accounts written inter-dependently fifty years after the alleged miracle-man lived don’t count).

There is, on the other hand, overwhelming evidence that virgins don’t conceive; that there is no agency behind the weather and natural disasters; that nothing of an individual’s self survives death and that dead bodies stay dead. This has always been the case and always will be. It was how nature operated two thousand years ago when all of the ‘essential’ items of faith, invented by the kinds of mind that believed earthquakes and floods were deliberate acts of God, were gaining currency.

Though I once did, I can’t subscribe to any of these ridiculously ‘impossible things’ in the vain hope that I might live forever.

Can you?