Sunday, September 1, 2013
An interesting thought experiment recently occurred to me. If I were a Christian, what kind of Christian would I be? The idea popped into my head while recently debating a few different Christians on several fronts. Now mind you, I don't think I could ever actually be a Christian, certainly not without actual evidence that it's true. But if I somehow converted, what possible kind of Christianity could I embrace, given my life-long atheism?
Well first, there's the idea of denomination. What denomination would I pick? I was raised in a culturally Catholic environment, but I dislike the Catholic Church so much, that I don't think I could ever call myself a Catholic. The same is pretty much true of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is pretty much just another form of Catholicism. I actually think that Protestantism would appeal to me more, and there are over 40,000 varieties of it. I do like the openness of the Episcopal Church, but it does resemble Catholicism a bit too much. It could be said that the Episcopal Church, which is just the American branch of the Church of England, is Catholicism lite.
The evangelical churches bother me a lot, especially because they're so fundamentalist. And I'm not crazy about Baptists. In fact, pretty much all the Calvinist denominations sicken me. So it seems to me that if I were somehow a Christian, I'd have to be non-denominational. I'd essentially have to have my own theology, and interpret Christianity my own way.
Being a scientifically literate person, I'd of course have to keep what we know about cosmology and biology into my theology. So I'd be a Ken Miller/Francis Collins type of theist. I'd believe in a god who simply created the universe, then stepped back and let it all happen according to the natural laws, and who then stepped in when the time was right. I'd probably also be spending my time trying to convince other Christians as to the truth of evolution and big bang cosmology. But, I'd have a problem with this because evolution is so necessarily cruel that I cannot imagine any all-loving god deliberately choosing this as his desired way to bring about human beings. So I'd have a theological problem here: I would not logically be able to believe in an all-loving god. My god would have to be capable of cruelty that is not necessary for any reason at least through his indifference to animal suffering. That would actually fit into the character of the angry Old Testament god.
I would not be able to believe in the inerrancy of the bible. I would have to adopt the view that most of the Old Testament is fictional, and that the bible at best is an approximation of a description of god. Even the textual criticism of the New Testament I would still have to consider valid, and so the gospels and epistles would not necessarily be the perfect word of god for me either. I would essentially be a liberal Christian, who focuses on the nicer things Jesus said. And since Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, I'd be for gay marriage. In fact, when it came to morality, I'd essentially see god merely as an enforcer of morality, but not the source of it. So for the Euthyphro dilemma, I would agree that goodness exists independently of god, and that god simply acts as a conduit by which morals can be known, but is not the ontological source of them.
When it came to hell, I'd probably be an annihilationist. I just cannot imagine a god sending billions of people to hell for having the bad luck of being born into the wrong religion, even a god capable of cruelty. When it comes to who gets into heaven, whether there is a purgatory or whether one is saved by grace alone, or predestined, I'm not sure what I would believe. Being saved by grace alone is the laziest method, since you don't have to perform any good works. So the Lutheran interpretation would seem to appeal to me. Although, I'd hate the idea that a mass murderer can kill millions and simply just convert on his death bed and be whisked into heaven and possibly spend an eternity alongside the very people he tortured and killed. I would like a kind of purgatory for temporary punishment for those who are really bad. But if all non-Christians are to be annihilated, then this would entail that only bad Christians go to purgatory before going to heaven, which kind of doesn't make sense. So I suppose I have no easy option here.
And when it came to heaven, I'd like an option to opt out when I've had enough. I think after a few hundred yeas of being happy, I'd like it to come to an end. And I don't want to have to be around my family during that time. I'd like it so that everyone gets their own heaven, where the people in that heaven aren't real but are more like simulated people. That way I can get to do all the things I want and not have to worry about hurting actual people. It seems to me that it's either this, or a heaven in which we're all robotic drones with absolutely nothing close to free will.
So, if I were a Christian, I'd be a liberal, non-denominational, annihilationist Christian, who focused on Christ's friendlier utterances, who wasn't particularly religious. I really wouldn't even proselytize to be honest with you, and I'd be totally secular and a huge supporter of separating church and state. Some could argue that I would be so liberal that I couldn't even be called a real Christian. Well, if I were a Christian and somebody said that, I'd nicely tell them that Christianity is flexible and then to fuck off.
But of course, this is all just a thought experiment. Without proof, I could never be a Christian or any kind of theist for that matter.