Christianity is one of the worlds most popular religious forms. It has existed for a little over two thousand years since the death Jesus Christ. Throughout the course of time, Christianity has frequently been critiqued and questioned. Throughout this overview I will be providing you with basic knowledge regarding the primary areas of critique: Biblical scripture, miracles and prayer, ethics, compatibility with science, doctrines, and specific criticism of followers of Christianity (Christians).
Please remember to be thoughtful and courteous towards others if you choose to comment. Religion is frequently a highly controversial topic in society, however that does not mean any one should be acting inappropriately (here or elsewhere).
In order for one to be appropriately deemed a Christian (a follower of Christ), it is implied that that individual has chosen to live by faith and therefore believe the Bible is truly the divinely inspired Word of God. If the Bible is infallible, then how can a rational non-believer have a proper discussion regarding aspects of the Bible that seem to be contradictory of other parts, or simply inconsistent altogether?
With that question in mind, one must take these debates with a grain of salt. There is no doubt going to be those religion haters who will look for the smallest flaws and treat them as if they are reason to doubt religion altogether. That said, there are many rational individuals who seek nothing more than the truth. So many people turn to the God of Christianity due to a desire to find purpose, however others deny from God for the same reason. How can this being be reliable if his Word is not fully reliable?
A commonly debated potential series of inconsistencies in the Bible are the accounts in the four gospels of Jesus' crucifixion, as well as the concept of the Trinity (Father God, Son of God, and the Holy Spirit). In relation to the latter inconsistency, John 10:30 states, "I and my father are one." A contradictory statement is later written later written in John 14:28, "I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I."
In addition to the controversy regarding the validity of the Bible, an even larger issue has risen to the foreground of the debate regarding Christianity. How is the Bible the Word of God if it is subjectively interpreted? Simply examining the hundreds of sects of Christianity (Examples: Catholics, Lutherans, Mennonites, Protestants, and non-denominational) and a non-believer interested in Christianity may be left very confused. I have personally talked with people who, out of ignorance, referred to these groups as different religions. Unfortunately, I can understand why they would be under that interpretation. Many ask why the Bible is not more explanatory on what is right and wrong. These groups have taken form due to different perspectives on what the Bible really says. Take for example a commonly debated issue in our modern world: homosexuality. Is it wrong? I am personally bothered by religious beliefs simply because basic questions such as this can not be answered without a shadow of doubt. I am constantly erred away from Christianity due to the fact that I can not be certain of what is right and wrong. Since Christianity governs the place of my soul in the afterlife, I would prefer to not live in sin. The problem is when I can not be certain what is sinful or not. On many accounts (and most notably for me in the documentary Religulous by Bill Maher) doubters of Christianity have have the simple comment: "If you were to write a book on how people were to live, wouldn't you be more explicit?"
MIRACLES AND PRAYER:
The first aspect of the debate regarding spiritual miracles (and more specifically, the miracles performed by Christ) returns to previously mentioned problems regarding whether or not the Bible is fully accurate. One could be led to believe that these miracles really did occur simply by reading them in the Bible, however if any of aspect of the Bible is not true (and therefore, God's word is a lie); then how can we rely on the information provided about miracles?
Philosopher David Hume argued that miracles were "implausible" based on four ideas:
1. A miracle is a violation of the known laws of nature.
2. We know these laws through repeated and constant experience.
3. The testimony of those who report miracles contradicts the operation of known scientific laws.
4. Therefore, no one can rationally believe in miracles.
Inadvertently, the Bible itself backs itself up in Matthew 19:29 where Jesus himself says that miracles are "impossible for men"; but "with God all things are possible."
In addition to general miracles, the "miracle" of prayer has also been debated. Often times it is viewed as a placebo by non-believers, yet still believers in God feel it gives them a personal connection with their deity; and allows for Him to help them in times of trouble.
In 2006 a scientific study was reported to news stations around the globe.
"Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School and other scientists tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for specific patients, for whom they were given the first name and first initial of the last name.
The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren't prayed for but were told it was a possibility.
The researchers didn't ask patients or their families and friends to alter any plans they had for prayer, saying such a step would have been unethical and impractical.The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility" (Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12082681/).
In order to counteract this study, one must take into consideration possible biases on behalf of the researchers; as well as the news company reporting on the subject.
Any individual who reads the Bible should stop to take into consideration general ethically related issues at hand. Common within the Bible, and most specifically in the Old Testament, are issues regarding slavery, the mistreatment of women, support for rape and beating children, among other issues.
Within context of the time period, many of these things were relatively acceptable social behaviors (or minimally not frowned upon); however when considering the fact that the Bible was intended to change "the law" (innate moral codes), the possible acceptance of acts such as the ones listed above is relatively appalling to an outsider. I do not personally understand how such savagery is able to coexist with the idea of a "loving God." My feelings are often reverberated in other non-believer's discussion of Biblical ethics as well.
Those interested in understanding more about this topic should check out this video highlighting these ethical dilemnas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDCqeMS3kGI
(NOTE: While this user is inevitably going to be somewhat biased, feel free to look up the specific Scripture provided in the video and examine the verses for yourself).
COMPATIBILITY WITH SCIENCE:
There is truly little to say in regards to religion being compatible with science. The primary workings of both concepts contradict one another. Religion is primarily faith based (if it is not, explain to me how you know without any doubt that God exists; objectively and disguarding subjective experience). Likewise, most science is built on physical observations and experimentation. Is it possible they can coexist? I imagine in time we will be able to learn that answer, however many things that are studied in science do not correlate to defining whether or not God truly exists (and if he does, which one?).
The debate regarding Christian doctrine is tied with many other issues, such as whether or not the Bible is fully accurate, the ethics of humans and God himself, and to what extent the Bible is to be taken literally.
Frequently discussed are the nature of Hell and damnation, Purgatory (AKA: Limbo), and The Second Coming of Christ (which is directly tied to the Rapture). These ideas are generally well known within Christian circles, as well as to non-believers through works of fiction such as the Left Behind series of books and films, Dante's Inferno, various horror films and video games, in music and art, as well as in common history books. Whether or not one believes in Christianity (or any religion for that matter), the concepts provided have proven to be fascinating to many human beings. If one is against Christianity, they may desire to write a song describing the pain to be experienced in Hell. Likewise, if someone is for Christianity; they may be inspired to write about their savior and how he saves them from that damnation.
SPECIFIC CRITICISM OF CHRISTIANS:
Perhaps one of the biggest problems for non-Christians when considering alternative viewpoints is taking into account the followers of a specific belief. Common issues that are notably prevalent among Christians include hypocrisy, bigotry, materialism, sectarianism, and the persecution of non-Christian groups by Christians.
Listing these problems/concerns from non-Christians does not mean that all Christians are in to these things. Most rational individuals would be aware that any person, by human nature, is prone to these issues. That said, many non-believers expect Christians to live to a higher standard to living and morality in general. It is non-sensical for an individual to call themself a Christian, then in a moments time return to sinful acts or stupidity. The biggest problem of these for most people revolves around hypocrisy, as basically outline in my previous few sentences.
There have been many notable critiques of Christianity made since its conception. It is important that both believers and non-believers openly discuss these problems privately and publically in a rational way.