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Answering "Top 50 Questions Christians Can't Answer" (41 through 45)

41 - If heaven is to be a place free of sadness, pain and suffering, then how can you be happy in heaven knowing that the vast majority of humankind is painfully burning for eternity, especially when some of them may be your loved ones?
41 - If heaven is to be a place free of sadness, pain and suffering, then how can you be happy in heaven knowing that the vast majority of humankind is painfully burning for eternity, especially when some of them may be your loved ones?By Edal Anton Lefterov (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

"Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject. "

-George Horne

This article continues a series examining R.E. Pucket's article "Top 50 Questions Christians Can't Answer".

Part 1 may be found here.

Part 2 may be found here.

Part 3 may be found here.

Part 4 may be found here.

Part 5 may be found here.

Part 6 may be found here.

Part 7 may be found here.

Part 8 may be found here.

R. E. Pucket was a faithful Christian for much of his life. However, as he began to expand his reading and investigate arguments against faith, he became convinced that faith was irrational. This impression was strengthened by the fact that Christians with which he interacted largely told him that he should believe for belief's sake, and that faith trumped rationality.

Pucket now spends a significant amount of time interacting with born again Christians who he feels are trying to convert him and win his soul. He rebuffs these attempts by presenting arguments that seem to stymie these Christians who in turn make vague appeals to "God's Plan" and blind faith.

In his article, "Top 50 Questions Christians Can't Answer" on Yahoo voices, Pucket lists out some of the arguments he has found that Christians seem to have no rational, logical answers for, and invites the readers to inspect their faith in light of these questions. Says Pucket:

"Don't get me wrong, they will have an answer for them. You will find, however, that their answers have no basis in verifiable fact or evidence whatsoever, and will be largely based in their blind faith forsaking all reason."

This series of articles will examine all fifty of Pucket's questions, five per article, and offer responses to these questions.

One of the important things that the Pucket list teaches is the danger of dogmatism. If a system of belief stands or falls on every minute doctrine or teaching within the system, then disarming one of these causes the whole thing to fall.Christianity has undergone inspection by hosts of intelligent and thoughtful people over its 2000-year history. Some, like Pucket, have come to the conclusion that it was untenable. Many more have explored different ways of thinking about and applying Christian ideas that do not involve abandoning the system. The very fact that Christianity is a system of thought that allows individual thinkers to explore it, rather than to blindly embrace it, at least suggests that it is not a system of intellectual tyranny.

This author suggests that many of things about Christians popularly believe may be found faulty without the entire system being destroyed. For Christianity to be untrue, it would have to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that either humans do not require some sort of salvation from evil and suffering, or that no such salvation has been provided.

The answers provided to the questions in this series may not always be punchy rejoinders, magic bullets, or truth bombs. They may be far from convincing to a skeptic; however they do show that Christianity is at the very least internally consistent and existentially plausible.

A variety of the Christian views that Pucket attacks in these questions are held by a very specific sect of Christian believers, and by no means characterize the whole of Christian views. The questions also occasionally make broad statements which either mischaracterize Biblical teachings, or are backed up with no supporting evidence. Where these mistakes are made, the responses are largely aimed at correcting these mischaracterizations. This is not to say that the attack has no merit, but the attack would need to be re-worked to fit a proper representation of that belief.

Finally, it is worth noting that the questions are sometimes phrased in highly emotive or sarcastic forms. These articles will attempt to respond to the fundamental objection being raised, rather than the tone in which they are presented, however the questions themselves will be presented in their original form.

41 - If heaven is to be a place free of sadness, pain and suffering, then how can you be happy in heaven knowing that the vast majority of humankind is painfully burning for eternity, especially when some of them may be your loved ones?
41 - If heaven is to be a place free of sadness, pain and suffering, then how can you be happy in heaven knowing that the vast majority of humankind is painfully burning for eternity, especially when some of them may be your loved ones? By Edal Anton Lefterov (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

41 - If heaven is to be a place free of sadness, pain and suffering, then how can you be happy in heaven knowing that the vast majority of humankind is painfully burning for eternity, especially when some of them may be your loved ones?

The statement is never made that there is not sadness in heaven. Quite the opposite. When the Bible states that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” it clearly admits that there will be tears, but there will also be comfort.

The focal point of Creation is Christ. It is, indeed, unfortunate that some will be eternally excluded from God’s grace, but these people have consciously chosen to pursue their earthly interests at the expense of their eternal ones. As the parable of Lazarus and the rich man states:

“…remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.”

Since, however, the revelation of God through Christ is the purpose and focus of creation, this will be the focus of those who eternally dwell in his presence. The eternal state of the damned is neither their fault nor their primary concern.

42 - Seeing as though everything we, including Christians, enjoy in the modern world is a product of science, why do Christians so fervently deny factual scientific evidence that disproves so many aspects of the bible and their religion as a whole?
42 - Seeing as though everything we, including Christians, enjoy in the modern world is a product of science, why do Christians so fervently deny factual scientific evidence that disproves so many aspects of the bible and their religion as a whole? David Hecker/Getty Images

42 - Seeing as though everything we, including Christians, enjoy in the modern world is a product of science, why do Christians so fervently deny factual scientific evidence that disproves so many aspects of the bible and their religion as a whole?

If this objection is to recorded miracles, it is worth noting that even scripture treats these not as a function of the natural world, but as exceptional, supernatural acts of a Creator God.

Almost all mythologies and holy books, including the Quran, attempt to explain the functioning of the natural world, explaining that the world is held on the back of Atlas, that the sun is the eye of Ra, that the sun sets in a muddy pool at the end of the world, that thunder is the hammer of Thor, etc. By comparison, the Bible is oddly mute on the subject of science, focusing its entire concern on the relationship between God and humans. Unlike Aristotle, Jesus does not intersperse his teachings with scientific speculations, God’s interaction with Moses and the prophets contains no teachings on how the universe works, and the record of the creation is ambiguous enough that even early Jewish Rabbis were conflicted on its interpretation. In fact, in the book of Job, God holds a conversation with the titular character where God asks Job question after question of how the natural world is constructed. Job cannot, and God does not answer these questions. The point of the passage is that creation and the ordering of the natural world is God’s business, and he appears to be playing his cards close to his chest. The argument cannot be made that the Bible teaches unscientific things as it appears to teach little on the topic of science.

There is a fair argument to be made that – far from erring on scientific statements – the Bible actually anticipates scientific facts. The Bible contains surprisingly accurate depictions of ocean currents, the water cycle, the fact that the earth hangs in empty space, the human immune system, and so on.

However, even if the majority of the Bible were to be dis-proven, only two things need to remain true in order for Christianity to hold up: that humans are corrupt, and that Jesus rose from the dead. If these two are true, then the belief in the redemption of sinners through Christ’s work remains.

Finally, it can hardly be denied that the world made little or no progress toward a scientific understanding of nature until paganism – which explained everything through the agency of a series of gods – was replaced in the Western world by Christianity. And once the Western world encountered cultures that had not yet been exposed to a Christianized worldview, such as the natives of the Americas and countries in Asia, those cultures were still hopelessly backward in their scientific progress.

The entire basis for modern science was brought about by an education system that attempted to spread literacy and understanding to the masses, as the value of individuals and the ability to read scripture were both promoted by Christianity.

Prior to the Enlightenment, all major scientific discoveries were made by Christians, and some of the most respected scientists of the last century have also been Christians. Far from stifling science, Christianity appears to promote it.

43 - If Christianity is the only true religion, then why do practitioners of all other religions feel fulfilled in their faith and achieve the same desired results as Christians?
43 - If Christianity is the only true religion, then why do practitioners of all other religions feel fulfilled in their faith and achieve the same desired results as Christians? By Mazbln (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

43 - If Christianity is the only true religion, then why do practitioners of all other religions feel fulfilled in their faith and achieve the same desired results as Christians?

The author of these questions clearly believes that Christianity is untrue, yet freely admits in this question that Christians feel fulfilled. By his own admission, then, it is possible to feel fulfilled by something that is untrue such that - if Christianity is the true religion - this does not prohibit others from finding their fulfillment in non-Christian religions.

As for “achieving the same desired results as Christians,” this is a somewhat ambiguous claim. Practitioners of Buddhism and Hinduism seek enlightenment, a better reincarnation, and oneness with the universe. None of these are of particular interest to Christians. Muslims seek to achieve paradise by abiding by the five pillars of Islam. It cannot be accurately said that both Muslims and Christians achieve paradise. Jews largely seek prosperity in this current life and to leave a legacy. If Christians seek earthly prosperity, this is more because of their self interests, not because the Bible tells them to.

Possibly the question refers to a general sense of fulfillment and moral improvement. The sense of fulfillment has already been addressed. As for moral improvement, Question 24 in this series indicates that the author believes that Christians have the same divorce rate as non-Christians, and Question 36 asks “why are more atrocities committed in the name of God than anything else,” so to suggest that Christians and practitioners of other religions all achieve some kind of moral improvement is to contradict other questions in this series. Which is fine, since this indicates that the author is admitting that – far from producing an overall moral decline – religion tends to improve morality. If religion does not improve morality, then in what sense do all religions achieve the same goals?

44 - If God created everything, then why did he create the tree of knowledge of good and evil and put it right in the middle of the Garden of Eden for Eve to eat of its fruit if he didn't want her to?
44 - If God created everything, then why did he create the tree of knowledge of good and evil and put it right in the middle of the Garden of Eden for Eve to eat of its fruit if he didn't want her to? Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

44 - If God created everything, then why did he create the tree of knowledge of good and evil and put it right in the middle of the Garden of Eden for Eve to eat of its fruit if he didn't want her to?

(continued) Furthermore, why did God create the serpent that tempted Eve? Uh-oh, it sounds like another possible set-up.

First, it is important to point out that there are a significant number of Christians – including Evangelicals – who hold the Garden of Eden story as more symbolic than literal. One of these was C.S. Lewis.

When Adam and Eve were created, they were created in innocence. They naturally related to and obeyed their Creator. While this was certainly a blessing, it was not a conscious choice on their part. The presence of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil gave them the option to disobey. This is important because without this option, they would have been forced to obey mechanically with no free will. The option to disobey meant that their obedience was willful rather than unwilling, and that their relationship with their Creator was a loving one rather than a mechanical one. It would have been unloving of God not to place the tree in the garden.
It would be wrong to assume that Adam and Eve had no real comprehension of the consequence of eating the fruit.
“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’’”
It was not Eve’s failure to comprehend the consequences of eating the fruit which led to her disobedience, rather it was her choice to disbelieve God and believe the attractive lie that the serpent told her.

45 - In the beginning God created Adam and Eve, right? Then Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel. What happens next? How did the species propagate itself? Incest is genetically detrimental to offspring.
45 - In the beginning God created Adam and Eve, right? Then Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel. What happens next? How did the species propagate itself? Incest is genetically detrimental to offspring. By Dodo bird (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

45 - In the beginning God created Adam and Eve, right? Then Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel. What happens next? How did the species propagate itself? Incest is genetically detrimental to offspring.

(continued) . It is also seen as being terribly immoral among the majority of people alive today, including Christians. There was either some incest going on or God created more people from scratch and we weren't told about it. The same scenario applies to the flood incident. Sure, Noah's three sons had wives, but that would still mean that, out of the eight remaining individuals on the planet, there is only a 50% variation of genetic code. Mathematically, inbreeding was sure to be necessary to replenish the earth.

Assuming that the Genesis account was to be taken literally, then it is worth noting that the law forbidding incest did not come until the time of Moses. When speciation and diversity occurs within a species, it is generally because of a loss of genetic information. So that purebred animals are less genetically diverse than mongrels, and therefore more prone to genetic diseases or weaknesses.

 

Assuming that God really did create a single pair of humans from which all other human beings descended, this pair would have had between them all of the genetic diversity that the human race would ever have. The loss of genetic information and detrimental mutations that would eventually lead to problems with inbreeding would occur over generations as certain genetic information was lost. So that at a certain point in human history, any two pairs of humans would have a relatively limited amount of genetic diversity, and if those two were closely related, they would have so little as to cause genetic problems.