Christianity — An Irreverent History
There is an omnipotent, omniscient God who has always existed. How do I know this, you ask? Well, I just do. Your mommy and daddy probably told you this; who are you to doubt them? Of course, the notion of omnipotence is a bit strange. Where did we get the idea of a God with infinite power? Why not just a God with great power, or one with quite a bit more power than we can imagine? I get the impression that theologians aren't very smart when it comes to infinity. It's probably better if you don't think too hard about it.
One day, presumably after having existed for the eternal past, He decides to create the universe. Why did He wait so long? For a negative eternity, He just sat there; we can only guess what He was thinking. Maybe He was counting down the integers, starting with the largest, and when He got down to zero, He did the creation thing. This seems as good a theory as any. Actually, the stock answer is that God is not subject to time. Well, maybe, maybe not. But it seems like a suspiciously convenient answer that was just made up because of the awkward question. Like the omnipotence thing, there doesn't seem to be any particular reason to suppose God exists beyond time.
The concept of a God beyond time is inconsistent with the God of the Old Testament. That God took six days to create the universe; clearly He operated in time, and experienced the passage of time. Virtually everything the Bible says about God affirms that He experiences time. Indeed, the principle of cause and effect makes no sense except in the context of the passage of time. Does this mean that the "First Cause" argument must be abandoned? If God dwells in "eternity" where time doesn't exist, how could He ever cause anything? Somebody once observed that time is what prevents everything from happening all at once. It might be better to just gloss over this—it will just confuse you,
As far as can be determined, the Son and the Holy Ghost were pretty much in the background at this point. I say this because it's supposed to be an overview of Christianity, and you can't very well have Christianity without Christ, can you? According to Christian theology, Christ and the Holy Ghost must have always existed. Come to think of it, why do you suppose that the writer(s) of the old testament never mention either one? Very strange indeed to ignore 2/3 of your God, don't you think? The alternative is to suppose that they began to exist at some point. The first mention of these two seems to be story that the Holy Ghost impregnated Mary and that Jesus was the result. Now, you might think that God the Father would be the one to impregnate Mary. If not, why is He called "The Father"? Was He already the father of "God the Son"? This whole Trinity thing appears to have been slapped together pretty hastily with little thought devoted to logic. More on that later.
Presumably, God created Heaven first, and then the angels—else where would they live? One of the angels was Lucifer, which means "Bringer of Light," which would imply that Heaven and the angels were created before He said "Let there be light." But maybe we shouldn't be too heavily influenced by etymology. As far as revelation goes, it doesn't establish God as being terribly interested in lexicography. Of course, there is the quote from John 1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This seems to indicate an interest in words, don't you think? All we know for sure about Lucifer is that he was created at some point in time, and at some point in his existence he rebelled against God. This must have happened before Eve ate the apple, since Lucifer (or Satan, as he was renamed) is said to be the one who tempted Eve.
Now, you might ask yourself: "Why did God create these angels?" Good question. Nobody really knows for sure, but angels are generally said to be God's messengers or army or, well, Jack-of-all-trades. Since God is omnipotent, He really doesn't need them as messengers or whatever. With a twitch of his divine nose, He can send any message, slay any enemy, repair screen doors, and so forth. But one thing He cannot do is adore himself. Hence, He creates angels to perform that important function. Besides, angels are useful as inspiration for medieval art—you know, all those cute little babies with wings. You might also ask yourself: "When were Heaven and the angels created?" One view is that heaven and the angels always existed "out of time," just like God. Another view is that God created time so that heaven and the angels would have a place and time to exist. But how could God decide to create time, and heaven and angels, before they existed? If you want to get a splitting headache, then just think about this for an hour or two.
If you are mean-spirited or just plain skeptical, you might ask this question: "Why would an infinite God desire adoration from a being that He himself created?" These beings, whether angelic or human, are infinitesimal when compared to God. Would a human being want a bacterium to worship him? Of course not; that's ridiculous. Would a human being be offended if a bacterium didn't believe in humans? I wouldn't be offended, but that's just me. Bear in mind that the difference between Man and God is infinite, while the difference between Man and a bacterium is large, but finite.
Let us digress for a moment, though. Put yourself in Lucifer's shoes. God created you a moment ago. You wake up and open your eyes, and you're in Heaven. By definition, you couldn't be happier. Eternal bliss! There's this guy who claims to have created you, and He seems to be pretty wise and very powerful, poofing things into existence seemingly at will. Damn! How does He do that? You have it made in the shade, so to speak. Great weather, three squares a day, unlimited beer, and no mosquitoes. Your duties are few and far between, other than bestowing adoration on Him. A dream job.
So, what's your first thought? "Hey, let's rebel against this omnipotent God of the universe"? I'm not asking this question just to be a jerk—I'm serious. How could You ever believe that a rebellion could be successful? You assemble a bunch of like-minded angels and decide to stage a revolution. It's worth a try, what have you got to lose? You might ask: "Why didn't Gabriel or Michael join him in the uprising?" Don't ask. Maybe they were smarter, or maybe they just didn't feel rebellious that day. We'll never know for sure.
Now, the notion that Lucifer can rebel against God necessarily means that Lucifer has "Free Will." We all understand what is meant by Free Will, don't we? (Just say yes—it'll make things easier.) Now, put yourself in God's shoes at the moment just before You create Lucifer. Oh, wait, Because You exist beyond time, "the moment before" doesn't make sense, does it? Still, there seem to be two events to consider: the decision to create Lucifer, and the actual creation of Lucifer. Are we saying that these two events are not separated? See? I told you it wasn't a good idea to think about these things.
Anyway, Put yourself in God's shoes. Being omniscient, you know that if you create him Lucifer will rebel against you, and will eventually give rise, directly or indirectly, to all the evil and suffering there ever will be. OK, you know what Lucifer will do of his own Free Will, because, after all, you are omniscient. You create Lucifer knowing for certain that he will exercise his Free Will and rebel against you. Does this make sense? Why would you create a being that you know for certain will rebel against you? I suppose this is another one of those things that it's better for you if you don't think about it. (They're piling up, aren't they?)
You are faced with a momentous decision: what do you do? Do you say "Oh, what the Hell, let's see what happens"? (OK, Hell didn't exist yet. It's just a figure of speech.) Or do you recoil in horror at the almost unbearable thought of all that pain and suffering? Remember, you are all-merciful. (Did I mention that?) But hold on there! Being omniscient, you know full well that you are going to create Lucifer. Therefore, you have no choice. No, no that can't be right; you can do anything you want. After all, you're God. But if you look into the future and see that Lucifer exists, that seems to confirm that you will indeed create him. I mean, if you don't create him, who will? You're the only God in town. Is it possible for you to look into the future, see that Lucifer exists, and then decide not to create him? Why not just admit that Lucifer was a mistake and poof him out of existence? Damn, this omniscience is tricky stuff, isn't it? Throwing in that time thing just makes it all the trickier.
Maybe the answer is a compromise. Suppose you decide to create him, but endow him with an extra dose of common sense. After all, nobody with any common sense, not even an angel, would think it a good idea to rebel against an omnipotent being. That's crazy! After you create Lucifer, you could impress him with your power by creating a very powerful dragon (or whatever) and then utterly destroying it before his very eyes to put the fear of God in him, so to speak. After a pregnant pause, you say: "Capisce, paisano?" Then, if he doesn't get the message, your conscience is clear. You have to admit that it's worth a try in order to avoid an infinity of suffering and agony by billions of the humans you are planning to create that will end up in Hell. I mean, don't you want to keep up your "all-merciful" reputation? Well, it's just a suggestion.
At any rate, you create Lucifer knowing full well that it will result in an infinity of pain and suffering for untold numbers of people you are going to create. See? I told you so. Then you create Hell as a place to torture Satan (i.e., Lucifer) and all those people who aren't going to heaven. I mean, they have to go someplace, don't they? There sure seems to be a lot of torture going on in a universe created by an all-merciful all-loving God. "Wow, sorry guys. I just couldn't help myself." Yeah, right.
For some reason that you have never bothered to explain, you allow Satan to prowl about the world seeking souls to torture for all eternity. You are God, after all, and you cannot just shrug your shoulders at the thought of Satan luring billions into Hell. You can actually do something about this cosmic injustice. But, no, you give mankind Free Will, and then let Satan whisper in their ear. It's as though you are just looking for an excuse to send people to Hell. Why not look for excuses to send them to Heaven? Did you ever, even once, think of that?
Come to think of it, what does Satan get for tempting souls into Hell? Is this just simply schadenfreude? As far as I know, he doesn't get a commission for every soul. Wouldn't he be better off to just apologize to God and hope that God would turn down the temperature a few degrees? You know, try to play on God's all-merciful nature? He's gotta realize that he's outgunned. If I were Satan, I would definitely be looking for ways to cut my losses. He must be either blind-drunk stupid, or really, really evil. What does that say about God's angel-creating ability? If I were God, I'd be really embarrassed: I created this guy to adore me, and here he is giving me the (metaphoric) finger? Where did I go wrong? I bet it's that Free Will stuff.
So anyway, enough about angels, I'm getting depressed about Satan and this Hell thing. Fast forward to the point where God creates Adam and Eve. He has already created everything you can see, plus a lot of stuff you can't see, like black holes, angels, the far side of the moon, and the ebola virus. God has taken six days to fashion this creation, then He rested on the seventh. Apart from contradicting the omnipotence thing (why would He need to rest?), God has set in motion events that He knows will cause untold suffering, wailing, gnashing of teeth, and so forth. If you find yourself in Hell, it's your own fault. You committed all those sins of your own Free Will, which God, in his infinite mercy, has given to you. Actually, you might be better off without Free Will. All it does is to cause trouble.
But wait! Being a loving God (I know, I didn't mention this before. Trust me.) He must surely want to give Adam and Eve every chance at salvation, right? Welllll... maybe. He gave them Free Will and maybe, like Lucifer, they will disobey him. So He puts a tree in their garden with delicious looking fruit on it. Then He tells Adam not to eat that fruit. Why? It looks to me like He's just being an asshole. He doesn't warn either of them that billions and billions of their descendants will suffer if they eat the fruit. Why not? Because it's a double blind test, and tipping them off might skew the results.
Well, of course God knows what will happen—He's omniscient, right? (I told you it was tricky.) Not only that, but He has stacked the deck by allowing Satan (nee Lucifer) free access to this otherwise perfect garden in order to tempt them to eat the forbidden fruit. And to make it even more difficult, He didn't bother to warn Eve about the lying snake. Hey, it's supposed to be a test, right? But, why put the tree right smack in the middle of the garden? Why, He could have put it in Belgium or Australia or even Hawaii, and we'd have had no Fall. At least not for a while. I have a sneaking suspicion that God wanted Adam and Eve to fail the test because it was part of his divine plan. You can't tell me that God really wanted them to leave that fruit alone. I think He set them up.
We all know what happened. Moreover, God himself knew it would happen. After all, He's omniscient, right? (You gotta keep this in mind, or the whole shebang collapses. It's a bit like Schroedinger's cat.) Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit—dumb, dumb, dumb. But really, when you think about it, what's the actual harm? It's not as though the tree can't grow more fruit. If this were a criminal case in upstate New York, You'd probably get a suspended sentence as long as you paid for the stolen fruit. Even in South Carolina, you'd probably get off easy. Afghanistan? I'd steer well clear of Afghanistan if I were you.
The rest is, as they say, history. Adam and Eve pissed off the omnipotent, omniscient, beneficent, merciful, loving God of the universe. He might love them, but there are limits. So God, in his infinite wisdom, love, mercy, etc., banishes them from the garden. They broke the rules, they gotta pay. But also, to prove He is a jealous God (Did I tell you about that?), He condemns every one of their descendants in absentia to an eternity of fire, brimstone and that lake of fire stuff. It's called original sin, and unless you get properly immunized, there will be Hell to pay. Literally. You might question the fairness of punishing people who have yet to be born for such a trivial offense, but then again you aren't God, which is probably a good thing because you probably have lots of other faults.
And God knew all this would happen, even when He was just sitting there counting down the integers. It makes perfect sense. He spends an eternity planning the universe, then an infinitesimal fraction of eternity watching his creation play out, then the rest of eternity basking in the adoration of those who passed the test. Let's not think about those poor souls in Hell suffering excruciating pain forever and ever, for all eternity. I'm sure they deserve it. Well, at least most of them.
So anyway, God chased them out of the garden. Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply, and despite a lack of practice and even without fertility clinics, they were pretty good at it. The snakes, however, were cursed. God amputated their legs as punishment for tempting Eve, and as a further punishment made it impossible for them to multiply. They were relegated to being adders. (Get it? Multiply ... adders?) The snakes took to the forest looking for fallen trees. Being adders, the only way they could multiply was by using logs. (Ha, ha, a little Biblical humor there.) One of the curses mankind—well actually, womankind—had to endure was painful childbirth. Don't you let those "evilutionists" tell you it was due to bipedalism.
Anyhow, for some reason the first few generations were very long-lived. Some of them lived for almost a thousand years. The Bible isn't clear why they lived so long. My theory is that it was punishment for the fall of Adam and Eve. As George Gershwin would later say:
Methuselah lived 900 years.
Methuselah lived 900 years.
But who calls that livin'
When no gal will give in
To no man what's 900 years?
But I digress.
After a while it came to pass that there were a lot of fruitful people inhabiting the earth. But in one of the most unlucky coincidences in recorded history, practically all of them turned out to be evil. How could that be? God made man in his own image, and it turned out that almost all of them were wicked? It just goes to show that giving man Free Will might not have been such a good idea. One would think that a reasonable deity would rethink the original plan, but the omnipotent, omniscient, beneficent, omnipresent, all-merciful, all-loving God of the universe had a better idea: He drowned them. I can't say that I blame him. Fortunately, He spared Noah and his family, or there would be no story. Way to go, Noah!
You might well wonder about the efficiency of using drowning. Did you know it takes millions of cubic miles of water to cover the highest mountains? It's true; do the math. Why not use lightening bolts, or angels with swords, or a souped-up ebola virus? Better yet, He could have stopped each and every wicked heart with a twitch of his divine nose, or turned each of them into a pillar of salt. (The latter would have significant economic advantages as a side benefit, especially if the salt was high purity.) But noooo... He had to drown them. Well, who am I to question God's plan? He probably had good reasons.
So, the eight survivors of the deluge had to repopulate the earth. For the next 400 years or so they did the "fruitful and multiply" thing. Then along came Abram. For some reason, God took a liking to Abram. After considerable negotiation, God promised Abram that he, Abram, would found a great nation if he would just sacrifice his son, Isaac. What a deal! Abram accepted the deal. (Who wouldn't?) But at the last minute an angel substituted a ram for Isaac. That was a lucky break for Isaac, but not for the ram. It is not recorded if Isaac was told of his narrow escape. Among other things, Abram also received a syllable from God and became known as Abraham. Such divine generosity; it just goes to prove how loving God is!
It was around this time that God was getting pretty annoyed at the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. I mean, WTF? All those drownings didn't seem to have had any deterrent effect. So God sends a few angels to have a look around. Would you believe it? Two of these angels get propositioned by a couple of weirdos. Enough is enough! Goodbye Sodom and Gomorrah. God tells Lot and his wife to flee and don't look back. Lot's wife, naturally enough, thought "Don't look back" was just a figure of speech. Boy, was she wrong! So, God turned her into a pillar of salt. I'd call it an overreaction; why not just pluck her eyes out? But then I don't have God's wisdom, mercy, love, etc. The Bible doesn't tell us whether she went to Heaven or Hell, but just between you and me, I have my suspicions.
After Abraham's death, God arranges for the Israelites to be sold into slavery in Egypt. What about this "great nation" stuff? Well, He didn't say when. Patience, grasshopper, God never said it would be easy. Remember the Fall? God was still a little annoyed about that. The less said about their stay in Egypt, the better; suffice to say it wasn't pretty. Eventually, God sent Moses to bring the Israelites out of bondage. It's amazing how he talked Pharaoh into letting them go. Of course, he had divine help—you know, the frogs and the boils and the locusts and all. But after they left, Pharaoh had second thoughts and decided to give chase. I get the impression he wasn't too bright. So when they got to the Red sea, Moses stretched out his arms and the waters parted. The Israelites crossed the sea, and it wasn't even a little bit muddy. Pharaoh followed them with his army. (I told you he wasn't too bright.) Another mass drowning; I think I'm beginning to see a pattern.
But it's not over 'til it's over. They were lost in the desert without food or water. But never fear while Moses is here. He caused bread to fall from the skies, and water to flow from rocks. He was awesome. But all these miracles came at a price: Moses brought down from Mount Sinai the (Drum roll) Ten Commandments. Written in stone, no less, by the very finger of God himself. Pretty sacred stuff going on here. But when Moses saw the Israelites worshipping a golden calf, he smashed the original stone tablets! Talk about chutzpah! People have been turned into pillars of salt for a lot (no pun intended) less. So Moses had to reconstruct the stone tablets, and they now are safely housed in the Ark of the Covenant. Unfortunately, nobody knows where that is, not even Indiana Jones. It's a shame, too, as it might settle once and for all the question of God's existence. Then again, it probably wouldn't have convinced Richard Dawkins or even PZ Myers.
When the Israelites finally reach the Promised Land, they find to their dismay that there are people already living there. "What's this?" they ask God. Being all-merciful and all-loving, God tells them to kill every last man, woman and child. What could be simpler? Then followed a period of wars of conquest, and the Israelites continued with the "no survivors" policy. (There were a few exceptions made for virgins.) Let's not dwell on it too much. Suffice to say that the Israelites kicked ass for a very long time. That is, they kicked ass until the Romans arrived. Damn! Who invited them? And where is Saint Michael the Archangel when you need him?
At last, in this account of Christianity, we get to the main protagonist—Jesus Christ himself. His birth in a humble stable was celebrated with great joy across the globe by shepherds, angels, and Magi. You'd think that the Magi would have found a better spot for him than a crummy stable, but apparently they didn't even try. Have you ever tried to sleep in a stable, with all that manure? Yuck! His birth is celebrated even today in every town and hamlet in the Christian world. But nowhere is it celebrated with more sincerity and piety than in the boardrooms of Walmart and Toys R Us. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
There are numerous anecdotes about the life of Jesus—lots of miracles, great sermons, and other cool stuff. But the most intriguing story, IMHO, is the account of the three temptations of Christ in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Why not John? Well, John was something of a loose canon. (Ha, ha. A little Bible pun there.) But three out of four isn't bad. Well, anyway, the story is that Satan presented Christ with these temptations, and Christ resisted them. Well, duuuuh! Jesus Christ was God, after all, and Satan was his sworn enemy. It's a wonder Jesus didn't kick Satan's sorry ass back into Hell; I sure would have. But you must admire Satan for giving it a try. In all of recorded history, only Moses had more chutzpah; I still can't believe he broke those tablets.
Of course, the real story is the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. People still talk about it to this very day; they make a really big deal about it. The empty tomb on Easter morning was the grand finale, and it gave us the holiest day in all of Christendom—not to mention the Easter bunny, chocolate eggs, and the Easter parade.
Still, you must admit that there were some puzzling aspects to it. First of all, since Jesus was presumably God, he couldn't really die. OK, the body he was temporarily animating might stop functioning, but what does that prove? Since he was God, he could reanimate it any time he pleased. No big deal. It's like turning your computer off; you can turn it back on anytime you wanted to. Second, how can we say that he suffered? Remember, he was God. (Sorry if I keep pointing out the obvious.) Maybe the body he was animating suffered the pain, but pain is a neural phenomenon, and God doesn't have neurons. No neurons, no pain, end of story. Myself, I think it was just a scam.
Well, let's give the Bible the benefit of the doubt and assume that Jesus was really a human being and God at the same time. Consider it a miracle; with God all things are possible, right? He wasn't just animating his human body; in some sense that we cannot fathom, he was that human body. Hey, if you can believe in transubstantiation what's the problem with this? I call this the easy problem of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection. But there is a hard problem.
Why is it that the crucifixion, death, and resurrection redeemed us? What blood-lust on the part of God is satisfied by this admittedly dramatic spectacle? How could God look down on this event and say to himself: "Good job, Jesus. That makes up for all the sins every man has ever committed, or ever will commit." Now remember that Jesus was God. So God sacrificed himself in order to appease his own desire for vengeance. Sounds masochistic to me, but in a perverse way it makes sense. He condemns us all on the basis of one lousy piece of pilfered fruit (OK, maybe two), but then washes away all that guilt on the basis of a few hours of (possibly faked) agony. So why didn't God just skip the agony and say: "OK mankind, I've had a change of heart. All your sins are washed away as of today." That would have been easier, don't you think? True, it would have lacked drama, but it would have been a lot more logical. Well, that's just my opinion.
But if we think about it, we can see the wisdom of God's divine plan. Remember how He stacked the deck against Adam and Eve? Had they not eaten the forbidden fruit, God wouldn't have had the opportunity for this great spectacle—you know, the crucifixion and all. Mankind might never realize how much He loved them. (See John 3:16) Also, maybe He had the foresight to realize that He would need a good logo. (More about that later.)
I don't know about you, but it all seems like a put-up job to me. This doesn't strike me as the work of an omniscient, omnipotent, merciful, loving God. But I must admit one thing: the crucifixion seems to have vastly improved God's temper problem. He hasn't turned anybody into a pillar of salt lately, and mass drownings seem to be a thing of the past if you don't count the Titanic or the 2004 tsunami, and such.
If you're going to found a religion, then you have to come up with an idea that's distinct. Remember Dianetics? L. Ron Hubbard was no dummy, you have to admit. So, the followers of Christ had to find some way to distinguish themselves from the rabble. Calling themselves Christians was a start, but they needed something more original. They had the original Yahweh, who had a son, but what can you make of that? God and son? Sounds like a roofing company or a law firm. They toyed with the idea of adding a woman to the team, but that brought up sexual issues. The early Christians were not huge fans of sex; they probably would have died out if it weren't for the converts. Besides, they already had the virgin Mary as a token female. (See? A virgin. I told you they weren't huge fans of sex.) Then somebody suggested a silent partner. Perfect! They settled on the name "Holy Ghost," because it sounded mysterious. This was changed much later to "Holy Spirit," probably to avoid negative associations with "Ghostbusters."
However, a new issue arose. People were accustomed to the idea of monotheism, and having three Gods, while distinctive, was a significant departure from Judaism. You can't just go around multiplying gods at will. The ingenious solution was to just say it was one God. Hey, it was their religion; they get to define it, right? Three persons, one God? No problem; just call it a mystery of the faith. They needed a catchword to gloss over the obvious logical problem, and "Trinity" came readily to mind. Christianity was born! They now had the makings of a really good religion. They also had a wonderful logo: the cross. It's more widely recognized today than even the golden arches. They never really found a good job for the Holy Ghost, but nobody seemed to care. If I were them, I'd have put the Holy Ghost in charge of Asia or something. Also, I'd have given him a few lines. It's hard to get worked up over a god-person who never says a word. I mean, everybody knows Groucho, and most people know Chico, but who remembers Harpo?
In spite of frequent martyrdom (or perhaps because of it), Christianity flourished during the first few centuries. At first the Romans used Christians as lion food, but when that didn't diminish their numbers the emperor Constantine paved the way to make Christianity the official state religion. If you can't beat them, join them. Eventually the barbarians overran Rome, but they stopped at the gates of the Vatican. Why? Maybe it was the cross on the gate. See how valuable a good logo can be? It also works against vampires and zombies, by the way. Really good mojo.
The Roman Empire fell, but thanks to the Church, the hegemony (I've always wanted to use that word) of Rome continued, only this time the known world was ruled by the Pope. The following millennium was marked by incessant wars, cruel oppression, rampant disease, abysmal ignorance, and widespread hunger. The common people, in their abysmal ignorance, looked to the church as their only source of consolation. It didn't dawn on them that the church might be the source of their misery. It also could well be that they just weren't praying hard enough. The one great accomplishment of this period was the liberation of the Holy Land by the Crusades. This ushered in an era of peace, prosperity, and mutual admiration by Christians and Muslims that has lasted to this very day. It's true that there are a few malcontents and sore losers in that area, but you can't please everybody.
Eventually the renaissance came towards the end of this period, and not a moment too soon. By the beginning of the 16th century (That's the 1500's—I have trouble keeping this straight), it had spread to all of Europe. The Reformation came in the 16th century, partly sparked by the Renaissance. It stimulated the economy of Europe by initiating a church building-boom. The discovery of America also contributed to this by initiating a shipbuilding boom. The Spanish Inquisition also started around this time, but didn't seem to be a huge economic success. The Spaniards had a good time though, at least the ones that weren't broken on the rack or burned at the stake.
Since the Reformation, it's been a bit difficult to keep track of Christianity, what with so many sects springing up. You have everything from the traditional Roman Catholics to snake handlers, Mormons (do they qualify as Christians? I dunno), and pious folks like David Koresh, Oral Roberts, Jim Jones and George W. Bush. But one good thing emerged from the reformation—a decline in theocracy. Of course, this is just my personal opinion; other authorities in this area think it's a good idea for the government to tell you what to believe—and to behead you if you don't go along. There are all kinds of theories about this, and I wouldn't want the reader to think of me as a bigot.
Well, that pretty much brings us up to date. Oh, I forgot to mention the most important outgrowth of Christianity—atheism. It's pretty much conceded by most modern philosophers that atheism wouldn't stand a chance if Christianity hadn't adopted so many silly beliefs, such as the time thing, Free Will, rebelling angels, an otherwise perfect garden with a lying snake in it, and a supposedly all-merciful God who seems to enjoy inflicting the most hideous forms of torture imaginable. In my sleep I could have come up with a more credible religion. Hmmmm, maybe...
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