This is part of God Flux but split into smaller sections for an easier read.
The other cheek of Christianity
During my undergraduate course, I joined the choir and sang songs praising Jesus. I attended Mass to sing as part of the choir for the first time within the first few months. I would like to mention here that until this point all I knew about Christianity was that Jesus said love thy neighbour and if someone slaps you on one cheek, offer them the other, don’t offer violence in return. This sounded pretty much in line with compassion, which was good enough for me. So imagine my shock, nay, horror, when between the songs we sang, the priest said, “Jesus is the only God. If you worship any other gods, you will surely PERISH”, and nobody laughed. I felt suddenly surrounded by strange people who took such things so seriously. I, who had until that point, not cared two hoots about Hinduism, longed for some pluralism and tolerance which I had taken for granted until then. After the initial shock passed, I got curious about Christianity and how rational people can take things like immaculate conception literally. After all, we had stories in Hinduism too, about impossible things like multiple headed snakes and strong god-boys who can lift a mountain with his little finger and show the whole universe in his mouth. But I always knew that these stories were metaphorical or symbolic, certainly not real!
I was twenty when I found my good friend from Sydney after eight years of no contact. Since she had taken up philosophy and I was interested, I asked her whether she had developed her own. She had chosen Christianity when she was seventeen. This was the beginning of our Dialogues on religion. (I managed to put up three parts in all and may at some point put up more.) Through these exchanges I learnt a lot about Christianity. I found though, that unless one has faith, one can simply not accept the ‘miracles’. She quoted C.S. Lewis to me. In effect he said that Jesus claimed to be the one and only god, the only path to heaven and salvation. If Jesus wasn’t a madman, the only other option is to take him seriously and abandon the belief of all other gods. This sounded very absolute to me. Why couldn’t Jesus be one more of several rivers that lead to the same sea? Why did he insist on being the only one? I also couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he died for humanity’s sins and that sacrifice was a gift from god which we had to accept in order to go to heaven. I would say to Jesus, thank you so much for offering, it is very big of you, but I would rather take responsibility for my own actions. You don’t owe me anything and needn’t have been so tortured for me. My friend explained to me that my own sacrifice and efforts to be good would never be enough for god because I am a sinner. God can only accept a pure sacrifice. As someone who always tried to see the best in people, I certainly never saw myself as a sinner. In fact, I’m a good person. Sure, I’m not perfect but then if there was an external god who was omniscient and wise, surely he/she would understand that and adjust his/her expectations accordingly? It sounded to me like the Christian god was playing around. Creating a species in his image, making it impossible for them to be perfect with so many rules, making them flawed by birth and nature, sending his son, who was himself, to be tortured and killed as an act of kindness to his flawed species, and making it so that the only way to gain his favour again was to believe in this sacrifice and praise him constantly. If he wanted to be kind to humanity and forgive us for our sins, surely as an omnipotent being he could do it directly? Why put Jesus through such violence? And why does he need so much praise? Indeed it would seem that the Christians define their god to be pettier than an average good human. Many of these thoughts came up during our conversations but I didn’t find a clear voice for them until I was exposed to radical atheism.