I am aware that there are a number of Christians (of various flavours) reading this. This isn't a disclaimer, as such; if you want to take offence at this little essay, you're probably entitled to. To a very large extent, I'm shelving all I have learnt in over a decade of serious commitment to Jewish-Christian dialogue, and reverting to my eight-year-old self who got into trouble for complaining to my form teacher, But your religion makes no sense! I do want to point out, though, that I don't mean this in any way as a personal slight against any Christian individual. I am also very well aware that Christianity isn't monolithic, and I do already realize that you could almost certainly point to a Christian who doesn't do or believe any one of the items on the list.
A parable that I rather like: To-what-may-this-be-compared? A traveller comes to a foreign country. He peeks in through the windows of a building, and sees people moving about in a bizarre way. These foreigners are right weird, he concludes, as he goes on his way. Later, a second traveller arrives at the same building. Instead of peeking through the windows, he knocks on the door. The foreigners welcome him in and he finds himself in a dance hall. At the moment I'm being the first traveller; Christianity looks weird to me because I don't hear the music.
- Translated texts. OK, some Christians don't take the Bible seriously, which is fine. But those who do think that Scripture has authority really confuse me when they don't bother to learn the original languages. I don't get how anyone is prepared to take someone else's word for what a sacred text actually says.
- Vows. Christians seem to be positively encouraged to make vows, and religious vows at that, all over the place. Vows that are not time-limited, vows that they have no way of being sure that they will be able to keep, vows that are too general so it's not clear what one is vowing. And there seems to be almost an expectation that vows will be broken. The kinds of Christians who accept divorce still make marriage vows, for example. Christians even make vows on behalf of others, which I find a seriously unpleasant concept.
I know several people who prefer to publicly name themselves oathbreaker rather than live in a way that would be untrue to themselves. I have nothing but admiration for people who are brave enough to make that decision, but it seems to me a very bad thing for a religion to create the kind of situation where this is likely to be a frequent outcome. There are even, apparently, formal religious structures for abjuring / renouncing / annulling vows, which does suggest that the system is geared for vows not to be kept. And as for encouraging children to make vows they are too young to understand, that's simply obscene.
- Original Sin. Yeah, this is a pretty obvious one. Stereotypically, the Jewish / OT view of God is perceived as being too focussed on Justice (as opposed to Mercy). So maybe I'm living up to the stereotype a bit here, but I'm inclined to ask, Will not the Judge of all the earth do justice?; how can one follow a God who would be so utterly unfair as to blame the whole of humanity for something Adam and Eve did?
- Faith. Following on a bit from the previous one, I find it offensive that someone can live a completely blameless, even a saintly life, making the world a better place, and yet be condemned because they have wrong ideas about some extremely complicated matters of theology. I have no problem in principle that I don't understand how something like the Trinity is supposed to work, but I do have a problem if this means I'm going to Hell, however wonderful a person I may be. The converse, that someone who is absolutely horrible and vile, but manages all the mental gymnastics to understand and believe all the ins and outs of Christian teaching, can be forgiven, is less problematic; forgiveness is on the whole a good thing. It does seem a bit odd that it's predicated on having exactly the right views about such things as the nature of God, though, especially since I'm kind of inclined to think that anything that can reasonably be called God is probably beyond ordinary human understanding.
- Proselytizing. This is the big one, for me. However many aspects of Christianity I don't understand, (and there are lots I haven't listed here, because I'm focussing on the ones that really make my skin crawl), in general my attitude would be, well, that's because I'm ignorant, and trying to understand the Divine is so complicated that it's reasonable that different religions are going to come up with different approaches to spirituality. But proselytizing goes completely against that pluralism which is far more fundamental to who I am than any particular position I happen to take on any topic. I don't like proselytizing in general, but religious proselytizing is the very worst kind, it's an attack on something which, for those who are religious, is the very foundation of their life and identity.
I suppose this does follow from the previous bullet-point; if one believes that theology is all-important, then it makes sense to want to bring as many people as possible to the 'correct' beliefs and thus to salvation. But it's so appallingly, sickeningly arrogant. (I'm not talking about the fact that certain evangelists use really crass methods of trying to get converts, I'm talking about the principle of holding that as an aim at all.) It's really, really hard for me to respect a belief system that is based on such a total lack of respect for not only my beliefs, but for those of anyone who thinks differently from the believer.
Please feel absolutely free to argue with me, or tell me that I've got the wrong impression of how Christianity actually works, or whatever. Discussion is good.