Christians believe, by definition, that there is but one way into heaven and that is the acceptance of Jesus Christ. From here, there are as many disagreements as there are churches. I picture a sliding scale with “live according to Christ’s teachings” on one side and “have complete faith that Jesus died for our, and, more importantly, Adam and Eve’s sins” on the other. Most Christian traditions value both ends of the spectrum, but all seem to implicitly or explicitly place more weight on one more than the other. I’d argue both premises for the most widely distributed religion in the world are flawed by something I call the problem of fairness. In fact, I will argue it, right now.
Let’s look first at “live according to Christ’s teachings.” This is already ambiguous in that the biblical carpenter sends mixed (if not contradictory) messages about how to live. While a problem in it’s own right, it doesn’t factor into my argument from fairness, so let’s imagine Christ’s message is wholly positive and consistent with modern values.
The problem of fairness lies in the fact that not every person has the same opportunity to be good. A poor child without a positive role model--say with a deadbeat dad and an alcoholic mother--statistically has a much higher likelihood to sin than an upper-class kid with an intact family. I’m talking about the BIG sins here--theft, rape, murder--harmful deeds rather than the less-than-honorable thoughts some theists claim are their equal.
Ask yourself, why would God judge someone born into a culture that doesn’t value ethics and must sin to survive as harshly as someone who wants for nothing and was raised into a compatible moral code? As the world is, the Almighty needs to grade on a curve. If He was truly fair, we’d all be put on the same playing field and terms like “the cycle of violence” would have no meaning.
On the other end of the spectrum we are more concerned with belief and less with sin, yet the problem of fairness is still in full effect. For a child born into the “correct” faith of such-and-such flavor of Christianity, indoctrination makes acceptance of Christ natural, but consider a Indian kid who dies before he is ever exposed to religion outside Hinduism. Consider people of a different place and time isolated from evangelization. Consider someone like me who has a skeptical disposition and seeks truth in the form of evidence and logical consistency. If, in fact, it’s Christ’s way or the highway to hell, God has screwed us all with a scarcity of or an aversion to the one true God.
Atheists often cite the problem of evil as a defeater of a benevolent God, but I tend to opt out of this cliche despite it’s obvious truth for two reasons. First, Christians often have a response chambered from their apologetic source of choice--usually placing the responsibility of evil on man, citing free will or the fall from Eden. While neither avenue is valid (considering that God’s omnipotence in regards to the future implies a lack of free will and the fall was preceded by evil serpents) the chambered response shows they’ve heard it all before and have defended their mind against conflicting input. Second, an atheist admitting that evil exists at all will prompt some Christian debaters to detour the conversation to the argument from morality because they only define “evil” in terms of their religion. I’d rather the debate stay on topic. Replacing “evil” with “fairness” is both more specific and more accurate for my biggest problems with religious dogma.
Sadly, the world isn’t fair. This leaves two options: the universe is unguided and shit just happens, or the universe is guided by a force unlike what the Abrahamic religions have to offer.