On Rachel Slick (Or how to lose a Christianity that burdens you)

Rachel Slick, daughter of apologist Matt Slick, wrote on The Friendly Atheist about how she became an atheist.

This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. 
But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.


And that was how it happened. There wasn’t an argument for atheism. There wasn’t a comparison of which side was more reasonable. There was no research. There was just one question she didn’t have an answer to. I hope she  thought about for more than the three minutes it took her to have that conversation.

The Answer

From the cradle, her father had raised her in the tradition of knowledge and critical thinking. Someone should have asked – Rachel, what covenant are you under? The mosaic one? Did God appear to your ancestors in a cloud on Mount Sinai and make an agreement with them that they and their descendants would keep the laws listed in the book of Deuteronomy? Of course not. So how could you possibly be obligated to keep a covenant that wasn’t made with you?

Did you swear loyalty to Jesus and accept his sacrifice as atonement for your sins? Then you are obligated to keep his laws, n’est pas? She might as well have left Christianity because God killed people in the great flood. You don’t need a theology degree to get past both of those questions.

In her article, Rachel did not say why the above explanation was insufficient, nor did she detail her investigation of a question she admitted not knowing an answer to. She simply recalled that the answer she had heard before was not sufficient. So she gave up.

Do you want your religion? Is it even yours?

Like the rest of us who were born to Christian parents, Rachel inherited Christianity. She drank it in her mother’s milk, so to speak. From the time she was a toddler she was told things; about who God was, what the world was like and what she should and shouldn’t do. The bad thing about having someone else think for you (as we all must do as kids) is that the smallest wind will sink your ship. Her father tried to help her in that regard. He taught her theology so she would not be led astray by falsehoods. He taught her critical thinking so she could correctly deduce information from the knowledge she had. But you can only teach a child so much and then it’s up to them.

They need several things to survive;

Firstly and most importantly, they need to want the truth. Rachel wanted freedom. I know this because I have been there. When your whole world is crashing down because of one question you can’t answer, you don’t give up because one person couldn’t answer the question and you had never before heard a good answer. You Google it.  You buy books. You make the local library your home. You fight with everything you have because you don’t want to lose everything. You don’t turn over to a side that has no evidence for itself because you had no answer to a question on the side with the evidence.

To Rachel, Christianity was a stifling set of rules which she (like everyone else) couldn’t follow. She had been having sex with her boyfriend and feeling guilty about it. But then, she couldn’t tell why she was supposed to follow some rules and not others, so Christianity must be wrong. Bye bye Christianity and welcome guilt free sex. She wrote:

Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything.
 My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful.

Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.

Sending children out into the world with no knowledge of how to seek truth is surely damning, but sometimes, you teach them all you can and you lose them anyway. Rachel’s Christianity wasn’t her own. It was something she had been force fed. She held onto it because it was more comfortable than atheism, until atheism gave her the one thing she truly wanted – freedom.

In Conclusion: A word to the wise

If you throw away your religion one day because you ran into one question and didn’t feel like finding an answer, don’t expect me to feel sorry for you. Whenever I have a question, I work my butt off, reading as many books as I can, analyzing them, taking them apart, making the arguments for and against so that there isn’t even a dark corner of my mind where the tiniest doubt lies. And I make sure the arguments for the other side are stronger than the ones I already have. Because one great logical suicide is leaving the side with x evidence for the side with x-1 evidence.

Further Reading

How to exploit a family falling out for the sake of ideology – Glenn Peoples

Let’s Discuss: Richard Dawkins and the Average Christian

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
― Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion

If you’re a Christian, the above quote probably makes you feel a range of emotions from shocked and angry to completely dumbfounded. So, let’s discuss how you would respond. Best response gets my praise.

1 Samuel 3 – Reading Note

There is a notion in the old Testament known as collective guilt (or something like that). It’s a notion I’ve never understood, but God speaks of it here:

And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end.For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” 1 sam 3:11 – 14

Here, the guilt is not Eli’s or his sons’ but that of Eli’s house. I’ve never understood that. The US president can be guilty of sin, the individuals that make up the country can be guilty of sin, but how can the country be guilty of sin? I suppose that runs into the problem of ‘if all the people in the US die and are replaced by a different set of people (as happens every once in a while), is it still the same country? I guess it could be, if there is something about it that stays the same.

Joshua 15 – Reading Note

  • Caleb drove out the people living in the lands he was given.
  • Caleb gave his (married) daughter land and the upper and lower springs. So women could own property. (15: 18, 19)
  • Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem. So they simply lived there with them. Hmm… They didn’t just slaughter them all. (15:63)

Joshua 7 – Reading Note – The Sin of Achan

Summary:

For those who don’t know the story, God told the Israelites not to take the spoils from Jericho after they conquered the city. Achan, however, disobeyed and took some expensive items and hid them. Like my mom taught me, however, “you may cover your sin, that no one might know. You cannot hide it from God”.

In their next battle, the Israelites fought the town of Ai. They lost the battle and 36 men because God did not fight with them. When Joshua cries out to him, he informs Joshua that Israel had sinned and he wasn’t going to help them until they got rid of the sinner. They discovered Achan and killed him and his children, then burned the bodies along with all their possessions.

  • Achan sinned and God was angry and punished the whole Israelite community. He refused to fight with them and they lost their battle. (7: 1 – 5)
  • When Joshua cried out to God, God seemed angry with him. He spoke as if Joshua was doing something unnecessary. He basically said “O course I’m angry with you. Israel has sinned.” (7: 6 – 11)
  • God said “Israel has sinned”. He didn’t say that Achan had sinned. He counted Achan’s sin as the sin of the whole Israelite community (even though they knew nothing about it) and refused to fight with them until they got rid of the person responsible for the crime. (7: 10 – 13)
  • When Achan was discovered, the community took he and his children, livestock and posessions and stoned them to death. Then they burned them. (7: 24 -26)
  • Joshua’s justification for the severity of the punishment was that the crime was a very severe one. (7:15)

Evaluating the Incident

I have two issues with this passage:

1. One man’s sin is counted as the sin of ‘Israel’. The notion of collective guilt has never made much sense to me. In my mind, there is no such thing as ‘Israel’. Nor does it make sense to say that ‘Israel’ sinned unless every single member of the community committed the offense. I’m having trouble making the jump from “Achan sinned” to “Israel sinned”.

2. A man’s children were killed along with him for his sin. This is different from God punishing the whole community for something that one person did. This is a group of people being singled out by their relationship to the perpetrator and stoned to death.

I’ve thought about that for a long time and sorted out a few facts.

A. These people are not being accused of the crime, nor are they being punished for it (in the sense that no one accuses them of being guilty of it). Rather, they are being killed to punish their father. It should warn other people about disobeying God and consequently causing the death of their fellow Israelites.

B. Achan’s sin was against God and caused the death of thirty six Israelites. It was intentional rebellion. He knew what he was doing. It does deserve a harsh punishment.

C. The one thing I always run into when I get to issues about killing: God has the right to kill anybody. He is our creator. He can also delegate his power to take life to other humans (e.g. to the leaders in punishing guilty people and to the community at large in wars.)
As a result, I can’t say anything more about this story than that it offends my sensibilities and it is very harsh.

In Conclusion

I feel the need to balance out my exegesis of this passage. I adore God’s care for his people and his strong desire to keep them away from sin. I understand why what Achan did was wrong. I see God’s holiness. Sometimes the intensity of his hatred for sin and love for us scares me. I know very well that I do not measure up to him. I am glad that by Christ’s blood I can stand before him. I look forward to the day that he completes our redemption.

Joshua 1 – Reading Note

  • God’s promises to Joshua are of the same format as the promises he made to the Israelites frequently in Deuteronomy.
    • Keep my laws and I will make you prosperous and successful
    • Make sure you know my laws so you can be careful to keep them, so that you will be prosperous and successful. Don’t forget them. (1: 6 -9)
  • The change of leaders was smooth. Moses died, Joshua assumed leadership and the people accepted him without any obvious trouble.