The Dark Side, How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth, Valerie Tarico, Ph.D, Dea Press, Seattle, 2006 republished as Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light

This book can be considered a commentary on its line, “The greatest barrier to learning is not ignorance but false knowledge.” Psychologist Valerie Tarico, helps us rethink the claims of evangelical Christianity. This book is largely the same as her book The Dark Side.

Christianity says the Bible is the infallible word of God. She says that treating the Bible as if natural historical processes had nothing to do with it is bibliolatry. She says this turns human musings into something equivalent to God and blinds you to how humans struggle to see the truth and only see the otherness of God in an unclear way. But if God intended to make the Bible his word and actually then there is no idolatry of book worship. Her logic is that people are really guessing the truth and are not really getting clear revelation from God.  If that is true then the Bible is an idol. But the Bible denies that people are guessing and holds that God gives clear communication to his people.

Evangelicals think Jesus was conceived in Mary without a human father. The book points out that “prescientific views and Christians believed that the child grew from a seed provided by the father. The mother’s womb was simply fertile ground in which this seed could grow.” Thus this amounts to Mary not really being Jesus’ mother but his birther. Catholicism would be very upset at that for it says there is no way to God without Jesus through Mary his mother.

She points out how the Bible repeatedly contradicts science. One thing it does is say that Adam lived for 930 years.

She says the genealogies given in the Bible put the creation of man about 4000 BC.  Some disagree but the fact is that if it puts mans arrival anywhere near 4000BC instead of millions of years then it is seriously at variance with science.  The line from believers, "The Bible is not a textbook of science" is not even relevant.  Books should get science right even if they are not textbooks.

Languages were supposedly caused by God at the time of the Tower of Babel. But the evidence is that one language splits off another. “Linguists can trace their evolution”.

Satan takes Jesus to see all the kingdoms of the world from a mountain which presumes there is a flat earth.

Despite her saying evangelicals take the Bible literally more than others do, she admits that they claim that this story is a figure of speech. “The figure-of-speech argument doesn’t work, though. When an author uses a metaphor, he or she understands that it does not represent literal reality. So do his or her readers. Authors, even fallible, human ones, take care not to use figures of speech that readers will mistake for non-figurative speech. Yet this is what happens with the Bible. For centuries, virtually everyone regarded these passages as literal. Since many of them fit a pre-scientific world view there would have been no reason for people in the past to assume otherwise. Would an all-knowing God dictate metaphors that he knew people would interpret as literal truth?”

You could say that to LGBT activists who want to get around the Bible God’s hatred of gay sex.  Christian activists in that camp are not really Christian when they think it's okay for God to have two men stoned to death for something at all even if it is not loving gay sex.

The failure of Jesus to bring a New Covenant is decisive, it shows Christianity is simply untrue. She brings up one fatal subject. “The old-covenant vs. new covenant distinction is dubious given that Jesus himself is quoted as saying that he had not come to abolish the (Old Testament) Law. The distinction is also logically dubious given that Evangelicals believe that God is unchanging and that the Bible, from the very first page, conveys his highest priorities for humans.” She then refers to Genesis 17:7, 10-11 which is clear that the covenant that men must be circumcised is everlasting which is in conflict with Galatians 6:15. Abraham marries his half-sister against the rules on incest. The collapse of the Old Covenant and Jesus bringing us the New Covenant narrative means simply that Christianity has no credibility and Jesus was a fake. Yet the Eucharist speaks of the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus.

“The contradictory mandates contained in the Bible are one cause for the splintering of Christianity into denominations and sects.” True Valerie. But how much blood has been spilt and how much hate has thrived over this.

She tells us that there are many verses that give us a bad God. One example is Isaiah 14:21 where God punishes children for the actions of their fathers.  If she read it it does not say God does that at all.  God sows hate and division according to Genesis 11:7-9.  She should quote Isaiah 45:6-7 instead of referring to it.  It goes,

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.

Notice what it means by Lord.  It is more than just commander.  It is controller.  God's Lordship means he controls good and evil so there is no Satan who is responsible for evil ultimately.  There is no other master.

Lamentations 3:8 and Amos 3:6 appear in her list too. 

As you would expect for those times, the people think that God can devise and make evil and still be good!

Though Ephesians 5 forbids getting drunk Jesus gives wine to people miraculously when they already have had too much in John 2. Maybe he gave wine as well to the witnesses of his resurrection!

She points out that Jesus predicted that no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem in Luke 13:33 yet he himself was crucified outside of it.

She alerts us to one very important problem in the resurrection story accounts. Matthew 28 says Jesus first appeared between the tomb and Jerusalem. John 20 is just outside the tomb. Some say, I must add, that this is not a real vision but a remote viewing set up. It reads that way for Jesus won’t let Magdalene touch him and says he is not ascended yet. It explains why appearances to the apostles are the ones that matter in the New Testament.

Luke 24 says the first vision was on the way to Emmaus. The earliest gospel does not say where. Mark tells us nothing. Neither does Paul in his 1 Corinthians 15. A credible vision with no definite location is an oxymoron. It is like saying John murdered William when you have no answer as to where John was when William met his end.

About attempts to make gospel differences fit together she wisely writes, “The critical flaw in this approach is obvious: Just because it is possible to weave a story doesn’t mean that the story is true or even reasonable. Ask any prosecuting attorney or judge. One must ask, Which is more likely, that these pieces make up one obscured but coherent story or that they simply disagree?”

She points out that in Paul’s writings marriage is between a man and woman and is a guard against illicit sex. This relationship is “an early model for Christ’s mystical union with his bride, the Church.” I would note here that as Jesus is seen as Lord and the Church is his choice and bride this is a patriarchal symbol. The man makes the choice and elevates his bride to a greater dignity by marrying her. It shows that heterosexuality is inherent in the very structure of Christianity.  It is at the core and is what the Church and even Jesus is about.

She gives Jude 1:7 as a direct incrimination of homosexual actions in relation to Sodom and Gomorrah. I would say that Jude saying this amounts to a lot for he was Jesus’ brother and disciple. There is the verse 1 Timothy 2:15 which she gives us and which says that if a woman faithfully and with love for God can bear children and does so she pleases God and thus will be saved. It is clearly anti-gay as well.

She talks about the “yuck factor”. This refers to the distaste most men feel for homosexuals or women who are beyond childbearing. She thinks this comes from the evolutionary need to reproduce. She asks us to decide which of these is the most likely. One, did God set it up this way so that males dominate. Two, males being naturally more aggressive conditioned themselves this way. Then she asks if it is more likely that God made same gender relationships yucky or if it is just an instinctive distaste that people mistake for a moral impulse. I notice that if you say God is real then you implicitly say he put this form of homophobia in us.

Here is a very important paragraph. “The ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ attitude frequently encouraged by Evangelical churches towards homosexuals is thin. It is one thing to say ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ when a person has stolen a candy bar or a car or engaged in some other behaviour that is transitory or intermittent and contradicts that person’s own sense of identity. It is another thing altogether to promote this attitude when being gay (being attracted to/falling in love with/ bonding intimately with people of the same gender) is core to someone’s sense of self. One cannot reject the sentiments and behaviours in question without rejecting the person.”

Why just homosexuals? Why not anybody who loves somebody and unites with them sexually outside the narrow rules laid down by Jesus? And what about people who steal so much that they do identify as thieves? If your sense of identity is that you are your own person, a sin against the command to love God your creator more than anything, then clearly nobody can reject what you do without rejecting you or devaluing you. The atheist identifies with a strong sense of being self-made. Love the sinner and hate the sin demeans the atheist the most. Love the sinner and hate the sin assumes your real identity is as God’s child and that is loved and the incompatibility with that, the sin is hated. If your identity as a child of God is a false one then the love you get is invalid. It is a lie.

Some say that there is no homosexual identity for you are a person who happens to be a homosexual not a homosexual person.  But we must remember that we have a human identity and that has a bad side that is there all the time and often acts.  So taking the candy bar is part of what you are.

She points out how Genesis 24 makes God and Abraham to be about his son Isaac and his inheritance and Ishmael is given no dignity at all. Today, we see that as Islamophobia for Islam claims its origins are in Ishmael.

She talks of miracles one of which may be how God can boost somebody’s immune system so that they recover remarkably. I would suggest that you cannot know if the boost really was an intervention or not. Nature does the unexpected pretty often. David Hume said miracle reports may be true but reason tells us to favour thinking that a lie or mistake has taken place. Miracle beliefs ruin themselves for what if a miracle boosted one’s power to fall for a lie or error? What if that was the miracle? It is wiser to assume that than to assume that Jesus really rose for people said they saw him.

She lists some horrific miracles from the Bible. The flood is a miracle. The tower of Babel involves the miracle of God wrecking the language of the time to divide the nations and effectively to start off racism. God uses fire to take Abraham’s sick animal sacrifice in Genesis 15. Sodom and Gomorrah are incinerated. The walls of Jericho fall.  The reality is the resurrection of Jesus is nothing compared to these mega wonders.  It was too low key for a start.  Generally speaking, the Bible miracles are evil.

She quotes Jesus telling a woman because she was from another race that he did not consider it right to help her possessed daughter with a miracle for it is not right to take the children’s bread to toss it to the dogs. He meant he was only there to serve Jews.  Dogs is an insult as we see from Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Not only does he call her child a dog but he says that instead of saying something like, “It is not right to share the children’s bread with the other children”, which would have been less hateful. He uses tossing to add to the insult. Jesus praises her for saying dogs get crumbs from the table meaning the miracle he does for her is a crumb. He hates her so much that he cannot even validate the miracle. For a man who said he came to battle demons, he wanted to keep this one in the little girl.  Helping her cost the Jews nothing or him.  It was only a discreet miracle.

“The Jesus of the gospels makes no attempt at tackling the broader problem of widespread illness and related mortality. He appears satisfied with a few showy but rather trivial demonstrations of his power…he makes no attempt to address systemic problems”. I would add that he never tells people how to avoid getting captured by the many demons he warned about. The above average cases of possession would indicate that since we don't have that today he was putting the demons in to cast them out for show.

Tarico writes that the doctrine that we inherited sin from Adam and Eve means we got two kinds of sin. One is inborn sin and the other is universal sin – the tendency to screw up that is in us all. Is it really right to accuse an ancestor of doing all that damage? They are not there to tell us any different or explain themselves.  Inborn sin makes us bristle and insults innocent babies by saying God is not in them.  Universal sin is accusing us of more than just getting things wrong.  It is saying we are just criminals as a race who break the law of God.  Sin is more than just wrongdoing, it's a crime.  So that idea is as toxic and judgemental.

She points out how odd it is that God in response to Eve's sin tells her now she will give birth in agony. The problem is that does not explain painful birth in animals. That does not give us confidence in original sin.

She points out that 1 John 4:10 says the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for sinners is a propitiation and propitiate means “to render favourably inclined, appease.” So the doctrine that God hates us and needs Jesus before he can want to help us is clearly there.

She says nature puts a vengeful streak in us where we want the bad to suffer for vindictive reasons. If so, then belief in a punishing God says more about us than him.

She wrongly says Matthew 25 has Jesus sending eternal punishment on people who won’t do good for others and these are not punished for their unbelief in Jesus. The gospel says that by your fruits you are known and these fruits come from faith in Jesus and a spirit of obedience to him.  He does not say in the text that their belief or lack of it does not matter.  The subject is their actions.  Talking about how his brothers are treated shows he means members of the Jesus faith community.

“Jesus, as a Jewish Rabbi, would have known the book of the Law and the Prophets by heart. Yet his recorded teachings ever address the brutal massacres of the past. If you believe that Jesus was God, then you must believe that he knew exactly what he was doing when he failed to condemn the genocidal history of his people. He knew how his followers would take his silence. … The fact that Jesus of the gospels was silent on this issue has spoken volumes to his followers during the past two thousand years. Holy genocide remained - and remains to this day – a biblical option.”

She speaks of the just world fallacy where everybody has a tendency to see life as fair when it in fact is not. That dangerous aberration is only fuelled by faith in God.  It is selfish for most suffering belongs to others not you.  You are dulling your sense of what they are going through.

Of prayer she writes that if you pray to God to feed your family you are assuming the starving families of the world are not as important to you or to God. The same would be true if you thank him! I would link this to the just world instinct we all have. Psychologically, your prayer is indeed judging those without bread as ones who should not have it.

On moral relativism she writes, “I am not advocating moral relativity, I am saying that it ;s what we’ve already got, bible literalists and infidels alike.” Christianity is so wrong on every front that it is clearly relativist as in thinking, “I want this to be true so it is true”.  One example of Christian relativism is how God sentences us to death and saves us from death by making Jesus take the sentence!

She tells us of Michael Shermer who held that if you are clever you can be very wrong for you have the brains to justify a wrong belief. This would explain why smart people believe in religions that are plainly false. I would suggest that if a belief is a half-truth this process will be even more effective. But she misses something. If you think God’s spirit is in you and is being smart for you the same thing happens as it does if you are the smart one. It shows the utter danger of belief in God. To shift the smartness to a fictional god is extremely dangerous. The blind following the blind end up only in the ditch.

I hugely recommend Tarico’s book and think I have selected her most valuable insights.

Reviewed Amazon 22 Feb 2021

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