Artistic License Traditional Christianity

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    This article is a list of common misconceptions held by people about Traditional Christianity. For examples of this in action and for misconceptions about other religions, see Artistic License Religion.

    Common Misconceptions About Traditional Christianity

    Logical Fallacies

    • Many critics criticise Christians for separating themselves from bad people who claim to be Christians or who do bad things in the name of Christianity, however, as the No True Scotsman page suggests in the "Looks like this fallacy but is not" section, Christianity would distinguish itself in that there are rigorous standards followers are supposed to adhere to. What Christians generally say is that if you go against the teachings of Christianity you are a bad Christian, if you appear not to follow them at all you are not a Christian in any sense. Different denominations have different standards but in general if you belong to the Christian faith you can expect fellow Christians to condemn you for doing evil. Accusing Christians of using the No True Scotsman argument when they say that someone who murders, steals, cheats, and so on, is not following the tenets of Christianity is just a petty attempt at blame-mongering. This accusation becomes outright Hypocritical when militant atheists use it since they themselves are very, very, very keen to try and shift the blame for attempts to eradicate religion made by atheist leaders {such as Stalin} onto religion.

    General Beliefs and Theology

    • "Jesus Christ of the Nazareth Christs": The word "Christ" means "the anointed one" (a translation of the Hebrew term "messiah"), a title that Jesus' followers applied to him based on what they believed him to be. All too often it is clear that people think that this is his last name. Outside of his circle of believers, Jesus would have been known as Jesus of Nazareth, or as Yeshua[1] bar[2] Yosef.[3] His enemies, despite how they are depicted in Jesus Christ Superstar, would largely have thought it heresy to refer to him as Jesus Christ.
    • Catholicism is often claimed to be quasi-polytheistic by non-Catholics (veneration of saints and the Mother Mary). While humans in general tend to be polytheistic, Catholics don't actually worship the saints, including Mary, any more than they worship icons such as the crucifix. They usually get annoyed when people accuse them of this. The idea that they do was first coined by Pagans and directed towards all Christians, but the modern idea that this is the case is not much more than a rumour created by dissenting Protestants. In actual fact, when Catholics pray to the saints they ask them to 'intercede' with God on their behalf, the same way as one would ask a friend to pray for them. This is also true of Islam: Islam as practiced by most ordinary Muslims includes a belief in saints and the holiness of their shrines, and praying at these sites hoping for intercession, even as purist "Salafis" and others scream and yell (and occasionally tear down a shrine).
      • Muslims occasionally get things wrong about the Trinity (though they aren't alone in that respect). Aside from their idea that the concept of the Trinity is simply polytheism, they often think that the Trinity consists of God, Jesus, and Mary. This misconception is more common in Muslim countries without large Christian populations; Iraqis, Syrians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Egyptians tend not to fall into this trap.
    • A large number of people misunderstand the Catholic teaching of the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception was not Mary's virgin conception of Jesus—that's called the Incarnation. The Immaculate Conception is the belief that Mary was herself conceived without original sin—which has nothing to do with a virgin conception. In truth, this error appears across multiple media.
      • Specifically, the miracle of the Immaculate Conception was God preventing the transmission of Original Sin (which was Adam's curse after the expulsion from Paradise, to pass the sin of his transgression on to all his descendants, which she would have normally received from her father at the moment of her conception) so she would be spiritually fit to give birth to Jesus.
      • Which leads some people, bizarrely, to use "immaculate" as a weird kind of word meaning "without any masculine interaction."
    • Similarly, many non-Catholics are familiar with the concept of "papal infallibility," the dogma that The Pope is 100% correct when he talks about faith and morals. What most don't realize is that the Pope's words are only considered infallible when he is speaking ex cathedra (literally, "from the chair") meaning it only applies when he is explicitly invoking the infallibility or is otherwise considered to have the intention of doing so, which has some pretty explicit criteria. To date, this has happened at least twice, while some put the definite count at seven times. Probably. It boils down to this: if the occasion meets these standards, God will not let the Pope speak wrongly.
      • One notes that this is not "The Pope will speak rightly." There is Take a Third Option: he doesn't have to say anything
    • Question: Why were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? If you answered only rampant homosexuality (rather than an overabundance of various "sin" which included but in no way were exclusive to "sexual sin," as well as their 'violent crimes' against "outsiders", and generally being greedy, selfish bastards), you answered...wrong! See Ezekiel 16:49 for more details. Basically, their attempted rape of the angels was what drove matters to a head, convincing God that He had been merciful toward Sodom and Gomorrah for too long.
      • It was also an utter failure of hospitality. The angels who visited would normally have awaited in the town square as they said, but Lot tells them that this isn't safe, and to come inside quickly. The rest of the townsfolk bang on the doors demanding for the newcomers, and despite the fact that Lot is willing to give his own daughter to be raped, but they won't even accept this, proving that they have no kindness toward strangers. This and not homosexuality, is more the real reason they were punished, since "sin" is separation from God, and what better way to be truly separated than disjointed in inhospitality towards God's creation, humanity (and angels).
    • The Number of the Beast is not three sixes in a row. 6,6,6 from an eschatological standpoint is utterly meaningless. The number of the beast is six hundred and sixty six. Or Six hundred and sixteen in some translations—to Latin. At the time, numerological significance of letters was widely practiced, and apparently the name added up to 666 in Greek and 616 in Latin.
      • It's good to remember that the Revelation was written way before Arabic numerals were adopted in the region.
        • The number 666 has significance in Roman numerals as well; it is the first six Roman numerals written backwards. DCLXVI = 500 + 100 + 50 + 10 + 5 + 1 = 666. 616 is DCXVI, omitting L, which was not used in some forms of Roman numerals.
        • It also is said to be a reference to Nero's persecution, as the numerical value for "Nero Caesar" (his name in Latin) in ancient Hebrew gematria is 616, and for "Neron Caesar" (his name in Greek) is 666. One interpretation of this passage is that it all refers to past events, but there are other interpretations where Nero serves as a symbol for ... well, just about anything you want, really.
    • Here's one that everyone gets wrong: The upside-down cross is not a satanic symbol. It's a common symbol used by the pope in tribute to St Peter, who died by being crucified upside down because he did not believe himself worthy to die the same way as Jesus. In fact, many really by the book old school Catholics consider wearing an upside down cross is a more humble and respectable Christian thing to do than wearing a normal cross. Sorry, Satanists.
      • However, it has to be said that an inverted crucifix (that is, a cross with a figure of Christ in it) is a very offensive thing. A cross by itself, inverted, has no offensive connotations. An inverted crucifix very much does.
        • It's based on Fridge Horror. As Peter was not worthy enough, what if the same were true of Jesus?
      • The pentacle, which (among other things) was used by Christians for centuries to represent the five wounds Jesus suffered on the cross, and to provide protection from evil spirits. It was a common Christian symbol as recently as the advent of the Mormon church. In Wicca, Onmyodo and most other non Left Hand Path forms of Pagan belief, the symbol uses a meaning developed within alchemy: the five points are the five elements and again as a "protection from evil" seal. The Satanist or other Left Hand Path version, the pentagram, is, for this very reason, an inverse (upside down) pentacle, which often gets confused with the upside down cross above.
      • The most extreme haters of religion often adopt the inverted cross as a symbol. This says a lot about haters in general.
      • Many would argue that the offensiveness of the upside down cross is dependent on the purpose behind the usage of the symbol. Like the Swastika, it can be utterly harmless (in the aforementioned Roman Catholic usage) or offensive (usually used in a mocking sense). The Reason it is associated as satanic or evil by many is because sometimes it really is used this way. Symbols are meaningless until they are given meaning.

    Biblical Laws

    • The various atrocities committed by the Israelites under Moses in the book of Deuteronomy are often presented as actual Christian teachings to deal with non believers, and contrasted with the teachings of Christ as the true meaning of Christianity. The thing is Deuteronomy is a collection of historic records (what's left of them anyway) and not actual teachings, not mentioning that they suffer heavily of Values Dissonance (the Israelite conquests described are not likely to be more cruel and barbaric than the acts of any other people in that era, not to mention the Israelites, as the 'chosen people' felt fully justified). Also, Deuteronomy came long before Jesus, and if his teachings are of any indication, he clearly disapproved of returning to those times. Seeing how 'Christian' literally means 'follower of Christ', it's not hard to guess why such arguments are ridiculous.
      • The Book of Leviticus suffers from the same treatment, and many bring up its dispositions in "religion is right" vs. "religion is wrong" debates, completely ignoring the fact that it's ancient legislation, and as such, it was already rendered entirely obsolete by later laws, by the time the Bible was first compiled.
      • If fundamentalists and creationists would stop quoting them, this argument would hold more water. While the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, Leviticus is, in fact, the laws administered by the priests of the time and many were purposely disregarded by Jesus.
      • It's simple: Someone claiming that Leviticus/Deuteronomy gives an accurate description of how modern-day Christians act is mistaken, since most people don't read the Bible, let alone follow it literally (which, of course, you can't because it is a translation of a set of books that already contained an awful lot of metaphor). But often these passages are cited by opponents of Christianity (or at least biblical literalism) as a way of saying "If the Bible was written by God, and not just ignorant goat-herders, then why does it have all these outdated morals?" In these instances, the objection is only really justified when aimed at the fundamentalist sects. Although there, of course, exist apologetics to counter them, mainstream Christians, particularly Catholics, tend to disregard these old laws because they come from the old Jewish part of the Bible, which is seen as fragmentary and not entirely reliable (to paraphrase a Catholic priest I asked on the subject). Generally speaking, Catholics disregard Genesis as simply myth, or treat it as an allegorical story told to the early Jews. Either way, they have never taken it in the entirely literal sense that modern Creationists do.
        • Most of the morals aren't as outdated as people think, either. They were based upon cleanliness rules rather than sin/evil (similar to Shintoism) For instance, the proscription against the eating of pork would be true, if modern forms of cooking and treating pork were not followed. Likewise, without a condom, the law against sex with a woman "during her unclean period" would also be true, risking STDs.
    • Despite centuries of studying and worshipping the guy, it remains unclear what Jesus really taught with regards to Old Testament law. On the one hand, there are passages like Matthew 5:38–39 where Jesus says "You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." The "eye for an eye" bit is a reference to Old Testament law, so it's clear in this passage that Jesus was setting up a contrast between the Old Testament and his own teaching. But on the other hand, there are passages like Matthew 5:17-19 where Jesus says "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." In this passage Jesus makes it abundantly clear that his teachings do not contradict even "the smallest letter" of Old Testament law (though it is often argued that "the Law" doesn't refer to the entire Old Testament but rather to specific parts handed directly to humans by God.) And note that these two apparently-contradictory passages are in the same holy book. Different people have interpreted it different ways. Things are complicated by the fact that most churches uphold the Old Testament books, including Leviticus, as being Holy Scripture in some sense, even though they don't expect their followers to obey all the laws within. (Indeed, stoning an adulterer would be considered really awful, even if you tried to justify it by pointing to Leviticus.)
      • Except it actually predates Christianity, since "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" is really a paraphrase of the Code of Hammurabi.
        • Jesus' mention of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" makes a lot more sense if you read it not as "Thou shalt take revenge", but as "Thou shalt not take disproportionate revenge". It makes more sense because in that whole passage, Jesus is saying, "Here's what the Law says you should/shouldn't do, as a bare minimum. I say go further than the minimum."
          • Agreed with your last point. Jesus in many cases took the law a step further in his applications. Love your enemy as well as your neighbor, hate is comparable to murder, and lust is comparable to adultery. Divorce is comparable to adultery if you remarry, etc.
        • Also, in the quote that was used earlier (Matthew 5:17-19), Jesus was referring to the fulfillment, or end, of the Mosaic Laws. So those quote in fact don't actually contradicted each other. Remember the bible also said "For Christ is the end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness." (Romans 10:4)
        • Also Christ as Christ was taking responsibility for vengeance. If you actually have to make up to an equal portion everyone you have wronged and everyone who has wronged you has to do the same and so on round-the-loop we are all in a peck of trouble. On the other hand saying there is no vengeance is saying that there is no human dignity because someone can sin against someone else without paying the piper. Christ's Death was taking a third option with regard to all wrongs ever suffered and committed.
        • About the walking an extra mile and the turning the other cheek - one theory is that these were actually a form of passive rebellion against the Romans. By Roman law, legionnaires were allowed to compel anyone to carry their gear for one mile, and one mile only. Any more is harshly punished. As for turning the other cheek, a show of contempt is to backhand someone with your dominant hand. By turning the other cheek, you invite them to strike you with the palm, which is the more compassionate or intimate side of the hand (go on, try to cup someone's face with your hand). To put it in context, a good number of the Jewish community at that time believed that the Messiah would lead them to a new golden age for Israel, in the sense that they would regain dominance of not only their homeland, but possibly the world. This of course was not the case.
        • Passive rebellion is just another form of rebellion. It has not pleased Christ to go to the trouble of coming down here only to give advice on a clever form of rules lawyering.
      • It is to be noted that there is difference on whether this refers strictly to individuals as opposed to community actions. Most denominations accept that lawful magistrates are temporary deputies of God and therefore can enforce law and defend the state and it's citizens. Some denominations however do preach absolute pacifism.
        • While were at that, personal self-defense, and especially defense of someone else is often distinguished from revenge. The second is God's business, the first is getting out of a tight spot. Which again does not exclude denominations that preach no violence whatsoever.
    • The use of the word "fundamentalism" with or without a capital "F," to mean "people who are intolerant about religious matters," "people willing to use violence in support of their beliefs," or "religious people whom I don't like." In reality, the word fundamentalism has a variety of legitimate meanings. Capital-F Fundamentalism generally refers to a movement in Protestantism in the early 20th century that advocated a focus on the "five fundamentals of Christianity." (More info here Used in the lower case, it can refer to a number of factions within various religions (Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, etc.) who believe that their interpretation of religion is more in keeping with the fundamentals than others'. The only justification for the current popular usage of the word is that it's been a pejorative for so long that "person I can't convince" has become a meaning of the word, which is sad but not without basis in reality.
      • That's basic linguistic evolution. There are numerous cases in which movement names have become descriptors that don't relate well to the ideals of the original movement. The Epicureans were not 'epicurean' in the modern sense of the word, nor would Karl Marx want anything to do with many people labelled 'Marxists' (nor, for that matter, does a Bolivian Army Ending have to involve the Bolivian army, or a Xanatos Gambit involve David Xanatos). Further, while in popular usage the term is vague, various academics (e.g. Bruce B. Lawrence, George Marsden) have defined it clearer and more consistent terms.
      • Also, the last book of the Bible is called Revelation, not Revelations.
    • Claiming that God declared the human body sinful during the Fall of Man (after Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden). Actually, after being tempted by Satan to eat the Forbidden Fruit, Adam and Eve's (spiritual) eyes had opened, and they began to see everything as shameful, including their own bodies (they were unaware of their nudity until now). So, they attempted to cover them up by making "aprons" out of fig leaves (some versions of the Bible imply that only their genitals were covered with a single leaf) and hiding from God in the trees, but He calls them out on this. God did give them better clothing then the "aprons" after kicking them out, mainly because He had cursed the Earth with things like thorns as punishment, so their bodies would occasionally need protection from the harsh world outside; never did He say that they must be covered up at all times. Plus, He still loved and cared for them even though they sinned. See here.
      • The origin (i.e., the Hebrew version of the Bible) states that "יִּתְפְּרוּ עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה וַיַּעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם חֲגֹרֹת", i.e., they took fig leaves and made themselves belts (or aprons). God did give them leather shirts before He kicked them out, but it isn't clear why.
        • God is a Jewish Mother and it was cold outside the Garden. You want that they should freeze their little punims off without a warm jacket?
        • A common Christian interpretation of the coverings is that they're early symbols of Christ's death. Let clothing be a symbol for righteousness; Adam and Eve try to cover themselves with righteousness, but their efforts are inadequate - just some big leaves they've sewn together pretty roughly. In steps God and graciously gives them fabulous fur outfits that cover them perfectly, but it's come at a price - blood had to be shed to provide them. The blood of a lamb, perhaps?

    Biblical History

    • The Bible does not say that exactly three wise men visited Jesus, nor does it say they were kings, nor does it say they rode on camels. Their names aren't known either, and neither is said that one of them was black. It also does not say that they visited Jesus as an infant, they simply say they saw him as a "young child." The grouping of 3 stems from the the fact that there were three gifts, Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.
    • Nobody knows specifically when Jesus was born,[4] but there is a prevailing idea that the date accorded was an attempt to co-opt Aurelian's Feast of the Unconquered Sun, a festival that took place on what was, in the Julian Calendar, the Winter Solstice, December 25.[5] While the earliest hard evidence regarding Dec. 25 as the date of Christmas is from 336 A.D., and it wasn't made an official festival until 379, there is evidence that the date was already being put forth by the integration of several strands of thought. The formulation of the date of Christmas actually has to do with the attempt to set the date of Good Friday and Easter, for the purposes of smoothing out the liturgical calendar.[6] After years of argument, two dates were generally held for the timing of Good Friday: the Eastern Church claimed the date of April 6, while the Western Church observed March 25.
      • In order for this to make sense, we need to concern the idea of "Integral Age", the extrascriptural, though apparently widespread, Judaistic idea that the great prophets of history had all died on the same day as their conception or birth. This gives the dates extra significance of being candidates for Jesus' birth or conception, and eventually March 25 took prominence. To the day, March 25 is celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation (or Incarnation), when the Archangel Gabriel visited Mary and related a certain request to her, and upon her acquiescence conceived the "Eternal Word of God" in her womb. Anyone remotely familiar with pregnancy can make the nine month jump to December 25. April 6's nine month jump led to January 6, which is celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany (the visitation of the Magi). Combine that with the "Chronicle" of Hippolytus of Rome (which precedes the Feast of Sol Invicti by a good three decades) stating that the birth of Jesus "took place eight days before the kalends of January", and suddenly it seems more like Sol Invicti was a political statement and a paganization of a significant date to Christians.
      • Also, a further point to reference the date was put forth by St. John Crysostom (died 407 A.D.), who regards the bible's record of Mary visiting her pregnant sister, Elizabeth. This took place during the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, when her husband Zechariah was performing priestly duties in the temple. Zechariah was in the eighth of a 24-class priestly system, so, calculating backwards from the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. (Rabbinical Tradition fixed the class on duty during that time), Zechariah would have been serving Oct. 2-9 in 5 B.C. (again, the modern year system may be a bit off) when he was visited by the angel and told his elderly and infertile wife would conceive and bear his son. Mary's sudden conception visit six months later puts us in March, and the nine month pregnancy leap leads us to late December.
      • The misunderstanding here regarding who ripped off who has several roots. First, was that there was virtually no conflict during the institution of the festival; Christians examined Aurelian's ideas, took a shine to them, and functionally baptized them, giving them new Christian significance without having to impose a whole new methodology on everyone around them. The Birth of the Unconquered Sun was re-appropriated to refer to the "Sun of Salvation" or the "Sun of Justice", as in, Jesus himself. This "baptism" is actually quite common in nascent and/or rural Christian communities, which is why there is a disconnect when festivals and celebrations that look decidedly un-Christian (or, at least, are missing the cultural images of a certain set of "Smells and Bells") and Pagan are witnessed by casual observers.[7] Also important in the idea of Christmas originally being Pagan are the theories proposed by Paul Ernst Jablonski, a German Protestant, who wanted to demonstrate that the festival of Christmas was one of the early "Paganizations" of Apostolic Christianity into Catholicism, and by Dom Jean Hardouin, a Benedictine monk, who wanted to demonstrate the Catholic Church adopted Pagan festivals for Christian purposes without paganizing the Gospel. Both theories agreed on the assumption that, since the Julian calendar, which dated from 45 B.C. listed December 25 as the Winter Solstice, the date had a pagan significance prior to its Christian one. Jablonski merely noted the correlation of the technical designation of Dec. 25 and thus concluded that the Roman Winter Solstice had a significance prior to Christmas. Hardouin failed to challenge the assumption.
      • Further, the particular sun-centric date was foreign to either of the two Roman temples of the sun. The one to whom Aurelian's clan belonged celebrated its dedication festival on August 28, but by the second century, both temples had fallen into disuse and neglect by the second century, when the eastern sun cult Mithraism was gaining ground. And none of the above had ceremonies dealing with Equinoxes or Solstices.
      • SO! To sum up, the idea that Christmas has pagan roots is utterly bogus. It is the taking of dates featured in the new testament, combining them with an (admittedly extra-Scriptural) Jewish (not pagan) theory about the lifespan of Jewish (not pagan) prophets. That they adopted Aurelian's festival is more of a checkmate in that he gave them more material to work with. Instead of allowing him to copyright the sun for Roman Paganism, they put it in the service of Jesus Christ.

    Recent History and Events

    • Claims that the Catholic Church supported the Nazis are entirely baseless. In the aftermath of WWII and discovery of the extent of the Nazi crimes, people were looking for people to blame. The Catholic Church was both geographically convenient (the Vatican being located right in the middle of Italy) and a strong moral authority whom a lot of non-Catholics disliked. This led numerous people, many of whom had, themselves, completely failed to speak out despite living very far away from Axis-held countries, to criticise the Church for failing to take a strong enough stance against the Nazis. Never mind the fact that the Vatican was a completely unarmed target sitting right in the middle of the capital city of Fascist Italy, which is about as far from a defensive position as you can get without actually sitting inside the barrel of a howitzer, or the fact that Hitler had plans to wipe them out when he was done with the Jews. The truth of the matter is that the Vatican did speak out - and was promptly told by the Allies to stay silent.
    • Added to that are the recent attempts to smear Pope-Emeritus Benedict by claiming he was a Nazi because he was drafted by them at age sixteen. Not only was the Pope not a Nazi, his family had to keep moving house because of their strong anti-Nazi beliefs. The 'Hitler Youth' part of the equation never even happened - they told him to join, and he got a note saying he was excused. Not exactly leader of the SS here.
      • Oh yes, and his fourteen-year-old cousin was taken away and killed by the Nazis because he had Down's Syndrome.
    • The Catholic Herald has been under attack for several years now for publishing an article claiming that the books of Philip Pullman should be piled up and burnt. Pullman has even put (what we are told is) the offending Herald quote in his book and the controversy is such that it has actually become a long-standing part of Pullman's introduction and featured on the BBC's Big Read. The truth? The Catholic Herald never said anything of the sort!. Here's the actual article (apologies for a few minor typos, the CH recently digitised their entire archive and the speed-typing shows somewhat). In short, what the Herald actually said was:

    "THE CONTROVERSY over Harry Potter is still brewing in the USA. Parents in South Carolina are pressing their Board of Education to ban the best-selling children's stories. "The books have a serious tone of death, hate, lack of respect and sheer evil", said one mother, in her deposition to the board. No doubt the books are attracting attention precisely on account of their success: they have sold 30 million worldwide. But if one was going to start banning books, there are numerous candidates that seem to me to be far more worthy of the bonfire than Harry. The children's market is glutted with tomes a million times more sinister. This is particularly true in the area of fantasy fiction, which appeals to children as they approach their teens. One such is the trilogy by Philip Pullman, entitled His Dark Materials."

      • In response to the continued controversy and the quip at the BBC's Big Read, the Catholic Herald completely re-printed the original article and added a response by its author, Leonie Caldecott, who said that "the tactics of the author and his supporters have not been exactly honourable" (which is a bit of an understatement) and goes on to add that "Since no clergymen have [publicly denounced Pullman and his book] the millionaire author has had to make do with an Oxfordshire housewife".

    Christianity and War

    • One of the most wildly used arguments against religion, particularly Christianity, has to be the claim that religion causes war. Here's the thing though. It doesn't. There is NO proof that religion causes war and significant evidence that it doesn't. People who argue that religion causes war tend to list a select few examples and then act like they have launched some sort of Unblockable Attack. Here's the thing though, there have kind-of been one or two other wars besides The Crusades, and almost all those were fought for completely secular reasons such as to secure needed resources, land, positions of political or tactical importance, power, or commodities such as spice or sugar. In actual fact the evidence falls rather firmly on the side of religion not being violent, a totaling of every campaign in The Encyclopaedia of War gives us only 123 religious wars out of an enormous 1763 (6.98%). That's not just Christian wars, that's in total. And that figure of 123 includes plenty that were, arguably, fought for non-religious reasons. And even The Crusades, the one example guaranteed to crop up, weren't fought for purely religious reasons - they started with a land-grab by the Seljuks, the Byzantine emperor called to Pope Urban II for support, seeking to unite Europe, consolidate and reunite the fractured the Church and take back Jerusalem from the invaders, The Pope, who was a respected world leader, called for a crusade against the invading forces. Notice how we keep saying 'the invaders' instead of 'the Muslims'? That's because during the first couple of crusades the Christian side had Muslim allies and the Islamic side had Christian allies. It's entirely probably that the war would have happened without any kind of religious input whatsoever - if you strip out the religious references it's just a straight-up border war of the type that had been running in Europe (and world wide) for centuries. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that one army took a massive detour in order to sack a friendly Muslim city out of pure unadulterated greed (Damascus) the Crusades would probably never have become a purely Muslim-vs-Christian conflict at all.
      • "Crusade" was basically a recruiting slogan that everyone remembers for some odd reason. There were plenty of times Christians and Muslims fought both before and after what we normally call Crusades and it is often impossible to distinguish those wars from Crusades.
      • If you encounter this argument the best solution is to ask them to provide actual proof in the form of statistical evidence rather than simply giving anecdotal examples, the chances are they will quickly fall back on a favourite cop-out of Dawkins: an argument which usually amounts to nothing more than the claim that 'religion creates differences and differences are fought over', which is an utterly ridiculous thing to say when you consider just how many other things there are that make people different, think about it, skin colour, language, hair (think about the native Americans and their different tribal hair styles), subcultures (several Goths have been beaten or murdered for being Goths), hell, look at the Mac vs PC vs Linux flamewars on the internet! Saying that 'religion is bad because it causes difference and difference leads to war,' is just about the most stupid thing you can possibly say in a religious debate, as almost all wars are fought for specifically non-religious reasons. To say that religion causes any significant amount of war is barmy and in total contradiction to all of the evidence.

    Christianity and Other Belief Systems

    • People who claim that Christianity is based on earlier religions are, unless they mean Judaism, very sorely mistaken. There is no actual historic proof that this is the case. Indeed, there is nothing in what we know of the original Pagan beliefs that we can even draw a respectable parallel with. This, however, has not prevented bunkum, such as Christianity supposedly being based on the Mithraic Mystery Cult, appearing from the mouths of respected and intelligent people, such as the ones who run the QI panel game. Quite apart from the fact that we know almost nothing about the Mithraic Mystery Cult, everything we do know contradicts all of the claims made. This is merely the very tip, of the very tip, of the colossal iceberg of earlier beliefs that people regularly claim Christianity is based on. One of the more amusing being the supposed 'virgin birth' of Horus, long story short: Isis gathered the various parts of Osirus and rebuilt him, she then brought him back from the dead for a single day so that she could, er, conceive with him. Yes, creepy undead whatnots are still whatnots.
      • Isis couidn't find Osiris' whatnot. Instead, she carved him a new whatnot out of wood. Uhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh, "wood".
      • These people may be referring to certain stories in the Bible. There are some very similar tales across holy texts, perhaps the most common being an angered deity flooding the earth. Hinduism features a man being swallowed by a fish, which can be linked to the story of Jonah.
        • Naturally stories would be similar as they are stories told by humans to humans. The fact that humans like the same types of stories(some of whom have Real Life counterparts is evidenced by the fact we have the site All the Tropes). Besides if they take after pagan stories, the Bible could at least write better. The Dying God Reborn, is not a corn god, at least not in the same way and has his life written up as a biography.

    Charity Work and Philanthropy

    • The Catholic Church gets a bad and rather undeserved rap for being uncharitable. The argument usually goes that since the Church has a lot of really nice buildings they must be sucking up money that could be used to feed Romanian Orphans. Of course this is very politically naïve, countries aren't poor for no reason, mostly it is because governments have been sacking places like Africa, India, and Brazil for centuries. Western powers will actually step in to replace democratically elected leaders with puppets who are subservient to them in order to make the sacking easier. Want an example? How about Iran, India, and half of Africa? And here's the thing: throwing aid money at a region can actually destabilise it because, as it turns out, dictators tend to take that free money and turn it into guns or supplies - and that's if the food doesn't get left to rot on the docks. What has this got to do with the Catholic Church? Well, it turns out they ARE helping people, and they are doing a damn sight more than the people who accuse it of being greedy. Have a look at this.

    "The Catholic Church is very visible in healthcare services in Africa. She, of all religious groups and private agencies working in the healthcare industry in Africa, has the largest number of private hospitals and clinics providing Medicare and, in some cases, free medical treatment for HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, and people suffering from malaria. This happens even in those African countries where the Catholic Church is not a majority. In Ghana for instance, Catholics make up about 30 percent of the population but control more hospitals than any other private agency in the country. In Africa, the Church works in 16,178 health centers, including 1,074 hospitals, 5,373 out-patient clinics, 186 leper colonies, 753 homes for the elderly and physically and mentally less able brothers and sisters, 979 orphanages, 1,997 kindergartens, 1,590 marriage counseling centers, 2,947 social re-education centers and 1,279 other various centers. There are 12,496 nursery schools with 1,266,444 registered children; 33,263 primary schools with 14,061,000 pupils, and 9,838 high schools with 3,738,238 students. Some 54,362 students are enrolled in higher institutes, of which 11,011 are pursuing ecclesiastical studies. There are in Africa, fifty-three national chapters of Caritas, thirty-four national commissions of justice and peace and twelve institutes and centers promoting the Social Doctrine of the Church." -- Aid and Development in Africa, Stan Chu Ilo, (Pickwick).

    Heaven and Hell

    • Hell. Any time Hell is depicted as "the Devil's domain", typically with Satan sitting on a throne of skulls, idly twiddling his pitchfork while the damned are marched by in chains. The Bible clearly teaches that Hell (well, the Lake of Fire at least) was always intended as a punishment for Satan, not as a kingdom. The closest analogue to a realm of the dead is Sheol or the grave—a place where the dead go, but not for punishment or reward. It seems to be a place where absolutely nothing happens.
      • This misconception comes from the line in Paradise Lost: "Better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven." However, it is obviously just metaphorical. The text states the non-literal aspect explicitly: "You'll find no realms there."
        • Satan does have some autonomy in Paradise Lost; he breaks his chains and founds a city (Pandaemonium). However, it's clear that he's still being tormented (both by the fires and by the absence of God), and that he has no actual power over the damned.
      • The traditional view of Fire and Brimstone Hell is due to distinctions Lost in Translation. The word "Hell" is used as a translation for four words used in the initial writing of The Bible in its original languages: Sheol, Hades, a single mention of Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4), and Gehenna. Sheol is a Hebrew word and Hades is Greek; both mean the same thing, the abode of the dead for all humans, whether good or bad, at least until Armageddon, and used in conjunction with Ecclesiastes 9:5 would refer to Cessation of Existence. Gehenna is a Greek word that when translated means "Valley of Hinnom", which was a trash dump where garbage filth, corpses of criminals, and the like were burned. Jesus re-purposed this word to refer to the future eventual end and Karmic Death of the wicked, whether human or demon, and also has the same symbolic meaning as the Lake of Fire in Revelation. Not everyone agrees whether it is a place of eternal torment or eternal destruction. Unfortunately, Bible translators usually translate all four words as "Hell", despite that Gehenna has a different meaning from the first two, thus causing a lot of confusion.
    • On that note, any time Satan is depicted as an "opposite but equal" force to God the Father or Jesus. The passage cited as his Backstory (whether it is or not), in Isaiah, depicts him as a fallen angel. Angels are definitely not equal to God.
      • Dualism influenced some sects of early Christian Gnosticism, and some were quite open to the possibility of two equal deities. Then the Council of Nicaea decided to take issue with some creative differences found in Gnostic beliefs, wrote up a Creed, and set up shop.
      • Beyond the issue of relative power or lack thereof, Satan is believed to have already been defeated via Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection, and is at this point on borrowed time waiting for the other foot to come down.
    • Anything that depicts or refers to dead souls as angels. Angels are not the souls of the departed. They are a separate Order of Creation and were on staff from the Beginning. Of course in Catholicism at least some souls do act as intercessors and provide guidance and miracles. They are called Saints.
    • Regarding the hierarchy of angels (from Catholic theology, though common in general Christianity and often in works that need an angelic army or government system) there are nine orders of a celestial hierarchy—from least to greatest: Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim. Michael, the angel who cast Satan from heaven, has proven difficult regarding which order, exactly, he belongs, to—the most common interpretation of his position, as you may have guessed from the trope, is as an archangel, which is the position accorded to him by St. Basil and a good many Greek Fathers, in so far as he is the prince of all angels. St. Bonaventura, on the other hand, refers to him as the prince of the Seraphim, the highest order of the angels, whereas St. Thomas Aquinas places him as prince of the Angels (lowest choir). This latter interpretation makes sense when considering the role of the angelic hierarchy as regards the degrees of their servitude—in a reverse from the human way of doing things, the higher orders of angels actually serve the lower orders.

    Missionary Work

    • One of the most prevailing myths about Catholic Missionaries is that they are there to force something on people, there may be other Christian groups that do do this, but the RCC is not one of them. The main point of a mission is humanitarian aid, missionaries become missionaries for the same reason people volunteer for other charities - they want to help people! The first buildings established by a mission tend to be rudimentary medical facilities, then moving on to schools. It is generally the people themselves who ask for them to build a church. Missionary work is some of the hardest and most dangerous on the planet, the fact that missionaries protect the communities they join and are often celebrated by them, and the fact that the mission brings things like sustainable water, food, health care (including medicines for people with AIDS), education, good moral teachings, and hope to billions is entirely lost on most people. When a missionary priest approaches a tribe they can ask him to leave, and he has to go! The priest is there only as long as the people want him, he is not allowed to force Christianity on them - they have to come to him! That's right! In actual fact the main point of Missions is humanitarian work, a priest (and often volunteers) will go and build pumps, a hospital, a school, and start teaching people to read. The actual teaching of Christianity happens when the priest asks people if they would like to learn about the faith, the people then come to the priest to find out about Christianity and it is often them who ask for the priest to build a church. Oh yes, and the priest is not there to force another culture on the people or tell them that their current beliefs are wrong - often a missionary will be the only person making sure the local children know their own damn history and culture. The Vatican has numerous letters on file thanking them for the word of God, including one from a tribe of native Americans, which is written on tree bark.
      • Unfortunately, for most of Christian history, spreading the cross was not such a rosy act. Due to the fact that religious authority is inseparable from political authority, so having large populations of non-Christians in your domain is seen as a failure in asserting dominance. Missionaries of the old ilk generally do not leave when asked, and can usually call on the local colonial power to help. Witness the Bloody Verdict of Verden, where Charlemagne executed 4500 Saxons for refusing to convert. The inquisition of Goa, India (like their Spanish counterpart), while they did not directly punish pagans, still allowed the enactment of extremely anti-Muslim/Jewish/Hindu laws as "encouragement", and punishment for recidivism is generally not pleasant. Furthermore, successful missionary work could entails the replacement of the former local culture and religions, which can be considered a crime in of itself. And things really heats up when Christians try to convert each other (e.g. the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars or the Thirty Years War against the Protestants). It's is really only in the modern world and the recognition that correcting someone's religious affiliation is not the most important goal that a much more in depth and humanitarian missionary work can flourish.

    Morality in Practice

    • Where do the vast majority of Christians stand on alcohol, gambling and legal drugs such as tobacco? They are fine, so long as you do it in moderation and do not let them harm yourself or others (which in the case of gambling means don't take more than someone can afford to lose). Most of the rest, typically the newer less traditional end, take the view that humans have proven that they cannot do such things in moderation and so you should not do it. Alcohol, gambling, etc. are not evil; letting those things rule you is.
    • Much debate is possible about the attitudes of various Christians toward sex, and there have been very many problematic statements made and repressive attitudes held by Christians. However, a work does fail Religious Studies forever if it claims or implies that The Bible or any mainstream Christian denomination (including Catholics and mainstream fundamentalists such as evangelicals) actually teach that you shouldn't have sex because Sex is Bad. As opposed to "you shouldn't have sex unless you promise to stay with the person forever."
      • Also, if you believe that the Catholic Church teaches that sex is solely for procreation, and that all forms of birth control are wrong, it is you who are mistaken. As of Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae, the Church teaches that sex has two purposes: procreative and unitive (bringing the couple closer together and helping preserve the marriage). The Church is opposed to artificial contraception, maintaining that artificial methods disrupt both the unitive and procreative aspects of sex; however, natural methods, such as Natural Family Planning (which, by the way, is not the Rhythm Method) do not disrupt these aspects and are permissible.
    • Also, the Catholic Church does not teach that infertile couples are simply not meant to have children. While the Church is opposed to prevalent artificial reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, the Church does support ongoing research designed to treat the underlying causes and conditions of infertility, allowing couples to have babies naturally.
    • What does the Catholic Church teach about condoms? If you answered "They are eeeevil!" then you are dead wrong. The main teaching of the Catholic Church is that married couples shouldn't use condoms. What about unmarried couples? The Church says they should save themselves for marriage. The reasons the Church gives for disallowing condoms is, to summarise, because they interfere with the natural reproductive elements of sex. The Church teaches that the married couple should use the natural reproductive cycle to have sex without creating babies. It's a bit old fashioned, but then again the Church is roughly two thousand years old, so that isn't all that surprising.

    Science and Christianity

    • The notion that the Middle Ages, particularly the 'Dark Ages' (Now referred to as the 'Early Middle-Ages') were a time of darkness where religious leaders suppressed scientific advancement has in fact been widely discredited and is now considered untrue by most historians. Many inventions were actually promoted by the Church, which also worked to preserve Pagan writings and built scientific experiments into the very fabric of the Vatican. And don't forget that many priests were also scientists, or rather, most scientists were also priests. Here is a list that just shows the notable ones, including Henri Lemaître, a Belgian priest, astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven and the guy who originally proposed Big Bang theory. One of the most important theories in modern physics. Not to mention the Pontifical Academy of Sciences or the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest scientific institutions in the world. The irony here is that the people who regularly claim that Christianity stifles research and the acquisition of knowledge are failing to do any research themselves....
      • There is also the whole Francisco Ayala thing. What with him being a former priest and famous evolutionary biologist, or Gregor Mendel You know that guy with peas who pretty much figured out genetics and was a Monk.
    • Likewise evolution, the claim that the Catholic Church/the Pope opposes evolution is still used today. Especially egregious considering that evolution is part of the Catholic catechism. Creationists are not representative of most Christians and some of the older, traditional branches embraced the work of Charles Darwin within a few decades of publication. For the first decades after Darwin, the Church took no official position at all. However, in the debates over Modernism (1910s-1930s mostly) it tended to get bashed, so the Church put out an encyclical in the 40s clarifying that it didn't oppose any part of the massively well supported theory. Before that there was no official position at all, but some individual priests/theologians/etc opposed it; but it is indeed accurate to say that the Church never opposed evolution.
      • Basically, the Catholic church officially is completely fine with scientific theories detailing the history and development of the universe... up to a point. One of the major points of Catholic doctrine is the concept of Creatio Ex Nihilo, or "Creation out of Nothing" and the "Prime Mover". This is the idea that there was nothing before the point the universe started and that God set the act of creation into motion. Everything that happens after that point is fair game for scientists.
      • Don't forget the very real (and completely different from the way Dan Brown depicts it) 'Vatican Secret Archives' (in this context, the word "Secret" is closer to what we would call "private"), better known as the Papal Archives. To quote the official site:

    "More than 1000 years of history on 85km of shelving. The Archivio Segreto Vaticano has served the Holy See for 400 years and is one of the most important and renowned research centres in the world. It is a treasure trove of peerless precious documents; millions of papers and parchments that can be assessed by scholars of all nationalities and faiths."

      • Unfortunately, the fact they are open to scholars of all faiths (and none), and that this is thoroughly decent of them, is entirely lost on a lot of rather militant and ignorant people who continually demand access to what they think is 'a sealed vault full of all their dirtiest secrets'. Thanks a lot, Dan Brown. The actual vault contains every letter ever sent to the Vatican, including the famous divorce correspondences of one Henry the VIII and a letter written on a roll of tree bark from a Native American tribe thanking the Church for the word of God.
    • There is a common misconception that the Church condemned Galileo for teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun, rather than vice versa. In fact, so long as Galileo stuck to his astronomy, he was uncontroversial, and in fact, enjoyed the support of the very same Cardinal who, as Pope, would condemn him. What changed was that Galileo started claiming that his science disproved Church doctrine, and claimed to have a new, scientific interpretation of the Bible. Worse still, Galileo taught this in the seventeenth century, a time when Protestants and Catholics were literally at war, and people with new interpretations of the Bible invariably (and, to contemporary Church authorities, inevitably), started calling for the destruction of the Church and the death of Catholics. It really didn't help that Galileo was teaching in the Pope's backyard, so to speak.

    Other Common Misconceptions

    • Most Christians, quite simply, do not believe in The Rapture/Seven-Year Tribulation/One World Conspiracy popularized by the Left Behind novels/films, and if they live outside America, they probably don't even know what it is. It is a relatively recent theory (basically Bible Fanon built out of selective interpretations) mostly held to by Evangelical Protestants, and generally ignored in other Christian Traditions. Eschatology (Study of Last Things) has been discussed and debated since the very earliest days of the Church and the only things generally agreed upon near universally by Christians is Jesus is coming back, he will judge the world, and Heaven and Earth will be destroyed and remade. To make things even more complicated, there is even debate about what that last part even means.
    1. "Joshua", of which "Jesus" is a Greek/Latin version
    2. "son of"
    3. "Joseph", the Virgin Mary's husband, and if you don't believe in the Virgin Birth, Jesus' father
    4. And as it turns out, the modern calendar may in fact be a few years behind schedule because of this -- the original math that the current year scheme was based on had a few flaws.
    5. In the Gregorian Calendar, which was first proposed as an improvement to the Julian Calendar -- which was about two weeks off schedule at that point -- the Winter Solstice is now December 21.
    6. The seasonal progression of the Catholic Church's worship theme, primarily organized as Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time. NB: The Catholic Church also employs a three year rotation.
    7. The Christmas tree, for example, came from Germanic pagans. It was unknown in the English-speaking world until Queen Victoria married a German in 1839.