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The Bible Says No One Does Good — No Not One

no one is good

I recently posted an excerpt from an article written by Michelle Lesley detailing her view of the human condition. According to Lesley, humans — Christian and unbeliever alike — are:

You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. You bow down to your idols instead of to Christ. You sin against a holy and righteous God in a thousand ways every day in thought, word, and deed. Just like I do. Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it. (1 John 1:8,10)

Commenters rightly objected to Lesley’s trashing of human self-esteem and her debasement of human goodness. The question I want to answer today is whether Lesley’s theological beliefs have a Biblical basis. Liberal and Progressive Christians are angered and offended by Lesley’s words — and rightly so. That said, Liberals and Progressives have developed unique and, at times, intellectually incomprehensible ways to hold on to what the Bible says about the love, kindness, and mercy of God while, at the same time, pretending all the verses that support Lesley’s beliefs either don’t exist or mean something other than Evangelicals say they mean.

Both sides of the theological divide make things up as they go, shaping God and Jesus into a deity in their own image. No two Christians worship the same God. Personal beliefs and experiences shape and mold God into a being acceptable to each Christian. This is especially true in Evangelicalism where the priesthood of the believer — every Christian has direct access to God — turns each Christian into his own final authority. As a pastor, I had countless Christians take issue with something I said during one of my sermons. Sometimes, people would get so angry with me over what they believed was heresy that they would leave the church. More than a few congregants told me after confronting me and hearing my response, “well, pastor, we are just going to have to agree to disagree.” And so it goes, with every Evangelical thinking he or she is infallibly right. Armed with an inerrant, infallible Bible, written and given to them by a supernatural, infallible God, Evangelicals, with great certitude, believe they are absolutely R-I-G-H-T. When challenged to “prove” their contentions, they say, the Bible says _________________.

Lesley, if required, can easily find Biblical justification for her abhorrent, anti-human beliefs. The Bible can be used to prove almost anything. Asking ten Christians a theological question will elicit twelve opinions. The Bible says that there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, and ONE baptism, yet, as any unbiased observer of Christianity can attest, modern Christianity has MANY Lords, MANY faiths, and MANY baptisms. The Bible says that Jesus’ followers will be known by their unity and love for each other. Yet, Christianity is rife with internecine warfare, bitter debates, and sectarian division.

Lesley believes, as do most Evangelicals, that Jesus, the virgin-born, sinless son of God, died on the cross for human sin. Jesus took upon himself our sin and suffered indignation, torture, and death that should have been ours. As our substitute, Jesus suffered the wrath of God that we deserved. His blood atonement on the cross appeased God, the father, and satisfied our sin debt. Through the death of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead three days later, humans can find redemption/salvation/deliverance. The only way anyone makes it to Heaven after death is by and through Jesus Christ. (I speak broadly here, knowing that there is broad diversity within Christianity concerning Christ’s atonement. Arminians will view matters differently from Calvinists and Pelagians.)

Why do humans need salvation? Why was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross? One word: SIN. According to the Bible, sin is transgression of the law of God. Evangelicals believe the Bible is God’s standard of objective morality. The definition of “sin” is determined not by human opinion, but by the Bible. God said__________, end of story. Evangelicals trace the human sin nature all the way back to Adam and Eve and the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve were created by God without sin, yet thanks to a talking, upright-walking snake (Satan) tempting them, Adam and Eve sinned against God and were cast out of the Garden of Eden. From that moment forward — five to six thousand years ago — all humans are born sinners.

It is from this understanding of the Bible that Lesley wrote what she did about her fellow humans. The Bible says that babies come forth from the womb speaking lies, that none of us has the capacity to do good, no not one. We are sheep who have gone astray. We, by nature, hate God and are at variance with him. These things, according to Lesley, can be said of atheist and Christian alike. The only difference is that the Christian has prostrated himself before God, confessed his sins, and asked Jesus to save and forgive him. Because the Christian has done so, Jesus stands between the sinner and God — who still hates sin and those who do it. When God looks at the saved sinner, all he sees is Jesus. Praise the Lord, right?

When the Michelle Lesleys of the world denigrate people, emphatically saying that humans are vile, awful people, they do so because that is how the Bible describes the human race. This provides yet another reminder that the Bible is an anti-human text best suited for the dustbin of human history. Perhaps it is time for Christians to band together and write a new Bible, one that better reflects our 21st century understanding of the world. Doing so would be an admission that the Bible is a human, not divine book, but everyone except Evangelicals and other conservative Christians already know this. The Bible, in its present form, represents the thinking of Bronze-age and first-century people. Despite what Evangelicals say, the Bible is not an unchangeable, timeless book. The Bible is not an inexhaustible text that gives readers something new every time they read it. Imagine how much better our world would be if a new Bible was written, especially if the text was based on modern sensibilities and knowledge.

Bruce, the Bible says Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. How dare you suggest a new Bible be written! What’s next, a new Jesus? Well, now that you mention it…No need. Christians have been manufacturing new Jesuses for two thousand years. Lesley and her Evangelical friends think their version of Jesus is identical to First-Century Jesus/Bible Jesus, but an honest reading of the Bible reveals that whatever Christianity is today, it has very little, if anything, to do with an itinerant Jewish carpenter who walked the land of Palestine 2,000 years ago. That Jesus was swallowed up by the Apostle Paul’s Jesus, never to be seen again.

Lesley’s view of humanity has real world implications. Such thinking destroys self-esteem, often leading to psychological trauma. Countless former Evangelicals are in therapy due to the teachings mentioned in this post. This is why such beliefs must be exposed and repudiated. For people who still believe in God, there are better expressions of faith than that which is peddled by Lesley and her fellow Evangelicals. You don’t need to spend one more moment in a church where your sense of self-worth is pummeled with a Bible club, with the goal being the destruction of who you really are.

Did you grow up in a family/church that believed as Lesley does? How did these beliefs affect you psychologically? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.


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    I reject the entire notion of ‘sin’. It’s a religious idea with no relevance to life. It’s often conflated, by the religious, with morality (or, more accurately, immorality) which is to do with how we treat other people, but sin and morality are far from being the same thing. ‘Sin’, as in ‘rebellion against God’, simply doesn’t exist. How can it when God doesn’t exist? I am not a sinner, nor are the women Lesley rails against, nor anyone else.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      I agree. Sin is a religious construct that assumes the Christian narrative is correct. Trying to explain this to Evangelicals is difficult to impossible. I tell people I believe there is good and bad behavior. When I behave badly, I attempt to make things right. No need for a God, Bible, prayer, forgiveness, etc. Religion is nothing more than a middle man who complicates life.

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      My thoughts are congruent with yours, Neil. The notion of sin is without foundation since there are no gods to offend.
      “How do you explain “Evil”, then?” is a “gotcha” response from believers. Once again, as Bruce says about sin, evil is also a religious construct. The notion of good and bad behaviour by humans is a sufficient explanation for sin and evil.
      I sometimes dally with the notion that ‘evil’ can only be done by a human being who is in some way defective, but then conclude that that is a terrible path to follow, because then it becomes necessary to define ‘human’ and to define ‘defective’, and from there to argue that a defective person’s life is not worth living, so I will take it from them. No wonder then that some people seek an absolute morality. But an absolute morality is just as bad if it declares that gays deserve death, and witches deserve death just because a book says that they do, or your interpretation of the book tells you so.

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    Perfection, like sin, is a human invention, a construct that assists in coping with day to day reality. When I was a child, it was made very clear to me that Mr. God was even more than magic and that I was invented by him, in his image but with a major flaw. The story of the garden was used to give words to this idea regarding my ‘fallenness’. This guy was told not to eat from the tree of knowledge and when he did, I was fucked, basically no good, a worm. Huh? Nevermind. There was a way to get out of eternal punishment though and that was to believe in Jesus and listen to the IFB preacher. The devil controlled me and everybody else unless God made his magic, moment by moment. All this brought me as wee tyke running to my mom one bedtime and begging to be saved bacause I had just dreamed of Hell, the fire and the forever hurt I was going to get. Scared the piss right out of me. It wasn’t pretty and my mom knew it but she was a preacher’s daughter and the wife of a preacher so, well, God will deal with it all!
    This is how harm is passed from generation to generation by the vile hatreds cloaked in the ‘love’ of Jesus. God gave his only son because he was bored with television and wanted some real torture to enjoy and boy oh boy, it gets your mojo going to see your own son in a Mel Gibson cruci-pornofiction type film but for real!
    Christianity is designed to harm, to create and pass on harm. It is three-piece suit worn by damaged souls to allow them to deny insight into their own deep harm. All the songs tell the truth about it but the denial is so successful that people smile when they sing, Gimme that ol’time religion!
    It’s kinda sad because it all creates an environment of dumb-down so powerful that people run around waving flags and thinking they are the source of all good in the world. They vote for sick, rich bullies who are just plain embarrassing to listen to, no, frightening finally, frightening to listen to…
    An imperfect humanism always helps us along. Christianity is about self-harm.
    (That’s the assessment of a 65 year old son of a Baptist preacher.) Did my upbringing challenge me? Nawwww, piece o’cake, water off a duck’s back. 😉

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      It’s really ironic when they sing about gimme that old time religion because they stole a lot of ideas from Hellenistic Pagans which had an older religion than theirs.

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    Each of us develops our own standards of “human goodness”. And anyone who has raised children can see that we come into this world self-centered as heck and likely to lash out anytime we aren’t getting what we want.

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    Yes. It mainly confused me, because my fellow Christians seemed to all have great self-esteem. I’m not sure being called filthy sinners is as damaging as being a sensitive serious person and analysing it all and ending up feeling always puzzled and worried.

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    I was really harmed by my religious upbringing. I have mental health issues like anxiety which were really made worse by the Catholicism of my parents and the Baptist/Pentacostal beliefs of those around me. A few times those beliefs encouraged suicidal thoughts because not only was I a dirty sinner, but I was demon possessed because of something bad that happened to me as a kid, and filthy for being bi, both of which I could not help. Part of the reason why I hated myself was that it was repeatedly made clear to me that God must hate me and nothing I ever did would be good enough because I would never be clean. Christianity really harmed me.

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    I have newly left fundamentalist Christianity and am considering liberal Christianity but I have had many thoughts about how Christianity destroys self esteem, and I believed it harmed me psychologically. Nothing was ever good enough. Everything was a sin. Even the constant focus on sin, bothers me, even when I got my education degree years ago, they taught us the difference between negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement and I guess Yahweh didn’t get that memo especially regarding Hell.

    There are good ideals in Christianity but more and more I have thought about the self hatred taught in Christianity and how it actually helped my childhood and later abusers do their scapegoating dirty work. I don’t know if the liberal Christians will be able to present a different picture, more and more, I think they adhere to the few good ideas in the Bible regarding love, compassion and the Golden Rule but don’t really believe in the rest. I used to be a hard core IFB fundamentalist. My “deconversion” out of fundamentalism is very recent.

    One reason for my faltering faith, is realizing the promises in scripture weren’t being fulfilled, I agree with you about the “many faiths”.

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      Hi cheezit99. I’m just another reader of Bruce’s blog, but one who still believes in the Divine, albeit One I cannot begin define. It’s certainly not the one John Calvin or IFB preachers describe. Or the Apostle Paul either, if I’m really honest.

      My parents didn’t attend church but I went with grandparents and attended a fundamentalist church for a couple of years as a young teen. I’m still trying to recover from that damage 40+ years later. Prior to and after that, my religious experience was with Friends (Quaker) Meetings (churches), which are generally considered ‘progressive’, though individual Meetings can vary widely. However, ‘cherry picking’ of the Bible runs rampant there too, as do the petty church politics, and, of course, the blatant hypocrisy of some. Which is why I don’t ‘do church’ at all. Yet I remain a person of faith because of the ‘good parts’ of Jesus’ message and my own personal experience. You don’t need a church at all to have faith.

      I too experienced abuse and gaslighting on a long-term basis and at times my faith was all I had to hang on to. The fact I’m here writing this is proof enough for me that it’s not *all* bullshit. But my experience is not yours and I don’t blame anyone who flees Calvinism for abandoning the notion of God altogether. If the IFB version of God were the only one I could imagine, I would reject that God on a moral and ethical level, even if it meant hell. (I don’t believe it does.) I really do believe our atheist author Bruce is a more moral person than anyone who signed the Nashville Declaration.

      I guess the point all my rambling is trying to make is this; figure out what you *do* believe, what values you hold, and go on from there. It’s up to you if that leads to a progressive church, no church, another religion or even no faith at all. And those are all valid choices. What I wish for you most is that you find peace, love and a measure of happiness in the journey. I think the destination will take care of itself.

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      Michael Mock

      Welcome aboard. Like anotherami, I’m just one of the readers of Bruce’s blog, and I really just wanted to offer my sympathies. That’s a hard position to be in, but it sounds like you’re asking good questions and trying to move forward.

      I will say that while it’s easy to dismiss the more liberal versions of Christianity as cherry-picking or ignoring important parts of the Bible, I don’t think that’s entirely true. That is, the progressive Christian approach to understanding the Bible may be different from the Fundamentalist approach, but it isn’t any more arbitrary and in some ways it’s more open to nuance and even ambiguity. (That can be hard to see when you’re coming out of a fundamentalist mindset, but it’s true.) So if you do decide to check out some of the more liberal denominations, just keep in mind that they read the Bible in radically different ways than the fundamentalists do, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t reading it.

      I’m an atheist myself, primarily because on a fundamental level the Christian way of looking at the world makes no sense to me. But my experience isn’t everybody’s experience, and my way of weighing information and evidence isn’t everybody’s way of weighing information and evidence. We’re all doing the best we can with the information we have. So I wish you luck in your search, wherever it takes you.

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      Hi Cheezit99. Favorite food? If you are interested in asking some questions about so-called “liberal Christianity,” whatever the Hell that is, I might be able to help you. Please feel free to visit me at my blog at the following safe link:

      You can also get in touch with me at my e-mail address:

      If you are looking for someone who has “all the final and definitive spiritual answers” to your questions, I am not that guy—not sure there even is a guy like that. I might have some answers. Just like my on-line friend Bruce Gerencser, I am an ordinary guy who does not claim to know everything about God, the Spaghetti Monster, or the universe. I am not a one-eyed Bible salesman from Mississippi or Reverend Beverly B. Beverly—and yes, that middle initial stands for Beverly. (He is my fictional dysfunctional archetype for the original, classic Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical pastor.) If you decide you want to be an agnostic, atheist, or none, that is entirely your choice and business. I will still be your friend anyway—not to eventually encourage you to do something else by clinging on—but rather—because I think all people who are not emotionally toxic are worth knowing just for who they are.

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    I agree that the bible can and has been used to justify all sorts of unbiblical teachings when taken out of context. That is why it is so important to study it for yourself. Many will be spared much angst when they know the truth written in scripture.

    Each Christian is not his own final authority. The bible is. Any interpretation or revelation someone claims must line up with the word of God to be true. We must each take what is taught and compare it to scripture to weigh its truth.

    I was not raised in the church and never suffered from biblical teaching or church teaching. I did however have a rough family life due to many other nonreligious issues that left its scars. It is called humans behaving badly or dare I say sinfully.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      You deny that each Christian is their own final authority, then you affirm this position by saying Christians should study the Bible and compare the results of their studies with what their pastors/teacher say. According to you, the individual Christian’s intellect is the final authority. It is the individual Christian who determines for themselves what the Bible says.

      The Bible is an inanimate object, so Christians must read and interpret what it says. This is how ALL literature is processed, including my writing. This is not up for debate or a matter of agreeing to disagree. What I have described here is how ALL literature is processed by human minds. I know of no other way by which we gain knowledge and understanding (As far as written literature is concerned).

      Thousands of Christian sects, hundreds of thousands of Christian churches, and millions of individual Christians say what they Biblically believe is truth. They have read the Bible and concluded that this or that belief is what God wants them to believe. Yet, the sheer number of divergent Christian beliefs is astounding (and laughable), lending credibility to the statement: you can prove anything with the Bible. Christians can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, communion. It seems, then, that just studying the Bible doesn’t lead to right beliefs, as you suggest. Instead, it leads to each individual being the final authority, each Christian being their own Pope.

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        Discussion of the bible in any sensible way with apologists is nigh on impossible. If I make a point about inconsistency, or god’s seemingly genocidally inspired actions, I’m told I should read passages in context, or that I’m not seeing it in a historical light, or even I should defer to the original language. If I offer views I’ve been given by other apologists then I’m told they are wrong (I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve been told that Catholics aren’t Christians), and of course the commenter is the one who knows the truth.

        Yet everything I say is based on what other defenders of the bible have said! I’d accept that as a cultural, historical, document the bible has its place. As a guide to how we should live our lives today it’s useless; no, actually it’s worse than useless, it’s positively harmful.

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    “The question I want to answer today is whether Lesley’s theological beliefs have a Biblical basis. Liberal and Progressive Christians are angered and offended by Lesley’s words — and rightly so. That said, Liberals and Progressives have developed unique and, at times, intellectually incomprehensible ways to hold on to what the Bible says about the love, kindness, and mercy of God while, at the same time, pretending all the verses that support Lesley’s beliefs either don’t exist or mean something other than Evangelicals say they mean.” You agree with my first statement according to this quotation from your article. The bible is the final authority on what anyone says. However, the rest of the article did not examine any biblical text to determine whether what she said was true or not from a biblical perspective. The conclusion continued to be that people interpret it in any way they wish and therefore the bible is the problem. That is not a logical conclusion.

    “The Bible is an inanimate object, so Christians must read and interpret what it says. This is how ALL literature is processed, including my writing. This is not up for debate or a matter of agreeing to disagree. What I have described here is how ALL literature is processed by human minds. I know of no other way by which we gain knowledge and understanding (As far as written literature is concerned).” Yes, the bible is interpreted in the same way that all other literature is interpreted. We agree on that. But you question this method of interpreting literature because people can come to different conclusions and therefore the bible is a destructive tool. That could be said of all literature then. Should we throw it all out? Or maybe we should all be told what it says by one final human authority so there is only one interpretation? Or maybe we should all read literature in context and study it for truth because that is the best and safest way to know the truth.

    Why does it matter from an atheistic worldview that there are different human conclusions from reading literature, the bible, because we are all just protoplasm. We are all born from chaos, so why would an atheist be surprised when we behave that way?

    You are standing the Christian’s worldview to defend your own. Hence, you are living like a Christian while espousing atheism.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      You fail to understand HOW I write. This is a common problem for Evangelical readers. I will often write from an Evangelical perspective or use Evangelical beliefs to make a point. My point in this post is not that I am an Evangelical, but whether Lesley has a Biblical basis for her beliefs. She does, but that doesn’t mean I accept her beliefs as valid. All I am saying is that if someone accepts the Bible as authoritative,and I don’t, then Lesley’s viewpoint must be considered correct.

      How people interpret the Bible is the problem because of the weight, authority, and control people give the Bible. Christians treat the Bible as a textbook instead of a poorly written, oft self-contradicting fiction novel. Christians also treat the Bible as an inexhaustible well of inside information from God, laughably suggesting that no mere mortal can plumb its depths. And finally, how Christians interpret the Bible has real world implications when they take this work of fiction and apply it to how they live, vote, dress, raise their children, etc. Worse yet, Christians use this work of fiction as justification for denying people justice, equal rights, and equal protection under the law, along with using it as the justification for the culture war and teaching children theology instead of science.

      I don’t question the stated method of studying literature at all. I was simply responding to your denial of the fact that every Christian is their own final authority. They are, as my previous comment showed. That the Bible is interpreted in so many different ways is testament to how it was written and what Christians expect from the text. If Christians read and viewed the Bible as they did the Harry Potter books, think of how much better the world would be. No one has ever gone to war using Harry Potter as justification for doing so.

      Please stop with apologetical clap-trap. You’ll find I have no interest in hearing it, nor do most of the readers of this blog. You, as you did on Facebook, think you know how atheists view the world, but you don’t. As an atheist, I recognize that how Christians read and interpret the Bible materially affects me, my family, our country, and the world. In a perfect world, the Bible would be relegated to the fiction section of the library. Instead, Christians treat it as a divine road map/blueprint, moral standard for living, and science textbook. As a result, how people interpret the Bible affects discussions about sexuality, human reproductive rights, same-sexual marriage, global climate change, military practices,capital punishment, right-to-die, war, medical treatments, drug use, race and virtually any other issue Evangelicals use the Bible for justifying their positions. Until the Bible is finally relegated to its rightful place along side other quaint, irrelevant works of fiction, people who care about the future of the human race and the planet we call home must pay careful attention to how Christians — especially those with theocratic tendencies — interpret the Bible. In other words, the Bible is a dangerous book because it leads people to make decisions and act in ways that cause harm.

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          Bruce Gerencser

          Atheism doesn’t have a worldview, as I explained to you earlier. Atheism is simply the absence of the belief in the existence of gods. Again, as I told you earlier, atheists are a diverse lot. I am a humanist, so it is humanism that gives me the framework for my worldview.

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            Hey I have to chuckle how you set up a hypothesis against Lesley and then reinforce the gist of his statement throughout the next 3 paragraphs. If man is not so inherently evil, then why is he so prone to twist scripture to his own liking? The propensity to twist scripture shows exactly how self serving we are.

            As far as the demand to strive for perfection affecting my self esteem, for me, that really was resolved by finally gaining a sense of who God is. I was raised in a fairly demanding home, went to a Baptist school, but never really knew the heart of God. I finally started reading the Psalms daily. Over time, I began to really understand the character of God and his love for me, not just for salvation, but throughout my daily life. If one has turned away from God as a defense mechanism to being under the oppression of a church, reading the Psalms is a path back to God. Learn the heart of God and escape the oppression.

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            Bruce Gerencser

            Lesley, by the way, is a woman.

            All Christians twist the Bible so it conforms to their presuppositions and interpretations. Every Christian shapes and molds God unto a God in their own likeness or a deity who affirms and approves their beliefs/practices/lifestyles.

            As far as God’s heart is concerned…exactly what is that heart, where is it located?

            Stick around, read a bit, and then you might, perhaps, understand the “heart” of Bruce Gerencser and why he writes the way he does; that is if you can see beyond my sinful, evil, depraved, angry, bitter, Satanic, Jehovah-hating heart.

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    I thought I’d mention how the Christian narrative fails. Christianity makes this assumption: Man was created by God (assumed to be perfect). Man isn’t perfect (!). Man must have screwed it up (like we screw up everything!) From this you get Man’s original sin, but perfect man needed an EVIL influence to make him screw it up. Satan! But everyone going to Hell is not a good basis for a religion. So God fixes everything with a redeemer.

    What really happened: Humans are the optimized conclusion of hundreds of millions of years of evolution. While our “design” looks pretty convincingly (though superficially) the result of a designer it isn’t. In fact this quest for perfection is rather futile. Optimization never yields perfection. For example there are possible quandaries where one would be compelled to testify against one’s parents, for example, breaking one commandment no matter which course of action was selected.

    So Christians see human beings as a mix of perfection, but imperfection caused by original sin. These machinations are very much like the epicycles that were required to make a geocentric universe work. To those who understand the root of human nature as a product of our evolution, it simply is more and more band aids on an absurd explanation.

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