Posts tagged ‘hell’
There are those who leave Christianity, or refuse to join it, yet still have nothing bad to say about Jesus. Christianity, yes, but not Jesus. For me, though, once I stopped believing that Jesus was fully God and fully human, I had a hard time seeing anything good in his teachings.
The Old Testament is filled with contradictory laws and arbitrarily delivered punishments, but there was reason for hope. Some Judaic sects, like the first century Pharisees, used oral traditions to interpret, supplement and reconcile the written scripture so that it was possible to follow “God’s will”. Also, while the “punishments” were arbitrary to the point of sheer randomness, there was no reason to believe they continued after death.
Then Jesus came along, and made everything worse.
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell…. You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell…. Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King…. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Mt. 5: 21-22, 27-29, 33-35, 37-39, 43-44, 48
No longer are we only responsible for what we can control- our actions. Suddenly, our very thoughts and feelings condemn us. And to what do they condemn us? The fire of hell, to which a life of self-mutilation is preferrable. Worse, Jesus teaches that our words can come from the evil one. “The devil made me do it” is given the legitimacy of Jesus’ support as a reasonable fear. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. No, making thoughts and feelings we can not control into crimes deserving eternal torment and then suggesting that the devil can control our thoughts and words is not nearly enough. It’s hardly worse than Yaweh hardening the Pharoah’s heart and then punishing him for his hard heart.
Jesus goes further to tell us not to resist evil people when they strike at us, but to love and pray for them. Don’t stand up and fight for justice. Don’t rebel against oppressive authority. Don’t resist your abusive spouse. Instead, lovingly go further than they would have otherwise forced you to, and speak on their behalf to the God who either can not or will not grant you justice. Don’t resist. Don’t get angry. Don’t even think angry thoughts. You don’t want to go to hell, do you? Maybe it will be better after you die.
But maybe not. The infamous Sermon on the Mount is barely one third over yet, and Jesus has a small command yet to slip in, barely worth mentioning. Simply, “Be perfect”. Not just perfect, but perfect as God is perfect.
“Act righteously” is difficult enough, what with the swarming mass of contradicting and unreasonable laws, our thoughts and feelings being given the same weight as our actions, and standing against evil suddenly becoming evil in itself. Now Jesus is telling us, off-handedly, that we are held not to a human standard, but a godly one. We are to know and follow God’s will as sure as God Himself, no matter how poor a job God does in communicating His thoughts and will. We are to think as God thinks, feel as God feels, and resist evil as little as a God to whom no evil can be done. The measure to which we fall short from this standard is the measure to which we deserve unending torment, and therefore force God’s hand in punishing Jesus for our sake.
That’s right, punish Jesus for our sake. By some coincidence, just as the standards for righteousness become impossibly high and the punishment for failing to meet these standards unimaginably dire, we’re made an offer by the one person who can make it all go away. Never mind that the offer is being made by the only one to insist there was a problem in the first place. We’re offered a free pass, with no way to know whether or not we really have it, leaving us open to manipulation from anyone who can promise us certainty of our salvation. And as we’ve proved time and time again, that’s something we’re willing to commit almost any atrocity for.
Different visitors to this site are at different points of their de-conversion journey. However, I’ve been noticing an increasing number of people at the point where their fear of Hell and eternal condemnation is keeping them from getting any further.
This isn’t a point that everyone reaches. For some, the same arguments which cause them to doubt the existence of a god (problems with scripture, the existence of multiple religions with contrasting views, logical problems with an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent deity creating a world where evil happens, simple lack of evidence, etc.) also keep them from being able to believe in a hell enough to fear it.
For others of us, it was studying the contradictory and confusing Biblical descriptions of Hell and how to avoid it that helped us realize that the hypothesis of God made no sense. By the time we came to doubt God, we already had lost our fear of hell.
But when you wake up at two in the morning from a nightmare inspired by Sunday school depictions of eternal torment, not everyone finds logic and reason to be persuasive enough to chase away fear. Some find, at times like these, a story can bring more ease than a rehearsal of facts.
For de-converting (or even faithfully believing) Christians troubled by thoughts of Hell, I like to recommend two books. Both were written by believing Christians. Both operate on the premise that God exists and is benevolent. I don’t expect either to be of any help or interest to atheists or agnostics (though I could be wrong), but fears need to be faced where you are, not where you’d like to be or where you think you’ll be ending up. I’m writing this post under the premise that some de-converting Christians might need to face their fears about de-converting as Christians before they can let go of their Christianity…
When I was a fundie Christian the hardest thing that was required of me was to forgive people for being perverts and assholes. A Christian is told repeatedly that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. We are also taught that we had to forgive people EVEN when these people were not repentant or did not ask for your forgiveness. If we didn’t, we could not expect forgiveness form the Almighty. In other words, if my step-father beat, tortured, and raped me repeatedly from the ages of 9 through 14, I had the duty to forgive him even though he was an unrepentant asshole even on his deathbed.
For some reason, that never sat well with me. I was furious, but taught myself to ignore the fury to be a good Christian. Nowadays there are numerous stories of child abusers, killers, rapists, and evil Christians of the Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist variety and evil Muslims such as the 9/11 hijackers and those who kill their wives, daughters, and sisters for their own “honor.” We are told again and again that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are supposed to realize that these people are also God’s creatures and to think evilly of them and wish them harm is not a good thing to do. Yet, when the likes of Fred Phelps and his band of psychotic cult followers picketed a fallen soldier’s funeral in my small Midwestern town, I was furious. Forgive them? Are you crazy? I couldn’t do it. I cheered when the Iron Sleds, a Harley-riding motorcycle group who supports military veterans, decided to step in and guard the family from whackos like Phelps at the funeral. I secretly hoped there would be an “incident” and that Phelps would get his face smashed in, that violence would ensue…
I have recently posted a blog about how I have personal reasons to believe in a God, which goes in well with how comforting superstitions can be when it comes to finding easy answers. I’m going to touch on a list of reasons why I don’t believe in Jesus Christ as redeemer, the risen one, alpha and omega, and so on.
1. The Trinity doesn’t make sense
You may find evidence for a Trinity in the Bible, but it’s not clear and wasn’t so until the Nicene Creed was established. The word “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible, neither is a single verse in the Bible that says that all are of the same yet all are different. The Idea is received from several verses however, so it’s not necessarily a blind assumption. A comprehensive study of the Trinity will still lead to it not making any sense. The result was that I just had to ‘believe’ in it anyways.
2. Clashing theologies, clashing denominations
There’s always a denomination demonizing another and there’s too many churches out there saying they have the select elite going to heaven while everyone else is doomed( even though they believe in Christ). My biggest issue was this is that I could not find a theology I was at peace with – The result was I just had to ‘believe’ I had the right theology anyways. What if you’re wrong? You see Christians are still at risk for eternal damnation according to their opposing denominations. There is no sure fire way a Christian can know they’re saved without just ‘believing’ which in the end makes no sense…
This is part 3 of 3 of my rant against the belief in eternal damnation.
With the implications of eternal damnation on the bulk of humanity, I had no peace in Jesus. I looked at humanity in two camps – the Saint and the Heathen – the Saved and the Damned. I witnessed to my workmates fervently, because they were my friends, and I could not imagine them in eternal torment. I prayed every morning for the Holy Spirit to empower my witness so they too could experience the peace of Jesus.
Several years ago, my mother could tell that I was anguished at her unbelief. She was a strong Christian when I was younger, but had since left the faith after her own period of questioning and doubting. I was constantly witnessing to her and inviting her to church, as if she had never before heard the Gospel. The fate of my mother’s eternal soul weighed heavily on my conscience. One particular day, after praying for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to fall upon my mother, I tried to show her that she needed to repent and again recognize the One True God through Jesus Christ. My face must have betrayed my true feelings – you can’t fool mom…
I like to collect Christian clichés. Most clichés that I hear from Christians are harmless, but there is one cliché that I can do without ever hearing again. When considering their own sinfulness, Christians often say, “We deserve Hell.” Or worse yet, “I deserve Hell,” usually followed by, “but by the grace of Jesus…” – fill in the blank.
“I deserve Hell”. Do Christians really believe this? Most Fundamentalist Christians hate the science of biological evolution, because they think that evolution lessens the value of human life. Christians believe that if we are not uniquely designed by God, if we are a mere bag of molecules and chemical processes determined by the injudicious whim of natural selection, then our existence must have no value. And they readily accuse atheists of imposing this value system.
Yet these same Christians believe that they themselves are of so little value and self-worth when compared to God, that their lives are good for nothing more than to be objects of God’s wrath. A Christian believes that, by nothing more than the act of being born, by virtue of the doctrine of Total Depravity, every man, woman and child on the planet deserve nothing better than never ending torture…
LeoPardus recently published 3 articles which focused on reasons he left Christianity. I will be reprinting 3 slightly edited articles from my old website that highlight only one of the main reasons I left Christianity – the tortuous doctrine of eternal damnation. If you have already read these, forgive me for this second go-around.
I used to wear a button on my hat. I wore it everyday for years. It was one of those buttons that I used to identify myself as a Bible Believing Christian, without having to go through the trouble of actually having to say it to everyone I met. My button had a cliché printed on it.
It read “Know Jesus Know Peace, No Jesus No Peace.”
Why did I have peace in Jesus? I was to have peace because my faith in Jesus Christ gave me hope of an eternal reward in Heaven. No matter the trials of this mortal life, no matter how I was persecuted for my faith, no matter what physical ailments may become me, no matter if death knocked on my door, I could say “O death where is thy victory, O death where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)…