Although I left Christianity over 20 years ago, it took a long while for me to erase the doctrines that had been embedded within my consciousness for 15+ years. It was not an easy road.
As Stephen Van Eck wrote on the Deism.com website: “Once sucked into the parallel universe of Christianity, [a person] is too intimidated by threats and rationalizations to attempt escape. Even thinking along alternative lines will induce severe feelings of guilt.”
Writing my book helped tremendously because of all the research and reading I did. Learning how and why certain doctrines of the Christian faith (e.g., final judgment, burning fires of hell, Satan and his demons, the end-times) were introduced into the faith was extremely liberating … and removed a ton of guilt and fear.
I also found out some things about the Bible. As many others, I had been taught the Bible was “God’s Word” (even though the interpretation of what “He” said varies considerably among denominations). Through my studies, I discovered that much of what is in the bible is the result of stories, epics, myths, legends, proverbs, etc. that were passed by word of mouth from one generation to another. This is particularly true of the Hebrew Bible, but intrinsically typical of the New Testament scriptures as well. Can you imagine the burden that was lifted when I found out I wasn’t genetically inclined to sin and thus in need of someone to save me from being human??!?
Contrary to what one might think, the many discoveries I made did not turn me into an atheist. However, I definitely do not believe in a supernatural being who lives somewhere “up there,” who can be manipulated by prayer, or who has a “will.” Rather, my image of “God” is far more encompassing and has nothing to do with religious belief. In fact, I’m extremely reluctant to even use the word “god” because of all its connotations.
In any case, I find my life so much more fulfilling now. Truly, what a relief it has been!
John Shelby Spong is a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church. He is a liberal Christian theologian, religion commentator, and author. (He was one of the many authors I referenced in my book.)
Here are just a few of his written works:
Recently (on another posting), archaeopteryx1 provided a link to a video in which Spong discussed the existence of “hell.” Arch commented that he (Spong) “makes some extremely bold statements for a Christian.”
“Hell” has been a topic of discussion for a long, long time. It’s covered in depth on innumerable blogs (mine included) and in writings too numerous to count (I even devoted a chapter to it in my own book). Many people insist it’s “confirmed” in the bible. Others have claimed they’ve had visions of it. And for some, it’s where they want to send someone who has “done them wrong.”
Of course, the jury is still out because we’ll never know for sure until after we’ve drawn our last breath. But speaking for myself, I agree with Spong that it’s an invention of the church to control people with fear.
In fact, in my opinion, fear is at the core of the gospel. Christians will claim it’s all about love, but when push comes to shove … I contend the real reason a person becomes and stays a Christian is because they want to avoid “eternal punishment,” “everlasting fire,” and the unceasing physical torture they believe is the final end for non-believers.
As for me? I am confident such a place does not exist. (Nor does “heaven,” for that matter, but that’s a topic for another posting.) :-)
Check out the video that Arch has referenced. Do you agree with Bishop Spong?
I probably shouldn’t be giving “air time” to Trump’s ridiculous “celebration” claim, but it’s so outrageous I feel I must do what I can to counter it.
This article details an interview with philosophy professor Irfan Khawaja, who wrote a book in 2005 (“Rumor Mill: The Social Impact of Rumor and Legend”) in which he spells out the extensive research he did related to reports of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey.
I mention the date of his book because it was likely his research was done within a year or two after the disaster — while people’s memories were still comparatively fresh. Further, he states: “At the time I did the research, I was absolutely open to the idea that celebrations had taken place and I looked high and low to discover whether or not they had taken place.”
I particularly found this interview question and Khawaja’s answer quite telling:
Why do people care so deeply about this? Trump’s comments have elicited passionate responses on both sides – people who swear this is true and people who are horrified that this rumor is so widespread.
This story has been driven by people who want it to be true.
To me, this pretty much sums up Trump’s popularity with his followers. Not only do they want the things he says to be true, but he is vocalizing their (IMO, very bigoted) perspective on the social and political environment of this nation.
“Wow! This guy really needs to be in the White House.”
I fully agree with one of the final comments of the interview: “The burden of proof is really on him [Trump] to produce evidence for the claims he is making.”
It will be interesting to see what (if anything) Trump comes up with.
Ran across these in blog land (and elsewhere) and thought I’d share:
“rautakyy” asked the following question (slightly edited for clarity and spelling) on violetwisp’s blog:
[W]hat is wrong with people who find it perfectly acceptable that the allegedly all-mighty god can help them find jobs, parking spaces, or even cure their cancer — while at the same time this same entity seems totally unable (or worse, unwilling) to help people in refugee camps, war zones, or in natural catastrophes.
Here’s a couples of messages from “Jesus Christ”:
Something that many people miss or are not aware of …
It’s simply ridiculous for congress (mostly Republicans) to deny the Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. (or delaying their entry) when there are such strict screening processes. I mean, c’mon. The U.S. Government is the one that put these processes in place to begin with! Don’t these politicians know their own laws? Of course they do, but it’s more than obvious that public opinion rules … as it does in so many cases.
From Zoe’s blog:
I fear for refugees that do get into western countries because when I think of how we have treated one another (Christian to Christian) under the banner of Christian love, I shudder at how they will be treated if and when after years of assimilating most won’t convert to the chosen religion and as a result will still be feared and looked down upon.
This from the CHRISTIAN bible … Matthew 25:41-46 (NRSV):
Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Can it be made any clearer?
ANY Christian that believes and lives by the words above and then declares the U.S. should not accept and help the refugees is, by Jesus’ own words, “accursed” and will “go away into eternal punishment.”