Posts Tagged ‘hell’

a Rationalistic View

November 24, 2012

I mentioned before that for most of my life I have been content to let people think I was an atheist.

That is a word that will immediately conjure up the pictures of hell-fire and eternal damnation in most Christians but I believe such a destination is really far from the case.

Most atheists I know – including two sons – are not strictly atheists by definition. They are most definitely anti-religionists and that should not surprise anyone as there are even a large number of theologians who have noticed the trend even among the faithful to stand apart from organized religion.

Being against organized religion is not the same as atheism as most “atheists” are actually still looking, still searching for answers, still… hoping. That they have not embraced the answers offered by the Christian faith does not make them “lost”.

A case in point is Uta Ranke-Heinemann. She was born a Protestant, converted to Catholicism, educated in the same class as the current Pope and the two studied together and discussed doctrinal issues for years. She graduated to become a university professor at a prestigious university in Germany.

Everything went fine until she had what some people called a “crisis of faith”. She contends there was no crisis. It was more like an epiphany. Still, she lost the Catholic Chair at the university.

She came to the rational conclusion that there was no actual “virgin birth”.

The article of faith, she said, was just that: an article of faith, and not a physical truth.

She has issued what she calls a “negative creed” and it is very rationalistic in its view. It includes seven points and I include my own meager commentary to each:

1 – The Bible is not the word of God but the word of men. This is really a “no brainer”. Anyone who can understand several words strung together can see fairly quickly that there are not only a few “discrepancies” in the text but one heckuva lot of definite contradictions. The purported “word of God” sounds as if He is confused, regardless of the conviction coming from the pulpits. And if God is not good enough to keep the story straight from one end of such a small work as the Bible, I doubt He could be trusted with anything as massive as the whole universe. But as He is in charge of the whole shebang, the book has to have been written by fallible Man. And even by those who claim doctrinal infallibility.

2 – That God does exist in three persons is imagination of men. This whole Trinity thing has always perplexed me. Where did we get that idea from? Well, from Paul, of course! You remember him? Saul of Tarsus, who stoned Stephen and troubled the earlier disciples before he “found religion” got converted and announced he knew more about Jesus than anyone else. What a heck of a guy he was, huh? But did it come from Jesus? Or from God, perhaps? Not a chance.

3 – Jesus is man and not God. When asked repeatedly – and he was, of course – Jesus denied being either God or “the Son of God”. He said he was “Son of Man”. Of course, theologians now say that the phrase means “Son of God”. Then why didn’t Jesus just come out and say so? Was he being – ahem – duplicitous, circumspect, lying? I don’t think so. As for him being God, why would he keep talking about God as someone other than himself? Why wouldn’t he have prayed “Me, who art in heaven, hallowed be my name…”?

4 – Mary is the mother of Jesus and not the mother of God. See above. And as Uta had already renounced the virgin birth, it is included in this as a given. If Mary was the mother of a man, she would no longer have been a virgin at the birth and the birth would have been the same as for any other human being.

5 – God created heaven and earth, hell is a product of human fantasy. The “hell” mentioned by the ancient Jews was a desolate valley outside of Jerusalem… not the thing we consider today as being “under the ground”. Although there is a very healthy mythology built up over the subject it is just that: mythology.

6 – The devil and original sin do not exist. And, as I have said before concerning Satan, God – by the very definition of the concept – can have no “equal” who could be contesting against Him for the human race. The very idea is ludicrous. Original sin is a concept created by Paul and his Catholic Church. It implies that God created defective merchandise. It is nothing more than a control mechanism used by the Church to control Europe for quite a few centuries. (And, you know what? It worked for a long, long time.) And the idea that it was the fault of a woman seems a rather transparent attempt to degrade half the human race. Unfortunately, that seems to have worked too damned well. Shame!

7 – A bloody redemption at the Cross is a pagan sacrificial slaughtering of a human being, based on a model from the religious Stone Age. This may require a little more study for the casual reader but it is also correct.


Now that the rationalist view has been set forth, both Uta and I have a disclaimer.

There is nothing wrong with believing any or all these things to be correct even if any rationalist could argue otherwise.

In the final scheme of things – church rules notwithstanding – the exact and precise definition of any of these tenets is really up to you. If it has more meaning for you to think that Jesus is one and the same with God Almighty, go for it. If you think he was only the son of God in the flesh, more power to you. If it is more meaningful for you to know that he was nothing more than a very wise and miraculous human being, that’s all right too.

Uta is still a follower of Christ even if not a Catholic. I am very much the same. Jesus had some very interesting viewpoints to share with us while he was here. And one of my favorites is that the journey is really about your connection with God.

He mentioned nothing about requiring the intercession of a priesthood or a hierarchy of theological professionals, or even the ear of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

How could he even go there when he had already said that each of our bodies is the temple of God? And why would we need an organization to contact God when He is already in each of us? To deny either of those facts – in other words, to justify the existence of the church as the only way to God – is denying what Jesus said. And if you deny this part of his teachings, why bother with complaining that other people are wrong with their beliefs?

Regardless of the ideology they ascribe to.

God made us all different.

The path to salvation is wide enough to encompass every difference.

And what you believe will not hamper your advancement along the road.

So allow others their own separate beliefs and assist them in whatever way you can to help them along on their way.

Divisiveness never has and never will achieve much of anything, here or in heaven.


Advertisements

Unworthy of Grace

February 9, 2012

There are many different religions who will tell you you’re not good enough.

Heaven will close it’s doors to you and God himself will turn his colder shoulder in your direction.

You will be doomed to the pits of hell. Despair for all of time… yada yada yada.

Okay, that may be fine for some brands of religion. I mean, some people really relish the idea that they are going to get the “good stuff” while their obnoxious neighbor is going to spend eternity in the “bad place”.

What’s funny is the neighbor is probably thinking the same thing about them.

And that’s fine. Some people need that kind of boosting to feel good about themselves and their brand of thinking.

But can anyone actually be “unworthy” of Grace?

I am sure most people would say, “Hitler. No way he’s going to get into heaven!”

Really?

Let’s take a step back for a moment.

Here’s a loving Father, who’s sent the kids out into the world to try and make their way as best they can.

Some begin to doubt their affiliation with the Creator, some even doubting if the Almighty actually exists. All they can see around them is materialism, hatred, pain.

So, a few tend to go astray.

It happens… yes, even in the best of families.

But, one day… the kids come home. And the Father has not seen some of them or heard from some in many a day.

You see, this Father truly loves ALL His children. So, when one arrives at the pearly gates, slack-jawed, never really believing this day could come, ashamed of the legacy they left in their live… How does the Father react?

If you are a parent, you know there is only one way to act: opening your arms to them and forgiving.

Jesus did not base His teachings on revenge and petty judgments, it was all modeled after the Father. Forgiving.

Perhaps if we were all a little more like that, we could find a little heaven before we reach the pearly gates.

Get Thee Behind Me

January 22, 2010

The character we know as Satan is what originally turned me away from religion.

If the Creator was so omnipresent, so omnipotent, how could He have an adversary of equal magnitude?

I know Jesus once said that we could do the things he did and greater, but did God say the same to Satan?

This scenario sounds like the multiple god scenario I spoke of in “the Eloi”. Was Satan another god who opposed Jehovah in the early days, perhaps with rival priesthoods?

For God so loved the world that He gave us His opponent to deal with?

Satan, in the earliest usages, simply meant “adversary”. And, like the term angel – which simply meant “messenger” – has taken on a life of its own as the horned ruler of Hell, that underworld for lost souls.

In all my studies, I have been amazed how the other ancient religions have these features and are termed mythological by modern man but the same features in Christianity are deemed absolutely true.

Every ancient religion had its god of the underworld and the afterlife. Christianity does too but they call it Hell ruled by Satan and think that makes it substantially different that Pluto ruling the Underworld of the Classic mythology. But it is no different.

Christianity is very much like the other older religions but dresses the various members of the pantheon differently, proclaiming only a single god but having Satan, Jesus, Mary, and so on.

Rather than proclaiming their differences, history would have been so much nicer if they had embraced the similarity with other religions.

the Keys to Heaven

January 20, 2010

I once asked my grandfather, a Baptist minister, if a person who did only good deeds and followed the Commandments could get into heaven.

He told me, “No.” He explained that even the worst sinner in the world could get into heaven by taking Christ into his life. The key to getting into heaven was accepting Christ as your savior, not good works. Nothing about treating your fellow man with compassion or generosity, just that one thing regardless of what or who you were.

That always seemed a bit lame to me even though a large segment of the protestant faiths think that way. It might sound good from the religion’s standpoint but does it make any sense?

In the Satan vs God scenario they pay homage to, anyone doing goods works should automatically be considered on God’s team, wouldn’t they? So what sort of God would cut him loose when the end came?

Because of belief, or faith.

Faith has always been the bedrock of religion. You can sin all you want but if you really repent and take Christ as your savior, you’ll be heaven bound. (Of course, if you’re merely trying to wipe out all your sins at the last moment and hop aboard that train to glory, God will read your heart and transfer you to the southbound line.)

So sinning a lot, expecting to absolve yourself at the end, won’t work. The change has to be a true epiphany.

Anyhow, that what the churches believe.

Personally, I think there is no place below us like Hell and no place above us like Heaven. I think we all recycle down here, like Franklin said, in a newer and better edition.

But that does not remove the Almighty from the equation. If you complete everything and return to Grace this time around, I think you can go home… or stick around and play some more.

Of course, I could be ‘way off base here, and perhaps the heaven you believe in is exactly what you get when you leave this plane behind. In which case, a lot of people are going to wish they had been Muslim so they could finally arrive at the Muslim version where the guy gets nineteen virgins or something. Of course, I always wondered what the woman gets when she goes…

Then again, that may not be her version of Heaven. Perhaps that is her Hell.

If there is only one heaven and it is like usually pictured (clouds and everyone singing God’s praises from now to eternity), I can’t say that I am all that interested. I recall a movie from yesteryear, “Bedazzled” (1967 – NOT the later remake) starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Peter plays Satan and when Dudley’s character asks how he got cast out of heaven, he climbs up on a mail collection box and has Dudley dance around him singing his praises. After a bit, Peter tells him to get more effusive. Dudley complies but after another minute or so says. “I’m getting a bit tired of this. Why don’t you come down and let me sit there awhile?” And Satan replies, “Yes, that’s exactly what happened.”

Many look forward to that sort of heaven in their afterlife and I say more power to them. I hope that is the heaven you find. And I hope we can all find what we are looking for in the afterlife and our sojourn with the Almighty.

Whatever sojourn you prefer.