If you don’t correct those mistakes, you’re doing it really, really right.
If you can’t accept that you’re mistaken, you’ve arrived – welcome to faith.
Christianity and other religions often place a great value on what they perceive as truth. Men and women have sacrificed their possessions, their families and even their lives for what they considered the truth of their religion. My own sister rejected her family as not her “true” family when she converted to the Unification Church. Moon became her true father and the “church” her true “family”. I have known people who have shunned their own children when their children’s lifestyle violated their religious principles and dogma. I have seen people shunned by friends they have known for years because they left the church, even if it was for another “Christian” denomination. I have seen other belief systems ridiculed and other believers belittled because they don’t have the one true understanding of the Bible. Recently we have even seen a “Christian” man shoot up a church, killing 2 people and wounding several others, because they were too liberal in their view of god (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25872864/). There are also those that reject modern clothing, machinery, and electronics as of the devil. All of these stands have one thing in common, those who make them ACTIVELY take a stand for their religious truth and that stand can be a costly one. Costly as it may be, they often have the support of their “in-group” of believers who encourage them to hold the course and they have a book that tells them God will be pleased with their choice.
Atheists on the other hand pay a different price. Identifying as an atheist can be a costly choice, but where it differs from religion is that the cost is IMPOSED on us by religion. Atheists don’t seek out to shun or hate those who differ from them because a mythical god tells them to do so. Intolerance or hate is directed at Atheists by the “loving” religious community around us. I know people whose jobs are at jeopardy because they came out of the atheist closet. I’ve known of people whose spouse wants a divorce because they are unequally yoked. I know of many people whose marriages are strained, not by the atheist, but by the believing spouse who sees them as doing the work of the devil or even evil incarnate, as Dr. Bart Ehrman writes in God’s Problem: “It’s not easy being intimate with someone who thinks you’re in cahoots with Satan”.
Atheists pay a price, but the cost is what people think of us because we don’t believe in an imaginary friend in the sky. This simple rational decision can make an atheist appear to the “god fearing” community as evil and immoral. How does not believing in a mythical, invisible man in the sky change how well we do our job or suddenly make us horrible husbands or wives or somehow make us unfit friends? These consequences keep many atheists in the atheist closet. Coming “clean” with family, friends, employees and employers can have unintended consequences. Is it worth it? Only you can make that decision.
Do you believe in hell? Really believe in it or just give it lip service?
Robert Ingersoll in 1877 said:
“I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.” (“The Liberty of All”)
If you really believe in hell would any of you bring children into this world if there were even a small possibility of this unspeakable torture happening to them? Wouldn’t it be a monstrosity to even consider such an act? Do you really believe those friends and family, not saved by the blood of Jesus, will be tortured forever in the pit of hell? Could you even live with such a thought for even a moment without breaking out into tears of pain? Do you really believe a loving, caring and compassionate God would be so prideful and arrogant as to throw everyone into an eternal fire because of a lack of faith in Him WHICH He Himself gives or withholds? Could such a God really destroy the bulk of His creation with such wanton callousness?
Think about it Christian, do you really believe in hell?
I recently received the July-August 2008 issue of New Horizons Magazine, a publication of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). In the past I attended an OPC church and my wife still attends an OPC church planting effort in Rockford, so I’m sent the magazine. It is interesting to look at these types of publications once you come out from under the fog of religious indoctrination. The lead article is “One Plus One Equals One”, a great testimony to the misuse of math for the glory of God! The theme of this issue is church planting and while there is much that could be said about the articles in this issue, the one that interested me was “Reviving a Church in Madison.” It tells of a church in Madison, WI where “an explosion shattered the body” and worship ceased for a few weeks. But miracles of miracles, a few people remained interesting in getting the church started again and:
“The Holy Spirit began to heal the wounds from the meltdown…” and “New joy in what the Lord is doing pervades the congregation. Praise God for his faithfulness in sustaining his people.”
These are interesting thoughts about a God that is always praised regardless of the outcome. It doesn’t seem to matter what happens, praise is always to be given. What about the “explosion (that) shattered the body”? This is a euphemism for a whole mess of problems and conflicts that occurred between people in the church and perhaps the leadership. The problems were so great that the church was split and torn apart. It doesn’t really matter what these problems were. The congregation was composed of people. These are people with real lives and real problems and real emotions. People who were Christians (membership in OPC churches is for Christians only and is fairly rigid) and supposedly committed to Christ. Yet a sovereign, omnipresent, omniscient, all loving, all caring God who sent his Holy Spirit to dwell within believers could not cause cooler heads to prevail and save HIS people the agony and emotional problems that result from a church meltdown? And these people, who supposedly have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them and supposedly have the love of Christ within their hearts, couldn’t settle their disagreements or at least leave peaceably?
Once the meltdown had occurred and the damage was done, God then healed the wounds of some of the people that remained and begin to revive the church. “Praise God for his faithfulness in sustaining his people.” What? Where was He to sustain his hurting people during the meltdown? Where was He when it came to turning the hearts of his people to God and preventing the meltdown in the first place? Where was His Holy Spirit in causing the love of Christ to shine through these problems and prevent the meltdown? I know, they are just sinful people saved by the grace of God. But if God’s chosen people (a Calvinist believes he was chosen by God before the foundations of the world) who supposedly have His Holy Spirit dwelling within them and the love of Christ within their hearts behave in such a manner, what does this say about their God? If they behave no better or no worse than the sinful people around them, it seems to me that the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ have little to do with the real world a person lives and moves in. In other words, the way a person lives out their faith, tells a lot about their faith. In this case, their faith is based on nothing and nothing in return is given. Having faith in an invisible, magical friend in the sky doesn’t make it so and having faith in an imaginary being has no power to help you in your daily life.