What if the Prodigal Son wasn't a washout? What if he went on to be...happy?

sent in by Tim

Imagine for a moment, if you will, the following:

There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

(The Gospel of Luke 15:11-13)

What if the son didn't squander his money? What if he went to college and gained his own reasoning? His own ideas? And realized he'd always had questions that had been tidely swept under the rug by those that were supposed to be his spiritual teachers?

I grew up in church, from the time I was about 2. Around the age of 11 I began to take it quite seriously, and the more time that passed the more serious about being a Christian I became.

I didn't date for most of high school, not that I didn't want to, but I didn't want to be tempted, and after all, the Lord would show me to my future wife when the timing was right wouldn't he?

I intended on going to a secular college, finishing my general education requirements, then transfering to a Chirstian college so that I could become an ordained minister, and eventually a missionary to Japan (after all, I had been to Chicago, Atlanta, and Caracas, Venezuela on mission trips as a teen to help save "the poor lost souls").

I originally signed up as a Religious Studies Major (at a secular college this consisted of studying the formation of, history, and cultural impact of various religions, without ever teaching one or the other to be "right" or "wrong").

My very first college class ever was Introduction to the New Testament. I figured it would be great, after all, the instructor was a former minister. Key word: former, I would find out why soon enough.

I learned a lot in that class, specifically that almost everything I had been taught as a Christian could not have been further from the factual truth.

Crisis of Faith, Step 1) The four Gospels were not written by the actual disciples of those names. In the biblical time period it was quite common to use someone else's name as a pseudonym to give your text more relevancy. Under the best of circumstances only Mark has the most weight...and it was more than likely written by a disciple of Jesus' disciple Peter.

Crisis of Faith, Step 2) The Gospel of John, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son...yadda yadda yadda" What could quite possibly considered the most recognizable verse in all of Christianity is actually from a book that is socio-historical commentary (translation: "John" wasn't there...in fact none of the book was written anywhere near the time period Jesus lived).

My personal favorite example of this comes from John 9. Christ heals a blind guy on the Sabbath, is therefore working on the Sabbath, and people proceed to lose their shit over the whole ordeal.

John 9- 20"We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. 21But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ[a] would be put out of the synagogue.

Here's the major problem with that little section, yes the Jews did in fact threaten to more or less disown those Jews who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah...and it was written down when this decree was made...circa 80 AD. How is it that the parents are afraid of a law that wouldn't be made for at least 50 years? But...I digress.

I proceeded to go through college finding all sorts of other problems within Christianity, and it didn't help that 90% of the Christian scholars (i.e. my professors) had been asked to leave their pulpits, churchs, what have you, due to work they had done, or were doing, that opened up a brand new fallacy in the divinity or Jesus or exposed a hole, called "logic" in the belief that the Bible is inerrant.

When all was said and done I knew that there was no way I could consider myself Christian ever again...there are jut too many questions that they as a religion refuse to even acknowledge.

I did meet some people who I consider to be true Christians throughout my college years, two individuals who knew that I had been raised Christian, and had turned away from Christianity. They respected my decision, they showed me Christian love BECAUSE I had walked away from Christianity instead of living a double life and becoming just another hypocritical "Christian", not in spite of my leaving Chrisitanity.

I also realized that the religions that even attempt to answer any questions one has against that religion does so by openly admitting that they don't have all of the answers.

Even Judaism, which I converted to for a short while, openly admits 1) That there is no Satan (which means there is nothing to be saved from, which is why Jews don't try to convert you), and 2) Therefore, the story of Job is just that...a story, a parable...nothing more.

Joined at 11
Left at 19
Was: I was hardcore Assembly of God
Now: Spiritual Seeker
Converted because: Raised by choice.
De-converted because: I realized there were more questions in Christianity than Answers


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the post. It is an enjoyable, interesting read, and very familiar to me. I wasn't raised in a fundie home, but my mother did maintain some of the hard-shell baptist ideology she brought with her from the hills of Tennessee and my father was a mainstream United Methodist (until he deconverted on his deathbed and rejected biblegod!), so I did have some of that jesus-juice sloshing around in my brain when I first entered college and signed up for a course on "History of the Bible," taught by a FORMER semanarian. That course opened my eyes and set me on a journey toward agnosticism/atheism. It was, in fact, the most enlightening class I ever took. The truth really will set you free!

Todd said...

Thank you for your ex-timony.

Like you, for years, I had been having doubts about Christianity. However, it wasn't until several factors, particularly going back to college, that I realized how error ridden the book is.

Like you I realize that there is a whole wide world out there ready to be explored. Christianity keeps us bound to a certain belief and keeps us there with fear. It is like being trapped in an abusive relationship.

I am so glad that you are seeking true enlightenment. Take care.

SpaceMonk said...

Hi Tim,
That was short but sweet. I actually learned a couple of things out of that, which is always good.
I was also raised in christianity and was then also intrigued by the jewish arguments against Jesus. They made some undeniable points that had never occured to me before. I didn't join up with them, but it was good to see the OT from a different perspective, a more 'accurate' one, which helped me leave for good...

...and we need more Tim's around here, to balance out all the Jim's and David's. :)
If I wasn't SpaceMonk I'd be Tim.R or something, or maybe T.Rex?

Ian said...

Wow Tim, that's a nice story. I once read some writtings from an evangelical fundamentalist from the 1800's who said that the more you look into chritianity, the more reliable and respectworthy it becomes, or something to that effect.

However, from a lot of what i've read and done myself, the exact opposite is true. The deeper you dig into christianity, or any religion for that matter, the more you see that they borrow elements from the religions before them.

"Even Judaism, which I converted to for a short while, openly admits 1) That there is no Satan (which means there is nothing to be saved from, which is why Jews don't try to convert you), "

I don't think i've ever, ever seen any Jewish people trying to convert others, and for that they have my respect and admiration. After I left christianity, I did consider becoming Jewish, but I prefer to follow the spiritual path of being a lone wolf with no affiliation.

Welcome to life as a spiritual seeker! It may be difficult at times, but it's well worth the trip.

Jim said...

I enjoyed the read but nothing new here. I still maintain however that the New Testament Jesus is a myth, like most of the New Testament. I know many "supposed" Christians who don't even believe a lot of the bible. Many do not even believe the Adam and Eve story as being the first two people on planet earth. It goes without saying then, that if Adam and Eve is a fabricated story,(which it is) then there is no original sin, and if there is no original sin then there is no need for a redeemer. So one has to ask just how dumb are Christians who only beleive selected parts of supposed scripture? Cheers all Jim Lee.

Anonymous said...

Very enjoyable posting, remarkable how a course in bible study will either make someone either cling more tightly BECAUSE of the absurdity (as is advocated in the early xian church) or the thought: "what the hell was I THINKING!!??" starts to impinge on the thoughts. I think it has more to do with self respect.

The reality of one alleged ne'er do well from the near east is really an interesting study. My last tour in Germany, a person who was half drunk called the facility we both worked at as an irate German, seemed like a good idea at the time, I suppose. He told me and another person so we wopuldn't be too surprised if anything came of it, but a third party had been present at the facility, and talked about what he heard. The person HE talked to blabbed to someone, and it was off to the races. For six months there were people who swore they'd seen the manufactured person, spoken to him, even his legislator got into the act, and no such person even existed. After the first week I doubt that anyone would have believed that the person didn't exist. It has been demanded of me how xianity could be if there were no real Jesus, and the bible wasn't true. It couldn't be a great religeon if it wasn't true. Jesus arose from the dead, "Herr Mueller" arose from...nothing.

Then, we have the Pacific Islanders and the Cargo Cult. A real person, a black man named John Frumm was stationed there during WWII, helped some people, and since the end of the war, dreams are dreamed and visions seen in which Frumm is returning with "cargo." Hasn't shown up? Problem, not enough faith, not that it isn't just bean breeze. More faith, more iconography, the planes and ships are waiting for the right sign, then cargo (salvation/the kingdom of gawd) will appear.

I ask, which is the more silly, the "primitive beleif"of the uncivilised, or the "faith" of my friends and neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing? The more you learn about the history of biblical times, the less believable the bible becomes. I lost my faith during a New Testament class, too. It's no wonder Christians are so against secular education, it certainly is a threat to their carefully-built belief system.

brigid said...

Some of you people help me out here. I have a theory--and I can't back up a word of it--that the movement called christianity was initiated by sophisticated young jews, conversant with the writings of the Mediterranean world. It was meant to be a clean break with the ignorance of their ancestors. It explains a few things, such as the constant reference in the nt to "liberty". jesus said that the truth will make you free; okay, compare this with Epicurus, who said that the goal of his teaching was to free men from the fear of the gods.

Thus, the nt becomes a preservation of the original sayings, plus the endless qualifications that grew up around them. The original teachings of a benign movement had been qualified to death. Look, you do not have to canonize 27 more books to set people free. You canonize 27 more books to suffocate them under more dogma than they know what to do with, and to turn liberty into a useless abstraction.

And for those cute fundies who insist that they have a "relationship" with their deity, I challenge any of them to prove it: chuck your bible into the nearest dumpster and, instead of living by religion, start living out this relationship. Scared to do it? That is because your "relationship" is one of master/servant; in other words, babies, ye hath a religion.

Have fun on your knees. You'll be there for quite awhile.

I want to add that the prodigal son story was borrowed from an older jewish tale. A father and son had a terrible quarrel, and the son packed up and left. In time they pined for each other, but both were too proud. Finally the father sent word: "My son, return to me" and the son sent back: "Father, I cannot". The father, understanding, sent back: "Son, return to me as far as you can, and when you can come no farther, I shall come the rest of the way".

David Berlin said...

Diarhhea of the word processor? Me? Nah. What is this insistence on brevity, anyway? Writing isn't engineering. Reminds me of Stephen King calling Nicholas Baker's Vox "a meaningless little fingernail paring." Having read it,I'm inclined to agree. Ten or twelve years ago it was thought to be a book for the ages. Now, most people don't even remember it, or Baker. It was perhaps eighty pages long; it may have been about phone sex; I don't recall exactly. Very '90s, navel gazing shit.

At any rate. Brigid, you are not the only one with that theory. I've heard ex-priests espouse that theory in comparative religion courses. Did my e-mail piss you off or upset you? I come on strong, I know. I'm told that some of my conversational and writing filters are broken. What of it? I don't disagree. When you write the truth as you see it, people know you aren't bullshitting. Although you may scare them.

Judaism...if I ever went back to Judaism I would have to be Reconstructionist, which is a movement not officially recognized by the other Jewish schools of thought. But then Conservative Judaism didn't recognize homosexuality until I think the late '70s anyway, so that's how much that means. Religions don't deal well with objective truth.


brigid said...

David, honey, your email did not piss me off. I am having trouble responding, that's all. The computer center has not renewed my account, because the Registrar hasn't told them that I am registered for fall. So I'm at the Registrar's office, and back to the computer center, and nobody can get me running again. It has been 2 hours. I do not know what the trouble is and I am going to talk to them again.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Hey Tim,

That was a great read, thank you! In particular I enjoyed the part about John 9, where the problem is that the parents were supposed to be afraid of a law that wouldn't come into existence for 50 years. I'd never thought about that section in those terms.

Isn't it interesting that once a person learns to reason effectively the blinders often come off, sometimes unwillingly? What's troubling is that many folks prefer the blinders. Even more troubling are those who want to clap the blinders on the rest of us.

Looking forward to reading more of you in the threads!


Your theory is sound, and honey you can reason with the best of 'em. Don't let anybody ever tell you otherwise. :)

That particular period in Jewish history was rife with religious dissidence, with all sorts of competing sects of Judaism and flavors thereof. That one of them would eventually turn out to be successful makes perfect sense.

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