Officially a heretic

Medieval illustration of Hell in the Hortus de...Medieval illustration of Hell.
Artist: Herrad von Landsberg (about 1180),
via Wikipedia
Sent in by Former Fundamentalist Pastor

Up to the time of my Dad’s funeral in May of 1998, I had discretely maintained silence about my true beliefs, in order to not upset our fragile family unity (or offend my Christian sons and families as well as my lovely wife); nevertheless, after Dad’s passing, I angrily penned the following thoughts which exposed my radically different views and took a stand as an official heretic. My family was understandably upset. While religion is a still subject studiously avoided among us, I have studiously avoided letting my family read the following thoughts, although they have been published on many anti-Christian web sites; moreover, I still get occasional emails from around the world.

“My dad died. We buried him this last Tuesday. The preacher at the funeral used Dad’s death as a springboard for his deluded agenda of salvation only through Jesus. (Perhaps he knew of my background as a former minister and was extra full of trying to offset my beliefs.) But, this pained me no end, especially, since a long time friend of his from next door was there as Dad’s pallbearer. This good neighbor has never been a church-goer and never will be. I was embarrassed. Prior to this and only a day or so after Dad’s death, I was surprised by the emotions coming up -- specifically anti-Jesus and anti-Church stuff. As the whole family gathered at the funeral, I looked around and realized that all my immediate family are very strong Christians... I am the sole heretic. Consequently, I began writing in my daily journal on this subject at that time, but it had long been on my heart and mind to begin this process; Dad’s death just sped up my desire to write. So it was that I began to delve into the reasons why I had become so anti-Jesus and anti-Christian. I guess, having felt emotionally raped by the preacher’s foolish Jesus tirade, I decided to sit down and write up a more formal statement about my anti-Jesus thinking.

Here is the gist of it:

Fundamental Christian religion is not very logical. I am supposed to believe in a character who lived 2000 years ago and proclaimed himself to be the Son of God. If I don’t--I go to hell. This is it--pure and simple (and illogical). Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of what Jesus said, and I love parts of the Bible. It is in my heart and will be there forever. Having three college degrees and many years of teaching as a professor at a Christian College and preaching in various churches, I can see from the words of Jesus that he was indeed a special man... but 2000 years is a long time and a lot gets lost in the process. I salute the deep love that Christians over the years have had for this “Christ.” So many were even willing to die for him and their beliefs. (I am thinking of the 30,000 Chinese Christians in history that chose death during the famous Boxer Rebellion rather than simply step on a piece of paper with the name Jesus inscribed on it.) I agree that some things are worth dying for. But for me Jesus is not one of them. Jesus was a prison that I escaped from and I want to record this and show the process.

But first I want to look the present Jesus of today. He called himself the Son of God...we have a few details.… He convinced 12 people and a few hundred others that he was indeed the Savior promised in the Hebrew scriptures. But this is not new. Only a few years back David Koresh had a whole compound of people convinced that he was God and over a hundred perished with him at the Waco, Texas compound. This (God) dummy could have saved all those people with just a little compromise...but he had to have a bunch of people die just because he thought he was God. I’m sure David Korish had some good stuff in the words he spoke. He certainly inspired those fanatical folks and reports show him to be quite a sexual stud. He was a real “copulating” God. But, if this deluded poophead could do this in our enlightened time, why should I believe in this historical Jesus and his 2000 year old story?

I am surprised by the positive reaction in my heart to anything anti-Jesus and anti-Christian. I would much have preferred a Jesus who grew old and wise like a Buddha or Mohamed. He was only 33 when he died. I didn’t even start thinking for myself until I was almost 40. I followed the Christian herd like all the rest of them until I finally exploded from lack support from my “once a week is more than enough” wife. (We got divorced for 10 years then remarried. The second time around has been special because we talked out our problems; nevertheless, we totally disagree about Christianity.) I see lots of confident young men running things now... but to really know life you have to have experience. Thirty years is just not enough time. I resent having to believe in a young man who was only thirty-three at his death. But, believe I must or I am going to hell according to current fundamentalist beliefs. Hell is a place where you will burn forever. Who wouldn’t want to avoid such a place? I sure would. But Hell is not a logical or valid concept.

Burning in Hell for sins committed in a brief lifetime of seventy years or so seems grossly unfair. But, if the powers that be (or rather that were) wanted to keep the Christian herd in line, what better way than to threaten them with a nebulous Hell-fire? I recall as a young and naive Christian ministerial student going out on the weekends to talk to people about Christ. I sincerely wanted to do my best to save them from this burning Hell. I also recall a pretty young speech professor at our Christian University giving our group of ministers a graphic reading of people walking off a cliff and falling into the burning fires of hell. All that stood between them and Hell was us Christians who had to reach out and prevent as many as possible from falling into Hell-fire. Her performance was met with a genuine appreciation and acceptance. But that’s one heavy burden for a young man to carry. We were the only hope for those people. We were sent out weekends to hand out tracts to people on the street telling them how to be saved. I never like doing this. I soon discarded it for less dramatic ways of reaching the “unsaved.” This was the small beginning...I followed my heart. It said I don’t like handing out tracts and being a “fool for Christ’s sake.” One of the teaching tools at that time was a saying often repeated about a man who carried a sign saying, “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake, whose fool are you?” Now I have enough strength of character, to say, “Let him be his own fool.” I cannot follow this distorted Jesus.

But let us go back to the Hell concept. What would be fair? All religions teach us (and I believe) that God is eminently fair. But the Jesus followers say that you are going to Hell if you don’t know Jesus no matter what. If you are a murderer--off you go. This fits even a 16 year old teenager who goes along for the ride with a kid who is drinking; there is a wreck and he is he goes too. He has not done much of anything wrong. He hasn’t been around long enough to do much wrong, but off he goes--straight to Hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect a harp and mansion. Suppose we had a jury of a man’s peers set up to decide every man’s punishment according to all the deeds he had done and all the thoughts he had had. Suppose God himself allowed this special jury to exist. How many life sentences would they give to a murderer? So, if the average life span is 70 or so... the maximum for even the most gross life deeds would be not more than 5 x 70 or so I would think. Even the most vile person would scarcely be given more that 70 times 70 lifetimes as the absolute maximum sentence and certainly not to a burning hell for all those years. There is a little Biblical pun here... 70 times 70 is the term describing Jesus’ ideal of human forgiveness. But a loving God casts them all into Hell fire forever? I think not.

How can Christians assign people to Hell so easily? Part of it is religious arrogance (a sort of unconscious hidden pride, I think.) “We know God and you don’t type of thing...we have the inside track on God.” Furthermore, Christians have this “All are sinners and need salvation” angle well covered with the Original Sin concept. It basically says, “In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all.” So we all start out as sinners and need a savior. Enter Jesus. Oh, by the way, can I be a Christian and not believe in the Original Sin concept? I sure can’t handle it now. To me, it is the tool the church uses to keep people in bondage.

Now the question becomes--does the man believe in Jesus just because he wants to escape Hell, or because he is “CHA” (covering his ass). But hey, for the simple act of going forward in church and maybe even going through the ritual of getting baptized, one gets an insurance policy against Hell and with a side benefit of a ticket directly into heaven--not a bad investment for a CHA person. How does God count this obvious “manipulation” of the system? Do surface Christians squeeze through the Pearly Gates just barely?

What does it mean to “believe” in Christ? I ask this question often. My Christian relatives and ministers I know always quote Scripture... “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and Thou shalt be saved.” This is what the Apostle Paul said to the frightened jailkeeper when an earthquake hit and all the doors of the jail flew open. And the man did too...he took Paul and Silas and bound up their wounds and was very grateful. I don’t blame him. Any man in his right mind would have believed and behaved the way he did in such circumstances.

But how does one believe in, on, around this Jesus?
  • Do I have to believe in Original sin to be saved?
  • Do I have to believe in the Trinity to be saved?
  • Do I have to believe in the Apostles’ Creed?
  • Do I have to believe in the Virgin Birth?
  • Can I believe that Mary fooled around and the result was Jesus?
  • Can I believe in a special place called Hades like the Catholics do?
  • Can I be a member of the Irish IRA Catholics who believe in terrorism?
  • Can I be a Communist?
  • Does God take in account a person’s environment and parental teachings?
  • Do I have to be baptized? (The Church of Christ out of Abilene, Texas believes you must be baptized in their Church in order to be saved.)
  • At what IQ level am I exempt from Hell?
  • Do children who die go to hell? (Christians have a special exemption here, but if there is one exemption why can’t there be more?)
  • Do I have to believe in Pro-life?
  • Do I have to believe in monogamy?
  • Can I be a Mormon/Christian? a Buddhist/Christian?
  • Can I be a Christian/homosexual? Bi-sexual? Lesbian?
  • Can I be a Christian whore? (I have met some ladies of the evening who were a lot more compassionate than many Christians I know; moreover, didn’t Jesus associate with them?)
  • Can a Christian who commits suicide go to heaven?
  • Can I worship my ancestors and believe in Jesus too?
  • Can I believe also in evolution?
  • Can I be a Christian nudist?
  • Can I believe in Free Love?
  • Can I own a liquor store and still get to heaven?
  • Do I get credit if I believe that Jesus was a human being that existed 2000 years ago but was not God?
  • How about if I believe he was god with a small “g”?
  • What if I believe that he was on the level of a son of god like Buddha must have been?
  • What about all those folks born before Christ came? (There was a bunch of them.)
  • Will Socrates be in heaven or Hell?

The Christian reply to all the folks BC (Before Christ) is that they are under a different “Dispensation.” They didn’t know it yet, but Jesus died (or was going to die) for them. So people with God in their hearts and deeds got into heaven with a special pass--under a special dispensation. Now we shift to the AD area. After Jesus’ death all people had to get into heaven through him. He took over the keys to the kingdom. Was there a transition period? Does the belief in Jesus thing fit the first 200 years AD? Or does it take effect when Constantine set up Christianity as the religion of the empire? Prior to Columbus we had a whole half of the world that existed AD and had never heard of Jesus. I have pinned down several old ministers on this and they all say, “If they (Native Americans for example) live up to the light that was shown to them, they will be saved.” (quoting from the Old Testament) This “Light” is a bit of a slippery and wobbly thing. How do you define light... how much light? Would a spark do? Does belief in the Great Spirit count? Will the American Indians get into heaven?

I simply cannot see how a rational man can believe in a “Jesus or else” type of religious dogma. I think Jesus would be very embarrassed to see what his followers teach today as “Gospel.” But let’s return to the Hell thing again. If we take it that all men are sinners...Hey I can buy that partially--we all goof plenty in our lifetime, but I like the term mistakes better than sins. So why are all sinners assigned to a burning Hell automatically if they don’t believe in Jesus? Or was Jesus like David Koresh who let his followers burn to death with him because he thought he was God? My figures are rough, but some 3/4ths of this present world is non-Christian. Let’s say that 1/4 of the world is Christian. Now of that 1/4th, about half don’t go to church much and then quite a few of those that do, just do it out of duty. Then we get into all the many churches believing different creeds and doctrines? If all these churches can’t agree on doctrine, why should I trust its ministers to show me the way to heaven?

Can a man be a total “Jackass” (murderer, etc.) and get into heaven if he believes in Jesus on his deathbed? Why can’t we just believe that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world...and include everybody so that there is universal salvation for all races, creeds and colors? I could handle Jesus a lot better if he did it once for all, for those in the past, present and future and it was a finished thing and everybody got a piece of it. Why is salvation so limited (according to the church)?

In my years of study for the ministry which included many college Bible courses including 3 years of the Biblical Greek language, I noticed that many of our local dogmatic dummies who emphasized the “going to Hell message” did not even have a BA degree. I also noticed that the wise old scholars were much more broad in their views. The men that really knew the Biblical languages--whose business was to study the Scriptures diligently--became more and more broad. I recall my amazement on reading the statement of one such famous Biblical Scholar who wrote words to the effect that there would be a lot more people in heaven than we ever imagined.

Is it possible that God could have a second Son? Why only one? Wouldn’t the world be better if there were many sons of God? Why should the Creator limit himself to one? Are there other worlds besides ours out there in Space? And, if there were, would they get to heaven? Or will they be treated on the dog and cat level of once dead and that is heaven and no hell?

“One cannot question God and God’s hidden purposes”... thus sayeth the Church, but this is another enslaving Church dogma. This is the same Church that has proved itself to be totally wrong in the past. No wonder they don’t like people to question God. Why didn’t God wait another 2000 years now that we have satellite TV and the Internet and have Jesus come during this age? Why do it the hard way?

A thought I had recently--Does my prayer to God count? Are my daily prayers for my family and other personal needs wasted because only the people who pray to the God who is the father of Jesus Christ have their prayers heard? (My son thinks so.) This is extremeness and arrogance. Why is God so limited? It is illogical?

My son thinks I am going to Hell. He has followed his mother’s path of fundamental Christianity and has become a fundamentalist minister much to my regret. Perhaps he will grow out of it as I did. I was just like him at his age. I love him. I honor where he is. I hope he gets past it.

Is it any wonder that I may be a little hard on this Jesus. Hey, I don’t like the one they talk about in the Churches, but I do somewhat like the one in the Bible without all the baloney surrounding him. Do I want him as my savior? No thank you.”

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