According to Bible legend, the first humans were created in goodness and dwelt in a garden of goodness. The interesting factor about this goodness is that in the middle of it, there was an evil tree. There was also an evil snake. Apparently, what God called good also included evil.
Fast forward about four millenia and a prophesied Jewish messiah explains to humanity that God so loved the world. All of the human tragedies of the past which had included a flood, slavery and wars and captivities hadn’t meant that God was angry with anyone. Behind every tragedy, God still loved the world.
For God so loved the world…. God loved the world before the Christ was sent just as much as God loved the world after the Savior died and rose again. But if God always loved the world, why did the world need a Savior in order to restore us to God?
It would appear that humanity misunderstood a few things about God – uhhhh, as if that is any kind of a surprise. Somehow God’s people, the nation of Israel, believed that God was a punisher and not a lover. The majority of the Bible seems to be written from this point of view. And this punisher God mentality seems to be carried on today through God’s other people who call themselves the church.
Personally, I think the only savior we need is one that saves us from this punishment message. We need to be saved from the idea that God is some sort of fundamentalist who is out to hurt anyone who makes a peep after they’ve been told to be quiet. We just need to know that God really does love us.
I think the Jewish and Christian view of God has terrorist written all over it. Those who believe in it are afraid to sin, afraid to fall into heresy and scared to death that they or their loved ones might suffer a very painful and inescapable torment for all of eternity. After all, a just God must punish unjust evil.
The conscience within us all assumes, even if for only an ignorant second, that our worst fears must be true. I mean, horrific things happen in the world. How do we know things aren’t going to get much, much worse in the afterlife when God decides to pay back evil for evil?
As a Christian, I personally wanted this payback time. Of course, I didn’t want payback on my wrongs, nor my kids’ wrongs – only the wrongs of others, like adulterers, murderers and rapists…. or anyone that could be fairly assumed to be a worse sinner than me.
And somehow I believed that God terrorizing the rest of the world for their sins meant that God loved me and I was saved. It’s the classic fear and insecurity of relationships. As long as my friend hates all the other girls at school, I can be sure that I won’t lose her friendship.
After pulling my head out of the sand a little, I realized that this didn’t make any logical sense. If God is going to punish other people for their wrongs, what makes me so sure that I will get picked to be on his team? I’d better start showing more devotion to ensure that favoritism. Enter a salvation based on good works.
And God created a world, called it good… and then called it evil? I know this gets explained away with the idea that humans have a free choice and we all chose to hate our creator. And so now God hates us, unless of course, we repent… or just believe in a certain theology… or choose God.
But if we were created by God, and if the planets keep their place in orbit because of God, then doesn’t this mean that God has a sovereign power over all things, including our will? And the free will/sovereignty debate goes around and around forever. This is because it is circular logic which is meant to keep people trapped in it.
God is only sovereign after you make your free will choice. And then there’s nothing God can do to keep himself from punishing you if you make the wrong choice. It appears as though humanity is much more sovereign than God. But God is in control. But humans have free will….
We find more trapped logic in the concept of a Savior. If we needed remission for our sins, this must only confirm that God is a punisher and not a lover. I found that the more I believed in a Savior, the more I believed that I needed a Savior. The atonement doctrine does nothing to set people free from sins. It only keeps us enslaved to our wretched need for a Savior. (I’ve explained this in more detail in past blog posts here on Unravel.)
And it only gets worse. The belief in a Savior is intended to save people from their sin. If someone is saved from sin, then they are supposed to become good. Instead, we see a horrible hypocrisy among believers. At best, Christians are blinded by religious rituals to think they live better lives than those who are not Christians.
At its worse, we might witness horrific religious injustice that murders, rapes and tortures people in payment for their wrongs. In my opinion, no one is more heartless, judgmental and violent than a fundamentalist in any of its forms. I think this would include Osama bin Laden, as well as his punishers. (And I’m not a passivist.)
If anyone needs salvation from anything, I think it would be our belief in God’s rigid intolerance. We’ve got to somehow get over our inclination to think that God is going to kick our ass if we mess up. This only makes us slaves through fear.
Have you ever seen someone be really mean to their kid or their dog? As I was out hiking yesterday, we hadn’t seen anyone else on the trail for the first half of the hike so I left the leash off of my German Shepherd. This way she could roam around a little and chase birds that she would never catch to save her life.
I passed a lady with her dog on a leash and she panicked when she saw my dog. I told her that my dog is friendly. She said, “Yeah, but my dog isn’t!” She jerked her dog back and stood in between her dog and mine as we passed. As my dog turned her head toward her, she hit my dog in the face and yelled at her to keep moving.
I thought, “Did that seriously just happen?” I told her that she didn’t need to do that, and no wonder her dog isn’t friendly. Later on I found myself wishing I would have punched that lady in the face, although I’m glad I didn’t. She probably had parents who treated her the same way.
When we believe in a fundamentalist God, we become the same. We are like the dog and God is like our parent or owner. Why would we show mercy to others if God doesn’t show mercy to others? We think that we ourselves are shown mercy, but only if we meet the brutal conditions of religiosity.
So there first has to be a punishment and a fear of this punishment, if a Savior is going to mean anything at all. If we want a Savior, we need guilt and judgment too. And around we go. If there is any such thing as a Savior, then it can only exist along with a punisher God.
How do we escape our fear of God’s punishment? It seems that we need to be brave enough to escape our belief in a Savior. I can hear the protests of “heresy!” now. Jesus is the center of attention when it comes to the Christian faith. The entire religion hinges on our need to believe in him. To say that we don’t need Jesus is essentially saying that we don’t need anything of the Christian faith…
The only thing I can say in reply to the heresy accusation is, “Hey, believe whatever you want to believe. You already do that anyway.” But if this idea is jiving with anyone, keep following here.
Even if we are not willing to let go of the gospel, let’s look at what the gospel actually says: Christ died for your sins. You are forgiven. If you need to be forgiven of your sins before God can love you, well then now it’s a done deal. There’s nothing left to forgive and there is now no more need for a Savior – because only a sinner needs a Savior.
If we truly believed in the death and resurrection of Christ, then we would know that sin is no longer an issue. It’s not our identity (and it never was in the first place.) Those who are still hung up on punishment for sin don’t really believe in a Savior.
We can talk about Jesus all day long. We can sing praise songs to Jesus every Sunday. We can study Jesus’ teachings until we memorize them. But if we don’t believe them, what’s the point?
But if we do believe them, then we are free from them. We have been freed from sin, judgment, punishment and the fear of being terrorized by God.
I used to think that I was religious not because I was afraid of God but because I was thankful to God. But now I think they are really one and the same. What am I thankful for? Well, my salvation of course. But who wants a relationship with someone who is in debt to them? I would think that God just wants love on equal grounds. A friendship is much more fulfilling than an employer/employee relationship.
What about all of those Bible stories where God boots people out of paradise if they disobey him, or he drowns them for their evil? This is where our trust in love comes in to play. Would love keep their dog chained up and smack them when they disobey? Does that make obedient children, or timid slaves?
From the little that I understand of love, I think that love allows others to roam free off the leash in order to explore and learn lessons. Natural consequences built into our world is enough to keep us learning and changing and growing. We do not need a task master with a whip to keep us stifled in a line. That only keeps us from wanting to learn anything.
Much of the Bible seems to be written from the point of view of a cold-hearted, distant God whose wrath must be appeased – a very common human point of view. I can understand why people think that God is hatefully punishing them if their enemies won the last battle, or if a Job tragedy came upon them. But I think that is only human ignorance, whether that ignorance comes from the Bible or our pastor.
And the Savior said so. “For God so loved the world” that he sent his son to show us that tragedies are not punishments, but part of the essence of love, and life, and transformation.
Sure, there is plenty of evil in the world but let’s go back to the beginning. God created the world, and the world, even with its evil, was good. Maybe the tree of knowledge of good and evil symbolizes our inclination to discriminate out of fear and insecurity. And so we tack that judging characteristic onto a God who is invisible and who we don’t understand.
Meanwhile, we’ve forgotten about the tree of life. We can eat from this tree any time, as long as we’re not being stifled by fear of punishment. Or hiding behind religious traditions. Or pointing our finger at the wrongs of everyone else, blinded to our own. Or just plain scared.
Life includes it all – good, evil and everything in between…. It’s all part of life. It’s all good. And in my opinion, so is God. There is no reason to worry, or fear. The Savior said so.
On a more personal note, I think I’ve found my freedom from Christianity for the most part, but I’m torn. I still have plenty of friends in the Christian faith and even more friends who are in the process of leaving it. I keep hearing desperate cries from people who want to know that it’s okay to not be a Christian anymore.
I feel like a broken record sometimes and I’d rather just lead a normal life, if there is such a thing. I’ve tried to leave the Free Believer’s Network. I’ve tried to stop posting offensive statements about Christianity on Facebook. And I’ve tried to stop blogging about this shit. I thought that I couldn’t give it up because the religion still had a noose around my neck. But now I think it’s because of all the precious souls that actually are still living with that noose.
I’m not worried for the Christians who are happy and confident in their faith. I believe they are where they are supposed to be in their journey. I would like to learn how to connect with them even if their beliefs don’t allow it. But I have no desire to convert anyone to anything. I think everyone should have their own beliefs even if they oppose mine….
But my heart breaks for those who are trying to get out of Christianity and are losing the only life and community they’ve ever known. Trusted friends and family members say hurtful things to them and threaten them with God’s punishment. They are unsure or confused or lonely.
While I think everyone needs to learn to stand on their own and think for themselves, this is why I keep talking. This is why I debate. This is why I can be really forthright and even rude. I don’t have to put up with religious slavery anymore – for myself, as well as on behalf of others.
So, if you’re getting tired of hearing me describe my personal path to the way out, just know that I’m kind of tired of it too. But as long as it’s helping anyone, I’m happy to be there and be some kind of support. If there’s anything that I’ve learned through my journey, it’s that we need each other. And it’s only fear that disconnects us.