While most of the tourists would admire the grandeur of these structures, (for some are magnificent buildings) I usually found myself thinking of the thousands of souls who spent their entire lifetime chiseling stones to put these things together. Today, I am still amazed at the billions of dollars Christians spend on grand buildings to project an image. I think of the schemes, cons, and propaganda used to milk the money out of the people to put up these monstrosities.
Perhaps one of the classic examples is St. Peters Cathedral which was built upon the famous "indulgence." The "indulgence" was a certificate to sin without consequence for a certain fee. It was granted by the highest authority on earth, the Pope. The famous monk "Tetzel" traveled through Europe generating funds through the use of the "indulgence" to build a "House of God."
All these buildings, many of which men and women spent their entire life building, have one thing in common: time eventually destroys them. No matter how much money is poured into them to make them "appear" to be eternal, they are not. These "Houses of God" will all come down.
When I was a child of about 12 years old, I lived in a small town in Texas. The two main churches in this town were the Baptist church and the Methodist church. Both of these churches had a youth outreach program. Being new in the community, I was a candidate for proselytizing. The Methodists won. I attended what was called "Methodist Youth Fellowship" for a few evenings. I don't remember what they taught, but I do remember the cookies and soft drinks and that the sandwiches didn't have enough between the bread.
One day, I decided to go to a "worship" service. I did this on my own. Neither of my parents were religious, therefore, they did not encourage me to attend church. I remember quite clearly the sense of reverence I felt inside as I pondered going to the "House of God." The Methodists said they went to this building to "worship the Lord." This sounded important. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me that if that was what actually went on in church that it would be the most important thing one could do.
I entered the sanctuary very expectantly only to be greatly disappointed. I sat on the last pew. In the pew next to mine were children playing games on the seat. Ladies in their finest were looking about at other ladies' outfits. An old man kept nodding away. His head jerking back as he recovered from almost going under seemed to be the most exciting thing happening. I remember the pastor as being a handsome man, perhaps in his early 30s. I can't recall a single thing he preached on, but it was abundantly clear to this 12 year old that he was not speaking from his heart. No one in this church behaved the way I would expect human beings would behave while they were "worshipping the Lord." I walked out of there thinking to myself, "These people are all pretending. God wasn't here. Whatever they were doing was all fake. God must not be real." Now obviously, I had never seen what true worship really was. I made a judgment based upon what I expected would happen if God was really there. I expected something more than what I saw.
This was the turning point in my life--I became atheistic. If God didn't exist, why go through the motions of pretending he really did? I realized that creating gods who would judge you beyond the grave was a good means of keeping the ignorant masses in subjection, but I felt I didn't need a myth. Give the myth to the masses. I knew better. I didn't need the ultimate fear to keep me law-abiding. To me, it made sense that if I didn't want someone to hurt me, I shouldn't hurt them. Laws were a good way to keep order. That was good enough for me.
I engaged in many discussions about God in my teen years. Most of those I talked with were raised in the Western world so most of our discussions about God dealt with the subject from a traditional Christian viewpoint. When it came to describing who God was, we would find ourselves talking about the attributes of God. God was good, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, just, but His nature was Love.
I have always thought of myself as a practical person. Things had to fit, make sense. All the pieces of the puzzle had to fit or else something was wrong. I felt the same way about God. If God was all these things, then I should be able to look at Him and see all these attributes perfectly in harmony. But when I looked at this world, which was His creation, I could not find this harmony. I saw chaos, suffering, lack, disease, man's inhumanity to man. I looked back into history and saw a river of blood, most of which was spilled over religion. I looked into the near future and saw eminent disaster. Man seemed to be near having many new weapons that could not only destroy nations, but the entire world. To me, it was not a matter of "if" man would destroy this world, but when. I saw no hope for mankind lasting for any considerable length of time.
In my early debates as an atheist, I used to say: "If there is a God, He is probably like man. If a man decides to build a large building, he will first draw a rough draft of his ideas to get his concepts down where he can look at them. After the rough draft, drawings etc., he begins to draw the real building. When God decided to build a perfect Universe, He first made a rough plan of what He had in His mind. He then went into another Universe to build the perfect one. We were made in His rough plan which was full of mistakes and bad ideas. It obviously was not perfect. I was stuck in God's "mistakes." I would say this rather facetiously. At this point, the Christian would usually blame it all on the devil and I would immediately throw back the fact that God made the devil so He is responsible for his actions. Somewhere in the discussion, the Christian would tell me the problems of the world stem from our choosing evil over good because of "free-will" and I would throw back in his face that I never chose to be born; I didn't chose my parents; I didn't chose the country to be born in, nor the time. There are thousands of things I could think to do, but be unable to do even though I had this so-called "free-will."
When we would get into the discussion of the afterlife, I felt the average Christian had lost their brains. Generally speaking, eternity was described as a universe consisting of two places, one, the kingdom of God, and the other, hell. All of mankind would spend eternity in one of these two places. Something on this side of the grave would seal our eternal state forever.
There was very little discussion as what we would do in the kingdom, but the important thing is that we would be with Jesus and Mary (Catholics) and we would have a big mansion and the streets would be made of gold. We would cry "Holy, Holy, Holy" a good part of the time.
While there was little information on heaven, there was much information about what went on in hell. Dr. Trapp, an infernal poet of the past wrote:
"Meanwhile, as if but light were all these pains, legions of devils, bound themselves, in chains, tormented, and tormentors, o'er them shake thongs, and forked iron, in the burning lake: Belching infernal frames, and wreathed with spires of curling serpents rouse the brimstone fires, with whips of fiery scorpions, scourge their slaves, and in their faces dash the livid waves.".
On the prose side we will select the famous Bishop Jeremy Taylor who will most gladly give us the most descriptive details of this favorite subject:
The smell shall also be tormented with the most pestilential stink. Horrible was that torment used by Mezentius, to tie a living body to a dead, and then to leave them until the infection and putrefied exhalations of the dead had killed the living. What can be more abominable than for a living man to have his mouth laid close to that of a dead one, full of grubs and worms, where the living must receive all those pestilential vapors breathed forth from a corrupt carcass, and suffer such loathsomeness and abominable stink? But what is this in respect to hell, when each body of the damned is more loathsome and unsavory than a million of the dead dogs, and all these pressed and crowded together in so strait a compass? Bonaventure goes so far as to say that if only one of the damned were brought into this world, it were sufficient to infect the whole earth. Neither shall the devils send forth a better smell . . . Hell is the world's stink, and the receptacle of all the filth in this great frame, and withall a deep dungeon where the air hath no access. How great must the stink and infection needs be of so many corruptions heaped one upon another!"
The above quoted preacher goes on in much greater length in his exquisite details of the fate of the wicked. Isn't it strange that this preacher can label what Mezentius did as "abominable" and yet have God do things far more "abominable" and call them "just?" He fails to tell us that many of our relatives and friends will be in this condition.
The odds are very likely that some, maybe even all of our children are in hell. A Catholic theologian gives some hope for our little ones. In A Catholic Book for Children we read:
"The fifth dungeon is a red-hot oven in which is a little child. Hear how it screams to come out! See how it turns and twists itself about in the fire! It beats its head against the roof of the oven. It stamps its little feet on the floor on the oven. To this child God was very good. Very likely God saw that this child would get worse and worse, and would never repent, and so it would have to be punished much worse in Hell. So God, in his mercy, called it out of the world in its early childhood."
Here we have the height of God's mercy and power. He was unable to make a little child to repent. Love couldn't do the trick. So His brilliant solution to the problem is an eternal oven, hot enough to roast a child real good, but not quite as bad as what is in store for those who God does not kill in their childhood. Those He lets mature are in for the full treatment. Can you begin to see how the "dark ages" were formed by Roman Catholic theologians? Imagine being indoctrinated with this kind of philosophy from childhood!
Let us begin the journey the Christian must travel to get to the Eternal City. Since Rome has also been named the Eternal City by the church, I must clarify; I am talking about the heavenly one.
The Eternal City, according to orthodox theologians, consists of a grand city with high walls and golden streets. At the center of this city is a church building called the Temple in which God lives. Only a small percentage of the souls God created will be worthy of living in this city. Depending upon whether one holds the Calvinistic position of predestination or the Arminian position of free-will, entrance into the city is either fore-ordained from the foundation of the earth, or one has to chose to enter. Those who hold the free-will position have created tens of thousands of complicated strings and small print attachments to the so-called "free gift of eternal life" through the exercise of "free-will." That is why there are literally thousands of different denominations. Each has a different package deal of how to enter the city. The Calvinists make it simple. You don't have a choice. It's a done deal. God decided who the innies and the outies were before the game started. How this lines up with God's justice and Scriptures such as God not being a respecter of persons is a great mystery. Calvinists write books with hundreds of pages of small print trying to explain these contradictions. I have read some of them. After reading a few pages one falls asleep from seeing long sentences full of empty 20 letter words. After reading one of these books, I tried to capture the main content of the book in a handful of thoughts. In attempting to do that, I realized the author had said absolutely nothing! Vanity! Emptiness!
Mankind goes through thousands of years of experience here on earth and its ultimate fate is a forked road leading to paradise or endless misery. To the Calvinist, the experience here on earth is worthless, his lot was fixed before the game started; to the Arminianist, life becomes an Indian race of life. Perhaps you have seen one of the old cowboy movies in which a white man is captured. They take off his shoes, tell him to run into the wilderness. "Go, here is your chance for freedom!" After a small head start, they send the armed young braves after him to hunt him down and kill him. Or the race between two lines of Indians armed with tomahawks through which one has to run being beaten to death as one tries to make it to the end. Perhaps, some make it. Yes, you have a choice to prepare some kind of strategy of how to run the race, but the decision whether you want to start the race or not is not in your hands. And so the race begins; Satan and his demons beating the hell out of you as you run the race. Since Satan and his demons are invisible, we run this race blindfolded. We are chained to a nature that does not want to win the race, it is totally depraved according to Calvin. As you strive to the end, this nature which is chained to you goes contrary to your plans. "Oh, wretched man, who will deliver me from this body of death!"
Such is said to be the narrow road which leads into the City of God in which is Paradise for those found worthy of such a life or were predestined to it. On both sides of this road, is the wasteland of endless misery described by our poet and preacher. The ordeal through this race leaves little time to reflect or be distracted, but for a fleeting moment the involuntary participant of this race looks into the wasteland of fiery flames and contorted bodies and considers that probably his parents, one of his children, and some of his best friends are in this wasteland. What will life inside this Great City be like knowing the fate of his dear ones outside? One famous Calvinist has said that heaven would not be heaven apart from the exquisite suffering of those outside, therefore, hell must be in viewing distance from heaven.
There are some who do not think as they go through this life. They listen to the prating of mad preachers spewing out madness and run the race. But when one tries to conform the character and attributes of God described in the Bible to the road, race, and goal of life described by hell-fire poets and mad preachers, it will stop them dead in their tracks. Something does indeed smell foul in the universe, but it does not come from the wasteland called "hell" attributed to the Master Builder. The smell comes from the foul mouths of those spewing forth such unthought out nonsense claiming to do it in the name of God. This is where the stench comes from, and the time of the week when the smell is the strongest is on Sunday morning! Oh, hell-fire madmen shut your mouths for there is no mouthwash to cover the wicked odor of your putrefying words! Stop! Think! Reflect! Strike your words against the character and attributes of God and watch your words turn into vanity! I am finding the zeal for God presently consuming me. Let me return to our journey to the kingdom of God.
As we approach the city, we see its gigantic walls, 1500 miles high and 1500 miles wide. The Bible literalists have a difficulty with the dimensions of this city. Most believe it will come down in Israel, but Israel is only about 200 miles long by about 50 miles wide. This city would have to encompass all the old time enemies of Israel. Babylon would also have to be inside its walls. To mix the symbolic images in the book of Revelation with the bizarre understanding of the carnal mind produces utterly grotesque end-time scenarios. That is what christendom has produced . . .gross darkness.
As we near the gates of the city, great fear comes upon us. Think! If one is a Calvinist, entrance into the city has already been predetermined by God. Works will not guarantee entrance. How can anyone be absolutely certain they will be allowed in? The faculties of the soul, intellect and emotions are poor guides into the realm of the spirit. A Calvinist cannot be absolutely certain whether he or she is an innie until the end of time, no matter how hard they try. Picture that poor miserable soul locked up in pride all his religious life, now walking that narrow road toward the gate; billions on each side; some who were close friends, relatives, perhaps his children, crying out for help, but to no avail. These have been assigned this fate from the foundation of the world. And now the Calvinist must go and see if the lot was cast in his favor. The roll of the dice decides his fate. One in thousands, perhaps millions, that you are the elect and your day of reckoning is but a few steps away.
The Arminianist, on the other hand, is trusting in their works and repentance, but each denomination under the Arminian flag has a different set of works that makes one qualified for entrance. How can an Arminianist know they were in the right Arminian camp, whether they have enough good works to their credit to get in? Perhaps just one bad work such as pride may wipe out all their good works. Ultimately, an Arminianist (Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants) cannot be certain that they have entrance into the beloved City. As they walk this lonely walk on this narrow road, seeing billions upon billions of human beings on each side in the most horrible of conditions, they must begin to realize they are not much more righteous than those who are in the flames. As they walk past their loved ones, neighbors who were much more Christ-like than themselves, pastors and reverends from their own denominations, they begin to come to the realization that the odds of gaining entrance diminish with each step toward the mighty city.
Enough of this foolishness! I am allowing my mind to wander to the places that a typical Christian will have to come to if they follow their denomination's beliefs to their logical end. Few Christians think through their beliefs. If they did, they would cast off the idiotic teachings of modern eschatology, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. It is all gross darkness because that is all the carnal mind can produce.
When man creates a material object, he takes something in the environment and changes it into something else. A tree becomes a house, oil becomes gasoline, sand becomes glass, clay becomes ceramic tile, etc. He begins with something already in existence and changes its form. That is all man or Satan can ever do. A sculptor may take pride in the statue she "created" but the fact of the matter is she "created" absolutely nothing! She changed the form of a piece of marble or clay.
The True Creator, on the other hand, not only "forms," but also "creates" the object which He will in turn "form." In other words, our Father's process of bringing something to completion is a two-step process, while man's is a one-step process. If we could just get the understanding that He hasn't completed forming it yet, then perhaps we wouldn't come to some of the insane conclusions we come to. We preconclude the end of His forming process by applying the methods man uses instead of seeing that our Father does things quite differently.
When man builds something, he generally creates a lot of waste in the process. That is because his understanding of the materials he is working with is limited. Also, man does not look very far ahead when he builds. He is rarely concerned about the next generation, much less 20 generations in the future. Therefore, he will build to reap benefits for himself without regard to whether his building techniques may cause great problems for generations ahead. He may build a banana business in America and make arrangements with a handful of rich businessmen in South America to get them brought into America at prices which keep the peasants in South America at poverty levels. We may keep this businessman in business because we are more interested in the price of bananas than the quality of life of another human being in South America. Our abilities to build expertly are greatly hampered by our selfishness, ignorance, and inability to see the consequences of our actions to future generations or people around us.
Man builds much more than buildings and roads, that is, physical objects. Man builds institutions, governments, cultural values, economic systems, etc. The end of this kind of building process brings with it far greater consequences than wasted natural resources. The quality of living for entire generations and nations is at stake. When we look back into history, we see the results of man's efforts to show forth his ability to build institutions upon the backs of human beings. I won't carry you back into the thousands of wars brought about by those driven to build kingdoms.
We are as short-sighted in these building projects as we are with the physical building and forming that we do. The Soviet Union has recently discovered the building blocks of their Great Plan were defective and their systems have fallen apart. The West will see its glory fade soon also.
The main problems man runs into when building and forming is his selfishness and shortsightedness. We project these imperfections upon the Creator's abilities. This is where we have greatly missed it, and as a result have prophesied falsely. Since religion has claimed the honor of telling man what will happen in the future, it is religion's fault for misleading mankind as to the ultimate fate of mankind. Religion, including mainstream Christianity has predicted what the end of God's plan will look like based upon man's limitations, and not upon the character and nature of the Creator. If Christianity held all the attributes and nature of our Father as the standard for measuring the outcome of His building project, it would never have come up with the idiotic schemes it has formulated.
As I have said, man, due to his limited knowledge, creates much waste as he builds. As resources are becoming more scarce, he is becoming a better steward of those resources. The lumber industry is a good example. There was a day when one couldn't give sawdust, branches, and bark away. It was thrown out as waste. Today, we make cardboard, paper, chipboard, paper plates, and thousands of other things out of what used to be waste. Almost every industry is becoming more efficient with our natural resources. The wiser we become, the more useful everything around us becomes to us. Items which used to have no value to us will become precious to us because everything the Creator made is good! The most useless material which covers the floors of oceans, fills waste areas we call deserts, can become glass that brings light into our houses while keeping out the cold wind. It allows many whose eyes are failing to see again. Some of it is made into chips which can contain a wealth of knowledge in a computer. The most abundant and seemingly useless material, sand, can, naturally speaking, light up the entire world and potentially store all the written knowledge in the world.
Thought: if sand which is so abundant can become such a precious item to humanity, how much more so can the most imperfect human being become in whom is much more potential than a grain of sand? Mankind has come to find value in sand. Is God so foolish to create billions of human beings only to reject the vast majority of them as worse than worthless? Does He find His own building materials which He Himself created of no other value than to keep them in an eternal incinerator as eternal torment preachers claim, or to uncreate them as annihilationists claim?
The answer will come back from the religionist that not all human beings belong to God. Many are of their father, the devil. Those who speak this kind of nonsense by their own words show they themselves are of their father who is the devil. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, nay, not one. In Adam all have died. There is none that seeks after God. All flesh is as grass. The wisdom of man is foolishness to God, including the wisdom of the religionist who calls his brother a son of the devil while at the same time manifesting the nature of the devil himself as he speaks. Satan is the accuser. That is his nature and that is what his name means. One who spends much time judging his brother, accusing him of sin while being a sinner himself is a son of Satan (which means accuser) bearing the fruit of unrighteousness.
Jesus was accused of being a "son of Satan." His accusers found most of mankind worthless, unfit for the kingdom. They accused Him of blasphemy when He called Himself a Son of God. His response was a quote from Psalm 82:6: "I said, 'you are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.'" Who would deny that He wants us all to pray and how does He tell us to pray? . . . Our Father!! . . .Who can deny that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself?" (2 Cor. 5:19) God calls Himself the "Father of spirits." (Heb. 12:9) Numbers 16:22 says that He is the "God of the spirits of all flesh." Do you have a spirit? Do not all souls belong to God? "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine." (Ezek. 18:4) Have we not all fallen short of the glory of God? There is none righteous. All have sinned and therefore children of darkness, children of rebellion against God and as such children of the devil! In Adam all died. We were conceived in sin and formed in iniquity. None have escaped this fate including aborted children who have not committed moral sin and yet die. Death has been inherited by the single act of Adam and passed on to all flesh no matter how much one cares to deny it. And so because the wages of sin, which are death, were imputed to us apart from personal sin by the act of one man, Adam, doesn't it stand to reason that life will be imparted to all the descendants of Adam through the righteous act of Jesus Christ Who gave His life for the sin of the whole world? Oh, children of darkness wake up from your death sleep! Why do you choose to cling to your dark theologies which make Adam's fall of greater consequence than the promise that Christ left us that He would draw all mankind unto Himself because of His righteous deed on the Tree of Crucifixion?
Jesus Christ went into the clay pit of Adam and bought the whole lot, the whole field, and He will use it all to the glory of God the Father. Death before life, darkness before light, creating the material before shaping it. This is the pattern. God is still making His new man. Don't judge His New Creation Man until He is finished! For those who have eyes, the Bible is full of glimmers of brightness that make our hope broaden with joy.
The carnal religious man wearies himself on his journey on this narrow trail across his wide eternal barbecue pit. The flames leap up, ready to consume him at any moment. Only his determined faith keeps him from being consumed with the rest of mankind. His goal is to get inside those walls of eternal safety. He never stops long enough to think about the fact that the God inside that city is the One Who he claims made this vast inferno filled with His own creation, the works of His own hands. This God has created a dump outside His city which would make the dumps of New York City look like Paradise! You see, here again is another example that these dark pictures of the Creator and His Creation come from the carnal mind which makes God in its own image. Man has created the huge landfills; man has polluted the rivers and oceans; and man has projected his poor management skills upon His own Creator.
Look at the major cities of the world. Even the third world countries, as one approaches the capitol, where the political leaders, businessmen, and religious leaders do their business, we find them ever busy making their buildings large, magnificent and clean. Go to the richest country in the world, the United States, which has been heralded as the Christian country which has been responsible to deliver the "gospel" to the nations, the country with the so-called "Manifest Destiny." Look at the center of the city of Washington D.C.. Beautiful, massive buildings built after the architecture of Rome and Greece. Beautiful memorials, parks, lawns, libraries, museums, shops, and police, lots of police. Why all the police? Because one block away from all this beauty is filth, disease, dilapidated buildings, rats, crime, hate, and poverty, lots of poverty produced by the people who live in the beautiful, expensive, over-ornate buildings housing the religious, political, and economic leaders of the country. Is God like the modern political, religious, or business person who has to hire thousands of police, build complicated security systems and iron fences to keep their own citizens from harming them? Does God need to build a wall 1500 miles high to keep His enemies who He says He loves, out? Again, is it not clear that man, especially religious man, even more so, Christian religious man, has made an image of God in the image of fallen man, who has a mind filled with dense darkness?
The church is by far the richest institution on the face of the earth. The American church alone owns over a trillion dollars of stocks, bonds, and real estate. Do you know where much of this property owned by the church is located? In the cities! Due to their non-profit status, city governments lose their tax base on non-profits. In some American Cities, the church owns the majority of the land. It seems Christians are very poor stewards of the things God has entrusted to them. But the church has pushed the blame onto God or the "world system." It seems rather strange that American cities are in such bad shape in light of the fact that churches own so much of their properties. Not only do churches own much of the non-profit land, they own much of the profit-making land as well, and enjoy tax advantages on this land as well. One day, the Creator will expose the lies that have been perpetuated by a greedy church with greedy members. When the rich whore is revealed, many will be shocked. Sodom will sit in judgment against the church. It will probably be more interesting to follow than the O.J. Simpson trial.
Until Christians see men as lively stones, trees of righteousness, vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor (less honorable than some others), until we see that all that God makes is good and for His good pleasure, until we see that He is sovereign over all His works and nothing can stay His hand, until we understand that in His foreknowledge He has prepared nothing to be wasted or thrown into a dump. Until we see by His Spirit instead of our religious dark minds- we will stumble over the Chief Cornerstone while claiming we see. But you, you to whom I am presently writing, you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people . . .proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light . . .you who were once not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (2 Peter 2:9,10) Let your praises be loud enough to drown out the ravings and pratings of religious dogs who cannot give glory to our Father. Let your light so shine that even though the religious blind cannot yet see, they may feel the heat.