Questioning Your Presuppositions

While truly questioning one’s theological presuppositions is rare among Christians, the real hallmark of a heretic is that he or she is willing to reject the ideas that conflict with reality, regardless of how orthodox said beliefs may happen to be and how much trouble he or she might get into for following the evidence no matter where it leads.

Growing up in the evangelical church, I was trained to believe all sorts of doctrines based on my denomination’s ideas of what the Bible says. We were taught that people who didn’t become Christians before they died would suffer forever in hell. We were taught that having sex is pretty much the worst thing that someone can do unless one met very specific requirements such as being married to the person you were sleeping with and being the opposite genders of each other. We were taught that drinking alcohol is wrong if it isn’t during communion. And we were taught that, every Sunday, people should gather in a building to sing and listen to a presentation by a pastor or elder and then give money to the people running the building.

What most rarely did, however, was ask why we should believe and do (or avoid) these things. If one of us did happen to wonder aloud about any of these doctrines, we were simply told that the Bible teaches these things and we were possibly shown a passage or two of Scripture that seemed, at least on first glance, to support these ideas. What we weren’t shown were any contextual reasons for interpreting the passages the way we were told we should, or given any proof that the English versions of the Bible we were using were translated accurately. And, perhaps most importantly, we were never told why we should consider the Bible to be inerrant, or even the basis of spiritual truth, in the first place.

Most people in the churches I grew up in were happy to take the doctrines they were taught for granted, trusting that their pastors and teachers must know what they’re talking about and believing that their leaders wouldn’t lie to them (even unknowingly). A few of us, however, weren’t content to simply accept “because the Bible says so” as gospel truth. We got right down to the foundations of our faith and questioned the validity of ideas like biblical inerrancy, and even if we accepted that there is truth in Scripture, we didn’t blindly trust that the translators were without bias or error in their English versions. And, after much investigation, we concluded that many of the doctrines we had been taught were actually being read into Scripture based on the presuppositions of our church leaders as opposed to legitimately being interpreted from Scripture without bias.

Of course, coming to theological and spiritual conclusions contrary to those that we’d been taught didn’t make us popular. Despite what you might hear, Christians don’t become heretics to win friends and influence people. Rather, we become heretics because we’re more interested in truth than in dogma. Because if truth is what you’re after, questioning your assumptions is not enough. You’ve got to actually be willing to accept that you might have been lied to and be able to handle the consequences that will inevitably arise when it becomes known that you’re not blindly following the leader anymore.

To those brave few who do make this uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding journey, I congratulate you and wish you godspeed on your travels. To the rest of you, I also wish you well and simply ask that you go easy on those who may not agree with you 100%.

The Christian Religion is a Failure

This might come as a shock to some, but the Christian religion can’t help you. It won’t help you live a better life. It won’t bring you peace of mind. It won’t even help you get to heaven. In fact, odds are it will do just the opposite. Sure, it’s got its benefits (well, depending on where you live anyway). You get to go to meetings at a cool clubhouse every weekend. You get to feel good about how smart you are for choosing this path. And perhaps the most satisfying part is that you get to look down on all those sinners who just refuse to stop enjoying life without at least giving 10% of their earnings to your favourite religious leader.

The problem is, members of the Christian religion are just as likely as those outside their numbers to commit adultery. They’re just as likely to lie. They’re just as likely to steal. They’re just as likely to rape. They abuse their children and spouses just as often as anyone else does (possibly even more frequently), physically, sexually, and particularly emotionally. And don’t even get me started on the internal sins that so many of them seem to be completely shameless about, sins such as pride, greed, envy, anger, gluttony, and the list goes on and on.

While they preach that sex outside of marriage is wrong, just as many Christians have premarital sex as non-Christians, and just as many of them consume porn as everyone else does. Belonging to this religion doesn’t take away one’s sex drive, nor does it change one’s sexual orientation, and people are going to do what they’re going to do, sexually speaking, regardless of what religion they belong to.

Not only does belonging to the Christian religion not change your behaviour, it doesn’t bring peace of mind for more than a brief period of time after one’s conversion experience either. For a little while after joining the church you might feel like your sins have been forgiven and experience confidence that God loves you and will take you to heaven in the Rapture (or at least after you die if Jesus takes too long getting around to returning). You might even be able to abstain from some of the habits that drove you to convert in the first place for a period of time (conversion experiences can give you the strength to change your life for a short amount of time, no matter what it is you converted to). But give it a little while and you’ll realize that you’re sinning just as often as you did before you “got saved.” Guilt will begin to eat away at you, and you’ll wonder, at least off and on, if you’re going to end up in hell after all (or, at the very least, whether God is going to punish you while you’re still alive).

And speaking of hell, you’re either going to drive yourself crazy worrying about the eternal fate of non-believers, not to mention your “unsaved” loved ones, or you’ll become callous and convince yourself that people deserve their fate so you can avoid going insane.

The truth is, people are generally much better off avoiding the Christian religion altogether (and any other religion too, for that matter).

Now you may be asking what it is that I would suggest as an alternative to the Christian religion, and in response I would recommend Christianity. Of course, if you aren’t a regular reader of this site, you might wonder what the difference is. The difference is that Christianity is not a religion. To quote one of my favourite theologians, “Christianity is not a religion, it is the announcement of the end of religion. Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshipping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle of Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever succeed (see the Epistle of Romans). The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection. For Christians, then, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up and forgotten. The church is not in the religion business. It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade. The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical, and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the world the Good News that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.’ It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.” – Robert Farrar Capon. Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus

Those of us who have rejected the Christian religion for Christianity have found a lot more peace than we had before. We’ve stopped trying to avoid sin because we’ve realized that attempting to stop sinning only causes you to sin all the more. We’ve stopped worrying about hell, for ourselves or for anyone else, because we’ve discovered that hell isn’t the ultimate fate for anybody on this planet, at least if the Bible is to be believed. On the contrary, we realize that, even with our imperfections, God accepts us just the way we are. And we’re through with trying to use our will power to live a “godly life” because we know it can’t be done. Instead we find much more peace in trusting that Christ will live the life He wants us to live through us.

God’s Terrible Mistake

On the third day of creation, God made a mistake so extreme that the world still hasn’t fully recovered.

I know, it’s hard to believe, but after two days of creating a whole universe you’d have trouble maintaining perfection too. The physics involved in creating gravity alone would be enough to drive a mere mortal crazy, but God also had to worry about about the math behind photosynthesis and metabolism and cytokinesis, not to mention quasars and globular clusters and black holes. So with all that engineering to keep straight, it’s understandable that he’d slip up and create something he never intended to make it to earth. Perhaps it was just a little side project he’d come up with for heaven that fell into the wrong pile of blueprints, but however it happened, that innocuous looking plant ended up on earth and we’ve had to pay the price ever since.

I’m not talking about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, though one has to wonder what God was thinking there as well. No, I’m talking about a far more heinous plant that has no business existing. I’m talking about marijuana.

This plant, when ingested, causes people to relax and mellow out, and since God likes us to remain in conflict with each other (preferably by invading people in other countries and ostracizing people who believe and act differently from ourselves in our own nations) this plant goes against everything he stands for. It also helps people with chronic illnesses fight pain and nausea, and if God didn’t want these people to suffer he would have created a plant that helps them feel better (oh, right, I’m going to have to rethink that one).

Fortunately for God, he’s got conservative leaders to help clean up his mess. Religious and political conservative leaders, for the most part, realize that God didn’t mean for this plant to grow in God fearing nations, so they do their best to eradicate it completely from the land. Even if it’s growing naturally out in the wilderness where God originally put it, they know that it has to be eliminated.

Of course it’s possible that God didn’t screw up here. Perhaps he realized that people would be tempted to use his creation and that this would help support the burgeoning prison industry in America.

Either way, we need to be ever vigilant to ensure that we avoid this ungodly plant so we can remain edgy and in constant conflict with one another, and we need to continue arresting people who do use or sell it because we don’t have nearly enough people in prison yet. And if we do need to calm down for a little while, there are all sorts of prescription drugs that God does support which we can use to medicate ourselves.

Why We Should Keep the Law Out of the Courtroom

If the Old Testament law was created to get people to sin more rather than less, as Romans chapter 5 appears to tell us it was, then it seems to me that the people who want the 10 Commandments posted in or around court houses and schools are actually encouraging sin rather than discouraging it. Which isn’t the end of the world, I suppose, since where sin abounds, grace overabounds, but it does seem contrary to the whole point of the Christian religion (not that its followers are known for their consistency).

The 10 Commandments are only 1.6% of the whole Old Testament law, by the way, and if you choose to obey one part of the law you’re then obligated to obey the whole thing, or so Galatians chapter 5 appears to teach.

Since those of us under grace no longer need the law, I’m quite happy to leave it behind the way I did my school teachers when I graduated. It served its purpose at one time, but to try to keep the 613 Mosaic rules now would be just as silly as following the rules of the classroom now that I’m no longer in school. I’m past the need to raise my hand when I want to speak, and I’m past the need to avoid bacon when I want to please God. Sure, some things just make sense to avoid, such as killing people or pushing people on the playground, but that’s because they’re not nice things to do (and might land you in prison), not because God is going to get you for doing so.

Moderate Religion is Still Religion

While it’s obvious to most of us that religious fundamentalism and extremism are clearly harmful, many of us tend to overlook the fact that moderate religion will destroy your soul just as easily (be it a moderate form of the Muslim religion, a moderate form of the Christian religion, or any other moderate form of religion). When it comes right down to it, religion is spiritual slavery, and the danger of “moderate religion” is that its followers don’t even realize that their minds have been taken captive. What’s particularly sad is, not only do most of those ensnared by religion not realize their status as prisoners, they actually fear freedom so much that they would willingly put their chains right back on if they were set free. As the apostle Paul told the Galatians, it is for freedom that you have been set free, so don’t allow anyone to bewitch you back into bondage. No matter how comforting their religious chains might appear, they are ultimately still chains and they are not meant for those of us who have been set free.

And for those of you who are still trapped by religion, the good news is that not only have the chains all already been unlocked, you can walk away from them at any time. Yes, you might be persecuted by your ex-fellow inmates as an infidel or heretic for daring to embrace true freedom, but freedom is a far better thing than slavery any day.

The Evangelical Abortion Inconcistency

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know by now that one of the most consistent traits of traditionalist Christians is that they’re not very consistent in their theological thinking. This is possibly no more obvious than in their views on the subject of abortion. Most evangelicals I know of, for instance, are extremely anti-abortion, and yet when I consider the issue I would think that they should be the most pro-abortion group of people out there.

Why?

Well, most evangelicals, aside from certain Calvinists, believe in a doctrine called “the age of accountability.” A child reaches the age of accountability when they are old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong and can be held accountable for their sins. Up until they reach this age, children who die apparently go to heaven (or so the doctrine goes) because they’re too young to understand the consequences of, and hence be held responsible for, their actions. However, once someone reaches this age (which supposedly varies from individual to individual) they will end up in hell forever if they happen to pass away without first becoming a Christian.

Now I’d estimate that 90% or more of the human population will go to hell forever, at least according to the traditional view that this is the fate of non-Christians who die in their sins, so if everlasting torment in hell for non-believers past the age of accountability is true then perhaps abortionists should be considered the greatest missionaries there are since they’d probably be responsible for helping more souls avoid hell than all of the missionaries alive today combined. Not only that, shouldn’t those traditionalists who have babies be thought of as the greatest monsters there are, seeing as they’re willing to risk the eternal souls of their offspring simply to satisfy a desire (either for children, or simply for sex for those who believe that birth control is wrong)? Since there is a greater than 90% chance that your child will end up in hell if they reach the age of accountability (depending on where and when you happen to live the odds might vary, but they’re still pretty grim), wouldn’t you be much better off killing them before they get that old? If you believe in everlasting hell for those past this age then would not someone like Andrea Yates, who killed her children so they would be sure to avoid such a terrible eternal outcome, be one of the best examples of good motherhood we have? Sure, it might be a sin to commit murder, but sins can always be forgiven while you’re still alive and her children are now guaranteed a place in heaven (or so the logic should go if traditionalists are correct).

If a parent allowed their child to participate in any activity where their kid has a 90% or greater chance of dying, or even just getting seriously injured, one would (rightly) consider that parent to be negligent and report that parent to the child protective agencies, and yet how many Christian parents are willing to gamble their children’s soul with a fate far worse, and far longer, than simple death or injury?

No matter how horrible this might sound to you, I challenge you to show me where I’m wrong. I’ve made this challenge before and have yet to have anyone correct my logic, and I don’t expect to have it happen anytime soon either.


Just for the record, since I’m a Christian Universalist I obviously don’t believe that anyone ends up in hell for eternity so I am not promoting murder here, nor is this a post in favour of, or against, abortion. This post is simply to challenge yet another inconsistency in traditionalist Christian ideology.

Theology is Theory

No matter what theological conclusions you might have come to over your lifetime, one of the most important factors to remember is that theology is just theory. Whether you believe in biblical literalism and inerrancy or a more figurative method of interpreting Scripture, whether you lean towards a pre-trib/pre-mil rapture or towards an amillennial eschatology, whether you think that God is a triune set of persons or think that He is actually just one being manifesting in different forms, and even whether you are convinced that non-believers will suffer forever in hell or are sure that everyone will eventually make it to heaven, we all have to realize that any of us could be wrong about any of these subjects because in the end there’s no way to know with absolute certainty that what we believe is true.

Even if an angel or a being claiming to be God appeared before you telling you that “this particular doctrine is absolutely true,” you can’t know that this entity is being entirely truthful, and even if said being wasn’t lying, you very well might be confused about what it was that you were told actually meant.

It might sound like I’m calling for agnosticism here, and you’d be absolutely right, except that you might be confused here as well because agnosticism is not necessarily what you think it is. To be agnostic doesn’t mean that one has to reject all forms of spiritual belief. Rather, to be agnostic about theological claims can simply mean that one is humble enough to admit that one can’t know things for certain that can’t be proven and recognizing that one might actually be wrong about their metaphysical ideas.

So embrace your faith, but have the humility of the agnostic. Proclaim your doctrinal views, but do so with the understanding that you might have it all wrong and may one day have to admit to everyone that you no longer believe as you once did. I’ve had to do this more than a few times in my life and it’s taught me to be much more careful about just how dogmatic I am when discussing what is ultimately nothing more than theory.

Smoke and Mirrors

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last little while, it’s that very little is actually what it seems. Often something that seems like a random detail is actually there to distract us from something bigger (or something huge will be staged to create support for something that people would otherwise protest). Of course everyone knows that this happens all the time in politics, but I believe that it happens just as much so in religion (actually the political and religious illusions often seem to distract us from the same things, just using their own unique methods). There are various sorts of distractions in religion. One major type is “true doctrine,” beliefs that aren’t allowed to be questioned. Of course they are questioned, and debates occur and new denominations are formed (and heretics are persecuted in various ways). Meanwhile, in all the fighting for doctrinal purity, people miss out on what is really real and actually happening and not bothering to help change the things in the world that need changing.

Along the same lines, religious leaders (and certain scriptures) will often teach conflicting and contradictory beliefs (and often absurd stories and doctrines that logically can’t be true) and insist that we must believe all of them. This creates cognitive dissonance in a religion’s followers and induces compliance in them. Deep down they realize that what they have been told doesn’t seem to make sense, but they trust that their leaders (or the writers of their scriptures) must know what they are talking about and decide that if these things don’t make perfect sense then they must not be smart enough to think for themselves and that they’d better just continue blindly doing and believing what they’ve been told.

Another type of religious distraction is “morality.” Religious people are led to believe that God actually cares about things like what sorts of clothing you’re wearing or what you’re eating or drinking or whether certain synonyms come out of your mouth or whether you’ve watched a certain TV show or movie or read a certain book or had sex with a certain person or seen images of someone without clothing or whether you’re working on a particular day of the week or whether you’ve attended a particular religious service or participated in a particular religious practice, to name just a few of the many hundreds of examples I could give. Religious “morality” is particularly insidious because it causes those who live (or try to live) “moral” lives to think that they’re actually doing a good thing while keeping them distracted from what really matters.

Ultimately, religion is one of the biggest smoke and mirror games played by the powers that be (human or otherwise). It keeps people so distracted from reality that they end up thinking harmless things are evil and harmful actions are good. It asks people to persecute heretics, apostates and other infidels in the name of their religion or deity (sometimes just in small ways like marginalizing them, but all too often with more violent methods as well), and to ignore (and sometimes even look down upon) those who are hurting and need assistance. I don’t believe that any deity who was actually good would ask these things of us. Instead, I believe that any religion asking us to take these illusions seriously is a lie and should be carefully avoided.

Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits

I have had people of various religions and denominations try to convince me that their set of doctrines are the truth and that if I don’t follow their particular philosophy then I will come to a bad end (or at least not as good an end as I could). With so many different ideologies competing for my allegiance I had to find a way to determine which of them (if any) were likely to be true. Even just within the faith I grew up in, Christianity, there were too many contradictory sets of belief that I was being asked to affirm, nearly all of which could be defended from the Bible. When nearly every competing Christian claim is able to be backed by the Bible it makes it very difficult to know which to accept so in the end I decided that I’d judge a doctrine or practice by its fruit. What does this mean? It means that I look at what believing or practicing a particular theological belief or practice tends to lead to in its followers. When a religious belief causes people outside of that particular orthodoxy to be belittled, insulted, ostracized, persecuted, fired, censored, expelled from their homes and hometowns, beaten, robbed, imprisoned, tortured, raped, or even killed in the name of that religion (all things that do happen with the approval of certain religious leaders and teachings) it makes it pretty easy to determine that this particular viewpoint isn’t at all positive and should be avoided. Also, if a religious group doesn’t allow people inside that particular orthodoxy to think for themselves, but rather insists that they let their religious leaders determine what is true for them, I know that something is fishy and that I should probably not have much to do with that particular group. If openly questioning (or even disagreeing with) a particular doctrine will get a member of a religious group in trouble then I know that this group is probably not to be trusted. And if a particular denomination insists (or even just asks) that someone do physical harm to them self or somebody else, be it some form of bodily mutilation or even suicide, run as far away from them as possible and never look back.

When it comes down to it, there are two sets of fruit that a theological paradigm tends to lead to. The first is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. The second is fear, selfishness, peer pressure, intolerance, hostility, anti-intellectualism, arrogance, hypocrisy, and guilt. If a doctrine or practice can be demonstrated to lead to the former then it sounds like something that should be embraced. If it has been shown to lead to the latter then I would think that it should be avoided if at all possible.

We Are All Innocent

Those who know me well know that I don’t believe in free will, or at least that I think it’s the biggest misnomer there is, philosophically and theologically speaking. Every person alive is a victim of their genetics and past experiences. In other words, every choice we make is predetermined by our nurture and nature. Why do you favour your right hand when I favour my left? Something in our genes or some factor in our personal development decided that for us. Why do you choose lobster while I choose steak? Because, again, some part of our DNA gives us different taste preferences, and another part, along with other life experiences, causes us to order the food we prefer (or to order the food we don’t prefer if some other gene and/or past encounter is causing us to want to try something different at that particular moment).

This lack of belief in free will is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in grace. None of us chose to be born (so far as we know) and none of us asked for the genes that shaped us or the life events that made us who we are. Even the Bible agrees that “the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it in hope, that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (This is why I lean towards a Universalist form of Calvinism, by the way.)

In the end, whatever the causes of our choices and suffering may be, I take comfort in the fact that, as Our Lady Peace put it, We Are All Innocent (in a manner of speaking, anyway), and that perhaps this means God will help help us all out in the long run.