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 Mosaic law was created to get people to sin more rather than less, as Romans chapter 5 tells 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 1.63% of the whole Mosaic 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 teaches.

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.


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 this means God will help help us all out in the long run.

Dialogue With an Evangelical

The following is a dialogue between myself and “Bob,” an Evangelical Christian, about the subject of hell:

Bob: Hi, I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.

Me: Sure, why not? What’s up?

Bob: If you were to die today, do you know for sure where you’d end up?

Me: Creepy question, but okay. I’d probably end up in a coffin or an urn.

Bob: What I meant was, do you think you’d end up in heaven or in hell?

Me: I’d have to say heaven.

Bob: That’s good to hear. Does that mean you’ve accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour?

Me: I have, and I also do all sorts of good works.

Bob: But don’t you know that salvation is by grace through faith, and not of works?

Me: Of course, Ephesians 2:8 and 9.

Bob: Then how can you believe that you’re going to heaven based on your good works?

Me: When I read about the subject in the Gospels, I notice that Jesus seemed to teach that there are a few reasons one goes to hell, as well as a few ways to avoid going there. The Bible says He taught that those who were rich and those who said that the work of the Holy Spirit is actually the work of the devil and those who didn’t help the helpless and those who didn’t amputate body parts that offended them were the ones who had to worry about going there. He also seemed to tell us that the way to escape this fate is to feed the hungry, to give something to drink to the thirsty, to invite strangers into your home, to give clothing to those who need it, to take care of the sick, to visit those in prison, to cut off body parts that offend you, to be poor rather than rich, and to never say that the work of the Holy Spirit is actually of the devil. Avoid those things, and Jesus tells us we’ll avoid going to hell and instead we’ll go to heaven, at least based on a literal interpretation of Scripture.

Bob: Yes, it does seem that Jesus taught those things, at least if we take them at face value without properly interpreting them. Since the apostle Paul taught us that salvation is not by works, but is by faith, then obviously Jesus didn’t mean for us to interpret those things literally.

Me: So you’re saying that He meant for us to interpret those passages figuratively, then?

Bob: We’d have to, in light of what Paul said.

Me: Okay, fair enough, the passages are figurative. I assume you’re going to be consistent and interpret the whole of the passages figuratively, right?

Bob: What do you mean?

Me: Well, if we’re going to interpret the passages figuratively, to be consistent we’d have to say that the “everlasting punishment in hell” part is meant to be figurative as well, right?

Bob: Well, um…

Me: Because there’s nothing in those passages that gives us any reason to believe that Jesus suddenly went from figurative speech to literal speech when He went from talking about how to escape from the punishment to talking about what the actual punishment itself is, right?

Bob: I don’t know. Are you saying that hell isn’t real?

Me: I’m just saying that, to be consistent, one can’t just choose to interpret half of a Bible verse figuratively and the other half literally for no good reason. Wouldn’t you agree?

Bob: Technically, yes… but Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven, so it must be real.

Me: First of all, I never said hell wasn’t real. Secondly, Jesus is recorded as having spoken about everlasting torment in hell a grand total of three times, according to my concordance. That’s many, many times less than He’s recorded speaking about heaven. Thirdly, that has nothing whatsoever to do with what we’re talking about, which is being consistent in our interpretations of Scripture.

Bob: Okay, then what about Ephesians 2:8 and 9? You agreed that it says that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works.

Me: I did, which means that salvation and escaping from hell must be two completely different things if we’re going to remain consistent in our interpretations, at least according to the traditional methods of interpretation.

Bob: But that doesn’t make any sense. Everyone knows that salvation is about escaping hell and going to heaven.

Me: Do they now? Whether that’s true or not, how do you explain the fact that it would be inconsistent to interpret it that way?

Bob: I don’t know. I just know that this is what I was taught. Are you saying that my pastor is wrong?

Me: Are you saying that your pastor is incapable of being wrong?

Bob: Well, no. But that’s what Christians have always believed. Isn’t it?

Me: Actually, no. Many Christians have had a completely different take on heaven and hell than what you’ve been taught, from today going all the way back to the early church.

Bob: Really? Like what?

Me: These Christians believe that the passages talking about how to avoid everlasting torment in hell are indeed meant to be taken figuratively, but they remain consistent and interpret the whole passage figuratively, not just the first half. They believe that judgement in hell is not everlasting, but is only temporary, and that eventually everyone will end up in heaven.

Bob: You’re talking about Universalism. We know that can’t be true since the Bible teaches that hell is eternal.

Me: Only if one is inconsistent in their interpretation of the three places Jesus spoke about “everlasting torment in hell,” which we just covered.

Bob: But that would mean that everybody gets the same reward. That means that all the good works I do, and all the sin I avoid, is for nothing, because someone who lives a life full of sin is going to heaven anyway. What was the point of all my good works?

Me: Good question, you tell me. Didn’t you just try to tell me that salvation isn’t based on good works?

Bob: Well, yeah, I guess. But still, what’s the point of living a good life if you’ll just go to heaven anyway?

Me: Because living a good life is its own reward, perhaps? Certainly not so you’ll go to heaven, since salvation isn’t by works, right?

Bob: I suppose. But these people didn’t choose Christ, so why should they get to go to heaven?

Me: When you quoted Ephesians to me earlier, you left out a vital part of the passage. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Our faith in Christ is not of ourselves, it is entirely of God. We don’t choose to have faith in Christ, God chooses for us by giving us the faith.

Bob: You’re talking about predestination.

Me: Sure.

Bob: Okay, but whether they choose it for themselves or are elected by God, the Bible still tells us that only those who have the faith are saved.

Me: Actually, no, it doesn’t. It tells us that God is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe. It doesn’t say “particularly those who believe,” or “only those who believe,” it says especially. If a teacher were to say at the end of the school year, “everybody passed this year, especially Lisa who got an A+,” we’d know that while nobody else got an A+, they still passed, since “especially” doesn’t mean “only.” To try to say this passage doesn’t teach that everyone gets saved is reading one’s own doctrinal bias into the passage, particularly since there’s no good, biblical reason to believe otherwise, as we’ve already covered.

Bob: Okay, but what about the Lake of Fire?

Me: What about it? We know that it isn’t hell, since the book of Revelation tells us that hell will be emptied and then cast into the Lake of Fire itself (hell, that is, not the people in it).

Bob: But aren’t people whose names aren’t written in the book of life thrown in there as well?

Me: Revelation does say that, yes, but you’ll notice that it doesn’t say that they’ll be in there forever. Neither does it say how one’s name gets put in the book of life. In fact it doesn’t even say that anyone’s name won’t be written in the book of life, just that if someone’s name isn’t in there they’ll be cast into the Lake of Fire for an unspecified length of time. Add all that to the fact that Revelation is entirely figurative up until this point, and, just like Jesus’ warnings about hell, there’s no reason to assume that this passage is suddenly meant to be interpreted literally after 20 chapters of symbolism either.

Bob: Hmmm. What about the other passages that warn about hell?

Me: Which ones? We’ve already covered every warning in Scripture about “everlasting torment in hell.” There are other warnings about everlasting destruction and things like that, but we’d have to read these passages figuratively to read them as referring to everlasting torment in hell since they don’t literally say that, they say things like “destruction.”

Bob: Interesting. Do you have any more information on this subject? I obviously need to do some more research on the subject.

Me: Definitely. Check out my website at www.ChristianHeretic.com where you’ll find writings by all sorts of Christian Universalists over the last two centuries or so.

Bob: Thanks. Can I follow up with you if I have any more questions?

Me: Of course.

Bob: Thanks.

The preceding was a combination of discussions I’ve had online and offline with various different Evangelical Christians. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Theological Evolution

While I’ve been a Christian Universalist for about seven or eight years now, there was a time when I believed very strongly that non-Christians would spend eternity in hell (and did lots of street preaching to try to prevent as many people as I could from experiencing this fate). After being introduced to the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, and after much study and soul searching, I had to admit that I was probably wrong about my belief in everlasting torment and changed my mind.

Likewise, if you were to ask me for my views on any number of other theological and philosophical issues, you’d find that my beliefs have changed in many different ways from year to year. Some people have seen this as a negative thing and criticized my theological fluidity from time to time, but, as I recently said in a post on another blog, “my opinion is that if your theological views aren’t at least slightly different from year to year then you’re not to be trusted since it shows lack of growth. There’s no way that your beliefs (I’m speaking to everyone here) are so spot-on correct that you have no need to adjust them, or even completely reject them, every so often.”