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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

An essay about religious beliefs by Larry Langston

No one really knows!


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Coordinator's note:

The following essay is probably going to be considered controversial, particularly among conservative Christians. We invite you to write a rebuttal and submitting it to us for consideration as a potential visitor essay.


No one really knows:

Religion is a subject that both fascinates and intrigues me. Supposedly we are here in this life for a very short time, relatively speaking, from which our eternal destiny is determined. If such is the case, this issue then is the only matter of any real importance and that importance is of such magnitude that all else pales in comparison.

Yet we are left without definitive, unambiguous instructions from God as to how to live this life to assure just what that destiny is. Now, I know, any Christian who reads this is jumping up and down to point out that the Bible is God’s word and is very clear on the subject. Yet the statement is preposterous when you recognize the amount of diversity within the religion. It seems rather obvious to me that if God had intended to give His “word” to man He would have made it clear and unambiguous and would have made it equally available to all mankind rather than to a select few with reliance on them to disperse it to the remaining majority, especially when the myriad of groups dispersing it cannot agree on what it says. It seems to me that this idea of evangelism or ‘spreading the word’ is in contradiction of the belief itself. It implies that the salvation of the lost is the responsibility of the saved to ‘let them know’. It seems to remove the responsibility of knowing God’s will from God and place it upon His chosen. It suggests that many people are lost because the ‘saved’ can’t or don’t for whatever reasons make all the rounds. Where is love or fairness in this proposition? Many try to explain it by saying, “well, those that do not know will be judged on the basis of what they do know”. This makes absolutely no sense and is in direct contradiction to the crux of the belief that says there can be no salvation without accepting Christ and His shed blood. Furthermore, it makes a mockery of the sacrifice of Jesus. If some could be saved by ‘what they know’ then all could be and the great sacrifice of Jesus was completely without need or purpose.

Also, the idea of God having favorites or a favorite nation, race or group is ridiculous when you think about it. On the one hand we believe that God is completely fair and that each new created human is equal and has an equal chance or opportunity to find salvation. I trust that you will agree that love and fairness would demand such. Yet Christianity believes that they are now God’s chosen as the Jews were in Old Testament times. But if we were to take a world globe and color in the ‘saved’ say in blue and all the ‘lost’ in red we would find that the saved and lost were pretty much geographically separate or clustered by culture. There are some exceptions, of course, but the end result would be mostly large areas of red and other large areas of blue. Now, if each created human had equal opportunity you would have equal disbursement of tiny dots of blue and red all over the globe so that any distinction of groups would be impossible to detect. This point simply reflects the errancy of the idea that each individual has equal opportunity for salvation and consequently, the errancy of Christianity.

Dear Christians, this essay will demonstrate, by way of simple reasoning, that the Bible or Christianity is not at all what God is about and neither can possibly be true. Do not be disheartened, the real ‘good news’ is that God really is love and is much greater and more glorious than those sources portray. Someone asked me, “OK, but what’s your point here”? My point is that I believe that although everyone is very sincere they are not thinking deeper than the surface of their indoctrinated views. They asked, “well then, what’s your idea as to how to know the truth?” To me the answer is obvious, we learn truth about God the same way we learn anything else, by intense observation, study and objective thinking, along with using our God given reasoning, deduction and logic. The way we should not make such determination is by simply following our childhood teachings or the crowd without the application of much deeper contemplation, questioning and reasoning. Unfortunately, almost everyone on the planet does precisely the latter. Either their upbringing or some other event or experiences trigger some initial attention and they let that superficial conviction gain momentum and have complete dominance of their thinking from then on. As a consequence we have a multiplicity of beliefs and religions each convinced that they are God’s chosen and are responsible for defending God’s position with a resulting world of conflict and confusion.

My point then, is to attempt to challenge or provoke people to put their beliefs to the test of ‘reason’. We have little chance of awakening to a greater realization as long as we are trapped in the ‘blind leading the blind’ crowd. If people were to come to realize that their religion is based on little more than ancient mythology with a little authentic history mixed in here and there, that God really is love, that He is not interested in punishing anyone, that He has no favorites, that we really are equals, that we actually are objects of His love without condition, and that the real purpose of this life is to awaken to a much greater realization of who and what we really are, we would have a much different world.

I had a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door a few days ago and we got into quite an interesting discussion on the subject of ‘God’s Word’. They had their Bibles out and were busy pointing out the selected passages of scripture that “proved” their points. I said, “you know, people have all kinds of ideas about what it takes to please God because almost no two people can agree on what that book you are quoting says”. They quickly responded that the Bible interprets itself and that the reason for the differences was because all these other people were trying to make it say what they want it to and were thusly misinterpreting it. And I think that pretty well sums up the situation. Their belief was based on whatever had attracted them to that particular sect and then was ingrained by constant reinforcement. We are clearly subjects of our conditioning. The Muslims believe Islam because they were born and raised in that culture and the same goes for the Christian or Jew. Each believe that it is they who are God’s chosen and the rest are hell bound. I read a quote the other day I found amusing. “Everyone is going to hell according someone’s religion”.

But I wish to concentrate here on Christianity because that is the religion I am most familiar with. However, I believe that the principles of contradiction examined here apply equally to Judaism and Islam and expose the inerrancy of those religions as well. I was raised a Southern Baptist and was as devout as any and served as a Deacon for many years. Eventually, my reasoning caused me look elsewhere for truth because I just could not make sense of it from any logical standpoint.

My Christian friends, of course, are quick to point out that they know the truth and they point to those scholars who have studied the historical evidence and come to that conclusion as well as other evidence some of which I will admit is at least somewhat compelling and certainly deserves contemplation and sincere consideration. The thing that for me makes the belief completely implausible and impossible to accept is the outright contradiction at the very foundation of the belief. That being that God is love and is rejecting most of His creation and submitting them to eternal separation and suffering. Many try to exonerate God of this outright cruelty by suggesting that it isn’t God sending anyone to hell but each person chooses whether to obey and serve God or to be eternally separated from Him. First of all, no one chooses to go to hell or to be separated from God. They may very well not accept the Christian viewpoint because they simply do not believe it to be true but they are not actually rejecting God or refusing Him and they certainly are not making a conscious choice of going to hell or being separated from their creator. Secondly, it is God who created all and who established the parameters of right and wrong and reward and punishment. So, if anyone goes to hell it definitely is God sending them there. Thirdly, the Bible clearly says that hell is the punishment for the wicked implying that it is not so much people choosing hell but punishment for disobedience apparently without consideration for their disposition, conditioning or whether or not they are sincerely worshipping God but from a non-Christian perspective. Disobedience is cited as not believing the Christian view regardless of ones upbringing or inherited tendencies in accepting whatever belief they have become convinced of. Fourthly, and most conclusively, the idea that people are choosing hell is shot down by simply observing the ways and beliefs of other religions who obviously have not met the conditions of salvation according to Christianity. Let’s take the devout Muslim or Jew for example. These are people who are just as dedicated, sincere and earnest as the devout Christian. They are dedicating their entire lives in the service, worship, devotion and adoration of God. The Christian has absolutely no difficulty in seeing these people as all hell bound. Where is love or fairness in such a belief? These people are doing exactly the same thing as the Christian, worshiping God in the way their culture has convinced them God has intended. They are not refusing God or choosing against Him so what is the justification for sending them to hell? How clear can it be for Pete’s sake????

Most Christians believe that God is omniscient which would imply that God knows in advance those headed for hell. If God knew at the outset of creation that the majority of the sentient humans with all their emotions, feelings and ability to suffer pain and discomfort were going to suffer horribly forever He certainly does not meet my concept of love. The belief would have us accept that God creates a human and places him on earth under the influence of an agent more powerful and cunning then the human and lets the Devil have his way with him. Even if God did not know in advance that most of mankind would fail to meet His requirement He can see every day how Satan is absolutely beating the pants off Him in winning the millions of souls that God is creating each hour. If this is what God is about He is creating more pain and horrible suffering every second than Hitler did in his entire life. Christians should be crying out to God to stop it, because He is creating much more suffering then He is happiness and bliss. The enormous implications of that last sentence as to the nature of God bears repeating. According to Christianity, God is creating much more grief, suffering and pain then He is happiness and bliss.

If God knows in advance those going to hell what could possibly be the point in creating them. It could only imply a masochist or despotic God who enjoyed creating suffering. There is no way that love could possibly conceive such a horrible plan of creation. Christianity has actually turned God into a tyrant who demands His creatures to love and worship Him or be cast into eternal punishment. The Bible portrays old King Nebuchadnezzar as a an awful tyrant who demanded all of his kingdom to fall down and worship him or to be cast into the fiery furnace. Sound familiar? It is common for the tyrant or autocrat to employ fear and terror to force people to become followers and compliant to their merciless demands. Do we not see evangelism employing similar tactics when they try to scare people into the faith as they wave their Bibles and proclaim, “save yourselves from the coming wrath of an angry God”? Is God gratified because many if not most of those accepting Him are doing so out of fear of the coming terror of His judgment? Would we find love employing such tactics? How Christianity can honestly feel that the religion reflects a God of love is completely beyond me.

Love does not attach strings or conditions. Love does not condemn. Love is fair. What loving parents would ever consider casting one of their children away in eternal suffering? What loving parents would even consider bringing children into this world if they knew in advance that some of them would wind up in hell?

Speaking of Biblical contradictions, I must say that the believers are very resourceful in ‘developing’ answers for these but generally find those answers inadequate as far as resolution is concerned. I visit the skeptics' web sites and then the Christian apologist’s' sites that attempt to answer the skeptics claims. From what I have discovered thus far, the apologists make their statements aimed at answering the skeptics but they do not allow or accommodate any replies to their statements. And they commonly state something to the effect that many of the skeptics claims are without sound reasoning and simply do not warrant any reply from them.

There are far too many biblical contractions to attempt to cover in this discourse but I wish to mention one that seems like a major contradiction to the belief. It is Jesus’ dying prayer to the Father, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. It seems to me that this beautiful prayer pretty much rips apart the whole of the Christian belief. It was obviously for those who had rejected Him. These people clearly had not met the Christian conditions for salvation, namely, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. How then could this One who is the focus of the religion say a prayer at the conclusion of His ministry at the time when He was receiving the most attention of His entire life in direct contradiction to what He supposedly had spent His life teaching??

Almost the entire Old Testament contradicts a loving God and is a testament not of God’s love, mercy and compassion but of His absolute brutal cruelty. Time and time again God orders the Israelites to kill every man, woman and child of the other nations. On one occasion God instructed the Israelite warriors to mercilessly kill every living thing including the animals except they could keep the young virgin girls for themselves. What was God’s problem with these nations? Jealousy, they worshipped other gods. Of course they did. That was all they knew. God had not instructed them otherwise. They were doing the very same thing as the Christian, believing in that which their culture and forefathers taught them about what God expected of them. How can we fault that kind of sincerity? If we were talking about a god of love here he would have shared his word with them as well as the Israelites. Were not they an equal part of his creation as well? Is there no love, fairness, understanding or mercy with God? We didn’t see God using the Israelites as witnesses to lead these idolaters to the truth. He simply ordered them slaughtered without warning, mercy or compassion.

The creation story itself, right from the very beginning, is a reflection of God’s lack of love and compassion. We are told that He simply told Adam and Eve to not eat of the one tree. No where does it indicate that God warned them of the Devil and his cunning ways. Should we be surprised that Eve, then Adam fell vulnerable to a more powerful, crafty, and astute being? Of course not, who among us would not have done the same? But God had no compassion and immediately cast them out into much hardship as punishment for their one slip or failure. Furthermore, this act of Eve’s was in no way a rejection of God, it was simply a momentary lapse in judgment, a temporary yielding to a convincing more authoritative voice. If a child is tempted beyond his ability to resist, to reach into the cookie jar against his mothers orders, would we conclude that the child was rejecting his mother or that he was forevermore rotten and unworthy?

Why did God put the forbidden tree there in the first place? A minister friend of mine with a Doctorate in religion answered the question this way. God is love, love demands freedom, freedom demands the ability to choose right or wrong so there had to be that option to satisfy love. But this would make God dependent on evil for love. Also, it would mean there could be no love or freedom in Heaven where there is no evil. So, we are left with the question, why the tree? Did God need to test the ‘metal’ of His creatures to see if they were good enough to deserve His blessings? And if they were found to be too weak to pass the test he would subject them to extreme hardship? But if He is omniscient He would know that to begin with. I can think of no reason but that He enjoyed watching them fail and dishing out punishment. I know that sounds crude but I’m open to your answers if you’re one who accepts the belief.

This thought brings up more issues that speak nonsense about Biblical teachings. The Bible says that all men have sinned and fallen short. This clearly states that God created man incapable of meeting His standard. Man was created to fail????? Some of Christianity believe in the ‘original sin’ concept where God condemns all future creations because the first two didn’t get it right. How do you square that one with love and fairness? But either way, every human God creates is bound in condemnation as created!! Can you imagine human parents having children and considering them unworthy of acceptance until each one meets some kind of prerequisite the parents establish? They would be considered very sick indeed.

This brings to mind the Christian concept of accountability. This concept is not Biblical but is a ‘developed’ concept to attempt to absolve God of the cruelty of tormenting little children. But, whether Biblical or not, if we consider it in conjunction with the ‘original sin’ notion it makes absolutely no sense. That notion infers that all creatures after Adam and Eve are condemned, not because of any accountability on their part, but simply because Eve blew it and all must share that blame and penalty.

The Left Behind series which depicts the Christian idea of God’s judgment at the end of the world portrays the awful plight of those who did nothing to deserve God’s judgment. You see, we are created condemned so if we do nothing about it we remain in that condition. We are unacceptable to God as He created us. We have to ‘fix’ our condition by accepting God’s prerequisite remedy.

Christianity portrays the great sacrifice of Jesus as a beautiful act of love and forgiveness on the part of God. But look again, it really makes no sense at all. Since God created man incapable of meeting His standard, the absolute very least He could do would be to provide some sort of possibility of escape or alternative to His awful wrath and judgment for the created sentient beings. Not to do so would be the most horrific act of creation imaginable. This is no demonstration of great love at all, even basic human justice in complete absence of love would require a plan of salvation under such circumstances. But human justice would go much further to insure fairness. It would require God to insure that every single soul knew and completely understood the seriousness of the situation and to ‘sign off’ that the enormous magnitude of the situation had been clearly presented to them, that they had no additional questions and that they were clearly aware of the consequences of their actions and decisions.

I have read many of the books that purport to prove or at least provide strong evidence that Jesus was what the Christians claim. Then I have read many books that purport the opposite. It is interesting that there are many scholars coming from all perspectives who give their lives to the study of the same historical evidence. These are brilliant men and women each equally qualified, diligent, sincere and earnest in their quest to know the truth. Yet they come to vastly different conclusions of what the very same historical evidence reveals. At the same time we have countless religions each claiming to have special access to God or pointing to prior saints and prophets who were “inspired” by God to proclaim His message.

What’s a poor searcher to do? Most of us will never be able to perform our own study of the historical evidence as do the scholars. How are we to decipher which of the religions is closest to being right?

The real irony of the situation is that here we are, alive and aware of our special existence in a marvelous awe inspiring universe and although many think they do, no one really knows. That thought really amazes me. Here we are, yet NO ONE REALLY KNOWS!!

I have thusly concluded that the Bible cannot possibly be the word of God for several reasons but primarily because it is based on a major contradiction in concept, that being, God’s nature (love) and God’s actions (cruelty). Likewise, the Christian religion cannot possibly be true because it is based on the same contradicting principles.

All of these religions are based on ancient myths, legends, fables etc. I was not too surprised to find that the idea of a dying and resurrecting godman had its beginning in pagan mythology hundreds of years before the time of Christ. According to the book, “Jesus and the Lost Goddess” by Timothy Freke, regional variations of the myths were found throughout the ancient world. In Egypt he was known as Osiris, in Greece as Dionysus, in Syria as Adonis, in Asia Minor as Attis, in Mesopotamia as Marduk, and in Persia as Mithras and others. I quote from page 18:

 “The myths of the Pagan Godman describe a ‘Son of God’, born to a virgin on 25 December, who dies at Easter through Crucifixion, but who resurrects on the third day. He is a prophet who offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism."

"He is a wonder-worker who raises the dead and miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony. He is a savior who offers his followers redemption through partaking in a meal of bread and wine, symbolic of his body and blood."

It seems quite implausible to me that God would follow an old pagan myth almost to the letter in His plan of salvation.

Lest I end this dissertation on a morose note, let me go on to say that I am completely without doubt that God really is love, that we are a part of Him experiencing reality from a standpoint of duality and that we are indeed eternal creations forever bound by His absolute love. Although it is impossible to know the whole truth at this stage of the game, it would be my guess that from where God exists in absolute bliss, He has found that bliss to be more meaningful where there is non-bliss which adds contrast, depth and meaningfulness. Non-bliss resulted from the creation of duality, or polar opposites, hot & cold, good & bad, peace & violence, happiness & sadness, wellness & sickness, etc. as well as time and space. This universe is God’s playhouse where He has established a very complex and intricate system of interplay of consciousness that divides, multiplies, has individuality and freedom. That is where we come in and all that we see and experience is God manifesting Himself in infinite ways as His creation plan continues infinitely and eternally. There is no condemnation but each and every creation of God is fulfilling a grand role in the overall scheme of things, from Mother Teresa to Adolph Hitler. We are here for the experience on behalf of God and as an aspect of Him and cannot possibly get it wrong. There is no right or wrong as far as God is concerned. We do, however, have freedom to make choices within the entire gamut or spectrum of duality and reap the consequences of those choices and our actions either in this life or in other realms so in that sense we can experience a temporary hell. This is necessary if polar opposites are to be experienced, the awful as well as the beautiful.

We are eternal aspects of God experiencing infinite adventures as we continually add collage to His eternal scrapbook. The evidence is absolutely overwhelming from many sources that we do not really die but simply discard this physical carcass at the appointed time and continue on into the non-physical realm without any gap in consciousness whatsoever as we continue our evolutionary progress toward the sublime.
 


Originally posted: 2008-JUL-10
Latest update: 2008-JUL-29
Author: Larry Langston. He welcomes feedback at openobserver@yahoo.com

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