Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Atheism - the easy option?...for now anyway

Is atheism the easy option? With atheism I can do what I like in this life and then there is nothing.....except that IF I get it wrong then according to the Christians I will then spend my eternity in hell.

Whereas, with christianity I have to choose to surrender to Jesus (see Salvation Prayer blog) and then live by the rules of the bible (see Ten Commandments blog) and then hope I go to heaven but potentially, given the life I have led so far...i.e have two children out of wedlock - go to hell.......for eternity. That's the interesting thing - all the good stuff we do doesn't seem to count for anything if you don't surrender. You could be an aid worker in Africa, living in poverty and devoting your entire life to helping others and that would not be enough because you have not surrendered your life to Jesus. You can spend your life helping others and being the kindest person in the world but if you don't believe you will be damned to hell for eternity.

Scary stuff eh? But would it be wrong, morally weak, to believe - not because of a positive belief in Jesus but in a fear of hell?

I used to look at christians and covet what they had -

  1. The moral certainty
  2. Quite often - the loving husband
  3. The beatific smile
  4. You've heard of "smug marrieds" (Bridget Jones) - well the glow on a Christian's face (not all - but especially the evangelical ones) makes the married friends of Miss Jones look as though they are in mourning.
Now, I just don't know. To be fair - I don't think I've ever heard a Christian tell me theirs was the easy option - just the only option.

I've heard some atheists speak of Christians as being weak in their need to believe in something, but actually the weak position seems to be atheism. "Nothing" is much easier to believe in than "eternity".......potentially in hell.

Daniel Everett was a missionary. His book "Don't sleep, there are snakes" is an autobiography of his journey to atheism. He went to the Amazon to convert a tribe to Jesus and they ended up converting him to atheism. The question that has been perplexing me is - if he got it wrong, the fact that he showed the tribe the option of Jesus - has he now damned them to hell because they have rejected Jesus? If he had not visited them and they were not aware of their options then would a kind and compassionate God really send them to eternity in hell when they had not had the opportunity to know Jesus?

Last week my friend Jane offered for me to give my life to Jesus. She said "You can do it right now". I replied in increasingly desperate tones, "I can't, I can't". I could not begin to verbalise why as it has taken time to process my reaction.

I am fascinated when I hear of people who have no or little knowledge of the bible suddenly falling down and "giving their lives to Jesus". How can they do that? Why could I not do that?

I want to continue questioning and exploring and I fear that if, or once, I make that declaration it is game over - I must live by the rules of the bible (open to interpretation) and no longer question.

A huge part of me feels that when and only when I can argue logically and cogently with an atheist and potentially win will I be able to "surrender" but is that my ego getting in the way? and what a risk to take? Why put my eternal future in the hands of an atheist? Surely the logical answer is that the atheist can make their own journey.

All I know is that currently I enjoy going to church but feel I am on borrowed time. I feel I have temporary membership of a club and the Manager at some point soon is going to say "You either pay your subscription, abide by the rules of the club and have access to all the rooms in the club....or you leave. Your 6 month trial membership is up".

You know there is one thing that winds me up - (I am about to be judgmental and not christian at all!). The same friends who talk of me becoming a "God botherer", pity me, or try to join Dawkins on his particular hillock of high ground are the same people who can be found searching for peace, contentment, an answer to their worries or even "enlightenment" through yoga and/or meditation. They are the same people who do "reiki" or "horoscopes" or visit clairvoyants. They are the same people who believe in "The Secret" or "Cosmic Ordering". They are the same people who believe in luck and believe in ghosts. Do any of them see the contradiction in their position? They are prepared to believe a random set of beliefs and practices to be found on the shelves of New Age bookstores but not a word of Jesus.

They are saying they believe in a spirit world but when you talk about the spirit world referring to Jesus they go all atheist on you.


  1. Since writing this I have come to understand a little about "Grace" and that if we go to heaven we go "by the grace of God". I made the point about how it seemed unfair that a life of good works did not count for anything and that I was damned to hell for eternity for my sin of being an unmarried mother. However, I do not believe that to be a correct response now.

    Turning to the parable of the labourers in the vineyard - Matthew 20: 1 - 16 He says "the last will be first, and the first will be last". In the parable workers are aggrieved that those who worked all day end up being paid the same amount as those who arrived late in the day and only did a small amount of work.

    I am told I can repent in my dying gasp.

    It is not for me to second guess the decision that is made as to who goes to heaven and I like to think that good works are taken into account - especially when the good works have been done without a selfish thought or thoughts of earning a pathhway to heaven.

  2. It seems that you have had some very nasty and psychologically damaging "visions of hell" in your religious upbringing; that's not uncommon - a friend of mine was also a Catholic and had what he termed "Catholic guilt" brought upon by images of burning in hell thrust upon him as part of his religious education; he now goes to St Brelade, where there is none of that.

    I don't think it forms part of current pedagogy with Catholicism in England post Vatican II, but I think it was a major part of the upbringing of many children in the 1950s and 1960s, and quite honestly I would take that as a form of child abuse.

    I also have a god-daughter who has suffered from depression, and (again as part of her upbringing) she has in the past been haunted by pictures of hell, and going to hell because she is not good enough (and pathological fears of "being found out" with depression just feed off this).

    I had a great advantage; I never had that baggage to weigh me down when I was young. But it is an evil, and it tries to create faith out of fear.

    You are certainly not dammed to hell for being an unmarried mother, and while I would not want to say it is the same, if you saw "The Nativity", you will see the stigma that Mary faced for being an unmarried mother. And yet God blessed her, and whereas you have not given birth to Jesus, there is no reason why God should not bless you too and your child. Don't ever let the joy be snatched from you by those who live by the strict letter of the law. That's the way of the Pharisee, not the way of Jesus who came for the outcasts, the marginalised,the poor, and the unmarried mothers.

    I think C.S. Lewis has a much better image (and of course it is just a picture) of hell in his book "The Great Divorce", where hell is this grey town where people are always squabbling, splitting up, going off by themselves, and ego is everything.

    So in a way, they make their own hell; it is not just somewhere they live; it is something they become.

    I think that's at the heart of what hell really is; and of course, the more people become like that in this lifetime, the more they are taking themselves out of God's reach.

    The opposite of hell is in the Trinity; it is the God who relates to himself, and reaches out seeking a relationship with us and for us to see the image of God in each other.

    Love the lord you God with all your heart; and love your neighbour as yourself, as both Deuteronomy and Jesus tell us. This is the opposite of selfishness, and ego, and the more we treasure and build out relationship with God and with each other, the closer we are to heaven.

    And good works are part of that, because it is not about what we believe as some kind of intellectual feat, but what we are to become. That's why Paul is full about "the fruits of the Spirit", not as chores to be done, but something coming from who we are becoming.