More on Christianity

Written: 29 June, 2000

[Note: What follows are excerpts of my comments in a thread started by Jam titled "Why I Avoid Discussions About Religion," which he started in response to my "Why I'm Not a Christian" thread a few days earlier. At the beginning of this piece, I'm responding to a Christian's explanation of his faith (where he mentioned that if one can affirm "The Apostles' Creed," then one is a Christian). Afterward, I'm responding to Jam's post where he said that if there is a God, then God must be a cruel "mass murderer." At this time, I was still a non-Christian.]

OK, so we have an answer here to how one can be a Christian and not be upset with the idea of good people going to Hell: because we don't know for sure where they are going.

[But] if one disagrees with God's morality (allowing the death of children, allowing goodly people to fry for eternity) then God is right and we are wrong and we are Hellbound for disagreeing with God's morality. I have a problem with that.

I don't know if I believe any of it [The Apostles' Creed], sad to say. I don't know what a "communuion of saints" is. I don't really know for sure what a saint is, but if they are people who God supposedly talks to, like the Pope, then I have difficulty believing in saints.

I believe in God (not necessarily a Father figure), almighty Creator of heaven and earth, and I'm sympathetic to Jesus Christ, who I'm not sure I view as the same as God. I don't know for a fact if he "was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, etc." I believe that he was crucified, died, and was buried. I hadn't heard about him descending into Hell; I'm not sure that I believe in Hell. I don't know if he rose again from the dead, because I've heard that some accounts don't even include the Resurrection [I was thinking of the Gospel of Mark, where the ending we have is said to be a later addition]. I don't know where Jesus is seated, etc. I believe in the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting.

There ya go, that's the parts of the creed that I can say right now that I agree with. Which isn't much, I'm sorry to say.

This is another problem I have with Christianity that I didn't mention before. Christians are always saying how God comes first, how they love God more than they love their spouses, their children, their friends, their country, whatever. I have a hard time having such strong feelings toward an inantimate invisible being who may not even exist for all I know, moreso than someone whom I know to be a living, thinking, caring, fellow being.

Yes, I'd want to meet a loving God. I want to feel about God the same way that I feel about someone I greatly admire and root for.

Although maybe I am making too much out of the "disagreeing with God" thing preventing me from becoming a God-fan. After all, I really like Steve Ditko and Bill Clinton, even though I don't agree with both of them on everything. My two favorite candidates in the upcoming 2000 Presidential race are Pat Buchanan and Al Gore, who are political opposites, but I very much like them both. (And since I'm a Democrat it takes a bit of courage to admit how much I like Pat Buchanan without totally alienating my fellow Democrats.)

I have trouble relating to [Jam's] idea of [a cruel] God. I agree that the God of the Bible appears unjust. But I do believe in a loving God, somewhere out there. He has to be great and good, if he gave us the gift of life, right? Good or bad is what we make of our lives, for the most part. He gave us freedom and, like in the Adam & Eve story, we can freely choose to abuse it.

You may be right. No one knows for sure. We believe what we think is right. I would rather believe in a God that hears our thoughts and helps us than living alone in an indifferent or hostile universe.

[On the question of why Christians feel the need to convert others...]

Part of it might be that they are excited about it and want everyone to feel like they do, or to experience what they are experiencing. I know that I've done my share of "preaching" about non-religious things. I tend to push my favorite kind of music on everyone in sight; I want them to benefit from the "discovery" I made.

I have a friend who is a big Led Zeppelin fan. I tried to interest him many times in the Beatles, but he didn't care for them -- which I found to be frustrating, because the Beatles are my favorite band, and have affected my way of life in a major way! For him to yawn through a song that changed my life forever is very frustrating. Of course, I had a hard time being interested in the music he liked, although I did make an effort. I even bought a Led Zeppelin album myself, to show him how open-minded I was. But when he'd make me a Zep tape, I still viewed it as "his" tape, listening to "his" music, not to "my" music. After all, Zep were "his" thing, "his" discovery, not "mine."

But then one day listening to one of "his" Zep tapes, I found I liked one of the songs and slowly I started to think of the possibility of the tape/song being "mine" after all. I finally had him make me a tape of Zep songs that I liked, which weren't necessarily his favorites. I still don't view Led Zep as "my" music entirely, but I do have a thing for a few of the songs that is personal, has nothing to do with the way anyone else feels about them (that I know of).

(Ironically, that is also how I got heavily into the Beatles and Lennon. I knew another friend liked Lennon, so when I saw a book on Lennon, I bought it thinking it might give me some insight into what my friend liked -- or maybe I had planned to give him the book, I forget. Anyway, reading that book got me to become a big Lennon fan myself. Me and my friend used to refer to that Lennon book as "our Bible," in fact!)

I have been telling Goldenager that he must buy Comic Book Artist and Alter Ego, yet he still politely declines. So, I must come across as a manic street preacher to GA, pushing stuff in his face when he has already said he doesn't want it. But, see, the thing is... I know that GA really DOES want those mags, he just doesn't know it yet! Because I cannot fathom the idea of someone like GA not totally loving those mags, if he would only give them the chance. So, still I shall plug those mags, even at the cost of infuriating a friend!

(Although I do know when to cool it. There was a fellow chatter I knew who liked Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Oasis, among others, and so I recommended he try the Pink Floyd album "the final cut" and he bought it and liked it a lot. So, then, I recommended that he try the Rutles, but for some reason he repeatedly refused, perhaps thinking that the Rutles were just making fun of the Beatles, similar to the Beatlesesque parody songs that the hated Rush Limbaugh uses. I pleaded and pleaded that he give the Rutles a chance, but he refused. Finally I knew that if I kept it up, I would just be too annoying to chat with, so I shut up about the Rutles -- at least for a few weeks!)

I have also, for the past few months, tried to get you, Jam, to check out G-Rock (that Christian punk rock video show). Even before I started my religious threads on this board, I had plugged the show to you and you said it sounded dumb to you, you had no reason to even bother to watch it or give it a try, despite my high praise of it. My sister was the same way -- I told her over & over to watch it, or to even just put it on in the background while she was typing on the computer -- but no-o-o, she kept finding better things to do.

But then she did see an episode of it, by accident, and agreed that it was cool. Well, duhhh!, I had only told her that it was cool a million times! I guess it proves my point that people have to discover things on their own before they are willing to give something a try or to internalize it as something that enriches their own life, as opposed to somebody else's.

I like to try and keep an open mind about some things, and something as big as "who are we, where do we come from, what does it all mean, and where do we go when we die" are so big and unknown that we really ought to keep opened minds about them.

I was surprised at the liner notes I read to a Christian rock benefit tape of various artists that I bought a few weeks ago (got it was because it was really cheap, like $2.99, and I wanted to sample a variety of artists). Here's what it said:

"....We have also realized that there are a lot of people out there who have been really hurt by either a church or a Christian, and that as soon as they found out that our bands were Christians they became very close minded. To those people I want to say that I know that both the church and Christians are guilty of some really stupid stuff, and there has been a lot of hurt, but think about this: If you read the Bible, you will see that Christ Himself was also bummed at religious people and the reality of what He was saying was simply that He wants to have a friendship with us on a personal level. I know it sounds weird, but I challenge you to give it a try. The next time you're bummed, lonely, scared or frustrated, go for a 5 minute walk and talk to Him just like you would a friend. Tell Him exactly how you feel and what you're thinking. It might feel weird, but if you're already bummed, what have you got to lose."

I was surprised by the lines there, because it was so different from the self-righteous tone I usually associate with Christians. Instead of hitting me over the head with their doctrine which may be false anyway, they were inviting me as an intelligent human being to figure it out for myself. You didn't have to go through them to get to God, you just had to be willing to enter a dialogue with God in private. Which made me think about all those times I'd been lonely, taking long walks, wishing I was talking to people I felt that I didn't stand a chance of talking with... and instead of just talking to myself, I could have opened my mind to God. I don't believe I would have heard God (the idea of somebody "hearing voices" is horrifying to me, and likely a sign of insanity or the brain playing tricks), but it would have been nice to have felt less alone during that time, and that's what "talking to God" would have made me felt, I think -- less alone.

Anyway, you know from my post below, that I'm not a Christian. I have had people in the past suggest to me that I'm going to Hell because I didn't believe in Jesus, or because I wasn't baptized. Naturally I have not been attracted to such a harsh religion, led by such an unfair God. But that doesn't mean I have to believe in an unfair God, or a villainous God as you suggest the God of the Bible is.

God should be the highest power, that we can admire the majesty of, and yet feel a sense of communion with. When the first snow falls, there is something magical about it that transcends the scientific explanation for it. It communicates something to us, awakens something joyful. The thing that's hard for me to realize is that the magic isn't necessarily "out there" somewhere, but within, right where I'm at, something for me to discover if I'm willing to open my mind to it. God is an old idea, but can still be "mine alone" to discover.

Anyway, I've spilled my guts long enough about what I believe in. I really would like to know what you believe in. I really think that if you challenged the "villainous" God, you might get somewhere -- at least it would be the beginning of a confrontation with "God" (little word representing the infinite, the eternal, the expanse, the universe). Great art, great lives, great ideas could come from that...instead of just denying he exists and shutting one's mind instead.

I've occasionally heard about people totally freaking out when they see a big night sky, like when they go camping in a place where there's no trees and the land is flat, and the person realizes just how tiny they are and how huge the world is. So, in one sense, that big expansive universe is "God." And yet, the big expanse doesn't invalidate the tiny person's reaction to it... no matter how small he is, he is still interacting with that huge awesome universe. Each person matters, no matter how small in the ultimate scheme of things. When we die, we are buried in the earth or our ashes are scattered to the winds -- either way, we come part of this majestic creation which (like the above example of a first snow) transcends its scientific explanation. Just like we transcend our scientific reason for being. I find that continuing connection or relationship between God and ourselves to be rather interesting, don't you?