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It freaked me out to write down that the older I get, the less religious I get, but it's true. I still go to church a lot on Sundays, I like learning things and discussing issues of the day that we need to know about to be good people. My church is fairly liberal so it's a lot of social justice topics, we're basically one step to the right of the Unitarians in that respect. We read quotes from all the world's religions, not just Christianity, there's just a basic understanding that we all still believe Jesus rose from the dead.

The problem is that I used to think "the other side" was made up of people who believe Jesus did NOT raise from the dead. I could agree to disagree with them, and we'd all move on. But there are bigger issues that non-believers and atheists bring up about Christianity as a whole, and I'm struggling with those issues myself. Their qualms aren't about some need to convince us Jesus wasn't resurrected - to them, that fact has no bearing on how we live our lives.

Instead they're concerned with the overall effect of Christianity and the harm our philosophies could do in the world. Writings of native American writer Vine Deloria Jr. first brought it up to me - the fact that western religions seemed crazy to the Native Americans because if you believe in an all-important afterlife, what's the point of all this that's happening to you right now? What's to stop you from just hating or even tossing away all of it?

And I have to admit, there's some evidence for what he's talking about... that heaven causes us to less-than-treasure what we've been given here:

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21
"Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:25
"Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own." - Arnaud Amalric, 13th century Cistercian abbot

Christians are interested in arguing semantics - how old the earth really is, whether the Virgin Mary ascended directly to heaven or not. Non-Christians are more concerned with the glaring contradiction right in the middle of our living rooms: is life precious, or not?

If you throw Christianity out and believe this life is all you have, then just like that it's precious, because your set of experiences will never be re-created again, nor will your connections to other humans or place in this world. You play a tiny, well-defined part that we can all plainly see. Whatever this world has invested in you, and you have given back to this world, that's your worth. There seems to be very little place for that concept in Christianity, and some would argue that that's unhealthy... the fact that we think our worth comes from God, who's mainly concerned with heaven anyway. Why spend time here? Why love people who won't be joining you in heaven? Just because another verse tells you too? And yet another verse says your mistakes will be forgiven, just confirming that it doesn't matter...

I think if something is a bad idea, then it might also be wrong. That's my concern.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2013 04:52 pm (UTC)
My religion would fall pretty far to the right of yours. Anyhow, life is a gift. Of course I am supposed to love and be loved and laugh and find joy in it! Who knows what my happiness will inspire in others?

We love people who may not join us in Heaven because we hope they will join us in Heaven. God blesses the poor, the wretched, etc, and its really not ours to know who will be saved before death claims them.

You can't go directly to Heaven. Thats not the order of things. Heaven is to be earned- we are sinners, we have to work at it.

We have confession in Catholicism, and forgiveness of sins is not something as straightforward as wising to be forgiven. There is a process of examining the conscience- I call it my therapy becuase I really do have to get at the meat of the issue to genuinely be in a position to try not to sin again.

Either way, if I were having these concerns, I'd talk to my pastor. That is part of his job.
Dec. 12th, 2013 05:02 pm (UTC)
As an atheist who is pretty well versed in religious traditions, I will say this:

There is a difference between a mistake and actively harming other people. There is a difference between hating/bigotry, being mean or bullying vs. just having a rough day.

I think it is very possible to follow the precepts that Jesus was teaching, what he really meant by loving one another. It's also definitely clear to me that many religious organizations do not (and I hope we can agree that advocating for killing is wrong). But that doesn't necessarily invalidate belief itself; just that humans tend to go astray.

[most atheists I know - not all but most - take issue with various religious organizations using their power to harm people, rather than taking issue with people who are religious.]

Edited at 2013-12-12 05:03 pm (UTC)
Dec. 12th, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
Rather than blather I will just agree with this sensible comment to a post which really resonated with me.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 13th, 2013 07:21 am (UTC)
Arguably your stature in the afterlife isn't based on how "good" you were, but how large and encompassing your love for other people was.

Yes. Your status is not about what you DID, but what you BECAME.
Dec. 13th, 2013 07:14 am (UTC)
This contradiction has been magnified to me recently in trying to teach my four-year-olds about death and the preciousness of life. On the one hand, "It's okay that Aunt Lois died; it was just her body and her spirit went to heaven. We will see her there again, and her body and spirit will be reunited someday." On the other hand, "Don't give your baby brother Legos to play with; he might choke on them and die, and THAT WOULD BE THE WORST THING EVER."

Tangentially, one of the previous commenters mentioned "earning heaven", which is a touchy subject among many Christians -- some would call it prideful (or even blasphemy) to suggest that anything we sinning mortals do could save ourselves, when that has already been done for us by He who is without sin.

I prefer the phrase "learning heaven". I've heard it put forth that it is not God that would prevent us from entering heaven, but ourselves -- in our love of carnality, we would not WANT to be there. And thus the purpose of this life -- to improve, to develop, to progress, to become more like Christ, so that when we reach those proverbial pearly gates, we'll want to be on the other side. I like this view. We trust that following Him will make us into something better. We don't love others because God tells us to, we love them because God loves us, and we are practicing to become like Him.
Dec. 13th, 2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
That's sort of the C.S. Lewis approach too... he brings up an example of an old person who's bitter about life and just keeps getting more and more angry as they get older, and says "imagine if that man had ETERNAL life, how much worse could he get?" That's why only some people can live forever in heaven. The Great Divorce illustrates this too, technically everyone is in an afterlife but not everyone chooses heaven, for various reasons.
Dec. 16th, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)
I had a mind boggling (to me) discussion with my boss once. I was attempting to tell him that he needed to provided positive feedback and not just harp on people. His response? It just wasn't something he thought about because he believed that his reward would come in the next life. And I was so confused because (a) platinum rule, ya'll but also (b) it's so depressing to think that you should spend your entire life striving to do right and be a good person and an utter lack of positive feedback would be okay? I could not reconcile that.

What you do in this life matters. How you treat others today matters. Being kind. Being loving. Being compassionate. Matters. If religion helps someone do those things? Fantastic. But if religion makes them feel superior and entitled to judge others? Toss it out the window.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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