What do you believe in? How do you respond to the things that you believe? When everything ends, what then? How long has it been since you seriously re-evaluated your belief system?
I believe that none of us are good. I truly admire our attempts at it, but none of us are really any good at being good. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for me because He understood that I was bad at being good, and nothing short of perfection could ever approach God the Father.
As an aside, the above statement is what it means to be a Christian; yet, I’ve always thought it strange that most Christian’s claim to believe the above statement, and still have garnered the worst reputation for being judgmental toward other people’s “bad” behavior. If we believe that we have no good in us, then how can we demand, or even suggest, that others should model their behavior after our own? How can we judge the behavior of anyone when we believe that it literally required the death of the Son of God to save us from our own bad nature?
It was such pious Christian behavior that led me into being an atheist, and eventually an agnostic.
I was young then, and like many young people, I formed a belief system based on the limited understanding of an immature mind. Now, not only atheists are guilty of this behavior. You see, I’ve noticed that many Christians have done the same. At a young age, many become convinced that their church has all the answers. Now they are much older, and yet they’ve never re-evaluated and tested their belief system.
Consider for a moment the life of Antony Flew. He was, perhaps, the most renowned atheist of the 20th century. Flew brought a kind of dignity to the philosophy of atheism that was much needed in the last century when guys like Bertrand Russell and eventually Richard Dawkins achieved just the opposite.
Flew was more than eighty years old when he seriously reconsidered his position on atheism, and subsequently became a deist. In fact, in his book titled “There is a God”, Flew expressed some interest in the Christian faith, labeling it the most tangible of the existing faiths.
Perhaps you’re an atheist, or a Darwinist, or even an atheistic Darwinist. When did you become such? Could it be that you’re still responding to a belief system brought about by a young mind filled with foolishness, misunderstanding, anger, resentment, and immaturity?
When was the last time that you reconsidered the evidence and formulated a better perspective based on the reason and reflection that can only come with age?
Perhaps you’re a Christian who lacks substance because years ago you walked an aisle, declared your faith, and that was it – no more. Maybe now you’ve become unsure, or maybe you’ve been satisfied with the fundamentalism of your youth. There may be little substance to your faith, there may be no experience of God in your walk, yet still you keep the course because… well, it’s easy; reasonably popular; minimally time consuming; and might even keep you out of hell.
Allow me to offend my Mother: If that’s your faith, then what you have is horse shit. Your faith is likely less effective than all the other faiths that you so vehemently denounce. It is likely that you’ve fallen into the category of Christian that Richard Dawkins described as resembling a little old lady who knits. She’s never gonna hurt anyone, she’s never going to change the world or even her best friend, but she’s found something to pass the time. “She’s harmless”, says Dawkins.
I gave up my faith at a young age. My reasons were typical. Christians sucked, and I didn’t want to be one of them.
One afternoon, when I was 24 years old, I was flying down a highway on my motorcycle at ungodly speeds; it was then that I re-considered. Perhaps at 130mph my motivation was fear of death. Certainly death was more real to me at that moment than at most others. I remember thinking about my Dad’s church and all that had gone wrong there. How badly I hated every living being that darkened the doors there on every Sunday. I thought of the deacon who had rallied against a black family joining the church; the chairman of deacons who was found guilty of violently raping more than five women in the congregation, yet boasted of his unwavering tithing habits; the hit-men, no doubt hired by an angry ex-church member, who arrived at the doorstep of the old parsonage where we no longer lived; the obscene phone calls from Darryl, the music minister, who thought that I could not recognize his voice. I bloody well (expletive removed) hated them!
Suddenly – and while still on that stretch of highway and riding like I stole it – the words of Jesus, while speaking on behalf of the adulterer, entered my mind, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. The point, in my mind, wasn’t that Jesus was reminding everyone that none is without sin, the point is that He was publicly defending the very type of person whom Christians feel compelled to reject and denounce! Even in this very example it was the church leaders who wanted to stone her to death. They felt that they were somehow better than she, and they never did understand that they themselves were in need of a God who would die for their own sins just as was she! Jesus had compassion. I love that, just as I loved it then, that day on my bike.
“Simon”, said Jesus, “Oh Simon, I have something to teach you”. A known prostitute had just washed the feet of Jesus, and Simon was offended. Jesus recognized Simon’s immaturity and began to teach him a lesson of grace, compassion, and forgiveness. Jesus then spoke to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven; your faith has saved you”.
Jesus was patient with Simon. Although Simon was pious and judgmental, by all indications, he was teachable. Thus Jesus invested in him with His words. Keep in mind, however – and this was the key – that Jesus was not so patient with the obstinate church leaders in those days.
“Why do you disobey the Word of God because of your silly traditions?” He’d say to them.
“Why do you test me you hypocrites?” He’d admonish them.
“Fools and blind! Who is greater, God or the church building?” He’d ask them.
“Woe to you church leaders! You hypocrites. You consistently tithe, and yet completely neglect the real and weightier matters of mercy and faith!” He’d remind them.
“Serpents”, He called the church leaders, “Brood of vipers, how can you escape the condemnation of hell?”
Yes, I re-evaluated. I liked this guy. Through my tears under my sleek helmet, I considered how foolish I’d been for turning away from a God because of a class of phony Christians who God himself had so harshly criticized?
What about you? Whether atheist, agnostic, Christian, or Buddhist, when is the last time you reconsidered? Would your faith, or lack thereof, hold up against even your own examinations?