Jesus and friend enjoy a quiet moment of intimacy.
Over at Barbwire, a particularly prickly Christian web-site about guns and how the world is going to hell in a handcart and how Christians are persecuted – persecuted, I tell you! – just because, out of love, they trash homosexuals, they’ve been discussing gay Christians. In a totally fair and balanced way, they’ve concluded you can’t be both because of something or other the Bible says.
What I don’t understand about gay Christians is how anyone would choose – and it is a choice when there’s no evidence they’re born that way – to be something as destructive, unhealthy, degenerate, unproductive and downright icky, as a Christian.
Human beings would frequently behave like territorial primates;
Nature would be the result of a mindless and heartless process;
Sex and death would be the drivers of its development;
Life would be a cruel struggle for most living creatures, including many humans;
Disease and illness would be pervasive, except where humans themselves had eliminated them;
The world would be largely indifferent to human aspiration;
The brain would find pattern and impose order where none existed;
Progress would be due entirely to human endeavour;
People would adopt the beliefs of their culture and be entirely convinced they alone were right.
Hang on a minute! Isn’t this the world we already have? It’s just like Julia Sweeney says: ‘The world behaves exactly as you expect it would if there were no Supreme Being, no Supreme Consciousness, and no supernatural’. A world without God is exactly the world we’ve got. And the world we’ve got is evidentially a world without a God.
It’s always nice when the local fellowship keeps in touch.
There’s good news and bad news. First, the good news: Hell doesn’t exist. You can’t go to a place that doesn’t exist.
Next, the bad news; you’re not going to survive your death. Sorry to break it to you like this, but there it is: no-one survives death. Once the physical, chemical and electrical processes in your brain cease then so do you, because that’s what you’re made of. That self you have a sense of – your soul if you want to call it that – is entirely dependent on those electro-chemical processes. It doesn’t exist independently from them. You cease to be once the brain dies and begins to deteriorate*. Everyone who has ever lived and died, including true believers down the ages – from Jesus, Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to Augustine, Bede, Wilberforce and C. S. Lewis – have all ceased to be, dissipated and obliterated forever, along with their physical brains and bodies.
And why, dear Christian, would you want to survive death? What makes you think that the bundle of petty concerns, loves and hates, neuroses, reactions and habits that you call ‘you’, merit long-term survival? Because that odd little collection of impulses is what you’re talking about when you say you are going to live forever. You may regard yourself as changed into some sort of reflection of Christ, but it’s your essential self that you desperately, and arrogantly, hope will enjoy eternal life. It won’t – and why should it?
So, there’s no you to survive and no Hell, or Heaven, for you to go to. The Bible doesn’t offer Heaven – see my previous posts here and here – but it does talk about Hell. It’s the place the Unrighteous go when the Righteous™ take over the earth (albeit it in the first century). According to Jesus in Mark 7.20-23, the Unrighteous are people like murderers, thieves and the proud, while Paul includes other ‘undesirables’ like homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6.9). This isn’t nearly enough for today’s Christians though**. They want everyone except themselves to be sent to Hell. So if you’re not ‘saved’ according to their magic formula, then you’re certain to go there. Never mind if you’re not a murderer or proud or gay. That’s where the God of Love is going to send you, to be tormented forever.
And where is Hell? Jesus seems to think it’s in the heart of the Earth (Matthew 12.40) and invariably those threatened with Hell go ‘down’ to it. The wingnut who wrote Revelation also implies it’s in the Earth (9.2). You’d think, that being the case, we would have found it by now. But we haven’t because, of course, it doesn’t exist. And you’re not going. And there won’t be a ‘you’ to go in any case.
So don’t waste any time worrying about it or letting Christians persuade you Hell is a real place. Live your one and only life in the here and now as best you can. Enjoy it. It’s not a rehearsal for a better place, and certainly not for a far worse one.
* In The Lazarus Effect, Dr Sam Parnia relates instances of people being revived up to an hour after death, but only in specific circumstances, when the brain remains undamaged. Any longer than an hour and it’s not possible. Such revivals are extreme forms of the rebooting your brain does every morning after sleep; the brain itself and all its neuro-connections must still be capable of functioning for you to be you again after sleep or even apparent death.
** Yes, I acknowledge some Christians don’t accept Hell. American pastor, Rob Bell, suggests in Love Wins that Hell doesn’t make ‘a very good story’, and that God will save everybody. All Hell was let loose in the resulting backlash from true, Bible-believing Christians; a response that was extreme, brutal and frequently sanctimonious. How dare Bell contradict God’s Word, Holy Scripture? Surely he deserves to go to Hell for that.
Deny yourself, deny your parents, deny your family. That’s what Jesus tells his followers they’ve to do. Today’s Christians can do better than that though! They’re in complete denial about everything, especially stuff for which there’s tons of evidence. Believing loads of made-up stuff is more their thing.
He’s not so hot on standing up for the ‘biblical truths’ that say you should turn the other cheek. Or go the extra mile. Or that you should sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor. No sir. Those are biblical truths that demand something of Christians themselves so of course they feel perfectly at liberty to disregard them.
This is not what Jesus is saying here though. He clearly means ‘do not judge others unless you’re prepared to be judged yourself’, which, we can only conclude, Christians are happy to have happen to them. They judge others and in so doing open themselves up to judgement; Jesus is very fond of this kind of yin and yang, measure-for-measure arrangement:
Judge not that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you will get (Matthew 7.1-2).
It could also be the case that Jesus is referring here to God’s ultimate judgement as well, in which case those condemnatory Christians who believe that being ‘saved’ allows them to escape the final judgement are in for quite a shock. Still, they can always use the ‘I was only defending biblical truths’ excuse.
No, the best things he said – do unto others, love your neighbour – had already been said eons before he came along. Some of the other stuff he came out with was ridiculously impractical – give away all you have; live only for today; turn the other cheek – that his followers have been unable to do from day one.
Did what he said about God turn out to be right?
No. He said God would establish his Kingdom on Earth while the disciples were still alive.
Did he commit himself to long-term responsibility for others and their needs?
Did he experience the infirmities and difficulties of old age?
Did he suffer from any of the serious illnesses we mere mortals are prone to?
Did he give over his entire life to raising children or taking care of elderly relatives?
Not that we know of.
Did he have to work each day to earn a living?
No. He sponged off gullible female fans (Luke 8.1-3).
Did he have any understanding of science and of how the world works?
Erm, no. He thought people became ill because of sin and demon possession and that Heaven was in the sky.
Was he interested in anything but his own futile ‘mission’?
Yet another no.
Apart from his last few days did he know suffering, the everyday frustrations of life or the daily struggle to make ends meet?
Not so’s you’d notice.
Did he, in short, know anything of the life as it was lived and is lived by ordinary people?
There was nothing marvellous about Jesus. He was out of touch with ordinary people and at loggerheads with those cleverer than he was. He was a failed prophet who was turned into a supernatural being by those who came along afterwards – mainly Paul, who’d never met him – and is worshipped today by those who ignore most of what he said.
Without any humility, Jesus boasts in Matthew 11.29 about how gentle and humble he is. Let’s see how he qualifies:
He insists people should love him more than their own families (Matthew 10.37).
He says he’s not a peacemaker but intends creating strife (Luke 12.51).
He claims anyone who doesn’t follow him deserves to be burnt (John 15.6).
He wants the world to be destroyed by fire (Luke 12.49).
He commands people not to call others ‘fools’ (Matthew 5.22) but tells those he doesn’t care for that they’re ‘swine’, ‘dogs’, ‘snakes and vipers’, ‘whitewashed tombs’, and, yes, ‘fools’ (Matthew 7.6; 15.26; 23.33; 23.27; 23.17 & Luke 11.40).
He deliberately speaks in riddles so that people won’t understand him and won’t find forgiveness (Mark 4.12).
He tells his followers to love their enemies but says he’d have his own killed (Luke 19.27 & Matthew 13.41-42).
He endorses slavery and the cruel treatment of slaves (Luke 12.47-48).
He says people would be better off if they cut off their hands, plucked out their eyes and castrated themselves (Mark 9.43-48 & Matthew 19.12).
He endorses the Jewish law that demands the death penalty for those who disrespect their mother and father (Matthew 15:4-7).
He disrespects his mother (Matthew 12.48-49).
He tells people not to get angry but loses his own temper (Matthew 5.22 & Mark 3.5).
He callously kills a herd of pigs and, in a fit of pique, destroys a fig tree (Matthew 8.32 & Matthew 21.19).
He takes a whip to people (John 2.15).
He tells his mates he’ll soon be king of the world and promises them that they’ll rule alongside him (Matthew 19.28).
So, the marks of a gentle, humble man? Or the characteristics of an unpleasant, delusional megalomaniac?