Christians’ Favourite Delusions 35: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

LaughAccording to God’s Magic Book (in Hebrews 13.8), Jesus is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’. Let’s see how that works out in reality:

Yesterday he said the way to ‘inherit eternal life’ was to follow the law and sell everything you had (Mark 17.17-22).
Today, according to his spin doctors, he says you’ve got to believe a magic formula – the one about him dying – if you want to live forever.

Yesterday he despised wealth and possessions (Luke 6.24-25).
Today he thinks they’re just fine.

Yesterday he said this world would end while his disciples were still alive (Matthew 16:27-28).
Today he says these are the end times:

… we’re now living in Romans 1. How do you know when the wrath of God is released? How do you know when the wrath of God is unleashed against a society? First, Romans 1:24, there is a sexual revolution. We’ve had that—in the 60s, the last century. Then there will be a homosexual revolution led by lesbians. The women are mentioned first in Romans 1:26. And then there will be the reprobate mind. And that’s when the thinking is really the product of the sexual, homosexual revolutions, and the thinking is so corrupt we can’t find our way back. That’s where we are. (John MacArthur, We Will Not Bow; all subsequent references to MacArthur are from this same poisoned well)

Yesterday Jesus’ Good News was about the coming Kingdom (Luke 4.43).
Today it’s about eternal damnation:

And the most compassionate thing you can do for those (LGBT) people is, in love, to warn them of eternal damnation—to warn them of eternal judgement. That’s compassionate. That’s compassionate. Preach the gospel; proclaim the gospel; proclaim grace and forgiveness such as we read in Isaiah and 1 Corinthians. But preach judgement. (MacArthur again)

Yesterday Jesus invited people to join God’s Kingdom on Earth (Matthew 6.10; 13.43 etc).
Today he’s made to invite everyone to Heaven.

Yesterday his Good News was only for his own people: ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 15:24).
Today he says anybody can go to Heaven so long as they believe the magic formula. Oh, and aren’t gay.

Yesterday his own people were the Jews (Luke 2.22-32; Matthew 4.23 etc).
Today he’s really only interested in America (to listen to MacArthur and others).

Yesterday he was recruiting slaves for his Kingdom (Matthew 20.27).
Today he wants to be your buddy.

Yesterday he’d nothing good to say about marriage (Luke 20.34-35).
Today he’s all for it (unless it’s same-sex marriage).

Yesterday he had nothing good to say about the family (Luke 14.26).
Today he’s all for it (unless the parents are gay).

Yesterday he had nothing to say about abortion, homosexuality or people changing sex.
Today it’s all he’s interested in (MacArthur and just about every other Christian preacher).

Yesterday he was an itinerant Jewish preacher and failed messiah.
Today he’s a Starman waiting in the sky to zap unbelievers to hell (yup, MacArthur again, quoting 2 Thessalonians 1.7-8).

Like a ventriloquist’s dummy, Jesus just says whatever his self-appointed spokespersons want him to say. Pliable and malleable, he can be made to match the needs of anyone who recruits him to their spiritual, moral or social crusade. He is all things to all people and what he’s like today is nothing like what he was yesterday. Which doesn’t say much about ‘forever’.

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And the World Turns

SerpentOver at the wackily named ‘Cripplegate‘ blog, pastor Mike Riccardi has an urgent message. Mike, in case you’re wondering, is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master’s Seminary. His urgent message is that God is not happy and must be appeased.

As we already know, the most powerful, creative and omniscient being in the whole of the universe and beyond is so very easily upset. And as usual what’s upsetting him is the Gay. But that’s not all this time! Turns out he doesn’t like people changing sex and abortion too. The only way we can put things right with this petulant monster, pastor Mike tells us, is to preach and pray all the bad away, so that he will bless us – well, America anyway, which is all Mike is really concerned about – instead of punishing us.

God likes more than anything else to mete out punishment for the slightest infringement of his rules, even though he neglected to tell us what he thought of transgenderism and abortion when inspiring his Magic Word™. You will search in vain for mention of either in the Bible, or anything like them, so it’s a good job we’ve got pastor Mike to tell us what God really thinks. He ‘processes’ it thus:

these checkpoints of moral degradation – transgrenderism (sic), homosexualism and the destruction of marriage, and abortion – all stem from the same polluted fountain out of which even the first sin flowed: self-deification.

It’s because we want to be like God, Mike concludes, that we are morally polluted. Work that one out if you can.

Haven’t we been here before? We sure have. Go back 50 years and God’s emissaries on Earth warned that if we (i.e. the United States again) accepted inter-racial marriage, it would be the end of civilisation because – yes, you guessed – it was against God’s rules. His wrath should have rained down on everyone once inter-racial marriage passed into law, but for some reason it didn’t. Just as it didn’t when same-sex marriage became legal a little while back. Just as it didn’t because of feminism. Just as it didn’t over the devil’s music, rock and roll (still upsetting Christians and their God even today.) Just as it didn’t when Jesus told everyone that judgement was nigh two millennia ago. Just as it didn’t when the prophets of doom in the Old Testament insisted it would (for example in Jeremiah 23.10-12). Just as it didn’t when primitive humans sought to explain why the harvests had failed.

Always, it was that God or the gods were angry and would punish us if we didn’t mend our ways. “But,” you say (just like Pat Robertson), “disasters and calamities do follow our ‘disobedience’ and ‘degradation’”. Of course they do, and they precede them too, but that does not mean the one causes the other. There is no correlation between our supposed ‘moral pollution’ and natural disasters. The latter are random and indiscriminate events, not divine punishment.

It is a favourite occupation of human beings generally and those of a religious disposition specifically, to assume a higher power will punish us, in this life or the next, if we don’t adjust our behaviour and stop doing what it doesn’t like. This is usually – by pure coincidence – what the religious themselves don’t like. As a result, it’s not all of us the deity is keen to judge, only those who don’t believe the same things as the Saved.

God’s favour is always conditional; not only on whether we have faith or carry out rituals that are pleasing unto him or dress appropriately (or grow straggly beards) but also on how we behave – whether we’re ‘morally polluted’ or ‘degraded’ and whether we regard ourselves, consciously or otherwise, as God. And you thought it was only about believing in Jesus.

And so the Righteous Ones direct their prayers up into the void (saying what, I wonder?) with words that never leave the room, or, sometimes, even, their own heads. No-one is listening. There is no-one there to listen. This same not-there, not-listening human creation is not angry with us because some people are attracted to their own sex or have abortions or change gender. Just like it was not angry about all of those other things we were told it once was. Just like it is not upset about poverty, injustice and cruelty, even though these were the concerns of Jesus, if not his present day followers. Meanwhile, not much changes here on Earth, unless we change it ourselves.

We can expect the next Jeremiah along soon, to tell us how offensive we all are to his make-believe god.

Amazing Grace’s Problem Page

Woman2Dear Grace,

Please help. I don’t know if my husband loves me. He says he does. He say he loves more than anything else, but very often the way he treats me makes me wonder. I can’t do anything right. He delights in telling me off and sometimes he hits me. I feel very unloved.

He likes to call me terrible names, like ‘worthless worm’, and says he feels nothing but contempt for me. He says that if I don’t do exactly what he says he’ll make my life a misery. He makes me grovel for his forgiveness and tells me I deserve to be punished for the way my family upset him way back when. I wasn’t even there so this hardly seems logical, let alone loving.

He insists that unless his interests come first in our marriage and in absolutely everything we do, he’ll put me through hell. He doesn’t want me to have life of my own and tells me unless I change to become more like him, he’ll abandon me.

I can’t bear the thought of his not approving of me and am frightened he’ll leave me if I don’t do what he says. So, Grace, can you tell me; does he care for me? Is this really love?

Yours,

Bridie

Grace replies: Of course he loves you, you silly bitch. Do you think I don’t recognise who you’re talking about here? Talk about ingratitude! You owe your husband everything. So what if he treats you like shit? He does everything for you and all he asks in return is you show him a little undying devotion. Quit your whingeing, get down on your knees and give him the adoration he so obviously craves.

Left Behind

Manning

A special guest post by the Rev. Dexter B. Wright, pastor of the Church of Holy Eternal Righteousness.

Let me tell you something, good Christian people: it’s unnatural! They say there’s 10% of them in the population but that’s just part of the propaganda and their sordid agenda. It’s a big fat lie. Even if there were that many, why should they have the same rights as the rest of us normal folk? They’d have you believe it happens in nature too but I’ve yet to see it. They flaunt their perversion, brazenly practising their sin in public instead of keeping it behind closed doors where it belongs, if it belongs anywhere. They seek to redefine what is Right, just as the scriptures said would happen in these last days.

Christian brothers and sisters, we must stand up and oppose this unnatural lifestyle. It needs stamping out, punished like it used to be. In the past, when people had more respect for God, these kind of people would be punished and humiliated – beaten even. Sometimes they’d have their hand strapped up to stop them using it for perversion. That cured ’em. Least ways I think it did – made ’em start to be behave right and proper like the rest of us. These days we’re too liberal; we make excuses for them, like ‘they can’t help it’ and ‘they were born that way’. Let me tell you – no-one is born that way! It’s a choice, pure and simple, because God doesn’t make mistakes. And you can be sure he won’t sit idly by while these perverts literally shake their fists at him. A society that accepts – openly accepts – the flagrant practice of sin can expect to suffer the full force of God’s wrath. I tell you, brothers and sisters, the tribulation is upon us.

You mark my words: we tolerate this, it will mark the start of persecution like the church has never known. Are you ready for that? Good Christian folks are already being forced to serve these deviants with wedding cakes and the like – it’s either that or lose their business – and next they’ll be forced to embrace people who want to write with their feet or something. Make no mistake, that’s the ultimate aim here. And you know who’s behind this sinister agenda, don’t you? That’s right, Satan himself, the Father of Lies.

God couldn’t be clearer in his Holy Word; if it ain’t Right, then it’s wrong. Our wondrous savior favors one hand and one hand only – and it sure ain’t the left. Soon as we stamp out this abomination the better.

 

Notes:

People have indeed suffered in the past for ‘choosing’ to be left-handed; ‘cures’ abounded.

The Bible frequently speaks of the right hand as the hand of note. See, for example, Matthew 25.31-34.

Picture: The ‘Honorable’ James Manning, chief pastor of the rabidly anti-gay Atlah church in Harlem, demonstrates how to make effective use of the right hand.

On Being An Agnostic Atheist

GodSo, no evidence offered by Christians – and I know quite a few read this blog – that human beings can, as their religion promises, live forever. No surprise there. Dave did comment, on Facebook, that he knows, because of faith, that he’s promised eternal life, but as I said last time, faith is not evidence.

Moving on. Over at his Northier Than Thou blog, Daniel Walldammit notes how often he comes across apologist sites that say, ‘I don’t believe in atheists.’ I’ve noticed similar statements online and in the hands of street preachers: ‘atheism is a temporary condition’ (quite clever that one, if somewhat overused), ‘atheists are just in rebellion against God‘ and ‘there’s no such thing as an atheist‘.

atheism-1Given that atheism exists whether Christians condescend to believe in it or not, I want to explain how you can be both an atheist and agnostic.

Theism is the belief in a personal god, one that was involved in the creation of the world, has taken an interest in its development and who relates to his principal creation, humankind. This theist god has a personality of his own (they are almost all ‘male’), is hands-on, intimately concerned with people and their behaviour. I see no evidence for this type of god, for reasons I’ve explored here and here. As a result, I am an a-theist, one who denies the existence of such an imaginary being.

‘But,’ say some critics of this argument, ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.’ Not so, as Irving Copi demonstrated long ago:

in some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence.

Without evidence there is no existence either for my pet dragon nor for the multitude of gods that humans have imagined for themselves throughout history. To claim that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ is an appeal to faith and wishful thinking (they’re the same thing). It says in effect that just because I can’t prove my God (or Santa Claus or my dragon) exists, doesn’t mean he doesn’t. But evidence is all: an entity which cannot be demonstrated evidentially does not exist independently from the human imagination that conceives it.

For my part, I’m also an anti-theist, which does not mean, as Christians like to claim it does, that I’m in rebellion against God – just as Christians themselves are not ‘in rebellion’ against Allah, Vishnu or Santa Claus. It isn’t possible to rebel against fictional characters. It is possible, however, to oppose the mumbo-jumbo that has accumulated around them and the irrational belief and unreasonable behaviour which that engenders. This is what it means to be anti-theist.

Deism is the belief in an impersonal god. It is a hypothetical entity that may or may not exist and is entirely unknowable, which is why I use ‘it’ to describe it because it would be impossible to know, if it does exist, whether it is male, female or something else entirely. While there is an absence of evidence for this type of god too, it is more difficult, because of its hypothetical nature, to demonstrate in the same way as for a personal god, that it doesn’t exist. It easier to refute the supposedly known features of a theist god, than it is the unknown qualities of the unknowable. So, I concede this impersonal deity may exist somewhere. I’m almost entirely certain it doesn’t, because absence of evidence is, after all, evidence of absence, but it could and I have to acknowledge that remote possibility. In this minimalist sense I am agnostic. I don’t, I stress, believe in this only remotely possible god; it is so hypothetical and inconsequential it might as well not exist, if it in fact it does. The concession I make that it may have a presence in some distant part of the universe, or possibly out of it, makes no difference to my life, beliefs or behaviour.

So, it is possible to be an agnostic atheist; to deny the existence of personal gods like Yahweh and Allah on the grounds that there is no evidence for them, while admitting to not knowing whether an unknowable god exists.

Even though it doesn’t.

 

 

When it’s Gone, it’s Gone

JudgementAs you’ll see in comments to previous posts, Christians like to encourage gambling. Recycling Pascal’s wager, they say things like ‘if I am wrong then I have based my life on a false premise and have ceased to exist. I won’t even have the opportunity to express regrets. However, if you are wrong, having rejected Christ, you, sadly, will have quite a while to weep, wail and gnash your teeth.’

The old faith-as-insurance-policy argument. Rather like the Chance card in Monopoly that lets you avoid jail, it offers you the chance to escape hell, where all this gnashing is supposed to occur, by the simple expedient of holding a particular set of beliefs in your head.

Surely this hedging of bets doesn’t impress God, the supposed creator of the universe, Father of mankind and judge of all the Earth. He won’t really be taken in, will he, on that great and dreadful Judgement Day when we admit, ‘actually, I only believed in you so you wouldn’t send me to hell’? Maybe he will, being a God without discernment or insight. It’s certainly all that evangelical Christianity has to offer – just ask my preacher friends – a Get Out Of Hell Free card. Which is a long way from what Jesus taught about the coming Kingdom and how to be part of it; not, in his case, by believing the right things but by doing them (Matthew 25.31-36).

What if I am wrong, though, as Christians think? Then I could be in trouble. But so might they; they could find they’ve gambled on entirely the wrong God (curse you Pascal for not thinking of that!) and find themselves up before Allah or Vishnu once they’ve miraculously survived death. ‘Wrong God, mate,’ Allah will have to tell them: الله خطأ، تتزاوج . What then?

And given that they think eternal life awaits them, why are so many Christians fearful of leaving this life? Could it be because they’re not convinced that the gamble is going to pay off? They know intuitively that this life is the only life they’ll be getting – and that when it’s gone it’s gone, as it says in Poundland. That will be why they mourn their brothers and sisters in Christ who ‘pass away’; “sorry to hear about your loss,” they say, when according to their magic betting slip it’s no loss at all but an immortal gain.

So I’m confident I’m not wrong. The odds are in my favour; the evidence is on my side. Consider, if you will, Christians:

  • Every single human who has ever lived has died, or will die, and has ceased to be in their entirety;
  • No human has ever lived again after death (not even Jesus who wasn’t, according to you, properly human anyway and so doesn’t qualify.)
  • No human has ever lived forever;
  • There’s nothing on the other side – no judgement, no Heaven, no Hell, no eternal life – because there is no ‘other side’.

If any of you would like to demonstrate that these assertions are wrong, please do. All I ask is that you bear in mind that insisting they’ll happen at some point in the future because the Bible says so, is not evidence; it’s wishful thinking. Which is pretty much where we came in.

All is vanity.

All is Vanity

DaleThe idea that human beings can live forever is a very old one, being part of a number of ancient religions. The Egyptians, for example, believed there was an afterlife and that where you spent it was determined by a post-mortem judgement. Christianity would later embrace similar notions of judgement and everlasting life.

The idea is, however, largely absent from Judaism. Ecclesiastes in the Christian Old Testament (‘Kohelet’ in Judaism) has this to say about death and its aftermath:

I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again (Ecclesiastes 3.18-20).

This seems to me to be an entirely realistic, if somewhat pessimistic, view of life and death. (And humans as animals! Today’s believers still have trouble accepting this, even when their holy book spells it out for them.) Later writing – the book of Daniel, for example – begins to toy with the idea of eternal life, but it isn’t until we get to Jesus’ time that the idea really takes off.

As the writer of Ecclesiastes knew, and as I suggest here, there is no evidence we survive death. Death would hardly be death if we did. The dessicated bodies of those Egyptians, mummified so their ‘owners’ could reclaim and re-use them on the other side, are still with us. There’s no evidence either that a special part of us – a soul or spirit – makes the transition. In any case, this is a predominantly pagan idea and is not what the New Testament offers. Both Jesus and Paul are firm believers in bodily resurrection here on the Earth.

The desire to live beyond the brief few years that our physical bodies last is understandable. It’s hard to imagine that one day every single one of us will no longer exist, that our consciousness, personalities, thoughts, memories, emotions – everything that makes us who we are – will simply no longer be. That’s why, I suppose, people in the past rebelled against that inevitability and fantasised about a continued existence once this one came to an end. Eventually religions came to offer such compensatory life-after-death, provided of course suckers people believed the right things.

Such is Christianity.

When you think about it, what a truly absurd notion it is; that believing in a magic formula will defeat death and enable you to be resurrected on the Earth to live in God’s new Kingdom here, or (when that didn’t quite pan out) taken up to Heaven to live there. All you have to do is believe the right things and God will do this for you. Death will be defeated by the simple expedient of your belief. We’re so used to the idea after 2,000 years of Christianity that the absurdity ceases to register – but absurd it surely is.

to be continued