You’re all sinners!

BabyYou are a sinner. You deserve the wrath of God. After you die, you will meet God face to face and because of your sin he will throw you into the pit of hell for all eternity. But repent of your sin and believe the gospel and instead he will cast your sin away from you, as far as east is from west.

Or so said the street preacher in the centre of town at the weekend (yes, our old friend Dale McAlpine; he who suffers excessively from religion-virus).

I’m not a sinner. And neither, dear reader, are you. Sometimes in my life I’ve behaved badly, it’s true. I’ve hurt other people, though usually unintentionally, and I’ve been thoughtless. I’ve been unappreciative of loved ones and haven’t done enough for others. I’ve said things I shouldn’t and have occasionally lost my temper. I’ve even had sex when it wasn’t for making babies.

Maybe you’ve done similar things and, like me, have transgressed the moral law (which is entirely of human making) in all of these minor ways. Others have transgressed it, and the societal laws it gives rise to, in far worse ways, by deliberately hurting or abusing others, raping and murdering.

But still neither they nor us are sinners. Whether we have behaved reprehensibly or only a little thoughtlessly, we are still not sinners. We are human and we behave as humans behave; as evolved apes our developed brains jostle with animal natures, and we act as our distinct environments have taught us. ‘Sin’, on the other hand, is a distinctly religious concept, a component of a fantasy perspective of life with no purchase outside of its religious context. The problem with it is, however, that it has intruded for the best part of a two thousand years into reality, into life as it is lived by most people most of the time, and we’ve grown used to it. We give it credence when it’s talked about or preached from pulpit or soap box. But it is a meaningless concept.

The word for sin that is used most frequently in the New Testament (221 times) is ‘hamartia’, an archery term meaning ‘to miss the mark’. It means not being as good as we could be; not coming up to God’s standard: ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ as old wingnut Paul puts it in Romans 3.23. And this is the secondary – some would say primary – application of the idea of sin; it denotes our separation from God. The thinking behind this idea goes as follows: there must be a reason God always seems so distant, remote, far away, elusive and absent from us. And because he’s God and so wouldn’t behave in such a cold-hearted way if we didn’t deserve it, it can only be our fault. His distance, therefore, can only be because of sin, our failure to behave and be, from the moment of our birth, as he would want us to. Yes, sin really is God’s kryptonite and, according to Christian doctrine, Jesus came to be the lead lining that blocks its rays.

But this is an unnecessarily convoluted way to account for the perceived divine distance. It is much better explained by God’s existential and literal absence. It’s not our fault he’s so far away – or rather it is, but not because we sin. In our childish need to have someone out there who both explained everything and cared for us, we made him up. We anthropomorphised an insentient, indifferent universe, which could only ever lead to a God who felt distant and remote.

So, as Dale was recommending on Saturday, free yourself from ‘sin’. Recognise that you don’t fall short of the glory of God, because no such thing exists, and that you behave as you do because you’re human. And then you will be free indeed.

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Loose Threads

FamilyPick a thread. Any thread. And start pulling. Gently does it, no need for force. A gentle pull on any of the loose ends of faith and the whole fabric will come apart quickly.

Here, pull on this one marked ‘the infallibility of the Bible‘. See how easily it comes loose as soon as you realise that most of it, Old and New Testament alike, was written long after the events it purports to describe, some of it by imposters and forgers.

Or this one – the salvation thread, much of it stitched into place by an excitable chap prone to hallucinations. Pull it and see how its pattern is nothing like the one proposed by the man it claims to be about.

Pull the magic threads, the ones about Gods, supernatural beings, heaven and hell, eternal life. Watch them disintegrate in your fingers once they’re teased out into the real world.

Take hold of the threads about Resurrections, Second Comings, Raptures and Judgements; so fragile, these break away as soon as they’re touched. The only miracle is that they’ve lasted this long.

Then there’s the promises threads, about how believers are going to do fantastic miracles and heal the sick and raise the dead. Imaginative and colourful, these have never really fitted in.

Then there’s the prayer threads, whose embroidery tells us how prayer works, how God will give us whatever we ask for. Downright embarrassing, these – yank ’em out.

And how about the strands that those who say they love the cloth pick out themselves and throw away? You know the ones; the threads which tell them how to live their lives that they just don’t like the look of and think spoil the overall effect. These have definitely got to go.

What about the threads that weren’t originally there – the ones about ‘defending God’s standards‘ and having a ‘relationship‘ with a dead person? These grubby, greasy threads have been added in to replace the ones those who love the cloth have pulled out for themselves.

Choose any number of other threads – the ones that clash with other bits of the pattern, the ugly brutal ones, the fantastic, the ignorant – and give them a tug. Oh, look. They come away too.

And before you know it, the entire fabric has come apart in your hands. All that’s left is a pile of worthless, brittle threads, good for nothing but throwing in the bin.

Is there anybody out there?

KenAnyone searching for extra-terrestrial life – NASA, SETI and so on – can stop now. We know definitively that there isn’t any out there. How do we know? Because Ken Ham says so. The Bible – Genesis specifically – doesn’t mention life on other planets so that means there isn’t:

(T)he notion of alien life does not square well with Scripture. The earth is unique. God designed the earth for life. The other planets have an entirely different purpose than does the earth, and thus, they are designed differently… where does the Bible discuss the creation of life on the “lights in the expanse of the heavens”? There is no such description because the lights in the expanse were not designed to accommodate life [this is utter gibberish; life within stars? Who has ever suggested that?] God gave care of the earth to man, but the heavens are the Lord’s. From a biblical perspective, extraterrestrial life does not seem reasonable.

But hang on a minute! The Bible doesn’t mention other planets, never mind whether there’s life on them. It doesn’t tell us anything about cultures outside of a small area in the Middle East, doesn’t mention the Americas or Australasia, doesn’t have anything to say about microbes, anti-biotics, computers or technology in general. It must follow, therefore – to use Ken’s logic – that none of these things exist either.

The reason the Bible doesn’t mention any of them, and a myriad of other things, is not because they don’t exist but because the primitive priests and ignorant scribes who wrote Genesis and the rest of Ken’s magic book didn’t know that they did. They had no concept that the Earth is a planet, let alone that there are others; they had no idea that the sun is a star, nor that other stars, which they thought were attached to the inner surface of a canopy surrounding the Earth, are suns. With such a limited cosmology the possibility that there might be life on other planets was as alien to them as, well, aliens themselves.

Whether there is extra-terrestrial life, and whether any of it is intelligent, we may never know. But either way, Ham’s deity will have no bearing on it, nor it on the Christian God. The existence of aliens, like their absence, won’t breathe life into an already discredited idea.

The Late Great Planet Earth

burning_earth1The scene yesterday as the Earth finally came to an end.

 

Today is an illusion. You are not really here. Yesterday, the world ended, destroyed with the fire predicted in 2 Peter 3. The Lord finally had enough and set fire to the Earth and obliterated it.

So how was it for you?

And here we are today, the day after it all ended. Doesn’t it seem remarkably like it was before the terrible events of yesterday?

As ever, God mispoke to his trusted servants who took the time to tell us of our impending doom.

Never mind. Let’s set another date. Oh wait – we already have. Plenty to choose from here. You can’t have too many ends-of-the-world, can you?

 

Our Operators are Waiting to Hear from You!

ApostlesHi! You’ve reached the Salvation Hotline. Calls may be recorded for training purposes. All offers are validated by our six day guarantee.* Please listen carefully to your options:

Press 1 for Matthew. With one of our less popular offers (but don’t let that put you off!) Matthew is waiting to explain our buy-one-get-one-free offer! Keep the Jewish law and be saved, plus, forgive others and be forgiven yourself!

Press 2 for John who will tell you how you can get your very own get-out-of-Hell just by believing! Eternal life awaits!

Press 3 for Luke. Luke wants to let you know you how you can be saved simply by asking for forgiveness. Note: this offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other.

Press 4 for Luke’s bargain Family Ticket! Only one family member need sign up and the rest go free!

Press 5 for Paul and to hear about a unique special offer! ‘God’s grace’ can save you without you making any real effort on your part! Not to be missed.

Press 6 for Paul’s great alternative offer: get saved for free! No need to do anything! (Offer good for Jews only. Terms and conditions apply.)

Press 7 for a special operator who passes himself off as Paul but isn’t. And he has a great offer for our female callers! He’ll tell you about how, just by having babies, you can be saved! It really doesn’t get any better than this, ladies! Get saved just by doing what comes naturally!

Press 8 for a very special guy of ours who wants to stay anonymous! But he will show you how you can escape death by buying into Jesus’ cosmic defeat of evil!

Press 9 for James who will tell you how you need to do good if you want to be saved. So, okay, Paul doesn’t think so, but we want to make sure you hear all our offers!

Please note: these offers are mutually incompatible so you might just want to hang up now and forget all about them.

*Our guarantee isn’t worth the paper it’s written on but for legal reasons, here it is anyway:
Press 1: Matthew 5.17-19 & 6.14.
Press 2: John 5.24.
Press 3: Acts 2.36-38.
Press 4: Acts 16.30-31.
Press 5: Romans 10.5; Ephesians 2.8.
Press 6: Romans 11.26-27.
Press 7: 1 Timothy 2.15.
Press 8: Hebrews 2.14-15.
Press 9: James 2.14-17, 24