Anybody belonging to this website for any significant length of time knows that that it is certainly no stranger to discussions of religion. Some might say it's been done to death. I'm not going to pretend like I'm not aware of that. However, my struggles and thoughts on faith lately - well I've been struggling for a great many years but lately I think I've been achieving some clarity - I just need to write them down, put clear words to the swirling going on in my head, for myself more than anybody else. This is a daylog, it's about my life, and my spirituality is as crucial to me as it is with most people (I think). If you don't care or aren't interested, skip ahead, or even downvote, whatever.
Even though Church was never more than a trivial part of our lives, a once-in-a-while thing, my family was Christian and each of my parents came from Christian families. We believe/d in God, Mom read us Bible stories, we went to Vacation Bible School once, we went to services every once in a great while, and that was it. I think my grandmother is Baptist (most of her family and ancestors are/were) but we were never any particular denomination. Ever since I first heard the term "nondenominational Christian" from my roommate Chris in college (what he had considered himself to be) I thought that was the perfect way to describe me and what religion I was. I've always found certain things about all denominations of Christianity to range from superfluous to utterly preposterous. Some Baptists - like the Church my wife had belonged to - don't believe in drinking or dancing. Drinking I can almost see, but dancing? Come on! Catholics see nothing wrong with drinking and they'll dance the night away but when it comes time to get jiggy with somebody forget about protection. What's up with that b.s.?? Pentecostals: women can't wear pants. Say What?!? And don't get me started on Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. And all these people are reading the same Bible?? Are they all smoking the same crack, too? What the hell was the matter with all of those religious clowns? The bickering and disagreements between the different groups is a gigantic, completely unnecessary three ring circus. Jump through these hoops and we'll give you a treat!
Yep, nondenom was for me. I wanted no part of that circus. The most important thing was believing in God. All that other crap unique to each sect was at best annoying and at worse oppressive. I, like apparently most others here, believe in living your life as you choose as long as you're not harming anybody or keeping them from living their life as they choose. Sounds good to me.
In the 1990's as I became a teenager and entered my young adult years, I became very doubtful, though, if there even was a god. When I was fourteen, in 1991, I had an epiphany of sorts and asked myself for the first time "What if there isn't a God??" I don't remember the exact date, except to say it was springtime, but I remember exactly where I was when it hit me. But, believe it or not, that's actually getting tangential and a little off topic from where I am going with this.
I believe in God now after going through a period where my beliefs ranged from agnostic to borderline athiestic. I believe in Him as a grand creator of sorts even though I subscribe to the theory of evolution, don't take Genesis literally, and think that strict Creationism is just plain silly. And don't get me started on Intelligent Design. But what about Jesus? What about the belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God and died on the cross, shed his blood to absolve us of our sins, the crux, the #1 unique belief of Christianity?
Pros: Hey, as long as you accept Christ as your savior, that's your ticket to Heaven. You can be imperfect. You can be a sinner. Drink, use condoms, women: wear those pants! If you believe it, you're Saved!
Cons: Everybody who doesn't is going to Hell. Muslims? Sorry, nothing but fire and brimstone in store for your afterlife. Buddhists? Yeah, same thing. Scientologists? If there is a God, yes, totally the fire. (Sorry, Tom Cruise.) Jews? Weeellll..... maybe.
After a lot of thought on the subject for years and years I have finally come to the definite conclusion that the preceding paragraph is absolutely, positively, a load of CRAP. You mean to tell me that a serial killer who has tortured and killed a bunch of people is going to Heaven if he finds Jesus while in prison and a good Muslim dude who is loving and devoted to his friends and family and would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it is going to Hell?
Sorry, does not compute. I don't believe that. I haven't for a long time (well, I never really did) and I'm not about to start believing it. Recently I was discussing this with swankivy via e-mail and my struggles with beliefs and what I am (can I really call myself a Christian if I don't believe that?) and she sent a PDF to me on the subject and, after reading some of it, I experienced the clarity I'd mentioned at the beginning of this: it's not true. Being "saved" by Jesus isn't necessary. And how could a God who is supposedly all about Love and is so wonderful and merciful send his children to a horrible afterlife just because of what religion they are? After years of questioning and hem-hawing and Wellmaybies and Idunnos, I decided that the notion of only people believing in Jesus going to Heaven was ridiculous. No, I didn't come to a potentially life-altering decision just because of some document somebody e-mailed me. That would be utterly foolish for somebody to do. It was more like I was at the edge of a proverbial cliff for a very long time and it just helped push me over the edge.
This morning I discussed a little religion with a coworker of mine. Turns out he is a regular churgh-goer and card-carrying Christian. I'd never known that until today. Anyway, I sort of mentioned this to him and he made a few interesting points. One was we have free will, that we have the choice, to believe it or not believe it, and God gave us that choice. Well, OK, can't really argue with that, at least about us having the choice. Life is all about choices, the decisions we make, they shape who we are, etc. Then he said that if you choose to go to the Lord, that's where you go, if you don't, by default you're choosing to go somewhere else. And where's the only other place you can go besides Heaven (according to the Bible)?
So, yes, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and anybody of any religion, they have the choice to believe it or not believe it. Nobody can say that they aren't given the choice. It is possible for every single human being on the planet to choose to believe that Jesus died for their sins... if they are aware the concept! Oh, yeah, that's what all those missions and missionaries are for. But while it's possible, is it likely? No! What, really, are the chances of a person born into a Muslim family, who has known that faith all of their lives, had the beliefs drilled into them, of converting to Christianity? I would guess pretty low! It happens from time to time, I'm sure, but not often. You would think that the being that created us would know our nature inside and out so why would he hinge an eternal afterlife sentence on a scenario that he knows full well is highly unlikely for anybody who is not born into a Christian family? Why kind of cruel God is that?? And it's even more unfair for people who have never heard of it (I'm sure there are some).
So now what? I suppose I cannot call myself nondenominational Christian any longer. How could I? If I continued to do so I'd be lying to everybody including myself. How can I still be Christian and believe that it's not necessary to accept Jesus Christ as my savior? I'm sure that there are plenty of Christians who don't believe that everybody of every other religion are going to Hell, but does moderate Christianity make any sense? That sort of makes believing in Jesus meaningless if you don't have to, doesn't it?
So that's it. Until further notice, while I do believe in God, I do not belong to any particular religion. Any Christians on E2 who would like to try to correct me where I'm wrong or try to reel me back in are certainly free to /msg me. I welcome it, actually. Somebody tell me where I'm off. Or if you'd like to give me a high five and tell me I've got it exactly right, feel free to do that, too. I plan on reading the Bible anyway. That was one good suggestion that my coworker had. Well he didn't suggest directly, just mentioned that he had and was amazed by it. I already was, but very slowly. Two years and I'm only into the third book. But until further evidence is brought to my attention, either by the Good Book or any messages from you guys, the case is closed, the prosecution rests.