Monday, December 31, 2007

Why I am no longer a Christian or A View of a Brave New World

I have spent the last year of my life going around and around in circles in my mind dealing with a crisis of faith.

It started with my first concept. I no longer believed in hell. It just did not make any sense to me. For Hell to exist it must have been created by God. Now what kind of God would create such an awful place? Discipline yes, but what sort of sick sadistic God would create a place of eternal torture? Not a place you go for a little while or until you learn your lesson, but for all eternity. Eternal torture and torment with no parole or end in sight. What a sick concept. And what do you have to do to desire such a fate you might ask? Genocide? Mass murder? Torture and killing of countless people? Yes, but also something relatively innocent like adultly, stealing, or possibly even not telling the truth depending on some peoples views. And the millions of people to happen to be born in countries where Christianity is not the norm or raised as such? Hell for them too. Burn baby burn.

Now the Christians go on endlessly about how God is all Love. A loving being wouldn't do this or ever even conceive of such a thing. Even if they are not correct and he is not all love, everyone seems to agree that the God is the creator of humanity. He made us and everything around us. Would you do this to your own creation? If this is true then truly God is nothing more than a kid with an ant farm and I want nothing to do with the sick son of a bitch.

To save myself from the pains of atheism it was far easier to just remove Hell from the equation and still be able to believe in God or at least a divine. This got me by for awhile until I could no longer ignore the obvious problems with this new view point. If you remove damnation, then salvation becomes a moot point. Without salvation, then no point to Jesus or his death. What happens when you die? Does everyone go straight to heaven? What about the "bad" people? If everyone gets a free pass then what is the point of life? It cuts the legs right out from under all morality as well as any futility of life. If nothing matters then why bother with anything?

A quasi-hell, purgatory concept didn't seem likely. You go to hell until you "paid your debt" then get out, but seems just too, I don't know, modern penal system to me. How about an eastern flavor? Incarnation! Yes, that seems a good fix. You repeat this life over and over again until you finally get it right. Goes well with a hermetic view point. Even Crowley believed in reincarnation. So now the crisis is fixed. No longer Christian because without salvation or Christ, you cannot be a Christian, but I wasn't a damn atheist or heathen. I still believed in a creator God or the divine. I could even allow the figure of Jesus to play a part as teacher and goal to achieve, to become like him.

This worked for a good while. I was even able to have a moral superiority over all the stupid Christians who actually feared Hell. I received all the good gushy feelings of being a religious type without any of the nasty side effects of actually having to do anything. But yet once again I began to question this new outlook on life and God. It just didn't feel right.

How can all this religious groups and all Christians really believe in hell? The concept of Hell and salvation for that matter is fundamental to all the groups, it is not just isolated to a fringe sect. How could they all possibly be wrong? You can try and play it off that they are all just stupid but if you actually believe in any sort of god then it boils down to two things.

#1. Either they are completely correct in their beliefs that Hell does exist.
#2. Or that God has not or can not correct his followers.

If number one is true then he is a sadistic God and I don't want anything to do with him. Even if I follow all the rules and get to go to Heaven, who would want to spend eternity with such a being? Fuck him, go ahead and send me to Hell.

If number two is true, then if he is such an ineffectual god that he cannot even teach his own followers what is true or not, then he is not deserving of my worship. Even in the best case, God could teach his followers the truth yet he keeps a hands off approach. Either as some sort of test or not to interfere in some sort of metaphysical prime directive. Once again, I don't want to play games, either man up and be God or leave me alone. If he is following a non-interference rule then it gives me a free pass to ignore him back.

This set up an odd state for me. Now either God just didn't exist or if he did then I had an animosity with him.

So I am left with a couple of options.

1. God is all Powerful and all Loving. So Hell doesn't exist as modern Christian religions understand it. Salvation is no longer valid. Jesus may or may not have existed. If Jesus did die on the cross then it had no point or God did not interfere and allowed him to die at the hands of mankind. So, we are left with a God who is so loving that he is ineffectual to save even his own son, or correct all his followers in the lies carried out in his name at his expense. Therefore, God is all Loving, but not all Powerful. He is either unable to change things or chooses not to for some reason. Or just outright does not exist.

2. God is all Powerful and not all loving. Rather only loving to a select few who only obey him beyond all else. This has issues as most of our inherent instincts drive us against his commands. So in effect he set us up to fail. See Garden of Eden: You can have everything in here except this one tree. Hint, hint, wink, wink, guess what is going to happen next? Therefore, God set up the universe as a test or a great cosmic joke to see if we could overcome ourselves or burn forever. Sick.

Dealing with this existential crisis I went around and around following cycles of logic each pointing to the truth I refused to see. I would scoff at Christianity but deep down still be in its thrall. I suffered depths of nihilism and would out of fear and depression approach the relativity safety of salvation yet again, back and forth until finally I allowed myself to see the perverse truth of the Christian religion and thought. Nietzsche was correct, the Christian God is a slave god. He is not in the least bit interested in my freedom or desires. He has given us "laws" do this, but don't do that or else. To be a Christian is to be a slave, to follow and wholly swallow its values regardless of what your heart says. You must overcome the inner voice and accept the voice out of time recorded in a book and repeated every Sunday morning from a pulpit. God is Love. He loves you. Do as he says! You are a bad person if you do not. You are a bad person if you think otherwise. You will be punished if you do not obey. You will be punished if you even question the truth. You must give up what your own physical body tells you to be true. If you give up all earthly pleasures and remove your own sense of values to replace them with ours you will be rewarded, but not now, only later, only after you die.

To sum up.

You must give up everything to follow God to gain the promise of salvation and eternal life. Although the promise is a bit shaky to begin with and almost every bit of the Christian belief system fails under the slightest of examination. In the light of reason the whole mess looks down right silly. The church's historical stance of being anti-science and critical of any individual thought or questioning makes a lot more sense in this light.

To give up God, to not follow him, to reject him, or out right accept the most probable conclusion that there is no God is a bolder path. Bold and terrifying in the extreme. If you remove God then you remove the bed rock of all of western society. Everything that is good and holy is now a lie and worthless. You no longer have societal norms to fall back on, you have to think for yourself. You have to decided what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. You must suffer the slings and arrows of those who are still stuck in the Christian paradox and are afraid to examine it in any real depth. You have to accept that when you die most likely you just cease to exist and the world will go on as if you never existed. You have to accept the fact that life in all likelihood has no intrinsic value or goal, that you yourself have to give life meaning or live with the fact that the next sixty years you will be doing nothing but working, eating, and pooping just so that you too can die for nothing. It is a great responsibility. You must accept your life and your decisions and all the random crap that comes from living without the old fall back of begging and pleading with heaven for things to change. If things are going to change then you must make it so.

On the other hand there are some good things that come with this bold path. A brave new world opens up. There is no damnation, there is no salvation, you are innocent and free to roam the earth doing what you will. If you accept that you will die and overcome the fear of that one certain and unalterable fact then there really is nothing left to fear. There is no punishment, there is no reward, you take life at its face value. You are finally and truly free. It is at once a terrifying and exhilarating new view of life.