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Imagine There's No Heaven

John 3:16 is the essence of Christianity. But I no longer believe it.

In my quest to better understand the Bible, I’ve become completely disillusioned with it. I’ve seen it manipulated and twisted to justify discrimination, and I’ve seen it interpreted to justify helping people. How, then, is it a useful guide? Imagine no religion. Would there still be discrimination and people helping other people? I believe there would.

So which comes first: the belief or the interpretation? I can no longer see a clear answer to that question. And it no longer matters to me.

The only thing I am pretty sure of is this: my beliefs will not be structured by any organized religion again.

I no longer believe in an angry God, a God to be feared, who needed the sacrifice of his son to quell his anger.

I no longer believe everyone must hear the gospel in order to be “saved.”

I no longer believe in the traditional concepts of heaven and hell.

I don’t believe Christians – or any other religion – should use their political influence to push their “moral codes” into civil law.

I believe in the human spirit. I believe in a greater Spirit, as well, though I am not clear on what that means. Right now, I do not need to know.

I believe in love.

I believe that in every people, every religion, and every form of government, there are those doing harm and those doing good. Because good and bad exist as an integral part of all humanity. We all choose which path we will take every moment.

I do not begrudge you the right to believe as you do. Will I judge? Yes, but I will judge you as Dr. Martin Luther King did: on the content of YOUR character.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
dreamer_98
Jan. 31st, 2012 03:26 am (UTC)
I struggle with Christianity often, because as you mentioned, there are so many people that twist it and use it to justify their actions, and there are those who follow and believe some things but discard others. It's difficult to know. I believe in God but at the same time, I respect people who don't or who have a different faith. I don't pity them and think they're all going straight to hell. I'm not going to try and impose my beliefs on them, just as I wouldn't want them trying to do the same to me.

I wish people could just accept that others have different beliefs, and respect that.
bonnie_halfelvn
Jan. 31st, 2012 10:59 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, that's part of the dogma: bring everyone into the fold. Lots of bad stuff has happened because of that belief.
laughingmagpie
Jan. 31st, 2012 03:41 am (UTC)
I really relate to what you've written here.

I've been asking myself more and more: do I need to believe in the God or religion of my childhood in order to believe in, and practice, rigorous Goodness?

I love that quote from Martin Luther King. It means a lot to me.
bonnie_halfelvn
Jan. 31st, 2012 11:08 am (UTC)
I keep hearing that song, "Both Sides Now." I have so many friends that are atheists or agnostics. They are good people.

I know people who adamantly believe that only through God can you be truly good. I've seen peole do truly evil things in the name of Christianity.

It's all just brought me to that realization of the human condition. The good and bad are in us.

The biggest advantage of working through the Church is that they often have the infrastructure in place to go places. For example, the Bill anad Melinda Gates Foundation and others are working with the United Methodist Church in their "No More Malaria" campaign. They are working to eliminate Malaria in Africa. They chose to work with the UM Church because they've been going to Africa for years. No point in starting from scratch.

As great as that is, I have needed to stay away - to cleanse the palate, as it were. I have to get to a place where I can let most of the dogma roll off. I'm not there yet. It feels like poison to me now.
laughingmagpie
Jan. 31st, 2012 04:16 pm (UTC)
Yes - the infrastructure is a great advantage. When I stopped going to church, I also found I miss the ritual, the scheduled events (I'm lazy - it's good to be told occasionally: OK Now You Should Think Of XYZ) and the community.

My sister started going to the Unitarians, and I've joined them for a few services. It's gentle and relatively dogma-free.
bonnie_halfelvn
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:57 am (UTC)
There is a UU church in a nearby town. I may stop from time to time. The main point of church for me will be connecting with people and with ways to help others.

In reality, that's what it's been for years.
ravennaneroon
Jan. 31st, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
Have you ever read Joseph Campbell? He does a wonderful job of deconstructing religion to analyze the myth and belief structure underneath in context with its historical origins (including the predominant power structures). The only religion paradigm he didn't get to before he died was Meso- and South American. The easiest one to get a hold of is The Power of Myth. His Masks of God series is *wonderful* if a bit dense if you're not a history buff like me.

I abandoned religious dogma when I was in the field as a Paramedic and saw and heard too many things that conflicted with Church teachings. On the other side of the coin, I saw a lot of things that convinced me that there is something rather encompassing that is not just "out there" but also in us, and is not separate from us. It is a soul-shattering moment to tear aside the veil of the universe and see yourself staring back.
bonnie_halfelvn
Feb. 1st, 2012 04:02 am (UTC)
"It is a soul-shattering moment to tear aside the veil of the universe and see yourself staring back."

I think that is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

Thanks! I'm going to remember that one.
ravennaneroon
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:10 pm (UTC)
You are welcome.

The follow up to it is "Be sure to welcome yourself home."
dharmakaya2
Jan. 31st, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
It's such a good place to be
Hey Bonnie -- just read this entry and I think it's s good place to be. It's an honest place where you don't have to defend anything or do the theological gymnastics to have it all make sense.
If you'd like to delve into Christian mysticism I recommend Matthew Fox. Highly! I'm not adverse to X-tian mystics at all, myself. Fox's book THE COMING OF THE COSMIC CHRIST is really helpful. It's very supportive of people like me and you.
If you're interested in an Eastern approach I really recommend anything by Thich Naht Than or Pema Chodron. They're very accessible.
Anyway, thinking about you! Peace and love,
Joe T.
bonnie_halfelvn
Feb. 1st, 2012 04:03 am (UTC)
Re: It's such a good place to be
Love you, sweetheart! *hugs*
belluthien
Feb. 1st, 2012 07:01 am (UTC)
Love you and miss you, my friend.
I've been thinking of you often.
y
bonnie_halfelvn
Feb. 1st, 2012 11:03 am (UTC)
I miss you, too. *hugs*
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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