It’s a Free Gift! Glory!

As I was sitting on the throne earlier today perusing my copy of “Uncle John’s Triumphant 20th Anniversary Bathroom Reader”, I came across this glorious quote:

“There is no more expensive thing than a free gift.” – Michel de Montaigne

As I read that glorious quote, it struck me how true it is when applied to Christianity. Christians love to go on about how salvation is a “free gift” from God. They won’t shut up about it any more than they will about how Christianity allegedly isn’t a religion, but a personal relationship with Jesus.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Christian God is real and that he is the one true God and that the Bible is his word and is trustworthy (yeah, I know, a highly debatable and extremely improbable proposition given the complete lack of evidence for the existence of God and the many serious problems with the Bible), what does it cost us to believe in and accept God’s free gift of salvation? The short answer is, “EVERYTHING!”

 

Let’s say that you hear the Gospel message and believe it and you submit to God’s Plan of Salvation (which is http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2002/10/gods-extremely-complex-plan-of.php” extremely complex, btw) and go through the process of accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then what is your salvation going to cost you after the emotional “honeymoon” high of your religious conversion wears off?

Being a Christian is very much like being a drug addict. When you first try a new addictive recreational drug, every time you use it you get a great high and feel fantastic, which keeps you coming back for more. But soon, addiction sets in and using the drug starts becoming an obsession and a need rather than a fun diversion. Everything but getting your next fix begins to fade in importance – job, family, friends, hobbies, etc. – until nothing is left except using the drug and doing whatever is necessary to get your next fix. Drug addiction is a tragedy that frequently robs its victims of everything that had value to them from their jobs and families to their possessions, and then it all too frequently takes their lives as well. In the same way, involvement in Christianity starts out with some wonderful emotional highs that feel fantastic, but then it slowly but surely robs you of everything that makes you valuable and unique as a human being – your mind, your will, and your emotions.

So he (Jesus) answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and  ‘your neighbor as yourself.

 

According to Jesus, one of the things we should love God fully with is our minds. But what happens to the mind as a result of religious conversion? It is put in neutral! People don’t convert to Christianity – or any other religion – based on a reasoned, carefully thought-out assessment of the available facts and evidence that exists in favor of or in opposition to a set of religious beliefs. Religious conversions typically take place in an emotionally charged atmosphere after a sermon laced heavily with fear, guilt, and shame (the three things religion thrives on, besides ignorance) has been preached.

Religious conversions generally only occur after the victims have been subjected to substantial amounts of emotional manipulation, and in some cases, abuse. Christians are taught to view their own instincts and “worldly” knowledge (such as the latest scientific findings) with suspicion. Intellectualism is frowned upon and ignorance (scientific and otherwise) is proudly hailed as a virtue. Christians are taught that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) and that they should trust in the Lord and lean not on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), and things just go downhill from there. Trusting in Jesus may sound great, but what about trust and belief in oneself? The self is subordinate to “God’s will” in Christian teaching… Christians coming out of the cult after years of brainwashing and indoctrination frequently don’t know themselves or how to trust and believe in themselves.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”

In Christianity, the individual will is subordinate to the will of God. Millions of Christians pray daily for God’s will to be done in their lives. But what about their own will? What about the individual’s right to make their own decisions about their own lives? That doesn’t concern devout Christians because they have been taught that they are not their own, that they have been bought with a price, that being the Blood of Jesus. (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Christians are taught in Romans 12:1-2 to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice and to renew their minds and not be conformed to the world. And what about Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

A committed Christian will have no concern for their own will and they will constantly be trying to figure out what God’s will is, which is a very unhealthy state of affairs since God is nonexistent and is therefore silent. Christians coming out of the cult frequently have issues trusting themselves and making their own decisions about their own lives.

Emotional issues can run deep for Christians and for those coming out of the cult. Christians – especially those involved in the Charismatic “health and wealth” teachings – can lack trust in their own emotions. Christians caught up in those teachings expect to live victoriously in Christ. They expect to be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) and for them anything negative comes from the devil. Of course, being taught that you are a terrible sinner who deserves to burn in hell forever can cause emotional issues too. When you believe that your righteous acts are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), how can you feel good about yourself?  How can you trust yourself?

As should be obvious, this wonderful-sounding “free gift” can end up costing a great deal! This is one offer you can and should refuse!

Why I Am Not a Believer

I recently have had some contact with the man who “led me to the Lord” way back in 1985. His name is Mike, and I still consider him to be a good friend, though we were out of contact for many years. Our religious journeys over those years have been very different. Mike is still a devout Christian believer. I am an ex-Christian and an Atheist. Could our paths over the years have possibly been more different? Yet we still get along well, at least judging from our email exchanges. I love Mike and he is still a very special person to me. But we will have to agree to disagree when it comes to religion. Mike said that if we had a couple of hours to sit down over coffee, he could clear up 75% of my “misconceptions” about the Bible. I would love to spend that time with a good old friend, but I doubt I would come away a believer again.

I wrote a site to explain to Mike why I no longer believe, and it is publicly available here:

http://dearmike.religionisbullshit.me

Mike claims that it was not “hard hitting”, but that wasn’t necessarily my intent. I simply wanted him to understand why it is that I no longer believe in God or in the notion that the Bible is the “word” of a god. Mike claims that I don’t know much about the Bible judging by my site, but nothing could be further from the truth. I will freely admit that I have never read the Bible in its entirety (it is a long and mostly very dry and boring collection of books), but I do indeed know quite a bit about the origins and contents of the Bible, which in large part is why I no longer believe it. I am all too aware of the Bible’s many major problems and flaws, which is why I find it impossible to view it as anything close to being inerrant or infallible. I know about the hundreds of contradictions, the hilarious absurdities, the many horrific atrocities, the bad “history”, the myths, the fables (stories involving talking animals), etc. I know that most of the books of the Bible were authored anonymously. We have no idea who actually wrote them. If God was going to author a book, He could do a lot better than the Bible!

Mike still believes strongly in the existence of the God of the Bible. I, on the other hand, see absolutely zero evidence for the existence of any god at all. I do not believe in the God of the Bible. But…I also do not believe in the thousands of other gods mankind has dreamed up. Yet Christians typically have this reaction if you admit to not believing in their god:

The only place God ever says, thinks or does anything at all is in the minds of believers, and that is a huge clue to me to the reality of his nonexistence.

Mike strongly believes Jesus Christ was a historical person and that he was and is God. I, on the other hand, strongly doubt the existence of an historical Jesus, and I reject the idea that he was or is God. That isn’t a conclusion I reached overnight. It comes after years of thought and research, but I believe it reflects the most likely truth about Jesus. I just finished reading The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus. Earl Doherty makes a very strong case in the book for the nonexistence of Jesus as an historical person. I am open to any proof that Jesus really lived in history, but I doubt any is going to be forthcoming, from my friend Mike or anyone else. Such proof simply does not exist. The apostle Paul believed in a spiritual Christ who never had an earthly existence, and the stories we know about Jesus from the Gospels can be shown to be constructed from the Old Testament by a process known as midrash. The few mentions of Jesus that exist outside of the Bible can be dismissed as hearsay. And Jesus as he is portrayed in the Gospels ranks very high on Lord Raglan’s Hero Pattern scale. Pretty convincing stuff to me…

Sure, there is a part of me that would find it emotionally satisfying to believe again, but the cognitive dissonance would be too much to bear. I know that from experience because I have bipolar disorder and the manic phase of that illness features bouts of religiosity that have seen me briefly return to faith several times over the years. But it never lasts. Part of the reason for that is the mania dying down, but it’s also because I simply know too much about the Bible and the Christian religion to find belief tenable again for any length of time. I have actually written a book on the subject. I sent a copy of it to my friend Mike, and I would like to make it freely available here.

http://www.religionisbullshit.me/bipolarreligiosity.pdf

That part of me that wishes for belief again hopes that Mike comes up with evidence that will make that possible, without the cognitive dissonance being an issue. But…I doubt seriously that such evidence will be forthcoming. It simply does not exist. And I am familiar enough with Christian apologetics to know that very little of what a Christian apologist is going to have to say is going to stand up to critical scrutiny. And so…I shall remain an ex-Christian Atheist.