What Would the Hulk Do?

What the world needs now is anger: pure, unbridled rage at the countless injustices that occur each day. Without this bitter yet necessary tonic, the horrors that disfigure God’s creation will only grow worse. Good, old-fashioned anger – of the righteous variety – is a quality that’s in desperately short supply these days.

But, in order to accomplish its purpose, anger must be tempered with the wisdom and the courage to see where the evil truly lies. Otherwise it will destroy the innocent along with the guilty, leaving nothing in its wake but a barren, wretched wasteland

Why the “Christian Left” is as Much a Wrong Turn as the Christian Right

JesusJesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36

The relationship between people of faith and the larger world is one that vexes every spiritual community now and then.  For the church, which started out as a misunderstood sect persecuted by the ruling authorities, this has been an especially thorny problem to sort out.  Over the last two millennia believers have tried many approaches to this issue, from absolute non-participation is political matters to partnering with rulers and politicians who claim to represent “Christian values.”

The dilemma is complicated by the fact that, both in the Roman Empire and in today’s United States, participation in civic affairs is not only expected, it’s actually vital to a healthy society.  Simply put, it’s good to vote.  It’s good to educate oneself on the issues of the day, while listening to advocates of all sides in the process.  And it’s certainly right and proper to discuss these matters with others – with a civil tone, and, when necessary, agreeing to disagree without being disagreeable.  If one thing is abundantly clear about both religion and politics, it’s that people of good will can hold very opposing views.

The question of how much those who identify as Christians should engage in political activity is more problematic, however.  Jesus was non-partisan in his attitudes towards human beings; we are all equally sinful.  We all have the capacity to turn into monsters given a halfway decent excuse.  The people who burned “witches” at Salem and “heretics” during the Inquisition were fundamentally the same as you and I.  So were those who destroyed churches and imprisoned believers during the Soviet era, for that matter, or those who enslaved African-Americans by the millions right here in the Land of the Free.

If you want to know what kinds of people are capable of such atrocities, then just look in the mirror.  It’s a small step from insulting and dehumanizing anonymous strangers on the Internet to burning them at the stake.  All you or I need is a flimsy rationalization to justify our brutality.

Jesus was quite familiar with this dark side of human nature.  That’s why he demanded self-examination.  It’s why he told his followers to focus on their own shortcomings rather than those of others.  He insisted that people look at themselves as they truly are.

That’s probably why many of his followers abandoned him.  It’s popular to preach against sin, so long as you don’t mention the sins your congregation is fond of.  Hence the phenomena of the minister who rails against homosexuals to a room full of straight people, or the one who preaches about corporate greed to a group of left-wing activists.  It’s always fun to look down on the other tribe while simultaneously patting oneself on the back.

What does any of this have to do with politics?  Simply this: when Christians import the same level of urgency to issues like gay marriage, the minimum wage, global warming, universal healthcare, etc., as they do to matters like repentance, faith, and humility, they ignore Jesus’ message and dilute the faith.  Evil people will always figure out ways to ruin any system, whether or not it taxes the rich, outlaws marijuana, provides welfare, or subsidizes farmers.  Acting as if a particular approach to those controversies can solve the world’s problems is like expecting an aspirin to cure cancer.  It ignores the malicious sickness that underlies the problem.

This hasn’t stopped people of all political stripes from trying to recruit Jesus to their side, however.  Since the late 1970s millions of Evangelical Christians have blurred the line between right-wing causes and the church’s mission.  These people have towed the party line, organized at all levels of society, and, in general, proclaimed God a conservative.

The fruits of their labors have been bitter indeed.  The issues they care the most about, abortion and gay marriage, have gone in exactly the opposite direction they intended.  So have other matters to which many of them have given a theological spin, like taxation, welfare, drug laws, and environmental policy.

But, even more dismal is the fact that they have alienated millions of people who might otherwise have been drawn to Christ.  The world sees the shallowness and lust for power that underlies their motivations and rightly turns away in disgust.

If Christians would learn the true lesson behind this debacle, then there might be hope for the future.  But, instead, many of them have missed the point by going in the opposite direction.  Instead of wrapping Jesus in the cause of the GOP they turn him into a leftist revolutionary.  Instead of hating gay marriage he’s all for it.  Rather than opposing abortion he respects a woman’s right to choose.  He believes in global warming and wants all of us to drive hybrids or ride a bike.  He installed solar panels on the roof of heaven and supports Obamacare.  And, when he eventually does return to earth, it will be in a battery-powered car with zero emissions.

In short, he now looks a lot like the left-leaning people who, just like those on the Right, are anxious to make him one of their own.

The problem is, Jesus isn’t going along with the Left’s agenda any more than with the Right’s.  He’s no more likely to endorse Hillary Clinton than Ted Cruz.  No matter what tribe you’re a member of, he’s still going to stand apart from it.  And he will look at you with eyes that cut right through your pride, vanity, and self-righteousness.

That’s because he’s not interested in winning votes.  He’s after far more than that.  He wants to save our souls.  To do so, he will call us to turn our accusing gaze away from both those dirty liberals and those heartless conservatives.  He will compel us to turn our wrath on ourselves, ripping apart any basis we have for believing we’re on “his side.”  Then he will do it again, and again, and again.

This is a Jesus who nobody wants around.  So we build a plastic substitute for him and mold it in our image.  He will have none of it.  And he will have nothing to do with our efforts to build a “Christian” Right or Left.  The position he demands of us isn’t horizontal but vertical: down on our knees or prostrate on the floor, not comparing ourselves to others but only to him, and saying in response, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

That’s the real Christ of the Bible: one who is not interested in our politics or our prejudices.  He will not be reduced to a party platform, and he won’t give you a reason to hate or belittle others, no matter who they vote for.  And that’s just the way it is.

Why the Aliens Don’t Talk to Us

Probability theory tells us that there are billions of planets in the universe with life on them.  Many of these worlds are inhabited by ultra-intelligent, highly enlightened entities.

Some folks are skeptical about whether the aliens are really out there, though. They ask why these advanced beings don’t ever contact us.  For these unbelievers, I have a pair of recent news stories to share.

1. In Chicago, there’s a pilot program that combines traditional high school education with vocational training, making sure that the graduates have the skills needed to get good-paying jobs. So far it has a 100% success rate. This groundbreaking initiative recently got $100 million in funding.

2. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerburg, who we all know, just found out about an app that lets people on Facebook talk to people on Google+. He gave the inventors $19 billion. That’s almost 200 times the amount of money that was given to the schools.

Once again:

We earthlings gave $100 million to finance a revolutionary approach to schooling, one that may end the skills gap among American workers, making our nation more competitive on a world scale.

AND

We gave $19 billion for an app that lets a guy on Facebook say to his friend on Google+, “‘sup, bitch?”

And that, my dear readers, is why the aliens prefer to leave us alone.

Why Our Delusions are Killing Us; or, Obama Isn’t from Kenya and Bush Didn’t Blow Up the World Trade Center

Over the last 14 years, while most of America has been worrying about everything from Bieber to budget deficits, two great cracks have appeared in the foundation of society. These are not financial problems, military threats, or technological issues. They are far greater threats to the future of American freedom than any of those problems could be.

What are these menaces to the country? They’re a pair of ideas, both so ludicrous that no one of sound mind should entertain either of them for more than a second. Yet both have been embraced by tens of millions of Americans, who refuse to admit that they are utterly without rational support. Ready? Here they are:

1. The “truther” theory, which claims that the events of 9/11 were an inside job set up by George W. Bush and his allies in the petroleum industry.
2. The “birther” theory, which states that President Obama was born outside of the United States and hence is ineligible to be commander-in-chief.

Both beliefs have been debunked by volumes of irrefutable evidence; yet both are still believed by vast segments of the population. For those who are interested in the details, this link goes to a report from Popular Mechanics magazine that shreds the truther’s claims. As for the birther myth, this link provides more than enough information to send this pack of nonsense to the garbage bin of history where it belongs.

There are many other myths that are accepted by smaller bands of zealots. Here are some of the more popular ones that have appeared in recent history:

• The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary was set up by the Obama Administration to demolish the Second Amendment and take guns away from patriotic Americans.
• President Clinton’s sexual misbehavior was caused by a group of right-wing extremists who sent Monica Lewinsky to prey on him.
• All the major problems in the world, including war, can be traced back to the fact that most people believe in God. Religious faith is a harmful meme that must be expunged from the world for the sake of peace and progress.
• The Founding Fathers were all stalwart believers who based the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution on the Bible. Thus, atheists and other non-Christians are against everything the United States was founded on.
• Gay marriage is a scheme promulgated by far-left radicals, who wish to destroy the institution of marriage and place the United States under Socialist dictatorship.
• All Muslims are enemies of the United States, who would gladly walk into our churches and elementary schools with bombs strapped to their chests, because that’s what their Sharia law tells them to do.
• All African-Americans, or virtually all of them, are criminals and freeloaders who want to rape white women and blame everything on slavery.
• All, or at least most, white people hate colored people and want to sterilize them.
• All Republicans love big business and worship Ayn Rand.
• All, or almost all, rich people are saints who earned their money through hard work and self-discipline. Anyone who thinks the wealthy owe a debt to society is a lazy parasite with a sense of entitlement.
• Rich people (with the exception of Hollywood celebrities, left-leaning musicians, and a handful of liberal business owners) got their money by oppressing the poor and raping the environment. Their money should be taken away from them and distributed to their countless victims.
• All Democrats hate America and want to remold the country to look just like France.
• The cure for every illness can be found in natural substances like herbs, or in meditation, yoga, or faith healing. Modern medicine is really just a giant scam run by greedy, evil billionaires. It actually creates more sickness than it heals with its autism-causing vaccines and carcinogenic compounds.
• All Christians, or at least those who identify as Evangelicals, are religious fanatics who want to slaughter gay people, remove government protection for the poor, and impose Old Testament morality on everyone else.

My point in mentioning these theories is that their wide acceptance points to a problem that has reached crisis proportions in modern society. That problem is the willingness to accept any claim that supports what one wishes to believe, while viciously attacking other views and those who hold them.

This problem is as endemic on the political Left as it is on the Right. It’s as common among Evangelical Christians as it is among militant atheists. It infects both gun control advocates and opponents, pro-lifers and pro-choicers, global warming proponents and skeptics, and so on and so on, ad nauseum.

It’s likely that you’ve heard most of the theories mentioned above; in fact, you may even believe a few of them. All of them are bunk, BS, silly nonsense. Yet each is embraced by tribes of devoted followers, who react with instant hostility towards anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs.

Why?

My opinion – and that of countless psychologists, sociologists, and seasoned observers of society – is that these theories offer a number of comforts to those who embrace them. These include:

• An easy-to-understand worldview that offers freedom from uncertainty and ambiguity.
• An excuse to indulge in hateful, violent impulses while feeling morally or intellectually superior.
• A way to bond with people who look, think, act, and believe like oneself.
• A chance to not only join a tribe, but also to rise in its ranks by proclaiming the favored ideology louder than others.
• A way to brush aside one’s own faults while condemning others for theirs.
• An excuse to hide from the fact that reality is complex and hard to grasp, and that sure answers to many very important questions, such as, “is there a God?” and, “why do good people suffer?” may forever be beyond us.

I suspect that, of all these reasons for irrational beliefs, the last one has the most explanatory power. The world is a dark, uncertain, frightening place, with countless unknowns that resist the efforts of humanity’s best and brightest thinkers to resolve. This is a terrifying truth to face, so people seek comfort by turning to a single, all-embracing worldview that promises to drive away the shadows and offer certainty.

And of course it helps if the chosen worldview happens to match one’s existing beliefs and preferences. So people who already lean to the Left are more likely to belong to the “truther” tribe, while those who gravitate to the Right join the “birther” group. The goal isn’t truth, it’s the options package that comes with each ideology

Some readers may respond by noting that this tendency has always existed in the human race, so why am I worried about it now? The problem isn’t one of substance but rather of degree. Yes, there have long been wackos who thought that men never walked on the Moon or that adding fluoride to drinking water was a Communist plot. But these persons were limited to small groups listening to obscure hosts on barely functioning AM radio stations. Nowadays, on the other hand, crazy is the norm. Instead of eliminating intolerance, today’s society repackages it in a million different flavors and markets it to every demographic.

“So why not let everyone have their own pet delusion?” some may ask. Here’s why: because in order for representative government to function properly, most people must be able to critically evaluate all sorts of ideas and to separate the truth in them from the BS. This means listening to what others think, without instantly dismissing them as evil, stupid, or crazy.

Or course, as I’ve pointed out in this post, some ideas truly are evil, stupid, and crazy. But the point is that they are demonstrably evil, stupid, and crazy. Just as crucial for our discussion here is that many ideas are neither clearly true nor false; good cases can be built for both sides. The classic example is the question of whether God exists. Believers point to flowers and foliage as proof that he does; non-believers look at cancer and crabgrass and say, “no, he’s doesn’t!” The bottom line, however, is that nobody knows for sure, and no one will find out until they die. That fact provides zero comfort to both sides, but that doesn’t make it any less true. What reason, then, to belittle or condemn those who see things differently than us, when it comes to questions that defy clear answers?

Abandoning polarized thinking and developing a capacity to consider multiple views has never been easy. In fact, it seems to run counter to human instinct. Nonetheless, the average person must do these things, and soon. The alternative is to watch as our society degenerates into warring ideological tribes that care about nothing but their own agenda. In fact, that is a pretty good description of America as it is right now.

If this trend gets worse, then those who thought the Founding Fathers were deluded and our Republic was doomed will ultimately be proven right, as America dissolves into either anarchy or tyranny. That’s something I’m unwilling to accept, and I hope you feel the same way.

In closing, I offer the following quotes from a trio of great thinkers you may be familiar with:

We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue; and then, when we are finally proved wrong, imprudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time. The only check on it is that, sooner or later, a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
-George Orwell.

A great nation is like a great man;
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults to be his most benevolent teachers.

-Lao Tzu

Why do you see the speck of sawdust that is in your brother’s eye, and ignore the hunk of timber that is in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you’re blind because of the plank sticking out of yours? You hypocrite! Take the giant hunk of wood out of your own eye first, then you can see clearly to remove the tiny speck in your brother’s.
-Jesus

Buddhism for Dummies: or, How I Took Refuge in the Dharma Without Leaving the Church

Image

Human beings can’t resist wondering whether the grass is greener on the other side.  This, IMO, explains why Mac fanatics sometimes peck at Windows PCs, Americans fantasize about living abroad, and even the most devoted Coke drinker probably sips a Pepsi every now and then.  It also explains why I’ve been trying to understand Buddhism for over a decade, even though I have no desire to leave the Christian faith.

One thing I’ve found is that both the Buddha and Jesus have the same problem: their disciples aren’t always the best at explaining their teachings.  Now, so far as I know there is no Buddhist equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church (thank God!).  However, there have been endless attempts to condense the Buddha’s message into quick, easy-to-digest sound bites.  This has led to countless books and articles that sum the Enlightened One’s message up as follows:

  • All is suffering
  • The cause of suffering is desire
  • If we end all desire, then we end our suffering
  • We can extinguish our desires by following the Noble Eight-Fold Path, a prescription for life that involves rigid moral strictures that eschew all pleasure

For years I have pondered these four precepts, trying to make sense of them.  The problem I kept running into is that none of them are true.  Here’s what I mean:

  •  Life isn’t all suffering; rather, it’s a mélange of all sorts of experiences.  Some of them are absolutely delightful, a few are intensely painful, and the vast majority are somewhere in between. 
  • Desire is hardly the cause of all suffering.  In fact, many times desire ends suffering.  For example, let’s say that I have an agonizing toothache.  I desire to be free of it, and this desire leads me to go to the dentist, who promptly ends my suffering.
  • If desire is what I’m trying to get rid of, then what about my desire to be free of desire?

 The Noble Eight-Fold Path made the most sense of all four of the Noble Truths to me.  It was getting through the first three that flummoxed me to no end.  Usually after struggling with something for so long I would simply conclude the whole affair was nonsense.  I was tempted to do this many times regarding Buddhism: declare it rubbish, toss it in my mental trash can, and think about something else.

But that didn’t quite seem right to me.  How could a man so totally wrong about life inspire such devotion?  So I pushed on, seeking to engage Buddhism on a deeper, more existential level.  As a result of these efforts, this is how I now understand the Buddha’s basic teachings:

  •  The world is deeply flawed, with pain and sadness linked inextricably to joy and pleasure.  Because of this, even our happiest moments don’t last forever.  This is a fact about the world that we cannot change, no matter how loud we yell at God.
  • Because the world is so messed up, it’s foolish to think we can either change it in a fundamental way or derive lasting satisfaction from it.  Those who try to do either of these things ultimately shoot themselves in the foot.  That’s why stoners end up sick and homeless and idealistic social workers turn into cynical jerks.  It’s also why ministerial students, myself included, burn out.
  • When we accept the world the way it is, we realize that our desires to either change it (in a fundamental way) or derive happiness from it are doomed to failure. 
  • At that point, we can find joy and peace of mind by looking “behind” the world.  This is what the Buddha was talking about when he discussed Nirvana.  It’s an experience of utter bliss, utter compassion, and utter freedom from the things that torment us. 
  • The essence of this transformation cannot be expressed in words.  We can call it Nirvana, the beatific vision (as St. Augustine referred to it), Cosmic Oneness, or whatever.  All of these terms are both a help and a hindrance to understanding the experience.  Let’s stick with “Nirvana” as the term of choice. 
  • Nirvana can be obtained through practicing a number of mental and spiritual disciplines.  These include:
  1. Wishing the best for all people (even the ones we despise)
  2. Learning to appreciate quiet, both inside and outside our minds.
  3. Not obsessing over material possessions.
  4. Using our critical faculties to separate truth from nonsense.
  5.  Living a balanced life.
  6. Being honest about our own shortcomings instead of rationalizing them.
  7. Taking the long view.
  8. Calming our emotions so that they don’t make us do stupid things.
  9. Repeating the Serenity Prayer often.  It goes like this: “Lord, give me the courage to change the things I can, the willingness to accept the things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  That will both minimize the world’s effect on us and enable to do what good we can while we’re in it.

I hate to say it this way, but what I have written above is “Buddhism for me.”  It makes eminent sense and in no way contradicts anything Jesus said.  It fact, it overlaps with much of Christ’s teachings and illuminates them.

The takeaway for those of us in the Christian church includes the following nuggets of wisdom:

  • Spiritual ideas have innately subjective elements that cannot be removed without destroying their ability to affect human lives.  In this sense, it’s perfectly fine to say that a particular teaching is “true for us.”
  • It’s impossible to turn religion into anything remotely resembling a branch of science.  It’s ultimately a subjective encounter with a reality that is Wholly Other.
  • Language can never convey all that is true.
  • Anyone who thinks that the Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, Lao Tzu, etc., are in hell for not being Christians is just plain wrong.

 BTW, before I studied Buddhism, I wouldn’t have said that they are “just plain wrong.”  I would have called them assholes.  But what good would that do?

Oh, one more thing: for those who are interested in this topic I recommend a book entitled “Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian.”  The link to its Amazon page is posted below.

http://www.amazon.com/Without-Buddha-Could-not-Christian-ebook/dp/B00AC41O22/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384662016&sr=8-1&keywords=without+buddha+i+could+not+be+a+christian

Jesus, World War 2, and the true meaning of sacrifice

WW2 posterBefore I get into the meat of this post, I want to share a link to a short video about what I’ll be discussing. I would like you to watch it before we continue. It will take about five minutes of your time. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtk5a66EfFc. See you soon.

Back? Good! Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, let’s delve into the topic a bit more.

When Americans Practiced Human Sacrifice 

In the early 1940s, America was fighting for its survival against a trio of brutal totalitarian states. Today we know how it turned out: Germany, Japan, and Italy were defeated and democracy was preserved. But, at the time, that outcome was by no means certain. Americans worked, saved, prayed, bought war bonds, gathered scrap metal, lived on rations, and watched the skies for enemy bombers  It was a scary, uncertain, trying time for the nation and for the world.

Of all the things people gave up to win that conflict, the most painful sacrifice of all was the 418,500 Americans who were killed. Today we hear about servicemen and women dying by the hundreds and shake our heads in disbelief. Yet in those dark days hundreds of thousands gave their lives for victory over a monstrous enemy. Their sacrifices kept the Nazis and their allies from plunging the world into eternal darkness.

“I understand. But what does that have to do with Jesus and the cross?”

That’s a fair question. Here’s the answer. Christianity has always taught that Jesus died to redeem the world. But exactly how his death accomplishes this goal has been discussed and debated for 2,000 years. Most modern Christians were taught the penal-substitutionary or vicarious atonement view of the crucifixion. It says that Christ’s death appeased God’s desire to punish humanity. This is the “good news” that the penal-substitutionary view proclaims. It can be summed up as follows:

1. We humans are evil, no-good scum.
2. God hates us and wants to torture us forever.
3. But, also, God loves us (or some of us, as Calvinists teach). So he sent Jesus to endure all the anger and hatred he feels for us by dying on the cross.
4. If we believe point # 3, God will give us a break and lets us into heaven. But, if we fail to believe it, then God will throw us into a burning pit that will melt the flesh off our bodies over and over forever.

This view portrays God as an angry deity whose wrath must be appeased by blood sacrifice. Preachers have used it for centuries to terrorize their congregations. A prime historical example is from the sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, delivered by Calvinist preacher Jonathan Edwards in 1741. Here’s an excerpt:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful, venomous serpent is in ours.

So much for “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

Fortunately, this sick viewpoint has never been held universally throughout the church. An alternative approach is the one discussed by Greg Boyd in the video you watched earlier: the Christus Victor, or “victorious Christ” view. Like the penal-substitutionary theory, it sees Christ’s death as a sacrifice for the good of humanity. Unlike that view, however, it sees the powers of evil, not God, as the enemy whom Jesus came to earth to defeat.

This is a crucial difference that has enormous implications for how one understands the Gospel. In the penal-substitutionary view, God is our enemy. He can only be turned from his anger towards us by the death of an innocent sacrifice. In the Christus Victor view, however, our adversary is the forces of wickedness as represented by Satan. He holds us captive by manipulating us into committing selfish actions, without regard for the well-being of others. We believe that this “me first” attitude is a sure ticket to happiness. In reality, however, it’s poison to our souls.

The devil is a con artist. He tricks us into doing things that will deny us the joy and fulfillment we seek. We think that once we make a million dollars, or get a trophy spouse, or have a bigger house than our neighbor, then we will finally be happy. But, like a mirage in the desert, the goal of happiness remains just outside our reach. Our answer to this dilemma is to become even more self-obsessed and even more unwilling to face up to our shortcomings.

We justify in ourselves the faults we condemn in others. We play vicious little games with friends and family members. We read books like The Art of War or Winning by Intimidation and think that their advice is sound.

We lust. We gossip. We betray. We smile in people’s faces even as we stab them in the back. We look down on others so we can feel better about ourselves. And all the time we’re doing these things we’re driving a knife into our own hearts. Yet we’re too blind to see that our real enemy is ourselves.

That’s what damnation is. It’s suicide on the installment plan. That is what Jesus came to save us from. How he accomplished that is what we will look at next time.

If the wages of sin is death, then who’s the paymaster?

wages of sinOne of the most contentious issues in Christianity is the nature of Christ’s atonement. Virtually everyone who self-identifies as a Christian believes that Jesus died to redeem humanity. It’s when the question, “exactly how does that work?” comes up that the consensus falls apart.

This topic has become a point of contention in recent years, as thinking people begin to question the stories they learned in Sunday school. Here’s a summary of what most Protestant churches teach about the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion:

God is conflicted in his feelings about humanity. He loves us, yet his just nature demands that he punish us for our finite number of sins by torturing us for an infinite amount of time.

To reconcile this internal conflict, he sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross. God let his perfect Child get beaten and murdered for all the bad stuff the rest of us have done. Then he looked down from heaven and said, “well, that evens the score!”

When we believe that Jesus’ bloody, torturous death placated God’s yearning to torment us, then we receive forgiveness and eternal life. If, on the other hand, we reject this story (for whatever reason) then God tosses us into a giant pit of flame, where we will suffer forever.

A million years from now, those who believed this crazy yarn will be partying in heaven. On the other hand, the rest of us will be screaming in agony at the top of our lungs, for whatever we did wrong hundreds of thousands of years before.

Were you a glutton? It’s fire and brimstone for you, fatso. Did you lust after swimsuit models? Burn in Hell, you dirty perv. Did you stick with the religion of your ancestors after hearing the missionaries preach? Bad choice, chump; Buddha’s not gonna pull your sorry, Christ-rejecting ass out of those flames.

And if you dare to fall in love with someone who has genitals like yours – oohhh bboyyy, are you gonna get it, you dirty faggot!

Is it any surprise that intelligent people have trouble accepting this “good news?” The real mystery is why this nonsense has gone unchallenged for so long. Let’s look at just a few of the numerous plot holes in this horror story.

• How can a God obsessed with justice punish someone infinitely for a finite amount of evil?
• How does the fact that an innocent person got beaten and murdered for someone else’s crimes equal “justice?” Isn’t that just the opposite of justice? For example, let’s say I have two kids. One sets fire to an orphanage while the other is volunteering at a soup kitchen. So, to make things right, I beat the living crap out of the innocent one and declare the scales balanced. Does that sound like the action of a wise, loving father or the despicable crime of a lunatic?
• Why does God need someone to suffer and die in order to cut his children some slack? After all, each of us was born screwed up, according to traditional Christian teaching. We couldn’t have made the grade if we tried. Doesn’t that merit some leniency, since we had no choice but to blow it?

God forces us to be born as slaves to sin, then holds us accountable even though we had no say in the matter. But we get a free pass if we call Jesus’ crucifixion the ultimate act of love. That’s the “good news” proclaimed from millions of pulpits across the globe every Sunday.

If anything ever deserved to have BS called on it, then it’s this perversion of every good and decent moral principle ever affirmed by God or humanity. I’m going to explore this issue in depth in the coming weeks, including some alternative views of the meaning of Christ’s death. In this post I simply wanted to lay out the issue. As always, your comments are welcome.

PS Please forgive my angry tone. I normally try to be more gracious in my presentation, but I have my limits.