7/29/2003                                                                                       View Comments

Thanks for the Memories....

Just over 25 years ago in May of 1975, I was on stage with Bob Hope as part of his 75th birthday celebration television special. It was a live broadcast from the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. At the time I was a proud member of the United States Air Force Band stationed in Washington, and all the other service bands also participated in the event. Lucille Ball was there, as was Pearl Bailey, Telly Savalas, and a host of other more or less famous stars and sports figures. It was a big event.

Five years later I met up with this icon of American culture in Selma Alabama.

I was on stage as part of the back up band for Mr. Hope. The event was in Selma Alabama for a fund raiser organized by Anita Bryant. Now he was 80 years old, as funny as can be, and very transparently open and complimentary toward the military musicians who comprised his band for the day. Vanessa Williams was there for sex appeal and Ricky Skaggs put on a concert as part of the festivities.

As I look back to my early youth, I remember seeing Bob Hope on television. There he was in Vietnam in the late 60s and early 70s rallying the troops, giving them a great show and a small piece of home. Some who were at his show would never see another. He wasn't a young man even then, yet throughout his life he seemed to live to make others happy, even if was only for a short time.

I decided to do a little research to find out if Bob Hope had a public faith to accompany his public image.

I found this little tid bit at Christianity.Com:

"His influence on American culture has spanned more than eight decades, and his contribution to our nation is boundless. Bob Hope, entertainer and American hero turns 100 this year, and Grassfire.net wants to honor his legacy of laughter and goodwill through a stunning, personal tribute."

So what is the point of all this reminiscing? I just wanted to show that this person who influenced so many also had a direct influence on my life too. I am sure he wouldn't remember me at all, but I do remember him. He made a big impression on me at the time. Try as I might, every opportunity that I had of seeing Bob Hope both on television as well as on the occasions I was privileged to meet him in person, I simply cannot recall him ever once testifying to having a saving faith in Jesus Christ. There is no public record that I am aware of that he even once presented himself as a born again Christian. It may be that he secretly considered himself some sort of a Christian, but since he did not take any of his many public opportunities to even one time witness to his faith, I am sure he would at least not be considered a "real" Christian by the majority of fundamentalist believers that occasionally respond to this site.

He was beloved by the nation. He was a great philathanropist. He was presented with so many awards that he rented a warehouse in order to store them all. However, based on all available information available, it seems quite likely that Evangelicals would have little choice but to sadly conclude that Bob Hope is quite likely in Hell.

I was always taught that any true Christian has such a love for the Lord and such a desire to see others saved they would risk everything to proclaim His love and sacrifice for the world. I was taught that "He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth." Luke 11:23 I was also taught, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." Luke 6:26

It seems fairly conclusive that unless God has some exceptions to his amazingly simple plan of salvation, that Bob Hope is doing his "After Life" act, in Hell.

According to modern Chrisitianity and many of those who spam this site, that is exactly where he wants to be.

"People prefer hell over complete submission to God"

"So why doesn't God make everyone into perfect beings and allow them all into heaven? It would actually be more cruel if God were to do this, since many people prefer hell to the alternative (complete submission to God). All the people who end up going to hell will have done so because they actually prefer hell to being forced into the presence of God for all eternity. People like to live in their favorite sins and answer to no one else. They know that if they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior that God will want them to change their lives and they might have to give up some of their autonomy." (quote taken from www.evidence.info)

The Christian portrayal of God is that of a pathetic ass. It is a shame to have to admit it, but I think I have to agree with the writer of the quote above. If Bob Hope, who lived a lifetime of giving joy to others, is in hell, then why would I want to go to heaven?

Thanks Bob, for being a great humanitarian and a fine example of how to be a rational human being.

7/26/2003                                                                                       View Comments

Everyone's a skeptic - about other religions

By James A. Haught

Religion is an extremely touchy topic. Church members often become angry if anyone questions their supernatural dogmas. (Bertrand Russell said this is because they subconsciously sense that their beliefs are irrational.) So I try to avoid confrontations that can hurt feelings. Nearly everyone wants to be courteous.

But sometimes disputes can't be avoided. If you think the spirit realm is imaginary, and if honesty makes you say so, you may find yourself under attack. It has happened to many doubters. Thomas Jefferson was called a "howling atheist." Leo Tolstoy was called an "impious infidel."

Well, if you wind up in a debate, my advice is: Try to be polite. Don't let tempers flare, if you can help it. Appeal to your accuser's intelligence.

I've hatched some questions you may find useful. They're designed to show that church members, even the most ardent worshipers, are skeptics too - because they doubt every magical system except their own.

If a churchman berates you, perhaps you could reply like this:

* * *
You're an unbeliever, just like me. You doubt many sacred dogmas. Let me show you:

--- Millions of Hindus pray over statues of Shiva's penis. Do you think there's an invisible Shiva who wants his penis prayed over -- or are you a skeptic?

--- Mormons say that Jesus came to America after his resurrection. Do you agree -- or are you a doubter?

--- Florida's Santeria worshipers sacrifice dogs, goats, chickens, etc., and toss their bodies into waterways. Do you think Santeria gods want animals killed -- or are you skeptical?

--- Muslim suicide bombers who blow themselves up in Israel are taught that "martyrs" go instantly to a paradise full of lovely female houri nymphs. Do you think the bombers now are in heaven with houris -- or are you a doubter?

--- Unification Church members think Jesus visited Master Moon and told him to convert all people as "Moonies." Do you believe this sacred tenet of the Unification Church?

--- Jehovah's Witnesses say that, any day now, Satan will come out of the earth with an army of demons, and Jesus will come out of the sky with an army of angels, and the Battle of Armageddon will kill everyone on earth except Jehovah's Witnesses. Do you believe this solemn teaching of their church?

--- Aztecs skinned maidens and cut out human hearts for a feathered serpent god. What's your stand on invisible feathered serpents? Aha! -- just as I suspected, you don't believe.

--- Catholics are taught that the communion wafer and wine magically become the actual body and blood of Jesus during chants and bell-ringing. Do you believe in the "real presence" -- or are you a disbeliever?

--- Faith-healer Ernest Angley says he has the power, described in the Bible, to "discern spirits," which enables him to see demons inside sick people, and see angels hovering at his revivals. Do you believe this religious assertion?

--- The Bible says people who work on the sabbath must be killed: "Whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 31:15). Should we execute Sunday workers -- or do you doubt this scripture?

--- At a golden temple in West Virginia, saffron-robed worshipers think they'll become one with Lord Krishna if they chant "Hare Krishna" enough. Do you agree -- or do you doubt it?

--- Members of the Heaven's Gate commune said they could "shed their containers" (their bodies) and be transported to a UFO behind the Hale-Bopp Comet. Do you think they're now on that UFO -- or are you a skeptic?

--- During the witch hunts, inquisitor priests tortured thousands of women into confessing that they blighted crops, had sex with Satan, etc. -- then burned them for it. Do you think the church was right to enforce the Bible's command, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18) -- or do you doubt this scripture?

--- Members of Spiritualist churches say they talk with the dead during their worship services. Do you think they actually communicate with spirits of deceased people?

--- Millions of American Pentecostals spout "the unknown tongue," a spontaneous outpouring of sounds. They say it's the Holy Ghost, the third god of the Trinity, speaking through them. Do you believe this sacred tenet of many Americans?

--- Scientologists say each human has a soul which is a "Thetan" that came from another planet. Do you believe their doctrine -- or doubt it?

--- Ancient Greeks thought a multitude of gods lived on Mt. Olympus -- and some of today's New Agers think invisible Lemurians live inside Mt. Shasta. What's your position on mountain gods -- belief or disbelief?

--- In the mountains of West Virginia, some people obey Christ's farewell command that true believers "shall take up serpents" (Mark 16:18). They pick up rattlers at church services. Do you believe this scripture, or not?

--- India's Thugs thought the many-armed goddess Kali wanted them to strangle human sacrifices. Do you think there's an invisible goddess who wants people strangled -- or are you a disbeliever?

--- Tibet's Buddhists say that when an old Lama dies, his spirit enters a baby boy who's just being born somewhere. So they remain leaderless for a dozen years or more, then they find a boy who seems to have knowledge of the old Lama's private life, and they annoint the boy as the new Lama (actually the old Lama in a new body). Do you think that dying Lamas fly into new babies, or not?

--- In China in the 1850s, a Christian convert said God appeared to him, told him he was Jesus' younger brother, and commanded him to "destroy demons." He raised an army of believers who waged the Taiping Rebellion that killed 20 million people. Do you think he was Christ's brother -- or do you doubt it?

* * *
Etc., etc. You get the picture.

I'll bet there isn't a church member anywhere who doesn't think all those supernatural beliefs are goofy -- except for the one he believes.

You see, by going through a laundry list of theologies, I think you can establish that the average Christian doubts 99 percent of the world's holy dogmas. But the 1 percent he believes is really no different than the rest. It's a system of miraculous claims, without any reliable evidence to support it.

So, if we can show people that some sacred "truths" are nutty, maybe subconscious logic will seep through, and they'll realize that if some magical beliefs are irrational, all may be.

This progression is rather like a scene in the poignant Peter de Vries novel, The Blood of the Lamb. A gushy woman compliments a Jew because "your people" reduced the many gods of polytheism to just one god. The man replies: "Which is just a step from the truth."

Meanwhile, it's encouraging to realize that almost everyone in the world is a skeptic -- at least about other people's religion.

7/20/2003                                                                                       View Comments

Perspective

I am re-reading "The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide" by Douglas Adams. If you like science fiction, parody, comedy and veiled commentary on religion all in one, I highly recommend it.

The part that inspired this little rant is where Zaphod Beeblebrox, one of the main characters, is on a quest to find the man who runs the Universe. Along the way he is captured and forced to enter the "Total Perspective Vortex." This ingenious device, when hooked up to its victims, forces them to comprehend the immensity of the universe in comparison to the microscopic proportion of the prisoner's life in his or her relationship to the universe. The complete understanding of how irrelevant the individual's life is in relation to everything else there is out there, is horrifically mind numbing. No one ever survives the "Total Perspective Vortex." Mr. Beeblebrox, much to everyone's surprise, does survive. In fact he quite enjoys the experience finding it euphoric. He discovers while in the "Vortex" that he is the most important thing in the universe and it really makes him feel good.

Christians have a similar perspective on their value to the universe. Oh sure, on the surface Christians are told they are sinners, deserving of eternal punishment. They are told that there is no one good, no not one. They are admonished that they should humble themselves, and warned against the sin of pride. Then, conversely, they are told that the Man who runs the Universe actually shrunk himself down into a human body, endured all the privations of being a regular guy and then made a sacrificial death of himself in order to save those who would later believe in him. So, in this incomprehensibly large universe, filled with innumerable galaxies, each of which contains nearly limitless possibilities, mankind becomes the central focal point of all. The planet earth on the outskirts of a rather small, remote, and unremarkable galaxy, along with the monkey like beings who crawl around on its surface, becomes more terribly important than can be humanly comprehended.

The possibility of life on other planets anywhere becomes a logical difficulty for the Christian. If an open minded Christian allows for the possibility of other creatures out there somewhere, do any of them have souls? If so do they need redemption? Did God send his son to die more than once? Since Satan was cast down to Earth, supposedly imprisoned here the question of whether there is another devil out there? To actually think that the "God" who is so massively creative as to design this magnificent universe should decide to restrict his attempt at producing sentient free willed beings to our small anonymous celestial ball appears unlikely. If there are other free willed things out there, then it logically follows that some alien race somewhere also has a need the blood of Christ, or whatever he would be called on that planet.

That idea presents real problems, because Christ's death and resurrection was done once for all. Does he have to die over and over on other planets? Are humans responsible for spreading the good news throughout the galaxy and beyond? Is God more than a Trinity, having many sons? The silly questions are potentially prolific.

Christianity is a religion based on a primitive world view where the entire universe is centered around the Earth. Above the Earth is the canopy of the sky. Embedded in that canopy are the lights of the sun, Moon and stars which move about while the Earth stands still below, immovable. Below the Earth is the fire of hell. Above, outside the dome of sky, is where God and Heaven are stationed. All of God's creative energies culminate in Adam being made a living soul. In this simplistic understanding of reality, Christianity makes perfect sense. Tribal humanity indeed occupies the major role in the ancient Biblical view of reality.

Back to Zaphod Beeblebrox and the "Total Perspective Vortex."

It turns out that our hero who believed he was the most important person in the whole entire universe was mistaken. Come to find out that he had his adventure with the "Vortex" while inhabiting a synthetic universe that greatly resembled, but was not, the real universe. It was fake universe designed specifically for him, so of course he was very, very important there. Unfortunately for Zaphod's ego, it was not real.

The universe occupied by the "on fire", "totally committed", and "zealous" Christian is likewise not real. The universe they think they are part of makes them more important than everything else. As the popular Christian contemporary song says, "God loves people more than anything."

When I was a still a Christian I started looking up at the sky at night, looking at the pictures from the Hubble telescope, looking at pictures sent back from our space probes, and asked myself if I could really accept the idea that I was the culmination of creation or even a major reason for it all to exist.

What is your perspective?

7/17/2003                                                                                       View Comments

In Defense of Dave: To the passing Christian

sent in by "likeafish"

I haven’t been around this web site long, but long enough to witness some of the ugliest behavior I have ever seen out of those who claim to represent the Prince of Peace. With only a handful of sites on the entire WWW dedicated to the subject of leaving the Christian faith, and perhaps thousands out there for the purpose of propagating the same, believers choose to seek this site out and attack Dave for what he is doing. And ATTACK is the operative word here. I dare say they’d burn him at the stake if they could.

So what is he doing? For one thing, contrary to what most Christians who come here perceive, he is NOT out to change anyone’s mind. He is out to free his own mind and to help others to do the same. He does not ask anyone to think what he thinks or adopt any particular take on truth other than what one finds for them self. This is difficult for a Christian to comprehend because of the theistic and dualistic perspective that guides every thought process. Everything, every idea that is not with them, that cannot be somehow subjugated or rendered neutral, is against them. Either there is a god, my god, or there is apostasy, unbelief, and everything is meaningless. One is either hot or cold, as the Lord put it, remember?

This limited epistemological framework does not allow for other possibilities, and consequently, little, if any, room for dialogue. Sure, Christians come here proclaiming their interest in what people who have left their faith have to say. They say they want to engage in conversation, sharpen their “debating skills” and listen. They often are out to prove the validity of their faith by presuming to be the one Christian who makes sure to tell them how much god loves them, while ever so kindly reminding the unbelievers that Hell awaits them.

Yet they end up complaining that they are misunderstood, that people are mean because they don’t have much patience for proselytizing, and that they are arrogant because they demand that any arguments be solid and well-reasoned and not filled with bible verses and an unimaginative repetition of things they have heard all their lives.

This place is like a library. Granted, it has a specific catalogue of material, but that is certainly not a fault. In fact, as a former theological student, I can see where this web site could be a valuable resource for materials to study regarding the Christian faith. There is nothing here to fear, unless knowledge is to be feared. But even better it is a forum in the best sense of the word. In the days of the ancient Greeks, or even Jesus and Paul’s time, cities usually had places, forums, where subjects were debated passionately. If you couldn’t hack it, if you didn’t come studied and prepared, with some skills and some imagination, then tough. Could it be that the claims of Christianity just don’t cut it in a reasoned debate anymore? Or that it doesn’t inspire imagination any longer?

Still, Christians find this place on the web to be a threat. Why is that? A faith that has lasted for 2000 years, survived the collapse of the Roman Empire, the 18th century Enlightenment (sort of) and suddenly one little old web site deserves such vitriol and hatred (yes, hatred, all you Christian readers) leveled on an almost daily basis toward Dave the webmaster for posting what he sees as a whole lot of stuff about Christianity that just doesn’t pass as loving, or even good. For what does this say about the strength of Christian convictions, of the confidence Christians have in the goodness of what they believe, or of Christianity itself? By its own standards Christianity is condemned, over and over, throughout history and by the witness of its followers who arrive and post here

In the 16th century the greatest minds in the world were all religious. In the west, they were all Christians. Let’s face it, they had to be or. . . (he draws an index finger across his throat). This web site is filled with information about why that is not the case any longer in the 21st century. The reason for bringing this up is that not once, not yet, not anywhere, not with any precision or honesty or thoughtfulness has a Christian come to this site with anything remotely resembling a well-presented theological argument for why Dave isn’t justified in speaking his mind, in working out whatever he needs to work out on his own web site that he pays for, in questioning god, the bible, the voracity of Christian claims, etc. OR offered any compelling reasons why he, or any apostate who has thought it through, should rethink their position. Furthermore, I have seen so little humility, so little graciousness, so few acts of kindness and mercy (if any at all), such a lack of love for the neighbor, and such an unwillingness of ANYONE to admit that Christianity is based upon faith and promise and NOTHING ELSE (not evidence, not proof, but faith--a word, a story, a truth claim based on religious authority) that if I were still a Christian I would be ashamed. Instead, it only confirms my own realization that Christianity is a fool’s errand and I can only feel a measure of pity and sadness for those who still cling to its delusions.

The violence in some of the responses to Dave’s site is troubling. Ye shall know them by their fruits indeed. It is disturbing to me that dissent is so feared these days that it almost seems that, not unlike the treatment of gays and illegal immigrants in the US, there are those who would hunt down anyone who thinks differently, and do whatever they can to eradicate them from sight (site?). And the Christians that come here would do so without even giving the accused a fair hearing. Most, it is clear, read very little of what is presented, and then unleash Hell. Hell, not Heaven mind you. So little love, so little time. They’re certainly not saying much for Christ’s sake.

When I was a kid, the Sunday school teachers told stories about persecuted Christians. We played games in youth group in which we hid out and had secret bible studies as if we were living in the former Soviet Union. All of this was designed to get us to think we Christians were a persecuted lot. I hear this silly notion repeated here and elsewhere by Christians. Every time government monies are blocked to fund a religious social program, or the Ten Commandments are removed from a public school, the Christians whine about persecution. They whine about it here when someone simply doesn’t agree with their poorly reasoned arguments. But who is trying to squeeze out whom? Like I said, this is one of only a handful of sites, if not the only site, that provides a forum for Ex-Christians.

Maybe it is not persecution at all. Maybe it’s just fear and panic, plain and simple. Maybe those clay feet of legend are the very foundations of the Christian faith itself. Maybe somewhere, deep down, those vituperative Christians who crash in here sense that the clay feet are cracking, and the whole thing is teetering precariously on the brink of oblivion. Maybe they know, like a man who leaves a seminary because learning is beginning to challenge his long-held beliefs, that if you think about it too much, it won’t hold water. Let’s face it, when faced with having to get out of the boat, do you try to walk on water or do you start swimming? What world are WE living in?

What is certain is that intolerance abounds these days. And even with all the information readily available on the web, so does ignorance. What is also clear is that, based upon the witness of the Christians who visit here, one could only conclude that they are, on the whole, insensitive, merciless, arrogant, smug, supercilious, fearful, neurotic, mono-maniacal, often unintelligible, seldom honest, lacking in empathy, and filled with their own self-righteousness. That’s what I see. I know many Christians—friends, family members—who do not fit these descriptions, and some others who do.

My point is that many Christians who arrive here do not obey the dictates of their own religion. They post on this site with beams in their eyes howling at Dave to remove the speck in his. They claim a loving god and can neither give a convincing argument for the claim based upon the contents of their faith nor the example of their own behavior. They call Dave hateful and promise him nothing but Hell.

So what is Dave doing? For me, he has provided a place to flush out of my mind a lifetime of religious training, indoctrination, anxiety, fear, and confusion that has plagued my existence with ideas that are irreconcilable with the person I am. What does that last statement mean? Well, it is personal, but it has to do with honoring the gifts I have and the way I have come to see the world around me, something that I could not do within the confines of Christianity. I have found that it is possible to have a sense of the good, the true and the beautiful without god. (If not, how could we ever determine god’s goodness in the first place? I digress). I realize now I am in good company in having felt restricted by the Christian faith. There is a case to be made for the idea that many, if not most creative events, inventions, and works of art in human history have, in some way, happened in opposition to Christianity. But I’m not interested in arguing that point. I still like Bach. Freethinking means I can still have that, and I can also appreciate .Buddhist poetry, or Muddy Waters. But in any of those cases, I am my own person, and I can take what I find appeals to me, what is useful, what agrees with my sense of humanity, and leave the rest behind. Christianity, if it is to be believed, and if Jesus is to be followed and the words of scripture to be put into practice, does not allow for that, in my view.

But I did not begin this essay to explain why I am no longer a Christian. My intention is to say that Dave is a person to be admired. He stands up for what he thinks against a plethora of personal, daily attacks, keeping his cool, and all the time providing for others who need a place to clear their head from their own daily assaults upon their individual psyches. Where Christianity is conformist, Dave’s site is turning over the proverbial tables in the temple and calling bullshit on the lot of it. Where it is repressive, Dave’s site sets captives free. In other words, from what I can see, even though he doesn’t buy all the truth claims of Christianity, he sure models the ethos it has made its reputation on. He uses what power he has and offers it to others so that they may find a measure of freedom for themselves.

I feel confident in using such an example because I can tell from this site that Dave has done the work. He has studied Christianity and taken it to heart. He gets it. And even though he finds 99% or even 100% of it abhorrent now, and I don’t blame him, he is also smart, sensitive, and compassionate enough, and has a sufficient sense of irony and humor enough to appreciate a compliment that is formed out the very material he has worked so hard to shake off.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”

Funny, I think Dave is a better Christian than all of you wankers.

"likeafish" is a regular participant in the Open Forums area of the site.

7/16/2003                                                                                       View Comments

Rapture joke provokes heart attack

AUSTIN — Herbert Washington, whom co-workers at Significant Plastics Inc. say was unduly concerned with the rapture and the second coming of Christ, suffered a serious heart attack when co-workers pretended they'd been caught away without him.

Last Tuesday, they lay work outfits on their chairs and hid in a supply room, and when Herbert came back from the restroom, he thought the rapture had occurred. The janitor, an outspoken Muslim, pretended to have witnessed everyone disappear and ran around the office feigning panic. Herbert fell to the ground clutching his heart and screaming, "I knew you'd forget me, Jesus! What did I do wrong?" He was taken to a local hospital. The employees emerged, sobered, from the supply room and gathered up their extra clothes.

"We didn't mean to scare him to death," said one woman. "He's just always talking about it, so today we decided to turn the tables on him."

Washington underwent bypass surgery and is recovering well and "digging into the Bible like never before," says his wife.

article © 2003 LarkNews.com, Joel Kilpatrick. All rights reserved.

7/07/2003                                                                                       View Comments

Reflections on Hell

Several years ago when I still arrogantly counted myself among the Lord's chosen few, I took my wife to visit yet another church. Why another Church? We were dissatisfied with the lack of spiritual depth or discernment that we seemed to constantly encounter from those in pastoral and leadership roles. For quite some time we remained optimistically (or should I should say naively?) hopeful of finding some place where a demonstration of a higher level of knowledge and awareness might accompany any emotional zeal for God.

It continues to amaze me that those who claim to love the Lord the most, insist on remaining the least read, or the most ignorant, in regards to this very person they claim to love. Church is not the place to have a restlessly curious intellect.

However, that is not the point of this article. I said all that to explain how we ended up one Sunday in the "Lighthouse Baptist Church." This church was, and still is, an Independent Baptist Church of the "Sword of the Lord" variety. Very fundamental in both rhetoric and practice, none of the woman wore pants, and all the men sported short haircuts. Based on the accents of most of the parishioners, there was a strong contingent from West Virginia dominating the membership rolls. To accuse the bulk of the members of being rednecks, would be to state the obvious.

We ended up visiting this choice assemblage of elected saints because some friends invited us. We were assured that this place was where we could finally find the rest for our tired minds and souls.

From the start of the service we knew we were in trouble.

This church had a bus ministry which would scour the less prosperous parts of town, recruiting and busing as many of the poor unsaved children they could find, to church, so that these mis fortunates could be fully indoctrinated in various important aspects of Baptist, theological fundamentals.

As I mentioned, the members of the congregation hailed primarily from West Virginia, with a striking propensity toward being redneck. The children being bused to the church, could rightly trace their roots back to the wilds of Africa.

After the opening remarks by the pastor, one of the children, a 10-year-old boy, was brought forward to the front of the church. The pastor was a portly man who gave no apparent evidence of having ever completed, or even having attempted to complete, a spiritual "fast." He bellowed out to the congregation that this skinny young boy had decided to repent and believe the gospel. He towered above the scrawny youngster, gesturing at him pointedly, and boomed out a question for the rest of the children in attendance:

"DO YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN?" "IF YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN, RAISE YOUR HAND!"

The little boy, looking extremely awkward and a bit confused, tentatively raised his hand to the sky, along with several other of the dark-skinned children. As if on cue, the whole congregation let loose with peals of "Praise the Lawd" and "Thank you Jeezus" and "One more pulled from the jaws of HELL," and so on. The rest of the poor black kids who were there looked around with expressions of mild fear and confusion.

The children were eventually segregated away from the adult service and confined to another room where they could be given more detailed indoctrination. Meanwhile, the people continued exclaiming and remarking how glorious God was for turning the hearts of these little local heathens toward HIM.

The message was clear: Wanting to go to heaven = wanting salvation.

Christianity is not about loving or serving the Creator of the universe. It is not about gratitude for creation, or even the supposed gift of either temporal or eternal life. Christianity is not about loving your fellow man, or giving to the poor. It is not about compassion. Christianity is, pure and simple, about avoiding hell.

There is no real fear of death in Christianity because no one is believed to ever really die. According to most Christian doctrine, everyone will live forever—period. Those who happen upon the right formula, and perform the proper incantation, using the right words, with the most believable sincerity, are allowed to live forever in a place called heaven. All the rest of humanity still lives forever, but in a terrible place called hell. Although humans may reside in different spiritual countries, so to speak, everyone still keeps right on ticking away. Since there is no fear of death, then a fear of hell must be instilled to capture converts. Hell must be so unbelievably bad that no one would ever want to go there, but not too unbelievable to be believed to actually exist.

The Bible is chock full of verses threatening punishment for the wicked and describing the horrors of hell. In evangelical theology, there are only two classes of people: believers and unbelievers. Believers are the righteous, and unbelievers are the wicked. Sheep and goats, wheat and chaff, heaven and hell. The world's population is split into two camps that are easily identifiable to the truly born again Christian.

There is a tendency of some of the branches of the modern Christian cult to distance themselves from the concept and the teaching of an eternal torture chamber. The modern sensibilities of justice strongly resist the easy acceptance of the gross attributes purported to adorn the halls of hell—and rightly so. Any deity that would consider it proper to condemn millions upon millions of people to unending horrific agony for the simple crime of unbelief, is nothing less than a monster. The atrocities of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, etc., all combined together, fade into comparative insignificance in the face of this god and his "holy" wrath.

What will hell be like? Here are a few collected verses:

  1. "Total separation from God" Matthew 25:41 2 Thessalonians 1:9


  2. A "great furnace" Matthew 13:41, 42, 49, 50 Revelation 9:1, 2


  3. A "bottomless pit" Isaiah 14:15 Revelation 9:1, 2; 20:1-3


  4. "Fire" Isaiah 33:14; 66:24; Matthew 5:21, 22; 13:41, 42, 49, 50; 18:8; 25:41 Mark 9:43-49; 10:43-49; Luke 16:24; Jude 7; Revelation 14:10; 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8


  5. "Torments" Luke 16:23-25, 28; Revelation 14:10, 11


  6. "Wailing and gnashing of teeth" Matthew 13:41, 42; Luke 13:28


  7. A "decaying worm" Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48


  8. "Eternal—for ever and ever" Exodus 34:7; Isaiah 33:14; 66:24; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 18:8; 25:41, 46 Mark 3:29; 9:43-46, 48; 10:43-49; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 6, 7, 13; Revelation 14:11; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8


  9. "Outer darkness" Matthew 8:12; 22:13


  10. And "mist of blackness (or, darkness)" 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13


According to the gospel writers, Jesus, who supposedly loves us so much that he died for us, plainly taught that hell was a real physical place of unfathomable torture. He said that hell was so bad, even the lasting pain of self amputation and mutilation would be better than going there.

  • Matt 5:22: (NASB) "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty [enough to go] into the fiery hell.


  • Matt 5:29: "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.


  • Matt 10:28: "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.


  • Matt 18:8: "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. 9 "And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.


  • Matt 23:15: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.


  • Matt 23:33: "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?


  • Mark 9:43: "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,


  • Mark 9:45: "And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell...47 "And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell,


  • Luke 12:4: "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!


Modern Christians try, and try, to soften the teaching of the Bible on this subject. I don't know how many times I've been told that God does not want any one to go to hell, he wants everyone in heaven, but he won't contradict mankind's free will in the matter. What mental gymnastics I had to go through to have that make sense to me when I was all twisted up in the Christ cult. God gives us free will, but if we choose against being a religious drone, then eternal torture is the only alternative. Where is the freedom of choice? There is no free choice in Christianity. Free choice would allow for differences. Christianity allows no such thing. All people must either become believers or suffer the consequences of being an unbeliever. It is just that simple.

As tastelessly rude as the "Lighthouse Baptist" service was, it occurs to me now that in their overly simplified way, they did actually present the true essence of Christianity. "Who wants to go to heaven?" is contrasted in the hearer's mind with: "Who wants to go to hell?" That is essentially all that Christianity is about: Living forever in heaven or living forever in hell. Hell is bad, and heaven is good, and we know all this because the Bible says so.

I no longer have any false hope that my life will endure past the death of my body, as I once embraced as a Christian. However, I no longer fear the jealous reprisal of an insanely sadistic deity either. I am convinced that when I lie down for the last time, I will not get up in another dimension where millions cry out in ceaseless agony. I no longer see unbelief as having a hopeless future where life ends and nothing follows. I now view death as the eternal rest that it really is. Last night I had a dreamless night. I closed my eyes and suddenly the night was over—it was already morning. Although hours had passed, my conscious mind was unaware of the passage of time or of anything else. While I was asleep I felt nothing, knew nothing, and suffered nothing.

Death is the last and final sleep and nothing more.

What do you think?