Why the exception?

“[T]he impression I got was that religion in general, though utterly false, was a natural growth, a kind of endemic nonsense into which humanity tended to blunder.  In the midst of a thousand such religions stood [Christianity], the thousand and first, labeled True.  But on what grounds could I believe in this exception?  It obviously was in some general sense the same kind of things as all the rest.  Why was it so differently treated?” -C.S. Lewis “Surprised by Joy”

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Campbell’s Tomato Soup

There are tens of thousands of denominations in Christianity.  There are an estimated twenty-odd major religions in the world, many of which have or likely have several (if not hundreds or thousands) of branches, break-offs, streams of thought, denominations, sub-groups, or whatever you want to call them.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ll just use sub-group here.

When it comes to non-religious groups, I only recently discovered that
a) there are more than just atheists and agnostics and
b) even atheists and agnostics have sub-groups.

I had always thought you either didn’t believe in any gods or you didn’t know if any really existed, and that was the extent of it.  How do you find the “right” label for yourself?  And are these labels even important?  They always kind of bugged me….maybe because I didn’t know how to label myself.  I always said I was a Christian.  “Yeah…but what kind?”

“Independent fundamental, Bible-believing, Bible-beggin’, foot-stompin’, soul-winnin’, door-knockin’, pew-jumpin’, sin-hatin’, devil-chasin’, King James Version ONLY Baptist!” —Mark Lowry (the only place on the net I could find this quote is here)

My family on both sides is several generation Pentecostal.  From the age of 10 until in my teens when my family stopped attending church, we went to a Baptist church.  So was I a Pentecostal?  Was I a Baptist?  I didn’t really know and figured it shouldn’t matter.  I was a Christian!  That’s all that mattered!  I remember catching a ride somewhere with my great-aunt and uncle and a couple of friends of theirs.  My aunt and uncle are, of course, Pentecostal, as were their friends.  Conversation revolved around God and church, and my aunt suddenly warned her friends “Be careful what you say!  We have a little Baptist in the car!”  I thought about that warning many times over the years, which lead to my belief that denominations don’t matter.  Or labels.

And yet…being label-less in regards to my belief system…I catch myself looking for one.  I feel more vulnerable and lost without one.  I think “If I had a label, I would know what I believe and I’d have an answer for people when they ask me.”  There’s comfort in that.  Security.  I don’t like not having an answer.

GOD I miss the days when I knew what I believed!

God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

I am a rabbit-trail kind of person both in the literal and figurative sense of the term.  Give me the choice between a well-worn path in the woods and some narrow little animal trail that juts off into the brush, and I will go for the little one every time.

Mental and conversational rabbit-trails are also a lot of fun to follow.  Like many other students I’m sure, I had Facebook open while trying to study math today and I saw someone posted a very long devotional thingy on the wall of a group I’m a part of.  Yes, a Christian group…mostly for teens I think.  The guy who runs it was in youth group a few years ago when I was one of the youth leaders which is why he added me to the group.  Anyway, the guy who posted on the group’s wall this afternoon was obviously not one of the younger teens I usually noticed leaving messages.  So I snooped his profile.  I DO love open profiles!  LOL!  Reading through his favourite quotes, I found one that stood out to me as being incongruent with Christianity in general.

“What can’t be tested can’t be trusted.” -John Burns

I’m not an expert on…well…anything, let alone religion and testing and proof and stuff…but I really can’t see how one can like or believe a quote like that and still have faith.  Like my big brother continually tells me every time I look for proof that God is real or Christianity is right or hell exists as a place of eternal torment, “It’s belief because there is no proof.  If there was proof, it wouldn’t be belief.  It’d be fact.”  Not to say that belief or faith are bad, they just seem incompatible with only trusting what can be tested.  Especially in regards to Christianity’s version of God, I remember being told that while God tolerated being tested and people’s requests/demands of proof, he didn’t like it.  Sure God proved himself to Gideon and Thomas,  but Jesus himself told Thomas (after giving him the proof he asked for) “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”  Therefore it was always better to just accept the things of God unquestioningly.

When “God said it.  I believe it.  That settles it.” seems to be the general mentality of Christians, how can anything be tested?

I guess that’s why this quote on the profile of a person who appears to be a very devout Christian confuses me.

“Isn’t it a little suspicious……..”

I started reading Evolving in Monkey Town the other day and was excited this afternoon to discover that Evans asks many of the same questions as I do.  I’m not quite half-way through the book so I don’t know if she gives any answers, but there is something affirming about finding someone else who wonders/wondered about the same things.

“Isn’t it a little suspicious that the only true religion is the one with which we happen to grow up?” -Rachel Held Evans

One of the first questions I began asking over a year ago when I finally allowed myself TO question things was “How can we Christians be so sure that we are right and everyone else is wrong?  How can we be absolutely positive that all the people around the world who don’t believe the same as us will spend eternity in hell for their mistakenness?”  I’ve wondered this for the last 10 years or so but, because I blindly accepted the things I grew up hearing from my parents and sunday school teachers and pastors, I kept shoving that question to the back of my mind hoping it would eventually go away.  But it hasn’t.

Why was I a Christian?  Really, I almost didn’t have a choice.  I was born in Canada in the 80’s to a young Christian couple whose parents and grandparents were also Christians.  I was raised in the church and grew up hearing all the Bible stories both at home and at Sunday School.  When I was about 3 I remember waking up in the middle of the night.  It was dark and I was alone and a little scared.  I don’t remember WHY I thought to do this (perhaps the bits about “Jesus is always with you and will protect you” popped into my mind.  I don’t know.) but I remember sitting up in bed and asking Jesus into my heart.

Evans talks in her book about how a person’s religion is at least influenced if not determined by when they are born and where they are raised.  Of course anyone can change their beliefs at any time, but many if not most people don’t.  And for the majority of the world past, present, and future who do not believe or have not heard that the creator of the universe came to earth in a human body, died on our behalf to save us from sin, rose from the dead three days later and now demands that we “believe in” him or else spend eternity in torment, the “gospel” (aka “good news”) is about the worst news they could ever receive.

I honestly find it incredibly difficult to believe that God can both love every human he has created AND condemn the majority of those loved creations to an eternity of torture.  I can’t think of any situation in which I could send someone I love to a place of torture for a month, let alone eternity.  And I can’t think of anyone I could in good conscience sentence to an eternity in hell.  Does that make me more loving than the God of the Bible?  Because seriously, if the Bible is telling the truth about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, most of the world’s people are going to hell simply because they were born in the wrong part of the world at the wrong time.  If he really truly loves them, he could do something about that.  He SHOULD do something about it.

The Almighty Schizophrenic?

When I was a kid, I loved reading the Old Testament.  It had more stories.  More action.  The book of Judges in particular was one of my favourites because of its collection of short stories about bloody battles, daring escapes, and intrigue.  As much as I loved my Bible and loved my god–that is, to the point of constantly trying to change myself into someone more “pleasing” to both–some of the things God commanded (particularly in the Old Testament) never sat well with me.  For example, he told the Jews, who were in the process of invading their “promised land” according to God’s instructions, to kill all the men, women, and children of a particular nation.  When giving Moses the law, many infractions were punishable by death.  Somehow this same violent God inspires the prophet Jonah to describe him as being “slow to anger and abounding in love.”

King David spent many many hours studying God’s laws and commands, and frequently went into raptures about God’s love and compassion and kindness.

Can this truly be the same God?  Is he schizophrenic?  Undecided?  Experimenting?  Misrepresented?

Darin Hufford suggests he is misunderstood.  I suppose with the vast number of denominations and religions that are out there, one really must assume that if God DOES exist, he is grossly misunderstood.  But who is right about him?  Or the closest to right?  I imagine each religious group out there would raise their hand and claim THEY are the closest to the truth.  Surprise surprise.  After all, that’s why they believe what they believe, is it not?  I doubt anyone goes searching for a lie to believe in.

How can we find out if God exists?  And if he does, how can we go about finding the real him/her instead of the version on display in the windows of all the world’s religions?  How can we find out what he says about himself?  “Maybe the actual God…doesn’t endorse The God-Of-The-Bible.” –Frank Schaeffer

Complications of god

I plead busyness with school as my excuse for not having written here sooner.  Excuses are a bad habit though.  It IS one of the main reasons I haven’t written, and the other would be that I just haven’t been thinking about anything I felt was blog-worthy.  Nothing deep-ish, that is.

Today I realized that my thinking has been taking a decidedly agnostic turn.  I still pray on occasion, although that has become increasingly difficult in the last year, but more and more often I catch fleeting thoughts to the effect of “how can anyone really know if there is a god?”  I know some people require irrefutable proof of the existence of a deity before they will believe one exists. Others believe that god is something or someone who, by nature, can never be proven to exist or not exist, and that one must choose (rather blindly, it seems to me) to believe or disbelieve in his/her/its existence.  I, for one, cannot bring myself to confidently believe either way.  I wonder sometimes if I ever will and envy those who do.

I would like to believe there is a god.  A god who takes an interest in life here on earth and who is approachable and relatable.  But if there is, then what is he like?  All sorts of religions claim different things about her or them (gods plural) that it gets confusing trying to sort through it all to find out who is right.  Life would be simpler if god didn’t exist and everyone knew it.  Would there be meaning to life?  I was lead to believe that without the Christian version of god life was meaningless.  But is that really true?  Probably not.  Maybe there is not a universal meaning that is applied to everyone’s life, but instead an individual one chosen by each person.  And maybe that’s the case even if there IS a god?  That seems more likely to me.  After all, everyone seems to have different values and find meaning in different things.  Why shouldn’t it be individual?