Overcoming the fear of hell

I still feel disturbed by that meeting I had two days ago [see previous post]. It’s like a dark cloud hanging over me. I’m trying to get a handle on why, so that I can move past it.

The man I was talking with is actually the previous pastor of my church, under whose ministry I sat for years upon years of my life. And I wasn’t just a church-goer. I was in this guy’s life as a close friend and confidante for a long time. He was also like a mentor to me. We did grow apart to some extent at one point, because I stopped seeing life in quite the same way as him, even as a Christian. Although he stayed a part of my life even then, because I was friends with his son.

It was a hard experience having him speak angrily to me and condemn me. Hard because there’s still that suspicion in the back of my mind that he’s much older and wiser than me. Those memories are powerful. And combined with his reaction to me, the effect is a sort of irrational dread that tries to creep over me.

The easy thing to do would be to give in to it. To say, “I don’t want to go to hell! I believe! I believe!” I have to remind myself that all I’ve done for the past few months is I’ve followed what I believed to be true. The thing that some Christians can’t seem to understand is that sometimes people learn things that change them. This is true when you become a Christian in the first place, when you make the transition to turn from your sins and believe the Bible. For most people, this change is once only, and forever. I expected it to be that way with me, too, in the beginning. But it has been a rocky road, primarily because I have always been a thinker.

For instance, it doesn’t sit easy with me that the Old Testament God commanded his people at one time, “Thou shalt not kill,” then at another time, “Make sure you kill every, man, woman, child and infant of the Amalekites” (paraphrased from 1 Samuel 15). I use this example a lot when talking to Christians because it is the strongest example I know of the way they refuse to ackowledge serious problems in the Bible. The first hoop they usually jump through is to say, “God has the right to do whatever he wants.” That was never in question. I’m concerned that he appears to contradict his own law, on the most disturbing level. I mean, if I had to spend an afternoon putting a sword through little babies, just because God told me to, I imagine I would probably want to kill myself. Another hoop is to point out, “The Amalekites were an evil people, and God was using his people to judge them.” Those babies were thoroughly evil, huh? People are not evil because of the race into which they are born. All people are born the same. It’s our experience that determines what we become. Still another hoop is, “You’re judging the ancient world, which was a very different culture, by modern standards.” That might explain why the people dutifully accepted commiting this atrocity, but what we’re dealing with here is the law of God, and God is absolutely righteous and unchanging; culture doesn’t come into it. Finally, the Christian may concede and say, “We just don’t understand these things.” But I decided to say, “Hold on a minute. It just isn’t right to keep ignoring what this is actually saying forever.” And can you really condemn me for that?

We’ve got the more heartwarming story of Abraham and his son Isaac, where God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to him on an altar. At the last minute, while Abraham is literally holding the knife over his son, God intervenes and tells him to stop. Abraham’s obedience is tested to the ultimate standard, and the readers think, “We knew you weren’t really going to do it, Lord. We know you’re a loving God.” But we’re all too quick to put out of mind the harrowing story of 1 Samuel 15.

Am I against God? No, no, no! My point is, this isn’t the true God; it’s an illusion. The ancient world is filled with stories of cultures sacrificing animals (or people) to so-called gods. I don’t think the God of the Old Testament is any different. I mean, when you read the early books of the Bible, you learn that this religion demands the constant flow of animal blood. What on earth does the infinite, eternal, all-knowing, transcendent God need with the endless slaughter of animals, day in and day out, all year round? “A pleasing aroma to the Lord,” the Bible says. I’ve heard the usual Christian defence of this, of course, that it was a prophetic picture of the death of Christ, sacrificing his life for the sins of man. But that just doesn’t make sense. Millions upon millions of animals had to die over thousands of years for a mere metaphor?

I refuse to ignore these things any more. It’s like I said before. When you dare to deconstruct your belief system and re-examine it without any emotional attachment to it, it all starts to look very different. I can choose to bravely face the implications of this new awareness, or I can cower away because I’m afraid of what people will think of me if I step away from the herd. Likewise, I can be afraid of some eternal punishment on the shaky grounds thats it might be true. It’s one thing to warn someone of an actual, real threat, but another to manufacture the reality of a threat by using a warning.

The pressure to conform never hit me so strongly as it did two days ago, when I was confronted by the pastor and his wife. But I see it for what it is: manipulation through fear. We’re not allowed to make our own minds up. In essence, it’s like a voice in my head saying, “Forget what you’ve learned, Darryl. Forget all your objections and be afraid. Believe what they tell you, because you might be wrong. And if you’re wrong, you’ll end up in hell. Believe in Christianity, Darryl. It doesn’t matter about all that horrific stuff that doesn’t make sense. Don’t think. Just be safe and snug. Take the easy way out and believe.”

I have no doubt that the pastor and his wife would be delighted if I did exactly that. How many Christians actually care why a person believes, just as long as he believes? And they say Christianity isn’t mind-control. Am I going too far? Well, let’s look at how Christianity advances. We have a society today that, in general, doesn’t believe in Christianity, and hasn’t got much of a clue about the Bible. So we assert that the Bible is the word of God, and we present its message, which is essentially, “You didn’t realise this, but God actually holds all your ‘sins’ against you. You are condemned to go to hell when you die. But there is a way out. Turn from your sinful ways and believe that Jesus sacrificed his life to pay the penalty for your sins.” We tell this to our children from a young age, rarely encouraging them to question its validity. This is how Christian families are perpetuated from one generation to the next. “The Bible is the word of God” – that’s the great assumption of our lives, and the starting point we want our children to cling to. Let’s face it, few of us are scholars. I once read a portion of a book on the reliability of these 2,000-year-old manuscripts that we call the New Testament, and the whole topic got so complex that I didn’t know what to think. You’ve either got to assume you’re dealing with the word of God, or not. But if it’s all based on an assumption, how can you condemn someone for choosing a different assumption? Or how do you spread the Christian message to the world when people in general no longer assume the Bible is the word of God? Answer: you use fear. You tell them that the consequences of not believing you are so dire that they must believe. Forget the question of whether it’s true or not – just believe. I ask you, does that sound reasonable?

I hear this all the time from Christians: “I believe the Bible is the word of God.” Well, why do you believe the Bible is the word of God? I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God. And I’ve got reasons for not believing, some of which I mentioned earlier. I actually don’t have a problem with anyone who wants to believe in the Bible. They’re free to believe anything they want to believe. You won’t hear me shouting threats at people, or hanging them out to dry, because they want to believe something different from me. Unfortunately, Christians not only say, “I believe the Bible is the word of God.” They add, “And you too must believe.” In my experience, some Christians will respect a person enough to try and find out where he’s coming from, and to coach him with reasonable arguments towards what they believe. Others don’t care what you believe and just want to metaphorically slap you across the face with “Turn or burn!” My stance is, if all you’ve got behind this is an assumption, you can’t expect the rest of the world to fall into line and see reality as you do. And yet some of my Christian friends will insist on condemning me and holding our friendship to ransom on the condition that I see life in the same way.

This matter of “assumptions” is equally true of me with my belief that we are all one consiousness. I can’t prove it to anyone. And I only “feel” it to be true intuitively. I talk about it because it’s a way of looking at life that helped me be more compassionate to others. And I’m hoping this may be interesting to others who are open to the idea of intuitive knowledge – knowledge that comes from within, from a higher aspect of our consiousness, rather than from our observations on the world around us.

The experience two days ago was actually slightly scary to behold. I realised that the minds of these people had been utterly absorbed by a complex and rigid belief system that was in total control of their actions. And their belief system is just one of countless factions of Christianity – which is why I’m experiencing more tolerant reactions from other Christians. The experience scared me, because I realised I was looking at something that wasn’t so different, in principle, from the religious extremism of the Middle East. I saw that these people would do whatever the word of God (or their interpretation of the word of God) told them to do, no matter what the consequences to those around them. In this instance, the consequence was their denial of me as a friend. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if their own son ever decided to change his worldview. Would they break their own hearts and insist that he move out of the house on principle? I had the scary realisation, “I really don’t know what these people are capable of.” And I’ll never forget that.

As for me, I intend to continue being the open-minded, caring, spiritual person that I am, open to new information, wary of manipulation, always searching for the truth about life. All I can say to the Christians who now find me unacceptable is, “I’m doing what I believe to be right. This is me. Take it or leave it.”

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31 thoughts on “Overcoming the fear of hell

  1. lifemorelucid says:

    I can relate so closely to all that you’re going through, and especially to your fears and revelations.
    I was a whole-heartedly devoted disciple of ‘Jesus’ for 10 years, until it finally occurred to me that I was really a disciple of the church I was devoted to, and I had grown judgmental, hard and condemning. I finally saw that Jesus was teaching something very different than what I had believed. Like you, I can’t swallow the God-sanctioned genocide or even the bloodthirst of animal sacrifice. I have been following a tiny thread of truth for the past 2 years, and it has been so interesting, enlightening, SCARY, and healing. You can read my blog post “The seeds of nonviolence” at http://www.lifemorelucid.wordpress.com It’s a short summary of what I’ve come to believe about Jesus’ real message.

    I hope we can talk more. You might really appreciate Emerson’s Self Reliance.

  2. Paulie says:

    As for me, I intend to continue being the open-minded, caring, spiritual person that I am, open to new information, wary of manipulation, always searching for the truth about life. All I can say to the Christians who now find me unacceptable is, “I’m doing what I believe to be right. This is me. Take it or leave it.”

    I think this really is the best way to go. And i hope that you’ll find that there are more of them who will still care for you and be your friend, than those who turn their back and judge you unfairly.

  3. Phil Hopper says:

    Hey Darryl, im one of the silent readers of your blogsite, as You may or may not know, i dont know why but i feel like voicing something close to me right now, i know as a christian i should be angry or some rubbish like that for your decision to be open minded and seek the truth, but to be completely honest, i have the most absolute upmost respect for you and this decision. the fact you feel more morale in yourself makes me happy, that fact you are enjoying life more makes me smile, im not condemning you because you turned your back on Christianity, if anything with this comment im giving you a pat on the back…I will not be turning my back on you and your blog just because you have made this decision, if anything i check back on the blog twice as much, just to hear your latest entry.

    Keep up the good work

    Phil (Your Silent Friend)

  4. Darryl Sloan says:

    Lifemorelucid,

    I enjoyed reading your article. A lot of condensed thought went into it, which made it hard to fully understood everything, but a lot of it resonated with my beliefs. I’ve been very impressed with Ghandi’s quotes before.

    Paul,

    It’s hard to inform my Christian friends about this, because you never know what kind of reaction you’re going to get. Had to break the ice with another yesterday, for the first time since this all began, but thankfully this one went well.

    Phil,

    Really glad to hear from you, and those were some much needed words. Made my day, actually. And likewise, I totally respect your decision to be a Christian. Obviously I’m going to say some things that you won’t agree with, but your mind and your decision-making belong to you alone. Thanks for your friendship.

  5. Chris says:

    Hi Darryl,

    Sorry to hear about the recent encounter with your ex-pastor. From the sounds of it, their response to you was tough, and hard to digest. My heart goes out to you.

    In a previous comment a while ago, you had announced to the blog readers that you and I had reached an understanding on your position and motivation with respect to your new-found beliefs. I just want to say that that still stands, and I have no desire to fiercely debate points of contention with you. However, I feel like I need to respond in some public way to the comments you made about Christianity and Christians in this blog post, despite the fact that I know you are feeling hurt and upset right now. Because of the terms you use and the way you employ them, I think you’re presenting Christianity as a whole in an overly negative way based on your own experiences, and aren’t giving due emphasis to the fact that Christianity is overwhelmingly a force for good in the world.

    I want to start out by acknowledging the fact that you do say that not all Christians have reacted to you the way that your ex-pastor did, and you also say that there are many factions of Christianity, which explains why, to a certain extent, you have received a more tolerant reaction from other Christians. These are important points to make, and I’m glad you made them. I wish you would expand on them more, but I understand that your post was an offloading on your part of the sadness and injustice you are feeling at the present time.

    I know that this blog is read by many people, in many parts of the world, and the language you are using rests uneasy with me because you would seem to be propagating unjust and inaccurate statements about Christendom to a wide audience. To call Christianity “mind-control”, to say that it is spread through fear, to insinuate that most Christians don’t care why a person may believe just as long as he does believe, these are all broad brush strokes that you are applying to all Christians and Christianity, or at least that is what your language would imply.

    For a start, you really must clarify what you mean by the term “Christianity”. You and I both know that you’re mostly referring to puritanical Calvinistic Protestantism, and I think you do need to specify that more in your blog posts because you are doing many good Christians an injustice by continually throwing around the term “Christianity” when your beef is mostly with a small subset of “fire and brimstone” Protestants who, it could be argued, are even bad examples to their own brethren.

    Another thing that you ought to think about is this shadow of literalistic Sola Scriptura that you still seem to be operating under. You say that the “great assumption”, with reference to “Christians”, is that “the Bible is the word of God” and this is “the starting point we want our children to cling to.” Again, and this is getting back to what you actually mean by the terms “Christian” and “Christianity”, you well know that the Bible is not the fundamental starting point for the vast majority of Christians, i.e., Catholics. I think you really need to get it straight in your mind that neither the claims nor the validity of Christianity are based on the words written in a book. Protestants would have the world believe this, but it is simply not true. However, if this doctrine of Bibliolatry is one of the things you have a problem with, then, again, you ought to clarify your arguments more accurately by quantifying that it is with Protestantism and Protestants (with puritanical Calvinists in particular) that your problems lie, rather than using the blanket terms of Christians and Christianity.

    From this, you then say that if people in general no longer accept the Bible as the word of God, then the only option for “Christians” to spread the “Christian” message is to “use fear”. That also is not true. It may be true within the small subset of puritanical Calvinist Protestantism that your experiences center around, but it is certainly not true, for the most part, elsewhere. Of course, the great example here is Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity caring for the poor on the streets of Calcutta. Not once did she try to advance the message of Christ through the fear of hell and damnation, but she only wanted to put into action her love of Christ. You need to remember this whenever you think about the badness you’ve experienced at the hands of people blinded by a shameful Christian heresy — they are not examples of what real Christianity is about, and you must not fall into the trap of using them to generalize against all Christianity.

    The theological points which you bring up are certainly important questions, and can be discussed in a rational manner, but I really just want to push you toward a proper and more accurate use of language when you’re writing about Christianity in order to give your readers a correct perspective on your life rather than using inaccurate, generalized terms which, given the subject matter you wish to discuss, tend to propagate a negative attitude toward all Christians. I just don’t think that’s right or fair. By all means, keep discussing the issues you want to discuss, but, please, I urge you to try to be more precise in your language.

    Peace be with you,

    Chris

  6. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    I think what you said is fair. In writing my article, the thing that was in my mind was indeed Evangelical Christianity, which is the only thing I have any experience of. Catholicism wasn’t in my mind at all when writing the article, and my knowledge of it is certainly limited.

    The way I’m seeing the situation (and it may be wrong, I don’t know) is that Protestantism stands for “The Bible alone dictates what you think” and Catholicism stands for “The Bible plus the teachings of men in positions of power dictate what you think.” Neither situation looks good to me. And rightly or wrongly, I’m guilty of lumping the two together in my mind, rather than seeing as you do Protestantism as a terrible heresy and Catholicism as the shining light of truth.

    Let’s not open a big discussion about that here, but next time I come over to see you, I imagine we could have an interesting chat, especially now that I’m no longer clinging to Protestantism in any way. But don’t let that openness get you too excited. 🙂 It just means I’ve got nothing to prove any more as an ex-Evangelical.

    In the meantime, your advice is well taken, and I will try to be more specific in the vocabulary I use.

  7. lee says:

    Hi Darryl,

    glad to see there is plenty of support for your changing beliefs and that people are happy that you are happy. It is a shame that others who meant a lot to you could not see past the issue of faith and belief to care about your happiness.

    Not mocking what you are going through personally, but thought I would lighten the mood by sharing a link to a piece on GODDING (http://www.themanwhofellasleep.com/Godding.html), which had me laughing out loud. Hope it makes others laugh too.

  8. Rayana says:

    I am very up lifted by your train of thought, I was brought up as a pentcostal minidters daughter and lived with paranioa till I reached my 30s when I discovered my true spiritual side and finally could see clearly for myself without the fear and manipylation of The CHRCH…and church people.
    I FEEL FOR MY SIBLINGS THAT ARE STILL LIVING INTHE FEAR DAILY THAT THEY WILL GO TO HELL!
    They live one day at a time lookimg for the rapture to take place and never gave themsleves a quality life, because we were tought that we were not worthy of a good life that if we even tried to suceed it would be the love of money and we would go to hell, the girls in our family were abused terrible in mental ways to only be wives,,the boys were told they had to read the bible everyday and lead the girls into heaven and that if they didnt all blood would be on thier hands!,,Was my dad crazy??? Now my brother lives with me and my wonderful understanding husband and kids and he is constantly praying ,crying for our souls…what can I do for him???

  9. Paulie says:

    Rayana:
    That sounds more like a cult to me, it might be a good idea for you, and any of your family you can gather, to seek some proper help.
    If something has been indoctrinated to that extent, with such fear and strict dominance, it will have to be slowly un-worked, by someone who really knows what they’re doing and has experience in that field.

  10. Darryl Sloan says:

    Rayana,

    All you can really do is try to help people see through the illusions they’re living under, and at the same time afford them the respect to make their own choices with whatever information you share.

    I have a book recommendation for you: I Am Me, I Am Free by David Icke. It was this book that encouraged me to embrace an open-minded perspective that allowed me to see the falsehood in my own rigid belief system and free myself from it.

    Here’s chapter one:
    http://darrylslibrary.wordpress.com/book-excerpts/i-am-me-i-am-free/

    The crux of the problem with most people who hold to rigid belief systems is that they constantly edit any new information they hear to fit their existing beliefs rather than allowing it to transform their beliefs. That’s how Christians can read about the horrors of 1 Sam 15 and still be Christians. This is the attitude that has to go if people like your brother are to free themselves.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. Your experience and conclusion make interesting reading. You left Biblical religion once before. I’m curious to know, was it for similar reasons? And, since you returned to it, do you think you could ever return to it again?

    I too struggle with God’s instructions in the Old Testament to wipe out whole peoples, and their children in particular. It seems that God regards youngsters as being under the headship of their parents. If the parents are rotters and the children haven’t made a stand for true worship, or aren’t old enough to be aware of the issues, they are destroyed along with their parents. (Ezekiel 9:2-11).

    This isn’t unique to the Old Testament, either. Of the coming final judgment on the present world system, Jesus said, “As the days of Noah were, so coming of the Son of Man will be.” (Matthew 24:37) When God destroyed the world of Noah with a global flood, he destroyed everyone not on board the ark. This included youngsters, toddlers and babies. So, Jesus is warning that a similar thing will occur in the final judgment.

    The judgment will come at a time when mankind has got to the point where he faces total annihilation at his own hand. “Unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved.” (Matthew 24:22) The scripture then goes on to say that on account of those worshipping God in the way he wants to be worshipped, he will step in and render judgment.

    I can accept this because it will be done at a time when all human life faces extinction by its own hand. If God doesn’t step in and render judgment, no one will survive – no one at all.

    So, while I’m disturbed by the Bible’s description of past judgments, I’m less concerned by the future one, because I feel it will be necessary.

    I sometimes get the desire to abandon the Bible, but, unlike you, I have nowhere else to go. There is nothing else out there that seems more likely to be true (to me). I echo the words of the apostle Peter, who, when asked by Jesus if he was going to abandon him as a number of others had done, said, “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:67, 68).

    I also have a problem with plucking beliefs out thin air and simply saying, “I think I’ll believe that instead.” With the Bible, the idea is that it’s inspired by God (that the human writers were guided by God), and so you have a basis for what you believe. Almighty God desired to communicate with us, explain his ways, his purpose, his reasons for permitting wickedness, what he proposes for the future, and so forth. He communicated with favoured individuals. They wrote down their experiences. He saw to it that their writings were collated, preserved, copied, translated and made available throughout the world. Without the Bible, just relying on his own feelings, a religiously inclined person can entertain just about anything with no real basis. (Of course, if you think the Bible itself is just the ramblings of men influenced by the times in which they lived, then there’s no basis for believing in that either!).

    I agree with the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, who wrote, “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) If you rely on your feelings only, they will betray you, because they lead you where you want to go rather than where you should go. This can apply to all life decisions, not just the religious.

    If I were to abandon the Bible as the inspired word of God, I think I would end up concluding that no one actually knows the answers. Without a basis for belief, I keep running into the question, “Yeah, but how do you know?”

    You say that the Old Testament God is not the true God. If that is the case, I would go further and say that the New Testament one isn’t either. Jesus repeatedly quotes the Old Testament and uses it as his basis for teaching. He foretells a time in which God will judge the whole world system and separate people as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The goat-like will be destroyed, while the sheep-like will inherit everlasting life. (Matthew 25:31-46).

    The Bible gives explanations for why the world is like it is, and why God permits innocent people to suffer.

    I would say that your new God is worse than the Bible’s version because he doesn’t explain anything at all. He remains silent and uninvolved. (This is another reason why I would simply abandon God altogether if I lost faith in the Bible.).

    As for going to Hell, the Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hades, translated Hell in most English Bibles, simply refers to the grave. It’s a state of nonexistence, total death.

    Another Greek word, Gehenna, refers to a rubbish tip just outside Jerusalem which was kept perpetually burning. All manner of rubbish, including dead carcasses, was thrown into it. No living people were ever thrown into it. This Gehenna has also been translated as Hell (or Hellfire). This is a deliberate mistranslation (because Sheol/Hades mean something completely different to Gehenna) by the orthodox churches to terrify people into remaining steadfast in their religion. When Christ said the hypocritical Pharisees were going to Gehenna, he meant they faced eternal destruction, not eternal torment.

    So if it turns out that the Bible is right and you are wrong, you won’t be going to a burning hell.

  12. Darryl Sloan says:

    Hi, Will.

    “You left Biblical religion once before. I’m curious to know, was it for similar reasons? And, since you returned to it, do you think you could ever return to it again?”

    I left it and rejoined it many times in the past. Usually it was due to psychological reasons. I couldn’t cope with the sort of mindset my particular church scene tried to infuse me with. So I would pick out problems in the Bible, amplify them, and use that as a reason to abandon my religion.

    It sounds wrong to do that, but the other side of the coin is that the problems in the Bible really are there, and as a Christian, I had to suppress and ignore them – which is no more noble.

    Could I return to Christianity again? I don’t expect to, but the answer is yes, because I refuse to close my mind to new information of any kind.

    “So, while I’m disturbed by the Bible’s description of past judgments, I’m less concerned by the future one, because I feel it will be necessary.”

    You’re misinterpreting the problem I have. I actually have no problem with the idea of a supreme God judging mankind. He (if he exists) has that right. My whole problem is with a god who communicates his moral perfection (“Thou shalt not murder”) than later on says, “I need you people to go slaughter some innocent children and infants.” Why would a god who is perfectly capable of doing the job himself (as demonstrated at Sodom and Gomorrah) choose instead to command his own people to break the sacred laws he instituted? It’s ludicrous, and I have yet to meet a Christian who will face this square on.

    “It seems that God regards youngsters as being under the headship of their parents. If the parents are rotters and the children haven’t made a stand for true worship, or aren’t old enough to be aware of the issues, they are destroyed along with their parents.”

    This is a good point. It provides an explanation behind the mentality of the slaughter of the Amalekite children, but it’s not a mentality I can accept. Don’t individuals have worth?

    “I sometimes get the desire to abandon the Bible, but, unlike you, I have nowhere else to go. There is nothing else out there that seems more likely to be true (to me).”

    You’ve just crystalised the exact reason why I had believed in Christianity consistently for the past seven years. I knew that athiesm was wrong, so all I had left was Christianity … even though I couldn’t make it work, morally, socially, and in ever other way I can think of.

    But when you realise that there is more possibility than these two polar extremes of belief, you actually start to get somewhere at long last.

    “I also have a problem with plucking beliefs out thin air and simply saying, “I think I’ll believe that instead.”

    I have a problem with that, too. I believe in careful rational thought. But I also believe there is such a thing as intuitive knowledge – a deep knowing you can experience when you open your mind to possibility. This is vastly different from plucking beliefs out of thin air, but I can see how it can be misunderstood to be just that.

    “With the Bible, the idea is that it’s inspired by God (that the human writers were guided by God), and so you have a basis for what you believe.”

    You have a lot more than that. Once you accept “the Word of God,” you actually have a ready-made complex belief system that effectively closes your mind to the possibity of anything contrary to it.

    So, when you hear about something that is in opposition to what the Bible has revealed, something that might enlarge your mind about life, you are forced into the position of saying, “That’s error. I don’t need to hear any more about it. I already have my ultimate authority of truth, thank you.”

    But the scary possibility, if I can prise your mind open just a teensy-weensy bit, is that if your original pre-supposition (that the Bible is the word of God) is incorrect, then you have actually cut yourself off from any possibility of getting to the real truth. Your belief system, and your inability to disentangle yourself from it, will always keep your mind just where it wants it to stay. I dared to disentangle mine, and that’s why all this is happening to me.

    Outside of a Christian belief system, I’m discovering that there are so many exciting things to learn about the nature of the universe, about consciousness and what it is to be human. Best of all, the whole learning experience isn’t some life-or-death heaven-or-hell quest that I need to get all worked up about.

    “You say that the Old Testament God is not the true God. If that is the case, I would go further and say that the New Testament one isn’t either.”

    That would be the right deduction. Christianity arose out of Judaism and still recognises the Old Testament as God-breathed. I have to smile when I hear a Christian use the old “but that was in the Old Testament” excuse – as if God only grew a brain in A.D.

    “I would say that your new God is worse than the Bible’s version because he doesn’t explain anything at all. He remains silent and uninvolved.”

    On the contrary, we’re all a part of God. At a higher level of myself, I am God – and so are you. We are one. This is why intuition is possible – the connection with deep knowledge beyond our flimsy minds. Paradoxically, since I have lost some friends, I am amazed by how not alone I feel when I spend evenings alone in my house. This awareness of oneness goes much deeper than mere wish-fulfilment. I believe it’s intuition, and it’s only possible when you open your mind.

    “As for going to Hell, the Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hades, translated Hell in most English Bibles, simply refers to the grave. It’s a state of nonexistence, total death.”

    As someone who has read the entire Bible, I became aware that the concept of eternal punishment only seemed to be invented in the New Testament. I recall little or no mention of it in the Old at all. Disbelief in hell, on the Christian side, is not restricted to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but some Protestants, too. I recall author John Stott in particular. I’ve often wondered about the hell question, in light of the Old Testament stance, but I’m pretty sure I recall some powerful mentions of it in the New. It would be nice to marry the Old & New, but I strongly suspect the invention of hell is truly there in the New Testament. And that’s all it is – an invention.

  13. zoewinters says:

    Hey, take heart, I’ve been where you are.

    Sometimes the emotional fear of hell hangs on a little longer even after the intellectual fear of hell is gone. After a time it’s sort of an “eyeroll moment” when someone mentions hell.

    An important thing to remember is, when people take on a religion, they are essentially brainwashed, even if it’s with their permission, because they get the same messages over and over. And now you have to re-brainwash yourself into a different thought pattern.

    Things that helped me:

    1. Studying Judaism and what they believe and have historically believed in about hell. Hell is a pagan believe that was later added on. Not an original Jewish belief. If it wasn’t part of the original religion, and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever…then one wonders why Hell even gets brought up in the first place.

    2. http://www.tentmaker.org These are people who believe the bible is the word of god and even THEY don’t believe in hell. They’re Christian universalists. And frankly if someone is going to accept Christianity as the ‘one true religion,’ well this makes more sense to me than any of it.

    I don’t consider myself to be a follower of any religion now. I believe in a higher power (though I don’t know if said power is conscious independently from the whole of creation or not), and reincarnation. But beyond that, I don’t trouble myself with it.

    And I was raised, from birth in strict fundamentalist American pentecostal Christianity. (Say that five times fast.)

    So, this too shall pass. You’re at a normal place here, and you wont’ fear hell, even fleetingly, forever.

  14. >>But the scary possibility, if I can prise your mind open just a teensy-weensy bit, is that if your original pre-supposition (that the Bible is the word of God) is incorrect, then you have actually cut yourself off from any possibility of getting to the real truth.<>We’re all a part of God. At a higher level of myself, I am God – and so are you. We are one.<<

    Mm, interesting. Sounds a bit like Buddhism. OM, and all that. I can’t entertain the idea that God explains himself through us. There are so many contradictory beliefs. What is it that God is trying to say? How has he explained to us the purpose of life? How has he shown us satisfactorily why it is many of our fellow humans must endure such suffering?

    I don’t see God answering these questions through human intuition.

    Thanks for your considered response, by the way. It’s all very stimulating!

  15. But the scary possibility, if I can prise your mind open just a teensy-weensy bit, is that if your original pre-supposition (that the Bible is the word of God) is incorrect, then you have actually cut yourself off from any possibility of getting to the real truth.

    You are assuming that my mind is closed. I wouldn’t be engaging you in this discussion if it were.

  16. Darryl Sloan says:

    Zoe,

    Thanks for your insightful comments.

    “I believe in a higher power (though I don’t know if said power is conscious independently from the whole of creation or not), and reincarnation. But beyond that, I don’t trouble myself with it.”

    This is essentially what I believe, too, but I’m also coming round to the further ideas that we are all one consciousness expressing itself through the illusion of the physical world. Deep stuff. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out, but I’m excited about what level we may be able to take our undertanding to, through a study of things like psychokinesis and telepathy. See my recent review of Mental Radio:

    http://darrylslibrary.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/mental-radio-by-upton-sinclair/

    Will,

    “I don’t see God answering these questions through human intuition.

    I think your questions may be coming from the standpoint that God is a separate entity from us – a conscious being apart from us. I think that’s not the case. We are collectively God, and the human body is restricting our full awareness of ourself. Trapping in these bodies, we’re only aware of a fraction of what we truly are. But here and now, by raising our awareness, we can tap into some important knowledge.

    “You are assuming that my mind is closed. I wouldn’t be engaging you in this discussion if it were.”

    What I mean by a closed mind is any mind that is trapped by a dogmatic imposed belief system. You don’t have the freedom to change any part of your beliefs in isolation from the rest, in the way that I do. Your beliefs about all sorts of things determined for you by the words in a holy book that you accept as truth, and not by your own reasoning. That’s not an open mind.

    Fair enough, you make the conscious choice to accept the book, but once you do, open-mindedness is out the window and reality is defined for you.

  17. Stacey says:

    Will, you said:

    I sometimes get the desire to abandon the Bible, but, unlike you, I have nowhere else to go. There is nothing else out there that seems more likely to be true (to me).

    As Darryl has mentioned his third option, I will mention another. I was where you were about four years ago. I never let go of Christianity because I knew the truth in it, even though the Bible seemed to bend to anyone’s literal (and very different) interpretation. I wanted to abandon the Bible, but you don’t have to in order to find somewhere else to turn. The Catholic church is in line with the Bible, but has authority beyond it in apostolic succession. I was highly opposed to this because of prejudice, but spent about two years better understanding it all, and find a security and peace there now. Just something to think about!

    Darryl, you said:

    Why would a god who is perfectly capable of doing the job himself (as demonstrated at Sodom and Gomorrah) choose instead to command his own people to break the sacred laws he instituted? It’s ludicrous, and I have yet to meet a Christian who will face this square on.

    We have a changing table in the living room that Isabel isn’t allowed to mess with. Sometimes I tell her “Isabel, will you get Mommy a burp blankie for the baby?” when I’m busy and she gets it for me, proud and helpful. I’m growing her up, and I understand the differences in situations that she doesn’t. The rule that she doesn’t mess with the changing table still stands. The goal that she will be able to function without this rule also stands. Why is it such a problem that God told us not to do something and then said, “Okay, right now it’s okay, go do that.”?

    If the death order is also a problem for you, you never mention other instances in the Bible of infanticide, such as during the exodus when the firstborn was killed as a punishment to the parents. In the case of Samuel, it seems you fail to notice the Machiavellan principle behind the matter. Babies grow up, realize their land was taken and forefathers have been slaughtered, and retaliate. In both cases, there is a difference between murder and killing in war and punishment.

    I imagine you will have some response along the lines that you can’t accept what I’ve said, Darryl, but don’t say that you’ve never met a Christian who will face this square on. The reality is you haven’t met a Christian who’s given you a response that you like, is in line with your feelings, or makes sense to you at this point in your life. If you want to discuss this issue further and in more detail, I think you should set up a post so we can give it a proper treatment. It may be a good idea since you mention it so repeatedly.

  18. Stacey says:

    Darryl,

    What I mean by a closed mind is any mind that is trapped by a dogmatic imposed belief system. You don’t have the freedom to change any part of your beliefs in isolation from the rest, in the way that I do. Your beliefs about all sorts of things determined for you by the words in a holy book that you accept as truth, and not by your own reasoning.

    I really don’t see the problem with the kind of closed-mindedness that accepts a “package deal”. It’s the kind of closed-mindedness that recognizes the value of input from others, can learn calculus despite all of the difficult to accept aspects of it, can grow in understanding that is not yet complete, and challenges oneself to change for the better. It doesn’t fly in the face of our own reasoning, it challenges us to grow in our reasoning.

    The alternative is the arbitrary freedom to pick and choose whatever appeals to you, regardless of any kind of objective truth. How can you grow in understanding if there is nothing to guide you but your own whims? I don’t really understand the appeal of defining your own reality piecemeal.

  19. Darryl Sloan says:

    Stacey,

    “Why is it such a problem that God told us not to do something and then said, “Okay, right now it’s okay, go do that.”?

    It’s a problem because there’s supposed to be an objective right and wrong. In your way of thinking, if “God” told me to go and rape a little girl, that would be fine, because he said so. Wrong in the usual course of life, but okay in that instance.

    I’ve said before, we are not computers waiting to be programmed with our values. We feel, whether brought up with the Bible or not. We possess facets like empathy, that direct us not to inflict harm on others. (Of course, that can be suppressed and manipulated, which is why the Israelites had no problem with genocide and infanticide.)

    “In the case of Samuel, it seems you fail to notice the Machiavellan principle behind the matter. Babies grow up, realize their land was taken and forefathers have been slaughtered, and retaliate.

    What a dark, twisted outlook. No one is given a chance to even grow up and decide for themselves what path to follow, whether good or evil. Let’s kill them at birth, because we’ve already declared them guilty of all the things they haven’t yet done but probably will do. So now we don’t have to even sin to be condemned; we just have to have the potential for sin due to the unfortunate circumstance of our birth. How about individual responsibility? How about the possibility of men turning to good instead of evil?

    “The reality is you haven’t met a Christian who’s given you a response that you like, is in line with your feelings, or makes sense to you at this point in your life.”

    Correct. And that’s where we stand. I don’t make these statements lightly. I’ve spent a few hours hunting for information on this passage.

    “I really don’t see the problem with the kind of closed-mindedness that accepts a “package deal”.

    The problem is it takes away freedom to consider information outside of the belief system – information that might undermine the “truth” in the package deal. Look at all the ways that science and religion have been in opposition over the centuries. The scientific view is dismissed by religion because it’s at odds with “God’s revealed truth,” therefore it must be wrong, therefore we dismiss it. Until the weight of scientific evidence gets so strong that the religion has to finally concede some ground. The literal six-day creation account and the young earth theory are prime examples. Some Christians still maintain these things, as we know.

    Another example is me with my interest in understanding what consciousness is. I’m learning things that I wouldn’t have learned had I stuck close to the Bible, because I had been taught by my belief system to regard such things as psychokinesis, telepathy and meditation as dangerous and borderline demonic. My view is that they’re not even supernatural. They are within nature, just not fully understood.

    “Here is your truth” package-deals serve only to close the mind and restrict your access to other information through warnings. The package-deal may be true (as you think) or false (as I think). Either way, all I’m doing is illustrating the effect of a package-deal, and why I don’t like it. I prefer to think my way forward one step at a time.

  20. Paulie says:

    I really can’t grasp at what level you’re making this argument about, Darryl.

    To the extreme, i would argue we’re all led by our own perceptions, experiences and already formed beliefs. I look at the world through the eyes of an Agnostic, the things i see are filtered through that and as part of that, i have the ability to turn things on their head, or find a new belief altogether, if the current one doesn’t make sense anymore, due to something i wasn’t expecting, or because i have an extreme need in my life, like the loss of a loved one or a major health concern.

    You, yourself, were a Christian, trapped within the package deal of the bible, and its teachings, but as shown in your blog, you managed to completely turn that about, because it didn’t fit anymore, you found a new belief. So just how trapped were you? You still had the ability to think for yourself and come to a different conclusion. In fact, as your blog shows, you flitted between various things, back and forth between Atheism, Agnosticism, Christianity, and finally moving to a more new-age approach.

    You didn’t suddenly wake up one morning with an open mind and take on board a world that you never allowed to exist before. You merely used your free thinking as best as you could, and until that point it never led you to that specific understanding.

    Even when you were a Christian, you were doubting some of what the bible said, those very doubts prove you were capable of free thinking. Even from within that cage of the package deal.

    Even now, you’re not 100% free thinking, you’re still limited by what you already know, what you already think, what you already see in the world around you.

    As i’ve said before, i don’t see that much difference between your new stance, and the stance of a Christian. You both think you have the answers, and want to try and enlighten those around you. You both are human and make mistakes, sometimes allowing your belief to afford you arrogance. The Christian will say the non-believer is blinded by the Devil, or their own lust for sin. You say that the non-believer is closed-minded, unable to grasp the wonderful truth around us, because we’re trapped by fear, dogma, etc.

    When pushed for answers or proof, neither can provide anything worthwhile. The Christian will say that you need faith to believe. You will say it’s more about intuition.

    I would argue that none of us is capable of 100% freedom. We can’t just forget what we’ve already learned, and unless a major event takes place to change everything we know, we don’t even want to forget what we already know.

    But on an individual level, on a day to day basis, we’re all capable of a certain degree of free thinking, and we rely on it, to make sense of the world around us as little bits change here and there.

    This doesn’t change, according to what we believe or what the actual shackles are, we wear. Even the most free-thinking religions, beliefs and outlooks, aren’t any different. They just think they are, because they’re buying into what is being used to sell the idea.

    David Icke is proof of this, he talks about free-thinking, shaking off the shackles of dogma and control, fear and restrictions, but dare to question his thoughts and beliefs, or follow something else which disagrees with his findings, you’ll soon see how closed minded he is. And depending what mood he’s in, you’ll be branded a conspirator, part of some system, out to get him and his followers, because they are a threat to the world in its current form.

    And God help you, if you dare to be a world leader, or a member of a royal family, because then you’ll be deemed a child-raping occultist, lizard-like inside, under your human guise.
    A bit like how some Christians see the world around them as the embodiment of Satan and all of his hordes. People walking around with demons on their back, carrying out the will of the God of this world.

  21. Darryl Sloan says:

    Paul,

    “You, yourself, were a Christian, trapped within the package deal of the bible, and its teachings, but as shown in your blog, you managed to completely turn that about, because it didn’t fit anymore, you found a new belief. So just how trapped were you?”

    The answer is, we’re only as trapped as we allow ourselves to be. Of course we have the freedom of choice to reject the “truth package-deal” of the Bible.

    My concern is about the type of rational outlook that is required of you when you are in a state of acceptance of the package-deal. A Christian sees the world through a filter of beliefs that are given to him en masse from a holy book, not through his own rational observations. If he thinks something contrary to the book, he has to deny what he thinks, in favour of something has has been thought out for him.

    People can accept the Bible if they choose. All I’m saying is, be aware of what you’re accepting, because it’s goodbye to the freedom to think for yourself. The Bible asks for your mind, and I’m afraid that’s something I have to be very cautious about giving away.

    Once you take back your freedom to think your own thoughts, then your sense of what’s possible becomes dramatically larger and you have a massively wider perspective from which to discern truth.

    Some things that I have learned from rejecting the package-deal:
    – There is no sinful nature.
    – Meditation is beneficial to your health (not of the devil).
    – Physical reality is illusory in nature.
    – We are are one consciousness, with no beginning or end.
    – Consciousness is the foundation of the universe (not matter).

    Generally speaking, those aren’t the sorts of things you can learn when somebody or something else is DICTATING to you what is true.

    I wouldn’t go as far as calling the above list “truth,” but I would say that I believe these things as much as I ever believed the Bible. Typically, someone looking at these ideas from the outlook of a package-deal will see me as nuts. Why? Because anything contrary to the package-deal is automatically dismissed as bunk.

  22. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    It’s a problem because there’s supposed to be an objective right and wrong. In your way of thinking, if “God” told me to go and rape a little girl, that would be fine, because he said so. Wrong in the usual course of life, but okay in that instance. I’ve said before, we are not computers waiting to be programmed with our values. We feel, whether brought up with the Bible or not. We possess facets like empathy, that direct us not to inflict harm on others. (Of course, that can be suppressed and manipulated, which is why the Israelites had no problem with genocide and infanticide.)

    I think the point Stacey was trying to make is that, yes, God tells us not to kill and murder each other, and that is the normal rule to which we must adhere. But this rule must necessarily have exceptions, otherwise how would countries and individuals protect themselves from others who intend to wipe them out in the case of war? So, there are cases where the taking of one man’s life by another is objectively right, but, in normal circumstances, to do so is objectively wrong. Rape, on the other hand, would seem to have no circumstances in which it could be deemed objectively right.

    What a dark, twisted outlook. No one is given a chance to even grow up and decide for themselves what path to follow, whether good or evil. Let’s kill them at birth, because we’ve already declared them guilty of all the things they haven’t yet done but probably will do. So now we don’t have to even sin to be condemned; we just have to have the potential for sin due to the unfortunate circumstance of our birth. How about individual responsibility? How about the possibility of men turning to good instead of evil?”

    Of course, Original Sin puts all of us in the category of the condemned, even the Amalekites. Original Sin, in itself, is enough for God to justifiably wipe us all out right now. The point with 1 Samuel 15 is that God had pronounced judgment on the Amalekites when they attacked the Israelites as they fleed from Egypt, and the punishment was death, i.e., capital punishment, which, if I remember correctly, you had absolutely no problem with not so long ago. The Amalekites were barbarians who would have wiped the Israelites out given half a chance — do you think the Israelites and God should have, instead, enrolled the Amalekites into a rehabilitation program, and maybe some counselling, to help bring them round to a more enlightened 21st century understanding of how we should all just love and tolerate one another, and live and let live?

    Correct. And that’s where we stand. I don’t make these statements lightly. I’ve spent a few hours hunting for information on this passage.

    I think your fundamental problem with God ordering the Israelites to kill the Amalekites stems from a tree-hugging notion that all killing is murder, murder is evil, so therefore killing is always and everywhere at anytime morally and objectively wrong. From this, you then draw the conclusion that God has contradicted Himself by telling the Israelites, on one hand, don’t murder, but then He orders the Israelites to enact His judgement of captial punishment against the Amalekites. Darryl, you can spend as many hours as you like hunting for information on this passage, but I doubt it will help you iron out your own moral misconceptions.

    The problem is it takes away freedom to consider information outside of the belief system – information that might undermine the “truth” in the package deal.

    That is a straw man. The “problem” is not that it takes away freedom to consider information outside of the belief system, but that it provides a framework to help evaluate information from outside of the belief system, and determine what’s nonsense and what’s actually worth considering.

    Look at all the ways that science and religion have been in opposition over the centuries. The scientific view is dismissed by religion because it’s at odds with “God’s revealed truth,” therefore it must be wrong, therefore we dismiss it.

    Did you get this obtuse view of history from your straw man too? Perhaps he didn’t read this page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science

    I don’t know why you keep implying that Christianity prevents Christians from considering information that comes from outside of Christianity, because it really is not true in the slightest.

    Either way, all I’m doing is illustrating the effect of a package-deal, and why I don’t like it. I prefer to think my way forward one step at a time.

    Then what’s your excuse for this intellectual sloth of yours that fails to see the moral difference between the murder of a gas station attendant during a robbery and the killing of insurgents in defense of one’s country, and that wants to make these lazy generalizations about Christianity and Christians being shut off from new information because they don’t want to corrupt the “truth” when such generalizations have numerous counter-proofs?

    I’m sorry to say it Darryl, but your intellectual credibility with me has really taken a nose dive as I’ve been reading your recent comments, and mulling over the old ones. Your feelings-based thought process has not led to any truthful insights that I can see. Instead, it seems to be driving you to make lazy, uninsightful statements about things, and believe in (by your own admission) unsubstantiable fictions, all of which indicate that your capacity for thinking clearly and rationally is being diminished. I’m not trying to be insulting here, but I think this ought to be pointed out.

  23. Stacey says:

    Darryl,

    It’s a problem because there’s supposed to be an objective right and wrong. In your way of thinking, if “God” told me to go and rape a little girl, that would be fine, because he said so. Wrong in the usual course of life, but okay in that instance.

    You know it’s not true that in my way of thinking you could go and rape a little girl. But if you want to take this to ridiculous extremes to prove a point: you’re saying that it’s always wrong to kill? So if the wild Mongols of old were attacking your family, you wouldn’t pull the trigger before they raped, tortured, poured molten silver in their eyes and ears then buried them alive? Obviously you would, and I obviously wouldn’t condone rape ordered by “God”. The fact that killing is right and wrong in different circumstances is already within your moral scope. What I’m saying is that God knows the line of objective right and wrong better than you. Even if you don’t accept that, it is still a logically consistent way for Christians to think, and saying such things is facing the issue head on.

    Correct. And that’s where we stand. I don’t make these statements lightly. I’ve spent a few hours hunting for information on this passage.

    I know you haven’t heard anything you’ve liked. But people do face these issues, stop saying they don’t.

    The problem is it takes away freedom to consider information outside of the belief system – information that might undermine the “truth” in the package deal.

    No it doesn’t.

    Look at all the ways that science and religion have been in opposition over the centuries.

    Actually, read up on this more. It’s a myth that this has been a problem over the years. And it’s a myth now. Scientists are evenly divided: some are religious, some aren’t.

    The scientific view is dismissed by religion because it’s at odds with “God’s revealed truth,” therefore it must be wrong, therefore we dismiss it.

    At least, that’s what Dawkin’s said, right? And he must have done his research, so you can trust that.

    “Here is your truth” package-deals serve only to close the mind and restrict your access to other information through warnings. The package-deal may be true (as you think) or false (as I think). Either way, all I’m doing is illustrating the effect of a package-deal, and why I don’t like it. I prefer to think my way forward one step at a time.

    Chris is right, Darryl, you ignore numerous counter-examples for this stuff. Me and Chris, you, Paulie, Alister McGrath, C.S. Lewis, Dr. Thurman (who you don’t know)… my point being, everyone decides individually how they’ll react to new information. Having a set of beliefs doesn’t take away your ability to accept new ideas. There are people who are naturally frightened of new things, but that’s not because of their beliefs. There are also cult-like package deal belief systems that try to maintain control over their followers. Christianity isn’t one of them, even if your limited experience makes you think otherwise.

    Some things that I have learned from rejecting the package-deal:
    – There is no sinful nature.
    – Meditation is beneficial to your health (not of the devil).
    – Physical reality is illusory in nature.
    – We are are one consciousness, with no beginning or end.
    – Consciousness is the foundation of the universe (not matter).

    Generally speaking, those aren’t the sorts of things you can learn when somebody or something else is DICTATING to you what is true.

    Aren’t these things that you learned when you rejecting one package deal and then accepted another package deal? You only traded one for another. In the package deal of Krishnamurti and David Bohm’s holonomic universe we have:
    – there is no sinful nature
    – meditation is beneficial to your health
    – physical reality is illusory in nature
    – consciousness is the foundation of the universe (not matter)
    – we are all one consciousness, with no beginning or end

    These aren’t individual ideas that you came up with all by yourself. You are just as much a follower as the rest of us, at least we admit it.

    You consistently take everything I say in the worst possible way. That’s why I don’t post comments on here much anymore, Darryl. I know you’re trying to show how bad Christianity can be, but it’s not always like that. You’re reeling from a bad experience, but that’s only a small twisted part of what Christianity, or any set of beliefs, can be.

  24. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “Original Sin, in itself, is enough for God to justifiably wipe us all out right now.”

    I understand that, and I accepted it for a long time. But I don’t believe in Original Sin any more. I’m on the outside looking in, in that regard.

    So, as I’ve been saying, all you’re doing here is debating from the inside of your belief system looking out. How do you expect me to see things in the same light, when we understand humanity in fundamentally different ways.

    Your truth has already been shaped for you by the Bible and the Church. Mine hasn’t. I’m not aboard the same ship.

    “Do you think the Israelites and God should have, instead, enrolled the Amalekites into a rehabilitation program, and maybe some counselling, to help bring them round to a more enlightened 21st century understanding of how we should all just love and tolerate one another, and live and let live?”

    Your tone doesn’t mask what you actually seem to be saying: that it’s better to kill than to seek to help people. Yeah, I do believe in tolerance, and live and let live. And I can’t imagine any circumstance where I would kill a man, or especially an infant.

    “Darryl, you can spend as many hours as you like hunting for information on this passage, but I doubt it will help you iron out your own moral misconceptions.”

    What you call a moral misconception is only a different outlook, one not based upon a mind already in acceptance of Christianity.

    “The Amalekites were barbarians who would have wiped the Israelites out given half a chance”

    Once again, what does any of that have to do with the slaughter of infants? Stacey mentioned the horrific idea they needed to kill them all before they grew up and became evil adult Amalekites – which basically means you believe in judging individuals by their race, right from the cradle. Wow, racism is alive and well, it seems.

    The craziness of this is further illustrated in how “God” told Saul to make sure every single animal was killed, too. He was veruy specific about it. Were they evil Amalekite animals?

    I would suggest a simpler explanation for all this that makes perfect sense. These were more barbaric times than we live in today, and the people led less enlightened lives. Race hatred was commonplace and human life cheap. God did not command this genocide. Man did it. And it’s one sorry slaughter in a whole catalogue, where we rushed to shed blood. End of story.

    “The “problem” is not that it takes away freedom to consider information outside of the belief system, but that it provides a framework to help evaluate information from outside of the belief system, and determine what’s nonsense and what’s actually worth considering.”

    Whis this attitude fails to consider is that there were times in our history when our understanding of the universe needed to shift at a very deep level, such as when humanity had to come to terms with the nature of the world being a sphere instead of flat.

    You can choose to operate from the framework of an inflexible set of dogmas, or you can allow the frameworks themselves to be challenged in light of new information.

    Do we think we know everything about the nature of reality currently? Hardly. Maybe, just maybe, another one of these major shifts in understanding that needs to occur is the transition to the idea that physical reality is illusory. I could be wrong; just my thoughts.

    In essence, the problem with having a framework is, what if it’s the wrong framework? And what if it’s a framework that, by design, isn’t permitted to change (like Christianity). This is illustrated by your reaction to my psychokinesis experiments. By your own admission, you favour the demonic explanation. Someone without that framework won’t jump to that idea. Who’s to say who is right? I would say, in determining that, it doesn’t make sense to start with dogmatic views about it. Instead, you investigate it, and if it presents to you information that challenges what you already think about other things, then let those things be affected.

    “… I’m not trying to be insulting here, but I think this ought to be pointed out.

    No insult taken, but Chris, all I’m hearing from you are the views of yet another dogmatist looking out from one of thousand different dogmatic schools of thought. When I think of you and your Catholicism, I think, “This guy actually believes that if a baby doesn’t get some water splashed on its forehead, it’s outside the grace of God.” Let’s say some poor kid was unfortunate enough to have Baptist parents, who only believe in “Believer’s Baptism” when the child is old enough to choose Christ. Let’s see he dies in an accident aged seven, unbaptised. Does he go to hell by default? Unlucky for him.

    Personally, I think you’ve built a house of cards and I can only hope that one of these days it might all come crashing down. But when a passage like 1 Samuel 15 doesn’t even appear to make you uncomfortable, and the justification of killing comes so easily from your lips, my hopes wane a little. But the choice to have your beliefs is yours.

    I just wish you could see how different it all looks when you take a step back from it.

  25. Paulie says:

    I disagree Darryl, you might have taken that option, to believe something from the bible, whether it made sense or not, just because it was en massé part of your beliefs, but others don’t. There are many Christians who follow bits of the bible, or some that don’t really follow it at all, arguing that the bible isn’t the true word of God, merely a representation, etc.

    You’re just as trapped now, by your current thinking, than any Christian is. We all have that ability to just change our mind at any given time. A Christian can decide that the bible is nonsense, just like you could wake up tomorrow and think that what you’ve believed for the last few months doesn’t make sense anymore.

    There are certain entrapments, like the fear of suddenly having nothing to believe in anymore, or having to face the world without the protection of God, or the “freedom” of not seeing sinful nature anymore.

    And there are fears like going to hell, or maybe in your case no longer having the strength or mindset to resist the urges of porn, etc. But they’re the same things, in different guises.

    You’ve merely given yourself to a new package deal, with its own set of rules and its own standards and promises and threats. Just as i have. Just as we all have, and will continue to do, throughout our lives.

    There’s no more, or less freedom to be had, it just presents itself in different ways.

  26. Darryl Sloan says:

    Stacey,

    “So if the wild Mongols of old were attacking your family, you wouldn’t pull the trigger before they raped, tortured, poured molten silver in their eyes and ears then buried them alive? Obviously you would,”

    I confess this one does leave me in a quandry. I know that I would like to say I wouldn’t kill them. I would like to say I would never kill anybody. But would I, in truth? Perhaps. I don’t know what else to say, but to admit my quandry.

    That said, to go from that to the justification of infanticide is a leap for me.

    “Aren’t these things that you learned when you rejecting one package deal and then accepted another package deal? You only traded one for another.”

    No. It’s the difference between having a rigid belief system, and simply having beliefs. There is no “ism” for what I believe, because what I believe doesn’t conform to a “set.” It’s just me. If it happens to fit in with Krishnamurti, fine. I’ve never read the guy and I’m not his disciple.

    Unlike religion, I am free to adjust any part my beliefs in light of challenging information. This is what makes learning a joy. You, on the other hand, have a holy book that dictates truth to you, truth that you have no freedom to question because it is (supposedly) from God.

    Big difference.

  27. Darryl Sloan says:

    Paul,

    That’s not it at all. I don’t know how to explain it any better than I have.

  28. Paulie says:

    But surely Stacey does have this ability, just as you did.
    Our current beliefs and understandings may limit us to some extent (And that isn’t just limited to religious people, you, yourself are just as led by this as anyone else), as do our experiences and history, with regards to what we might be able to take on board, but there’s absolutely no reason why new experiences, understandings and events can’t change our opinions, and make us question the package deal as a whole, or at least parts of it to fit the new findings.

    This is where i really do believe you’re fooling yourself, in that you think you’re somehow above this, because you’re free in your mind and able to take on new concepts. You’re no more free than anyone else, and no less captive than anyone else.

    In my personal opinion, based on what i’ve read over the last however long it’s been, I think part of the reason you feel so free is because you’ve found some strength in yourself.
    You’ve gone from feeling like you couldn’t control things, or escape things that held you back, or voicing your opinions on certain things within your church, to having the strength and faith in your own thinking and beliefs, to be able to follow them without fear of condemnation.

    That is a freedom, but it’s not a freedom issue. You were never held back from doing these things before by anything other than yourself. Your own fear, etc. Whereas now you feel enabled to be who you really are. Which of course is a good thing. But it’s not a matter of shaking off the people and concepts that held you back, it’s a matter of shaking off the aspect of yourself that let people or concepts hold you back.

    Maybe you freed yourself from parts of yourself?

  29. Darryl Sloan says:

    I agree with what you’re saying in general, especially towards the end. But let me clarity what I mean when I talk about not being free.

    If a Christian decided, for whatever reason, that he didn’t believe in Original Sin anymore, he is not “free” to do that. To do so, you have to deny that the Bible is the word of God – the very principle on which the package-deal hangs. You have to abandon your faith, in other words.

    So, if you’re not prepared to abandon your faith, then you’re not able to change your belief about this Original Sin aspect of it. That’s the cage people put themselves in when they accept Christianity.

    Yes, you have the freedom to flush it all down the toilet, if you choose (and that’s what I did), but you don’t have freedom to think different in particular aspects of what the belief system dictates – unless you want to be a wishy-washy liberal, of course. 🙂

    That said, I know there are all these factions, due to people putting different interpretations on Scripture, but they are all expressions of the same mindset: “Here is the non-negotiable truth.”

    The freedom from this, and the reclaimation of your own right to think for yourself, is there for the taking – as you say. I’m not denything that. I’m illustrating the mindset required of people who willingly subjugate themselves to package-deal truth. And I’m saying it’s not for me.

  30. Paulie says:

    As you admit though, there are people who do exactly that.
    You don’t have to go from believing every word in the bible literally, to not believing at all. There’s many steps in between. The liberals, as you say. 😀

    The point your making, is, still, something we’re all bound by. Even my belief of nothing. If i suddenly find a reason to believe in a deity, regardless of which one, i can’t be an agnostic anymore. If you suddenly find a reason to believe in the God of the bible again, you can no longer deny it, or continue to hold your current beliefs, because they cancel out each other.

    It doesn’t make you closed minded, or trapped within either mindset, depending on which belief you continue with. It just means you can’t believe in both, and whichever one convinces you more, will win through.

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