Some Good Questions From Chad

27 Mar
Question Mark Graffiti

Question Mark Graffiti (Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon)

A reader named Chad, recently left a comment on my About post.  I thought he asked some really excellent questions and thought it might make for an interesting post.

Here’s what Chad had to say:

ChristianAgnostic,

Had a chance to review your background and read some of your posts. Fascinating stuff. Never really met anyone who’s migrated from Christianity to agnosticism but seeing as how you had the misfortune of being involved with two cults (YoungLife and SGM) I find myself thinking, “Geez, no wonder this dude became agnostic.”

My question for you is: Isn’t there a part of you that’s even minimally concerned about the whole ‘hell’ thing? That’s not meant to be a rhetorical question or a preamble to some kind of evangelistic pitch or a “love bomb” or whatever. I’m genuinely curious.

You’ve been brutally honest about your assessment of Christianity so I’ll do the same. I’m a Christian and buy into the whole package. Young earth, Noah’s Ark, inerrancy of scripture. I’m totally on board. I’ve gotta say though, the whole concept of eternity, whether it be in heaven or hell, bums me out to no end. It haunts me every day.

When Christians talk about the weaknesses of the atheist and/or agnostic position, they always bring up the utter despair that atheists must feel about the finality of death. Even articles written by atheists acknowledge this despair. But between you and me, I’m thinking, “Why the sadness? This is one of atheism’s primary *benefits*! When you’re dead, your dead. What wonderful freedom. No need to think about the endlessness of heaven and the tortures of hell? Where do I sign up?” I can’t help but think that atheism, or at least agnosticism, would make me a more relaxed person overall. If it weren’t for the hell bit, I’m tempted to think I’d jump ship in a heartbeat. I totally see the appeal of the atheist perspective…

and yet…I have to think…

There must be some part of you that wonders if you made the right decision. You don’t think about hell at all? Seriously? It’s gotta be nagging at you at least a little bit, no?

So let’s jump in and I’ll do my best to answer.

First off, I want to be clear that I have no doubt that SGM is a cult.  When it comes to Young Life, I do not view them as a full-blown cult, but as an Evangelical Ministry that has engaged in some methods of outreach that are similar to tactics used by many cults.  I know this may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but I do not think that Young Life is on the same level as cults such as the Moonies or Jim Jones.   Also, my involvement with these groups are not what led me to agnosticism.  Even after I emerged from these groups, I still was an active Christian seeking to better understand my faith.  It was my study of the Bible, the history of the Bible, and early Church History that led me to conclude that the Bible is most certainly not the inerrant word of God.

As for hell (whether I am worried about it or not) the short answer is no.  I have no reason to believe in a hell because I don’t find any evidence that convinces me that there is an afterlife, let alone an eternal place of torture where an All Knowing, All Loving God sends creatures to be Eternally tortured for his glory and good pleasure.  Besides the fact that hell seems to be contradictory to a God that is loving and Just, I just don’t find any evidence for such a place.  If you think I am uninformed or being cavalier, I can assure you I am not.  Not that long ago I still believed in a literal hell, Young Earth, etc…because I still viewed the Bible as the Word of God.  Not sure if you read my posts on the subject of hell, but here they are if you want to know some of my background on the subject.

Hell,  Hell of A Start,   Hell Hath No Fury,   Hell If I Care,   Hell (for babies?)

As for the despair that some atheists agnostics speak of…I can say I just don’t relate to it.  Sure, if I dwell on the fact that someday I will die and no longer be, it’s a bummer.  But it’s because I currently enjoy a full and satisfying life, surrounded by people I love and projects I enjoy.   I think the bigger bummer, is constantly obsessing whether or not my faith will be good enough or correct enough to please a Heavenly Ruler who will once and for all, bring me to Eternal Bliss or to Eternal suffering.  Since realizing that this is most likely not the case, I do feel free to live my life without the extra burden of wondering whether or not I am doing God’s will.  I still attempt to treat all people with love and respect, but I no longer have the guilt induced teachings of Jesus and the church hanging over my head all of the time.

As for your own struggles,  I assume they stem from the teaching of the Bible.  My only advice would be to study the evidence supporting the idea that the Bible is the true Word of God.  If you find the evidence compelling, then you should be worried.  But if you find the evidence to be lacking, then you should regard the Bible’s teaching on Heaven and Hell in the same way you currently regard the Egyptian’s Book of the Dead teaching on the afterlife.  In other words, in the realm of myths and dead religions that hold no relevance to today.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comment and questions.

Best Regards-CA

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10 Responses to “Some Good Questions From Chad”

  1. opinemine March 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    I have had this issue since I first became a Christian way back in 1981ish namely, the classical view of heaven as a resting place aka Psalm 23. I hate that verse with the still waters and being made to lie down in green pastures. See, hell to me wouldn’t be fire and brimstone but to be stuck on an astroid allowed to stay alive somehow but with no hope of ever seeing anyone ever again.

    Sort of like how did Obi-wan manage to stay sane on Tatooine until Luke got old enough to be interesting?

    I would give myself a brush burn to keep the boredom at bay.

    Have ideas about heaven and hell and yec and oee and tweedle dumb and tweedle dumberee but I need fodder for my own blog.

    Happy Ishtar (ducking)…..I’m not bad, I’m just drawn this way.

    • christianagnostic March 27, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

      You are cracking me up….I’d love to hear your views on heaven and hell. Let me know when you get around to blogging on the topic!

  2. limey March 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Chad’s questions ring a bell with me. Its almost as if a younger me has come into the future because its so very like the way I would have phrased a question to you.

    My answer to Chad, as a former YEC, is no I do not think about hell at all. I used to a lot as a Christian. The warnings about leading young one astray were especially worrisome. Without my faith, hell has no hold on me at all and its wonderful.

    I also don’t fear death any differently as an atheist. The process of dieing is immensly bothering, but then it was when I was a Christian too. The fact of death isn’t the problem, it never was.

  3. M. Rodriguez March 27, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    bravo…good answer,

    But I think chad might want to investigate his own Christianity more

  4. graceone March 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    ” I think the bigger bummer, is constantly obsessing whether or not my faith will be good enough or correct enough to please a Heavenly Ruler who will once and for all, bring me to Eternal Bliss or to Eternal suffering. ”

    Agree, this sounds like “work’s righteousness” to me. I don’t think we should ever worry about this.

    Feel free to live my life without the extra burden of wondering whether or not I am doing God’s will….

    Are we able to simply trust a loving God. Surely, he is more than able to let us know His will? Why feel burdened or stressed? This doesn’t sound like the freedom and easy yoke that Jesus talks about.

    Also, I wonder if Chad has considered the possibility that many Bible verses are conveying truth in metaphor and anthropomorphic ways.

  5. chad_decker March 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    Hey, thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment. It’s much appreciated. I’ll check out some of the other articles you’ve written too. For some reason when your site is viewed via iPhone, many of the links to your previous content don’t show up.

    Although I’m still firmly in the Christian camp, I have to say you really nailed it when you say that one’s Christian faith is inexorably tied to one’s view of scripture. Agree 100%. If what the Bible says about creation, sin, etc. aren’t actually the inspired words of God but just an allegory or some kind of hoax, then why trust *anything* it says about hell, heaven, miracles, salvation, or anything at all, really… I totally get where you’re coming from. If the Bible isn’t the inerrant word of God, then the whole Christian belief system totally unravels.

    Thanks again for the response. I’ll keep following the blog with interest.

    Best.

    • christianagnostic March 29, 2013 at 2:54 am #

      No problem…sorry about the links. I’m afraid I’m not all that tech savvy to know what the issue is for an iPhone. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.

      Thanks again for the questions and the conversation…

  6. graceone March 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    CA, I have a stepson who is a fundamentalist Christian. He holds to this very same position, that if the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, then Christianity must not be true. He sort of views the faith like a stack of dominoes with the linchpin being the doctrine of inerrancy of the Scripture.

    I can see his position to some extent. But, at the same time, it seems to me that truth is more nuanced than this. I feel that the center of Christian faith revolves around the church’s witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was attested to long before a single word of the NT was ever penned. Early believers were following and calling Jesus Lord. It was actually the early church that determined the canon of Scripture. I believe, of course, that they were led by God’s spirit in this over time. Also, the early church fathers, apart from the Scripture also bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord.

    It just doesn’t follow logically to me to suppose that because there may happen to be some errors in the Scripture, or because certain passage of Scripture may be allegorically rather than literally true, that all of Christian faith is therefore a hoax, and that there is no God. This seems a perplexing way to reason to me.

    The deeper question is why do some think in the manner of my stepson, and why do others reason differently? Is this a spiritual issue? Are our brains simply hard wired to think and discern differently? Or is it more a matter of cultural conditioning and related to why people come to faith in the first place? Do you or anyone else have some thoughts about this? I would be interested to hear?

    Rebecca.

    • billiesue1 March 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      a simple thought….maybe some folks need rules. They have to color inside of the box. They need a box. Some of us were born to color outside of the box. The rules don’t make sense to us, we follow our heart. We love and care deeply and anything, any doctrine, any person that stops us from doing this…just feels wrong. But hey….I am just an artist.

      • graceone April 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

        What you’re saying makes sense, Billiesue. Jesus taught, “Love your neighbor as yourself….” On this hang all the law and the prophets.

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