Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do Christians Really Believe? Part 2

I've previously written that I don't think the majority of Christians truly believe in Christianity. If they did, they'd be deliriously happy when loved ones died, and tragedies around the world would elicit a collective "meh," because who cares? It was God's will, and they're all wherever they're supposed to be now, anyway. If Christianity were true then -- sadly -- psychopaths like Pat Robertson and those at the Westboro Baptist Church would be entirely right. People like that see a tragedy and interpret it as a good thing, regardless of the innocent lives lost -- even those of children. (By the way, a good friend recently pointed me to a BBC documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church. You'll find the YouTube videos that comprise the documentary at the end of this post.)

Don' t Waste Your LifeSo, why approach this topic again? Well, while I was shopping for some new reading for my Kindle, I came across a few particularly interesting books. First, I saw the cover of a book titled Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. On its cover was a sort of distorted silhouette of Jesus hanging on the cross. Looking at that title and cover, I got excited. "Haha, awesome, how blatantly disrespectful. Don't waste your life praying to an imaginary friend and going to church to worship something that doesn't exist. I love the premise!"

Well, then I read the synopsis:

John Piper writes, "I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader's Digest: A couple 'took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells. . . .' Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: 'Look, Lord. See my shells.' That is a tragedy. 
"God created us to live with a single passion: to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives." 
Most people slip by in life without a passion for God, spending their lives on trivial diversions, living for comfort and pleasure, and perhaps trying to avoid sin. This book will warn you not to get caught up in a life that counts for nothing. It will challenge you to live and die boasting in the cross of Christ and making the glory of God your singular passion. If you believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain, read this book, learn to live for Christ, and don’t waste your life!
Hrm, not what I was expecting at all. That's not to say that it wouldn't be an interesting read, but man were my hopes up for a kickass de-conversion book.

It's funny, because if they truly were devout Christians, Piper would be right. If they truly believed in God and in the validity of His words in The Bible, they shouldn't be concerned with seashells, or cruising the ocean, or franky anything of this Earth. Everything they do should be geared toward glorifying their jealous, attention-hungry god and ensuring their ticket into heaven. What's 80-100 years of an Earthly existence entirely spent worshiping God and adhering to his rules compared to an eternity of either perfect bliss or continuous torment? (Setting aside, for the moment, that heaven is described as an eternity of worshiping God some more ... which, for many, is also torture.)

The couple Piper describes are acting just like closet atheists. They realize, at least subconsciously, that they'll die one day, so they should make the most of what little life they have. No, not by praising God from sunup to sundown, but by living -- truly living. So, they have fun, they love others, they collect experiences, and they otherwise spend their lives on what Piper calls "trivial diversions."

To Piper, that's sad. To me, well, thank God. Take the likely scenario that there is no heaven -- at least not as described in any of today's mainstream religions. If Piper had his way, this sweet couple would spend their entire lives seeking "passion" from glorifying a non-existent being, and then they'd die and that'd be it. They'd truly have wasted their lives.

The Christian Atheist: When You Believe in God But Live as if He Doesn't ExistAfter Don't Waste Your Life, I came across another book that looked promising -- and again, I was disappointed. This book was called The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel. Again, this book looked promising, and even the synopsis started out as the sort of preaching-to-the-choir diversion I love to read. Here's how it started:
Growing up, all my friends would have described my family as a Christian family. I assumed all my friends were Christians as well. We all believed in God. We occasionally attended church. We were good people. Even though we believed in God, we didn't know his word, didn't understand the gospel, and didn't pursue his will. We believed in God, but we lived as if he didn't exist.After pastoring for eighteen years, I've noticed a large percentage of people in my church living similar lives. Some seem to be Christian in name only without a lot of visible spiritual fruit. Others boldly claim Christ is Lord while living lives diametrically opposed to the teachings in scripture.The more I looked, the more I found Christian Atheists everywhere. While it is often easy to spot the hypocrisy in others, it is generally more difficult to see in the mirror. One day in an honest moment, I painfully admitted that although I unquestionably believed in God, I was leading the church as if he didn't exist.
OK, good so far. It's a book by a pastor who realizes that everything he is preaching is empty, and that he's lying to himself and to his flock. But then he gets into this weirdness:
I wrongly depended more on my own abilities than on his Spirit. Sadly, I dangerously cared more what people thought about me than what God thought about me. And although I preached about putting your whole faith in God, I still lived as if everything was up to me.
Erm, so he's saying you shouldn't take charge and have faith in your own abilities? You should simply rely on God to do things for you? And what's the deal with this: "I still lived as if everything was up to me." Everything is up to you, even if you believe in God. He allegedly gave you free will, so it is all up to you. He's basically discouraging having faith in yourself and your own decisions, and discouraging living your own life. In fact, he is quite literally encouraging being a sheep and joining the flock. How appropriate -- and how very sad.
The book Christian Atheism reflects my personal journey toward a more authentic God-honoring life.
Doh. So there it is. Don't rely on yourself, don't rely on others, simply sit around and wait for Him to do with you what He will, and don't worry what others think about it. That's how you get to a more God-honoring life.

Well, have you considered the alternative, Craig? Have you considered that the feeling you eventually got about your life and your faith -- the same thing you were observing in others -- might be fine? That it was all a natural progression of all of the small experiences and feelings within you that were telling you it all was bullshit? Why revert to cognitive dissonance instead of embracing the fact that you no longer have to live a lie?

Just go out into the world and live a fun, fulfilling life as a good person. If there really is a God, wouldn't the kind of God you'd hope to be worshiping also be the kind of God who would let you into heaven if you led that kind of life?

It's just amazing to me the mental hoops Christians jump through in order to maintain their faith in the face of every instinct they have telling them to just fucking go out and live their lives already.

-- Atheist Apologist --

Westboro Baptist Church: The America's Most Hated Family in Crisis


  1. "A man can no more dimininish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell."

  2. There are a lot of Christians who do not always do the right thing. That is what makes us human. Sin, we all sin whether Christian or not. the Bible does not say that in becoming a Christian, you are sinless. No, it says that you will sin, but if you ask for forgiveness, you will be forgiven.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Though I have moments of doubt, there is one thought that I can't shake: If there is no accountability and reward in the afterlife, morality is ultimately meaningless. There is no reason to be good except as it benefits me while I am alive. There is no ultimate difference in the destiny between the most good and the most evil. No matter what decision i make about anything, once I die, it will not matter to me. I will not exist to enjoy or suffer the results of my decisions. I cannot accept this.
    I just recently read "To End All Wars" by Ernest Gordon, and it tells the stories of men were prisoners of the Japanese during the second world war. There were prisoners who stole from each other, and then there were those who willingly sacrificed their own lives for their friends. It seems to me that those who were stealing were trying to make the most out of this life, and those who laid down their lives could not have done so without believing in the next. Though this is speculation concerning these acts, it is not in regard to the author's acts, who was able to show love for his neighbor, even when it was his enemy, despite suffering at the hands of cruel captors. According to him, he would not have done these things, or even survived, without the emergence of his faith.

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