Are you SURE you are saved?...because if you doubt you are not truly saved and will go to hell.  How many times did I hear this growing up.  Of course I had everybody did/does.  The church frowns upon anyone questioning anything, and demands blind faith (gullibility).  I come from a very religious family.  I spent a considerable amount of time in my teen years fearful of a possible hell in my future because I had doubts.  Even after I was "saved" constant interrogation type sermons by the pastor "are you SURE you are saved?"  Walking tearfully down the aisle, doubters admitted they truly weren't saved, socialized to believe something must be wrong with them.  I can't believe I was ever complicit in such nonsense.  Can I get a witness?????

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Barry - that is a very courageous and admirable move on your behalf. Most churches are too slow or too hesitant to change. Worse than that though is the abuse of power or the hijacking of Christianity to suit those that hold sway over regular church members. I have known of similar cases in the past and unfortunately the next step may be to assassinate your character and make you out to be a rogue element that this church is better off without. I hope not. Anyway your challenge was the correct course of action. I am not sure if you have gone further than resigning and are leaving your faith but if you are this link may be of use to you. Hopefully all will be sorted out soon.

Clergy Project

Thanks, Reg.  Unfortunately going through it all, I didn't feel very courageous.  There were a number of things I felt as though I retreated on in terms of my convictions.  I was accused of intimidation, when in fact all I was doing was confronting a bad situation and trying to reconcile it peacefully.  If anything, I was the one being intimidated into dropping the issue after I confronted it.  My job was threatened.  I was painted by the family as the "sinful" one to the senior pastor, and pressure was placed on me to doubt what I saw with my own eyes and the testimony of my family.  The only good news is that, while I may have retreated from directly addressing the issue, I realized I could not doubt what I saw, and the testimony of my wife and kids.  The only conviction I could not retreat from was the priority of my family.  As for leaving my faith (Christianity), I have not (though I would willingly defy the SBC).

You know, I constantly run across Christians who claim that the hell & damnation doctrines are not taught at their church.  Even some ex-Christians claim that it was never a big part of their religious experience.  All I can say is that these people are either illiterate or willfully ignorant (most fall into the latter category).

You can't 'believe in the bible' and avoid the business of being burned alive for lack of the 'correct state of mind'.  It's the ultimate abuse of any child who can actually read and is allowed to read that despicable scripture of Christian doctrine.

Maybe some people are stupid enough to read those parts and just think, "Oh, my god wouldn't do that to me," even after reading the parts where their god ordered innocents and children murdered, horses hamstrung, and that lovable part where he had children mauled by bears for being mouthy.

Heather, a number of those Christians are correct.  Some Christian denominations are steering clear of that area doctrine because it is an unpopular and uncomfortable thing to discuss.  As a result, illiterate, inarticulate, and/or willfully ignorant Christians are "birthed" from a church.  However, there are also those churches that do teach it, but certain members ignore it.  My question is: how can we teach with absolute certainly about something that which we do not know? 

We know that there is good, we know that there is evil, and we know that there is a shade of gray in between.  I think that the parts in the bible of which you speak are there to challenge us - not to force our acceptance of something, but to make us question everything.  Willful ignorance belongs to the man who says: "It says so right here, so it must be true."  This is a fool's response.  A wise man will say however: "Why does it say this?  How could it say this?"  There is nothing wrong with questioning scripture and challenging the claim of the status quo; there is nothing wrong with challenging God or the existence of God.  We are meant to do such things because it builds us up in knowledge and/or faith (depending on how you see it).  Questioning any and all authority is the right thing to do because it is the only way to uncover truth.  Those who say "do not question the bible/word of God" are fools who follow darkness.

The only way to grow as an individual in any endeavor is to challenge and be challenged.  I certainly will grow and have grown in my recent experience, even though it was a jagged pill to swallow.  That is why I am here - a place where challenging such things is an accepted value. Those who choose not to challenge things and just except things at face value will remain shallow and that is a very sad thing indeed.

@Barry Adamson

Can you honestly say that you believe a person could pick up that book and give it a read straight through without thinking that Yahweh was a rather horrific skymonster that didn't think twice about killing babies?  This is your 'god'?  This is the book he had written about himself?

The bible is quite clear, repeatedly, that homosexuals are detested by Yahweh.  In the Bronze Age, particularly in a warring, territorial tribe, men who were in any way effeminate were likely seen as a liability and detested by the other men.  Today, we know that there are a lot of factors that play out in forming the sexuality of a person and the result in no way reflects any particular strength or weakness, good or evil.  All that given, we can see that at least portions of the bible were just plain written by men - there was no divine inspiration.

The doctrine of the Trinity is something upon which you might want to reflect.  At the core, you have the love that a father has for his son, and the monumental sacrifice embodied in the concept of a father sacrificing his son in your place.  The trouble here is that if Jesus IS Yahweh (just another facet or 'state' of Yahweh) then the whole father/son relationship goes out the window.  Perhaps Yahweh does love himself as much as a father loves a son - but then what does that say about Yahweh?  Furthermore, where are the supporting prophecies that there would be a trinity?  These things are just fabricated - and rather poorly, I might add.  The hoax of the Comma Johanneum should remove any doubt.

Now you say you have children whom you've indoctrinated to this religion.  Why not just turn and ask them "When we all go to heaven, what happens to people who don't believe in Jesus as their savoir?"  Are you telling me they have no idea that the doctrine states those people will be burned alive for eternity?  If that is the idea they have then what have you done to them?  How can they ever honestly question any of the doctrines when you've instilled that sort of horror in their young minds?

Happily I was never 'saved'. Maybe I should have tried it so I could have some different perspective?

When I hear this, I just figure it is marketing. Keep the customer coming back, churn your present accounts, and stop them from looking anywhere else for the 'service'. Since my loyality seems to be elsewhere, the ploy did not work well on me. I can understand how it could be powerful for some, but there are other carrot/sticks in the world. 


@ Heather, why such an accusatory and judgmental tone (if I read it correctly)?  The premise of my argument above is that you should question what is written in there and not accept it at face value, nor accept the argument "I believe this because so-and-so told me so"  when it comes to belief systems or ideological viewpoints.

As for doctrine, I have never been a big fan of it because for every doctrine of hell in the bible you can also find a doctrine of universal salvation.  After all, universalism was part of the early Christian movement until it was stamped out by influences of what was considered orthodoxy at the time.  The same goes for a number of other doctrinal statements, such as the trinity (I should know, I studied it and it is what caused the church to split into the faction of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox).  You also have to know a thing or two about the classical Greek philosophy of metaphysics to understand any of the jargon that is involved in trying to discuss Christian theological doctrine and that can be a mess!

As for indoctrinating children,  I do not indoctrinate my children anymore than a public school does.  Nearly all forms of education possess elements of indoctrination.  If you are a parent, would it not be your responsibility to train up your child to be a good and responsible human being?  How would you do that?  By raising the child up in the value and belief system you hold dear to your heart, and you would hope that the child would share the same value system that you hold as they got older.  Think of it this way:  if you are a liberal democrat, would you not go out of your way as a parent to raise your children up with the same political ideology that you possess?  That is indoctrination is it not?  The difference, though in what is good indoctrination and bad indoctrination is how you teach those beliefs/values to them.  A good parent would understand that even though they may train up their child a certain way, there is no guarantee that the child will hold to that system.  A bad parent would demand unconditional loyalty of the child to that system without any room for questioning and self discovery.

As for my family, if any indoctrination occurs, it it under these two rules: treat others as you wish to be treated (others meaning all people), and ask questions about all things.  My 5 year old son told me the other day that he believed in God.  I told him that that was good, but then followed up with the question "Why do you believe in God?"  His answer: "Because you do."  My response: "Son, that is not a good enough answer.  You should not believe just because I do.  You need to believe for yourself not for me."  So how can you pass judgment on me without even knowing my life and how I live it?

@Barry Adamson

My 'tone' wasn't intended as 'accusatory' - I was just pointing out what can be gleaned by reading the bible itself.

One could try to balance hell with universal salvation - but that's a bit like trying to balance out a threat of throwing a child down the stairs with the gesture of taking that same child out for an ice cream cone.

I find it interesting that you told your son than an honest answer wasn't good enough.  What possible reason would he have for worshiping as you do other than following in your footsteps?  Have you ever wondered why there is such a rigid geographic distribution of religion?

Comparing public school education to religious indoctrination reveals your complete lack of perspective when it comes to objective reality and dogmatic mythology.  You have yet to tell me what your children would say if you simply asked, "When we all go to heaven, what happens to people who don't believe in Jesus as their savoir?"

I have yet to meet a Christian child over 9 years old who is unaware that such people will burn in hell.  I've met plenty of Christians who claim they don't teach their children this - but not one who would pose that question to their child in front of me without 'some time to think about it'.

I understand that you would hesitate to deal with this question here as it is difficult for you to deal with it honestly.


Well, good then (referring to accusatory tone).  Sometimes emails are hard to read regarding intentions.

Oh, I praised my son for giving an honest answer.  Honesty is highly valued in my house.  I simply want him to make his own decision on theological matters - not just because I say so.

Balancing hell with universal salvation?  That wasn't what I was suggesting, though I am sure some Christians do that.  The doctrine of universal salvation negates hell entirely.  

Objective reality?  Seriously?  History is not objective, nor is sociology,  or psychology.  None of the social sciences are objective.  Nor any of the humanities.  These are all open to the human subjective interpretation of reality.  What we know of science can be objective depending on the human motivations regarding control of information and data collection.  Most all reality is subjective because it is based on the human interpretation of events.  If there is a true objective reality, it can only be found in mathematics.

As for meeting a Christian child over 9 years old who is unaware that certain people will burn in hell? Well, come to Frederick, MD!  I am sure I can find you a fundamentalist church that has them, even though Frederick has a largely liberal population.  Hell, why not just go to Topeka Kansas? You'll find children there holding picket signs that say it (referring to the Westboro Baptist Church run by Fred Phelps).  I had to go to college around that crap.

As for hesitating to deal with the question of hell with my kids?  I am not hesitant.  It just hasn't come up yet, it will though.  We have talked about evil - in the sense that it is my responsibility to protect him from it and there are bad people in the world, but we have not discussed hell.  Besides, my oldest is 5 so that is a lot to take in.  You can't expect a 5 year old to necessarily grapple with questions that a teenager and adult can.  Their cognitive skills and reasoning abilities just aren't there yet.  Besides, he just now has begun to ask questions, so in time we will talk about it.

@Barry Adamson

On the humanities:

Unlike theology, the fields of the humanities engage in open debate about sources, methodology, and interpretation.  There are very well developed models that have proven to provide a high degree of accuracy again and again.  It is known and accepted that the principals of the author will always colour an article - from the authors of source documents to the authors of modern theses.  Students are regularly exposed to conflicting viewpoints.  Tell me how many religious congregations take a Sunday morning to listen to a lecture by Bart Ehrman?

As far as the other sciences go - well, if you haven't spent much time pondering objective reality then I can see how you might be in doubt that such a thing even exists.  If this is the case, however, then I have to ask why you aren't making more of an effort to understand this philosophical gem - I mean if there is no objective reality then Jesus and the bible do not exist either.

Are you now trying to tell me that the Phelps family follows a doctrine of their being no hell?  I've heard Fred's wife say, several times, that atheists and gays are going to burn in hell.

You are still worming your way around the question and it's obvious why.  I never asked you to pose questions to your son about death, or burning in fire, or anything that should be disturbing at all.  All I've asked you is to ask him, "When we all go to heaven, what happens to people who don't believe Jesus is their savior?"  If you think that question is one that would be disturbing to your son, then it's obvious that you know that he already knows about hell.  So much for letting him make his own decisions.

@ Heather

On Phelps and the Hell Doctrine:

Sorry, I miss read your comment. I thought you said that you didn't know children who knew of hell - a complete misread on my part. So my response was in agreement with you.  The Phelps do not teach universal salvation, I said that they teach young children the hell doctrine because their picket signs are obvious. 

On Theology relating to Humanities:

Contrary to what you think, scholars do in fact debate sources, methodology, and interpretation.  Source criticism is a huge part of theological study and debate.  A course in hermeneutics and exegesis will teach you that, as well as any 101 theology course.  Why?  Because the bible is a book of literature after all.  Fundamentalists and ultra-conservative theologians may reject it, but not all theology.  I have in fact read Bart Ehrman - two of his books on theology - and some seminaries require him as reading,  so I don't need to listen to a lecture from him when I have his books.  As for why people don't do this more in church?  Answer: Laziness on the part of the individual and control/censorship of information on the basis of the church institution's misguided interests.  Personally, I've always thought the church was a whore.

Objective Reality:

I never said objective reality didn't exist, although I can see where it might be implied by my remark.  To be clearer, what I mean to say is that if there is an objective reality it can be found in mathematics- meaning if pure objectivity can found it can be done so and understood without subjective influence through mathematics.  The language of math does not change (objective), but human understanding does (subjective).  It is extremely hard - if not impossible - to understand reality without using your brain for interpreting events that occur around you.  No one can ever accurately be objective in their understanding of the world when communicating it.  We are products of our environment, and as such interpret events and make judgements about people through the coloring of our own personal reality (family experiences, friends, educations, etc).  Certainly, we can try to get as close as we can to true objective reality, but we will always be forced to contend with our subjective thoughts and prejudices.  After all, you've been making subjective judgments about me since we engaged in this conversation.

On My Son:

I am not worming my way around anything.  I don't think that the question would be inappropriate to ask.  I simply haven't asked because it hasn't come up - not to mention he is only five.  Do you even have children??  If you did, I think you would understand such things are not easy for a five year old to "decide" on.  They often only repeat what they hear because, as I mentioned, they do not have the cognitive skills or reasoning abilities to grapple with such questions.  Even if I did ask and he did tell me the standard answer we have discussed, my follow up question would be "How do you know?" 

Honestly, I think your just attempting to pick a fight based on your own ideological reasoning.

@Barry Adamson

No, Barry, you've been moving the topic ever so slightly since you first chose to respond to my comment on this thread.  I commented that teaching children about hell is abuse and Christians constantly claim that they don't do that.

You came back by saying, "Heather, a number of those Christians are correct.  Some Christian denominations are steering clear of that area doctrine because it is an unpopular and uncomfortable thing to discuss."

The trouble, however, is that that doctrine may be dropped from the official party line but, in my experience, every child of a Christian home knows about it.  It impedes their ability to think critically about the cult to which they've been indoctrinated and serves as a means of psychological enslavement.

I'm not attempting to pick a fight with you Barry - I'm just plainly stating that I find Christianity and those who teach it to children disgusting.  That you fall into that group is the reason you sense hostility from me.


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