Are You in a Cult?

Cult

What’s the difference between a cult and a religion? Is it merely the number of followers as some have joked? Some believe that a cult is any organized belief that isn’t their own. Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa used to refer to Catholicism as a cult.

Early in their histories, religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism were all considered cults. All three of them are clearly recognized as religions today.

One writer suggests that the only difference between a religion and a cult is the amount of time it has survived (link below).

What do you think? Are you in a cult, a religion, or neither?

https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/bs-xpm-2011-10-13-bs-ed-mormons-20111013-story.html

The Perfectly Inaudible Voice of God

I can't Hear You

An old friend I used to know when I was a Christian sent me a few questions. Here’s one of them:

“I’m just curious what you think about the personal experiences you once thought were God/the voice of God. Do you now think you were just a little crazy yourself?”

When I was a Christian, I never physically heard the voice of god, nor witnessed any supernatural events that I could actually connect to a god. Neither did my old pastor Chuck Smith, according to the many times he said as much from the pulpit. To demonstrate this, Chuck used to tell the story of a drive he once took up the coast. Because it was such a lovely day, he decided last-minute to drive up PCH. I don’t remember the details – something to do with a hitchhiker – but something really cool and spiritual happened to him because he took PCH, and he attributed that to a supernatural god redirecting his path in a very natural way. That story was Chuck’s way of demonstrating how god directs us without actually saying anything or showing himself. However, we don’t really know if god told Chuck to take PCH that day, or if he just wanted a prettier drive, and we’ll never know what even cooler, even more spiritual things may have happened to Chuck had he taken the 101.

I don’t think Christians are crazy, and I don’t think I was crazy when I was a Christian. I think I was guilty of poor thinking, incomplete and inconsistent logic, and a whole lot of cognitive dissonance.

Our minds are flawed. We humans have the capacity to believe things that aren’t true. We make errors in our critical thinking. We have lapses in judgement. We commit logical fallacies with our thinking. We hold conflicting values, beliefs and ideas. We draw illogical conclusions. We go with our gut, even when our gut is flawed.

In another post I mentioned the very weak argument that convinced me to “accept the Lord.” For some reason, that argument made sense to me at the time. I don’t think I was crazy. I just wasn’t examining the argument closely enough, and then my human emotions took over from there.

Liar, Lunatic, Lord… or Legend?

Who is Jesus

An old friend I used to know when I was a Christian sent me a few questions. Here’s one of them:

“What is your current view on the historical person of Jesus now? Was he just a crazy person?”

I do not believe we have enough historical evidence to conclusively determine whether or not the Jesus character of the New Testament existed. Of course, if we can’t determine his existence we certainly can’t determine the truth behind the supernatural claim that he was divine.

The Liar, Lunatic, or Lord argument is incomplete because it leaves out the very real fourth possibility, that of “Legend.”

Is it possible Jesus is merely a legend, a collection of stories passed down and exaggerated through the centuries? An extended game of telephone on a grand scale?

We don’t know who wrote the four gospels. Their authorship is anonymous, and the books were written several decades after the purported timeframe of the death of the Jesus character – we certainly do not have any eyewitness accounts of Jesus.

Historians of the time, and there were many, don’t mention Jesus at all, which is astounding to me, given all the amazing things that supposedly happened around him. There is only the single, brief mention by Josephus, but that is an obvious after-the-fact forgery.

This is a real problem for me. If our eternal salvation actually rests in our being convinced that Jesus existed and is the Son of God, why would god allow the record of his existence and divinity to be so thin and questionable?

Need God to Be Good?

halo

An old friend I used to know when I was a Christian sent me a few questions. Here’s one of them:

“Now that you are no longer a Christian, what moral code do you now hold?”

I think most of us hold the same moral code, regardless of our belief or non-belief.

I certainly hold the same moral code I did when I was a Christian – the rule most know as the “Golden Rule” and is found in nearly every culture and religion. It is a rule that is rooted in our most basic instinct of self-preservation.

For example, if I am slighted by “Joe” in some way, I may want to punch Joe in the face, but I don’t do it, because I don’t want Joe to punch me in the face. I don’t want you to steal from me, so I’d better not steal from you. Notice that there is no need for god in these moral exchanges.

I believe it is a myth that one cannot be moral without god. Numerous examples of purely secular societies exist today. And many of them are having less trouble in this area than we are in moral-majority-Christian America.

It is extremely problematic to think one cannot be moral without the Abrahamic god (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). The Bible supports slavery – both Old and New Testaments – the owning of one human being by another (along with Biblical instruction on how to beat your slaves the “right” way, how to will them to your children after you die). That is all anyone needs to know about the Abrahamic god’s so-called morality.

I believe that my rejection of Christianity has more finely honed my sense of right and wrong. When I was a believer, I felt continually forced to perform mental gymnastics in order to reconcile “Biblical right and wrong” from my own moral sensibilities. For example, when I was a Christian, stories like God calling wild bears down to violently maul children who did nothing more than mock an old prophet’s baldness didn’t make sense to me, but because god reportedly did it, it most certainly had to be right in some way that was beyond my limited mind, and that was a source of enormous frustration. Because god was always “right,” I was forced to call clearly immoral behavior “right” as well.

Now, I clearly see that it – and I – were just wrong.

What do you think? Do you require god in order to be good?

Christians and Divorce – They Don’t Pair Well

Divorcees-Not-Welcome

When I went through my divorce after 33 years of a very unhappy marriage, all family members, friends and acquaintances immediately split into two camps: The Christians all coalesced into one camp, and everybody else was, by default, left in the remaining camp.

The Christians- even though they didn’t all know each other (I had two different groups of Christian friends: those from High School and those from my 3 decades of being heavily involved in the Christian church ministry) the Christians all seemed to have read from the exact same playbook at the exact same time, and my divorce was the event that kicked their playbook into action.

The Christian playbook was filled with the grand majority of Christians immediately cutting off all tangible forms of love, they spread rumors, they made judgmental pronouncements, they defriended me both literally and on social media, they avoided eye contact, and they were horrible to my daughter (long story there). I instantly became – or represented – an enemy to them, the “bad guy”, a dangerous son of Satan who fell out of the fold and was to be avoided at all costs, lest my sinful ways would rub off of them.

The non-Christian friends, family members and acquaintances all seemed to be following a very different playbook. Their reaction to the news of my divorce was one of an immediate outpouring of love, support, and offers of help. They didn’t care who may or may not have been at fault in the breakup – they didn’t care about assigning blame. Very different from the default Christian response, they didn’t spend any time at all examining my life to see whether or not it matched up to their doctrinal expectations, and therefore worthy of their very conditional love.

During the divorce and the years following, I became acutely aware of the fact that IF Christianity had a shred of truth to it, applying that “truth” to ones life – or “accepting Christ” seems to have no positive impact.

Contrary to Christian claims, becoming a Christian does not improve one’s life, it often messes it up in the deepest ways – often unrepairable – and turns many, otherwise great people into judgemental, holier-than-thou assholes who say and do the most idiotic things in the name of their god.

I know because when I was a Christian, I too often made judgements upon others I barely knew. I took part in the secret shaming, the defriending, the withdrawal of love from anyone who didn’t agree with my church’s interpretation of the Bible, from anyone who “fell away” from the faith (which includes divorcées).

Why do Christians get the concept of love so wrong and behave so badly en masse when it comes to divorce? Because Christian theology is based on an “us vs. them” mentality. There are “the saved” and “the unsaved.” The saints and the damned. Those who harbor the truth in their hearts and those who have allowed themselves to be deceived by the Devil. The majority of people who are dead and wallowing in their sins, and the holy minority who feel it is their god-given obligation to fix the majority.

It’s all exhausting, of course… to the point where Christians often turn on each other. They point at other Christians and say, “he’s a luke-warm Christian,” or “that one struggles with her faith”. If you want to find out what’s wrong with the First Baptist Church, just ask the Second Baptist Church. Want to know what’s wrong with the Christians in the first pew? Ask those sitting in the second.

Obviously I am no longer a Christian. I believe that Christianity is a man-made religion that can have a horrific net impact on one’s life. Sometimes I’m asked what I replaced Christianity with. My typical answer is… when you get cancer cut out of your body, what do you replace it with?

Oh Hell No

Hell

Do you agree with the following Biblical thoughts?

> God is good. There is no greater good than God.

> God loves us and wants only the best for us.

> God is omniscient. He knows everything and always has.

> God created every human being complete with an eternal soul.

> Our short time on Earth is nothing compared to where we will spend eternity.

> Hell is an eternal place of great torment, suffering, separation and agonizing pain.

> The road to Heaven is narrow and few will find it.

Finally, consider that throughout history, approximately 101 billion people have been born and have since died, leaving approximately 7 billion people alive today. The Bible teaches that at the very second each of those 101 billion people died, the destination of their souls was locked in for all eternity.

NOW…

If I accept each of the above assumptions, there is only one conclusion I can draw, and it’s not a good one:

God has knowingly created billions upon billions of souls that he knew in advance (omniscience) would spend eternity suffering in Hell. Yes, each of these people had choices to make, but nevertheless, God knew before even creating them that they would each end up in eternal torture. Thousands of trillions of years from now, they’ll still be suffering in Hell due to what they did or didn’t do during their brief few years on Earth, and their intense punishment and suffering will never end. And, Hell is so horrible that if given a choice, each one of these rational people would choose to have never been born at all rather than to suffer for all eternity in Hell.

SO… this doesn’t make any sense to me (a huge understatement). How could God be good in the above scenario? It would be an evil thing to knowingly do to even one person, let alone doing it to over a hundred billion people… and counting.

In order for this to make logical sense to me, at least one of the above assumptions must be incorrect. Consider:

If God was evil, this would make sense.

Or,

If God wasn’t omniscient, this would make sense.

Or,

If God didn’t have our best interests at heart, this would make sense.

Or,

If God did not create humans complete with eternal souls, this would make sense.

Or,

If God gives us at least one more chance to change our ways after death, this would make sense (but the Bible is clear – there will be no second chances).

Or,

Hell is not an eternal place of great suffering.

Or,

Nobody will go to Hell.

When someone dies, what do you think happens to them?

A Crime of Christianity

Christianity teaches gullible children that they are miserable, evil wretches, unworthy of anything good, and deserving of nothing better than death.

For 17 years I worked with High School and Jr. High students at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California. I am still friends with hundreds of them on social media. They are all young adults, trying to figure life out, raising families.

Too often, I see sad posts from these students making statements like “I am nothing but a wretch,” “I don’t deserve God’s love and forgiveness,” and “There is no value in and of myself.”

Of course this Christian human-devaluation is nothing more than a load of horse shit, but the lie works and accomplishes exactly what it is intended to do… to keep people in, to keep them broken and to keep them dependent.

Cults use this tactic.

Stop the cycle. Do not teach these lies to your children. Instead, teach them the truth: Their lives, minds, bodies, and their very existence are all precious beyond measure. If god is as all-knowing as Christians say he is, he would agree.

The Terrible Reasons I First Believed

Broken-Chair

I spent over three decades of my life as a devout Christian.

I am no longer a Christian. Not even close.

When I ponder the reasons why I first became a Christian back in High School, I come up with three:

1. I really, really wanted to please people (a terrible reason),

2. Both of the major religious groups in my High School (the Christians and the Mormons) were full of really great people who seemed to be part of big, loving, religious groups – like big families – and I wanted that for myself (another terrible reason), and

3. Someone made an argument that I bought, hook, line and sinker.

Here was that argument:

“See that chair you are sitting in right now? I noticed that you sat down in that chair without even thinking. How did you know that chair wasn’t going to collapse under your weight? When you sat down in that chair, it took faith that the chair would hold you up. That’s all I’m asking you to do with God. Just have faith he’s there.”

And with that, I prayed and “accepted Jesus.”

Now, I realize how ridiculous the chair argument was.

It didn’t take any faith whatsoever to sit in that chair. No, it took years of observable, hard evidence that created in me a reasonable expectation that the chair would hold me up.

With god, there is zero hard evidence – none. If he’s there, he’s completely silent, 100% invisible, and he never actually does anything. There is no difference between a universe with a silent, invisible, do-nothing god, and a universe that has no god at all. Believing in a god or gods takes faith – specifically because there is no good evidence. Sitting in a chair does not take any faith at all.

Not to mention that even if that chair had collapsed, so what? I would fall on my ass and my friends would laugh at me. That’s the worst that would happen.

However, if you spend decades wrapping your life around a fable, and basing your life on that fable, choosing your mate and your friends and your job and your possessions and where you live and where you go to church and who you socialize with and who you do business with and what you do with your time and your money and what you tell your children, all based on that fable… well, the fallout from that is way worse than sitting in a collapsing chair.

I can tell you from experience, that when you finally realize the weak reasons why you initially believed, and when you finally wake up to realize you were completely duped, that experience is heart-wrenching.

Which would you choose? A collapsing chair, or wasting what precious time you have left in this amazing, only life you might ever have?

Give me a collapsing chair any day.

I’m curious… why did you first believe?