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Freedom From Sin

At church this week (I go to keep the parents happy) I felt extremely uncomfortable with the message. It was another perfect example of how churches emotionally manipulate people.

The speaker began by asking the congregation some questions:

“Who has back pain?”
“Who has a bad memory?”
“Who is tired?”
“Who feels stressed?”
“Who has relationship problems?”

By the end of it, everyone had recognised the imperfections in their lives. He brought our problems to the forefront of our minds and reminded us that life isn’t “how it was meant to be” because of these woes.

Then, he explained why life is imperfect: it’s our fault. It’s because we sin. We turned our backs on God and decided to live our own way and that is why there is suffering and wrongs in the world. It’s not God’s fault, it’s something we freely chose.

By this point, everyone was feeling very guilty and hopeless. We were primed for the Good News. Then comes Jesus Christ. He’s born, he dies for our sins, he rises again, we are forgiven and restored. Cured of the disease of our sins.

This is a pretty standard format for a sermon, and I really do despise it. It makes you feel unnecessarily shit about yourself and your life, because if you feel shit then you will be more responsive to the message of Jesus. They pile on the guilt and the hopelessness until you turn to him in desperation.

sin-is-an-imaginary-disease-600x557

Being freed from the guilt and shame that I felt as a Christian has been one of the most life changing aspects of becoming a nonbeliever. Before, I would think about sexual things or accidentally say a swear word and I would be so upset because I had let down the Maker of the Universe. He died for me, and I couldn’t even stop sinning for him. The emotions I felt daily because of my faith were completely exhausting. Now, I no longer have to feel guilty simply for being human. Instead of focusing on the imperfections of my life, I try to be happy about all of the things that are good. I am a truly lucky person to have the life that I do. I am not a dirty, sinful, inherently bad and selfish failure. Rather, to quote Ehrmann:

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees or the stars; you have a right to be here.”

I still make mistakes, commit “sins.” But I am free from the impossible expectations of a sadistic god. Sure, my life isn’t perfect, but in many ways I feel like that is what makes it so beautiful. Don’t let Christianity take that away from you.

God does not understand love.

God does not understand love.

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About Ellen Rose

Blogger curious about how travel helps us to lead more meaningful lives.

9 responses »

  1. Good to hear from you again! Enjoy your break from school.

    The quote you included caught my attention: “You are a child of the universe. . . .”

    What does this mean, and why might it matter?

    Does the universe have paternal/maternal qualities?

    Reply
    • criticofchristianity

      Thanks Dave!

      I was hesitant to use that quote at first because I don’t want to anthropomorphise the universe, but I do think there is a sense of belonging that can be found in the idea that human beings are a product of the natural processes of the universe that have occurred over millions of years. The universe is where I come from and why I exist. I’m not sure if that was the intended meaning of the author, it’s probably just my interpretation.

      It matters to me because it’s so different to the Christian worldview that I was brought up in. Rather than being an undeserving, sinful failure in need of salvation, I am simply the way that the processes of the universe created me and there’s nothing wrong with that. Does that make sense?

      Reply
      • What I thought was interesting about the quote was not that it seemed to anthropomorphize the universe, but that it seemed to deify it. I might be reading more than Ehrmann intended in the word “child,” but that parent-child imagery suggests things like intention and even love, and I thought that was interesting. Not only that, but it seems that the universe has endowed me with a right to be here. Those things sound Supreme Being-like to me.

        I think your comment about your identity is interesting too: “I am simply the way that the processes of the universe created me and there’s nothing wrong with that.” Do you think that’s an idea that is true for everyone. . . ? “People are simply the way the universe created them and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

        I would still love to hear your version of The Big Story. It wouldn’t have to be long and detailed – just a simple sketch; where we came from, what (if anything) has gone wrong, and where we are headed.

        I know I mentioned the idea of publishing it on my blog, but we wouldn’t have to do that if you don’t want to. I would just be interested in hearing what you think our story is.

  2. criticofchristianity

    I did not intend it as a deification. I do not believe in any sort of loving relationship between the universe and humanity or anything like that, I just meant it as an acknowledgement that we are a product of the universe. We’re not above the planet and so we shouldn’t be exploiting it, but rather we owe our existence to it and are thereby intimately connected with it. Perhaps “a right to be here” isn’t the correct phrase, but I think of it more as a sense of belonging.

    And sure, it’s true of everyone in that we are not born broken or bad or sinful because all we are is a product of these natural processes. I think we have capacity for both good and evil, and we’re born neutral. Environmental factors then shape us.

    I haven’t got a version of “The Big Story”. I know it would take a years and years of study for me to even get a basic grip on the science of the origins of the universe. I’m more interested in spending my time thinking about the future and how humanity can move forward and solve the problems we are facing. I don’t think I will ever be able to do a story of the universe justice. If you would like to know more about the origins of the universe according to atheists I would recommend reading books by scientists like Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins. Thank you for your interest though 🙂

    Reply
    • Happy New Year!

      Thanks for your reply.

      I appreciate your focus on the future and how humanity can move forward. I just want to point out that your desire to help humanity “move forward and solve the problems we are facing” is a powerful indication of a story in which humanity’s direction matters. It looks like, in your understanding of The Big Story, where we are going (and probably where we came from) matters. The quality of our lives matter and our lives seem to mean something.

      It looks like there must be something more than “natural processes” at work in the story of humanity and our world/universe. Otherwise, it seems that things like “a sense of belonging” and a desire to move humanity “forward” would just be quirky sentiments in a world that is nothing more than the product of natural (strictly material) processes.

      Reply
      • criticofchristianity

        I’m afraid I disagree! Natural processes are exactly where the sense of belonging and desire for progress come from. Nothing more than the material world is necessary for this. I feel belonging because I am biologically connected. I share a common ancestor with all living organisms because of natural processes. I haven’t been put here by an outsider, but I have arrived in a much more ‘organic’ way. The desire to move forward is a product of rationality and which is a capacity humanity has because of the way we have evolved. If this world is all there is then why wouldn’t we want to experience it to it’s fullest potential and empower others to also do so? For me, this is a much more satisfying view than that of Christianity and it seems to also be grounded in truth.

        Thank you for your comments Dave! I really appreciate the way you encourage me to question my own views and ask difficult questions.

      • You’re welcome. I’m glad for the conversation with you.

        I think it’s true that nothing more than the material world is necessary for a SENSE of belonging and a DESIRE for progress.

        But, I think more is necessary if you want to say that I actually belong to the material world in a way that means that I have obligations within the world. I think empowering others is a nice thought, but I don’t see why I would be obligated to empower anyone within a strictly material world. For example, my son will be waking up soon, and I will have an opportunity to empower him to succeed in school today. I will also have an opportunity to cook him and eat him for lunch. Either action seems legitimate in a strictly material world.

        I also think that the idea of “progress” suggests a direction in which we should be heading. I don’t understand what that direction is, or where it originated, in a strictly material world.

  3. Great post! I have attended many different churches from different sects (not sure if that is the right word to use) of Christianity, and they all have that theme in common. Although I always enjoyed the fellowship at church and sometimes the thoughtful messages about community service and such, I certainly never felt like I was an inherently good person (according to them). It’s sad that people don’t see that.

    Reply
    • criticofchristianity

      Their whole message would fall apart if we were good people – there would be nothing for Jesus to save us from. I have definitely met some nice people and I think encouraging community service is great, but the problem is that they often use guilt in order to get people involved, and I don’t think guilt is a very noble motivation. It’s such a shame that they have to do it like that.

      Thank you for commenting! 🙂

      Reply

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