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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.

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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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Dear Christians, Come to the (not so) Dark Side

Dear Christians, Come to the (not so) Dark Side

Here is yet another disagreement with a speaker at my church. The sermon was a few months ago, before I started this blog, but one thing he said stuck with me as untrue and insulting.

He was talking about the trip his family had made to the U.S.A recently. For some reason, they spent a night or two in Las Vegas: Sin City. Unsurprisingly, the kids weren’t totally excited about it. It isn’t exactly a place full of children’s entertainment. The speaker and his wife weren’t impressed either; being uninterested in participating in the sins of Sin City, there’s apparently not much else to do.

Seeing his kids’ disappointment, this speaker explained something to them: “This is Vegas, it’s THE ULTIMATE for non-Christians. It’s PARADISE for them. According to the world, it’s HEAVEN. Their goal in life is to get here. But it’s not very nice though is it? Why would anyone want this when they can have Jesus?” (not a direct quote, just the general gist of what he was on about.)

Firstly, a kid should not understand the appeal of Vegas anyway. It’s a city all about adult entertainment! It seems he’s kind of exploiting their ignorance on this: turning them off an experience before they are old enough to appreciate it. I don’t like that.

Secondly, as a proud member of what my church calls “the world” or the secular culture, I feel as though I am being misrepresented here. The gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol, rock ‘n’ roll of Vegas is not my idea of heaven. Sure, I love a bit of Elvis Presley and would like to visit Vegas one day even, but it is not my “goal” in life.

I don’t understand why Christians feel the need to paint “the world” as a dark, vile place of addiction, hate, greed and selfishness. I’ll be the first to admit there is a lot of that out there, but many people are irreligious and don’t possess such qualities!

I’m an atheist. My goal in life is to give contribute what I can to make the world a better place. I want to get married and have a family. I want to learn about art and philosophy and science and history. I want to read books. I want to encourage love and peace. And GUESS WHAT! I can do all of this as an atheist. Just because I’m not a Christian does not mean all I want in life is self-satisfaction. The Vegas dream is low in my priorities.

A Christian woman I knew used to say “Life’s too short to not live for something bigger.” For her, God was her “bigger”. I reject that God, but I am still living for something “bigger.” It’s called love. I think love is much better than the capricious, “slaughter every woman and child” God of the Bible.