Tag Archive: Death

As Seen on Social Media: Why Atheists Are Praying for the Rapture

Graphics, Memes, Quotes, and Comments I’ve spotted on Facebook or Twitter.  Today’s graphic comes from Facebook. I think it accurately describes how many atheists feel about the rapture. That great day, sometime in the near future, when every Evangelical will be raptured from the earth and taken to their reserved seat in Heaven where they will gleefully watch God savagely maim and kill the majority of the human race.

rapture

Dear Evangelical, If The Christian Gospel is True

sharing the gospel

Dear Evangelical,

I have some questions for you.

  • Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?
  • Do you believe the Bible is true?
  • Do you believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?
  • Do you believe salvation is found in Jesus alone?
  • Do you believe a person must put their faith and trust in Jesus to be saved?
  • Do you believe a person must put their faith and trust in Jesus to go to heaven after they die?
  • Do you believe the unsaved/non-Christian/unbeliever will go to hell when they die?
  • Do you believe death could happen at any moment?
  • Do you believe this life is preparation for the life to come?
  • Do you believe the church has the obligation to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person?
  • Do you believe you can tell what a person believes is important by how they spend their time and how they spend their money?

Pretty straightforward questions. Not much room to wiggle, debate or excuse.

Most Evangelicals would say yes to most, if not all, of these questions.

Now, if I  really believed that hell was real, death was certain, and Jesus was the only hope for humanity, I would spend every waking hour telling this to others. I would live simply and spend my money  on making sure this message got out to the world. I would not waste one moment of my time with the frivolous things of this world, using that time to witness to others.

Surely, if what Evangelicals say they believe is true, the message JESUS SAVES is the most important message ever given to humanity.

Easter is the Christian proclamation that Jesus, the son of God, died on the cross for our sin and on the third day rose again from the dead conquering death and hell. Truly there is VICTORY IN JESUS.

And all the people said, Amen.

So, explain something to me. Be honest.

Why is it most that  Evangelicals LIVE like what I wrote above is a complete falsehood?

Most Evangelicals never share their faith with anyone.

Many churches go years without adding one new convert to their membership.

Most Evangelicals live, behave, and die just like their non-Christian neighbors, family, and friends.

It seems that Evangelicals don’t really believe what they are preaching.

I am not pointing a finger at you.

I am just asking for you to be honest.

If Jesus is the answer to all life’s questions.

If Jesus satisfies every longing a soul has.

If Jesus will clean up and change  sinners.

If hell is real.

If heaven is real.

If death is certain.

Why do you live like none of this is true?

How many people did you share the gospel with last week? Last month? Last year? Since you have been a Christian?

How about your pastor? For all his talk about the gospel, how many people has he personally witnessed to this week? Last month? Last year? Since he entered the ministry?

How many new members have joined  your church because they were witnessed to by a member of your church? (transfers from other churches don’t count)

How many new convert baptisms took place at your church last year?

My point in this little exercise is this: talk is cheap.

You want others to become a Christian.

You want others to follow Jesus.

Why should they?

If you don’t really believe the gospel, why should you expect anyone else to?

Here is my take on that matter.

Religion is a personal matter.

Even though the Bible says it is not, you live like it is, so you must believe it is.

Since it is a personal matter, each of us should be free to worship or not worship.

One thing we all agree on..

We all are going to die.

Let’s agree to leave the afterlife to the afterlife.

I am willing to settle up with God after I die.

Life would be so much better for everyone if each of us had the liberty to live life freely without being evangelized or coerced into making a religious profession. (and let’s be honest, a lot of the evangelistic techniques used by Evangelicals is coercion.)

This does not mean we can’t talk about religion. This doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the Bible.

But, let’s talk as fellow citizens of earth. Let’s talk as people who have in common humanity.

If we do this, you are relieved of the burden of witnessing and I am relieved of being an evangelistic target.

Let’s just be you and me.

Question: Will Christians Praying for Your Demise Have Their Prayers Answered?

imprecatory prayer

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to ask. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Steve asked:

Yes sir, I have a question!

Do you think the many Christian prayers for your demise will succeed?

Many Christians believe that God should get all the praise for the good things that happen and Satan and sinners should get blamed for the bad things that happen. This fact poses a conundrum for those praying for my demise. If God kills me, this means it was a good thing, right?  But, if God is the giver of life, the fact that I am still alive is also a good thing.  Perhaps God wants me to live so the Holy Spirit can regenerate me, effectually call me, and impart to me his wonderful irresistible grace. Or perhaps I am not one of the elect, not in the Lamb’s Book of Life; then I am an unregenerate, apostate reprobate. If I were God, I would kill someone like me, seeing that I do so much damage to the faith of others.

Some day, I will die. The way I am feeling as I write this post, it could be today. Or tomorrow. Or twenty years from now. Regardless of the date of my demise, there will a Christian somewhere who will see it as proof that their imprecatory prayer worked,;that God whacked me because they asked him to.

Rick Warren Says Only God Can Kill Us

calvin and hobbes death

Southern Baptist Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, has come out…man I just had a hilarious thought…has come out of the closet…back to reality…has come out in opposition to California Senate Bill 128. If passed, the bill would give terminally ill Californians the right to terminate their own life. Warren, whose son committed suicide in 2013, thinks that none of us should have the right to determine when we die. According to the Purpose Driven pastor:

“I oppose this law as a theologian and as the father of a son who took his life after struggling with mental illness for 27 years.”

“The prospect of dying can be frightening,but we belong to God, and death and life are in God’s hands…We need to make a radical commitment to be there for those who are dying in our lives.”

According to the Death with Dignity National Center:

SB 128 would allow patients who are mentally competent and have fewer than six months to live, as determined by two physicians, to obtain prescriptions for medication to end their lives in a humane and peaceful manner, while protecting the vulnerable with strict guidelines and procedures.

Warren’s comments illustrate, once again, why there must be a strict separation of church and state. While Warren might find some vicarious purpose and meaning in suffering, many Americans do not. In Warren’s world, the Christian God is sovereign over all, including life and death. Warren tries to frame his objection as “wanting to be there for those who are dying,” but I suspect there are many Californians who have no need of Pastor Warren or any other pastor or priest “being there”  for them during the last days of their life.

While the government certainly has an interest in protecting those who are vulnerable, mentally ill, or unable to make a rational decision, I see no compelling reason for government to forbid the terminally ill to end their life through drugs provided by their physician. Warren is free to suffer until the bitter end. He is free to let cancer eat away at his organs or allow ALS to turn him into a vegetable. If that’s what his God demands of him, far be it from me to deny him the right. However, millions of Californians do not worship Warren’s God, nor do the have such a noble view of suffering, death, and pain.

right to die

Chronic illness and pain are my “dark passengers”, to quote Dexter, the serial killer. I fully expect that I will continue, health-wise, to decline. I see no cure on the horizon and I highly doubt God is going to send Benny Hinn to fake heal me. There could come a day when I no longer desire to live in what Christians call this “house of clay.”  I am sound of mind, OK, mostly sound of mind. Since God is not my co-pilot and I have no desire to be the poster child for suffering, shouldn’t I be allowed to determine, on my own terms, how and when I end my life?

Perhaps I will never reach the place where the reasons for living are no longer enough to keep me alive. There are days when the pain is unbearable and I ponder what death will be like. THE END. Lights out. I have the means of death at my disposal. I take medications that would surely do the trick, but maybe not. Perhaps they wouldn’t quite send me and Toto to the other side. Then Polly would be left with a brain-dead vegetable of a husband. Wouldn’t it better for a doctor to prescribe drugs that were sure to do the trick? If we can execute murderers surely we can help the terminally ill die when they want to call it a night. Wouldn’t this be the compassionate thing to do?

Many people are opposed to assisted suicide for religious or philosophical reasons. By all means, suffer to your heart’s content. But, you have no right to demand that others play by the rules of your religion or philosophy. I hope the California legislature will not allow Evangelicals and Catholics to pressure them into not giving the terminally ill a death with dignity option. The dying, if  possible, should have the right to determine when and where the show ends. (please Dying with Dignity and God Loves You and He’ll Make You Suffer to Prove it)

A Sovereign God Smashes a Young Family to Death

ellis family

The Ellis family

Here’s a story that perfectly illustrates being at the wrong place, at the wrong time:

A Washington couple who died when a large concrete slab fell from a highway overpass onto their pickup truck were youth ministers in their 20s and parents to a 6-month-old baby.

Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their baby, Hudson, died when a concrete barrier fell onto the cab of their truck as they drove underneath an overpass in Bonney Lake, Washington, James Ludlow, their pastor at EastPoint Foursquare Church, said.

“It’s a tragic event,” Ludlow said Tuesday. “In the blink of an eye, inhale and exhale, and they’re in the presence of God.”

Construction crews were installing a sidewalk on the state Route 410 overpass in Bonney Lake, when a chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds fell to the roadway below around 10:30 a.m.

“We were just heading down the street … and I could hear three snaps and down it went on top of the truck,” witness Dawn Nelson, who was riding in a car behind the pickup, told KING-TV of Seattle. “There was nothing anyone could do. It was just surreal.”

It was not immediately known what caused the “very heavy” concrete structure to fall. Bonney Lake police, the state Department of Transportation and representatives from contractor WHH Nisqually are investigating.

City spokesman Woody Edvalson said the material that fell was part of the original span, which was built in 1992 and has a sufficiency rating of 95.3 out of 100.

Bonney Lake is about 30 miles southeast of Seattle.

Flowers, a cross and a teddy bear have been placed near the overpass. Both the span and road underneath reopened. Debris from the concrete slab is still on the ground, however.

Ludlow described the Ellis family as “great people” who were loved by kids in the church’s congregation….

What a tragedy, a poignant reminder of how quickly one’s life can be snuffed out.

The Ellis family attended Eastpointe Foursquare Church in Buckely, Washington, where Josh and Vanessa were youth leaders.

I am always hesitant to use tragedies like this to make a point, but there is an aspect of this story that I think is important to discuss.

Shane Lance, the worship leader at Eastpointe,  had this to say about the accident:

“It’s just crazy as a friend. I just can’t wrap my head around it, and that does have to do with how random and how freakish the accident was.”

“It feels unbelievable because a split second on either side the cement slab would have fallen right in front of them and they would have been fine or behind them and they would have been fine. What I do know is that there’s no answer to the logic of it and there’s no answer to the question why.”

“We do know God is good; He’s just so good. He’s going to pull goodness out of this situation somehow, even though right now that just feels illogical. And there’s also comfort knowing that they’re with Jesus and they’re comforted and they’re covered by His grace and power now.”

The One News Now report goes to say “The worship pastor adds they know God is sovereign even when it doesn’t make sense.”

According to Lance and Eastpointe Foursquare Church, the Ellis family was smashed to death because the Christian God decreed it to be so. God is the giver and taker of life and he determined it was time for Ellis’s to die. Not content to quietly kill them in their sleep, he dropped a concrete barrier weighing thousands of pounds on top of them as they drove near an overpass.  What should we say about a God who behaves in such a horrific manner?

Lance, seeking for answers as to WHY God killed his friends, believes that the sovereign God he loves and worships only does good and he will surely use this tragedy for a greater purpose. What Godly purpose requires the sacrifice of a young father, mother, and their child? How is this any different from the Aztec Indians sacrificing humans to their God?

Lance’s comments betray the mental and emotional battle that rages in his mind. He wants to believe God is sovereign, God is love, God only does good, yet his dear friends are dead. In the aforementioned article, Lance stated  that the accident “just feels illogical.” When viewed in a religious context, he is right.  How can someone say God is love and God only does good, knowing that the death of the Ellis’s is anything but loving and good? I am sure that cognitive dissonance afflicts many of those trying to make sense of this tragedy.

As a humanist, I don’t think the accident was illogical. The Ellis family was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Such things happen every day in every country of the world. 13 years ago, a Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and three young children, were driving along an Indiana road when a tree toppled over smashing their car. The father, mother, and two children were killed. Baptist Press reported:

A small-town Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and two small children were killed Jan. 1 when a dead tree fell on top of their car, crushing the passenger compartment.

Stanley Paul Jones, 46, pastor of Buck Creek Baptist Church in Cumberland, was killed along with his wife, Beth Ann Hobbs Jones, 39, and two of their children, Lauren, 6, and Tyler, 10.

Another daughter, Emily, 4, survived and was listed in fair condition at an Indianapolis-area hospital.

There appeared to have been no wind or other circumstances that caused the tree to fall just as Jones’ car was passing underneath on the two-lane road.

How do you explain the deaths that came a few hours into the new year?

Jones was westbound on Hancock County Road 100 South, approaching the intersection with County Road 200 West, about seven miles east of the church he served. There are woods in the area. A dead tree, said to have been 5 feet in diameter, fell just as Jones’ vehicle was passing underneath, according to Hancock County deputies.

“Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re exempt from tragedy,” said William Smith of Cumberland Christian Church, who knew Jones and helped his church. “There’s no explanation for it, but we believe that an all-knowing God is in control of everything.”…

There’s that sovereign God again, the God who is all-knowing and controls everything. Again, like the Ellis family, the Jones family was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. But, in both cases, there are humans who are culpable for what happened. While the concrete barrier falling was an accident, someone was operating the machinery that resulted in the fall.  Same goes for the Jones family. The dead tree that killed them was on someone’s property. They likely knew it was dead and could topple over, yet they did nothing about it. The state of Indiana is also culpable. It is their responsibility to make sure that trees along the right-of-way are sound. If they are not, they should be removed lest they topple over and hit a passerby.

Rare is the circumstance where no culpability can be found. I have had several near brushes with death, and in every instance a human was to blame. We recognize that we live in a danger-filled world, where living to old age is as much about luck as it is genetics. For the Ellis and Jones families, their luck ran out and three children and four adults died.

Imagine these families tooling down the road without a care in the world. Maybe they were like Polly and I years ago. We’d spend hours in the car singing hymns and praise and worship songs. Sometimes, we sang along with a cassette tape or a CD. Just praising Jesus, worshiping the wonderful, loving God of the universe. And then,  BAM, the sovereign God of Christianity drops a cement barrier or a tree on top of the car. What kind of God behaves like this? Perhaps Christians need to tell God to please leave them alone; that they are fine without his love, care, and protection.

The Ellis family, according to Shane Lance, is in the presence of Jesus. Theoretically, isn’t this what many Christians live for? Whether by rapture or death, the Christian is free from the world controlled by the prince and power of the air, Satan.  Life is little more than  preparation for heaven. The Bible says, prepare to meet the Lord thy God. Since the present life is transitory and fleeting, the Christian focuses on laying up treasures in heaven. Testimonies are given, expressing the desire to absent from the body and present with the Lord. If heaven and being in the presence of Jesus is the end game, shouldn’t Christians rejoice upon hearing the stories mentioned in this post?  Why all the sadness, grief, and despair? Perhaps, even the Christian has their doubts about what lies beyond the grave. They know what the Bible says, what their pastor says, and what their “heart” tells them, but reality tells them something far different.

I am not certain whether the atheistic/humanistic way of looking at tragedies and death is better, but it is brutally honest. I fully understand the appeal of religion in times of tragedy. People want to desperately believe that their life matters, both now and beyond the grave. While there is no rational proof for such claims, faith allows the believer to set reason aside and cling to hope. The atheist and the humanist must embrace life as it is. Sometimes, life can be harsh and ugly, as in the case of the Ellis family. No thoughtful atheist would ever wish such a tragedy on anyone, but we know that things like this do happen and they may some day happen to us.

God Loves You and He’ll Make You Suffer to Prove It

calvin and hobbes god

December 12, 2014, I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News about the death of Brittany Maynard. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Editor,

Recently, Brittany Maynard, a brave woman with terminal cancer, took her life. As a resident of Oregon, Maynard could legally choose to commit suicide. Many religious people are incensed over her suicide. A Papal Monsignor called Maynard’s choice reprehensible. Pope Francis called such acts a sin against God. Evangelicals have taken to the internet to denounce Maynard, suggesting her suicide landed her in hell.

Here’s what the religious need to understand: those of us who are not so inclined are not moved by quoted Bible verses and threats of God’s judgment and hell. For us, a God who controls life and death and afflicts people with disease, is a fiction. Everywhere I look, I see suffering and death. I reached a point where I asked, where is God? Eventually, I concluded that the Christian God was a figment of my imagination, an imagination fueled by 50 years of Christian indoctrination.

The Bible encourages people to pray, have faith, and hold on. The faithful are assured that God only wants what’s best for them. Suffering is turned into virtue, some sort of badge of honor. Those who suffer will be rewarded in heaven, the Christian preachers say. Of course, we have to take their word for it because no one has come back from the dead to testify to the veracity of the suffering for God sermons.

I am more inclined to believe what I can see. What I see is suffering and death. I should do what I can to alleviate the suffering of others. Imagine one of my children suffering from a painful disease and I have a cure for the disease. However, I am not willing to give my child the cure because I think his suffering is good for him. What kind of father would people think I am? Yet, the Christian God gets a pass when he does the same. If we consider a human who withholds that which could alleviate suffering reprehensible, surely we should view God the same way.

Theodicy, the problem of suffering and evil, is one of the reasons I am no longer a Christian. Like Baal in I Kings 18, when it comes to suffering, war, famine, disease, pain, and death, the Christian God is AWOL. Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal, suggesting that their God was on vacation, talking with someone, sleeping, or using the toilet. Could not the same thing be said for all gods? It seems quite clear to me, we are on our own.

At the heart of Maynard’s choice is the right to self-determination. As a person who suffers with unrelenting chronic pain and debility, I want the right to say, no more. Unlike many religious people, I see little value in pain and suffering. I endure it for the sake of my wife, children and grandchildren, but my family knows that there might come a day when I am no longer willing to do so. I want that choice to be mine.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

In today’s paper, almost 3 months after my letter was published, the Crescent-News published a letter from Diane Hammon of Mark Center. Hammon, a Roman Catholic, had this to say:

This letter is in reference to a letter Bruce Gerenscer had written about suffering.

Mr. Gerenscer stated that no one has come back from the dead to testify to the fruits of suffering, but Jesus did. The Catholic Church, which teaches the fullness of the Truth, teaches that suffering is allowed by God to happen for a greater good. Like Jesus who suffered for mankind, we too, are to offer up our sufferings for others or ourselves. He told us to take up our cross and follow Him.

Our suffering may help someone to have a conversion of heart. It may be for our own good so that we realize God’s love for us which manifests itself in a variety of ways. Or, maybe by the way we endure our sufferings, we inspire others to have hope and courage in their sufferings.

Through suffering, we gain virtues such as faith, hope, charity, humility and fortitude. We all know it’s especially difficult to watch those we love suffer, but we can offer their sufferings up just as Jesus’ mother offered up His sufferings. She chose to silently endure and offer up watching her Son die knowing that it was for a greater good, the salvation of all the world past, present, and future.

Since God is love, we know that He doesn’t enjoy seeing us suffer but He allows it for a greater good. We all can relate to this when we must watch our loved ones experience situations such as painful medical procedures, corrective measures for physical problems, grueling practices, disciplinary measures, etc. but we allow them to go through those difficulties for their good.

In reference to Brittany Maynard who was suffering from a brain tumor and then killed herself, it’s an offense to God because He gave each of us a life with a plan. Who are we to decide when that plan is complete? God alone sees the whole picture.

Diane Hammon
Mark Center

Hammon objects to my statement about no one coming back from the dead. Silly me, I forgot Jesus came back from the dead. And where is the wonderful death-defying story of Jesus found? The B-i-b-l-e, an ancient text written thousands of years ago by unknown authors. In what other circumstance would we appeal to an ancient text written by unknown authors?Imagine what my response would be if I went to the doctor for a health problem and he said, let me see, where’s Galen’s wonderful little book on the bloodletting? Galen, a 2nd century Greek physician advocated bloodletting as a cure, as did many ancient physicians. So it is with Jesus’s supposed resurrection from the dead. Nothing more than a quaint story from 20 centuries ago.

Hammon, like most Christians, fails to understand that stating THE BIBLE SAYS, THE CHURCH SAYS or THE POPE SAYS is not proof for the assertion that Jesus resurrected from the dead and is in heaven now working with Habitat for Humanity building mansions for his father’s children. Either one believes or they don’t. Either they ignore the lack of evidence and have faith, or they don’t.

total world population

According to a 2013 Discover Magazine article by George Johnson:

While I was writing The Cancer Chronicles, I came to a point, early on, where I wondered how many people had ever been alive in the world. The best answer I could find came from a study by an organization called the Population Reference Bureau: 108 billion.

I was stunned by the magnitude of the number. It is still common to hear that more people are alive today than have ever lived. Or an even more extreme claim: that 75 percent of everyone who ever walked the earth is living today. But that is not even close to being correct. By the Population Reference Bureau’s reckoning, the proportion of living to dead is only about 6 percent.

The author of the study, Carl Haub, describes the assumptions that went into his calculations. Modern homo sapiens is widely believed to have made its appearance around 50,000 B.C., so that was year zero for his count.

As more people began to move from a nomadic existence as hunter-gatherers to a more sedentary life as farmers, the world population grew at an increasing pace. There is actually a specialty called paleodemography, and Haub drew on various estimates to come up with a population of around 5 million in 8,000 B.C.

By 1 A.D. experts estimate that there were at least 45 million people in the Roman Empire. Extrapolating upward, Haub put the world population back then at roughly 300 million. Based on various assumptions about birth rate and the impact of infant mortality, infanticide, and the Black Death, it took until 1650 for the number to reach half a billion, surpassing 1 billion only in the 19th century. Today the population is 7.1 billion and rising, but the total accumulation of people, living and dead, has reached 108 billion…

Since Jesus is purportedly the only human to die, be buried, and come back to life, this means that only 1 out of 108 billion people have resurrected from the dead. (and technically Jesus was not human, he was God in a human body) Looking rationally and objectively at the ratio of resurrected to stay dead, I think I can safely say that when any of us die, we stay dead. But, what about Jesus? Well, all we have is a legend, a myth, a story. Again, either one believes or they don’t. Either they ignore the lack of evidence and have faith, or they don’t.

Hammon states that God is love and that he uses suffering to teach us and inspire others. While I would most certainly agree that pain and suffering have taught me many things, the very notion that there is “loving” God that uses pain, suffering, and death to advance his perfect plan, makes God into a psychopath; a deranged person who uses the pain and suffering of others to meet some need in his life.This God, the Christian God,  should be the featured psychopath on Criminal Minds.

As a Christian, I used similar arguments to defend God and his actions. His ways are not our ways, the Bible says. Who can understand God and his ways? In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul gives a lengthy defense of election and predestination. He rebukes those who would dare question God’s actions:

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

In other words, Paul tells those who dare to question God’s actions to shut the hell up. God can do what he wants! Why? Because he’s G-O-D. God is the parent, when questioned by a child, who says, because I said so!

At the end of her letter, Hammon addresses the point of my letter, the death of Brittany Maynard. Maynard, a beautiful, full of life, young woman, had an aggressive, stage 4, zero chance of survival, brain tumor.  Maynard decided to control the decision of when and how she would die. On November 1, 2014, surrounded by her loved ones, Maynard ended her life. Prior to her death, Maynard wrote on Facebook:

Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more.

What people like Hammon want to do is rob people of a dignified death. God, and whatever perverse plan he might have for your life, is all that matters. No matter how sick you are, no matter how severe the pain is, no matter how much the cancer is eating away at your organs, you must let God do whatever he is going to do for/to you.

Hammon wants us to believe that only God sees the “whole” picture. Granted, none of us can see the whole picture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make responsible life and death decisions based on the evidence at hand. Earlier this week, I asked my doctor, do you think I have cancer? He told me no. Based on a CT scan,MRI, endoscopic ultrasound, and biopsies, it is unlikely that I have cancer. Can my doctor be certain? Of course not. But, based on the available evidence, it is unlikely that I have it. Based on a 30 minutes talk with my doctor, I have decided to stop any further testing. My symptoms remain the same as they were before I started the testing 4 months ago. $25,000 later, I am still sick. Am I making the right decision? I don’t know. If I start coughing up or shitting blood six months from now, I guess I’ll know the answer.

Life is a roll of the dice. We don’t know will happen a minute from now, let alone an hour, day, week, or year from now. The Bible is right, yes I really did say that, when it says, Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. All we can do is life each and every day to its fullest. I continue to plan, hope, and dream. I want to live, but there might come a day when I no longer wish to. Maybe I will reach a point where my health is so poor and the pain is so severe that Polly, kids, and grandchildren no longer are enough for me to remain among the living. When and if that day comes, I want the right to say, no more.  Better to face the cruel, heartless world head on than to think there is a divine puppeteer in heaven pulling strings to manipulate and control my life.

As a father, husband, grandfather, and friend, I want to do what I can to ease the suffering of those I love. Whatever life lessons might be gained through suffering, I don’t want my loved ones to suffer. Everywhere I look, I see pain, suffering, and heartache. I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave over people and make them whole. But, I have no such magic and all I can do is give them my love and support.

What are we to make of a God who does not do the same, a God who supposedly has the power to alleviate pain and suffering but doesn’t do so because of some wonderful plan he has for everyone? As I have mentioned many times, the existence of evil and suffering and God’s part in it, remains an insurmountable hurdle for me. The God of Christianity, the God of the Bible, is a mean, egotistical sadist who gets off on the suffering of others. Such a God is worthy of ridicule and scorn. He is certainly does not deserve my praise, worship and devotion.

That is, if he exists.

Preachers and The Lies They Tell About Heaven

heaven and hell

Heaven and Hell

Several years ago, 3 young Ohio boys fell through the ice on the Sandusky River and drowned. What a terrible, terrible tragedy. Two of the boys were brothers.

The pastor of the church where their funeral was held said the following:

A minister has told mourners that three Ohio boys who fell through ice and died together in a river are now playing together in heaven.

This statement is restated many different ways during countless Christian funerals.

  • Granny is running around heaven now with no pain!
  • Gramps is in heaven now and doesn’t need a wheelchair to get around any more.
  • ________is in heaven and there is no more pain, sickness, disease, suffering, etc, etc

Here’s the problem…

Statements like these are not true.

Historic, orthodox Christian doctrine teaches that when a person dies they go to the grave. They are DEAD. The body remains in the grave until the resurrection. At the resurrection those who have died will receive a new body. (1 Cor 15)

So why is it that preacher’s lie? Why did I lie?

Sentimentality.

Families are grieving. They have lost a loved one. They want to believe there is a divine purpose, and they want to believe that life continues after the grave.

So preachers concoct grand stories about heaven and the immediate transport of the dead from earth to heaven.

Belief in the afterlife requires faith. No one has ever come back from the dead to tell us the what lies beyond the grave. (if anything) Anyone who says they have is a liar.

Even Jesus himself didn’t talk about the afterlife after his resurrection from the dead. His disciples did, the apostles did, but not Jesus. He told his disciples that wherever he was they too would be some day. He never mentioned one time any of the things commonly heard in Christian funeral sermons.

Even the notion of spending eternity in heaven is not taught in the Bible. Search all you might, it is not there.

What IS taught in the Bible is that followers of Jesus Christ will live forever in God’s eternal kingdom. (on a new earth) On this point the Jehovah Witnesses are probably closer in belief to what the Bible teaches than many Evangelical Christians.

The same could be said about hell. Those who are not followers of Jesus will NOT spend eternity in hell. The Bible doesn’t teach that. The Bible DOES teach that unbelievers will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:14)

Sentimentality allows preachers, who are supposed to be guardians of Christian doctrine, to ignore what the Bible teaches in favor of telling stories to comfort a grieving family.

I understand WHY they do it but let me be clear here…

Preacher, if you can’t tell the truth when it really matters the most, how can you expect people to believe anything you say? If sentimentality allows you to ignore what the Bible teaches about heaven (and hell) how do we know that you are telling the truth any other time?  Not telling the truth in hard circumstances results in a loss of credibility.

As an atheist, I have serious reservations about the notion of an afterlife. At this point and time in life I lack the requisite faith necessary to believe. I am of the opinion that each of us best  get to living life because it is the only one we have. That said, if you are a Christian you are bound by what the Bible teaches. As a preacher you are obligated to tell the truth. In fact you owe it to your congregants to tell them the truth, even when it is hard to do so.