I have heard this line many times over the past fourteen years: “as long as you believe in God, that’s all that matters.” Implicit in this statement is the notion that belief in the CHRISTIAN God is all that matters. No matter what denominational flavor a person might be, as long as he or she believes in the Christian God then everything is okay. What are we to make of this generic statement of belief in God? Isn’t there more to Christianity than just saying, “I believe in God”? What about specific beliefs. Do they matter? Does it matter if I believe anything specific about the Christian diety? Or is it okay if I just have warm, fuzzy feelings about the Christian God?
Every organized religion has a formulated belief system. To be a ____________ you must believe ___________. Can one be a Christian and not believe in Jesus? Of course not.
It seems that many Christians are uncomfortable with what they believe, especially when it comes to judgment and Hell. Christians hem and haw about the future state of those who do not believe in Jesus. That’s why they like the “as long as you believe in God that’s all that matters” line of thinking. It lets them and their God off the hook.
What if I said I believe in Allah or Zeus? Would that satisfy the “as long as you believe in God that’s all that matters” crowd? Is there any God that is not an acceptable God?
Inherent in this line of thinking is the notion that humans MUST believe in a divine being larger than themselves. Why? Why must I have any God at all? Is it not enough for me to live, embrace life, and die? Is it not enough for me to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow I die? Is it not enough for me to love the wife of my youth, my children, and my grandchildren? Is it not enough for me to love my neighbor as myself?
I find no need for a God. Perhaps on my deathbed I will think differently — I doubt it — but, for now, God seems of little importance in the day-to-day machinations of my life.
Most Americans have a difficult time understanding atheists and agnostics, or for that matter anyone different from themselves. They are quite certain that godlessness means that a person is a Satanist, child molester, or a deviant of some kind. Never mind the fact that most child molesters and deviants have a religious background and atheists don’t believe in Satan. How can one live without God?, they ask themselves.
I find little difference between myself and most Christians I know. I say there is no God and live accordingly, and they say there is a God and live, for the most part, as if God doesn’t exist. It seems the only difference is what we “say” we are and where we spend Sunday mornings. Such a religion does not interest me. I much prefer the Church of the NFL (and it seems a lot of my Christian acquaintances and neighbors do too).
So, my Christian friend, let’s play a game. Let’s compare lives. After all, the only way we can know what people believe is to watch how they live their lives. We LIVE what we think is important. How is my life any different from yours?
Surely, since I don’t believe in God, don’t have the Holy Spirit in me, and don’t follow the Bible, my life should be a blazing example of what most Christians think nontheists are. Shall we compare morals? Ethics? Shall we compare our love for our respective families? Or does it really all come down to whether I “believe”, lifestyle be damned?
I see no compelling reason for embracing Christianity or any other form of theism. It seems all quite meaningless to me, though I recognize it isn’t meaningless for millions of people. I have Christian friends, most of whom are liberals or universalists. They quietly live according to the teachings of Jesus. I admire them. That they are still friends with me means a lot to me. But, even their devotion to God is not enough to persuade me of the existence of the Christian God.
Anne Rice had this to say about “leaving” Christianity:
For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else…
…As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
I doubt the cohesiveness of Rice’s beliefs, but I do understand and appreciate her sentiments.
I have often been told that I am looking for God in all the wrong places. Perhaps, but at this point in life, I am going to leave it to God to find me. I am no longer interested in looking for him/her/it. There is too much life to be lived to spend it looking for a deity. Most days, I can’t even find the TV remote.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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