Taking the Plunge

Once you’ve accepted Jesus into your heart, your next step is showing your obedience and symbolizing your rebirth through baptism.  The Christian denominations in which I grew up believed that baptism was only valid as a personal decision.  Some denominations practice infant baptism or sprinkling, but in the context of what I was taught that practice seems to have no significance whatsoever (except to upset the baby).

 

Crying Baby
"Mommy, don't let the penguin drown me!"

 

The basis for baptism is vague and consists (like most Christian doctrine) of cherry-picked verses scattered throughout the New Testament and inferences from dialog contained therein.  This site contains a lengthy discussion on why believers must be baptized and why immersion is necessary.  A quick glance tells you right away that the ritual is heavy on symbolism and light on substance.  Here’s the gist:

You are “crucified” (standing upright in water), you are “buried” (immersed into the water), and you are “resurrected into life” (raised out of the water).

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Repeat After Me

Getting saved through Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit sounds like it would be a really big deal.  I mean, the sheer mechanics of opening up one’s heart and having the Holy Spirit move in like a college kid moving into the dorms is difficult to wrap your head around.  Oddly enough, Christians seem to think it requires nothing more than the ability to repeat phrases told to you by another person.  This applies mainly to children who are too young to formulate a sentence based on the premise that a person died for you thousands of years ago so you won’t go to Hell when you die.  It goes something like this:

Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you.  I want to be a better person.  I believe you sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, that you raised him from the dead, and that he hears my prayers.  Please forgive me and let Jesus come into my heart and life.  I give my life to you, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

Organ Donor
Give your heart to Jesus!
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Born Christian?

I was indoctrinated into Protestant Christianity from birth and accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior at the ripe old age of four.  I don’t remember much about my childhood but I still remember that evening and the place of worship in Panama we called “The Home.”  It wasn’t a formal church and I imagine it was more like what you would have seen in the Apostle Paul’s day where believers gathered in homes to praise god together through song and prayer.

A quick aside: on my blog I’ll never capitalize the word “god.”  It’s not a proper name.  If I use a proper name like Jehovah or Jesus or Allah I’ll capitalize it as per English grammatical rules.  However, since I commonly refer to “god” you can assume I’m speaking of the Biblical deity known as Jehovah or Yahweh.

Almost as sweet as forgiveness.

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Heaven is Real…First Glance

A while back (quite a while) I had come across a blog post here regarding the book “Heaven is Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.”

It’s the story of Colton Burpo, the four-year-old child of the pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska (looks like they’ve only recently installed their WordPress site and not updated it), who during emergency surgery is said to have gone to Heaven to sit in Jesus’ lap and have angels sing to him until he was resuscitated. The book tells of the claims and observations made by the child while he was dead/unconscious that seem to defy logic and support the idea that the Biblical god is for real. So far I’m only 11 pages into it but here are my observations so far:

Colton, like me, was brought up in the church by a pastor and presumably indoctrinated from birth with ideas of Heaven and Hell, Jesus and Satan, angels and demons, and all of the cute little songs that kids learn in Sunday School. Whatever he did or didn’t see during the time when he was dead/unconscious would have been influenced heavily by this because it’s a cornerstone of his upbringing and the foundation of his family’s faith. He doesn’t have to think about Jesus or angels, it’s just part of his immature belief system.

The author (the father, Todd) states in his introduction, “Now, as a pastor, I’m not a believer in superstition.” I completely acknowledge that in this context he’s talking about superstition relating to “chills” or “bad feelings” about a road trip, etc. – the kind of superstition that drives baseball players not to change their socks or whatever. However, Todd most definitely believes in superstition. He believes that the ritual of praying will affect the outcome of an event. He believes that going to church on a regular basis will affect the strength of his faith. He believes that reading the Bible on a regular basis will affect his relationship with god. These are all ritualistic, superstitious practices. If Todd began wearing the same pair of socks whenever he preached because he thought it made his sermon better, it really wouldn’t be a stretch above and beyond what he already believes. The only difference would be that it’s not prescribed by the Bible.

Colton says that while he was in Heaven sitting in Jesus’ lap the angels were singing songs to him like “Jesus Loves Me” and “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.” That’s a nice thought, but doesn’t it seem a little silly and maybe too convenient that the angels would just happen to be singing the Sunday School songs Colton knows? I know this seems like a weak objection and I’ll readily admit that, but think about it: angels are ethereal creatures who live on a completely different plane of existence. They would presumably have the capability of singing songs to this child (not even the child, but the child’s soul) that would comfort him. Perhaps “Jesus Loves Me” qualifies as such, but “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho?” Really? That just seems ridiculous to me…and by that, I mean it’s merely my personal opinion that nobody else has to adopt.

Obviously, I’m skeptical to the claims this book has made and will be making. It’s no secret I don’t believe in Heaven or god. However, I intend to continue reading this book with as open a mind as I can muster and give it due consideration. I’m really curious to see why there’s all the buzz over it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it all stems from the fact that people who already believe in this find that it provides the sort of evidence that they not only accept but latch onto in order to bolster their beliefs. I doubt this story would do much to convince someone who didn’t already believe before they started reading the book but like I said, I’m only 11 pages into it.

I’ll keep you posted.

More Facebook Hypocrisy

I can’t figure out why something like this is necessary:

Is Jesus going to give you an extra pillow on your bed in the afterlife for re-posting this? Are you going to convert someone to Christianity by declaring you have an invisible friend? Doubtful. And what kind of irks me is that if I were to counter with something like this:

I personally believe in humanity. One Facebooker has challenged all others to put this on their wall. Nietzsche said, “There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings.” This is a simple test. If you love humankind and you are not afraid to show it, re-post this…

I would get backlash because I’m voicing a view that is contrary to the forwarded e-mail mentality surrounding the above Facebook post. Is there a reason I shouldn’t post what I’ve written above? Not really, aside from the fact that it’ll be taken as a retaliation against believers who are forwarding this other thing around (which it obviously is). There’s also the problem of some of the Jesus posters being my family members. That would make it a little less comfortable.

The biggest thing keeping me from actually hitting the “post” button is that I’m not a freaking sheep who just forwards crap around for the hell of it. What would either of these Facebook statuses hope to accomplish? What practical use would either of them have? In my mind, none. They’re just a stupid spam message clogging up the news feed when I could be seeing more important things like what color my friend’s baby’s poop was or how good their sushi was at lunch. You know, things that actually mattersilly

Should I post my counter status or not? What do you think?

Billboards: Nothing’s Too Hard…

Billboards abound in Springfield bearing the words of the “Nothing’s Too Hard For God” campaign.


This guy needs help because he’s not god.

Well, duh! God’s supposed to be omnipotent! Are Christians the masters of pointing out the obvious or what? But what does this mean for people who aren’t omnipotent? It’s almost like a slap in the face.

Having financial troubles? If you were god you’d be able to blink them away. BUT YOU’RE NOT GOD!

Having marital problems? If you were god you’d be able to make yourself a new wife/husband. BUT YOU’RE NOT GOD!

Are you lonely? If you were god you’d be able to create some friends. BUT YOU’RE NOT GOD!


BWAHAHAHAHAA!!!!

Yep, that’s right. You are powerless to change your circumstances, you aren’t smart enough to handle your finances, and you aren’t good enough to maintain meaningful relationships. You’re dirt and unless you call on god to fix it for you, you’re totally screwed. So what are you waiting for? Get to praying!

The problem is, praying doesn’t really do anything. It might give you some time to quiet your mind and reflect on your situation but it’s not going to make your troubles magically disappear. It’s only after you’re done praying and get off your knees that something will actually get done. So get off your knees and get to work!

Again, I have to ask why these billboards are so incredibly sensible and allowable but something like this symbolizes a detestable oppression of cherished ideas:

 

Billboards: What Would You Attempt…

Driving from St. Louis to Springfield this morning I passed a billboard that I’ve passed many times before and that has always brought up questions in my mind. It goes like this:

“What would you attempt for Me if you knew you could not fail? -Jesus”


A similar billboard in Kansas City.

Undoubtedly the billboard text draws from Matthew 19:26 which states, “with God all things are possible.” Naturally, I got to thinking about this proposition and some things immediately came to mind. If I knew I could not fail, I would:

Fly
 

Have Olivia Wilde’s babies
 

Start a business
 

Climb a mountain
 

Enter (and win) motorcycle races
 

Swim to the bottom of the ocean
 

I know, all of those things are stupid. But if I couldn’t fail why wouldn’t I at least attempt them? Of course this completely misses the point. The billboard isn’t asking what you would do for yourself, but what you would do for Jesus. So let’s examine this proposition in greater detail.

First, what does Jesus need? Since Jesus is supposedly god that means he’s perfect. Since he’s perfect he doesn’t need anything. And since he’s god, anything I could possibly do for him would be so pitifully insignificant it wouldn’t matter anyway. For that reason I can’t even imagine why Jesus would ask a silly question like this.

Second, if the only thing Jesus wants me to do for him is to tell my friends and neighbors (and little tribal pygmy people in the jungle) about him and win their souls for god and Heaven then why didn’t he make sure I didn’t fail when I was witnessing to everyone as a teenager? Why was it that every time I witnessed to someone out of love and concern for their eternal soul, I was met with failure? Why did they never accept Jesus when I said everything I could think of saying after having prayed over it and asked for help? Apparently even the small stuff like talking to people isn’t guaranteed to succeed.

I can only assume, therefore, that this is an empty promise from a book that is full of empty promises and the billboard is just another attempt by Christians to parade their air of superiority in front of the largest number of people possible. This billboard isn’t the only one along the Interstate between St. Louis and Springfield so I can only imagine how many more there are all over the U.S. (let alone the rest of the world). I’ll review others as I come across them in my travels.

One last question: since there are so many Christian billboards along the Interstates and I have yet to see a single atheist, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, Buddhist, or Scientology billboard why in the heck do Christians get so bent out of shape when they see an atheist bus advertisement? Are Christians really that shallow, petty, and selfish? Grow up!

Like Taking Candy From Babies

In response to this post by Bakersdozen2, I want to comment on the idea that a child died, went to Heaven, and was returned to a quadriplegic body to be on a respirator for the rest of his life.

The 6-year-old child is said to have gone to Heaven while in a coma for two months after a traumatic car crash that left him paralyzed due to an internal decapitation. His father was talking on the phone while driving and was ejected from the car, escaping all injury. Praise the lord! The father even wrote a book about it that spent some time on the bestseller list. Hallelujah!

In recounting his experience, the boy tells of how he was in the lap of Jesus in the most amazing and wonderful place imaginable. This place was filled with happiness, there was no pain, he was able to speak with angels, and he came to think of it as “home.” Then, coming out of the coma, he was returned to his non-functioning body here on Earth to live out the rest of his days not being able to move or provide for himself and needing a respirator for at least part of the time. The child even told his father that, even though he’s not depressed, he can’t wait to die and go back to Heaven because he doesn’t feel like this is “home” anymore.

Isn’t god good? No.

You tell me what kind of malevolent being you would have to be in order to give this poor child a taste of the most perfect place imaginable, dangling it in front of him like a piece of candy, and then yank it away to put the kid back into a broken body where he’ll go through his life being fed either by a caretaker or through a tube and have his ass wiped by someone else because he’ll never even be able to do that for himself. Does that sound like love to you? Why bring the child to Heaven only to send him back? And why call this a miraculous story?

You know what would have been a miracle? If god would have stopped the car crash! Wow, that would have been amazing! Just imagine what would have happened if the crash hadn’t occurred and this boy got to just go on living his life like everyone else! What a concept…

It seems to me that people who really want to believe in god’s power pick up on stories like this without really thinking through all of the nuances involved. Instead of wondering why god couldn’t have returned the boy to a miraculously functional body with a message of hope for the world, they blindly accept that their notions of Heaven have been confirmed and that it’s proof of god. Instead of wondering why god would allow something like this to happen to a 6-year-old child, they mindlessly praise god that the child is still (basically) alive. Instead of questioning god’s logic, they vomit canned responses like these:

#1. God’s purposes surpass our temporal comfort
#2. There is a place that far exceeds their greatest imaginings.

So we’re to believe that the promise of an awesome place justifies god having his way with us however he wishes? That’s like saying I opened an incredible college savings plan for my son but in order for him to get it he has to let me beat him and tell him he’s a piece of trash until he turns 18! I’m not OK with that, and you shouldn’t be either.