You’re a sinner, you’re a sinner, you’re a SINNER!

 

I just read this article about how fundamentalist Christian boarding schools are luring in Chinese exchange students with promises of sound economics and repaying them with religious indoctrination. This quote from one such student struck me:

 

“Before, what I believed, what Chinese people believe, is that people are innately good,” she said. “I realized that I was sinful. I was lying, not loving. Those are as bad as killing someone. There’s no difference between me and a murderer.”

Warning: You are about to embark on a rant. It may or may not be coherent or orderly. And it certainly won’t be “nice.”


I’ve said this before: Christianity offers a solution to a self-created problem. Evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity is only good news once you’re convinced that you are no better than a murderer and deserve to die and suffer in hell. Only then can Christianity offer its good news.

 

What’s more, they know this. A common fundamentalist and evangelical proselytizing method is called “The Romans Road.” Here are the first three steps:

 

Romans 3:23  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We all have sin in our hearts. We all were born with sin.
We were born under the power of sin’s control.
– Admit that you are a sinner.

 

Romans 6:23a  “…The wages of sin is death…”
Sin has an ending.  It results in death. We all face physical death, which is a result of sin.  But a worse death is spiritual death that alienates us from God, and will last for all eternity.  The Bible teaches that there is a place called the Lake of Fire where lost people will be in torment forever.   It is the place where people who are spiritually dead will remain.
– Understand that you deserve death for your sin.

 

Romans 6:23b  “…But the gift of God is eternal
life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Salvation is a free gift from God to you! You can’t
earn this gift, but you must reach out and receive it.
– Ask God to forgive you and save you.
Do you see what’s going on here? Step one, you’re a sinner. Step two, you deserve death. Step three, God can save you. The first step is always to convince the potential convert that he or she is a sinner and deserves to die.

This is what I grew up with. I was taught that the first step is understanding that you’re a sinner, and that in bringing in converts your first step was convincing them of that as well. I was convinced that I was worthless, sinful, and completely evil. I was convinced that my only worth came from being “saved” from the punishment I “deserved.” It was only in God, only in Jesus, that I had any merit or value. But attaining this new sense of worth meant viewing myself as completely worthless outside of it. And that is what the teachers at the Christian school attended by the Chinese girl quoted at the beginning of this post set out to convince her of as well. Now if you’re a Christian, or specifically a conservative Christian, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with this. After all, conservative Christians believe that all people are sinners and therefore honestly, truly, and justly deserve to spend eternity being tortured in hell. But here’s how ridiculous this idea sounds to an atheist:

Imagine you are strolling down the sidewalk and a man excitedly calls you over to his front porch to share some “great news,”

The man’s got a gruesome torture chamber in his basement, Barker said, but you don’t have to go down there. Instead, you can come over, hug the man’s son, say you love him and you can all move in together in the attic and tell them how great they are forever.

Or to but it another way: “You’re a sinner, just as bad as a murderer or a child rapist. God has declared that you deserve to be tortured for eternity. But guess what? He’s found a way so that he doesn’t have to send you to hell to be tortured for eternity! If you just make your life his, and do whatever he wants, you can instead go to heaven and spend eternity praising him! Isn’t that great?”

 

Um. No. Just no. It’s like telling your three-year-old that because she’s been bad, you need whip her and then shut her up in a dark closet for three days, and then expecting her to be grateful when you decide that you won’t do it after all.

 

Some will justify it by saying that God made everyone, so he can do what he wants with us. But I’m sorry, I’m not big on humans being owned. We call that slavery, and we don’t smile on that. Besides, saying that God can do what he wants with us because he made us is removing him from any ethical restraint. Why? Because God defines what is just. If he says torturing people for eternity because they weren’t his standard of perfect is just, then it’s just. But the thing is, that’s complete bullshit. We humans have done a much better job of coming up with ethics and morality on our own. We outlawed slavery, not God. We condemned genocide, not God. We have outlawed, not God. We condemn rape, not God. You’d think if the Bible was supposed to be the greatest book of morality and ethics, it would have prohibited these things. You’d think the ten commandments would perhaps address them. But no. The Ten Commandments are more interested in jealously commanding people to worship God or else to even touch on issues like child abuse or rape. So personally, I’m happy to leave God completely out of morality and ethics, and I actually think the two are way better off without him.

Anyway, that’s the rabbit trail reading that article, and especially that one passage, took me down. Sometimes, living in a world where I see people as valuable and full of potential, it’s painful to take this walk back to the past and remember what I used to believe. In some ways, it’s like Alice fallen down the rabbit hole – and remembering that that is where she used to live.

Note: Moderate or liberal Christians generally follow different proselytizing techniques. Most often they believe that they should just lead their lives and be an example for others – that if someone notices they are especially joyful or especially fulfilled, that someone will ask questions. Moderate and liberal Christians generally don’t believe that non-Christians will not be automatically tortured for eternity. However, their proselytizing tactics are rendered rather invisible compared to those of more conservative Christians and without the ability to threaten hellfire and brimstone they have a decreased number of tools to use to convince a non-Christian person that he or she should become Christian. The plus side, though, is the focus on the positive (the offer of community) rather than on the negative (the threat of torture).

 

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03579073876698902653 Me

    Ahhh… the Romans Road. I did not come from a fundamentalist sect of Christianity, but our church was uncomfortably conservative, and so I remember this well. Comparing this type of situation to an abusive relationship is very apt, and it is something that I mulled over for a very long time when I was contemplating my exit from Christianity and theistic belief (both of which have since happened). The argument for me was that any diety that is willing to use the same techniques to bring me in and keep me bound as an abusive partner would to keep me in a relationship is an a$$hole and I wouldn't want to worship him/her/it anyway. Now I simply don't believe he/she/it exists. Problem solved! :-PThanks for another good one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "If [God] says torturing people for eternity because they weren't his standard of perfect is just, then it's just. But the thing is, that's complete bullshit."Yup, bullsh*t for a couple of reasons. One reason that rarely gets recognized is that the very biblegod whom Evangelical Christians insist is things like "Perfect" and "Just", *especially* how the latter applies to the common Xian soundbite, "sin must be punished!!!", is the very same biblegod who turns right around and subverts justice when he grants clemency(AKA "mercy") to only one group of people, that group, of course, being Christians. So, not only subverting justice… that is, NOT giving people precisely what they presumably "deserve", but blatant favoritism on top of that! The Christian philosophy, specifically, its concept of "Justice", is utter lunacy.

  • http://janeyqdoe.com Janey

    "If [God] says torturing people for eternity because they weren't his standard of perfect is just, then it's just. But the thing is, that's complete bullshit." Also, boomSLANG, it is quite churlish to hold lesser humans to the same standards as gods. Especially when said gods created us that way in the first place. This doctrine of self-flagellation requires that we are eternally repentant for being exactly the way we were made.Its all a big load of horse shite.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00034789805638968595 Tim Frisch

    This post presents a view of God that I would say does not fairly represent my perspective as a Christian. My thought process would run more like this:Sin, in a primary sense, is rebellion against God, who made people and gave them everything they have.If people were rebellious against God, what would their view of God be? And how would they respond to His purposes?– Their view of God would not be favorable; they would likely disapprove or even hate His purposes.If the God of the Bible manifested Himself to people who viewed Him unfavorably and hated His purposes, would they follow Him?– No, they would be angry at Him and oppose Him.If a person would not follow God, could God allow that person to go his or her own way?– Yes, that seems plausible that He would allow people to make that choice.If God allowed people to go their own way, might they be separated from the goodness and benefits that He is able to supply?– Yes, if they don’t want God, He could cut them off from His good benefits.What would this be called? – This place of separation from God’s goodness is hell.How would the people in hell view God?– They would not respond favorably to Him and hate His purposes.I know this will not answer all of the questions related to God and judgment, but I wanted to show that there is a logic behind saying it is fair (from God’s perspective) when He chooses to separate Himself from those who do not want to follow Him. Please do not regard this as a challenge to embark on an argument with those who are not Christians but rather as an explanation that a Christian is giving for his own point of view on a theme presented (very harshly) in this post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "Also, boomSLANG, it is quite churlish to hold lesser humans to the same standards as gods." ~ JaneyAmen!"Especially when said gods created us that way in the first place." ~ JaneyYes. On the one hand, we are told that we were "created in the image of God". On the other hand, we (evidently) have the propensity to be imperfect, and imperfection displeases this supposed God. You and I know that the apologetic for this is that God wanted us to have "free will". But what about God, himself? It is evidently fine for God to have free will, but yet, be incapable of deviating from perfection. So? Why didn't God just create us the same way?! "This doctrine of self-flagellation requires that we are eternally repentant for being exactly the way we were made." ~ JaneyOnly uneducated, primitive man could come up with something so outrageously unreasonable. It would be like me tossing a goldfish in a toilet and blame it for being "dirty" and "wet".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    Please do not regard this as an attempt to one-up Christians, but rather, as an explanation that a former Christian is giving for why he is no longer able to accept the central tenets of Christianity, and in this case, the respective apologetics."If God allowed people to go their own way, might they be separated from the goodness and benefits that He is able to supply?" ~ Tim Frisch[bold added]Whether you know it, or not, your entire argument is hinged on this idea that we need the things that "He[God]is able to supply". IOW(in other words), you are begging the question. One has to assume your premise true in order for your argument to work. You've simply come along asserted it "true". "- This place of separation from God’s goodness is hell.How would the people in hell view God?– They would not respond favorably to Him and hate His purposes. ~ Tim FrischYour argument is inconsistent. If those who don't want anything to do with God are merely "separated" from him, wouldn't that be ideal? I think so. There would be no reason to respond unfavorably to him or hate his purposes. It is only when this "separation" includes being burned with fire 24/7 that one might respond unfavorably. So, Evangelicals need to make up their minds: Is "hell" just a "separation"? Or is it what the bible actually says?..i.e..a second death in an eternal lake of fire?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03579073876698902653 Me

    Good point, boomSLANG. As someone who does not have a theistic belief system, I honestly go through my day to day life without any difference in substance from when I had a theistic belief system. I don't have a greater urge to lie, cheat, steal, or kill now, and I quite frankly wasn't enriched or helped in any way by my Christian faith when I had it. I am currently the same person I always have been… I just don't pray or go to church anymore, and I am less plagued by faith-based insecurity. The "goodness and benefits," after having been on both sides of the line on this, are in my experience manufactured by a mind that wants to believe rather than the result of any real difference. So I would concur, boomSLANG, that assuming the premise that we need anything that the Christian religion (or their premise of god)can supply is spurious at best.I also don't "hate (god or) his purposes," and I think that is important to note as well about many atheists. There is no specific inherent animosity toward a diety involved in not believing. I don't believe that god is real, and so having any sort of strong feeling about what I see as a fantasy would therefore be a bit psychologically unbalanced on my part. If each person lived his or her life and his or her own spiritual perspective without imposing that on others, that would be where it ends. I would not have to worry about differences in belief because no one would be pushing the issue. The problems that I have with Christianity are not based on any particular vendetta against biblegod… instead, it is the perspective that some Christians really don't have a clue about the nature of their privilege in the USA or how hurtful/annoying/oppressing it can be for people who are not like them that drives my objections. For some reason many seem to connect the discomfort and negative feelings with a hatred of god, but in truth that is a false connection. I would say (for me at least) that it is the imposition/oppression that is the problem.Another attempt of an ex-Christian to contribute to the discussion. Not intended to be mean in any way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "The 'goodness and benefits,' after having been on both sides of the line on this, are in my experience manufactured by a mind that wants to believe rather than the result of any real difference."Preee-cisley, Me…."a mind that wants to believe". You nailed it. And yes, it is illogical for you, me, or any other non-believer, to "hate God or his purposes". I was merely addressing the above apologetic under the pretense that biblegod is real and his book true, to make the rhetorical point that this watered-down notion of being "separated" from God would work out just fine for all parties involved, if in fact that's all it was. But alas, this is smoke and mirrors, because the Christian who believes in a literal "hell" has to square-up biblegod's "Perfect Justice"(sin MUST BE PUNISHED!), with his "mercy"(sin can go unpunished if you do, X, Y, and X). The Christian philosophy is inconsistent on so many levels, it's simply astounding.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    Oops, meant "X, Y, and Z". Stupid gremlins! = P

  • Anonymous

    Very true. But there are also many liberal Christians who don't believe in proselytizing at all, "invisibly" or otherwise. I find the whole living-your-life-and-hoping-people-will-ask-questions kind of annoying and manipulative.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09075997712868423479 Shianne

    First off, LOVE your blog!!And this was an interesting post, with equally interesting comments.While I consider myself a "believer (in God/Christ)", I hesitate to call myself a Christian, as the connotation is generally not viewed in the best of terms…and I dislike "labels"…and dislike it even more when asked what kind (denomination) of Christian…uhm, kind?? Seriously?Anyways. I enjoy this blog because I was raised (by very loving parents, that I have a great relationship with) very conservatively, and during a large growth in the patriarchal movement. I've seen legalism, hypocrisy & judgement to the core.And want nothing to do with any of it. Not religion, not traditions, not commandments of men…And while I agree with some of what Tim Frisch said, boomSLANG, you are so correct when you say that the Christian philosophy is inconsistent…

  • jose

    Sin, aka shameless trick to gain obedience through fear.I understand making up scary diseases and curing them (or generally coming up with an imaginary defect or problem that will make people think they need a solution for their nonexistent problem) is a common charlatan tactic.My favorite example of a completely made up "problem" and its subsequent solution is leg waxing because it's so widespread.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03579073876698902653 Me

    boomSLANG, sorry I didn't specify… I was trying to cover EVERYTHING at once in my last response. LOL! So that "hatred" part wasn't addressed at you specifically (although I, of course, enjoy that you agree somewhat). I get my back up a bit whenever someone mentions people that do not believe in Christianity (or in god, period) as having hatred or animosity in some way. It bothers me a bit because I know that in many denominations (in the one I exited, definitely!) it is actively taught that atheists actually believe in and just don't want to be accountable to biblegod, that we just like to "sin" and so we pretend we don't believe, that we are angry and miserable, and we are actively interested in attacking Christians in any way we can. In reality I am much more relaxed and happy now than I was when I was doing the "faith" thing, my behavior is not different, and the only animosity I feel is toward the unfair treatment and the lies that are spread by certain (large groups of) believers. LOL, So I suppose I rolled my eyes a bit at the original post with all the "hating of purposes" business, because I simply want to shout that these people FOSTER the animosity and then mislabel and revile it. So it definitely wasn't directed at you… I just couldn't leave the topic alone when I posted. :-D

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    @ Me,No prob'. You say…"I get my back up a bit whenever someone mentions people that do not believe in Christianity (or in god, period) as having hatred or animosity in some way."Well, on the one hand, I actually do have some animosity. On the other hand, certain spiritual folk just cannot get it through their heads that I can be disgusted and angry with their beliefs(our former beliefs), without necessarily being disgusted and angry at them or their "God". I say "certain spiritual folk", because lately I've seen Atheists, as a whole, referred to as "a$$holes", simply because of the behavior of a few prominent Atheists. IOW, I realize that not all spiritual people/not all theists have this "YOU HATE ME AND MY GOD!!!" complex, which also brings me to this: I do NOT think ALL spiritual people/all theists are stupid. However, I will unapologetically say that most of the superstitious people I encounter lead me to believe, a) that they are ignorant of science, and/or, b) that they believe in God and the supernatural for no other reason than because they want to believe it. Like you said…"a mind that wants to believe".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03579073876698902653 Rebecca

    boomSLANG-I concur. :-D

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "I know this will not answer all of the questions related to God and judgment[...]"In my view, you've answered none of the questions that arise regarding the biblical conception of "judgment", specifically, concerning this whole "separation from God" rigmarole, AKA, "hell". "but I wanted to show that there is a logic behind saying it is fair (from God’s perspective)"Ah, and therein lies the rub: Whatever "God's perspective" is, it is "right". The problem with this mentality is glaring. You've simply bought into this idea that "God" is bullet proof, which is an idea that the bible's redactors propagated. "[it is fair] when He chooses to separate Himself from those who do not want to follow Him."Yes, it's "fair" if people who want nothing to do with God are merely "separated" from him. However, it is grossly unfair to keep these people alive and torture them with fire for all of eternity. And for what? For the trespass of one person(and a possible accomplice). If that's "fair", then you have redefined the word.

  • Aemi

    I would like to point out to the author of the original post that the Ten Commandments cover a huge range of sins. "Thou shalt not murder" places a very high value on human life, so a life is not something to be abused (this covers child abuse). "Thou shalt not steal" dictates that you should not take *anything* that belongs to another person—including his dignity, person-hood and freedom (this covers slavery). "Thou shalt not commit adultery" elevates sex to something very precious between husband and wife, and to use it in other ways, especially to hurt someone, is grossly wrong (this covers rape). You can't say the Ten Commandments don't touch on certain sins. They cover all of them. (As for God coming across as "egotistical"? He's God, not man! He deserves everything!)


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