To Heck With HELL … ‹(ô¿ô)›


Okay ~ I’ve got my thinking cap on again 😉 You all are sure to really wonder about the apparent randomness of my posts ~ seems like the topics I bring up are all over the place, huh?

I should be writing more of my story (I actually am working on that) ~ but recently I’ve been thinking that a BIG part of the reason I was able to throw out the BABY and subsequently get out of the “bath water” ~ i.e., escape the QF/patriarchal worldview in which I had invested so much of my life, my very SELF ~ is simply this:

Even as a Christian, I never believed in Hell. I avoided talking about it much because I couldn’t quite fit my universalism into the rest of what I believed about the Bible and Christianity. But I could talk about anything with my uncle, so I wrote the following for him ~ keep in mind that at the time I wrote this, I was still at least a half-convinced Christian.

Also ~ please read all the way through to the bottom because I’m going to tell you about how this idea of mine was used against me in the custody hearing by the home church pastor who believed that I deserved to lose custody of my children after I filed for divorce from my abusive husband.

(This’ll sound really weird to you, Uncle Ron ~ you must wonder why I tell you this stuff.)

When Angel was about three years old (which would have put me around 23 ~ this was after I left Nevada and before I married Warren), I babysat another three-year-old whose name was Lacey. I became close friends with her mother, Leann ~ she was a single mother in an abusive relationship. Lacey was a little terror for her mother ~ she’d hit her and bite her and scream at her and throw the most awful tantrums. …

A few months after I met her, Leann told me that she was pregnant again and she wanted an abortion. She’d already had one abortion before she had Lacey. Since I’d been indoctrinated by that awful video, The Silent Scream, I couldn’t imagine how she could even consider an abortion ~ though I did understand how she wouldn’t want another terrorist like Lacey. We talked for hours and I shared the experience of my own “unwanted pregnancy” and I encouraged her to reconsider. When she wasn’t persuaded by all my talking, I asked if she’d be willing to talk with the pastor of the church I was attending and she agreed.

I went with her to the meeting. The pastor was saying all the usual stuff when Leann interrupted to ask where he thought the baby she had aborted was. He tried real hard to squirm out of answering that question and I understood his dilemma ~ he couldn’t say (as the Calvinists do) that the unbaptized baby went to Hell, or limbo (as Catholics taught), but if he assured her (as Baptists believe) that the baby, who had not yet reached the “age of accountability,” was in Heaven ~ what would prevent her from thinking she was doing her baby a favor to send it straight to Heaven to be with its sibling and Jesus? After a good deal of hedging, he finally told Leann that, yes ~ he believed her aborted baby was in Heaven. A few days later, Leann had the abortion and I really could not argue with the logic of her decision.

I thought about that quite a lot. As a fairly new Believer raising my own little girl in a creepy world, I was very concerned that Angel should share my faith and I could only imagine how horrified I would feel if she were to eventually reject Christ and be damned to Hell forever. I couldn’t stand the thought of it ~ and I knew that I’d be willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure her a place in Heaven. So ~ after the Leann incident, I couldn’t help thinking that it made perfectly good sense that if I murdered Angel before she reached the “age of accountability,” I could guarantee that she would never go to Hell. (That’s what Andrea Yates did when she drowned her five children ~ so was she crazy, or just a very devoted and extremely logical mother?) It could be argued that Leann loved her baby so much that she was willing to risk her own damnation in order to secure its salvation…

So ~ according to what I knew about salvation and Heaven and Hell, the most loving thing I could do as a mother would be to kill my child before she was old enough to be held responsible for her sins rather than let her live and take the risk that she might be one of the many who chose the broad path that leads to destruction and spend Eternity in flames. Even if it meant that I’d suffer personally, whether in prison or, ultimately in Hell ~ that would be well worth my trouble if I were assured that Angel (whom I loved more than my own life) would never have to suffer. There was nothing wrong with my logic ~ so, obviously there had to be a major flaw in my Christian beliefs. I couldn’t figure out what exactly ~ but I was very confident that it couldn’t be the better choice to kill Angel.

I just had to believe that God is good and as such, there’s no way He’d create a system in which it’d be more loving and merciful for mothers to kill their children than to raise them up to adulthood. So, I trusted that if I let her live, she’d be okay for Eternity. I know this sounds like really radical thinking, Uncle Ron ~ but if a person takes that stuff about Hell seriously, radical thought and action would be justified in order to save my child from such an abominable place. I wouldn’t hesitate to risk my life to save her from a temporal fire ~ how much more ought I risk my very soul to save hers from eternal flames? I’m really surprised that more Christian mothers don’t think about these things ~ somehow, they seem willing to risk their children’s eternal well-being, which to me is infinitely more awful than what I was thinking.

Eventually, I found reasons to reject the idea of a literal Hell and plenty of support for the belief that ultimately, everyone will be saved. I won’t tell you about all that since it’s really beside the point here. I don’t want to belabor my point, but I also don’t want you to miss it, so I’ll say clearly that when Angel was very young, I found myself in the position of considering either killing her to secure her eternal salvation, or else trusting that God loves her more than I do and is more merciful than me, and therefore, He would never condemn her soul to endless torture in a lake of fire.

God’s goodness was something I had to take on faith ~ but since the alternative was so terrible, I had to believe that I was justified in trusting Him ~ I couldn’t just hope I was right about God. The consequence (me allowing for the possibility that Angel might end up in Hell when I had it within my means to prevent that tragedy) of misjudging Him in that matter was absolutely unacceptable and there’s no way I would have let her live if I wasn’t positive that I was right about His goodness. (If that seems truly bizarre to you, please re-read what I’ve written because, even if you disagree, I think you can at least understand the reasonableness of my thinking about this given the fact that I do believe in the immortality of the soul.)

Of course, all of this is irrelevant to your way of thinking since if there’s no afterlife, none of this matters.

I do think about very bizarre stuff, don’t I? If you weren’t already convinced that I’m quite strange, after reading this, you’re likely to think me truly crazy ~ which maybe I am so it doesn’t actually bother me if you think so 😉 Just keep in mind … there was never any real danger that I might kill Angel. I only wanted to think about why I shouldn’t kill her given what I’d been told about Heaven and how to get there.

My posts are way too long, huh? I do try to be succinct ~ it’s just that a topic like this can’t really be addressed in post-it notes.

I know there’s a lot here to discuss ~ and I’m looking forward to hearing all the various thoughts this post is sure to provoke (inspire?) ~ but I just want to make a couple comments here at the end to hopefully provide some focus for the conversation:

Part of my reason for sharing this (I realize it’s some pretty radical thinking) ~ is because I want to show that I’ve had a life-long pattern of critically thinking ideas through to their logical conclusion coupled with a determination to follow through with action to match my beliefs. THAT IS EXACTLY how I ended up in the QF/patriarchal lifestyle ~ I know I’m repeating myself ~ but logically, it just really fit with what I knew of the Godhead, Jesus’ example, biblical teaching, and the Christian message of laying down / giving up your life for the sake of following Christ.

Because I never really believed in Hell ~ I did not come to Christ out of fear that if I didn’t follow Him I would be toasted. (Laura says she was looking for “fire insurance.”) For me, it was about desiring a relationship ~ about “being right” with my Creator. AND ~ it also meant I wasn’t worried that my atheist uncle was going to burn in Hell forever if I didn’t convert him during our correspondence ~ so I was able to really engage him in honest conversation and that’s how I was able to “objectively” (if there is such a thing) think about all the ideas we discussed. PLUS ~ I didn’t have that “fear factor” when it was time to walk away.

Another thing: After having an intelligent conversation on the subject with my uncle, I kind of lost my head and forgot my place as a woman in a patriarchal world ~ I attempted to explain all my “to heck with Hell” thoughts to the pastor at a home church who was a close friend of Warren’s. It took quite a lot of talking before Don understood my line of reasoning ~ but as soon as he “got it” ~ boy, was he ever “concerned” about me! Warren told me that Don was extremely concerned that I was being deceived by Satan. After Warren took the children to his mother’s house (supposedly to give me a break so that I could concentrate on recovering my health), this pastor persuaded Warren to use my children as a bargaining tool to force me into counseling. When I tried to visit my kids ~ Don helped Warren keep them away from me by loading them all up in his van and driving off with them. He was so upset over my disbelief in Hell that he actually submitted the following in an affidavit to the court during our custody hearing:

Comes now Don … being first duly sworn upon his oath and state as follows:

… That in approximately May, 2007, Warren called me and told me that he was very concerned about some ideas that Vyckie had learned about from a website that had some very radical theological ideas. Warren shared with me that Vyckie had told him that Vyckie was researching a school of thought she had learned about whereby aborted babies and other dead children would go to heaven. Warren explained that Vyckie had spoken of an incident where a woman in Texas had killed her children, and Vyckie had informed Warren that she understood the motivation of this woman. Warren was apparently disturbed by Vyckie’s expression of these ideas that he felt the need to share his feelings with me.

…That in June or July of 2007, I was at our home with my wife when Vyckie Bennett stopped at our house. In a conversation my wife and I had with Vyckie, she (Vyckie) brought up many of these same ideas that Warren had described to me previously. I was very bothered by Vyckie’s thoughts, as they were the same subject matter ~ the death of children ~ that had caused Warren concerns during our earlier conversation. In the process of this conversation, I asked Vyckie whether she had any problems with this type of thinking, and asked if she saw any “red flags” with this type of thinking. Vyckie looked at me with little emotion, and said “no.” I talked with Vyckie about the Ten Commandments stating “Thou shall not kill.” Vyckie said to me “Wouldn’t that be the ultimate sacrifice.”

…That the conversation I had with Vyckie was extremely troubling to me. I spent several sleepless nights due to my concern over Vyckie’s mental state.

…That a few weeks later, I called Warren on the phone to talk to him about Vyckie bringing up the issue of killing children during her time at our house. I expressed to Warren my extreme concern for his children, and I also told him that I felt that he should “do something about it,” although I did not know specifically what he should do. Warren indicated that he would talk to Vyckie again, as he at that time, believed that there had been a misunderstanding of some sort.

…That later that evening, Warren called me back and informed me that he had discussed these concerns with Vyckie, and that Vyckie had dismissed the conversation as merely theological discussion. I again told Warren that I had concerns that if something bad were to happen, we would have a hard time living with ourselves.

…That I have been long aware of Vyckie’s health issues. I know that Vyckie was often having health problems, and that her response was to leave the family home for days at a time. I informed Warren that she was having mental health issues, and that these issues, along with the thoughts she had expressed to me and my wife, were a dangerous combination.

…That if I were asked to make a recommendation to the Court as to the placement of these children, I would recommend that they be placed with Warren Bennett. I feel Warren is a more competent parent than Vyckie, and I believe that Vyckie is mentally unstable.

THAT was presented as the “trump card” at the custody hearing. Seriously.

Actually, I don’t think Don ever did comprehend the point I was making. It cracks me up that he was so concerned that I might kill my children to keep them from going to Hell ~ when I’d already made it quite clear that I don’t believe in Hell. I only stated to Don that the reasoning behind this line of thought was logical ~ not that I believed it. That I have several living children beyond the “age of accountability” is evidence that I don’t believe in all this B.S. In fact, according to the logic of my argument, it is Don who would need to drown his kids in a tub ~ since he thoroughly agreed that 1) children who die before the age of accountability go directly to heaven and, 2) Hell is a literal place of eternal torment.

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  • EmK

    It doesn’t sound radical at all to me. Your thoughts about killing before the age of accountability are perfectly logical based on what you were taught within that faith community. Your conclusions were utterly and completely logical. I can do you one better: I am still not yet convinced that hell-believing people creating new children (as opposed to adopting already-created ones) is not an ethical breach of great magnitude. If a person believes in eternal damnation and suffering, and they create a human knowing full well that that human might not meet the hell-avoiding criteria at the end of her or his life…Well, it just seems safest not to create children if there’s even a one percent chance that they will burn in eternal hell.

  • EmK

    I also love how it’s you, the abused wife, who is attempting to be disciplined for “mental health”and “instability,” when wuite often the abusive partner could do with a good bit of counseling themselves.

  • Vyckie

    Well said, EmK ~ and if it’s true about the parents ~ what does that say about the GOD who would create human beings knowing that there’s the possibility (Jesus says “few” enter the narrow gate) that this creation whom He supposedly loves will suffer eternally in flames?And PLEASE don’t talk here about “choice” and “free-will” ~ if one of my kids was walking into a fire, I don’t care how rebellious or determined he was ~ I would absolutely over-ride his free-will and keep him from being burned.A friend of mine likes to say ~ oh so the choice is a) worship me, or b) burn forever? That’s not a choice ~ it’s an ultimatum. Tormenting your own child forever in flames? That’s not a GOD ~ that’s a monster.

  • Kaderin

    A problem I have with many theists is that they never think their beliefs through. They just kinda accept them at face value and then make horrible statements. Hell is one of those.Many Christians are really kind and loving people, and yet they think that I deserve to be tortured. For not sharing their opinion. It’s pretty sick when you think about it.Anyway, I respect critical thinking skills in a person (they’re so rare!) and my respect for you, Vicky, just went up a notch. It’s sad to see that it ended in such a place, but still. I think your mind will serve you well from here on out, no?Now about this “Free Will” argument, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m heartily sick of it as well and that’s why I’d like to nip this argument in the bud:Those Old Pearly Gates – the doctrine of Heaven and free willIt’s an awesome essay, so read it =D I’ve never met a theist who could refute it, so if any of the Christians here can I’ll be very impressed.

  • Sharon

    I worried my friends when I said I could understand what Andrea Yates did. Apparently, they thought she should be beyond empathy and sympathy. . .but I cried for her, as well as for her babies, and I, too, understood her mindset.And I only had one child at the time. 😉

  • aimai

    Well, I don’t think its fair for Kaderin (with whom I usually agree) to say that “many theists” don’t “Think their beliefs through.” I think we can see from this and other blogs that many theists actually are thinking through stuff pretty hard, and often coming up with some very unpleasant and confusing conclusions. C.S.Lewis in his science fiction writings and his theology more or less ended up arguing that the more unpleasant and even contradictory the religious outlook was (god does this brutal thing that we can’t understand) the more likely to be true because obviously if we were making this stuff up we’d make up a better explanation more suitable to our personal tastes. I know that lots of “old testament” Christians absolutely stand by the unpleasant parts of their religious interpretation–its the nicer stuff they wish away. Pondering the original texts and the layered texts upon texts–christian apologetics–is a full time job for lots of lay people in protestant forms of christianity. And I think its a source both of comfort and unease. If you read QF blogs by women discussing what they’ve learned from other women, or other writers (and I think Molly gave a smashing rundown the other day), from original texts these are almost always phrased in a kind of “thesis/crisis” “antithesis/what if there is no god” and then “solution/explanation” in which the existence of the particular form of god that satisfies the problem is posited and celebrated. There’s a reason that the most bizarre text in the OT–Job, as well as the story of Abraham is so central to modern Christian thought. Because these are both stories in which almost inconceivable real time/real life horror is visited on the believing victim of an angry god and, at the very last moment, god steps in and makes it all better. That’s the crisis of life in a nutshell–life is hard, people lose their children, people are forced to act out in horrific ways either without the heavy presence of god (in Job god withdraws and inflicts the crisis) or with it (in abraham god steps in and demands the sacrifice and only withdraws his demand after the suffering has been inflicted). In both cases we might say that the human at the center of the drama is shown what happens in everyday life with and without god and reassured that though suffering occurs with the angry god it would actually be worse if you up and left him. Sounds like an abusive relationship to me! But its quite logical on an intellectual and psychological level.But I agree with you, Kaderin, on logic in another way. Nice though some aspects of the Jesus focused NT is Christianity never made any sense to me as a universal doctrine because its so patently obvious that under most christian interpretations of christian virtue and right action most people are going to be “not saved” (whether or not there’s an actual hell, which varies a lot according to sect and pastor and historical moment).The god of the OT (before rabbinic interpretation and the entire period post the fall of the temple) is very much the little, angry, god of a wandering family. He blesses his own people when they propitiate him enough, and he shows the back of his hand to everyone else. It makes perfect sense. He’s a god among other gods and each has a job working for their own people and can’t spare any time for anyone else. Their fate simply isn’t his problem.When christianity made the jump to a universal world religion, and claimed to represent an all powerful universal god for all people and all time you get a total logical tangle which various christian groups have tried to address. What about the people who existed before the covenant? What about the jews if they refused to convert to christianity? What about the people in lands untouched by missionaries? What about the people who died before they met a missionary? what about the people in the “wrong” christian sect? (I realize every person and religious sect has an answer to these questions, btw, so don’t bother to come and post that “They definitely go to purgatory!” or “its ok, my pastor told me they get saved eventually!”)My point, and I do have one, is this. Once god claims to be a parent to all humans, at all times, and offers a system for getting into his good graces its impossible to reconcile the world we see and the Christianities which we are offered with an all powerful god, or with a loving god. We can have one or the other, but not both.Would an all powerful god need to work within our single life time time constraints? Would an all powerful god cast us into hell for *any* transgressions occuring during our brief time on earth? Would a person who lived only ten years, eighteen years, or came from a rotten family be judged as harshly as someone who lived eighty years in great comfort and security? With an all powerful god we have to assume that what happens in this world happens because he wills it–so, the genocide in Rwanda? The slaughter of the Jews in WWII? The deaths of the 14 people yesterday in Binghampton? If he didn’t will those deaths, if they come about simply because of the bad actions of other people not under god’s control then what are we to make of the notion that he simultaneously is sending people to hell for masturbation? or for gay sex? or for divorce? He seems oddly intrusive for such a hands off guy. He seems to place too much emphasis on the brief actions of people struggling to make sense of their own short lives when, in that model, he doesn’t even control the length of that life.Alternatively, if he controls everything and cares about everything and punishes and rewards everything we are faced with the perennial problem–“why do bad things happen to good people?” And why do obviously good people, living good lives by any standard, not automatically go to heaven, if there is one, if they haven’t accepted every jot and tittle of some QF housewife’s stunted view of religious duty? (Sorry to personalize it that way but I read over at some QF blogs on a daily basis and the ones I read are very convinced that merely being a righteous person, if you haven’t been righteous in their way, is not sufficient). We seem to still have the angry, jealous, meretricious, undependable god of the old testament glommed on to the friendly jesus loving god. And you simply can’t reconcile the two of them, easily, in one religion. Certainly not in the parts of christianity that still hew to a hardline vision of “the law.”Oh, this was a better post and made more sense the time I tried to post it and it got swallowed by the ether. If there were a just god, I’m sure the original post would have posted.aimai

  • Fi Brown

    It’s a radical idea in so much as I can imagine those in the church were horrified. It makes perfect, logical sense though.I hope the judge in your custody case saw the pastor’s words for what they were – a load of old tosh.

  • jemand

    Wow, so what did the court do in response to that brief? I mean it’s full of bull but still, sometimes the courts don’t get things right.As for free will, that’s just a horrible argument, so it’s “free will” that person A uses to murder person B. Wait a minute, what happened to B’s free will? It appears that if god values “free will” he only values that of the agressor and perpetrator and couldn’t care less about the freedom of the victim. Also keep in mind that god was the one who created the physical laws that allowed for death! There’s no reason why he had to do that, and it obviously and significantly reduces the free will of victims. The argument just totally breaks down.

  • Anonymous

    Vyckie, you’re right that does sound horrible. Just remember, that the views you’ve been taught about hell and the devil are not what all Christians adhere to. To go even further, the devil that most people talk about is not the one described in scripture. In the book of Job, he has to get permission from God to test Job. There’s much to the Bible that people don’t talk about….mostly because they weren’t taught the hard things about it. And for me, in my life (because I can’t speak for everyone, obviously…) I was never taught to think, but taught what to think. There’s a huge difference between the two. Like I mentioned before, asking the hard questions has furthered my faith in ways I’d never be able to describe. Anyway, just thought I’d share all that. P.S. A friend of mine did his thesis on explaining why he believes there is no devil. -Jesnicole-

  • Anonymous

    Tatanon. :p I need to morph that in a name somehow. Tammy? Tabby? It could be argued that Leann loved her baby so much that she was willing to risk her own damnation in order to secure its salvation…That’s part of what just breaks hell. Because one could, theoretically, also love someone so much that they killed themselves to follow their loved one into hell–making hell a place where it’s possible to bring love/comfort/mercy, and therefore shattering the concept of hell as separation from god, who is supposed to embody all of those. Conversely, heaven could conceivably mean being away from everyone you had ever loved as they suffered for eternity, and supposedly even being able to overlook that and be happy because one was in heaven. Which could not be heavenly at all, because it would involve somehow… not caring.

  • Kaderin

    AimaiI don’t think its fair for Kaderin (with whom I usually agree) to say that “many theists” don’t “Think their beliefs through.” I think we can see from this and other blogs that many theists actually are thinking through stuff pretty hard, and often coming up with some very unpleasant and confusing conclusions.Oh, I didn’t mean it like that at all! I am fully aware that there are great many theist thinkers and I did not mean to belittle them. I thought I made that clear when I said I value critical thinking in a person, not a theist.Let’s be honest – many people are sheep. They hold political opinions because they match the political opinions their parents and community held. They hold awful convictions as long as their environment approves, without ever giving a thought wether it’s objectivly or morally justifiable. And they’ll hold to certain beliefs without ever thinking them through.This doesn’t apply to theists in particular. Here in Europe someone can be raised without religion, making him a default atheist who can proclaim “LOL! Religion sux!” without ever thinking about why he rejects those teachings, why they’re logically untenable and what exactly is morally objectionable to many religious teachings. To me, those atheists are on the same level as theists who indulge in the same sort of non-thinking (“LOL! Religion rulz!”). And even though we’d be “on the same side”, I’d think more highly of a theist I’m having an intelligent debate with (since seeking out a debate generally requires having given some thought to one’s own position)So, no offense to theists meant.

  • Anonymous

    Hi All, Kaderin, First of all, I personally know many serious and critical thinking Christians. You are right, though, many are not. And I agree with you that plenty of people do blindly follow different belief systems. I did brief through the article that you posted about heaven, freewill and hell. This is an argument that most Christians have heard before, it kind of boils down to: how could a good and loving God allow suffering and send people to hell? Did he create human beings to be sinful? All we will do in heaven is carry harps and sing hymns all day and won’t that be boring? God is a superstition and does not exist at all. Truth is we do not know everything there is to know about God and Heaven or Hell and I will not even attempt to try and explain it. There are many great Christian apologists out there and one that comes immediately to mind is Dr. Ravi Zacharias, you can always check out some of his writings if you want to know more. But too many people are way too quick to blame God for everything that happens, even nominal believers. I walked over hot coals; if God really cared he would not have let me done that! Never mind I was the one that decided to walk on hot coals.I do not have children because I have not been able to get pregnant. My infertility has caused me a lot of pain. Quite a bit of it has been in the form of unsympathetic comments from believers and unbelievers alike. Do I blame God for this condition? No, not really, could He change it if he wanted to? Sure, He could if that is His choice. Does this shake my faith? No. There are some very bad diseases that run on my side of the family. This condition could be a kindness, not a curse. Many parents do not try and control every action of their children. Age old ideals show that people learn from their mistakes. People should be allowed to grow and change and find things out for themselves. We can give them good advice and direction. We humans give our children choices and let them exercise freewill. Does this make us bad too? In fact most people highly prize their freedom. The idea that God gives humans a choice and that makes Him bad doesn’t ring true. For Christians, it all boils down to this: Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth and the life; no one gets to the Father except through Him. This exclusive statement is either true or it is not, we all have a choice to believe it our not. Take care all!Elizabeth

  • Jadehawk

    well, since we’re in this discussion, I must point out that free will is actually kind of a curse according to the bible. whether you take genesis literally or metaphorically, the gist of the story is that god created a mindless a conscienceless animal, and that it was the fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that gave people a conscience, and therefore free will. Even as a metaphor, you’re still left with “conscience and free will cost us paradise”. this works well as a god-free metaphor for why humans are sometimes really good and sometimes they succumb to their base instincts. it however does NOT click very well with a God that is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing:why would god create beings he already knew would fail?why would an all-loving god let the world continue in the fallen state, if he had the power to change it?the reason a parent let’s a child make their own mistakes and live their own lives is because all parents acknowledge that they won’t be able to be there for their kids forever, and that only the kids know what makes them truly happy. how does this apply to an all-knowing, all-good, eternal god? wouldn’t god know exactly what would be best for each of his children? every parent I know would dearly wish that their children would NOT have to learn those painful lessons in life, but only an all-powerful parent can avoid this from happening. also, to say that we couldn’t be all-good and still have free will is to assume that for every problem, there’s only two solutions: one evil one, one good one.

  • Grimalkin

    Wow! Thanks so much for voicing the “hell problem” from a Christian perspective. In my path to atheism, this is one of the things that I considered. The fact that Christian women who believe in hell DON’T murder their babies or have abortions seems like a slap in the face to the entire concept of motherhood. How selfish is it that a Christian mother isn’t willing to damn herself so that her children can all go straight to heaven?It’s also one of the big issues I take with the Christian anti-abortion movement.I follow your logic completely and I am so glad that the way you found to deal with the cognitive dissonance was to change your beliefs rather than to act in accordance with your beliefs. That speaks a great deal not only to your intelligence and critical thinking abilities, but also to your goodness.

  • amulbunny

    To me hell is separation from the love of God which is a conscious decision by the person who makes it. I believe in a loving savior but not a vicious God who kills his enemies through man. I applaud your willingness to tell your story and I hope you and your children are reconciled and your husband gets what he deserves.amulbunny

  • Indigo

    Elizabeth -The problem with your argument is that it is what’s called “unfalsifiable”; ie, you can’t prove it wrong. No matter what happens, you can claim that it’s still consistent with an all-loving, all-knowing god, and no example that any non-believer provides will ever disprove or even weaken that notion. In short, you’ve rigged the game so that it always turns out in your favour.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Indigo, I am really not trying to rig any game, just telling what I believe. Let me say respectfully, believers and non-believers will say to each other “prove it, prove it”. The truth of the matter is none of us can. Faith is a belief in the unseen, whether that faith is in God or in no god at all. We all have faith in some form or another.PS…I have been enjoying the commentary on this blog very much. Sorry about the previous housekeeping issue and a few typos. It is nice to share opinions and ideas even though we all do not agree. Women are cool!!! See ya later!Elizabeth C.

  • Linnea

    Vyckie, I love your mind. As an atheist, I have to admit, I used to look at Christians (especially fundamentalist ones) and think “They couldn’t possibly be thinking any of this stuff through very deeply, or they wouldn’t believe as they do.” But you clearly were a thinking Christian.I grew up in a very secular East Coast environment. Since moving to the semi-rural midwest, I’ve learned a lot about Christians and have a lot more respect for them than I used to. (Although certain types of Christianity scare me to death . . . you can probably guess which ones.)Someone in another thread mentioned Unitarian Universalism ( I’m a UU too, and if there is a UU church near you, I highly recommend it as a supportive community in which it’s perfectly okay to be in the process of working out your beliefs (and to believe something completely different from the person sitting next to you, for that matter.)UUism grew out of a merger of two Christian denominations – Unitarians (who believed that Jesus was an exemplary teacher, but not himself divine) and Universalists (who believed – as you did – that *everyone* was saved by Jesus, because a loving God would not send people to hell). Nowadays, it’s evolved into something much broader than that: some UUs consider themselves Christian, but many don’t. Some are theists, some aren’t. Among the principles that UUs agree on are “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” and “justice, equity and compassion in human relations”. Sound good?:::stepping off soapbox:::

  • Anonymous

    Tabby/Tammy/TatAnon/haven’t decided here. “Faith is a belief in the unseen, whether that faith is in God or in no god at all.”Uh, no. No more than bald is a hair color. I have no faith because there is nothing to base faith on, and I can understand my world well enough without it. (Which doesn’t mean I have faith in science, either; I have faith in science we’ve proven, and the rest we’re still working on.) As someone who used to live on faith, I am fully aware of the difference.And yes, people in general are cool, there’s ample proof of that. 😀

  • Anonymous

    Jadehawk said: god created a mindless a conscienceless animal, and that it was the fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that gave people a conscience, and therefore free will. Even as a metaphor, you’re still left with “conscience and free will cost us paradise”. That seems to me to be reading quite a lot into the text, actually.Adam and Eve were clearly not “mindless” before they ate of the fruit, and it’s quite clear they had free will before they ate– or they would have simply obeyed God’s command not to eat. Whether or not you take the story literally (I don’t), there is no reason to believe it says, “attaining a conscience robbed us of paradise.”The way I read it is, the serpent said, “God’s holding out on you– lying to you so you won’t reach your full potential. God’s just trying to control you– this one rule He has made is just holding you back. He knows this but is keeping it from you. He’s not good and can’t be trusted.” So the man and woman believed the serpent who was a stranger, rather than the God who loved them, who had always walked with them in the Garden; and they decided they didn’t trust Him after all. He had given them a choice because love, to be real love, must be an act of free will– but He also told them which choice would end up being bad for them.The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the opposite of the Tree of Life– it represents living by law, boxes, categories, rules and roles, rather than simply living free in God’s presence. The choice represents the choice we all have– to live according to rules and regulations, or to live according to simple love. “Walking in the Spirit” in the New Testament is stepping away from being under law and regulation– away from being ruled by the knowledge of good and evil, and coming back to the Tree of Life which is simply living in God, Who is Love. Fundamentalist movements that teach “gotta homeschool, can’t use birth control, gotta submit–do this, do that– to prove you’re holy” are stepping right back into law, into the knowledge of good and evil– and the law kills. It is the Spirit who gives life, and the simple, life-giving “love one another” is the command that brings freedom.As for Hell, there are no references to it in the Old Testament (“Sheol” means “the grave”), and in the New Testament, the references are pretty much all either given in parables (in Jesus’ teachings) or in symbolic language (in the Book of Revelation). There are a lot of choices besides believing in a literal Hell of eternal, conscious torment. There are other ways to read the Bible than taking all those metaphors and symbols literally.KR Wordgazer

  • Vyckie

    “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the opposite of the Tree of Life– it represents living by law, boxes, categories, rules and roles, rather than simply living free in God’s presence. The choice represents the choice we all have– to live according to rules and regulations, or to live according to simple love. “Walking in the Spirit” in the New Testament is stepping away from being under law and regulation– away from being ruled by the knowledge of good and evil, and coming back to the Tree of Life which is simply living in God, Who is Love.” ~ KR WorgazerYou know, KR ~ in all my years as a Christian, I never heard it stated quite like what you’ve written here. I want to think about this more because something about what you’re calling “Walking in the Spirit” really appeals to me. So ~ what exactly does that look like in practicality? I’m assuming you don’t mean “trust your gut feeling” ~ please explain HOW a person would go about “simply living in God.” How would you know what He wants? Seems to be that the choice is between intuition and revelation. Either you trust the feelings within ~ which is highly subjective, or you rely on the “written word” ~ which I used to believe is the more objective approach ~ but with all the various interpretations out there, living according to the “Word of God” turns out to be fairly subjective too.If you tell me that as a “True Believer” God will guide me and I will know the way (My sheep hear my voice and won’t follow another ~ I know that’s not an exact quote, I’ve been deliberately trying to forget all the passages I had memorized) ~ I’m gonna scoff because I’ve had this experience of truly knowing, loving and following Christ and His word ~ and it really screwed me up and created a horrible home for my kids.Don’t take this as a confrontational-type challenge, KR ~ I’m really interested in thinking this through. Thanks for you (ALL of you) input.

  • J.L. Hinman

    I believe that one can be a Christian and not believe in hell. I hope you will read the pages on my website and consider my arguments about “why I don’t believe in hell (but I’m still a Christian).”why I don’t believe in hell

  • mostcurious

    Hell is precisely where it all fell apart for me too, Vyckie. I’m just lucky to have started out from a fairly liberal world view.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, Vickie. If you don’t mind, I’m posting part of what I posted another place on your blog. Hope that’s okay. It seems relevant…and then I’m adding more at the end. My faith isn’t oppressive, it’s freeing. It’s freedom that nobody else, nor anything else can offer. I have been in many circles of American Christianity….know where I’ve learned the most? The academy. For me, staying true to the text (i.e. textual criticism) has opened my eyes to see that the Bible isn’t “inerrant”… never claims that for itself!! That’s a word people have put on it, just like some try to make the Bible say many things, and like people try to create this Jesus who is not the true one. For me, I had to unlearn much of what I was taught. I have, and still will ask all the hard questions, because that’s how my faith has and will continue to be strengthened. We all come to the Bible with our predispositions. (American, Mexican, Jamaican, man, woman, child, grandmother, poor, rich…) But, textual criticism opened my eyes to many things that were false. That’s why I commented on this site to begin with, because so many of the topics are about getting out of oppression….and I truly, truly rejoice for you who have. My point is that the Historical Jesus, the Living One, is not a God of oppression. He’s the God of freedom……To go on with this, thank you, KR Wordgazer, for mentioning what you did on this thread. Something that just “rips my knittin’s” is when people say “the Bible says…” and then go on to explain something that they know nothing about. That’s what I run into so much. When dealing with the death of my Momma just a handful of months ago, people said, “It’s okay, God will never give you more than you can handle…”. THAT’S A LOAD OF CRAP!!! Nowhere in the Bible does it say that. On the contrary, we’ll be given much more than we can “handle”….because that’s what Scripture teaches. We can’t do it on our own, nor were we meant to. Because at some point, no matter how “strong” we strive to be, the sorrows that life bring will quickly remind us that our strength does have an end. Living in community brings healing and hope in more ways than people understand. Jesus didn’t even do it alone, he had His disciples. I learned the very, very hard way that grief was never meant to be carried alone. I guess I’m writing all this to say what I’d mentioned before….people can very easily take something in the Bible and make it say something it never said. This is where textual criticism has a place for me. Many people keep mentioning their reasons as to whether Jesus did or didn’t exist….whether he was just a man, or more than that. People can go on arguing, or debating for days, and they have been…for years! But the burden of proof is alllllllllways on the individual. For me, when I look around at life and all the tragedy and sorrow that comes with it…..the hope I have in Him gets me through each day. The hope in knowing that death and suffering aren’t the final word; Jesus is. I can’t speak for everyone, nor will I ever try to…but for me, I know what I believe and why I believe it. The proof is there….I see it everyday. Because I look around and see the grief many people deal with, and if I don’t hope in Him, evil and death have already won. There are many Believers in Christ who really do use our minds…..we’re not all shallow, conservative, uneducated people who believe anything we hear. I’ve learned not to settle for what I hear and see from others…..the burden of proof is on me, just as it is on every individual. Thanks for reading if you have. -Jesnicole-

  • Jadehawk

    Wordgazer, the interpretation of “mindless drone” I have comes from the fact that after eating the fruit, both adam and eve realized that what they did was wrong. why didn’t they realize before?I compare the situation to a cumputer, or one of those toy robots. you give it a command, and it obeys (unless it’s a windows machine, which are possessed by demons, but that’s a different story); but if someone else puts in a different command that contradicts it, it will obey the new command. that’s what viruses etc. do.and that’s how I see the situation in that story. before the fall, adam and eve obeyed mindlessly, without ability for discernment. and they couldn’t know that obeying god=good, but obeying serpent=evil, because they didn’t have the knowledge of good and evil! you can’t have free will without conscience, i.e. the ability to tell good and evil apart. this is why animals who kill don’t do so out of free will, but a human who murders does do it out of free will.also, I read the tree of life and the tree of knowledge as complimentary. the story tells of us being created in the image of god, and if we ate of both trees, we’d be like him (or them, as the case may be).like i said, the story makes sense as a metaphor for our half-animal, half-angel nature and as a myth with a “small” god at the head, but not with an all-powerful, all-living, all-knowing god. such a god would have been able to create beings who know the difference between good and evil, and desire good much more than they desire evil (unlike in reality where we’re repulsed by what we’re TRAINED to perceive as evil, with some very basic exceptions). creating a thing with flaws is a human or natural attribute, not a divine one.

  • aimai

    I can’t figure out where I enter into this discussion because I read the bible(s) pretty allegorically and metaphorically and through the jewish process of “midrash” which is storytelling about the passages that are intended to illuminate them for the reader. So I don’t ever think, contra KR Wordgazer’s view, that we are “reading too much into” a given passage because that reading seems odd or counterintuitive or whatever.This week (some of you) are heading into Easter and I’m heading into Passover. I’m a non believer who loves Passover not because of the actual text–I find the slaughter of the egyptians really disturbing on every level–but because of the injunction that we are to perform the entire thing through questions, and that we must at all time be open to questions. Its not, for me, about certainity–this story *means* this or that. We get the chance, if we do it right, to reflect on *many* stories and *many* meanings.Judaism, like Buddhism and Islam and Christianity places a huge emphasis on study and on the community–in Buddhism you say “I trust in the Sangha” and in Judaism you are supposed to study with a buddy because the individual’s gut reaction, their independent and often idiosyncratic approach to the sacred texts, can be very deceptive. But I prefer also to say that we need to study together in order to rise together, to create better communities, to challenge ourselves and our solipsistic view of the text and of our lives. This is my “midrash” in a sense and an answer to whether someone like Vyckie “went wrong” by trusting her gut or trusting the lord. She didn’t. She went wrong, if you can say that, by submitting herself to the will of a community that was not willing to submit itself to *her* will. She put herself in a master/disciple relationship with one other person instead of insisting on a mutually satisfying student/student relationship and she accepted the right of a community that didn’t fully value her to determine her goals and her methods. To my mind that leads me to think that Vyckie (and all of us) need to carefully choose a new community that fully enables us as students in whatever field of endeavour we aim at–god? nursing? motherhood?–and that treats us as equals with a common goal.Slightly OT but I’m collapsing a couple of comments into one. I wish you could be here for Passover at our house, Vyckie, I think you’d have a blast! Though you’d max out our tables with your kids!aimai

  • madame

    Wordgazer,I’m really enjoying your comments. You have given me food for thought, thanks!Vyckie,Following certain teachings to their logical end is often the first step that will lead to rejecting them. I’ve thought about how cruel it is to bring children into the world, not knowing whether they will attain eternal life or choose eternal damnation, but I must admit it’s one of those things I’ve set aside as too painful to think about.I was also taught that spanking is the answer (yes, another rule that seems to be part and package of the QF movement). When you spank them, you save them from hell. ( Pearl teaching)

  • Anonymous

    KR Wordgazer says:Vyckie wrote:So ~ what exactly does that look like in practicality? I’m assuming you don’t mean “trust your gut feeling” ~ please explain HOW a person would go about “simply living in God.” How would you know what He wants? Seems to be that the choice is between intuition and revelation.I don’t know if you read what I wrote in another thread about “trusting your gut feelings,” Vyckie– but in fact I do (with certain checks and balances) mean that it is, indeed, ok to “trust your gut” a lot of the time. 1 John says, “You have the anointing within you, and need no one to teach you.” Paul said to the Athenians in the Book of Acts that “God is not far from any of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.”So– if God is actually the Root and Source of being, and is closer to us than we can understand, there has to be some validity to “trusting our gut.” Of course, our deepest hunches can go off– largely due to things like fear (If I do what I’m really feeling is right, what will my peers think? What will those in authority say?) or other problems. So we can use reason and understanding– in terms of finding guiding principles that work– to tell us when our gut isn’t leading us in the way of peace (although a lot of times our gut will know that, too). But I have found, for my own life, that just using my reason and understanding to be skeptical and mistrusting of everything, even what could help me most, tends to be shooting myself in the foot.I find it helps to think of the Bible in terms of principles, not all those specific details which are so culturally related and so easy to misunderstand, because we tend to read passages through the framework of our own experience and place in history, rather than seeking to understand what the words might have meant in the original culture and then going from there.There are several general principles I have gleaned from the NT in particular:God is loveLove is doing to others what you would have them do to youWe are not meant to seek our own power and aggrandizement (yes, this means pastors and husbands!) but to serve– and this idea was specifically meant to counteract the idea of “I’m powerful and you’re not, therefore I’m right and you’re wrong.”The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc. If we aren’t experiencing these things, we are probably not walking in the Spirit.Anyone whose method of living is about “I’m right and you’re wrong,” or “I hate and mistrust you” isn’t walking in the Spirit. That’s not to say we don’t use common sense to protect ourselves– we don’t wear trust on our sleeves– but we aren’t afraid to give trust when it seems right, either. None of this is about certainty. Christians want the certainty of knowing what to do at all times; they want the security of rules and regulations. In short, they prefer the knowledge of good and evil over the messiness of life in Love. But faith is not about certainty, it’s about trust. I am certain the reason God doesn’t give us certainty is that God really does want us to think for ourselves, to learn for ourselves, to be free. This is what Love does– it doesn’t bind, it sets free. This is what love does– it doesn’t ask for the control that certainty gives (I want to know where you are and who you’re with every minute!) Love trusts. We can love God by trusting God, too, even as God trusts us by allowing us to make mistakes– we wish God would stop us from falling into the trap of death-giving law, rules and regs– but God lets us learn from it instead. So– I can’t give you any method for what isn’t a method; I can’t give you rules for how to not live by rules. I can say it helps to pray; it helps to listen to other people whom you love and who love you (but love shouldn’t hurt, and if it does, it probably is a power struggle and not love at all). It helps to sing hymns; it can help to read the Bible, but not if the Bible has been used as an instrument of law and death in your life. My sister discovered that mixing Taoism with her Christianity helped. There’s a lot to that idea, I think . . . But really, love itself is kind of simple. You simply do it. 1 Corinthians 13 talks a lot about what it looks like when we’re doing it, or when it is (or isn’t) being done for us. As in, love is patient, kind, not selfish, trusting. . . KR Wordgazer

  • Anonymous

    KR Wordgazer says:Another note: We were created for God’s love, ourselves. That means that if someone who claims to love us wants to mistreat us, we are not to let them– because we are worth too much to be treated like that! Real love means not letting someone walk all over you– because it’s bad for them as well as for you. It isn’t love to tolerate disrespect and belittling. It isn’t loving yourself and it isn’t loving the person who’s doing it, either.