the roads to hell the road to heaven

the roads to hell the road to heaven February 19, 2013
the roads to hell the road to heaven cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“The Roads to Hell the Road to Heaven” by nakedpastor David Hayward

I’m a visual person. I see things. I picture things in my head and I have to say, write, draw, paint or sculpt them. My imagination must become an image. So when I see in picture form what many Christians believe about others then it graphically exposes the arrogance of that position. It certainly visualizes the myopia. Doesn’t it throw it into question for you?

Of course, the word “Christian” can be replaced with pretty much any of the other labels from the left. And the word “heaven” can be replaced with “reward for being right”. It’s all the same. We are all within the large square. It’s called “life” or “the world”. And all those words we play with are sometimes convenient but frequently divisive labels that help us feel significant in the midst of chaos and fear.

In the end, I don’t agree with the saying “All roads lead to Heaven.” Or Hell for that matter. I’ve come to conclude that there is no road.

Truth is a pathless land (Krishnamurti).

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  • Carol

    Perhaps you are right. Path has a connotation of following where others have gone before.

    At some point, if we want to grow up, we have to leave the “beaten path” and strike out on our own. Then our spiritual experience becomes more like a “messy process” than a path clearly marked by the feet of those who have gone before us.

    “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”
    –Martin Luther

    “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.
    Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.” –Jaroslav Pelikan

    “Many have gone back because they are afraid of looking at things from God’s standpoint. The great crisis comes spiritually when a man has to emerge a bit farther on than the creed he has accepted.” –Oswald Chambers

  • Gary

    “I’ve come to conclude that there is no road”.

    This is as difficult a concept to understand (or perhaps more accurately believe) for the Christians I have known as the concept of “there is no spoon” in the movie The Matrix was for Neo. Yet I believe our Matrix is just as much an illusion.

    I have come to conclude that religion does not hold the answers.

  • Perhaps the answer lies in the perspective that we’ve all been taught or believed in ‘destination’ rather than ‘journey’. Religion – be it ‘Christian’ or otherwise – has within its framework the idea of our need to ‘arrive’ at something or somewhere – as though our actions or beliefs gain us the end prize -whatever that prize might be. But if Christ died for all, and all have died in Him, been raised from the dead in Him, and thus ‘born again’ in Him; outside of believing whether He is who He says He is – have we not already arrived? So maybe if we took out the road to hell & the road to heaven and said ‘the journey’ instead – realizing that everyone’s journey begins the same, but travels down different roads – we could stop defending ours and begin to share each others. I am not a universalist in the sense that I believe all go to heaven – but I am one in the sense that I believe Christ died for all, raised all, and has made us all new creations to then choice to live or die by our own choosing – not because, as the prodigy of Adam, we had no choice. So whether you journey as a Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, or Christian – who He is your journey, and how you connect to Him in that, is the ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ you choose. Is there an ultimate destination? Maybe. But if that is all there is, then wouldn’t it have been much simpler to just ‘beam me up Scottie’ rather than leave us here to fumble our way through? I think ultimately, if there is a destination, it is one of fellowship rather than relationship. We are all children of God – but we do not all choose to be friends of God.

  • We are all condemned. But the Lord has decided to save some, through the cross. Through the hearing of His love and forgiveness for sinners (all of us). Some hear this great news and come to faith. Others don’t.

    We are all going to have to go to the cross. Either in this life…or the next. I pray that it is only in this life.

  • Gary

    Sorry Steve…that fundamentalist dogma just rings so hollow. Jesus said all. Your religion has polluted the very words of the teacher you worship. I don’t claim to have the answers. But I have concluded that some answers are absolutely false. This is one of them.

  • Cat Wolff

    The Universe, and all that is a part of it, is the manifestation of Absolute Love. I have difficulty with the concept that Love might say: “This part of my creation is worthy and shall be rewarded and this part of my creation is an error and shall be punished.” I have always had difficulty with that sort of smug, sanctimonious assumption: “we are the favored and you are the rejects” attitude I see around me in many churches. It is akin to the “some pigs are more equal than others” in Animal House. I do believe that Love will gather all into Itself. You see, I also do not believe that God is a white bearded old man in a nightshirt . . . The God(dess) I understand is too huge, too eternally absolute and too immense an ultimate and perfect Love and a complete manifestation of Allness to be limited by human concepts. I think I have been struggling for years to reach beyond the limits of my limited human understanding to find the Being (I AM) Who my spirit is certain lays beyond them.

  • Wayne

    I am confused, Old Adam. Has God forgiven everyone or just some? What does a person have to do to get forgiven? Is this kinda like a payment? Or maybe this is for only the deserving? How does one become deserving of grace?

  • Wayne: I’m assuming if grace is something that is ‘deserved’ or is ‘earned’, then whole point is rather moot. Years ago I began my own journey with God on the of ‘earned’ and ‘deserving’ d end of the spectrum; but eventually came to the experiential conclusion that if there is anything in the friendship that I have to ‘earn’, it isn’t much of a friendship – or at least not one I want to spend time investing in. And I have to assume God feels the same way because He’s the one who brought me to this conclusion to begin with.

  • Kris

    Lately I have been thinking about how those on the far right are all about the individual when it comes to govt programs for the poor in the name of freedom, but when it comes to Christianity they lose their individuality and expect everyone else to conform or else.

  • I hesitate to agree with you that there is no path;
    I think I see what you’re getting at, that we can’t just blindly accept what our parents (pastor/teacher/book etc.) tell us; and I agree that we need to think critically about what we’re taught; but I also think that we should be careful about running to the other extreme by throwing everything out the window and trying to go it alone.

  • You say that Jesus said all; and I agree. But what do you do with passages in which Jesus uses very particularist language?

  • We cannot earn God’s love because He gave it to us before we could have even thought about deserving it “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Righteousness is a response to God’s love, not a condition. And I also believe that God will never fall out of love with us, no matter what we do; it’s less about earning and deserving as it is trusting, accepting, and responding.

    I’m still learning this; I’m trying to think of my friendship with God in terms of the communion I share with friends on earth. I try to be faithful to them; I attempt to keep their trust, help with their endeavors, and champion their causes; I try to think of my Christian communion with God in those same terms. Faithfulness to the one who gave everything to save me.

  • Gary

    Indeed Jonathan, sometimes the Jesus we have been taught directly contradicts the Jesus we have been taught.

  • Carol

    The Institutional Church (ecclesia) has killed only two kinds of people: Those who do not believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and those who do. — Will Durant

  • Carol

    It has been said that Grace accepts us where we are, but it doesn’t leave us there.

    Both Law and Love have the power to change human behavior, the law relies on fear of punishment, but only love can change a “heart of stone” into a” heart of flesh” turning what was duty and obligation into desire.

    Grace is free, but it isn’t cheap. If accepted, it will cost us everything that the ego holds dear!

    Grace has the power to transform the world, but most Western Christians seem to have more faith in their ideology and failed political process than they do in Grace:

    The spiritual self gives, the ego takes. The destructiveness of the ego is immediately evident in social terms: Everyone wants to take, to have, and the result is discord and warfare. Today we are experiencing the collapse of a social system based on egotism both in the East and in the West. Long ago the fanatic belief of economic liberalism (that if the individual strives for maximum economic prosperity the result will be maximum prosperity for all) has been shown to be wishful thinking, an ideology meant to somehow socially justify gross egotism. The answer to liberalism was hardly better. Marx never discovered that individual egotism cannot be overcome through class egotism. Class egotism, national egotism or the egotism of the individual: They all lead to a general defeat in a war of all against all. No social contract helps here. Ambition against ambition, greed against greed will-to-power against will-to-power. How can this lead anywhere but to continual conflict?
    Of course the answer is to realize the power of love and the fact that we all work for one another and not for ourselves. This is no wishful thinking but a true realization of the way things are, but is not realized by sleeping people. –Andrew Flaxman, Director of Educate Yourself for Tomorrow

  • Carol

    We are social animals and “going it alone” as a way of life is not natural to us or even good for us most of the time.

    The problem is when we belone to a disordered religious collective rather than a healthy spiritual community.

    I have a friend who was an “opps! baby” born into a dysfunctional family with an abusive alcholic father. She asked her sister who was 19 years older than her why she didn’t provide more protection, especially while she was so young and vulnerable. Her sister replied, “We all thought our family was normal.”

    I have never forgotten the insight from a sermon that I heard shortly before formally converting, “We are born with clenched hands and it takes the grace of God to open them to reach out to others.”

    I do not believe we are born “guilty sinners.” Guilt requires conscious intent (knowing and willing), but we are born instinctual survivalists, who need to experience God’s Love/Grace in order to reach our human potential, to become FULLY human as we see it “fleshed out” in the life of Jesus.

    “In Orthodox theology, the two words “image” and “likeness” are not used interchangeably as they are for Roman Catholics and Protestants. For Orthodox Christians, “image” denotes the powers and faculties with which every human being is endowed by God from the first moment of his existence. “Likeness” is the assimilation, the growth process to God through virtue* and grace. We call this growth process “theosis.” For Western theology, man was created perfect in the absolute sense and therefore, when he fell, he fell completely away from God. For Orthodox theology, man was created perfect in the potential sense.”–Fr. George Nicozisin
    *Virtue is an inner quality of character.

    “You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.” — Vaclav Havel, Czech dramatist and statesman

  • Carol

    I can remember when it was possible to express empathy and compassion for the poor without being accused of being a “socialist.”

    Of course, that was before far left “christians” began supporting enabling social welfare programs that required no responsibility from the recipients rather than empowering programs that closed the socioeconomicl advantage gap between the poor and the middle class.

    What a choice of churches we have, Conservative Pharisaic sectarians or Liberal enablers with their “soft” secular humanism cloaked in God-words. Two pick-and-choose, text-proofing heretical sects.

  • My one tiny quarrel would be with your statement “Of course, the word “Christian” can be replaced with pretty much any of the other labels from the left. And the word “heaven” can be replaced with “reward for being right”. It’s all the same.”

    Thing is, it really isn’t all the same. Of course we each think our ideas are right — if we did not think so, we would not hold those ideas. But Christianity seems to be nearly unique in its insistence that not only is everyone else wrong, but it is written into the very structure of reality that all those wrong people will be horribly punished for their incorrect views. Looking through your list on the left, I cannot see another group that could be moved to the right side of the cartoon, unless “hell” is gutted of nearly all its punitive power.

  • Islam?

  • Islam DID inherit the “God hates pagans and apostates” meme from the Bible. Not to minimize this, but at least Islam has a long history of providing a reliable legal status and collegiality for “people of the Book” — meaning Jews and Christians. I’d rank Islam as generally more tolerant than either Christianity or Judaism, historically speaking. As for hell, I gather that Muslims do have a version of that belief. (Jews, generally, do not.) But my impression is that it is less important — at least, no Muslim I’ve ever conversed with has suggested that I’m going to hell, compared with a fair number of Christians who actually START conversations with that claim.

  • Islam definitely has a concept of Hell, though I believe that the system of who goes where is based on different criteria than in Christianity, not expert enough in the area to say yea or nea on that. Ancient Judaism did not have a true concept of the after life, so no Hell and no Heaven, although the later prophets started hinting at the concepts. By Jesus’ day there were sizable contingents on both sides of the fence; I believe that the main factor that culled the notion of Hell (and afterlife?) from Judaism is that the factions that believed in the afterlife were also the factions that revolted against Rome and were, thus, wiped out by Roman armies.

    I know that this is all beside David’s point, but it strikes me that the five major world religions really only represent 2 actual traditions: Abrahamic and Indian, as Buddhism sprang out of and inherited much of its world view from Hinduism. Baha’i and Sikhism are both mixtures of Islam and Hinduism (I think? I’m at least pretty close on that) Most of the rest are either polytheisms or derivations thereof. Not really trying to make a point here, this stuff just fascinates me.

  • Carol

    The meme “God hates pagans and apostates” is definitely biblical, which testifies to the reality that individually and collectively all People of the Book [and other Religious Traditions] are capable of greater or lesser spiritual understanding and mature actions.

    I am aware that Islam through the influence on St. Thomas Aquinas through Averroes the Islamic philosopher and Maimonides the Jewish philosopher renewed European Christianity; but at this particular time in history, with tribalism ascendent in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, places where Islam has become culturally and sometimes politically the established religion, Islam is experiencing a “devolution” rather than an evolution.

    Of course the same could be said of Christianity in certain parts of the American Bible Belt where a resurgence of fundamentalism has produced our own home-grown Christian version of the Taliban. Only the power of the secular State keeps it from becoming as bloody as Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalism. Another reason to for Americans to embrace the political wisdom of our Founders in prohibiting the establishment of a civil religion, especially with the challenge of theocratic fundamentalism coming from many Red State Christians.

  • Chris in VA

    I think you meant to say Animal Farm, not House. Tho that does pose an interesting ponder…;-)

  • Chad

    I think that the imagination can be a wonderful thing… But it can also be a dangerous thing (Gen. 6:5, Romans 1:30). The Bible is clear that there is a road, and that few will find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) It is not a boastful thing to claim that one is on the path leading to forgiveness and salvation. But more of a humanitarian effort where those who have been shown the path must now go and tell others also so that they too may live. We would not call a doctor boastful if he were telling us to go on a diet so that we can live a long life. No, in fact it is out of compassion for mankind that he even tells them that their cholesterol is high not because he is boasting. Evangelism should not be a boast that one has found it but rather a heart felt warning and plea to others to come and live.