In Which I Boldly Proclaim My Ambition!

badreligion

I’ve always had a lot of serious issues with motivation. I had a good thing going for a while before several traumatic events knocked me back down — I’ve covered those elsewhere and I don’t feel like rehashing them. The more I contemplate my issues, though, the more I can trace them back to feeling like I don’t have a place in this world — not that I believe that with my head, but I can’t get the head and heart to agree on this.

There is a long list of probable influences: the intellectual disconnect between me and my peers growing up, social awkwardness throughout grade school, the lack of meaningful challenges in school compared to the intellectual challenges of video games (no, seriously), and perhaps most importantly the deeply-engrained feeling that desire is bad. I am just realizing this last point, but I realize it’s so terribly true when I examine myself. And if I had to point a finger, I point it at the corrupted sense of self I garnered from my life growing up in conservative Christian circles.

No matter what I did, I was told that it was “filthy rags” before God. At the same time, my parents constantly told me how smart I was. And I was smart — not every kid figures out algebra at 5 or the sum of an arithmetic series at 10. In fact, the other guy who figured out the same thing at the same time, Carl Friedrich Gauss, actually invented the formula. Incidentally, we both figured it out when our teachers, presumably wanting a break, told us to add up the numbers of the days of the year, 1 to 365. This is not to brag; I just mean to illustrate the point that I am not the usual case. My performance since then has held this pattern.

But when you tell a smart kid like me that his works are filthy rags, you do a tremendous amount of damage. I had perhaps better than many of my peers a profound sense of the immensity and perfection of what I called God, and to compare myself against that enormously high standard was soul-crushing. When you told me that my works were filthy rags, it wasn’t just a “church answer” that I didn’t really believe. I internalized that and made it a part of me. Worse, I managed to get my hands on the book of Ecclesiastes, and suddenly life really did seem pointless. What can a man do even with my talents? “Everything is vanity.”

By the time I grew to adulthood, ambition arrived stillborn. I was on the path I was supposed to take, going through the motions and trying to care, but I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t. I failed out of my first attempt at college to the tune of “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity.” These words haunted me like a wraith hovering over my every endeavor. “Your works are filthy rags!” “You are nothing without God.” “You are totally depraved.” These ideas cut my legs out from underneath me before I could even begin the race.

It was a false savior who killed me. It was a death-god who revels in the destruction of his children, who tells them they are nothing and that their endeavors are nothing and that their dreams and desires are nothing. To want is depraved. Empty yourself of emotion and embrace the death-god’s will. Where some who embrace this only ended up conflating their own will with God’s will — and thus being able to function in society, albeit in a deranged manner — I had no will at all. I emptied myself of desire, and nothing came flooding back to take its place.

friedrich-nietzsche-1It was Nietzsche who saved me and who is saving me. He opened my eyes to the dead god and its sepulchers. He challenged me to desire power and to create a new world which sees desire as a good thing. Unintentionally, he dispelled the old myths and reintroduced me to Jesus. And this Jesus subverted man’s attempts at playing favorites by declaring that humanity itself, not just this or that culture or tribe, had value.

I’m making a decision to change my life. To want. To want and to realize that it’s okay to want. I want to be an influential writer. I want to make the world a better place. I want to dispel unhealthy beliefs and replace them with ideas that promote human flourishing and virtue. I want to be an excellent husband. I want to be a good man. I want friends. I want a fulfilling career. I want to stop sedating myself with temporary pleasures and do something worthwhile. I want to be me at my best.

I want to move my blog to my own website. I want to start a MineCraft YouTube series about philosophy. I want to write for journals and news sites. I want to write a book. I want to write another book after that. I want to start an inter-belief foundation where the Christian, the atheist, the Muslim, the Jew, the Hindu, and whomever can come together over common values.

Even now, writing this, I feel the dead hands trying to clasp around ankles and pull me back down into deadness. My heart groans under the weight of my ambition. But I will be damned if I let a thing like the guilt of a dead god weigh me down! I desire strength! Wisdom! Power! I desire to do good and to see others rise up beside me!

I cast off the lies which chain me and begin my life anew.

Posted in Christian Culture Issues, Existentialism | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

In which I repeatedly smash my face on my desk concerning Hobby Lobby, SCOTUS & the RFRA

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Sigh.

I begrudgingly admit that I think the SCOTUS decision yesterday was correct. I say that with no small amount of irritation. SCOTUS properly interpreted the laws, particularly the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The problem here is that the provisions cited in the RFRA are broad beyond any reasonable measure. While the majority opinion would like to pretend that the decision does not apply broadly, the fact is that it very well does, and I echo the sentiments of Justice Ginsburg that the court has now “ventured into a minefield.”

Here is the gist of the complaint by Hobby Lobby, copied from the Supreme Court decision:

In these cases, the owners of three closely held for-profit corporations have sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point. [emphasis mine]

The absurdity of this argument is not readily apparent with the complaint stated as such, but allow me to rephrase the statement by generalizing the bolded segments:

In these cases, the owners of three closely held for-profit corporations have sincere religious beliefs and that it would violate their religion to facilitate activity contrary to those religious beliefs.

I hope this restatement is fair, but please correct me otherwise. The absurdity should be more apparent. A significant number of religious people have religious objections to a variety of medical treatments, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses’ objections to such things as blood transfusions. While I have never heard of a Jehovah’s Witness refusing to pay for medical coverage of blood transfusions, this is a proper use of substitution; it is a sincerely-held religious belief, and coverage of blood transfusions would violate their religion.

This was, thankfully, something that the justices considered rather explicitly, yet in considering it, they descend further into absurdity. The decision states the following:

This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.

They clarify later that the distinction here is that in cases where the government can provide a service which is less restrictive of personal religious beliefs, they must. In this case, the government can foot the bill for these procedures. Well, then, why can’t the government foot the bill for vaccinations? For blood transfusions? Surely that would be less restrictive. Justice Ginsburg notes this in her dissent:

Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)? According to counsel for Hobby Lobby, “each one of these cases … would have to be evaluated on its own … apply[ing] the compelling interest-least restrictive alternative test.” Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.

It is a clear inconsistency: upholding religious beliefs about the sanctity of life in one case, while failing to provide less restrictive means of upholding religious beliefs in others, is entirely arbitrary and a textbook case of special pleading. I would surmise that many of the mines in this proverbial minefield will explode in coming years, with the RFRA either becoming so universally applicable as to render the government powerless against religion or the RFRA either being dramatically revised or thrown out.

So there you have it: this liberal agrees with the court but calls it on its inconsistencies in not applying this elsewhere. Any failure to find a less restrictive method of preserving religious beliefs is simply a failure of creativity. The problem here is not the court but the law (seems the writers at Slate agree with me). We should overturn or revise the RFRA.

Posted in Ethics, Sexuality, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Short Commentary on Shootings and Gun Control

There have been way too many shootings this week, and naturally/necessarily, gun control comes up. I’m not big on guns. I don’t care for them, personally; however, in the light of all these shootings, we could make a knee-jerk reaction, and I would like to say “hold on” before we do something that won’t actually help as much as we would like.

The studies I’m finding (like this) suggest that while restricting guns decreases gun violence, it increases other forms of violence. Obviously, if you have fewer guns lying around, fewer people will be shooting other people or themselves, but you can’t just consider gun violence. You have to consider the whole picture. Of course, I would welcome studies indicating the contrary, as I have only just begun researching the topic.

The problem we are facing — and one which DEMANDS legislation — is how to keep guns away from people who are dangerous. That means sensible restrictions on gun purchase, ownership, and storage. That also means we need to fund an oversight program. The current programs we have in place clearly aren’t sufficient. That might mean we have to raise taxes slightly to fund a new approach, but if it improves the quality of life in our nation, we should do it.

So what I urge both gun owners and gun control advocates to do is to come together and realize that while banning weapons may be questionably effective, we can agree on one thing: we do not want guns in the hands of people who intend them for murder or similar violence. We need to stop partisan bickering and try to find an actual solution.

I know this post isn’t particularly philosophical/theological, but I felt obliged to weigh in. There is likely going to be a slew of rhetoric from both sides of the debate in coming days, and I wanted to do my part and try to present something of a balanced perspective.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

“Jesus wants the rose!” — Matt Chandler, Sex, & God the Internalized Abuser

 

A post on Reddit alerted me to a very subtly disturbing video featuring an excerpt from preacher Matt Chandler. It is over two years old, but the sentiments are worth criticizing, because they are still very common. Check it out below (explanation below the video if you don’t want to watch):

The basic premise is this: long ago, Matt Chandler sees a terrible preacher pass around a rose during a sermon on sex. After passing through the hands of everyone in the sanctuary, the rose finally makes its way back to the stage, thoroughly tattered at this point. Then the preacher makes the obligatory, shameful comparison of the rose to a person’s sexuality. Basically, if you’ve slept with a bunch of people, what you have to offer to your future mate is this ugly, broken sort of sexuality. Then the pastor says, “Who would want this rose?” This makes Matt Chandler very angry.

I find myself tracking with what Chandler is saying right up until his climactic shout of defiance, “JESUS WANTS THE ROSE!”

roseWith this being the apex of emotion in the video, you’re supposed to cheer as Chandler has now vanquished the foe. The rest of the Chandler’s short speech is denouement, resolving the tension and explaining how Jesus wants even the most broken among us. Hurray for Jesus, who loves us in spite of ourselves.

I will grant that Chandler’s take on the rose metaphor is several ticks better than that of the original pastor, but it is still pretty horrible, albeit in a much more subtle way. When Chandler says that “Jesus wants the rose,” he is accepting the rose metaphor as valid. If you’ve slept with a bunch of people, Chandler implicitly states that you’re very much like that rose, but Jesus still loves you.

What we need to do instead is to reject the rose metaphor altogether.

People who have sex outside of marriage are not intrinsically broken, and they do not need love in spite of themselves. They are not the rose, beaten and torn apart. They’re still human. They have value. People who have had sex before marriage can almost always start having sex healthy again in a new relationship right off the bat. All cases I have encountered where people feel ashamed of their prior sexuality (and I do mean all cases) have been cases involving religious (or at least previously-religious) people who were taught this very narrative which Chandler accepts. They think of themselves as damaged goods, ugly, good-for-nothing, etc. Jesus may love them, but what about other people? They are terrified that someone might not love them as much because of their past.

This is especially (but not exclusively) the case for women. As you may have seen from the creepy photos of Christian purity balls, many Christians focus very specifically on protecting girls’ chastity. This makes those girls who deviate from the chastity plan feel extra-bad, because they gave away what they felt others were trying to protect. Not only did they let themselves down, they also let down their families, especially their fathers and their future mate.

We need to fight this narrative in its entirety, not just put a Jesus-flavored twist on the same old formula. Chandler does not go far enough. If someone decides to be promiscuous, it might not necessarily be a wise decision, but that person is not “damaged goods” or in any way of lesser value.

God in this context is an internalized abuser.

The narrative which Chandler embraces here is one that says “You’re worthless, but God loves you anyway.” If you tell this to people long enough and often enough, they start to internalize this narrative, tearing down their sense of self-worth. “God” is judgmental of everything you do and are, and He (definitely “He” in this context) wants to fill you with all the right desires, behaviors, and beliefs.

This is exactly the sort of behavior exemplified by an abusive partner, only the abuser exists inside the head of the abused. “You’ll never amount to anything on your own — good thing you have me,” said the abuser-God. “Everything you do amounts to nothing, but I still love you.” I imagine Chandler would object — but only to say that this isn’t actually abusive, that we are actually totally depraved and incapable of anything good of our own accord, yet God still loves us. Don’t just take my word for it, though; see for yourself and read the Village Church statement on total depravity: “We are all stillborns, utterly devoid of spiritual good.”

Theological arguments be damned; Chandler ascribes abusive behaviors to God. One might object that the abuser in normal circumstances is not God, and thus God receives a pass because He is perfect, but that misses the point of why abuse is wrong. The problem is not that abusers are imperfect and therefore unable or unworthy to supplant the will of the abused individual; the problem is in telling the abused person he/she is worthless. It is in the violation of autonomy and the collapse of meaningful distinctions between persons, where the will of one becomes the will of the other by manipulation or force. It is an abolition of the identity of the abused person.

We must combat these lies with truth.

Instead of trying to inflict wisdom through scare tactics, we should help people make informed decisions about how to handle their sexuality. The main negative consequences of promiscuity would be threefold: STIs, premature pregnancy, and disordered desires. We can battle the first two issues with condoms and birth control pills. The last, though, is more complex.

If monogamous fidelity is someone’s ultimate goal in life, then a disordered desire is one which interferes with that goal. If bearing/raising children is one of their goals, then a disordered desire is one which hurts the well-being of the children. While there are many considerations that might cause us to reevaluate traditional sexual values and norms, it is still the case that when one develops habits, they don’t just turn off with a switch or a wedding ceremony. If you are used to having sex with multiple partners, it will be hard to rein in your desires when your partner asks for faithfulness. If you are used to open, lewd behavior around the home or in public, it will be hard not to sexualize your children before it is appropriate.

Thus, we need to train people to make responsible decisions for themselves regarding their sexuality. This is not the goal of shame-based models which tell people to conform to a certain standard or else they’re like the rose in the pastor’s metaphor. Everyone must decide for themselves what healthy sex is in their context, and while we may expect patterns to develop, it is not for me or anyone else to call someone damaged because they have strayed from some some kind of norm.

We must reject the battered rose model that Chandler still tacitly accepts, and we must emphasize the intrinsic value of the individual, teaching people to be responsible human beings. Right now, we are failing generation after generation, training them to feel worthless and shaming them even as we try to encourage them to do the right thing. This has to stop.

Rose image used under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. Credit to Flickr user aling_.
Posted in Christian Culture Issues, Ethics, Sexuality | 13 Comments

The Word of Zorb the All-Knowing

zorbJust a few weeks ago, I ran everyone through a thought experiment involving rhinos and unicorns in order to demonstrate that religious belief has the tendency to do weird things to our reasoning capacity. The most common objection I encountered (and anticipated) was that the Bible is God’s Word and therefore is higher than human understanding. Subjecting Scripture to human reasoning wouldn’t make any sense by this view. We should simply accept the Bible on faith and not try to grapple with its claims.

This is a very misguided and potentially dangerous view for a number of reasons. I would contend in response that if the Bible were truly the infallible Word of God, then all of its falsifiable claims would hold up under scrutiny. Thus, we need not accept the Bible as infallible on faith for no reason other than God supposedly having written it, but rather because of every reason — every piece of evidence would then match with what the Bible teaches.

Could you listen to an album with a cover like this?

Could you listen to an album with a cover like this?

But allow me to defend my first thought experiment about rhinos and unicorns using yet another thought experiment about Zorb the All-Knowing. Zorb is totally not a ripoff of Ziltoid the Omniscient, a Devin Townsend album which I have always meant to listen to but never did because I couldn’t get past the cover art.

Zorb is a supreme entity who is omniscient/omnipotent/omnibenevolent. He created the universe and everything in it. Although few people know of his teachings, he inspired me to write his teachings in his book, the Zorbonomicon. Among its various teachings are that the earth is flat, animals were all created by Zorb during the first and only time Zorb has ever sneezed, and that everything Zorb has said in his Scriptures is true.

Zorb expects you to believe all of these things. If you do not, you will be banished forever to the Forbidden Zone. Now granted, it looks like there is a lot of evidence which contradicts what Zorb says, but unfortunately, you’re just going to have to accept what Zorb says on faith. After all, Zorb’s ways are not our ways, and and Zorb’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Who are we to question him?

All of this should feel pretty familiar, and it should be fairly obvious where I’m going with this. If all this feels a bit sacrilegious, I apologize; I don’t mean to equate Zorbionism with Christianity. Rather, what some people ask us to do with Christianity is exactly like Zorbionism. Consider with me one of the comments on my aforementioned post, Rhinos, Unicorns, Evolution, Gay Marriage, and Scripture. This comment tended to be fairly representative of almost all the criticism I received:

It is based on FAITH that there is a God and that he gave us a life manual in the Bible to relate what He was able to tell Adam and Eve when they were not yet sinners and the Glory of God was able to walk and talk with them in a personal relationship. 

That is where you are getting all messed up. You are trying to make reason out of something logically on what your finite mind can come to grips with.

Based strictly on what this person calls “faith” we have no way to choose between either believing what is said in the Zorbonomicon or in the Bible. What allows us to pick one over the other is our use of reason. And to do this, we examine the claims of each and weigh them against reality. Zorb says the world is flat? Well, I’m sure that’s not true, because now we have 24/7 streaming footage of the earth as viewed from the International Space Station, and I can see that the earth is round. The Zorbonomicon is clearly not infallible.

But what about the Bible? The Exodus, for example, didn’t happen, or so the evidence strongly suggests. But, of course, one might correctly argue that the historicity of the Exodus is not the point. It’s a mythic history/origin story, so it’s not supposed to be about that, anyhow. Let’s take another example: female rape victims have to marry their rapists according to Deuteronomy. Of course, the Bible characterizes this as a “punishment” for the rapist, but of course this is ridiculous and wrong, no matter what time period.

Why do we call this wrong? Well, we check the moral claim against reality. We ask the rape victim how she feels about her rapist and whether it would be suitable to marry him, and we realize that the answer is a resounding “no.” As it turns out, making a woman’s “purity” such a highly-prized object causes you to make really terrible moral judgments.

So let’s take the most contentious claim about my prior post and consider what the Bible says about gays. Granted, it’s actually not much — most of the words we incorrectly translate as “homosexual” in the English Bible are referring to specific cultural practices. Even so, there are a few places it describes same-sex sexual behavior, such as in Romans 1. And in those cases, just as we would with any claim made by Zorb, we check the Bible’s claims against reality.

When the Bible says that “Because [these people exchanged the truth of God for a lie], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another,” we can see if that’s really the cause of why people became gay. So we ask gay people about their lives, we probe into their histories, and we do all sorts of investigation. As it turns out, lots of these gay people were very devout! They spent their whole growing up years fighting against their natural inclinations toward same-sex attraction. And, lo and behold, it never went away.

Did these people “exchange the truth of God for a lie”? No! So why do we continue to maintain that the Bible is telling the truth about gay people in Romans 1? Are we to ignore the evidence and just pretend that these gay people committed some secret sin that they just won’t tell us? Pretend the Romans 1 passage I quoted was in the Zorbonomicon instead of the Bible: would the evidence against Zorb be sufficiently convincing for you to reject it? I would say so. Why do you give special preference to the Bible but not the Zorbonomicon? It makes no sense.

The point is that you don’t just accept the Bible on “faith.” That’s absurd. I could go on a rant about how that’s not even how the Bible uses the word “faith,” but let’s stick to the point here: all other things being equal, if you wouldn’t believe something if Zorb ostensibly said it, then you have no more reason to believe if God ostensibly said it, either. “Oh, but God is different!” you say. Fine! Show me the evidence that God is different, and I will believe you. It’s really not that hard.

The sort of “faith” used here is totally useless. If faith means to believe something despite absent or contrary evidence, then I am faithless. I don’t have the slightest need for such a thing, and you would do well to discard it, yourself. We should rid ourselves of childish thinking and become adults who temper their ideas with reasonableness and a critical mind. We do not need to be overly skeptical and distrusting, but we should ground our judgments in the application of reason to evidence, not on the arbitrary assignment of some beliefs to a category where we simply have to accept them on faith.

So for your own sake, I would ask you to run the following thought experiment: would you still hold your beliefs if they were actually the Word of Zorb the All-Knowing? This doesn’t have to be about gay marriage. This could be anything. If you couldn’t believe it if Zorb said it, then why is it okay because you think God did?

I will reiterate what I said at the beginning: if the Bible were truly the infallible Word of God, then all of its falsifiable claims would hold up under scrutiny. We don’t have to accept the Bible wholesale without scrutiny. That would be foolish. Check your beliefs against reality, and don’t pretend they’re immune because they belong in the “faith” box. Do this, and I promise you, you will grow.

Posted in Epistemology, Theology | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

Thank you for not burning me at the stake

burn-at-stakeTo everyone who disagrees with me, sometimes strongly, thank you for not burning me at the stake. No, this isn’t sarcasm.

Granted, I think there are a lot of problems with religious dialog today. Shame and guilt still remain major components of belief and practice in certain circles. That said, I am very grateful that I am still alive and relatively uninjured in spite of my vast disagreements with popular religious beliefs.

Though I have received hatemail and undergone severe stress from primarily verbal spiritual abuse, no one has threatened to kill me. Such threats are still possible today, but I would have serious doubts as to whether the threat was real or if it was merely posturing. The fact is that religious violence as a cultural norm is largely a thing of the past in many countries including my own.

So despite all my disagreements with fundamentalism and generally more conservative theology, I have to say this: thanks for not murdering my entire family. Thanks for not burning me at the stake or hanging me for what you consider to be heresy. Really, I’m so glad I live now instead of 300 years ago. I kind of wish I could live 200 years in the future, but oh well.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do, so let me just make a point here: if we can agree that we have actually made ethical progress over the centuries in that we no longer kill each other when we disagree, then let us agree that there is work to do still. As I pointed out a short time ago, many of us who have taken a more liberal/conservative path still hurt because of how people treat us. We can disagree, but let’s stop hurting each other in our disagreements.

The point is that I am really glad we’ve come this far that we no longer consider it proper conduct to throw religious or political opponents out of windows. Still, let’s not stop here. Don’t manipulate or bully people into agreement. Don’t call people heretics just to damage their credibility. Allow open discussion of ideas, but be sensitive to others as you do (“are gays like pedophiles” is similarly offensive to “are conservatives like Nazis,” and neither should qualify for polite discussion). Don’t tell people how they ought to believe, but demonstrate the validity of your beliefs by how you treat others and through sound reasoning. Accept and wrestle with critique. Generally, let’s just strive to be better human beings.

Most of the things we can do involve allowing each person to make his or her own decisions, especially about beliefs and lifestyles. When we stopped thinking it acceptable to kill or otherwise physically maim people because of disagreements, it was because we started respecting individual autonomy. Having rid ourselves of the obvious grievances like physical brutality and violence, let us now start to seek to rid ourselves of verbal and emotional brutality.

We have come a long way, and if we can see past our disagreements, then we can move even further. Let’s teach our kids an even higher form of respect than we were taught as we grew up: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will ever hurt me.” Let’s discourage disparaging each other when we disagree and teach people to focus on the specific actions which hurt. This is the difference between “people from this group are all ignorant” and, “when people say this or that, they are ignorant of how hurtful that is.” And when someone does something good, let’s give credit where credit is due.

So again, thanks for not burning me at the stake or anything like that. Let’s keep going and do even better.

Posted in Ethics | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

A Brief Logic of Love

logicheart“Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

Jesus asks this of Peter and gives him this command three times. Notice the absence of the word “then” in Jesus’ reply: “Feed my sheep.” This is phenomenally different from saying “if you love my, then feed my sheep.” I would argue that this is what we call a biconditional statement. That is  b. Let a be loving Jesus, and let be feeding his sheep (i.e. loving other people).

If you love Jesus, then you love other people. If you love other people, then you love Jesus.

There are several reasons I say this. First of all, the absence of an “if-then” statement in Jesus’ question and command implies some sort of equivalence rather than an implication. Second, when asked for the greatest commandment, Jesus answered with two commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor. Third, Jesus routinely praises the faith of those who do not believe in the Jewish God, such as the Good Samaritan and the Roman Centurion, among others.

All of this makes sense of the inclusivist position that people of all beliefs may go to heaven. That is, it seems very bizarre for God to hold people accountable for whether or not they assent to a specific set of cultural practices and beliefs known as Christianity. When you ask yourself, “What is the highest good?” does “having all the right beliefs” come to mind, or does “loving God and others” take precedence?

It is not as though inclusivists believe that Jesus lied when he said he was the only way to Heaven; rather, it is our belief in a cosmic Christ, who transcends all belief systems and is that through which all goodness takes shape, which tells us that we are loving Christ when we love other people.

It is this logic of love which lets the inclusivist set aside his or her differences with the Hindu, Muslim, or atheist in pursuit of goodness and truth. It allows us to treat them as people instead of as evangelism projects. We don’t get teary-eyed thinking about our non-Christian friends or relatives on their death beds; rather, we know that if God exists that he/she/it is a fair God who will treat all people justly. We encourage our friends to pursue the truth, and we support them in their decisions even if they deviate from our beliefs, even against others of our own faith who might try to shun or exclude.

All this is because we realize that to love others is to love Jesus. This is the “gospel,” the truly good news. Anything else is impotent by comparison.

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments