(Today is March 8 and the Miltary Religious Freedom Foundation has called upon people to protest the United StatesAirForceAcademy’s action of using a malicious homophobic amateur website as a source for information on Jewish holidays. They had no problem in using a neutral website like about.com to use as a link for Christian holidays. It is a shame that the US Air Force Academy must continue in its religious intolerance and that its leadership still thinks that no one is noticing. General Welsh, homosexuals are allowed in the military now. Time you and your staff got over it.)
Since Mr. Rogers has apparently been unable to continue to educate me on how “wrong” I supposedly am or to rebut my demonstration of his errors, I thought I’d take one last look at his blog to see if I could mine it for a blog post. Getting my attention, telling me I’m wrong and then evidently running away when shown wrong just whets this leopard’s appetite for more.
I found a doozy “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” It’s a good lead into talking about heaven and hell and free will in this season where myths about people being nailed to crosses as blood sacrifices and first born being murdered by imaginary deities are so popular.
As a bit of an aside, I don’t believe in complete free will. I think we are beings limited to the physical and chemical laws of this universe, including the chemicals that we’ve been exposed to that form emotions in our brains. However, within that, I think we can make mostly free choices if we are educated enough about how emotions, trauma, heredity and upbringing mark our brains and thought processes. We still can’t decide to fly without mechanical help though, sigh. The title of this blog entry is a paraphrase of a very good sociology textbook I had way back when.
A lot of Christians and theists in general, have a problem with their god damning anyone who doesn’t believe in it. I’m glad they do since it shows that they are decent and humane people despite their religion. This is also the question a lot of kids ask when they realize that people aren’t all just like them. They have friends who don’t believe like they do and they care about them.
This issue gets even more problematic since belief is entirely dependent on where you were born and when. For example, someone born in Alabama, USA isn’t likely to have a Zoroastrian family or be taught Shinto philosophy. To deal with the problem of divine punishment, we have different claims by different sects. Some sects of Christianity go for universalism, where everyone eventually gets to heaven, even if they have a short stay in hell to correct them. We have the Roman Catholics who say “well, other religions have at least part of the truth” so maybe they won’t go to hell, but they certainly won’t get *our* afterlife presents.” Some think that God knows better than humans, and is only concerned if you are a decent, humane person and worship doesn’t matter. Some think that there is no hell, but non-believers are simply annihilated. As you can see, so much for one supposed “truth”.
In the blog post, Mr. Rogers talks about a book called “Letters from a Skeptic” where a Christian theologian exchanges letter with his father who is a skeptic and who asks the question above (supposedly the father converts). What’s amusing is that Greg Boyd doesn’t agree with much of what Mr. Rogers claims as the truth. It’s always a problem with Christians, they find something they like and then have to realize that the book they find really great is by someone who they are sure is going to hell. Again, I would guess that Mr. Rogers would decide that he agrees a little with Mr. Boyd, just like he thinks Mother Teresa was good too, though by his own sects words, she’s going to hell. She’s probably there anyway, considering that one, she was a hypocrite (link to the paper mentioned, in French only at the moment) and two, she admitted to not feeling any god at all. I do wonder how they can find the parts that are true and ignore the parts that aren’t. That ol’ magic decoder ring again, I know. It’s used on the bible so why not use it on heretic writings if you find it convenient?
Mr. Rogers, to his credit, acknowledges the problems that most Christians have with the idea of being damned for a very silly reason. He also mentions the usual problem with missionary work, that if you believe that people who haven’t heard of God will go to heaven since they never had a chance to reject God, then the worst thing you can ever do is tell them about God since now they can reject the idea. However, Mr. Rogers is sure that they’re damned anyway.
The bible does have an answer for this, at least for some Christians. Romans 2 says if you don’t know the law, you aren’t judged under it. You simply are beholden to whatever this god can communicate to you through your “heart”. By this assumption, the problem of being born in the wrong place and wrong time is averted. It becomes a problem of this god being able to make itself understood and the individual accepting what should be an obvious truth if this god is indeed omni-everything.
But Mr. Rogers ignores this bit and uses this from Romans: Romans 10: 14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!” It’s no surprise a pastor (and Paul) would love these verses since they amount to a lot of employment security. You can’t just worship God and follow your heart, no, you must have a preacher tell you what to think and what this god “really” meant.
If we want to support Mr. Roger’s stance, we can go to 2 Thessalonians 1, where Paul is happily fantasizing of those who don’t agree with him being “eternally destroyed”. There is no exception for Paul here when it comes to not knowing about this god. “This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, 8 taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
Mr. Rogers says that one can figure out what his god “really” meant about the fate of those who don’t know his god from reading Acts 17. Very predestination oriented, this would make a Presbyterian proud!
Mr. Rogers cites these verses “Acts 17:26 From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
So, from this, it says that God put us where he wants us when he wants us and that we might only “perhaps” have a chance of finding out about this god. We can go back to Romans and have one more good bit about free will and how this god hasn’t built it into his supposed plan at all. Mr. Rogers claims that his god knows our hearts and knows who will accept him “God knows our hearts. God knows who is going to seek Him.” Yep, that’s pretty much per the bible. Let’s refer to Romans again, where it says that “18 So then, He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden.19 You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?” 20 But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” 21 Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? 22 And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction?”
Darn, again free will claimed by Christians takes a hit.
In this chapter of Acts, Paul is in Athens and finds that the Greeks have a plinth that has “to an unknown god”. Now, the history behind this is that they were covering their bases, just in case their pantheon wasn’t complete. They didn’t want to offend any god that might get miffed and send an earthquake or some such disaster (unsurprisingly, a petty quality shared by the Judeo-Christian god).
Paul, of course, thinks this simply *has* to be an altar to his god. Paul claims that this god of his doesn’t live in shrines and doesn’t need sacrifice. Now, those who have read the bible know that Paul is obviously not talking about the god of the bible then, since this god does indeed live in shrines and does indeed need sacrifices. The OT is just pesky in its existence for poor Paul with its claims of shrines (the ark, the innermost realm of the temple) and sacrifices demanded. We have the same in the NT with the continued sacrifice and the curtain in the temple ripping, that inner sactum. If God didn’t need these things, then he wouldn’t have gotten so upset when he didn’t get them (of course he simply could be a brat.) Paul is also sure that the ancient world that he knows is the only group of people to exist and that his god now isn’t going to take ignorance for an excuse anymore. He can’t know and therefore makes a pronouncement based in ignorance; a pronouncement that can’t be true just from considering reality and how if this god did all of this, it failed tremendously.
That’s what gets all theists into trouble, both Paul and Mr. Rogers, assuming that what they believe is the truth, unchangeable thereafter. For example, Paul is sure that God/JC will be back soon. So’s Mr. Rogers. It’s just that they are over two millennia apart.
Mr. Rogers poses this question “Could it be that God put people who are less likely to seek Him in strongly evangelical areas, and He put people who are more likely to seek Him in non-Christian areas?” He goes on to claim that the most church filled areas have more people who disagree with his version of Christianity (those “unchurched” people aka those who Mr. Rogers are sure are not TrueChristianstm like him) and those areas with few churches have more than he can preach to and convert. Why, yes, Mr. Rogers, that probably is indeed the case since those places you go to are dirt poor, ill-educated and will accept anything anyone tells them if it means a better life in the here and now. This situation also speaks to the idea that people who know you know how you’ve failed in your claims and if they already have churches of their own, there is no reason to change. In the bible, it has JC being unable to impress his hometown and being unable to perform miracles. Now, why would that be? Surely a god can do a miracle anywhere he wants to? But if a miracle worker is a fraud, his hometown is the worst place he can go, where everyone knows him and it is convenient that he decides he can’t perform since there is too much disbelief. (Matthew 16, Mark 6 and Luke 4. John doesn’t mention this at all, perhaps since John is the one whose case for JC being god is the strongest.)
In support of this, Rogers cite a claim of how a whole village of Muslims converted with no missionaries around. It was a miracle. And with no evidence like all miracles, it’s just as much a story as any a theist tells. His source is the International Mission Board, a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Gee, a organ of the SBC saying that missions are working and that more and more people are “open” to their nonsense all without any actual data at all. How entirely not surprising, since if they didn’t say this, they wouldn’t be able to fleece the flock for more money for more missions. They must interpret the bible so it encourages missions rather than discouraging them and they must assume everyone knows about their version of their god and has no excuse. All Mr. Roger’s stories are just that, stories ginned up like something from Weekly World News, all happening with no observers, no locations given, and of course no names.
Rogers also uses that wonderful old chestnut, Romans 1:20 where the Christian insist that one just has to look around at the universe to know that the Christian god did it. As usual, that never works out, since each religion claims the same thing. Australian aborigines say it, Amazon tribesmen say it, etc. There is no evidence of anyone knowing this god of the Christians from their “hearts” or acknowledging that it did anything or that anyone can reach out to it. No, the other cultures have created their own gods to claim for that, all different.
All of this shows that no matter if Rogers and his church want to go on missions, it makes no difference. Without consideration of justice or fairness, God has already decided; it makes no difference if they are presented the Southern Baptist Convention version of Christianity or Roman Catholicism, etc or not. The die has been cast, if one is to believe the bible, and all missionary work ends up being is a very human endeavor by those who want external validation by making *their* flock bigger.
Well, that’s enough about Mr. Rogers. As the saying goes, there are plenty more ichthys in the sea. 🙂
Postscript – Hello Christians who have follow my blog or who have liked posts on it. There are far more of you than I ever thought possible, from youth pastors, to regular pastors, to lay Christians who simply have blogs to spread Christianity. Be sure to click on the photos under “likes” to meet your fellows.
Care to comment on anything you see here? I have no problem in letting your comments through and addressing them.