Hearty Heresy

Being a Loving Father
August 28, 2007, 9:48 am
Filed under: Christianity, Faith, God, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

Mrs. Heretic and I have pretty much decided that Hearty, Jr. is going to be an only child, which if fine with us (and I hope with him). There are a lot of factors involved in this decision, but given the settings on our biological clocks (tick tick tick), it’s more or less inevitable. This means that I have the luxury of having to consider only one child when it comes to carrying out my fatherly duties. And when I think of all those fatherly duties (changing diapers, making sure the house is childproofed, getting the tires on the Subaru rotated) one stands out as Job One: giving my son enough love to last a lifetime.

Pretty simple. My primary job as a father is to make sure that my son will always know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I do and always will love him–unconditionally. Of course I’m not sure how this will play out, exactly. There are no guarantees that either Hearty, Jr. or I will be around in twenty years, or ten, or five, or even tomorrow. That’s why I take this job so seriously: I have no idea how much time I have available to me to do this job right. Which means that the here and now is always the best time and place to show that love.

Anyway, this has got me thinking about the part in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says,

If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

I’m thinking that if I, an admittedly imperfect human being, can imagine wanting to be an unconditionally loving father to my son, then it’s not hard to see the God Jesus is talking about in a similar light: a God who has made loving his children his number one priority. (The pronoun “he” is from Jesus, of course. I could just as easily be talking about God as a loving mother or a loving parent.) What’s more, it doesn’t take much to expand this notion of unconditional love beyond a single lifetime, which makes God’s number one priority this: to give each and every one of us enough love to last forever.

And that, I believe, is the heart of what Jesus taught. God is such a loving God that he will never, ever give up on us, no matter what. And it has nothing to do with our nature and everything to do with God’s nature. This, I believe, is how Jesus experienced God (“You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life”). And Jesus knew this, too: it is ultimately impossible to reject or hoard such love. All we can do is accept it–and give it away. Which makes it easy for me to fulfill my fatherly duties. If I ever need a reminder of God’s love, all I have to do is look into my son’s eyes.


Love is All I Know About God
August 23, 2007, 11:47 am
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology

Emphasis on love. One of the first posts I wrote for this blog included this response from Stephen Mitchell to the question “What is the Gospel According to Jesus?”: “Simply this: that the love we all long for in our innermost heart is already present, beyond longing.” I mention this now because for some time I’ve been meaning to write a post about my experience of God, and I have to say that all I have ever known about God has always been love.

Emphasis on know. You see, the God that I know, the God that Mitchell’s quote points to, is the only God that I have ever experienced in my life. Sure, I’ve been told lots of things about God, from people who think that God can be found in the “common storyline, common theme, and common message” of the Christian Scriptures. That God is what I like to call the “Bad Dad” God, the God who acts like a petty tyrant lording over his household, whose every action (no matter how indefensible) is an expression of his perfect will and must not be questioned, and who enforces submission to that will through violence. Oh, and he loves you, too. How do you know? Because “the Bible tells you so,” so you’ll just have to believe that it’s true.

In all honesty, I’ve never experienced that God. I’ve experienced petty tyrants who could easily be human models for such a being, but I’ve never truly had a sense that the real God–the God I know in my innermost heart–is anything like this Bad Dad. No, the God of my innermost heart is a loving God, pure and simple. And my belief in that God doesn’t come from “66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents,” but my from own personal experience, as confirmed by what I believe to be the true teachings of Jesus, summarized repeatedly by Jesus himself: “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

So when I read the Christian Scriptures, I can’t help but understand them based on what has been my experience of the holy and the divine. And when I look at the teachings of Jesus, it’s pretty clear to me that he, too, experienced the holy and divine in a similar way. That experience is what informs the most beautiful and compassionate parts of his teachings. All the other stuff attributed to Jesus just sounds too much like the same old Bad Dad story to be the authentic teachings of a truly enlightened being.

Does this sound naive? “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in.” Jesus said that, too.

High Holy Day for Comfortists
August 16, 2007, 6:35 pm
Filed under: Elvis, God, Heresy, Religion

I figure that if Comfortism has a high holy day, this is it: the day the King went to meet the King. I’m talking about the anniversary of the death of Elvis, the human being who was closest to God (due to his diet of peanut butter and banana sandwiches). So plan on celebrating with a Comfortist communion of a couple of PB&B sandwiches washed down with a PB&B smoothie. And don’t forget to keep our “Ray of Light” and our “Prophet of Comfort” in your thoughts and prayers. Without the zany teachings of Ray Comfort, we’d have no religion, my brothers and sisters. Just giving credit where credit is due.

First Prophet of Comfortism

Pick Up Lines for Heretics
August 15, 2007, 1:35 am
Filed under: Christianity, Heresy, Religion, Theology

Even though yours truly is happily married to Mrs. Heretic, I still have empathy for all you heretical guys out there trying to pick up women in the overwhelmingly Brand Xian nation of the United States of America. That’s why I’ve searched my heart and the scriptures for some pick up lines that are guaranteed to at least get you a second look…or is that a double take? At any rate, here they are: The top ten pick up lines for heretics!

10. I may have my doubts about the divinity of Christ, but there’s no doubt about you! (Arian)

9. Would you relax your Christian zeal for me if you knew I was going to die soon? Well, I’m being martyred tomorrow! (Montanist)

8. Since free will doesn’t exist, why don’t we just go ahead and get down with our own bad selves? (Predestinarianist)

7. Hey, did you know there’s no such thing as Original Sin? I guess that means we’ll have to be very creative! (Pelagianist)

6. Are you going to dance with me or should I go home and pull myself up by my bootstraps? (Semi-Pelagianist)

5. Have you ever seen the Godhead manifest itself in the back of my Hyundai Elantra? Would you like to? (Modalist)

4. Let’s get syzygy with it! (Gnostic)

3. Baby, you’ve got it going both ways—dynamic and modalistic! (Monarchianist)

2. Dang, if human souls are imprisoned in material bodies as punishment for their sins, then you must have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, girl, because those are some bodacious tatas you got there! (Priscillianist)

And the number one pick up line for heretics? Why don’t you tell me?

The One Question Christians Should Ask Themselves
August 8, 2007, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology

I started to look around the web after my last post, looking for some back up to my claim that everything Brand Xians believe about God, Jesus, and the whole shooting match depends solely on the Bible. Once they’ve accepted the Bible as the inerrant Word of God (or at least the Inspired Word of God), then they pretty much have to believe whatever the Bible says. At any rate, I found an article at Christian Ministries International that pretty much supports what I’m saying–only from a Brand Xian perspective. Here’s the question: “What is so special, so unique about the Bible that Christians believe it is literally the inspired word of God?”

Now you may remember that my previous post was about the really, really simple arguments that even the most intellectual Christians sometimes use to support their version of the truth (specifically C. S. Lewis saying we must choose between believing Jesus was the Son of God or believing that he was a poached egg). I noted that this line of reasoning depends on believing that everything the Bible says about Jesus (and most anything else, for that matter) are indisputable facts. So if Brand Xians want folks to buy the bit (that Jesus was the Son of God) they need to buy the premise (that the Bible is the Inspired Word of God). So here’s what I think is a pretty darn silly reason for believing that:

[The Bible is] 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents. What’s more, this collection of books shares a common storyline–the creation, fall, and redemption of God’s people; a common theme–God’s universal love for all of humanity; and a common message–salvation is available to all who repent of their sins and commit to following God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. In addition to sharing these commonalities, these 66 books contain no historical errors or contradictions. God’s word truly is an amazing collection of writings!

Jason Carlson and Ron Carlson, the authors, then go on to challenge the reader to “to go to any library in the world…and find 66 books which match the characteristics of the 66 books in the Bible. You must choose 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, written on 3 different continents. However, they must share a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message, with no historical errors or contradictions.”

You got me on that one, guys! Gosh, I probably can’t do that, so…the BIBLE MUST BE THE WORD OF GOD!!!! Or, perhaps it’s not so clear cut. Ask a practicing Jew if they think the Christian Bible shares a common story line, theme, and message. They’d probably agree with Nietzsche and say that New Testament really didn’t improve on the Old Testament at all. And as far as there being no historical errors or contradictions in the Bible, well I just don’t know where to begin. Of the bat, I’d just note that the timeline in the Gospel of John is radically different from the timeline in the synoptic Gospels. And that there are TWO creation stories in Genesis. And two distinct genealogies for Jesus in Matthew and Luke.

But of course, Brand Xians will try to explain all of this away, which only proves that this 66 books, 40 authors, u.s.w. argument really isn’t as straightforward as the authors claim it is. Ultimately, accepting the Bible as true is nothing other than an act of faith, the exact same sort of act of faith Muslims make when they accept the Qur’an or Jews make when they accept the Torah. As I’ve said before, I’d be more inclined to believe a single scripture written by a single person (Mohammed or Joseph Smith, for example) as the inspired word of God before I’d accept the mish mash that is the Holy Bible. And I’m not going to do that any time soon.

Mere Heresy
August 5, 2007, 6:47 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Theology

Once upon a time, I used to think that C. S. Lewis was a pretty cool guy. As a reasonably intelligent, fairly literary sort of Christian, I enjoyed reading both his fiction (I loved the “Space Trilogy“) and his apologetics. I figured if an Oxford don bought this whole Christianity thing, it must be okay. But as Saint Paul once said, “When I was a child, I thought as a child….” Now that I’m a free-thinking heretic, I can see that what I appreciated about my beloved Lewis wasn’t the depth of his theological thinking, but the simplicity of his explanations. Take this quote from Mere Christianity, for example:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.

What?!? Jesus a poached egg? Absurd! It is absolutely true, though, isn’t it? If Jesus did say all of the things the Bible says he did, he was either on a mission from God, or he was utterly nuts. And since the majority of the influences on my thinking at that time were traceable to some form of Brand Xianity (parents, friends, church…even good old fashioned post-prayer public school), Lewis’ argument made perfect sense. But of course, in order to believe that Jesus said everything the Bible said he did, you first have to accept that everything in the Bible is true.

Ultimately, that’s what Brand Xianity boils down to–accepting the Bible as the Word of God, without hesitation or reservation. There’s no argument for any of the basic tenets of Christianity without appealing to the authority of scripture. And as I think I’ve said before, there’s really nothing so absolutely extraordinary in the Bible itself that makes me believe that it is anything other than what it appears to be: a collection of writings by a bunch of different people from a relatively wide swath of recorded history (which is a minuscule amount of cosmic history). And the same argument Lewis makes about Jesus can be made about the Bible as a whole. As a book cobbled together from an assortment of various writings by a lot of different people over a long period of time, it makes total sense that it would be full of contradictions (even the contradictions that make the teachings of Jesus sound the ramblings of a religious crackpot). As the inerrant Word of God, it is, frankly, a mess. (I mean both Mormons and Muslims have scripture that was given solely to their founders. If I were God, that’s definitely the way I’d go–it dramatically lowers the chance of something getting garbled).

So as C. S. Lewis says, you must make a choice: read the Bible critically, using your God-given reason, or accept it without question. Choose one, and you may be able to discern the teachings of a religious genius (the diamonds in the dunghill as Thomas Jefferson called them); choose another, and you’re saddled with a tangle of contradictions that make sense only if you believe that the infinite complexity of creation can be reduced to God’s simple plan of salvation, something like this version seen on a homemade roadside sign: “Life is short, death is sure, sin is the cause, and Christ is the cure.” D’oh! How could I be so stupid as to assume that the universe had any other possible purpose!

And I Thought “In God We Trust” Was Bad
August 3, 2007, 2:14 am
Filed under: Christianity, God, Jesus, Religion

I just saw this at Threat Level. Apparently, Oklahoma’s offering a Global War on Terrorism plate. Unlike the Indiana plate I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, this one doesn’t have a specifically religious message. But it got me thinking about the whole GWOT thing, and I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that Jesus was a just another innocent casualty of the original Global War on Terror–the one fought by the Roman Empire. At any rate, here’s what the OK plate looks like:
Oklahoma GWOT Plate
But you really won’t put the fear of God into those infidels until you slap one of these on the rear window of your 2007 Toyota Tundra CrewMax pickup. (You can find one for your state at Cafepress.com.) Oklahoma Terrorist Hunting Permit
Judging from what Ann Coulter once said, you’d think Jesus would be okay with all this. After all, he wasn’t “Christ the Moron Driving Around in a Volvo With a ‘Be Nice to People’ Bumper Sticker on It.”