Written 4th October 1993 - as soon as I came home after this incident I wrote this down as catharsis....
I had a very disappointing and moreover disturbing conversation last weekend with an old acquaintance from my Christian days. This person is very religious and was quizzing me about my attitudes on relationships and then on religion. She said that she did not believe in living together or sex before marriage saying that marriage is about trust and working problems out. If you haven’t got enough trust to postpone the experience of living together until marriage then you are not putting enough faith in marriage to overcome the difficulties that living together might bring. She also said that to live with someone or to have sex before marriage was to "lead them on." Her rationale for this was because you might not marry someone after having sex and such involvement would cause unnecessary hurt.
I disagreed and pursued the grounds for her believing this.
The reason then came out that she believed these things were prescribed by the bible. She also said that she believed in heaven and hell and didn’t think that hell was a fiery furnace but did think it was a place in which there was no good - like she gets a feeling of when she’s depressed.
I said that I did not find this to be a good belief to which she replied that God is so perfect that we will see how it is totally right that some go to hell because we are so full of wickedness and cannot be in heaven without the intervention of Christ.
What is my reaction to her saying this kind of thing? Firstly, before I met up with her last weekend I had the feeling that she might try to probe my beliefs and then attempt to evangelise. My concern was that I would have to be careful what I said back. I felt I could only say the most general things without either miscommunicating (because our viewing points are so different) or upsetting and disturbing her. If I did manage to communicate to her what I was confronted with when I stopped being a Christian, I have no safe way of knowing how to handle her reaction which might have been very emotional (judging by the experience I had with someone else). So I felt for the most part I had to hold my tongue. I then had to listen to her telling me what she probably thought were deep things but which I found very offensive, sloppily thought out, ignorant and even puerile beliefs about "how wicked we all are and deserve hell because God is so perfect but Jesus is the way to God and this belief in the long run, despite the ‘clear evidence’ that the universe requires a creator, is a gift from God anyway and not something we get for ourselves."
That is what she said while I sat there thinking (a) if she thought I had never come across these ideas and would be impressed by them (b) how this belief system gets hold of people in terms of its psychological force of ideas and the years of practising it (c) is she talking about herself rather than trying to influence me (because I found (a) so incredible), or (d) how can she possibly think these things are good?
There is so much I could have said to all this and partly I wish I had at least mentioned some sources of information to broaden her mind about these issues, so unkind and offensive did her thoughts seem to me. However, I kept silent for concern of causing upheaval in a psychology I did not feel competent in handling if I did then disturb her.
It is a horrible ignorance, addictive psychology and incestuous religious socialising and culture that I have found leads to such thinking. Like the voraciously, but not widely, read Principal of a theological college whom I had a discussion with who said "I cannot read Nietzche, Feuerbach, Russell etc. because I have to remember my position as a former minister and now principal of a theological college" all narrow minded people - and especially the brainwashed who repeat the old tired formulas - just have not been exposed to a decent taste of what has been thought and discovered in the last 300 years.
Even when I was a Christian I did not like these dark beliefs about "holy damnation" which are so unloving and unnecessary. I wish religious people before deciding they have a mission to be a light to the world would have the decency to actually find out what the experiences and discoveries are in those they seek to convert. Ignorant people are not qualified to tell us what is true, good and the deepest thing.
I do not think I will ever believe that the butchering guards at Dachau, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Auschwitz and the like were actually perfect and that what they did to Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals is justice which I will someday have revealed to me as right. Neither do I think that I will ever believe that a God who lets this happen (and natural disasters) is perfect and I will realise when I meet him that "all will be well" and it is right that people go to hell. How more offensive and ignorant can a religion be?! It is a dreadful and dark thing that makes people believe in holy damnation.
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