Friday, July 22, 2005

Save Yourself Some Pain

Have you ever been to Kirk Cameron’s website, Way of the Master? Well, it’s a pretty well made site. It has lots of cool flash animation and videos of Mr. Cameron telling us just how afraid of Hell we should be. The site’s high-priced flash features make it look really official and authoritative, but when you look closely at the content, you can tell that it’s just a silly attempt by Cameron and friends to make sense of a nonsensical pro-afterlife worldview.

Within the site, there is a booklet called “Save Yourself Some Pain.” I read this online booklet and almost immediately began shaking my head at just how poorly these people explain and understand their beliefs. Let’s take a look at this booklet.

Becoming a Christian is the most incredible event that will ever take place in your life. You have found peace with your Creator. You have found everlasting life!

The italics are theirs. Talk about a poorly worded beginning paragraph! They say that once you accept Christ you get an everlasting life, but according to Christianity, everyone already has everlasting life. That’s what an afterlife is, by definition. I think what they really mean is that you get an everlasting life in Heaven. Some may think that I’m nitpicking, but I disagree. What Cameron and friends are doing here, is miscommunicating and/or misunderstanding the single most important piece of their afterlife-belief: salvation.

What if I told Kirk that I didn’t want to exist as a consciousness after my death? Would I have to simply deny God to do that? Fine, consider it done! But that doesn’t leave much room for Hell, does it? Well what if Kirk said that denying God would merely get me into Hell? Fine again, but then his argument about finding everlasting life becomes nonsensical, for to go to Hell is also to have everlasting life. With such a fancy (and no doubt expensive) website, you think that they could be a bit more careful about how they word things like this.

God acquits us from the Courtroom of Eternal Justice on the grounds that Jesus Christ paid our fine. We are "justified" (made right with God) by His suffering death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was God's seal of approval of the fact that His precious blood was sufficient to pay the fine.

Think of it this way... You have violated the law and face a $50,000 fine. You tell the judge that you are truly sorry for your crime, but he answers, "So you should be -- you have broken the law! Now, can you pay this fine?" He can only acquit you if the fine is paid. If someone else pays your fine, then he can let you go, but he must have "grounds" on which to release you.

Again, the italics are theirs. Now what we have here is a misapplied analogy. If any of you out there read Goosing The Antithesis, then you will already know that I love analogies. And I can see a really big hole in this analogy.

Cameron compares judgment by God to be the equivalent of paying a fine in a court of law. This is the first error in their analogy. According to Christian doctrine, at the end of your life, you are judged by God and treated accordingly. But in the analogy, this judgment would compare to a prison sentence, NOT a fine. A spiritual fine would be like saying a lot of prayers, or reading some Bible passages, or something like that. In a court of law, a fine is a lot different than imprisonment of your body; a fine is something where you give up resources (money) and are then free to go. But in Christianity, you can’t be judged at the end of your life and then be set free to go (to continue living in this life); your current life is over and all you got left is Heaven or Hell. Therefore, Heaven would be like being acquitted, and Hell would be a prison sentence.

This is why their analogy doesn’t work. In a court of law, you can have a relative or friend pay a fine, but you cannot have a friend or relative serve your prison sentence. So having Jesus sacrifice himself is not like having your fine paid for you, but it is like having your prison sentence served for you. And no sane individual will ever contend that justice is served by having an innocent person serve the prison sentence of a convicted criminal.

The reason we need a substitute (a savior) to pay our moral "fine," is because we have broken God's Law. To see how much we have transgressed this Law (the Ten Commandments), we will go through some of them -- Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something? Have you ever lusted after another person? If you answered "Yes" to these questions, you admit that you are a lying, thieving, adulterer at heart, and you have to face God on Judgment Day!

The italics are theirs. Now their message is standard Christian fear tactics: You better feed God’s ego because that is all he cares about, and the way you treat your fellow man is an accessory concern.

If you have used His name in vain, then you are guilty of "blasphemy" -- you've substituted God's holy Name for a curse word. Perhaps you've hated someone, then the Bible says that you are a murderer. You have violated God's holy Law, and you're in BIG trouble. On Judgment Day, you will be found guilty and end up in Hell. That's why you need the Savior. Merely being sorry for your sins, or confessing them to God won't help you. You must turn from sin (repent), and your faith must be in Jesus Christ alone. He is the only "grounds" for God to grant mercy towards you. If you're not sure of your salvation, make Psalm 51 your own prayer.

The italics are theirs. Notice that they again expose their analogy mistake by admitting that God’s judgment is not a fine but a prison sentence when they say “…you will be found guilty and end up in Hell,” but they don’t seem to notice their glaring mistake. If Jesus pays your court fine for you, will Jesus also spend eternity in Hell for you? Now that would be nice! This whole message of cleaning up crimes by spilling innocent blood (the Crucifixion) doesn’t translate at all into the “court fine” analogy. But Cameron and friends don’t seem to have either enough intellect to notice or enough honesty to care. I wish I had the opportunity to contact Cameron and ask him some follow up questions. For example, if a criminal murdered Cameron’s family in cold blood, would he be satisfied with an innocent six-year old girl serving the criminal’s death sentence instead? After all, isn’t that the kind of justice that Cameron is championing here?

I don’t know what more depressing, the fact that they expose the immorality of salvation through innocent blood by botching an analogy, or the fact that the vast majority of Americans cannot tell the difference.

So everyone, the lesson to learn today is, ironically, found within the Title of Kirk Cameron’s little e-booklet (though not in the way he intended). Save Yourself Some Pain, and reject these absurd, immoral, and repugnant afterlife beliefs.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Patriotic Afterlife?

I wanted to post this blog entry yesterday for the fourth of July, but I was caught up in the festivities. So instead I present this as my post-fourth of July post. Please note that this post is not political in nature, nor is it meant to argue the merits of patriotism. This post is solely intended to examine the Christian Americans’ patriotic claims, as we all know that the Christian American population loves to play the “patriotism” card. defines patriotism as:
Love of and devotion to one's country.

I couldn’t have said it better. Surely, Christian Americans can be patriotic; they can have love and devotion to one’s country. I am not one to deny the patriotism of any Christian American. There are many Christians that are more patriotic than atheists, and there are many atheists that are more patriotic than Christians. But what belief system lays a foundation for a superior patriotism, the person that believes in the afterlife or doesn’t?

In a previous blog entry, “I Know What Your Motive Was Last Summer,” I pointed out the problems with primacy and afterlife belief. Primacy of afterlife belief is especially problematic for the Christian religion when it comes to patriotism. Here’s why:

Afterlife-belief demands the assignment of primacy to an afterlife, and the deity that resides in it. For Christianity, this deity is Jesus/God (Christianity considers Jesus and God to be the same entity).

Christianity demands that you put Jesus Christ first in your life. And the Christian concept of Heaven/Hell demands that you sacrifice your present-life interests for the sake of afterlife interests. Therefore, the first two value assignments for the Christian are 1) God, and 2) Heaven. A Christian would only be patriotic to the extent that it did not interfere with his/her loyalty to Jesus Christ and concern with getting into heaven. While a non-afterlife-believer, on the other hand, would have no such primacy/loyalty requirements.

The foundations of Christianity (loyalty to Jesus Christ and getting into heaven) knock patriotism into, at best, third place. What patriotic Christian would honestly sacrifice their Jesus/God for the sake of their country? And what patriotic Christian would honestly go to Hell for the sake of their country?

Sure, an atheist might not hold patriotism as their highest value either. But Christian afterlife-belief specifically precludes patriotism from being the highest, or even the second highest value. Atheism, or the lack of afterlife-belief, does not demand any such preclusion. A Christian can never hold patriotism as the highest ideal or as an end in itself, for it defies the very definition of “Christian”. But an atheist can hold patriotism as the highest ideal or as an end in itself; it does not defy the definition of “atheism”.

Christianity provides an inferior foundation for patriotism. Think about that the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance.