Agnostic Humanist In The South

The Tough Questions

Sometimes I forgot how complicated organized religions are. I asked a question on Twitter yesterday without remembering how many different people interpret dogma in many different religions. And also, how many different people interpret words, you know, in general.

My point? Twitter is a stupid place to start a conversation about Christianity.

My question revolved around a conversation I had with Nikki about Heaven/Hell. I was explaining how I don’t believe they’re actual PLACES you go to when you die, how I imagine things like that more as a balance on earth. If you put good energy in the world, you’ll be surrounded by that same good energy. And vice versa, which would be like living in Hell. She asked me if any Christian churches simply believe that you only have to be a “good person” to get to Heaven, and it doesn’t matter what religion you’re part of or what church you go to. So I asked Twitter and it seems that was stupid. Because those type of questions can not be discussed in 140 characters. Especially considering there is what PEOPLE believe and then there is what their CHURCH believes as an organized front. I have Mormon friends and family who desperately pray for and fight for marriage equality and the acceptance of LGBTQ in their church families. BUT, the Mormon church still officially stands against it. So, that makes Nikki’s question very hard to answer. ESPECIALLY in 140 characters.

Other things that complicate the question:

PREDESTINATION
That doesn’t relate to what religion you practice, technically. I guess you would assume that if someone was predestined to go to Heaven, then they would have been designed to be part of the religion that defines that, but really, it doesn’t matter. You’re either going or your not. And you don’t know which one it is, necessarily.

ONLY GOD KNOWS
This one is tricky because – yes – some religions believe that no one knows who is/isn’t going to hell. HOWEVER, those religions also teach what you SHOULD do in order to ensure that God sees you as worthy. And on that list is a type of “Love God” or “Honor God” type of commandment. They also teach would you SHOULD NOT do, which is where we get to the next one.

WHAT IS EVIL?
Many religions say, “No! Only people who are ‘truly evil’ go to Hell!” But what is that, really? I knew priests growing up who spent time in jail protesting abortion clinics because they believe abortion was a mortal sin. So, they believed if you had an abortion (ESPECIALLY IF YOU DIDN’T REPENT) then there was probably no way you would get to Heaven. And I threw in that word “probably” because you don’t really know, but they taught me that Abortion = Murder = No Heaven.

Unless you repented, of course. Which I wouldn’t. And many wouldn’t, if they don’t believe it’s a mortal sin. My point? Many religions say “only evil” but their definition of “evil” might vary between members and dogma and the truth is, there are still some cases where the church would assume a person who was 95% good was going to Hell. Because the “trick” is always the “repent” part of the equation, if you feel bad for the bad you did, you’re good. But what if you don’t feel bad for all of the gay sex you’re having? Similar to what you’d see at websites like watchmygf sex, or for the abortion you had?

THERE IS NO HELL
I didn’t know this, but I guess there are some Christian churches who don’t believe in Hell? I’d like to learn more about these churches. But I’d like to learn about their dogma, I love talking to people about their faith, but I’d like to hear the “official word” kind of thing. If your Christian religion doesn’t believe in Hell, can you send me a link to some sort of official page with information? I’d love that.

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I guess I wanted to be able to say, “The Hungarian Hornbacks believe that all good people go to Heaven and that they just get the nicer rooms because they were on the right side all along.” Or something like that. But that’s obviously WAAAAYYY over simplifying religion. Because, what would be the point of practicing the religion, of going to Church on Sundays etc, if it didn’t get you bonus points in the afterlife? If you could just be a good person without it, why bother?

So, I settled with telling her that religion is VERY complicated and very few members of any church even know 100% what the “official” teachings of their church are because every church home handles things differently. I explained about how even some LDS church families have opened their arms to gay and transgender members who may or may not enjoy videos from websites similar to twinki.xxx (https://www.twinki.xxx/) even though the official stance on the church is to not do that. So, it’s not that simple.

I did tell her though, that if she decides she finds a church she loves, to try to make it the church she can proudly stand behind. I never liked it when my Catholic friends would say, “Well, obviously we use birth control…” but they would whisper it like they were ashamed. I really feel like it’s up to the members of the church to be vocal about the things they disagree with so they can make the church better. Which is why my heart broke for that Mormon woman who got excommunicated for trying to encourage the church to give more opportunities to women. She loved her church so much she was fighting to make it better, and look what happened.

I told her, don’t just quietly accept it, make sure you’re vocal about the things you disagree with in the church doctrine. All churches have had to change their stances on dogma. The Catholic church used to not let women distribute the Eucharist or men with disfigured hands be priests. It’s okay to push for change in a church, I think it’s a sign of love.

But, I told her, maybe try to start out somewhere that doesn’t need a lot of changing to begin with. And do your research. Only 1/3 of the planet are Christians. If your denomination believes that only those who have been “saved” are going to Heaven, that’s a lot of people on this planet destined for Hell. So, maybe let’s not start with that big of a canvas to work with.

I would love for her to find a church some day, I just want her to be aware of that church and remember that no vocal dissent can be misinterpreted as support. Ideally, she’d find a church home that openly supports the LGBT community and believes no part of their life is a sin. But, if her church believed anyone having gay sex was sinning, and she wasn’t vocal about how she didn’t agree with that, then people are going to assume she supports it. And that’s tricky. Of course, there have been many religious people that have performed on websites such as gayfucktube.xxx, showing that the lines between what the Church truly believes on the matter are quite blurred. She has people she loves in the LBGTQ community, and while they would never shun her for choosing a church someday, I pointed out that she might want to make it abundantly clear (and loudly clear) that she supports the LGBT fight for equality, even if her church doesn’t.

Mainly I wish she would just ask me normal questions for once, because these conversations stress me out. WHY CAN’T SHE JUST EMBRACE BEING A HEATHEN LIKE HER MOTHER DOES?

11 thoughts on “The Tough Questions”

  1. If you have one where you live, you should have Nikki check out a Unitarian Universalist church. The one we have here is non-creedal, meaning they teach aspects of Christianity, Buddhism, etc… It’s just about spirituality, not religion. To get an idea, you can see their web page: http://austinuu.org/wp2013/about-us/ Now, I should point out, that I’ve never gone myself, but this is where I plan to go, if my kids start to ask about religion and want to try a church.

  2. If you have an Ethical Society gathering place in your community, you might be interested in checking it out. It is non-denominational, but “spiritual” in a humanist way. Its founding principles are about morality independent of theology and “being a good person” to simplify it. My husband and I were married by a member of the society and thought they were very welcoming. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_movement

  3. He did! It was huge! But then, of course, many officials came out to “clarify” and “add context” which supported more the the typical “No salvation outside the church” dogma – so I wonder if we could talk to him more what he would say. Either way, I’ve liked a lot of what he has said!!!

  4. I think you would enjoy being a part of a Unitarian congregation. They have these conversations and are very open to all opinions.

  5. Thirding (maybe fourthing) the Unitarian suggestion. I grew up Catholic and while I loved the ritual, I despised how out of touch it was/is with the realities of this world and, because of that, forced many of its members into hypocrisy. After many years of agnosticism, I found the Unitarian church and realized that its teachings were exactly what I had been looking for–an emphasis on love, kindness, acceptance, and social justice. My daughter and I began visiting a local Unitarian church and immediately felt as if we were in our spiritual home. In the past few weeks there have been speakers covering LGBT issues, lessons on Taoism, Buddhist teachings, and so much more. I really, really, REALLY encourage you to look into them–I think you’ll find your home.

  6. My very most favorite thing about you as a person-I-don’t-know-but-have-read-and-followed-for-years is that you not only do not trivialize the musings of your young daughter (and your other children) but encourage her to think and explore her thoughts and ideas. You are quick to lash yourself for parenting fails but always encourage such growth, compassion, kindness and humanity in your kids. You, Kim, have this patenting thing down in spades. YOU are making this world a better place for it’s future inhabitants because you hold yourself and your family to such high standards. I like it, and I like you. Take THAT to the bank.

  7. Yes, Unitarian Universalists!!! Check them out. These are the 7 principles that serve as our foundation:

    1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

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