I recently watched a religious program where five pastors were answering questions from callers. Many of them were generic questions about the Bible, but one struck me as instantly odd.
The question verbatim was “If Jewish people don’t accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, will they get into Heaven?”
Let’s ignore the Jewish part for a moment. Someone was calling into a religious program inquiring as to whether or not a certain person or group of people will make it into Heaven. I asked myself, “who is anyone to prognosticate anyone else’s afterlife?” I understand religion is faith, completely. I understand that having faith that all you’ve read and been told is true, and there is a spot waiting for you beyond the Pearly Gates.
Isn’t life meant to be lived? Aren’t we all here for the show? To live our lives to the fullest extent possible while we have this body? Since when did life become a time to dwell on where we will go? Is that not something to be found out when we inevitably die? And lastly, why do people trust in mortals to decide for them whether or not they’re getting into Heaven, or meeting a certain fate in Hell?
Faith has always been a personal struggle for me. I’ve always attempted to believe in a certain religion or put my faith in the abstract and intangible. However, with every inconsistency and contradiction I run across, it becomes much harder. For instance – the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” Seems pretty simple to me – don’t kill anyone. But what is the death penalty? Murdering someone who has committed an unpardonable offense against humanity. What about war? Killing one of God’s children because you’re told. For freedom, for peace, for God Himself.
Speaking of the death penalty, let me give you a hypothetical situation. A man murders his family, is found guilty and sentenced to death. While on death row, this man gives himself up to Christ. He reads the Bible, converses with people who have found their faith and prays on a daily basis.
Now – theoretically speaking – if you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will find eternity in Heaven. Therefore, this brutal, careless murderer is going to meet an eternity in Heaven. Do the victims of these families ever stop to think of that as a possibility? Possibly, but they’re more than likely too ingrained with the fact that the man is being met with the ultimate Biblical need for revenge and vindication – death. It doesn’t seem right to me.
Prayer is something else that gets to me. God has a plan for all of his children – a plan of their life’s events that He himself makes up. Still, people pray for things, material or abstract, on a daily basis. I find myself once again asking “why?” If God has a plan for you, why pray for something that may not be in your plan? It doesn’t seem right to me.
God is acceptable in advertising. Billboards, church advertisements, mentioning God in television programs and schools, things of that nature. However, Atheists advertising their beliefs is frowned upon. People from churches stand on the corner and pass out Bibles and pamphlets. If an Atheist were to stand on a corner and politely and tactfully speak his or her beliefs, he would be cast off as sacrilegious and ignored. While I was living in Texas, a local Atheist group in Texas had to fight tooth and nail just to get one of their billboards advertised. It read “Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone.” Still, the landscape was riddled with a plethora of various religious billboards.
Why can’t Atheists spread their word without tethers, but other religions can freely? While I was in high school, there was a Muslim club, a Gospel club, a Jewish club and a Bible study club. I asked to make an Atheist club. I had a sizable constituency behind me to help, yet it was denied for “controversy.” I was merely attempting to float on the same stream of free speech that everyone else was smoothly sailing on. It doesn’t seem right to me.
And finally, I will expand on the Heaven debate. Personally, I believe no one has the right to tell me or anyone else whether or not they are getting into Heaven. I just don’t think they should equate themselves with the likes of their Lord by speculating as such. Whenever I discuss this with someone, they throw me verses from the Bible. Again I ask “why?” Atheists question religion because they don’t know for sure what is true and false. Other religions will tell you they KNOW what they’ve heard and read is true. Still, Atheists are pegged as “arrogant” by some religions. It doesn’t seem right to me.
I’ve always said that if people were more tolerant of other religions And cultures, there would be no war. More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason, and I see that as sad. Religious people see it as a moral victory – you must spill blood and kill your brethren to achieve peace with God.
I’ve always held some kind of futile hope that everyone could become tolerant and respecting of other religions and cultures, and at my tender age, I hope I can see that become reality in my lifetime. I feel that if God were here, we’d all be living in peace and harmony, loving one another as He intended. Alas, as long as He is above us and not able to interact with us, we’re left to assume that war and conflict is the way to achieve peace and placate Him. It doesn’t seem right to me.
Please realize that I have nothing but respect for all of religion, just as I expect my opinions to be seen as my own personal convictions – not necessarily truth. I am merely asking questions. I am not attempting to dissuade anyone from their convictions, nor am I disrespecting your religion. However, I am sure many of dissenting faiths will pin this opinion piece as just that, and I am disheartened to make such an assumption.
All I wish to do is coexist peacefully on different levels, and religion is one of them. No one should have to be stifled because of their convictions, as long as they’re presented in an objective and respectful manner. I always attempt to see the other side of debates, and I hope you all see this piece as just that. Now that seems right to me.