The way some pastors and religious figures speak so enthusiastically and even gleefully of others they disapprove of going to hell, one could probably picture them picking up a phone (a red one, of course) and calling the hot-line to make reservations for 70 billion or so people, give or take one or two last minute changes. In the far corner, right near the flaming inferno and the tar-pits. Smoking or non-smoking?
I've been asked a rather personal question recently by some friends, and I say it is a personal one on principle, more than actual fact. After all, most Christians I know, whether or not they feel they don't judge anyone - quite happily wear their religion on their baseball caps, t-shirts, on jewelry around their necks, bumper stickers, singing about it in the streets, and promoting it in every other sentence as if it is the "right thing" to do. I know I know, it's a religion, not a franchise - but do they know that? Not that I care what they wear or do in their spare time, but let someone wear a GLBT oriented item of jewelry, or a pro human-rights slogan on an item of clothing - or even hold hands with their partner in public, or wear a symbol of any other religion, faith or belief system around their necks - or do the unthinkable (complain about all the religious programming on TV or on the streets) and immediately they are guilty of "flaunting their immoral lifestyle" and "persecuting the church". The question I was asked was the following:
Why am I not a Christian anymore?
It's not something I go around telling people - or trying to convert them to my way of thinking - it's just my own position I arrived at after years of soul-searching and realizations I came to on this journey we call life. For some time I have called myself an agnostic, which technically means "I don't know" - and more honestly, means "I don't think you do either" as well as "None of your explanations really satisfy my sense of the universe around me - there must be more to it than that".
Well, it can be a really complicated answer, or a really simple one. The simple one would be because of all the hate out there for anyone who isn't a "party member" or who is seen as different, or singled out for attack by religious leaders who are supposed to be shepherds and not generals and inquisitors. Anyone who doesn't blindly sign on to the obedience-without-question party line is targeted and made to feel shame, in the way so wonderfully summed up in the title one church gave it's sermon - "A free thinker is Satan's slave".
Excuse me for believing that there is more to the universe than religion, that the universe is bigger than that, and cannot be satisfactorily explained - or conquered by one religion alone.
The complicated answer is that the entire modern church, whether Catholic or Protestant, and its bible, while using a few basic, original actual Christian references - are mostly built upon layers and layers of plagiarism, deception, lies - and older pagan religions. Modern "book Christianity" teaches people not to think, not to act according to conscience, but to obey outdated and irrelevant laws on pain of death, be it spiritual or physical.
Thus, in my view, a lot of the "charismatic" movement today, is far more Levitican than Christian, abandoning Christ's teachings for the Old Testament ritual laws that basically prescribe stoning and death for a variety of things we today see as commonplace - and promoting and insisting that these brutal facets to ancient society are in fact the central tenets of Christianity. Sad to say, most moderate Christians do not even object to this, nor even vocally oppose this hostile takeover of their own faith. In fact, dear readers - I might point out that not even the people who use the basic Old Testament in it's original form, even do those things today. Well, except maybe in Iran and Iraq - but then, they are the type of extremist who literally fly into a rage - and tall buildings.
And in short, despite this not being true for all Christians in the modern world, there is simply too much hate in Levitican Christianity for me to feel welcome - and too many lies and half-truths the powers that be expect me to believe unquestioningly, for me to feel honest or at peace calling myself by that name.
Most of the "church" out there claims to speak with unified voices, and yet they are at each other's throats on matters so basic as who to love, and who should be equal - things that should be OBVIOUS and non-negotiable - when the plain truth is that it is nobody's business who we love, and that everyone is already equal in creation and should be in law as well.
I prefer to call myself agnostic, because I do not claim to know any real truth about creation, gods or goddesses, saviors or religions worth buying into, but I do know this - modern Christianity can learn a heck of a lot from Wiccans - whose creed is "if it harms none, do what you will" - in fact, I think this is far more "Christian", being closer to what Christ taught - than anything that flows from the mouths of people like Ray McCaulley, Erroll Naidoo, the Pope, and any number of the hostile, evangelical so-called "Christian" leaders today.
People like the Arch, Desmond Tutu, really show the way in terms of how "real" Christians should be - all-embracing, loving, tolerant, compassionate and good. To me, the Ray McCauleys and Errol Naidoo's of the world epitomize terror, spiritual (even physical) violence and oppression - a stark contrast to the Christ they so vocally misrepresent.
Of course, now that the cat is out of the bag, I expect to lose some friends over it - but in all honesty, if that's the case, tough. Been there, done that. I am far more than just the sum of my beliefs. If that's all it takes for people to turn their backs on me, then their religion is the sum of their existence and it's their loss, not mine.
One would think that by my statement here, of leaving the "Christian Party" so to speak, the rest of the "Clan" would wonder what they have been doing wrong that I, among many others seek truth elsewhere. Experience has shown me that they will point fingers at me instead for daring to criticize people who supposedly know better than I, and whom they feel I have somehow "betrayed". They do not see in the brutal actions of the church, the betrayal of the very values the Christ they worship. They may even claim, as some have before, that I was never a "real" Christian to begin with, but that's okay - it's still a free world and they can still believe what they like - as can I.
Unlike them, I am not preoccupied by what they believe, and it's not up to me to stop them or change them or convert them to my way of thinking. Unlike them, I do not hate. Unlike them, I have nothing to prove.