Lately I’ve been struggling to find my voice in my non-fiction writing. A general fatigue has settled in, taxing my nerves. While I do want to write things that help people cope with the harm faith can cause, I certainly don’t want to be boring. Sure, some people might need to hear something repeatedly, but there’s a veritable buffet of blogs and publications out there which cater to that. If I had a general theme to what I’ve been writing recently, it’s putting a more positive focus on things. This is something I’ve needed to do as part of my coping with depression.
Sometimes, I find reminders of things that I’ve put behind me, but they still might trap others.
Specifically, I’m talking about the view of sin in Christianity. This post by John Branyan over at his blog “The Comedy Sojourn” sums up that view on sin quite excellently. He writes about how some Christians are trying to make sin this thing of beauty, but really it’s something ugly. It’s a stain that rightfully condemns people to everlasting torture in Hell. Calling it “brokenness” is sugarcoating a very bitter pill.
And he’s right about his portrayal of the concept.
Sin is this thing that is so offensive to the Christian deity that it merits exclusion from its presence. It is the thing that causes people to die, to have to suffer in their life, and to know what pain and agony mean. This thing called sin is what prevents people from knowing the Christian deity, from being good enough on their own to enter into communion with the Christian deity. Everyone is born with a nature that makes them sinful (either automatically or to have a propensity for it, depending upon denomination).
A corollary to this idea is that nobody ever is good enough for the Christian deity. Nobody can earn their way to a state of grace or goodness. There are no people good enough for Heaven. None can escape this condemnation.
Well, unless you receive the remedy that this faith just happens to have.
This is why it traps people in the Christian faith.
It doesn’t take much for people to feel disappointed in themselves; everyone has suffered some sort of personal setback in life. Sin capitalizes off of that, using its remedy of salvation to “forgive” people of that. For some people, that state of affairs works. But for so many other people, the guilt is staggering. And there are no apologies for it from fundagelicals. After all, it’s what encourages people to go to church on Sundays.
In this light, the doctrine of sin seems predatory. It can get worse for children, especially for ones who misbehave (or who have parents who think their kids misbehave). One example is how it affected me. From as early as seven, I remember thinking I was going to go to Hell. The fear is pretty real in someone who doesn’t have the ability to tell between fact and fiction. Nobody was there to remind me that one’s parents and other adults can be mistaken. All I had was the idea that I’d never be good enough.
That’s pretty merciless, isn’t it?
If Christians are right, we’re all doomed to eternal torture if we don’t truly and honestly accept the gift of salvation from the Christian deity’s sacrifice of itself to itself on our behalf. People who never hear the message are going to suffer this fate. Apostates like me are going to suffer this fate. Christians who didn’t fully accept Jesus are going to suffer this fate. All of this is because we suck at being perfect.
Admittedly, it took me not being religious to figure out how to be less merciless to myself. There are still times when I forget that. Most likely it will be a permanent struggle. At least now I don’t have to do it as a matter of course. Instead, I can chalk it up to the manipulation of a faith that would rather have distorted my perception of reality than argued its case.
According to Christianity, I will never be good enough. I can’t even try to be good enough. Is that really a message we want to tell people? To give into being as awful as you think you are because that’s how some invisible force designed things? Maybe there’s a better option, one that doesn’t rely on unproven divine forces to scaring people into submission.