Christian Beliefs That Lie About Love

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Growing up as a Lutheran, I never got fully into the fire and brimstone preaching of other denominations. Instead, I got beliefs presented to me as if they were inherently valid, like learning about gravity, light, or other natural phenomena. This is important, because it gave me the illusion of an incorrect doctrine I preserved myself against: threatening other people. It didn’t register that I actually was partaking of similar ideas packaged differently.

It amounted to lying about what love is.
A little while ago, Bruce Gerencser wrote this post regarding Franklin Graham’s Facebook post capitalizing on celebrity deaths to threaten people with Hell. To me, it’s a reminder of only one part of a culture that thinks these threats are an act of love. These threats are like yelling at someone for drinking and driving, or issuing a stern warning about a foreseeable danger. They’re trying to prevent you from suffering harm.

That still doesn’t justify what Mr. Graham did. The thing is, the threat only carries any traction because it’s an unseen consequence. If someone told me there was a trespasser behind my house, I can go check to make sure. Hell is something nobody can really find out about; it’s the monster lurking invisibly behind you.

Now that I’m no longer a Christian, I can see better that making vague threats isn’t an indicator of what love is. When I love someone, I don’t terrorize them into conformity. I have to respect their autonomy as a human being and operate from there. The only things I can demand of them are things which I have the right to demand. Inspiring fear is not an intrinsic right (that I’m aware of).

After deconverting, it takes a while to figure out how this has messed me up.
For other people who doubt, the process can be simple or complex. Mine is complex, because of the complex systems of belief I shrouded my old faith in. To others that have stopped believing, I have to say that this is a normal part of the journey away from religion. The process will involve emotional highs and lows; all that anyone can do is ride them out.

Perhaps the most difficult thing for me to learn is that I don’t have to feel remorse or pity for what I once believed. It wasn’t me that convinced myself to believe all people are worthy of destruction by a deity. Indeed, that guilt is merely another facet of my old faith structure still trying to convince me that maybe it was okay. Instead of putting those judgments on it, I just have to accept that it was. Good and bad are meaningless when it comes to this.

I can be happy and maybe even grateful that I’ve learned to abandon such beliefs. Whether it’s overt like Mr. Graham’s Facebook rant, or covert like my Lutheran upbringing, I don’t have to feel inspired to terrorize the people around me to agree with my existentialist views. People don’t have to be worthy of punishment or threatened by an unseen monster. I don’t have to convince people they’re flawed and miserable.

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73 thoughts on “Christian Beliefs That Lie About Love

    • Hey there!

      That’s a very good question. I’d have to say that it wasn’t just one thing that persuaded me to not believe in Jesus anymore. It was a slow process of realization, and a completely unintended journey. Some of it was painful, but other parts involved simply reflecting on the fact I didn’t hold the religious beliefs I used to.

      If I could point to a beginning of this process, I would say that it started at some point during a very bad depressive episode I had a few years ago. That episode pushed me to my limits in being able to hold onto my faith. I still did to a certain extent, but later things happened which revealed I was looking at things in a different light. From there, I eventually came to terms that I just didn’t believe any of it anymore.

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  1. “Inspiring fear is not an intrinsic right (that I’m aware of).” Love this!

    I like what you say about the struggle to feel remorse over losing what you used to believe. I “deconverted” in the sense that I left one school of Christian thought for another, but I still tend to look at that previous outlook as “right” and where I am now as “wrong,” because they taught me for so long that ending up a skeptical, liberal, doubting Christian is no way to be Christian. I appreciate your reminder that this is part of the process, and it’s not good or bad; it just is. Thanks for encouraging this doubting believer 🙂 this is important stuff.

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  2. Great post. I have in recent years (as I have become more discriminating in the motivations of Christian pressure) found that frightening people into believing is emotional manipulation and quite self-serving. It is kind of like folks that engage in this type of behaviour can say, “I told them, don’t blame me” and then happily lay their head on their pillow without so much of a thought about their means of doing so, and the spiritual abuse that may have occurred. I guess for some the end (their own self righteousness) justifies the means?

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