Yesterday I came upon this opinion article by Larry Taunton, someone I didn’t recognize until I got to the author bio down at the bottom of the article. As it turns out, the author is the same person who wrote a book about Christopher Hitchens. While it didn’t specifically say Mr. Hitchens saw Jesus on or around his deathbed, the book did allege Mr. Hitchens questioned his lack of faith. Recognizing Mr. Taunton’s work, his article made more sense; he’s a person who will say anything for Jesus.
Before I continue, I think it’s imperative to note why trying to convince people about deathbed conversions is a bad thing, from none other than Mr. Hitchens himself (speaking a month before he died):
Mr. Taunton is just one example of people saying anything to sell their faith.
Over the years since I’ve left Christianity, I’ve gotten the Christianity sales pitch in a bunch of different ways. People have contradicted themselves, other Christians, their holy book, and any number of different resources in an attempt to get me believing again. It never mattered when I pointed any of this out; usually I’d just be cussed out and then left alone.
Of course, with the time to examine my perspective, I realize now that I was aware of this kind of thing even before I stopped believing in the Christian deity. C.S. Lewis was one of the greatest offenders, preaching an eloquent message of tolerance and folksy shrugging when the details didn’t work out. It was easy to just sit and feel the warmth of compassion without actually thinking about what it meant. And a lot of Christians still do this, especially when an outsider to the group might be present.
If the truths of Christianity were correct and taken to their logical conclusion, it means that there is nothing more important than helping people get their souls saved and into Heaven. Incorrect beliefs can’t be ignored, because they’re not from this allegedly wonderful and loving deity that wants to help us all help ourselves. This kind of importance frequently gets alluded to every time I’m told: (1) I never was a Christian; (2) I wasn’t told about real Christian beliefs; or (3) those weren’t real Christians teaching me. Getting it right is supposed to matter because getting it right means a saved soul.
However, examining which beliefs are right means having to take a hard look at what one believes. It also means correcting others’ erroneous beliefs. If you’ve spent any time in a church community, you’ll immediately understand how difficult this is. Nothing is worse than watching two people who claim to love Jesus dog-cussing each other over changing their heathen ways. Sometimes it splits churches, and sometimes it ostracizes members. At best, everyone gets told to sit down and shut up and agree to disagree.
This is exactly how a culture of saying anything can form. The only rule is that one must get people to echo back what is said. Whatever gets believed becomes sacred and unimpeachable. Nobody’s allowed to even pretend to rock the proverbial boat of collective belief. Disagreement just gets forgotten.
In the end, nobody’s accountable for what false things they say.
It’s one of the worst hypocrisies of faith that I have to endure, even from outside the fundagelical community. Once I saw it for what it really is, I couldn’t just forget about it. Every time I get told what I must really believe, or how wonderful the faith is, I come back to this notion that it’s just an effort to get me to echo the sentiment back. It doesn’t even matter if I actually believe it.
When Mr. Taunton tries to shame people into going to Chick-Fil-A or lie about a man who isn’t alive to defend himself, all I see now is a person who wants a choir to tell him he’s right. No fundamental truth can be expressed by such people, because the truth is a foreign concept to anyone willing to say anything. These people are obvious frauds who try to equate repetition with reality and truth.
To be clear, I am suggesting there is something inherently distrustful about any group of thought which doesn’t hold people accountable for the lies they tell. In many other places and situations, people have consequences if they hurt others with their speech. Religion, and especially the pet religions of my home country, have no magical ticket which gives them the right to be any different.
This all boils down to consistency.
For all the times I’ve been told of this grand divine truth that controls the universe, it expresses itself in a way that is different almost every time. The truth is supposed to be easy to remember, and reliable in nature. Too many times I depended upon random sayings from people who really had no clue what they were talking about. I depended upon a faith in a way that actually impeded my growth as a person.
While it doesn’t mean that everybody has to have a bad experience with faith, it does mean that you don’t have to remain in an abusive faith relationship forever. Letting go of mine has helped me out. I am able to start coping with the damage it has done. Recognizing the inconsistency of faith teachings doesn’t make anyone a bad person or a weak person. It’s just a sign that maybe you should try letting go of an inconsistent belief system.