Friday, March 25, 2011

Skating To Work

Somebody named Rob Bell is making a splash on the interwebs. He's written a book (which I haven't read) in which he claims that his god truly loves us and wants us to be happy during our lives and our afterlives. I guess if you're going to believe in a god (and an afterlife), that's the kind to believe in, but Bell is being criticized by some conservative Christians who think he's a "universalist," someone who says that ultimately, everybody gets "saved" and nobody goes to hell. Bell denies this but says that modern Christians put a lot more emphasis on hell and damnation than Jesus did.

I've got no horse in this race so I find it amusing to stand back and watch the bickering. It's like a group of kids debating which comic book superhero is more powerful, and it only emphasizes the fact that the label "Christianity," by itself, doesn't mean much. Which Christianity? The Catholic version? Orthodox? One of the many flavors of Protestantism, or something else? Denominations, even individual churches, have split over differences of opinion on abortion, same-sex marriage, the role of homosexuals and/or women in the church, and on and on. Wikipedia's list of modern English Bible translations contains more than 50 entries, and even groups that can agree on a particular version of the Bible may interpret it differently. Even if I wanted to be a Christian (and I don't, so don't send tracts!), I'd have no idea what kind.

I've encountered a few people who considered themselves "Christians" in the "followers of Christ's teachings" sense rather than the Jesus-as-Messiah sense, but they were the exceptions. Most Christians around here take the "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life" stance, and take it very seriously, with emphasis on "the [only] way [to escape eternal damnation]" and "the Truth [with a capital 'T']." It's perfectly reasonable to ask those who make such extraordinary claims to back them with some extraordinary evidence, but that's not been forthcoming. Jerry Coyne at "Why Evolution Is True" has blogged recently (here, here, here, and here) about what kind of evidence might convince him and other prominent scientists/freethinkers of the existence of god(s). Something that might convince me that Christianity contains a grain of truth would be all its many adherents agreeing on what they actually believe. An end to the infighting and the "s/he's not a true Christian" finger-pointing. All the sects and denominations and movements and cults coming together under a common leadership, with common doctrines for all Christian churches everywhere. No more Catholics or Baptists or Mormons or Lutherans or Seventh Day Adventists or anything other than "Christians." Just Christians.

And on that day, Satan will be skating to work.

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