So, I was in church the other day, yesterday in fact, and it was a commissioning service. As I found out, this is where a person or people who have committed themselves to become missionaries are now fully qualified, ordained missionaries; if ‘ordained’ is the word I mean, it may well not be.

This of course required a speech by the person who’d been their tutor at missionary school, All Saints Christian College, wheresoe’er that may be; and then a promotional DVD presentation from WEC, the missionary group that’s sending these two people out there.

The whole service shocked me rather. I don’t believe that missionary work is right and good, and that if a community needs help, then it probably needs that help in terms of practical equipment and funding rather than spiritual assistance, and I think we are all free to choose our own path and beliefs and such. I’m not a very Christian christian, really, but I was talking to a guy after the service who was as shocked as I was, and his father’s a vicar!

The DVD was the worst, though. It talked about the 1.7 billion people who as yet don’t know about God, and then went on to say that those 1.7 billion people are going to Hell unless we can reach them. The sermon that followed pointed out that, supposedly, God will forgive you if you ask him to do so before you die, and you will then go to Heaven even if you were a serial killer, or initiated mass genocide, and so on.

I cannot and will not believe this of the God I now believe in, and I know I’m not alone. I don’t even think I believe in heaven as such – goodness is it’s own reward, I think, and I merely try to act in a way that does not hurt other people, where I can. I try to enjoy myself, and I try not to be a git, and I think that’s enough, isn’t it?



Filed under Beliefs, Consumer, Happenings, Introspection, Life, Politics, Relationships, Society, World

26 responses to “Hell.

  1. “God will forgive you if you ask him to do so before you die, and you will then go to Heaven even if you were a serial killer, or initiated mass genocide, and so on”

    As far as I understand it, accept that Jesus died for your sins and you get to go through the pearly gates. Doesn’t matter if you’re Mother Teresa or Hitler, accept that and you’re in.

    Missionaries have a lot to answer for.

    “goodness is it’s own reward”
    Nice philosophy πŸ™‚

  2. Lucy

    Sounds like the Durham Christian Union. They are actively encouraged to convert their fellow students and save them from hellfire. Doesn’t seem very Christian to me…

  3. heallan02

    Rewind. What happened to the raving atheist called Jenny?

  4. standingonthebrink

    I don’t think it does either 😦 and I hope God’s a little more discerning than that, frankly! To say that you’re welcome into heaven just as long as you accept that He is the One True God and his Son died for your sins is, well, just a little egotistical, wouldn’t you say?

    Clearly I’m not a very clued-up Christian, but I’d rather stay like this and rational, than mad and happy and pious and super-religious…

  5. standingonthebrink

    She got converted by accident when she went to Church, just out of curiousity, with a very good friend of hers. Mourn her if you will, but she’s happier like this and no less scientific or rational (but no more rational either, sadly…)!

  6. Surely you don’t get to “decide” what bits of the Bible to listen to, what God is like, or whatever? Surely you can’t say “well I’ll beleive in him, but I’ll beleive in my version of him, rather than God as portrayed in the Bible”?

  7. Flix

    @Dickie: Interpretation, innit. The Bible’s hardly a book of black and white, you just have to look at the different denominations of Christianity to confirm that…

    @Lucy: haha, ditto. As quoted “CU’s a bit of a cult really, isn’t it?”

  8. Lucy

    What’s in a label, Dickie? What’s to say that the Bible has to be interpreted at face value? What’s to say that people can’t attend the form of religious worship that they find most helpful to them at any given time?

  9. There’s an acre of difference between not interpreting the Bible at face value (which I can understand, cos anyone who thinks the Bible is a literal document is quite clearly a moron) and deciding to disregard certain parts of what it says, in this case the “accept God and Jesus died for your sins, and you’re OK” thing.

    Surely if you decide certain parts of Christian teachings are invalid, then from any logical and objective standpoint the rest of it must be at least called into question too?

  10. Lucy

    Which I guess is why I don’t call myself a Christian. But it’d be silly to chuck the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

  11. standingonthebrink

    The thing is, it’s an ancient book, written by fallible people, in a time when morals were a lot more black and white and simplified, and written to make a point about forgiveness and such.

    I’m religious insofar as I believe in God, and I do believe that Jesus died for our sins, but I don’t believe in Hell, full stop, and nor do a lot of Christians these days. So it’s not a case of, ‘serial killers who aren’t forgiven don’t go to Hell’, more that no-one does. I don’t hugely believe in an afterlife either, at least not in the traditional, ‘like life, only better’, viewpoint, partly because I think my however-many-years-I-eventually-get will be quite enough, thanks all the same.

    So I believe in the most basic tenets of Christianity, but I think that, like the traditional Creation myth, things like Heaven, Hell and Judgement Day are metaphorical and just another way of getting us to be good people, rather than literal biblical truth.

    I think I’m really one of those people who believes in, ‘well, you know, Something bigger than us’. Which I don’t like, because I am one of those people who likes to be able to put an argument behind the things she believes. I was a rational atheist, and now I’m working out whether I can be a rational Christian and satisfy myself in that.

    So I think I’ll have to get back to you on all those points. Who knows, I may eventually argue myself back into an atheist position, just perhaps a slightly less anarchical don’t-care-about-anything-or-anyone standpoint than I held before…

  12. heallan02

    You believe there is a deity, but yet you don’t believe his (or its or hers etc) description as written in the bible? I don’t wish to put words in your mouth, but to me that sounded like the drift of it.
    In which case, is there even any need for the ‘Holy Bible’ in modern Christianity? Its whole function seems almost obsolete to me as far as how modern Christians act and how it teaches they should. If it were interpretted directly I dare say lot fewer Christians would call themselves so.
    I think you should write your own rules as to how to live your life based on your own ethics, this is open to abuse, but possibly no more than it is abused anyway with use of scriptures for guidance (?)

    Personally I would find it very hard to maintain your point of view, it seems contradictory to me. Rational presumable meaning logically correct? You mention rationality alot, but does this mean justifyable actions in view of ‘the correct way to act’ as society sees it, upon what you have read or been taught or of your own morals? It seems to me a confusing battle ground to mix all 3. I think modern science leaves little time or patience for, what is effectivly historical accounts based on alot of doubt as is the case for the Bible. To me rationaliy is somthing based upon the scientific method, and removes the emphasis on social rationality. Quite often what is seen as acceptable behaviour (from what I gather) is limiting and superfluous to what I want to do. So going against this trend is not so much one of rebeling, just of following different codes.

  13. heallan02

    And I said 3 because I missed out: ‘what you had read or been taught from Church / Christianity’. Pardon

  14. heallan02

    One last thing to make it 13 comments!

    B.Russel ‘History of Western Philosophy’ shows a clear path through different Philosophies up to current views. But I expect you have covered a few of the Philosophers in more detail than this manages .

  15. standingonthebrink

    We all have our own personal moral codes, based on our interpretations of what we have been taught, what we have observed, what we have read and what we see as being acceptable within society; I don’t think that’s confused, really.

    Scientific thought has little to say about ethics – ethics are entirely a social construct.

    I am a Christian like many others in that I accept that the Bible was mainly written by men – all the Gospels were, for example, and the reason that so many other books of the Bible are named after people like Isaiah and others is because they were the people that wrote those books of the Bible, so of course they’re not necessarily wholly reliable accounts. But the basic message of the New Testament is all about forgiveness and altruism, traits which I think are a good basis for certain aspects of morality.

    And surely I’m allowed my own interpretation of my faith, just as you are allowed your own interpretation of atheism? I knew when I was an atheist that I didn’t necessarily agree with Dawkins about everything, I mean, he can be a bit of a madman, can’t he? He was always a bit religious about his atheism (‘isn’t it amazing that the world is here at all? Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t that worth celebrating?’ seems to be the gist of hte part of The GOd Delusion taht my sister is currently reading, but I would counter, no, it’s not amazing, it just happened, and even now, I’m not very religious in the sense of being bowled over with gratefulness for how beautiful the world is).

    I wouldn’t say I was very Christian. I believe in God, yes, or Something, at any rate, and I believe that Jesus believed that he was dying for our sins, but I struggle to believe in an afterlife, and the rest of the Bible seems to me to be a historical document, as fallible as any other. I go to Church for the comfort factor and that feeling of involvement in something bigger, more than anything. Meanwhile I still obviously believe in things like the Big Bang and evolution, and God seems to me to be as plausible a cause for the Big Bang as anything.

    Does that answer some of your questions?

  16. heallan02

    ‘Does that answer some of your questions?’

    Sure, but I’m not quizzing you! Nor could I be forgiven for doing so as there is no such thing as a correct answer. Indeed I think this concept is a strong arguement in favour of science and its methods, but that is another debate.

    I have more questions, obvously!

    ‘Scientific thought has little to say about ethics – ethics are entirely a social construct.’ Stem cell research, designer babies, abortion, GM food …

    I am led to believe Christians believe that the bible itself is Holy. Thus the ‘Holy Bible’. Does this not imply that what is contained within it is holy? In this case, I question how anything written by men could be regarded holy, as you rightly said, they can only give their interpretations of events. This makes the bible more of a journal does it not? Unless of course you would regard those who wrote the bible to be holy.

    ‘just as you are allowed your own interpretation of atheism?’ – I didn’t say I was! πŸ™‚

  17. annadegenhardt

    Personally, my interpretation of atheism is not so much “the world is wonderful without god” (except that it is) but more… the world is complex enough without inviting the added complexity of a god into the equation. If god does exist then his existence makes things far more complicated, and creates far more questions than it answers, and yet to be religious requires a certain amount of blind faith; it is difficult to rationally believe in a ‘god’. and therefore the faith required to believe irrationally precludes the need to search and find answers to things, because the answer is always “god did it”… so far as I see.
    Also there’s the general smugness of religious folk (oh look, they’re going to hell, poor dears) which I know you don’t buy into and all. But it does seem to me like a lot of Christians base their morality in the bible and say they would not know how to behave without the religious guidance contained therein, but if you take taht to be the word of god, surely you SHOULD obey it indiscriminately, which means that women are second-class citizens, and anyone who doesn’t believe in god deserves death, as well as that you shouldn’t kill people (specifically non-believers, if you look at the actual translation) or covet your neighbour’s whatever. Which is a tad stupid. And therefore if you say “the bible is outdated; take it with a pinch of salt” why not yes, do away with it altogether? and then why bother with religion at all? Humans do have an innate morality, that does not need a bible or a religion to tell them how to behave. Why waste time believing in one when the world works just as well (if not better) without one?
    I now sound a bit violent and evil… Devil’s (hehe) advocate and all. Sorry…

  18. standingonthebrink

    Don’t worry, you don’t sound violent and evil in the least, I really liked everything you said, because you sound just like me, and like every rational atheist I know (as opposed to the mad ones who get all crazy about how wrong religion is, or the ones like my sister who are positively religious in their atheism, ‘oh look, isn’t it amazing that the world is so amazing even though there isn’t a god, isn’t it amazing that all this happened by chance?’ – no, it isn’t amazing, it’s just what happened, how it happened has nothing to do with the emotional value you do or do not put on to it, surely?).

    I became religious – in a way – as part of my search for answers to things, and it’s an evolving philosophy. I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if, in a years time, I haven’t found answers which satisfy me (who ever really does) and find that any faith I once had in a God has quite melted away. So I’m a thinking Christian. I still think one’s faith is an entirely personal thing. I don’t really think that the bible is the word of God, although I think parts of it were inspired by the word of God. And the moral guidelines contained therein are designed for a wholly different, harsher world, although the treatment of women is something I will never agree with. Parts of the Bible (not that I know it at all well) are still relevant, I think – the New Testament in particular, because the Old Testament is a bit eye-for-an-eye and bloody, whereas the New Testament is, on the whole, ‘nicer’.

    I don’t think humans have an innate morality; I think we are all innately utterly selfish, but have evolved a morality which works to help us all live together in relative harmony. If we *did* have an innate sense of morality then there wouldn’t be injustices like sweatshops or torture, we’d do more to help out with the famine and wars and things that plague, say, most of Africa, because innately we’d feel absolutely that we should, but we don’t, because we’re selfish. Morality is learned, and whether you feel that comes from a God, or from the evolution of humans as a social animal on a huge scale, or whatever, it’s still only a veneer, I think, however much we try to make ourselves believe it isn’t.

    And partly, I believe, because I’m one of those scary born-again types who found themselves in church, one day, (I’d gone along with a friend because I wanted to spend time with her and I wanted a good sing because I missed my choir), and burst into tears and totally freaked out, basically. But I’m not born again in the happy clappy downright mad sense of the word, don’t worry. My faith is, and always has been, a work in progress. Doubtless I’ll go through a Buddhist phase next…

    Meanwhile, Anna, my grandmother is Helen Rivers, nee Degenhardt, and I know I have some kind of distant relation called Anna (although I never follow exactly how I’m related to most of the family tree, I know some one of my relatives worked it all out a couple of years back). This could be the oddest coincidence, ever…

  19. Adam

    In my opinion, Faith is a wholly personal thing. I have a number of highly religious friends, who all experience their faith in different ways. I have some friends who were raised in a very religous household, their faith is something that’s been a part of their life forever, and has shaped their life and personality. A number of friends have also become born-again, they either rationally came to it, through being unable to answer some questions, some arrived there in times of need, and one arrived there through her own personal experience with God.

    I’m probably not at liberty to pass on her story exactly over the interweb, but the gist is – she was raised religiously, went through a teenage rebelious time which wholly upset her parents… The bought her a book entitled “Converting your child back” or something similar – she saw this as basicially saying “How to Brainwash your child in 10 easy steps” One day how ever, when she was having a rough time – almost a breakdown, she began to read the book, and had a very real, personal experience with God. He came to her, when she was in her hour of need. Since then she’s never questioned her faith. She no longer refers to her belief in God as such, she states that there is a God as a fact. She attends a church – but a church not consisting of hymns and sermons and the like, rather one where people spend a few hours sitting around talking about God, their beliefs, experiences and so on. They have sometimes held their church in the pub!

    Back on topic – We’ve spoken a lot on the subject of her faith – and on the issue of Hell, her and I both agree neither of us believe it. Not even in an after-life as the bible would suggest. Simply because the idea that you are judged after your life, implies that this – this life right now – is simply a test, which makes God seem nasty and vindictive – and neither of us are prepared to accept that. Her least of all as He was there when she needed him.

    Those are my thoughts/friends experiences – faith, I think, needs to be personal – what we believe or don’t believe is as individual as the personality we all exhibit – which is why my beliefs are different to hers, to yours, and to anyone else’s who has posted… and like so much of me – has hopefully remained a mystery…

  20. annadegenhardt

    *ahem* yes, what a coincidence. My paternal grandmother was ALSO called Anna, and my maternal grandmother’s maiden name is Degenhardt. Wow… how exciting……. (brain, O sister mine? hehe…)
    I’m glad I’m not a “madly ‘religious’ atheist” like your sister. Although I now feel a tad schizophrenic…

  21. annadegenhardt

    … sorry. I changed my name on here because I’m also on a joint blog with “Clessidra” – check out the Gallery of Culture (I think it’s on my blog roll) and she (guess who she is) didn’t want us to use our original names. I was sure I’d told you… :-p

    Sorry. Now I feel mean…


  22. Here’s a hint on pseudonyms: CHOOSE ONE THAT HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU OR YOUR LIFE, okay? That was TOO confusing. AND you’ve made me look bloody stupid in front of my friends… Although to be fair, we DO have a second cousin CALLED Anna Degenhardt, I’m more or less certain.

    Oh, you annoying, pestilential child. And yes, you are a madly religious atheist, or at least I think so.

    I love you really!


  23. And Adam, I think I agree with a lot of what your friend says, basically. God came to me when I needed him, too, as a sort of presence, which calmed me down rather, to say the least; and I can’t believe that a God like that would have framed life as only a test, followed by eternal punishment or reward. It’s just not nice!


  24. Flix

    The best thing about this commentary is the sibling exchange. That made me smile a wide smile, stmtm.


  25. standingonthebrink

    hehe yes I can imagine it WOULD be amusing if you weren’t RELATED to the total idiot…. No, I do love her really.

    And I still don’t know…what’s STMTM?


  26. annadegenhardt



    This was the only pseudonym I could come up with which wordpress would allow me to have 😦


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