I have a question for… I’m not even sure what to call them. The question is for those people who consider themselves to be Christian but who don’t follow any of the traditional Christian denominations or denominational rules.
My question is this:
How did you come to the conclusion that it was OK for you to invent your own religion and how do you continue to justify it to yourself?
Let me explain.
From my point of view there are several types of Christian. By that, without getting into too much detail, to an average outsider it looks like there are Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists and Pentecostals for example. Now I realise that’s not an exhaustive list and even in the few I’ve mentioned there are many sub divisions but I can’t very well list all 38,000 odd denominations. I think this few will serve the purpose.
There are the hard-core fundamentalist Christians and the Biblical literalists who take the religious thing very seriously. Then there are Christians that go to church every Sunday and follow the rules of whichever denomination they belong to and I feel like this is the majority of Christians - average Christians if you will.
Then you get another kind of Christian. I’ve noticed this new kind of Christian becoming more popular and more prevalent lately. I classify this new kind of Christian into 3 sub groups (as one does with Christian denominations…): Holiday Christians, Creative Christians and Christians-By-Default.
I know a couple in each group and they are the ones I have in mind. Holiday Christians are – and you often find these in the Orthodox denominations – those Christians who go to church for the big holidays like Easter and Christmas and possibly a wedding or the odd communion in between.
Creative Christians are an interesting bunch and they’ve really been popping up everywhere recently. I call them Creative Christians because they say things like “I hate religion but I love god” or “I am a passionate follower of Christ” or “I’m not religious, I follow Jesus”. These people – I really do hesitate to call them Christians since most of them avoid even calling themselves Christian – eschew the standard religious practices in favour of… well, something else. They might even join in when one pokes a bit of fun at their more traditional Christian compatriots and their traditional Christian views. Some Creative Christians even think that religion is a bad thing! I know a couple of people who fall into this category.
And then there are the Christians-By-Default. I know very many people who fall into this category and to be honest, their ‘beliefs’ seem a little bizarre to me. Where the Holiday Christians have re-invented Christianity to be easier to live with while still keeping up pretenses and the Creative Christians have invented an almost entirely new ‘spiritual religion’ loosely based on Christianity, the Christians-By-Default have not bothered to change or re-invent anything, instead watering down a fine, if a bit diverse, two thousand year tradition to a basic, effortless superstition. For example, I know a bunch of people who call themselves ‘Christian’ who have not once in their lives set foot in a church, do not own a Bible and have never read it, who do not normally pray, do pretty nasty things and are generally pretty indecent people. Yet, they firmly believe that they are Christian and will be going to heaven – based purely on the luck of being born into a moderately Christian environment I would imagine.
I have very little respect for any of the three categories. To be fair, I have a really hard time respecting any religious person – for obvious reasons – but I do respect the ones who take their religions seriously a bit more than the ones who don’t. Anybody who claims to believe that there is a God and that eternal happiness and eternal torture is in the balance and doesn’t take it seriously is in my opinion the worst kind of…. stupid? Hypocrite? Fool? I just can’t understand how it’s possible to ‘do religion’ in such a disgustingly half-arsed way. If you believe it’s true, and the consequences are pretty damn severe, it should matter a lot. It should matter much more than anything else in the world matters.
So why doesn’t it I wonder.
The Holiday Christians that I know are a little… perplexing. They love the big orthodox church ceremonies and superstitions. Some of them claim to be Christian but they don’t read the Bible and don’t go to church any other time outside of Christmas or Easter. Some of them claim they think the Bible is rubbish but that ‘there must be something’, ‘there has to be a God’ and ‘there can’t be nothing’. And they flat-out argue this point and insist that one day I too will know (presumably when something bad happens to me). This is confusing. You have to wonder how do they arrive at ‘there must be something’ without even having so much as a Bible to refer to? What evidence could bring them to this conclusion if they admit that the Bible is hogwash and every other religion is wrong? I find their attitude very curious. It seems to me that they’ve invented a fairy tale of their very own to believe in that is really easy to follow since it doesn’t take much to get up early (or stay up late) for church twice a year while still believing you’re going to see dead friends and family in paradise. Convenient; reassuring perhaps, but baseless.
The Christians-By-Default are pretty much useless, some of them even useless as people (at least the ones I have in mind). So intellectually lazy that they couldn’t be bothered to learn the first thing about the religion they claim to be a part of. So ignorant of basic Christian doctrine they’d be hard pressed to state the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. What’s there to say? They’ve warped a religious belief so much that the convenient superstition that now features briefly in their lives when things get a bit shitty is barely recognisable. And based on what? Nothing but what is the easiest most convenient outcome for them.
And Creative Christians? How did they come up with this new ‘spiritual Christian’ philosophy? How are they getting it right where a billion Catholics are not?
Which is how I got to my original question. How did they come to the conclusion that it would be just dandy to invent their own religion? I guess the answer lies in the 38,000 odd denominations of Christianity. It seems every second Christian invents his or her own flavour.
Do none of them find this strange? They all claim to speak to the same God. Since they all seem to be getting a different message, are they all right? Does God really enjoy this much variety? It seems a little unlikely to me since He picked only the Israelites to be his extra special people back in the beginning and showed the finger (and the ugly edge of genocide) to the rest. And that’s after granting the even more unlikely situation of this deity existing in the first place.
Before you can even begin to answer how it’s OK to invent your own religion, there are several fundamental hurdles a Christian must cross before being able to legitimately invent a new kind of Christianity.
Jesus Christ said point-blank that you have to obey all of the old laws, all 613 of them in the Old Testament. I guess if your new religion includes all the ‘old laws’, no problem there; however, none of the Christianity 2.x religions I describe above do… A bunch of them want to do away with the Bible even (for good reason, it’s chock full of bullshit and contradictions).
Which sort of begs the question of how you know about Jesus Christ without the Bible. They can’t have it both ways: either the Bible is in or its out. If its out, you can’t be a Christian and you have no other way to know about Yahweh.
Unless… Jesus is speaking to them!
But he’s not. It’s simple to prove and any honest Christian could prove it to themselves pretty quickly. They just need to pray to Jesus to put a verifiable fact that they could not possibly know into their brain – preferably one that’s really good and useful like the cure for cancer or a way to end world hunger.
That’s two birds with one stone. Nothing will happen which proves that prayer doesn’t work and Jesus doesn’t talk to anybody.
What about self-labelled ‘passionate followers of Christ’? They might avoid the ‘Christian’ label but the Bible makes a couple of suggestions about ‘following Christ’. Have they sold all their possessions to follow their deity as he suggested? Do they take no thought for the morrow? Do they ever put their own family before their deity? Do they avoid getting rich so that it will be easier to get into heaven? Every single one of the examples I can think of do exactly none of those things. And why not? If they really believe and they sure claim to believe, why do they not do the things Jesus said they should do to increase their chances? Why do they not put everything they have into this belief that is supposed to be the difference between eternal happiness and eternal torture? Or have they also edited out the eternal torture part? I find it very strange that people who claim to believe only do barely enough to satisfy their own conscience or keep up appearances.
How did you come to the conclusion that it was OK for you to invent your own religion and how do you continue to justify it to yourself.
I have a hypothesis.
Holiday Christians are desperate and a little full of crap, Christians-By-Default are flat out lazy and Creative Christians have recognised that Christianity is bullshit but are emotionally invested in it for whatever reason and so are changing arse-backwards bronze age myths into something more palatable, something more ‘modern’, something they can and want to believe but which is no less ridiculous.
If you have a different hypothesis, I’d love to hear it.