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Tysyacha 02-13-2011 04:27 PM

Losing My Religion (LONG!!!)
 
(NOTE: This is an open letter that I first wrote to one of my best LF friends.)

I went to church this morning, mainly to spend time with my mom and dad and to cry out for help to the higher power/God in which I believe. However, the time in which I thought I'd be free to do so without fear, guilt, or condemnation was poisoned--ruined--by a rather Orwellian sermon. What I mean is this: In his novel 1984, George Orwell talked about the concepts of doublethink and doublespeak--thinking and saying two completely opposite things while believing in them both, completely. As a teenager and young adult, I didn't understand this at all, but now that I've experienced a bit more of life, I feel I have a good grasp of it. Again, let me explain. This whole THING is hard to explain, as shown by my use of the word "thing"!!!

Our church's pastor is doing a sermon series entitled "Losing My Religion". He's encouraging us, meaning the church congregation, to have a genuine relationship with God instead of focusing on "religion"--the do's and dont's, the rituals and prohibitions, the doing of specific things to win God's love instead of being--living--in God's light and love. Granted, I don't really know what it means to "live in God's light and love" anymore, but our pastor kind of takes it for granted that since we're all Christians and have been to church for years, we do--or should, at least--know what this means. Anyway, that's the point of his sermon series on the surface. However, at least in my mind, if a sermon provokes far more questions, objections, and fear in me than peace and understanding, then something's wrong with it. Something's wrong with its premises.

1) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about love--specifically how (God's) love is sacrificial and unconditional. This is consistent with what I've been (doctrinally) taught about God's love.

-1) On the OTHER hand, along with this message of love, he talked about the bad news--what I call "the catch": "Some people are condemned already, because they don't believe in Jesus."

If God's love is supposed to be unconditional, and "condemnation" means an eternal withdrawal of God's love--that's what I believe that Hell is--then isn't "belief in Jesus" a condition of God's love? If you don't believe in Jesus, say my pastor and church, then you will be judged guilty and separated forever from God and His love. How, then, can they honestly say that God's love is unconditional? To me, this is a crystal-clear example of what Orwell called doublethink.

2) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about the very beginning of John 3:16. It says, "For God so loved the world..." Meaning, God loved all the people in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of time. Fair enough, say I, because as my pastor also exclaimed, "God IS love!"

-2) On the OTHER hand, he talked about how WE, as HUMANS, not just as Christians, are "born bad". If God despises evil--things that are bad--which I'm sure my pastor and I both agree that He does, then how can God love US if we're BORN bad/evil? If God loves all the people in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of time, and yet such people are every-single-one-of-them BORN evil, then the concept of God's love makes no sense at all. It's utterly contradictory, and another brilliant example of what Orwell deemed doublethink.

This next example might be the most insidious of all.

3) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about how living in God's grace and mercy means "you have nothing to lose (because you've gained salvation through Christ) and nothing to prove (because you don't have to try and win God's love anymore. Jesus did all the 'proving' for you)."

-3) On the OTHER hand, his view on salvation is called the "perseverance of the saints," meaning that if you not only continue having faith, but also if "your life reflects your faith in Jesus" (meaning you do enough good deeds and don't swear/don't drink/don't slander or gossip/don't cheat, etc.) THEN you will be saved. He made the point that "you can't just pray a prayer that invites Jesus into your heart and then live your life sinning all you want." Fair enough--I hate hypocrisy anyway. However, isn't this another condition of God's supposedly unconditional salvation? I'd hate to be on my deathbed worrying if I'd been pure enough, and done enough good deeds, to be authentically saved. Underneath all of my pastor and church's pious words and rhetoric, is it REALLY the truth that I have everything to lose (my salvation) and everything to prove (myself and my "genuine relationship with God") through my good deeds? I was wrong--there is a fourth example that blows the previous three away:

4) On the ONE hand, my pastor made the point that God wants a real relationship with us.

-4) On the OTHER hand, he also made the point that "our response, and our relationship with God, must be genuine (in order for all of this to work)." However, he never told us who decides what is and is not a "genuine" relationship with God. Supposedly, God should and does, but he never said that explicitly. That worries me. Thoughts? I have a knot in the pit of my stomach...

Note: Why have I done the 1) -1), 2) -2) enumeration that way? As you can probably tell, it wasn't just to list my points, one by one. What is 1 + -1, 2 + -2, etc.? That's right, zero, and that's why I feel so empty inside instead of full right now. I don't really understand--about God's love, about Jesus, about salvation and condemnation/going to Hell, and especially about what a "genuine relationship with God" is. I also don't understand what "losing my religion" would free me from--at least as much as my pastor understands the concept of "losing my religion". Do I make any sense at all? Perhaps not, but that's about as much as I can explain it.

Right now, I feel lost. Used up. Discarded. Thrown away like trash. I lost my job--I was used and expended as any "human resource" would be, and then laid off when there was no longer any money to pay for my continued usefulness as an employee of my workplace. I was forced to move back home, which I did NOT want, because I'm running out of money and my parents are the ones supporting me right now (along with unemployment and government charity). I have no right on Earth to ask such questions, and no right to feel this way, because of my circumstances and my supposed status as a Christian. At least, that's how I feel right now.

I feel abandoned, and like no one understands. I feel like if the people around me knew what I really thought, and how I really felt, then they would judge me negatively, and condemn me (withdraw their friendship/love/etc. from me, because I'm "supposed to be a Christian" and not the way I am right now). Am I an ungrateful--er, female dog in heat? Perhaps, but I keep feeling guilty because I KNOW I shouldn't feel this way, and yet I do. I also feel guilty because I keep suspecting that the "love" I'm experiencing from others comes with strings attached.

If my pastor wants me to "lose my religion", then I have good news for him: I already have.

I've lost a lot more than that, too, and I find it absolutely impossible to "get over it" and "deal with it" like every good Christian should. I feel a void inside of me, a "zero". This is MY truth.

Sincerely,
Tysyacha

Pho3nix 02-13-2011 04:46 PM

I think your problem is that you're trying to be logical with something that is inherently not.

Tysyacha 02-13-2011 05:11 PM

^^^ This. However, another problem that I have is that I find it difficult to turn off my brain and just go with my emotions when it comes to this sort of thing. I find it hard to just BELIEVE something without wondering WHY or IF it should be believed. I'm weird! :P

jonathan7 02-13-2011 05:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
(NOTE: This is an open letter that I first wrote to one of my best LF friends.)

I went to church this morning, mainly to spend time with my mom and dad and to cry out for help to the higher power/God in which I believe. However, the time in which I thought I'd be free to do so without fear, guilt, or condemnation was poisoned--ruined--by a rather Orwellian sermon. What I mean is this: In his novel 1984, George Orwell talked about the concepts of doublethink and doublespeak--thinking and saying two completely opposite things while believing in them both, completely. As a teenager and young adult, I didn't understand this at all, but now that I've experienced a bit more of life, I feel I have a good grasp of it. Again, let me explain. This whole THING is hard to explain, as shown by my use of the word "thing"!!!

Hey Tysyacha I'm sorry to hear this, and I will respond, I hope what I say will be helpful.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
Our church's pastor is doing a sermon series entitled "Losing My Religion". He's encouraging us, meaning the church congregation, to have a genuine relationship with God instead of focusing on "religion"--the do's and dont's, the rituals and prohibitions, the doing of specific things to win God's love instead of being--living--in God's light and love. Granted, I don't really know what it means to "live in God's light and love" anymore, but our pastor kind of takes it for granted that since we're all Christians and have been to church for years, we do--or should, at least--know what this means.

The statement "I'm in a relationship not a religion" is actually an idiom, I am a Christian, but being a Christian means I am "religious". I hear a lot of Christians say that "Christianity is a relationship and not a religion" but in truth I think they haven't really thought about what the statement entails and are just parroting what others have heard. I am a Christian, I have a relationship with Jesus, and that means I am part of a religion; belief in God is a religious belief, despite what others may try and say to the contrary.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
Anyway, that's the point of his sermon series on the surface. However, at least in my mind, if a sermon provokes far more questions, objections, and fear in me than peace and understanding, then something's wrong with it. Something's wrong with its premises.

Please feel free to forward the contents of this to your "pastor" should you wish... You may also wish to think about discussing it with him, I can't say if he would be helpful or unhelpful or if he is a "good" pastor or not.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
1) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about love--specifically how (God's) love is sacrificial and unconditional. This is consistent with what I've been (doctrinally) taught about God's love.

-1) On the OTHER hand, along with this message of love, he talked about the bad news--what I call "the catch": "Some people are condemned already, because they don't believe in Jesus."

If God's love is supposed to be unconditional, and "condemnation" means an eternal withdrawal of God's love--that's what I believe that Hell is--then isn't "belief in Jesus" a condition of God's love? If you don't believe in Jesus, say my pastor and church, then you will be judged guilty and separated forever from God and His love. How, then, can they honestly say that God's love is unconditional? To me, this is a crystal-clear example of what Orwell called doublethink.

In any discussion it is helpful to clarify terms, in this case what does your pastor and you think the phrase "unconditional love" mean? For me, I don't think "unconditional love" exists, in fact I think it a meaningless phrase.

A couple of observations, firstly Jesus said not to judge, while I would say there is both heaven and hell, it is not mine, or any other humans place to say who will be in either. If you believe in a loving God, then it is far more traumatic to the said deity that some of the beings he created are going to hell. What is the need for hell?

But, I ask you, you have a criminal who has committed a crime, lets say any of armed robbery, rape or murder; what do you do with the said individual? Do you leave them among the said populace? Lets say you have a serial rapist or a serial killer; what do you do with them? Lets say its a serial killer that psychologists say has a 100% re-offendal rate (most serial killers have a 99% re-offendal should you think this unrealistic). It would seem to me if you apply what your saying here, then they said above individuals should be allowed to continue in the general populace...

So I also ask you a simple question; where should individuals like Hitler go when they die? It's upto you, if you were God, what would you do with them? I mean should he be in the same place as the millions he killed?

It would also seem to me that if we are going to account for what is known as "Sin" in Church circles or more commonly "Evil" then it would seem to me God thought our freedom of choice was so important that he would no stop it, even if the consequences are drastic; see the state of the world, with millions dying etc etc.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
2) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about the very beginning of John 3:16. It says, "For God so loved the world..." Meaning, God loved all the people in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of time. Fair enough, say I, because as my pastor also exclaimed, "God IS love!"

-2) On the OTHER hand, he talked about how WE, as HUMANS, not just as Christians, are "born bad". If God despises evil--things that are bad--which I'm sure my pastor and I both agree that He does, then how can God love US if we're BORN bad/evil? If God loves all the people in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of time, and yet such people are every-single-one-of-them BORN evil, then the concept of God's love makes no sense at all. It's utterly contradictory, and another brilliant example of what Orwell deemed doublethink.

Is the above actually an accurate summation of the truth, or what some standard doctrines are? Another question can also be asked can two seemingly contradictory things be true at once would be my first question? I would dispute that all individuals are born evil, there seems to be a great over-emphasis in certain Christian circles on the "evil" of man, which seemingly forgets we are also made in the image of God. The said above also ignores that certain individuals such as Abraham, Moses and various others where seen to be "righteous" in the eyes of the Lord. I cannot know where others stand with God; it's upto Jesus, but will there be Muslims in Heaven? I don't know that's upto Jesus; I certainly hope so!

This next example might be the most insidious of all.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
3) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about how living in God's grace and mercy means "you have nothing to lose (because you've gained salvation through Christ) and nothing to prove (because you don't have to try and win God's love anymore. Jesus did all the 'proving' for you)."

-3) On the OTHER hand, his view on salvation is called the "perseverance of the saints," meaning that if you not only continue having faith, but also if "your life reflects your faith in Jesus" (meaning you do enough good deeds and don't swear/don't drink/don't slander or gossip/don't cheat, etc.) THEN you will be saved. He made the point that "you can't just pray a prayer that invites Jesus into your heart and then live your life sinning all you want." Fair enough--I hate hypocrisy anyway. However, isn't this another condition of God's supposedly unconditional salvation? I'd hate to be on my deathbed worrying if I'd been pure enough, and done enough good deeds, to be authentically saved. Underneath all of my pastor and church's pious words and rhetoric, is it REALLY the truth that I have everything to lose (my salvation) and everything to prove (myself and my "genuine relationship with God") through my good deeds? I was wrong--there is a fourth example that blows the previous three away:

Lets swap this point around though, I have friends who were drug addicts and gang members, and having become Christians, they have totally turned their lives around. They don't do good because they have to, or that they are force or to prove themselves. They do good, because they are thankful for what has been done for them, and they want to make a difference to others. It would seem to me that is very different to having to do something for Salvation.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
4) On the ONE hand, my pastor made the point that God wants a real relationship with us.

-4) On the OTHER hand, he also made the point that "our response, and our relationship with God, must be genuine (in order for all of this to work)." However, he never told us who decides what is and is not a "genuine" relationship with God. Supposedly, God should and does, but he never said that explicitly. That worries me. Thoughts? I have a knot in the pit of my stomach...

I think it another meaningless statement myself, what is a genuine relationship? Is the relationship between a loving father and a loving daughter any more "genuine" than the relationship between an abusive father and a fearful daughter? In my experience God is faithful regardless of the way we act, and there are various examples in the Bible of God being faithful to those who are acting very differently towards him.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
Note: Why have I done the 1) -1), 2) -2) enumeration that way? As you can probably tell, it wasn't just to list my points, one by one. What is 1 + -1, 2 + -2, etc.? That's right, zero, and that's why I feel so empty inside instead of full right now. I don't really understand--about God's love, about Jesus, about salvation and condemnation/going to Hell, and especially about what a "genuine relationship with God" is. I also don't understand what "losing my religion" would free me from--at least as much as my pastor understands the concept of "losing my religion". Do I make any sense at all? Perhaps not, but that's about as much as I can explain it.

Forget all of this discussion; Jesus loves you, right now, he loves you if you are a Christian or not. Now many Christians to me, do not actually really soul search and evaluate their lives or what they believe. I think you are doing that right now, with regards Jesus, do I think I am deserving of his love? The answer to that is complex; as I think it both yes and no. No because I sin, and am deserving of punishment, indeed, I think I am more guilty as I am far more aware of my actions as I am a Christian, than those who do not know what they are doing. (Think about Jesus statement on the Cross "Forgive them farther for they do not know what they are doing). I also think yes I do deserve love for a variety of reasons not least because I am a Child of God and made in HIS image.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
Right now, I feel lost. Used up. Discarded. Thrown away like trash. I lost my job--I was used and expended as any "human resource" would be, and then laid off when there was no longer any money to pay for my continued usefulness as an employee of my workplace. I was forced to move back home, which I did NOT want, because I'm running out of money and my parents are the ones supporting me right now (along with unemployment and government charity). I have no right on Earth to ask such questions, and no right to feel this way, because of my circumstances and my supposed status as a Christian. At least, that's how I feel right now.

You have every right to question and think things through, the Bible speaks of people "wrestling" with God. And I think this is far more honest than a lot of so called Christians I know who have never dealt with such questions. At the Churches I have attended I have often been told that I should read Nietzsche, and other atheists as I would loose my faith. However I want to believe what is true and as such if what I believe is true I shouldn't fear anything else, if that is true then I should want to know it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
I feel abandoned, and like no one understands. I feel like if the people around me knew what I really thought, and how I really felt, then they would judge me negatively, and condemn me (withdraw their friendship/love/etc. from me, because I'm "supposed to be a Christian" and not the way I am right now). Am I an ungrateful--er, female dog in heat? Perhaps, but I keep feeling guilty because I KNOW I shouldn't feel this way, and yet I do. I also feel guilty because I keep suspecting that the "love" I'm experiencing from others comes with strings attached.

I think that if people really love you then they won't withdraw from you for being honest, I can only speak of my dads love, but his love doesn't come with strings attached; with my mum it is far more complex. A problem that I think exists in the Church is people being unable to be honest, for my, I would not judge or condemn, it is not my place but I would help where I can. If that is the case where you go I don't know.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
If my pastor wants me to "lose my religion", then I have good news for him: I already have.

I've lost a lot more than that, too, and I find it absolutely impossible to "get over it" and "deal with it" like every good Christian should. I feel a void inside of me, a "zero". This is MY truth.

Sincerely,
Tysyacha

I don't think real Christians ever "get over it", "deal with it" - I don't think those are actual tenants of the Christian faith, they may well be tenants of the west and the so called protestant work ethic. But I don't think they are something Jesus would ever teach - where do you see him saying to people "get over it" or "deal with it"? He doesn't as ultimately I don't think that is a loving response.

I hope that this has been helpful! :)

GB j7

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pho3nix (Post 2766931)
I think your problem is that you're trying to be logical with something that is inherently not.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766933)
^^^ This. However, another problem that I have is that I find it difficult to turn off my brain and just go with my emotions when it comes to this sort of thing. I find it hard to just BELIEVE something without wondering WHY or IF it should be believed. I'm weird! :P

Are any of us entirely logical, I try to be logical but we all have our cultural biases, utlimately perhaps Darwin expressed it best; “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Tysyacha, I think you should be encouraged to always thinking about the WHY and IF of any belief. It maybe not the norm, but individuals such as yourself do not commit acts like the Holocaust, to many individuals go about their lives without questioning. And if God exists do you think he wants mindless followers? I think not, especially when you consider the disciples Jesus chose, think of Peter, he continually got it wrong.

Perhaps I should leave you with a quote;

"While spiritual insight or faith is one valid measure in spiritual matters, true spiritual insight never directly contradicts valid intellectual insight or facts in the physical world. Faith may go beyond reason, but does not go against it. It never blatantly contradicts the facts which we perceive with our God-given common sense. Faith and fact point in a single direction. Whey they do not, something is seriously wrong…A willingness to accept facts as they exist, and to learn to use them to test the views one holds rather than falling back on subjective experience or rationalizations, is the first step towards discovering genuine truth." (Charles Larson, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, pp. 177-178)

Alkonium 02-13-2011 05:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766933)
^^^ This. However, another problem that I have is that I find it difficult to turn off my brain and just go with my emotions when it comes to this sort of thing. I find it hard to just BELIEVE something without wondering WHY or IF it should be believed. I'm weird! :P

I don't know if I'm helping or not, but I don't think it's your brain you should be turning off. J7's right, you should be questioning your religion. If the only logical conclusion is that your religion isn't for you, you're not helping anyone by knowingly living a lie.

Qui-Gon Glenn 02-13-2011 07:59 PM

I have this to add.... the topic of the sermon was a good one, that I wish more Christian's would follow - lose your church but keep your religion. It is your relationship with God, and since it is all in your own mind, why not keep it there?

I am not saying that God does not exist (although I have my own opinion) but I am saying that organized religion quite often does a disservice to their patrons, by feeding them a bunch of contradictory crap. That, and you get to sit next to a bunch of once-a-week Christians, who are "saving themselves" by going to Church, like a drone bee called by the queen.

Critical thinking is a skill you obviously have Tysy, otherwise you wouldn't have had such an awful experience that day. You can believe in God and not believe in your pastor, or your church.

As to where Hitler and his ilk should go.... as j7 noted, not our place to call it, but I tend to think that if "hell" exists, heaven is empty.

Tysyacha 02-13-2011 08:16 PM

jonathan7,

I must say that you've helped me out a GREAT deal here! As for Hitler, I don't quite know what to say about where his soul should go now that he is dead, but I do agree that his soul should be separated from others--especially the ones whom he slaughtered. The problem that I have with Hell, however, has three components:

1) All who fall short of (God's) standard of absolute perfection--flawlessness, if you will--shall go to Hell after they die. Since none of us humans have ever reached, or even come close to reaching, this standard of perfection, then it follows that every single one of us will be condemned to this particular place. We will experience a permanent separation from God and His love. God's plan, according to Christianity, was to solve this problem through sending and sacrificing Jesus, but there still remains a counterpoint. A -1 to this point, if you will. In short, it goes like this:

-1) If God did not want to create beings who were equal to Himself--and, if God Himself is perfect--then, NATURALLY, the beings he created would be IMPERFECT(or at least weaker or less powerful than He). So, how can He condemn every single one of his imperfect creatures to Hell right from the very beginning? Some would say that since Adam and Eve were at first without sin in the Garden of Eden, then they WERE perfect. However, I don't believe this is true. If Adam and Eve were perfect beings, then they wouldn't have listened to Satan and yielded to his temptation. They would have told him to "go to Hell," so to speak, and made the right choice instead of the wrong one. If Adam and Eve were perfect humans in the Garden of Eden, they would have known and done better because it was their NATURE. I know that my explanation here might be confusing as heck, but my ultimate point is this:

How can God demand perfection of us (humans) if He created us as lesser, that is to say imperfect, beings? Right now, I'd like to ask another question:

DOES HITLER GO TO HELL? On this point, most definitely yes, because Hitler was far, far, FAR from it. I disagree, however, that we ALL should be where Hitler is because of our own weakness and flaws. Now, on to Hell Problem 2:

2) There is absolutely NO HOPE in Hell, and no chance of redemption.

-2) If you compare Hell to a prison here on Earth, then that's really an unfair comparison because, at least to my knowledge, Earth's prison should be a "rehabilitative" place as well as one in which you are punished. In Hell, though, this is a no-go. The purpose of Hell is, in my opinion, also threefold: 1) to punish humans for their sins 2) to separate them fully from God, who cannot tolerate sin or evil and 3) to make sure there is no possibility of lost souls ever returning or being raised so that they can sin some more.

DOES HITLER GO TO HELL? Again, on this point, yes, but there's a glitch: If Hitler was THE worst person on Earth, let's say, and if Hitler was cast into a place where there is no more hope, EVER, then what hope do the rest of us have? Sure, we may not have engineered the Holocaust or murdered millions, but still--in Hell, there is no hope for Hitler, and no hope for us. I consider it a shame that if everything about Hell and Heaven is true, we only have about seventy to one hundred years to "get it right" and believe (in Jesus) before we are separated from God for an INFINITE amount of time. Hence point 3:

3) Man and Man's deeds are finite, and yet Hell is an infinite punishment.

-3) Some would say that Man's sins, flaws, weaknesses and disobedience infinitely offend God and make Him angry. Man has, in essence, betrayed and committed "cosmic treason" against God. Thus, every man, woman and child on Earth--each one a sinner--should be infinitely separated from God and cast into Hell, where they will be infinitely punished. However, if this is true, then where does forgiveness come in? Some would say that if you didn't accept God's forgiveness on earth, during the finite time in which you were physically alive, then you SHOULD never have another chance to do so.

DOES HITLER GO TO HELL? Here's where I have no idea, honestly. I do not know whether Hitler deserves to suffer INFINITELY for what he did, and NEVER be forgiven, even by God.

So, I have a serious problem with Hell, and the premises upon which it's based. As for the Christian former gang members and drug dealers, it gladdens my heart to hear that they do these things because, as you said, "they want to make a difference to others/are thankful for what's been given to them." In my opinion, that's the way it should be, but my pastor made it sound like "If you're REALLY saved, then you WILL do X, Y, Z."

Tysyacha 02-13-2011 08:22 PM

Qui-Gon Glenn:

Thank you! :)

Darth InSidious 02-13-2011 08:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766929)
(NOTE: This is an open letter that I first wrote to one of my best LF friends.)

I went to church this morning, mainly to spend time with my mom and dad and to cry out for help to the higher power/God in which I believe. However, the time in which I thought I'd be free to do so without fear, guilt, or condemnation was poisoned--ruined--by a rather Orwellian sermon. What I mean is this: In his novel 1984, George Orwell talked about the concepts of doublethink and doublespeak--thinking and saying two completely opposite things while believing in them both, completely. As a teenager and young adult, I didn't understand this at all, but now that I've experienced a bit more of life, I feel I have a good grasp of it. Again, let me explain. This whole THING is hard to explain, as shown by my use of the word "thing"!!!

Our church's pastor is doing a sermon series entitled "Losing My Religion". He's encouraging us, meaning the church congregation, to have a genuine relationship with God instead of focusing on "religion"--the do's and dont's, the rituals and prohibitions, the doing of specific things to win God's love instead of being--living--in God's light and love. Granted, I don't really know what it means to "live in God's light and love" anymore, but our pastor kind of takes it for granted that since we're all Christians and have been to church for years, we do--or should, at least--know what this means.

My first reaction to this: surely, "living in God's light and love", focussing on one's relation with God, requires keeping God's commandments? John 14:15 comes to mind here: "If you love me, keep my commandments".

Christianity is not a static religion of sitting chanting to ourselves and congratulating one another on being enlightened while we munch oatcakes. "Faith without good works is dead", St James tells us (James 2:20-26):
Quote:

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
That's not to say that prayer is unimportant, or that we should forget giving what is due to God - far from it. But that must complement good works, and keeping God's commandments. Love of God, surely, means a desire to be obedient to His will? So far as I can see, you can't separate 'being in a relationship with God' from 'keeping God's laws', any more than you can be in a healthy relationship with a spouse while secretly betraying their trust.

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Anyway, that's the point of his sermon series on the surface. However, at least in my mind, if a sermon provokes far more questions, objections, and fear in me than peace and understanding, then something's wrong with it. Something's wrong with its premises.
I don't want to disagree exactly here, but it seems to me that maybe sermons should bring fear and confusion rather than peace. Christ didn't come to make us feel good about ourselves, and He upset a lot of people in His own time.

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1) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about love--specifically how (God's) love is sacrificial and unconditional. This is consistent with what I've been (doctrinally) taught about God's love.

-1) On the OTHER hand, along with this message of love, he talked about the bad news--what I call "the catch": "Some people are condemned already, because they don't believe in Jesus."

If God's love is supposed to be unconditional, and "condemnation" means an eternal withdrawal of God's love--that's what I believe that Hell is--then isn't "belief in Jesus" a condition of God's love? If you don't believe in Jesus, say my pastor and church, then you will be judged guilty and separated forever from God and His love. How, then, can they honestly say that God's love is unconditional? To me, this is a crystal-clear example of what Orwell called doublethink.
That's a good question. Not only is it a good question, it's a difficult one, and one which Christians have struggled with for a long, long time. And to be honest, there's no easy answer. Some of the Church Fathers suggest that for those who die unrepentent, the presence of God is painful by virtue of their being.

For myself, I think it's not that, exactly. Rather, I think it's a case of God's commandments being those things that will draw you closer to him by the effect they have on you.

Because our actions affect us just as they affect others. If you think murderous thoughts all day long, you're going to have a harder time constraining that desire. If you are constantly uncharitable about others, it's that much harder to be charitable. And so on.

Sin is not a law, as such, to me; God doesn't see our sins and say "naughty you, for that I'm not speaking to you!" Rather, 'sin' is an action (or even a thought) which orients us away from God. Ultimately, I think all sin is egocentric - it's about me, and that means, inevitably, turning away from the Other. Sin is a choice, and a pushing-away of God. To me, it seems God does not reject people but they reject Him.

If you are so unfortunate that you have never heard of God, or of Christ, if you've never met a Christian, if you live somewhere so remote or so secular that no missionary has ever reached you, how can you be condmned? Again, I don't think you can. If you seek what is good, and if you seek what is true with a sincere heart, surely you can't. But a lot of people I think do reject God, and I believe will reap the reward for that, which is not dealing with him after death, either.

I also don't think anyone is necessarily condemned. We can say "if you believe, are baptised, and follow God's commandments, you will be saved", because Our Lord said as much. What we cannot say is, "you are going to hell."

Or to put it differently: I know where Christ's Church is; I'm not too certain where it isn't.

Indeed, my own Church teaches that hell could be completely empty, though it's not a generally accepted position, for reasons jonathan outlines.

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2) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about the very beginning of John 3:16. It says, "For God so loved the world..." Meaning, God loved all the people in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of time. Fair enough, say I, because as my pastor also exclaimed, "God IS love!"

-2) On the OTHER hand, he talked about how WE, as HUMANS, not just as Christians, are "born bad". If God despises evil--things that are bad--which I'm sure my pastor and I both agree that He does, then how can God love US if we're BORN bad/evil? If God loves all the people in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of time, and yet such people are every-single-one-of-them BORN evil, then the concept of God's love makes no sense at all. It's utterly contradictory, and another brilliant example of what Orwell deemed doublethink.
First of all, I can't commend what jonathan says on this enough, because he's got it in one. I don't believe people are born evil, and are inherently evil. What we are, however, is flawed. Original Sin didn't destroy our connexion with God, or our hope of salvation. Damage it, certainly. Make us more distant from God, certainly. Make it more difficult for us to get close to God, certainly. But make us 'evil'? No. Make us capable, make us find it easy, sometimes even desirable to do evil? Yes. That is why we needed the Covenants, Old and New, that God made with us.

I'm not a fan of CS Lewis' writings, but there's a line of his from one of his books, which jonathan used to have in his signature:
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Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.

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This next example might be the most insidious of all.

3) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about how living in God's grace and mercy means "you have nothing to lose (because you've gained salvation through Christ) and nothing to prove (because you don't have to try and win God's love anymore. Jesus did all the 'proving' for you)."

-3) On the OTHER hand, his view on salvation is called the "perseverance of the saints," meaning that if you not only continue having faith, but also if "your life reflects your faith in Jesus" (meaning you do enough good deeds and don't swear/don't drink/don't slander or gossip/don't cheat, etc.) THEN you will be saved. He made the point that "you can't just pray a prayer that invites Jesus into your heart and then live your life sinning all you want." Fair enough--I hate hypocrisy anyway. However, isn't this another condition of God's supposedly unconditional salvation? I'd hate to be on my deathbed worrying if I'd been pure enough, and done enough good deeds, to be authentically saved. Underneath all of my pastor and church's pious words and rhetoric, is it REALLY the truth that I have everything to lose (my salvation) and everything to prove (myself and my "genuine relationship with God") through my good deeds?
Well, that's the problem with believing in justification by faith alone, I think. Christ, in this way of thinking, opened the road: it's up to you to walk it. And part of walking it is doing good works, and praying, and desiring (and working) to conform yourself totally to Christ.

Being baptised and then sitting and twiddling your thumbs and feeling pleased with yourself just isn't going to cut it.

The truth, as you put it, seems to me to be this: you've got the chance at salvation and eternal life. Grab it!

You don't have to 'prove' it, though, so much as make it happen yourself. God has agreed to meet you halfway: he has become human, and suffered and died as a human. You have to try to become more God-like, to make yourself like Christ, or, in the words of the Gospel, to "be perfect, like your Father in heaven is perfect".

"I'd hate to be on my deathbed worrying if I'd been pure enough, and done enough good deeds, to be authentically saved."
In my Church, we administer the Last Rites for this - to help someone die at peace and in closeness to God. But we also believe that if there are little sins on your conscience at death, your soul can be purified afterwards.

But that's also why we examine our consciences, and ask, "what sins have I committed recently", or today, and make a firm resolve not to commit them again. Not that we necessarily succeed, but we may inch a little forward. There's a line from a play by Beckett: "No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Always failing better at perfection seems to me to sum up what a Christian life should be. :)

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I was wrong--there is a fourth example that blows the previous three away:

4) On the ONE hand, my pastor made the point that God wants a real relationship with us.

-4) On the OTHER hand, he also made the point that "our response, and our relationship with God, must be genuine (in order for all of this to work)." However, he never told us who decides what is and is not a "genuine" relationship with God. Supposedly, God should and does, but he never said that explicitly. That worries me. Thoughts? I have a knot in the pit of my stomach...
I disgree that God never told us what is a genuine relationship with Him. In the Gospels, Christ tells us exactly that, I think. This is what I've been trying to say: God's commandments aren't a list of 'do's and don'ts', legalistic rules for a bureaucrat Deity. They are what will allow us to draw closer to Him, to become more like him.

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Note: Why have I done the 1) -1), 2) -2) enumeration that way? As you can probably tell, it wasn't just to list my points, one by one. What is 1 + -1, 2 + -2, etc.? That's right, zero, and that's why I feel so empty inside instead of full right now. I don't really understand--about God's love, about Jesus, about salvation and condemnation/going to Hell, and especially about what a "genuine relationship with God" is.
That's understandable. From what I can see, your pastor said something highly confused and not very sensible.

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I also don't understand what "losing my religion" would free me from--at least as much as my pastor understands the concept of "losing my religion". Do I make any sense at all? Perhaps not, but that's about as much as I can explain it.
You make lots of sense. I think the problem is that your pastor preaches an incomplete doctrine. And so it's no wonder he ties himself in knots. But I wouldn't panic. Pray, ask God's guidance, trust in the Lord.

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Right now, I feel lost. Used up. Discarded. Thrown away like trash. I lost my job--I was used and expended as any "human resource" would be, and then laid off when there was no longer any money to pay for my continued usefulness as an employee of my workplace. I was forced to move back home, which I did NOT want, because I'm running out of money and my parents are the ones supporting me right now (along with unemployment and government charity).
God values you. And that is why Christ's message was necessary, because it's about (in part) not treating people like another resource.

Of course under these circumstances you feel stressed and exhausted, and worried. But you absolutely must not feel unloved or unvalued.

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I have no right on Earth to ask such questions, and no right to feel this way, because of my circumstances and my supposed status as a Christian. At least, that's how I feel right now.
Why should your circumstances or your status as a Christian deny you the right to feel awful, or to doubt? How could you have faith if you did not have doubt? That would be like light without darkness (and notice St John didn't say, "light shines in light"!).

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I feel abandoned, and like no one understands.
There are two passages I would suggest you read, both too long to post here, but not terribly long. One is Psalm 130 (129 in the Septuagint). It begins "out of the depths". The other is Psalm 22.

Believe me, everyone has been through something like this. Some people call it the dark night of the soul. Consider Atris, in KotOR II (a slightly prosaic example, but still), when she says "I... sometimes feel as if things are collapsing... all around us. It is just at the edge of perceptions, waiting. I fear... "

I don't know, but from what you're saying, I get the impression that's sort of how you feel?

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I feel like if the people around me knew what I really thought, and how I really felt, then they would judge me negatively, and condemn me (withdraw their friendship/love/etc. from me, because I'm "supposed to be a Christian" and not the way I am right now).
If people withdraw their love and support because you're in a rough patch, they're ****ty Christians and ****ty people. You don't give poisons to an ill man, or send a doctor to the healthy. I'm sorry, but smug, self-congratulatory Christianity of the cake-sales-and-tea-with-the-vicar kind, full of propriety and empty of good charity really riles me. Luke 18:9-14.


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Am I an ungrateful--er, female dog in heat? Perhaps, but I keep feeling guilty because I KNOW I shouldn't feel this way, and yet I do. I also feel guilty because I keep suspecting that the "love" I'm experiencing from others comes with strings attached.
People always disappoint us.We will always disappoint others, I fear. It's part of being, as I said, flawed.

You should stop beating yourself up about this. It's natural to feel down when you've had a string of bad luck, and it's natural sometimes to doubt God.

It's also natural to sometimes find your friends and family are more hindrance than help when it comes to spiritual matters - after all, Job's friends all told him to 'curse God and die'. My advice would be not to tie yourself in knots over this, because I'm firmly of the belief that once self-examination becomes self-doubt it is the work of the Enemy. The question is not, "am I evil?", it's "how do I become better?"

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If my pastor wants me to "lose my religion", then I have good news for him: I already have.
I don't think you have really, Tysy. You can't doubt something you already disbelieve, any more than I can doubt Father Christmas if I already know he's not real.

The impression I get here is that your pastor gave a stupid and waffly sermon which was no help at all, and has added a spiritual quandary to a period in your life which was already trying. Losing your job, losing your independence, being supported by your parents (living with them after being away), all of these are very difficult.

It seems to me that you've actually been bottling up a lot of feelings of anxiety for a while, and your pastor just tipped the scale and it's all come out at once.

Seeing your later posts, I think you've also been given some frankly slightly distorted doctrines from your church (although, [probably] not belonging to the same one, I would say that), which you're now finding the flaws in.

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I've lost a lot more than that, too, and I find it absolutely impossible to "get over it" and "deal with it" like every good Christian should. I feel a void inside of me, a "zero". This is MY truth.

Sincerely,
Tysyacha
That void sounds to me like despair. And again, we've all been there. And you're right, you can't just jump up and stick a smile on your face while the world kicks you in the teeth. Being a Christian doesn't mandate that you have to be a giggling, smiling ultra-nice person. Partly because that person is bloody annoying.

And being a Christian doesn't mean never doubting. We call that fanaticism. Even great Christians doubt sometimes. As I said, we tend to call it the 'dark night of the soul' (a term coined by the mystic St John of the Cross), or 'spiritual dryness'. You're not alone in feeling this. And people who have never doubted, or who pretend not to, are either fanatics or disingenuous. Therese of Lisieux wrote of this, but she is now considered a saint.

Being Christian isn't - and shouldn't - be easy. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."

It takes work, it's bloody hard, and you sometimes do indeed wonder what it's all for, why you bother, and whether you couldn't have more fun without it. For me, though, the answer is that it's true. And you have to find that truth to follow. But it isn't easy.

On hell and damnation, again, I think you have it a bit skewed. I don't think we have to be absolutely perfect. But it's about putting in the effort, striving to be like God, seeking Him with a sincere heart. It's your intent that matters in this.

And when it comes to hell, I don't really think it's a 'punishment' or a place. It's the absence of God, and the natural result of pushing Him away, or denying him in life. It is, in other words, the result of our own deeds, just as getting to heaven is. In short, the ball's in your court.

I hope things look up for you soon. :)

I'm sorry, I really should go now; it's nearly one o'clock in the morning here, and I have work tomorrow. I'll try to respond again soon.

jonathan7 02-13-2011 09:15 PM

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
jonathan7,

I must say that you've helped me out a GREAT deal here! As for Hitler, I don't quite know what to say about where his soul should go now that he is dead, but I do agree that his soul should be separated from others--especially the ones whom he slaughtered. The problem that I have with Hell, however, has three components:

Hey, well I'm glad I was able to be of some help! =) If I make a number of comments on the subject of hell (somewhat strange as generally I've have little to say on it). There are various Christian doctrines about the nature of hell which I think are wrong, and indeed you won't actually find them in the Bible. Generally with both Heaven and Hell most things said about them are mere hypothesis and baseless subjection at worse.

I shall elaborate, firstly I can find no scriptural basis for Hell being infinite, the person who actually mentions it most is quotations of Jesus, where he generally says it is a "wailing and knashing of teeth" other scriptural references say it is a place where everything good from God is absent; which I would suppose is where the doctrine of some Christian sects of there not being a hell comes from.

I would observe that, it would seem from my review of scripture we can say only a few things about Hell; 1. It exsists 2. It is a place people are sent after they have been Judged; however little else is really said on the subject, nor is any time period put on it.

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
1) All who fall short of (God's) standard of absolute perfection--flawlessness, if you will--shall go to Hell after they die. Since none of us humans have ever reached, or even come close to reaching, this standard of perfection, then it follows that every single one of us will be condemned to this particular place.

Firstly let me say this, I'm generally of the opinion that all Children will go to heaven, up until a point of knowing right from wrong. But what happens to a theoretical individual who never hears of Jesus but always does the right thing? I think the problem of Evil is an important thing within the discussion we are having... Should you be interested here is something I wrote a few years ago, others may have read which you may find of interest;

Show spoiler


First question; how do you know none have reached this standard? This I think is an important point, since in the Old Testament, God was with individuals such as Noah, Abraham, Moses etc, they were from a historical time orientated point of you before Jesus. Indeed there are two individuals who did not die in the OT; Enoch and Elijah, the latter is written to have ascended to heaven.

Regardless, if we move onto the problem of evil, Adam and Eve were created perfect, but God gave them free choice. He gave them only one instruction and they choose to disobey it, they also believed the lies of the snake and ultimately believed ill of God.

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
We will experience a permanent separation from God and His love. God's plan, according to Christianity, was to solve this problem through sending and sacrificing Jesus, but there still remains a counterpoint. A -1 to this point, if you will. In short, it goes like this:

-1) If God did not want to create beings who were equal to Himself--and, if God Himself is perfect--then, NATURALLY, the beings he created would be IMPERFECT(or at least weaker or less powerful than He). So, how can He condemn every single one of his imperfect creatures to Hell right from the very beginning? Some would say that since Adam and Eve were at first without sin in the Garden of Eden, then they WERE perfect.

Well, what do you mean by perfect? You seem to be saying perfect beings is the same as being God, which I don't think go hand in hand. Lets say I make a perfect mug, is it imperfect because it not like me?

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
However, I don't believe this is true. If Adam and Eve were perfect beings, then they wouldn't have listened to Satan and yielded to his temptation.

Well, God gave the ability to choose... Is the ability to choose what makes them imperfect?

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
They would have told him to "go to Hell," so to speak, and made the right choice instead of the wrong one. If Adam and Eve were perfect humans in the Garden of Eden, they would have known and done better because it was their NATURE. I know that my explanation here might be confusing as heck, but my ultimate point is this:

Personally I disagree with your reasoning, however this is your journey and not mine :)

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
How can God demand perfection of us (humans) if He created us as lesser, that is to say imperfect, beings?

Well, in what sense do you think God demands perfection of us?

Quick story, an angel is giving an individual a tour of heaven and hell, in hell he saw a table full of food, the tables were set and everyone had really long spoons, yet all the individuals were starving they couldn't eat. He then went upto heaven, where he saw the same table, with the same long spoons but all the individuals were well-fed and healthy. He asked the angel what's the difference? The angel answered, everyone has to eat with a spoon far to long to feed themselves, in hell no-one will feed each other, where as in heaven the individuals feed each other.

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
Right now, I'd like to ask another question:

DOES HITLER GO TO HELL? On this point, most definitely yes, because Hitler was far, far, FAR from it. I disagree, however, that we ALL should be where Hitler is because of our own weakness and flaws.

I don't know where Hitler is :xp: It was more a question for you, I have my suspicions as to where he will have gone however it isn't my place to judge.

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
Now, on to Hell Problem 2:

2) There is absolutely NO HOPE in Hell, and no chance of redemption.

How do you know that?

Couple of scriptural quotes for you*;

1 Peter 3:19 "After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits"

1 Peter 4:6 "For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit".

* Be sure to read the quotations in the context of the chapter, I have seen a lot of people use lots of books and even the Bible, by selectively quoting things to twist and change meaning. But in any respect, I think the above are interesting, and are where the Catholic teaching on Purgatory originates.

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
-2) If you compare Hell to a prison here on Earth, then that's really an unfair comparison because, at least to my knowledge, Earth's prison should be a "rehabilitative" place as well as one in which you are punished. In Hell, though, this is a no-go. The purpose of Hell is, in my opinion, also threefold: 1) to punish humans for their sins 2) to separate them fully from God, who cannot tolerate sin or evil and 3) to make sure there is no possibility of lost souls ever returning or being raised so that they can sin some more.

This depends somewhat on your the dogma you adhere to, there is a lot of doctrinal variation in Christianity, and to me, a lot of "standard" doctrines are the work of arrogant and stupid men, rather than actually being the truth. Hint, I greatly dislike both Calvin and Luther.

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
DOES HITLER GO TO HELL? Again, on this point, yes, but there's a glitch: If Hitler was THE worst person on Earth, let's say, and if Hitler was cast into a place where there is no more hope, EVER, then what hope do the rest of us have? Sure, we may not have engineered the Holocaust or murdered millions, but still--in Hell, there is no hope for Hitler, and no hope for us. I consider it a shame that if everything about Hell and Heaven is true, we only have about seventy to one hundred years to "get it right" and believe (in Jesus) before we are separated from God for an INFINITE amount of time. Hence point 3:

3) Man and Man's deeds are finite, and yet Hell is an infinite punishment.


I think I have offered sufficient counter arguments to this now? Though please let me know if you would like me to elaborate :)

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
-3) Some would say that Man's sins, flaws, weaknesses and disobedience infinitely offend God and make Him angry. Man has, in essence, betrayed and committed "cosmic treason" against God. Thus, every man, woman and child on Earth--each one a sinner--should be infinitely separated from God and cast into Hell, where they will be infinitely punished. However, if this is true, then where does forgiveness come in? Some would say that if you didn't accept God's forgiveness on earth, during the finite time in which you were physically alive, then you SHOULD never have another chance to do so.

It's not their place to say or know what God will do, I do not think enough is written on Hell for us to say much at all about it, though I think God powerful enough to save men even from the grips of hell.

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
DOES HITLER GO TO HELL? Here's where I have no idea, honestly. I do not know whether Hitler deserves to suffer INFINITELY for what he did, and NEVER be forgiven, even by God.

Just to re-iterate their is no scriptuaral basis I know of that an individual going to hell suffer infinitely. Fundamentalists will insist on it, but I have yet to experience one beating me in a debate on the subject, the Bible even says man is not to judge Satan....

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
So, I have a serious problem with Hell, and the premises upon which it's based.

Fair enough, I hope I have however given you reason to doubt some of the things you have been taught on it. I am happy to go over any scriptures with regards hell if you would like to bring them up.

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Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766947)
As for the Christian former gang members and drug dealers, it gladdens my heart to hear that they do these things because, as you said, "they want to make a difference to others/are thankful for what's been given to them." In my opinion, that's the way it should be, but my pastor made it sound like "If you're REALLY saved, then you WILL do X, Y, Z."

I like the picture of a small child doing their best to please a parent because they love their father or mother rather than having to do anything to earn their love.

DI was replying as I was writing mine, so my apologies to him for not having responded to any of the points he made in what I think is an excellent post. I also like it as I think it shows that despite what some "Protestants" would claim their is a lot more similarity between Catholicism and Protestantism; given that DI and me are on either side of that. I hope one day to see the two Churches re-united! :)

This did stick out to me;

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Originally Posted by Darth InSidious
And being a Christian doesn't mean never doubting. We call that fanaticism. Even great Christians doubt sometimes. As I said, we tend to call it the 'dark night of the soul' (a term coined by the mystic St John of the Cross), or 'spiritual dryness'. You're not alone in feeling this. And people who have never doubted, or who pretend not to, are either fanatics or disingenuous. Therese of Lisieux wrote of this, but she is now considered a saint.

There is a book called "The Dark night of the Soul" by St John of the Cross (the version I have also has assorted writings of his). It is an excellent book, and I think you may well enjoy it, though the language used is of the older kind (at least in my version), but a great work none the less. You may also find the book of Job a helpful book at this time to!

Samuel Dravis 02-13-2011 09:58 PM

Note: I'm not a christian but I've put some thought into it the past few years so take from this what you will. My personal reason for leaving the fold is that I intellectualized my beliefs. Interestingly, this is exactly what Kierkegaard warns against in the second quote below.

All the talk about hell as something forced on a person is pretty strange to me. I suppose it must be a protestant thing. The way I think of it is simply that certain actions are incompatible with God and therefore if you do them you separate yourself from him willingly. Hence, the separation of Hell is not a punishment decreed by Judge Jesus but simply the consequence of an action, in the same way that you get wet as a consequence of diving into a pool. Additionally, the idea of "unforgivable sin" is simply the idea that, if you don't get out of the pool you won't get dry. There's nothing stopping anyone from getting out of the pool.

As for whether there actually is anyone in hell or not, well, as far as I can tell it isn't said one way or another. The idea that there some people who are certainly condemned is unsustainable even for egregious examples like Hitler. No one knows who God forgives or who has asked for forgiveness.

On the subject of faith and works, Kierkegaard has some interesting things to say:

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Originally Posted by Judge for Yourself! p154
... You cannot worship God with good deeds, even less with misdeeds, and just as little by sinking into a flabby comatose state and doing nothing at all. No, in order to worship God properly and have the proper joy from worshiping, a person must conduct himself in this way: he must strive with all his might, spare himself neither night nor day; he must accummulate, and the more the better, what people of integrity, speaking humanly, would call good deeds. And when he then takes them and deeply humbled before God sees them transformed into something miserable and base--- this is what it is to worship God-- and this is a lifting up.

On genuine belief:

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Originally Posted by Judge for Yourself! p188
Imitation, the imitation of Christ, is really the point from which the human race shrinks. The main difficulty lies here; here it is really decided whether or not one accepts Christianity. If there is an emphasis on this point, the stronger the emphasis the fewer the Christians. If there is a scaling down at this point (so that Christianity becomes, intellectually, a doctrine) more people enter into Christianity. If it is abolished completely (so that Christianity becomes, existentially, as easy as mythology and poety and imitation an exaggeration), then Christianity spreads to such a degree that Christendom and the world and almost indistinguishable, or all become Christians; Christianity has completely conquered; that is to say, abolished!

edit:
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Originally Posted by J7
There is a book called "The Dark night of the Soul" by St John of the Cross (the version I have also has assorted writings of his). It is an excellent book, and I think you may well enjoy it, though the language used is of the older kind (at least in my version), but a great work none the less. You may also find the book of Job a helpful book at this time to!

I did find this book fascinating also, I recommend it as well as Ascent Of Mount Carmel.

Tysyacha 02-13-2011 10:17 PM

I guess that what I'm really trying to say is that I feel scared, confused, lost and broken. My life has fallen apart, and not for the first time. Along come some people, and a sermon, which made me feel even more so. I'm wondering whether I should just give up on God/Christianity/whatever, because it's too bloody (excuse my language) hard. Everyone around me thinks it's great--the circumstances I'm in--and only I seem to disagree. I had dreams, and my biggest one just died. I wonder why I bother trying to get to know God, if the real truth is that I should have "moved on" past all this doubting and questioning crap years ago. My sister has. Her faith is so strong that I can't even talk to her about Christianity without her preaching some mini-sermons to me. She doesn't really understand where I'm coming from, faith-wise (or, so to say, doubtwise?)

I don't know what's going to happen to me, or how I'm ever going to make it out of this situation anytime soon. All I know is that I've been nearly driven to suicide by social and spiritual abuse in the past, and this isn't helping. I may not be a Christian anymore. I may not be saved anymore. I don't know WHAT I am anymore. All I know is that this flood of doubts and questions still remains in my mind, and I don't know how to get rid of it. This may sound strange, but someone telling me what to do, think and believe in this situation really doesn't help, or make me feel comforted. It just makes me feel dumber.

jonathan7 02-13-2011 10:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
I guess that what I'm really trying to say is that I feel scared, confused, lost and broken. My life has fallen apart, and not for the first time. Along come some people, and a sermon, which made me feel even more so.

Those people are wrong for having made you feel even more so.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
I'm wondering whether I should just give up on God/Christianity/whatever, because it's too bloody (excuse my language) hard.

That is of course entirely your prerogative, but I think that the immitation of Christ is exceptionally hard, and that those who claim it is easy are not actually immitating Christ.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
Everyone around me thinks it's great--the circumstances I'm in--and only I seem to disagree. I had dreams, and my biggest one just died.

We all have emotional ups and downs, even those who never frown, eventually break down... Indeed I think in reality, that it is periods like the one your going through now that I got to know God a lot better, from crying out to him...

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
I wonder why I bother trying to get to know God, if the real truth is that I should have "moved on" past all this doubting and questioning crap years ago.

Ty, I haven't "moved" on from the doubting and questioning "crap" and I hope I never move on from it. Those who never doubt and never question are stupid, and I think real faith requires their to be an element of doubt rather than its absence.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
My sister has. Her faith is so strong that I can't even talk to her about Christianity without her preaching some mini-sermons to me.

May I suggest that if here faith was really strong, you would be able to talk to her about Christianity? I don't mean to offend or cast aspersions on your sister, but if the aim of Christianity is to imitate Christ, he was the most approachable of people. In my experience those who have "strong faith" and rant sermons at others are really those who are most insecure about their beliefs, but don't have the courage to confront the doubts they have.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
She doesn't really understand where I'm coming from, faith-wise (or, so to say, doubtwise?)

To me that would suggest she hasn't confronted her doubts.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
I don't know what's going to happen to me, or how I'm ever going to make it out of this situation anytime soon.

We have all gone through dark periods, I shall be praying for you.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
All I know is that I've been nearly driven to suicide by social and spiritual abuse in the past, and this isn't helping. I may not be a Christian anymore.

I am very sorry to hear this!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766963)
I may not be saved anymore. I don't know WHAT I am anymore. All I know is that this flood of doubts and questions still remains in my mind, and I don't know how to get rid of it. This may sound strange, but someone telling me what to do, think and believe in this situation really doesn't help, or make me feel comforted. It just makes me feel dumber.

I hope I haven't told you what to think or believe, my aim was not to do so. I was just trying to ask questions and make points I thought you may find helpful, and question some of the doctrines which are causing issue.

Tysyacha 02-13-2011 10:43 PM

jonathan7,

*HUG* Whatever happens with me, thank YOU for being so patient and understanding and NOT telling me to "pull myself together" or whatever. In trying to act and behave like everything's fine, I find myself dying a little bit more every day, because it's not.

EDIT: I just remembered something. My pastor said something like, "Maybe you lost your home or your job, and you feel like God doesn't love you, but it's not all ABOUT you. You're just putting God into your box, but if you put yourself into HIS box..."

Could that have been the emotional trigger that I've suppressed until now? I think THAT'S what set me off, more than anything.

jonathan7 02-13-2011 10:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766966)
jonathan7,

*HUG* Whatever happens with me, thank YOU for being so patient and understanding and NOT telling me to "pull myself together" or whatever.

My pleasure, if I can be of any further help on this subject please let me know I'm only sorry that I can be of so little service and that events have conspired this way! It also makes me sad that your Church and some of those close to you are being a hindrance rather than a help.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766966)
In trying to act and behave like everything's fine, I find myself dying a little bit more every day, because it's not.

I very much hope you have some friends near you who you can confide in, as to how you really feel. Though I would like to add, that if any of my friends were upset I'd rather they said so they could help. I don't know your parents, but at least for me if I expressed what you have they would want to help me, and wouldn't lecture me. Its 3am, and I have to get up for language learning in 5 hours so gonna have to go to bed, will respond when I can!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766966)
EDIT: I just remembered something. My pastor said something like, "Maybe you lost your home or your job, and you feel like God doesn't love you, but it's not all ABOUT you. You're just putting God into your box, but if you put yourself into HIS box..."

Could that have been the emotional trigger that I've suppressed until now? I think THAT'S what set me off, more than anything.

Frankly, your pastor is talking ****. Nor do I know what box your in has to do with feeling down. Let me slightly edit what your Pastor said, in place of my cousin loosing his battle against cancer 3 years ago to point out the absurdity of his statement;

"Maybe you lost your son, and you feel like God doesn't love you, but it's not all ABOUT you. You're just putting God into your box, but if you put yourself into HIS box..."

It's utter crap, Jesus was upset with people, when Lazarus died, he was upset and was upset with those who mourned; Jesus spent his time with the broken hearted and wanted to console them, he didn't say to the widows, the orphans, the poor etc "It's not about you, your just putting the father in a box, put yourself in his".

I'll write more tomorrow, I've gotta go to bed now....

Alkonium 02-13-2011 11:30 PM

I can't pretend to know the first thing about Christianity, but one thing I know for a fact is that you are better and smarter than blind faith, and you deserve better than all the crap you've had to put up with. Like I said before, you shouldn't even try to live a lie for the sake of others. It hurts them just as much as it hurts you. The only difference is that they don't know it.

Tysyacha 02-13-2011 11:38 PM

On Hell: This is what I was taught about Hell in my church, at least.

http://www.losingmyreligion.com/essa...ityofhell.html

Sabretooth 02-14-2011 01:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766933)
I find it hard to just BELIEVE something without wondering WHY or IF it should be believed. I'm weird! :P

http://enlightenyourday.com/wp-conte...ng-300x300.jpg

If you keep saying stuff like that, I will be forced to Buddha you further.

Show spoiler

stingerhs 02-14-2011 01:59 AM

well, the topic of religion is something that i've avoided talking about for a very long time on these forums mostly because i hate debating people about whether or not God even exists and so on and so forth. however, i would like to just put in my two cents about all of this.

it all starts with the simple question: what is religion? i believe that religion is all about two things: power and purpose. one thing that every religion on this earth has in common is man's search for power over their everyday situations and a reason for existence. in that sense, every religion on this earth is the same, and they're all competing with each other. religion has been the source of countless deaths and wars over the years, and it all comes down to the fact that every religion promotes a very dogmatic stance on everything. in every sense, religion seems to accomplish the opposite of its intended function of power and purpose and more for division and destruction.

that said, i fully and completely believe that the Bible is not a religious document. throughout the scriptures, there are numerous references to the establishment and reigning of a kingdom, not a religion. if that is the case, then the Bible should instead be viewed as a political book about the establishment of a form of government in the earth.

it all starts in the very beginning. in Genesis 1:26, God created man to have dominion over the earth and everything within it. in other words, God's original intent was for man to automatically have both power and purpose from the very start over the Kingdom of the earth under his own authority. however, with the fall of man came a loss of both the power and purpose, and from that point until Jesus arrived on the earth, the Old Testament chronicles multiple attempts by God's people, the Hebrews, to re-establish a Kingdom of God on the earth.

When Jesus arrived, he was obsessed with teaching the fundamentals of a Kingdom. in the book of Matthew alone, the term "kingdom" is mentioned over 55 times. Jesus began his ministry saying "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). just a few scriptures later, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people." (Matthew 4:23) and i could go on and on (i have plenty of references), but you get the idea: Jesus did not just come to the earth so that we could go to heaven when we die. Jesus came to re-establish the kingdom of heaven on the earth.

that said, i think that this whole preoccupation with religion vs relationship is preposterous. yes, God wants us to have a personal relationship with him, but he also wants the relationship to be more than just a means of guiding our lives. God's intent was for man to rule and reign in the earth. having a relationship with God is the way for us to know how we're supposed to accomplish his will in the earth, and his will is to establish a kingdom. most people just want to focus in on how much God loves us and how much he longs for us to know him, but they're omitting the fact that God wants us to know him for a reason beyond us going to heaven instead of hell.

all that said, (and i could say a whole lot more), i very much think that you're on the right track, Tysyacha. what you're going through is similar to what i've gone through in the past, and its never easy when so many around you (particularly loved ones) are content to just accept things at face value. discovering yourself and discovering the purpose that God has created for all of us is so much more important than anything else. you're on the right track by asking questions, and i encourage you to dig deeper.

if anything that i've said has made you curious, there are a number of books that i can recommend that can explain this whole kingdom concept in much further detail than this. i really hope that you find answers that make sense to you. i very honestly believe that there is nothing more important on the earth than understanding yourself and what you have found to be true. in that, we all find our identity and our true purpose.

take care, and God bless. ~stingerhs

purifier 02-14-2011 08:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sabretooth (Post 2766975)

Years ago I had these two hardcore baptist church members come to my house. They were going from house to house, handing out pamphlets and preaching the good word. I got into a heated discussion with them about the bible. I was just starting to get into philosophy back then, and I was quoting philosophical statements and they were quoting scripture back to me. As the arguments got more dramatic, I quoted that statement from Buddha to them. As soon as I said that, one of them, the youngest one, couldn't have been any older than 19, blurted out the words..."HA! We don't BELIEVE none of that!"

(:dozey: Now does anybody see the irony in that statement?) I just stood there, staring at both of them, confused, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Then I slammed the door shut, before either one of them could utter another word.


@Tysyacha - seems like your soul searching right now, been there, done that, so I just wanted to dedicate this to you......

LOSING MY RELIGION - R.E.M.
Show spoiler


Good luck and I hope you figure it out, one way or the other. :)

Tysyacha 02-14-2011 04:34 PM

Thank you, purifier. As I told the person to whom I originally wrote the open letter, last night a very creepy poem popped into my head. It's by Shel Silverstein, and it's haunted me for YEARS--even before I started doubting and questioning my faith for the first time. I find it fitting now:

THE ONE WHO STAYED
by Shel Silverstein, on his album "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

You should have heard the old men cry.
You should have heard the biddies,
When that sad stranger raised his flute and piped away the kiddies.
Katie, Tommy, Meg and Bob
Followed, skipping gaily, red-haired Ruth and my brother Rob,
Little crippled Bailey,
John and Nils and Cousin Claire,
Dancing, spinning, turning, across the hills to God knows where--
They never came returning.

Across the hills to God knows where,
The Piper pranced, a-leading
Each child in Hamelin town--but me.
And I stayed home, unheeding.
My papa says that I was blessed,
For if that music found me, I'd be witch-cast
Like all the rest.

This town grows old around me.
I cannot say I did not hear that sound,
So haunting and hollow...
I heard. I heard.
I heard it clear...
But I was AFRAID to follow...

Tysyacha 02-14-2011 05:06 PM

To me, that poem is a WARNING, not just a harmless bit of children's verse. It always has been--about NOT following other people or a creed without knowing what the music is REALLY trying to say, if you get my meaning.

Would you believe that ever since I was an older child, about 9 or so, I've had doubts about Christianity in particular and God/religion in general? It was difficult for me (if not impossible) to just BELIEVE, like my friends at church and at school did (and like my adult church friends did, too) without worrying about the basics that I'd been taught. More than anything, I got the strong impression that once you first accepted the faith, you were supposed to believe these "basics" (salvation, sin, God and Jesus) as given truths and then move ONWARD and UPWARD. You weren't supposed to revisit the facts of the Plan of Salvation more than once--and that "once" was when you first invited Christ to come into your heart. It's like being in school. Once you had mastered the alphabet and were learning how to write (said my faith and church doctrine) it was absolutely ridiculous to go over the ABC's again.

The thing was, the "basics", the truths that were SUPPOSED to be simple and believable by all people for all time, were actually very hard and complicated for me (and not only as a child, either). My friends in Sunday School and at Youth Group didn't ask too many questions because THEY believed, and wholeheartedly. What was wrong with ME, I asked myself? Many people told me I thought too much and overanalyzed things. That may have been true, but then again, I've always been a deep thinker and an analyst (even of the "simple" things that 95% of the population has already dealt with and mastered). I TRIED to believe, JUST believe, and have a "childlike faith." That was what my church promoted as the best sort of faith, not the kind that ruminated over the "given" truths as well as the "higher" ones of the Bible.

During the day, I tried to believe and obey. At night, that poem haunted me.

Believe. Obey. Believe. Obey. These were the two core values that my church (and, I thought, Christianity in general) stuck to, hard and fast, like epoxy glue sticks to skin. Meanwhile, I struggled inwardly with romantic and sexual (lustful, my church and Christianity would say) feelings. I also scorned and laughed at those who did not believe as I did. The people who partied, and who sat at my lunch table? I sneered at them and what they did, while secretly wanting to be invited. I scoffed at the pregnant girls at my high school, priding myself on the fact that I was still a virgin while ignoring a very basic Christian concept: HUMILITY. This continued all the way through college, where I believed and obeyed, believed and obeyed, nothing more.

Until everything fell apart, and my doubts exploded right out of my chest.

(P.S. How do I know that epoxy glue sticks to skin? Painful experiences. :P )

Darth InSidious 02-14-2011 06:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767040)
To me, that poem is a WARNING, not just a harmless bit of children's verse. It always has been--about NOT following other people or a creed without knowing what the music is REALLY trying to say, if you get my meaning.

Would you believe that ever since I was an older child, about 9 or so, I've had doubts about Christianity in particular and God/religion in general? It was difficult for me (if not impossible) to just BELIEVE, like my friends at church and at school did (and like my adult church friends did, too) without worrying about the basics that I'd been taught. More than anything, I got the strong impression that once you first accepted the faith, you were supposed to believe these "basics" (salvation, sin, God and Jesus) as given truths and then move ONWARD and UPWARD. You weren't supposed to revisit the facts of the Plan of Salvation more than once--and that "once" was when you first invited Christ to come into your heart. It's like being in school. Once you had mastered the alphabet and were learning how to write (said my faith and church doctrine) it was absolutely ridiculous to go over the ABC's again.

The thing was, the "basics", the truths that were SUPPOSED to be simple and believable by all people for all time, were actually very hard and complicated for me (and not only as a child, either). My friends in Sunday School and at Youth Group didn't ask too many questions because THEY believed, and wholeheartedly. What was wrong with ME, I asked myself? Many people told me I thought too much and overanalyzed things. That may have been true, but then again, I've always been a deep thinker and an analyst (even of the "simple" things that 95% of the population has already dealt with and mastered). I TRIED to believe, JUST believe, and have a "childlike faith." That was what my church promoted as the best sort of faith, not the kind that ruminated over the "given" truths as well as the "higher" ones of the Bible.

During the day, I tried to believe and obey. At night, that poem haunted me.

Believe. Obey. Believe. Obey. These were the two core values that my church (and, I thought, Christianity in general) stuck to, hard and fast, like epoxy glue sticks to skin. Meanwhile, I struggled inwardly with romantic and sexual (lustful, my church and Christianity would say) feelings. I also scorned and laughed at those who did not believe as I did. The people who partied, and who sat at my lunch table? I sneered at them and what they did, while secretly wanting to be invited. I scoffed at the pregnant girls at my high school, priding myself on the fact that I was still a virgin while ignoring a very basic Christian concept: HUMILITY. This continued all the way through college, where I believed and obeyed, believed and obeyed, nothing more.

Until everything fell apart, and my doubts exploded right out of my chest.

(P.S. How do I know that epoxy glue sticks to skin? Painful experiences. :P )

If I can ask, by "the basics", do you mean things like the veracity of the Gospels, or do you mean things like how the doctrine of salvation works? I suppose what I'm asking is, is the problem a crisis of belief in God-in-general, or in the doctrines of Christianity? Or both?

Tysyacha 02-14-2011 06:38 PM

Both, and by "the basics", you definitely hit the nail on the head.

urluckyday 02-14-2011 06:58 PM

I don't know if you said or not, but I couldn't find it...what denomination of Christianity are/were you?

Alkonium 02-14-2011 07:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767048)
Both, and by "the basics", you definitely hit the nail on the head.

I'm starting to think the problem isn't you, as much as it is your church. It seems to be that it's trying to stifle critical thinking, which is tantamount to anti-intellectualism. Are you certain that Christianity, or at the very least, your denomination of Christianity, is really right for you?

stingerhs 02-14-2011 07:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767040)
Would you believe that ever since I was an older child, about 9 or so, I've had doubts about Christianity in particular and God/religion in general? It was difficult for me (if not impossible) to just BELIEVE, like my friends at church and at school did (and like my adult church friends did, too) without worrying about the basics that I'd been taught. More than anything, I got the strong impression that once you first accepted the faith, you were supposed to believe these "basics" (salvation, sin, God and Jesus) as given truths and then move ONWARD and UPWARD. You weren't supposed to revisit the facts of the Plan of Salvation more than once--and that "once" was when you first invited Christ to come into your heart. It's like being in school. Once you had mastered the alphabet and were learning how to write (said my faith and church doctrine) it was absolutely ridiculous to go over the ABC's again.

The thing was, the "basics", the truths that were SUPPOSED to be simple and believable by all people for all time, were actually very hard and complicated for me (and not only as a child, either). My friends in Sunday School and at Youth Group didn't ask too many questions because THEY believed, and wholeheartedly. What was wrong with ME, I asked myself? Many people told me I thought too much and overanalyzed things. That may have been true, but then again, I've always been a deep thinker and an analyst (even of the "simple" things that 95% of the population has already dealt with and mastered). I TRIED to believe, JUST believe, and have a "childlike faith." That was what my church promoted as the best sort of faith, not the kind that ruminated over the "given" truths as well as the "higher" ones of the Bible.

During the day, I tried to believe and obey. At night, that poem haunted me.

Believe. Obey. Believe. Obey. These were the two core values that my church (and, I thought, Christianity in general) stuck to, hard and fast, like epoxy glue sticks to skin. Meanwhile, I struggled inwardly with romantic and sexual (lustful, my church and Christianity would say) feelings. I also scorned and laughed at those who did not believe as I did. The people who partied, and who sat at my lunch table? I sneered at them and what they did, while secretly wanting to be invited. I scoffed at the pregnant girls at my high school, priding myself on the fact that I was still a virgin while ignoring a very basic Christian concept: HUMILITY. This continued all the way through college, where I believed and obeyed, believed and obeyed, nothing more.

Until everything fell apart, and my doubts exploded right out of my chest.

(P.S. How do I know that epoxy glue sticks to skin? Painful experiences. :P )

you're not alone on that one. trying to understand the so-called basics is actually far more complicated than what most Christians would have you believe. i've found that a lot of Christians like to give you the "selling points" of the concepts and leave it at that. there's just so much more to salvation, sin, and who God is than you've probably been exposed to.

i'm not sure if you're actually looking for answers or if you're upset that you've had to put up with such ignorance for so long. however, if you are indeed looking for answers, i would highly recommend that you check out at least one of these three books:

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
More Than a Carpenter by Josh and Sean McDowell
Kingdom Principles by Dr. Myles Monroe

the first two in particular were written by former atheists, and like you, they had to find God in their own way. those might be better choices to start with, but the last one can take you a lot deeper in terms of understanding how God relates to our world today.

hope that helps.

jonathan7 02-14-2011 08:11 PM

I will start with a quote from Ghandi...

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Think about that, as I think it a very sad but accurate observation of a lot of the Church, which is not the way it should be....

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2766971)
On Hell: This is what I was taught about Hell in my church, at least.

http://www.losingmyreligion.com/essa...ityofhell.html

Well that was a stinking pile of poo, for starters how many times did he actual relate his various claims back to the Bible? It contains a lot of taught doctrine, all of which I think is erroneous. If you would really like me to dissect it I can, but if that is the general quality of sermon, I think finding a better pastor would be a good start; that whole thing was Conservative Evangelical Propaganda, and propaganda is usually used by fundamentalists...

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767040)
I TRIED to believe, JUST believe, and have a "childlike faith." That was what my church promoted as the best sort of faith, not the kind that ruminated over the "given" truths as well as the "higher" ones of the Bible.

Paul also tells us to grow into faith and consider things, a couple of observations the Church has often been anti-intellectual and there is nothing wrong with the process you are going through, questions are GOOD.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767040)
Believe. Obey. Believe. Obey. These were the two core values that my church (and, I thought, Christianity in general) stuck to, hard and fast, like epoxy glue sticks to skin. Meanwhile, I struggled inwardly with romantic and sexual (lustful, my church and Christianity would say) feelings.

Everyone struggles with things such as this...

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767040)
I also scorned and laughed at those who did not believe as I did. The people who partied, and who sat at my lunch table? I sneered at them and what they did, while secretly wanting to be invited. I scoffed at the pregnant girls at my high school, priding myself on the fact that I was still a virgin while ignoring a very basic Christian concept: HUMILITY. This continued all the way through college, where I believed and obeyed, believed and obeyed, nothing more.

More than humility, you lacked loved in the way you reacted to the above... Would Jesus of acted in that manner? No... It is also all to familiar in the way a lot of Christians relate to "non-Christians". In truth, back at school the two of us would not of got on... I have always been seen by other Christians as the "bad boy" Christian, in so far as I always hung around with the people most of the other people in the CU etc did the above to. But scoffing and looking down at people is not imitating Christ, it is acting like the Pharisees - and what did Jesus say about them? You have moved beyond that, which is good, but may I suggest not to judge Jesus by the way Christians act, or the doctrines they try say are from Jesus.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767040)
Until everything fell apart, and my doubts exploded right out of my chest.

My life has fell apart on a couple of occasions, but I have also found that I have grown most as a person in those times, and my faith has grown also.

I remember during the worst period of my life that Psalm 88 struck a particular cord with me;

Quote:

Originally Posted by Psalm 88
1 LORD, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
2 May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
5 I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
8 You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
9 my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, LORD, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767048)
Both, and by "the basics", you definitely hit the nail on the head.

I think "Christianity" is simple, and it has been made far to complex, in essence, love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. I don't think that your pastor and some members of your church are doing the latter, I can't comment on the former.

Here is something I wrote a few years back you may additionally find helpful;

Show spoiler


I hope that is helpful.

Sabretooth 02-14-2011 10:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767040)
Would you believe that ever since I was an older child, about 9 or so, I've had doubts about Christianity in particular and God/religion in general?

There's plenty of 9-year old or younger kids who've realised through observation and rational deduction that God is about as real as Santa Claus. I'm sorry to say, Tysy, but you're by no means the first person to doubt whether Christianity makes sense or no. :p

Qui-Gon Glenn 02-15-2011 04:52 AM

I do not wish to offend the Christians in the room, several of whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration for.

However, I find it hard to swallow when in response to inquiries of faith that you would respond with letter and verse.

Who wrote this stuff? Really? A man did. A FLAWED man, if you believe in Original Sin.... (I could go on and on on that topic, if you like). Assuming that the writings are the true representation of God's will is not only not logical, it ignores history. Faith in God, a higher power, whatever, is not crazy, but taking the great religious texts of the world as anything more than food for thought is turning off your brain.

@stingerhs - excellent points about power and purpose. Control.

There are no chosen people. The Jews are not better than the Buddhists. Christians are not entitled to more than a Hindi. How could a Jain possibly go to hell?!?!?!?!?
Any pastor that tells you otherwise has an express ticket to HE-double-hockey-sticks. If God really felt that way, he would be imperfect. And a remarkable jackass.

Sabretooth 02-15-2011 05:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Qui-Gon Glenn (Post 2767102)
Christians are not entitled to more than a Hindi.

Yes, they are not entitled to more than a language, the scrawny little varmints. :carms:

Tysyacha 02-15-2011 08:12 PM

*snort* It took me a while to get that little joke, but I finally did. *LOL*

*snips the rest of the post* Whew. I got a load off my mind, or at least my emotions. However, I decided to clean up my Internet equivalent of puking--or weeping--or both.

Today was a hard day.

jonathan7 02-15-2011 08:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767192)
If you want to ban me for this post, go ahead. It's just that with everybody else around me, EVERYBODY else, wanting me to live the "I'm completely happy and absolutely nothing's wrong in my life" way, especially with Jesus
Christianity/God/religion and church doctrine, I have nowhere else to turn.

Tysyacha

Ty, why on earth would you get banned for this? I'm just very sad that things have reached this point, and I'm sorry that there is little I can say to console you on everything that has taken place.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767192)
1) "Man, Tys, your theories are all wrong and false. You're messed up, too."
-1) You may be right on both counts, but that brings me no comfort now.

I don't think there is any correlation between theories being wrong and and an individual being "messed up" - though I would ask which of us isn't messed up? Regardless some of the individuals I've counciled with depression see the world most clearly.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767192)
2) "Quit your b*tching."
-2) I've tried. I can't fake being happy anymore, or saying everything's fine.

From a psychological stand point the release is a must, bottling is bad for an individual, I'm sorry you can't express this to individuals in the flesh.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767192)
3) "It's not God's fault all this crap has happened to you. It's your fault."
-3) If it's my fault, then how can I fix it? I've been trying to for 8 mo. now.

Ty, none of this is your fault, in the book of Job none of what happens to him is his fault. Is the murder victim at fault for being murdered? The answer is un-equivocally no.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767192)
4) "You suck."

You really don't...

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767192)
5) "Why are you so depressed?"
-5) You just skipped to the end of this outpouring of pain, didn't you?

Theres nothing wrong with being upset....

Tysyacha 02-15-2011 09:40 PM

*hug* Thanks. I'll most probably come up with more coherent-sounding questions later. :)

Jae Onasi 02-15-2011 10:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha (Post 2767040)
Would you believe that ever since I was an older child, about 9 or so, I've had doubts about Christianity in particular and God/religion in general?

Every reasonable person has doubts from time to time.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
It was difficult for me (if not impossible) to just BELIEVE, like my friends at church and at school did (and like my adult church friends did, too) without worrying about the basics that I'd been taught.

A lot of those people had doubts, too--they just never expressed it to anyone else. :)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
More than anything, I got the strong impression that once you first accepted the faith, you were supposed to believe these "basics" (salvation, sin, God and Jesus) as given truths and then move ONWARD and UPWARD. You weren't supposed to revisit the facts of the Plan of Salvation more than once--and that "once" was when you first invited Christ to come into your heart. It's like being in school. Once you had mastered the alphabet and were learning how to write (said my faith and church doctrine) it was absolutely ridiculous to go over the ABC's again.

Well, I can see building on the basics, but why quit studying Jesus? He's kind of the guy that put 'Christ' into 'Christianity', after all. :)


Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
The thing was, the "basics", the truths that were SUPPOSED to be simple and believable by all people for all time, were actually very hard and complicated for me (and not only as a child, either).

The events and basics are pretty basic. The underlying theology is extremely complex--so much so that many, many books have been written on it. Some things are harder for some people to grasp than others. People who have a loving father 'get' the concept of the Loving Father far more easily than someone with an abusive or absent father. Also, don't confuse 'feeling' faith with 'having' faith. Too many people think "I don't feel my faith, therefore I don't have faith."

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
My friends in Sunday School and at Youth Group didn't ask too many questions because THEY believed, and wholeheartedly. What was wrong with ME, I asked myself?

Well, first of all, not too many teens have matured physically and mentally enough to have completely developed critical thinking skills, so I expect teens to kind of go along with whatever's said.

Some people 'get' faith easier. I have to work at it.

Also, why is it wrong to ask questions? Why would God not want you to find out more about Him? Job had lots of questions for God, and some very hard ones. The disciples asked Jesus questions all the time. Christ even asked God why He had forsaken him while on the cross. There's no 11th Commandment called "Thou shalt not ask questions". A church that actively suppresses questioning is a church I avoid like the plague.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
Many people told me I thought too much and overanalyzed things. That may have been true, but then again, I've always been a deep thinker and an analyst (even of the "simple" things that 95% of the population has already dealt with and mastered).

That's because they either didn't know the answer themselves, were too uncomfortable to explore the answer with you, or just didn't want to deal with it.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
I TRIED to believe, JUST believe, and have a "childlike faith." That was what my church promoted as the best sort of faith, not the kind that ruminated over the "given" truths as well as the "higher" ones of the Bible.

Did Augustine avoid ruminating over the given/higher truths in the Bible? No. Did C. S. Lewis avoid ruminating over given/higher truths? No. Did Christ avoid ruminating over higher truths? No, in fact He forced His disciples to think about some very hard truths with His parables and stories.



Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
Believe. Obey. Believe. Obey. These were the two core values that my church (and, I thought, Christianity in general) stuck to, hard and fast, like epoxy glue sticks to skin.

They left out the love part, which is kind of depressing.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
Meanwhile, I struggled inwardly with romantic and sexual (lustful, my church and Christianity would say) feelings.

Well, welcome to the land of hormonal teen (and not so teen) horny feelings. God doesn't say "Don't have those feelings!" God says "Don't screw around". There's a difference. The first is part of the hormone makeup God made that allows us to procreate. The action (screwing around) is a problem because it spreads sexually transmitted disease (particularly at a time when there were no antibiotics or anti-virals to treat those diseases) and causes pregnancy outside of the intended setting. And on a slightly irreverent note, thank God for masturbation.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
I also scorned and laughed at those who did not believe as I did. The people who partied, and who sat at my lunch table? I sneered at them and what they did, while secretly wanting to be invited. I scoffed at the pregnant girls at my high school, priding myself on the fact that I was still a virgin while ignoring a very basic Christian concept: HUMILITY.

Welcome to the imperfection club. I have a piece of humble pie to share with you. It's pretty tasty, fortunately, because I've had to eat a lot of it myself.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
This continued all the way through college, where I believed and obeyed, believed and obeyed, nothing more.
Until everything fell apart, and my doubts exploded right out of my chest.

Yeah, that happened to me in college. It took me awhile to get it all sorted again.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tysyacha
(P.S. How do I know that epoxy glue sticks to skin? Painful experiences. :P )

I managed to glue my fingers together one time when I was a kid. :lol:
One of my patients tried to use epoxy glue to glue on her false eyelashes. This was not a wise move on her part.

Darth Avlectus 02-16-2011 01:12 AM

I'm not sure how to specifically respond to this OP. I have let go most of bible passages I have read.

Yes, I know one of the troubling things about religion is that there are things that contradict such as you pointed out.

Sometimes the best way to go about your faith is to find the answers for yourself. If you cannot find them in a church, maybe somewhere else?

Everyone goes through doubts. People question faith more than you might imagine.

It's difficult to develop one's sense of self sustaining while reliant on something else like a church--just my opinion. However, if church is all you know, I can only suggest you maybe see what it's like without church. For a time at least. Being alone, you will have the chance to examine and search within and without. However, I am not you, so I can't tell you the way. You must decide for yourself.

Recognize that this a a chance to develop your character. You must ask yourself what it means to be true to yourself.

I did. I went away from faith because I wanted answers.

After my time of no faith, I eventually came back to faith in something more because although there is no 'proof' that is scientifically testable, when I see things accomplished that are improbable if not otherwise impossible, it does seem to imply that there is still something to be drawn upon. Given that some will argue for the idea that nothing more exists, they're still arguing for it when it is/should be ultimately nothing. To me that implies something more is there. "No proof for it, therefore it must be false" is the fallacy called argument from ignorance. It cuts both ways and ultimately goes nowhere.

Personally I could not forgive myself. For Things that had happened, as well as things I had done. So I needed to find a way to learn how. Let's just say the alternative if I didn't was the ultimate of grim consequences if I did not change. This is simplifying things, perhaps cryptically so, but it is the ultimate point of all that.

Since then I've seen and done many things, much I regret. However I am not making the same mistakes that I once did--even if some of those things were not entirely my fault. This is an important lesson to learn. To truly be a changed person you act upon what you learn from mistakes.

I did indulge. Much. You know what? Nearly all of it has left a bitter taste in my mouth one way or another.

If there is any one thing relevant to your conundrum: Being faithful does not necessarily mean you follow unquestioningly. Be true and find the answers. Nobody else can do that for you in your life but you.

We are our own worst enemies. In so many ways. Just living life day to day is a challenge. Finding one's way, drive and purpose is something essential. Even if you struggle with what that is. Some can sit idly by because they don't care too much--just cruising by because that works for them. Others find their purpose and live it proudly. I'm in between these, personally. So are many people.

There is nothing wrong with it that you have not found your way in the church. Just remain true to yourself and try to enjoy life's adventure any way you can.


EDIT: OK, I see where the above could be misinterpreted or where I maybe could have been clearer. I'll try my best.

1) Learning for yourself: Be honest with yourself and others in your dealings. I am not saying by that one ought to become self righteous or self vindicating. There are things you must learn on your own (and I, and everyone else).

Insofar as your dilemma where "having a relationship with God" may be pitted against your religion or particular sect of it...in that case if you're asking which side to choose, go and be with God, always. The religion is about God and Jesus in the first place; should you find that your religion is ever at odds with that in some way then that's probably a hint.

2) Being away from the church. I guess in this what I am saying here is it never hurts to get out once in awhile off the beaten path.

While some problems can only be solved by constant diligence and pursuit (career, savings, changing your current ways and habits of living, etc.), not everything works that way for everyone. Obviously you ought to be concerned with the big things in life and I am not telling you to be otherwise. Just saying once in awhile taking that breath of fresh air (whatever context, metaphorically or literally) is good.

Who knows? Maybe by not concentrating so hard on what troubles you so, while you're away, something in your mind will simply click ant suddenly it will make sense because you've allowed a different point of view. Different set of eyes on the same problem. In these situations worries are lessened or at least clarity and perhaps enlightenment is attained. On troubling matters, troubles seem to fade away or at least they...sort of unlock and begin to unravel.

That's a fool's point of view, anyways. :p I know I am a fool and I am not so ignorant of that fact. Frankly so is everyone when you think about it. That's what's so great about it all. Actually I take heart in it because it means I'm just as human as anyone else!

As one of my favorite comic series "The Dilbert Principle" says (off memory or lack thereof): "We're all idiots. There is no avoiding it. In some way shape or form, we are all idiots. You. Me. The other people. You can have a doctorate in whatever subject, that doesn't mean you can fix your tires."

Also in terms of the whole "Deal with it" angle Jon raised...this is so often applied where it shouldn't be as a means to sweep a matter under the rug.
The original rationale behind it (I suspect) was that we all have small things in day to day life that we must do, even if they happen to be (mostly) inconsequential or unpleasant. Sometimes the only way to handle these small affairs is to simply do it because we must. Examples: clean the yard, clearing the snow, handling the misbehaving pet, organizing the kitchen, etc. The only way to do these things is simply to do them, obviously.
That DOES NOT MEAN if someone you love has a serious problem and needs help, that you simply turn them away by telling then to "just deal with it". Where somebody has a serious problem that actively needs addressing, then by all means it should be addressed. Tough love at the end of the day is still love. Turning away a legitimate issue is not a loving thing to do.

Qui-Gon Glenn 02-19-2011 04:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sabretooth (Post 2767104)
Yes, they are not entitled to more than a language, the scrawny little varmints. :carms:

Uh..... giggle.... sabre, it is not my fault that "i" and "u" are next to each other on the keyboard.

It is my fault that I didn't read my own post!!!

Since we are discussing religion, I have another quirky tidbit from my (wacky) mother to share with the forum:

Maitreya is on Earth right now, conducting interviews and coming out of secrecy. This means that if you have a beef with Jesus, you can bitch at his teacher right now, here on Earth, if you can find him.... Maitreya seems to be quite slippery though, and highly mobile.

Frankly, I shrug this off as further proof that my mother is sad and desperate. However, it would be quite interesting to have a Deity running around to talk to.

Tysyacha 02-19-2011 09:42 PM

Thank you, so much, to everyone who has given me advice so far. The outpouring of support I've received is far greater than I ever dreamed it would be, and has brought me far more comfort than I ever imagined.

As I continue on this journey, unraveling the mysteries of faith, I hope that it will all be worth the pain I'm now experiencing. Two setbacks came today:

THE BOOK

I got a Christian book today from my sister and her husband called "Always True: God's Promises when Life is Hard." Right away I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Skimming through a few pages confirmed my suspicion, down in my gut as well as my heart, about a few things:

The book is written for people who are already strong Christians, and who just need a reminder that "God is sovereign over sin," "God is sovereign over our rebellion," and Why fear is not okay: Fear is the exact opposite of what Christianity is supposed to be." The thing is, I'm not even sure I want to be a Christian anymore. For me, this was like receiving a book about chess with a chapter (or at least a section) entitled "Why losing is not okay: Losing is the complete opposite of the aim of chess, which is to win." It is filled with tons of bolded Bible verses, one after the other, and very little explanation from the author about if and why they should be believed (especially in the face of dire situations that can make life a living hell). I get the very strong sense that the book is written that way because it was intended for people whose trust in literal Scripture is absolute, and who receive comfort from verses because they already know what they mean...

THE UNSETTLING DREAM


I had this one last night. I'm a big fan of fairy tales/fantasy, and also chess, so it's no wonder these two themes combined so vividly in my subconscious. I was a beautiful princess, although a very haughty one, who was the best chess player in my entire kingdom (and NOT just because I was the princess and people let me win, either). I just kept on winning, winning, winning...

Along came a handsome prince (seriously. You may be thinking, "Oh, brother!" but in the dream he was HOT). He said he wanted to challenge me to a chess game. I smirked and said, "All right. You must know that you're going to lose, but if I do instead, I'll marry you. You'll get me as a prize!" So we play, I lose (!!!!!), and the handsome prince and I get married. We should be living happily ever after, right? Wrong. I refuse to declare that our wedding was valid, because our chess game ended in a stalemate--a draw. Deep down in my heart, I know it wasn't a draw, but I won't admit it.

Every day the handsome prince asks me if I lost the game, and I keep telling him no. I keep telling the prince that at the chessboard, he played me to a draw and thus married me under false pretenses. He never gets mad at me or makes any other demands of me. The prince just keeps waiting, staring at me with this look of complete love/adoration on his face, hoping I'll concede at last. In the meantime, I enter dozens of chess tournaments throughout the kingdom, hoping to (reclaim) win the title. The Prince enters none. Odd...

Anyway, I play in these dozen tournaments, and lose EVERY. SINGLE. GAME. All my opponents just point and laugh at me, because they know I'm getting what I deserve: their scorn and condemnation. I'm getting my just deserts.

I come home from the final one, and the prince (still smiling) says, "How did the tournaments go?" I break down weeping. "Je perdu, perdu, perdu..."

As the refrain of "I lost, lost, lost!" echoed in my mind, a stupid dog started barking (in real life) outside my bedroom window and I woke up. Darn it!!!

***************

Anyway, I know at least partially what the dream means. The princess, obviously, is me, and the handsome prince represents God. The thing is, in real life I don't think I'm that much of a "witch" (although maybe I am).

My opponents in the chess tournament, as represented in the dream, are things like unemployment, being denied job opportunities, and being almost totally broke. These circumstances seem to be laughing at me in my losing state, and it's not funny at all. Maybe I was too proud of the job I did have, when I did have it. I know I rejoiced that I was finally "going somewhere" and "being somebody" in the world. I don't know. That dream was hard to have, and even harder to wake up from without knowing how it ended. I told the handsome prince the truth about how I did in the tournaments, but was I also conceding he'd won our game? I hope I dream the end of it soon...

Sabretooth 02-19-2011 11:41 PM

http://www.old-wizard.com/wp-content...enth-Seal2.jpg

You aren't a witch. You are death.

Tysyacha 02-19-2011 11:56 PM

*LOL* :) You make me sound like the Jedi Exile, or Kreia. :D


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