Friday, October 07, 2005

Going to heaven or hell and the meaning of life

In our local newspaper today, there is a photo of a young woman with her mother . This regular column is photojournalism documenting how people in our community live their beliefs. This particular photo shows the daughter carrying a sign that reads, "TURN TO JESUS YOU ARE HEADED FOR HELL. Rev. 20:15."

The mother is working the sidewalk before the start of the N.C. State/UNC football game. The parents, three brothers and three sisters are wanting to "share the gospel of Christ" and are living out of their fifth-wheel trailer. The other quotes by the daughter under the photo are, "Man is born in sin, headed for hell. You have to be born again to head into God's Kingdom.... To see all these people who are lost, who are going to hell, I wanted to warn them."

I am often puzzled by some of the photos shown in this section of the newspaper, but this particular photo and commentary is especially puzzling. I would love to ask them, "Does the Bible not say somewhere, Judge not, that ye be not judged?"

I was raised in a very religious United Pentecostal Church environment. Let me just say that after being away from it for so many years, I can easily see similarities to other evangelical or fundamentalist religions. So when I see someone who thinks they know so much about who is going to hell, I immediately have to ask, "According to whose religion?"

If judging those in the article by the United Pentecostal doctrine, the two in the photograph are certainly going to hell. The mother is wearing shorts, short sleeves, and obviously has cut her hair. The daughter is wearing pants. These conditions alone are enough to send anyone in the United Pentecostal Church to hell. But they are judging others by appearances alone.

See where I am going with this? No one knows who is going to heaven or hell. I don't even know if there is a heaven or hell. I suspect not. Over the years I have questioned, analyzed, studied, attempted to accept heaven and hell, but my logical mind does not comprehend it. So don't blame me if I do not accept things by faith---if 'God' made me, why on earth did he not make me so my mind can believe whatever I am told whether it is rational or not? Instead, I have a mind that questions everything and it is who I am. I refuse to "believe" just for the sake of believing.

I just read an article in the Anchorage Daily News a few weeks ago about an 85 year old minister who had finally come to the understanding for himself that this may be all there is. This is one of the best articles that I have ever read documenting one's journey and his quest for self discovery of the spiritual side of life and a search for the meaning of life and death.

I suspect there are many people in the world such as this man. Not for one minute would I believe a just 'God' (assuming there is a 'God') would send a man to hell who had searched his soul and determined that he could not accept what he had always been taught in regards to religion. To condemn someone to a life in hell when he did his best to find truth would be a slap in the face by God. As humans, it seems we should strive to find truth. Otherwise, we will all be as slaves or hypocrites to whatever religion we are exposed. And with the world as it is, wouldn't it be much better if there were fewer hypocrites?

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At 10/24/2005 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Jeanne. I saw you were from Raleigh and your profile included the word humanism. I didn't think it was possible.

I went to grad school at NC State and, although I usually felt free to practice no faith, there was the occasional "brickyard preacher," a guy named Gary Birdsong among them. He, too, told us we were all going to hell. He said the guys on campus were all druggies and the girls were all whores. We mostly watched and listened to him for the entertainment.

There was another pair of preachers, one of whom eerily looked and sounded like Joe Pesci. Since they weren't as goofy looking or sounding, they were scarier. Then you had to feel sorry for the white short-sleeved guys with the black name tags meekly ask between the shouts, "Would anyone like to hear about the Book of Mormon?" The usual answer was, "No!"

That was cute and all, but the greater insult to me was in the school paper. Around Easter a full page ad was taken out by a group of faculty, including the head of my department, about the veracity of the Resurrection. There was something unsettling about seeing such a statement from the teachers.

A few years later I was back home in New York (before I moved to NJ) and I saw another street preacher in the subway. (yes, we have them here, too. Above and below ground.) I was still young and stupid and started an argument. I asked him why he had to bother us all with his talk. He told me my lack of faith was an issue of pride. I finally have a comeback for that: if pride is a sin, why must you stand up in public with your Bibles and your signs advertising your faith? I believe that takes more than a little pride.

During one of Gary's tirades, a fellow grad student approached him and said, "The best thing you can do is go home and pray." That's where I think faith belongs: in the home, heart and a well-delineated community away from the general public.

At 10/25/2005 8:11 AM, Blogger Jeanne Rhea said...

Thanks for comments, David. I believe that more and more people in the world believe that faith, prayer, etc is best left in the home.

After this post, I received over 50 emails from those who did not wish to post to the blog. Some mentioned how they were praying for me. (I responded, "By all means, if it makes you feel better, go for it.") One even blamed me for all the problems that we have in the US and Iraq right now. Guess they only needed one more person praying to "GOD" to straighten out the horrendous mess we are in. At least a few of the emails were positive and encouraged me to write more often.


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