Posted: 10 May 2010 in religion

There’s a street preacher at the corner of 34th and Spruce in University City.  I don’t know how long he spends there each day, but I know that he gets there just before 7:30 AM and proceeds to dispense his sermon from a shoulder-slung bullhorn.  He’s not the fire-and-brimstone type of preacher, more of the “Jesus loves you, so you should love him back” sort.  His message isn’t really harsh (aside from it being barked to everyone within a 3-block radius).  He doesn’t actually interact with the passers-by, just stands there preaching.

I’m not really sure what his point is.  Everyone I’ve seen acts as though he’s not there.  He’s like a fixture.  I’ve always wanted to ask him what he thought he was accomplishing.  For every person that might be swayed to his point of view, there have to be a thousand thinking (like me) “I don’t want to get involved with a faith that has this guy standing on a street corner making a noisy nuisance of himself every day.”  So really, what’s the point?

That’s just backstory for my point.  He was going on this morning about sin and how we need to repent and whatnot.   I know what the concept of sin is, but I reject it out of hand.  Nearly every religion offers up the idea of sin.  Most of them have a set of standard ethics that are inherent to all religions (don’t murder*, don’t steal*), violation of which is classified as sin. Most of them also have a code of religious conduct, which strict adherence to is necessary in order to avoid sinning*.  Christianity, for instance, requires its faithful to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior who died to absolve mankind of sin.  Failure to accept this as fact is, according to the religion, sin.  Of a particularly grave magnitude, I might add.

You could go on a five-state killing spree butchering pregnant women and children, but if you Praise Jesus! right before the Sodium Pentathol (hopefully) knocks you out, it’s paradise for you.  Of course, if you donate all your worldly goods to helping starving children in Africa and dedicate every waking hour to service to your fellow man, but forget to Praise Jesus!, you roast for eternity.  Also, there’s this bit about denying the Holy Spirit, a sin from which there is no recovery.

The problem I have with this concept is that it (among various other things) sets up this God character as a monstrously fiendish creature that delights in near-random suffering. Let’s take, for instance, every man, woman and child that lived and died in North America between 33 CE and, oh… 1492 CE. Do they all roast in the fires of Hell for having the sheer audacity to not Praise Jesus!? Let’s ignore the fact that they had never heard of Jesus.  Of course, when they did hear about him, it was a message conveyed by a genocidal maniac who almost instantly began enslaving and murdering them (and now has his own national holiday!).

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather burn for eternity than spend one second basking in the glow of an all-powerful being that would condone that.  If my eternal punishment for not providing enough blood for the blood god or skulls for the skull throne is damnation, then I’m wondering what the eternal reward for meeting the quotas actually is?

Now, this concept certainly isn’t limited to Christianity.  But again, every time it’s repeated, it sets the controlling power up as a monster.  Why being a good (insert religion)ian more important than being a good person to one’s fellow humans?  Nearly all religions agree that one needs to be nice to their neighbors.  They might disagree on who one’s neighbors are, but when you boil it down, every religion says “don’t be an asshole to your own.”  If they all agree on that, why is that less important than “feed my godly ego!”?

*contingent upon context, of course.


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