Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fear as a deterrent to apostasy

There are several things that atheists who have never been extremist Christians will never understand. When I was a fundamentalist Pentecostal evangelist; I took the bible at its word literally. We were taught to believe that everything written there is absolutely true, and that anything that contradicted these truths were false and delusions of Satan. The bible repeatedly admonishes all that read it, that first and foremost they should fear the Lord.

This same mentality is demonstrated clearly by Dr. William Lane Craig in his book entitled 'Reasonable Faith,' where he makes the following statement: "Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.” Atheist's who apply reason to their arguments have demonstrated a lack of understanding when it comes to interpreting this statement. But when you have lived it and see if from the point of view of a fundamentalist, the statement makes perfect sense!

'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Matthew 10:28

According to the book of Matthew the above cited passage is something allegedly spoken by Jesus Christ himself! That's a little hard to do when you've never existed, but as you know the existence of God or Christ is not a question of evidence, but instead of faith to believers. Of course as you can see the only one capable of destroying the body and soul in hell is God. It is passages likes these that I believe help instill boldness into extremist Christian believers to the point of martyrdom for what they believe to be the truth. It is similar passages like this one in the Koran that emboldens believers to die for Allah and for their beliefs in Islam.

28 We have been given possession of an unshakeable kingdom. Let us therefore be grateful and use our gratitude to worship God in the way that pleases him, in reverence and fear.
29 For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28,29

As you can see again even in the N.T. fear is a recurring theme. For those of us who took the bible at its word, we believed that God demanded and deserved respect! When I first began having doubts about my beliefs I was genuinely terrified about the thoughts I was thinking, because I believed that God could hear my thoughts and see what was in my "heart." I feared for my life everyday when I finally made a break from the church. I awaited the wrath of God to fall on me at any moment, and if not the Lord then Satan's eminent attack on me since I no longer had God's protection over me.

As you might know the word Islam actually translates from the Arabic into submission or surrender. This is essentially the mindset of not just Muslims but extremist Christians as well. According to the book of Mark in reply to a scribes question Jesus said:

30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.

Most extremist, including my self when I was a preacher, took this passage quite literally and tried to reflect that in  my daily life. To love God is to obey God and to submit completely to his will, when this is done the effects are quite powerful on your psyche. This and only this is the reason that logic and reason don't quite get through to Christian fundamentalist. They see the logic of man below that of God as they have been taught in their scriptures. Because of their deep devotion to their beliefs they don't think as we do.

Finally, all that I have said is made evident and backed by the scriptures themselves. The bible from the beginning condemned the seeking of knowledge that was not given by God. And many times makes a distinction between the knowledge of God and the knowledge of men or the world.

19 As scripture says: I am going to destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of any who understand.
20 Where are the philosophers? Where are the experts? And where are the debaters of this age? Do you not see how God has shown up human wisdom as folly? 1 Corinthians 1:19,20

We think and reason in very different ways than a theist would, and even the definition of the words reasonable and rational take on a very different definition to believers than it does to the rest of us. The bottom line is that when an atheist tries to apply philosophy and reason to prove the ridiculousness of theistic beliefs, they are just wasting their breath because we are not even speaking the same language.

All biblical quotations are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible which is a Catholic translation of the bible published in 1985.

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