Salvation – a Dilemma of Biblical Proportions
"The religious right often charges that atheists are bitter, unhappy, angry, frustrated, loveless people. I find this particularly weird coming from a dogma that asserts we are all intrinsically damned by “original sin,” worthless and evil without “salvation,” and all stemming from “knowledge” promoted by a talking snake! And because of a naughty couple a thousand generations before us? As an example of self-loathing, this doctrine is hard to beat." Ellery Schempp
The Myth of Original Sin
Inherited sin, i.e., original sin, is a biblical concept concocted by the Christian theocracy for the purpose of ensuring a continuous supply of guilt-ridden parishioners to top off the collection plates. According to traditional Christian dogma, sin is like a congenital disease that can only be cured with a large dose of Jesus. But why, pray tell, do we all suffer from this malady? According to Christian spin doctors (St. Augustine being one of the early examples), it occurs as a consequence of the misadventures of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a highly condensed version of which follows:
God planted a tree of knowledge of good and evil conspicuously in the middle of the Garden of Eden. He instructed Adam (whom He had poofed into existence by blowing into a pile of dust) not to eat the fruit from this tree. God told Adam that, if he ate any of this fruit, he would surely die within the day. When Adam finally got bored playing with the animal friends God had created for him, God ripped out one of Adam's ribs while he was dozing and used it to cobble together a new playmate, Eve. Eventually, a talking snake (Yes, boys and girls, a real live talking snake!) entered the scene and persuaded Eve to sample the forbidden fruit after convincing her that it would increase her knowledge and not cause her death. Adam was subsequently beguiled by Eve into partaking of this verboten delicacy. Suddenly they both realized they didn’t have any clothes on and they hid. (How out of it were these people?) Now it happened that God was strolling in the garden and couldn’t figure out where Adam and Eve had gone. (Strange isn’t it that an omniscient God would not know what had happened and where the first couple was hiding.) But when He did eventually track them down and it dawned on Him what had happened, He had a holy hissy fit. The first thing Adam did was to pass the buck onto Eve by blaming her for tempting him. Eve, as might be expected, passed the buck onto the loquacious serpent. By now God’s knickers were really in a twist. First He commanded the snake to walk on its belly and eat dust. (What was the snake walking on before? And when was the last time anyone saw a snake eating dust?) Then God cursed Eve with the pain of childbirth and commanded her to be subservient to Adam. God became extremely worried about these original sinners getting their hands on His prized tree of life, which He had also, with apparent lack of foresight, planted prominently in the Garden. Therefore, apparently unable to conceive of any other way to prevent the disgraced couple from messing with this tree, He banished them to a life of toil outside the Garden. (Wouldn't a sturdy fence around the tree have served as a less drastic and more compassionate solution?) But just to show that He was not a complete twit, He first whipped them up some fancy animal skin duds to conceal their hastily prepared fig leaf underwear. - Paraphrased from Genesis Chapters 2 & 3.
According to traditional Christian doctrine, it is because of this purported trouble in paradise that all subsequent offspring of God's first defective experimental test subjects have been afflicted with this inherited condition (original sin) which can only be remedied by being "saved." According to the Bible, failure to complete this salvation process will result in eternal suffering from continuous exposure to the inextinguishable flames of hell. (See Matt. 5:22, 13:42, 50, and 18:8-9; Mark 9:43, 48; Rev. 14:10, 19:20, 20:10,14-15, and 21:8) Unfortunately, the officially sanctioned rules for achieving this state of salvation often vary depending on the particular Christian sect that happens to be peddling the concept at the time. (See below.)
What’s wrong with this scenario? How about a talking (walking?) snake and a puzzled omniscient god for starters? Or how about trees whose fruit can confer knowledge and immortality? Or how about an omniscient god who didn’t appear to have a clue about what was going to happen when he created the tree, Adam, and his mate and put them all together in the Garden? Or how about a loving god who allows talking snakes to roam around tempting people? Or how about the idea of condemning people now for the actions of their distant ancestors? (How typical of this god to punish people for the wrongdoings of their predecessors. See Exod. 34:7 and 20:5; Isa. 14:21; 1 Sam 2:27-36; and 2 Sam 21:1-9) Or how about the fact that no feasible mechanism has ever been proposed to explain how an abstract concept like sin can be biologically transmitted by means of inheritance from one generation to the next. Or how about the fact that the whole childish scenario appears to have been dreamed up to explain to a tribe of credulous, superstitious, pre-scientific desert nomads why it is okay for them to treat women as second-class citizens, why people must work for a living, and why life is full of trials and tribulations? Or how about the fact it has all the earmarks of a myth that attempts to rationalize the fact that a perfect god did not provide a perfect world for us to live in because he was pissed about the transgressions of our ancestors?
Most importantly, how about the fact that Adam and Eve could not have known what they were doing was wrong when they imbibed the fruit because they did not possess the knowledge of good and evil until after they had eaten it? After all, they didn’t even know they were naked or that there was anything wrong with being naked prior to eating the fruit. Adam and Eve could not have known what it meant to die (having never been exposed to such a thing) nor could they have understood that their actions were improper because, before they ate the fruit, they had no knowledge of the concepts of death or wrongdoing. Much of the rest of the Bible deals with people making the proper choices between right and wrong. How can people be expected to make the proper choices if they do not comprehend the difference between what is good and what is bad? Why would any sensible god have originally wanted to withhold such critical knowledge from them if he wanted them to make informed choices? Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the fantastical story told in Genesis is true, God appears to have purposely put Adam and Eve in a precarious situation in which their "Fall" would be inevitable. Any person with normal cognitive abilities could have seen it coming a mile away - especially when a conniving snake is written into the script. How can their behavior be construed as a serious act of disobedience when they were subjected to God-mediated temptation without the wherewithal to comprehend that it was wrong to disobey Him? The disturbing thing is, most Christians do not see the injustice in cursing all humanity with sin inherited from these hapless individuals, even though they were set up by God to fail from the get go.
A Contemporary Analogy
The story of the Fall is analogous to a situation in which a father places a wonder drug that increases mental acuity prominently in the center of the living room. He then brings his mentally challenged child, Dick, (challenged in the sense that he can't tell the difference between good and bad behavior) into the room, and then instructs the child not to take any of the medication or it will kill him within 24 hours. The father then retreats to another room in the house and awaits the inevitable outcome. Dick's best friend, Jane, who suffers from the same mental deficiency as Dick, knows that this medication is available in Dick's living room. As time passes, she is eventually approached by a slick talking individual (wearing snakeskin boots!) who seems to have a great deal of knowledge about the medication. This individual assures her that the medication will increase her awareness and that it will not have the toxic side effect Dick's father says it will. She enters the living room of Dick's house, takes some of the medication, and urges Dick to try some. Dick takes her advice and ingests some of the medication which immediately brings an end to his mental affliction. Suddenly, both Dick and Jane are able to differentiate between good and bad behavior and, for the first time, understand that it was wrong to go against the instructions of Dick's father. Both feel remorse for what they have done. The father returns to discover what has happened, looses his temper, and throws the kids permanently out of the house. Dick and Jane eventually grow to be hard working adults, marry, and have children of their own. Grandpa (Dick's father) puts a curse on his grandchildren (and all of their offspring) because their father and mother went against his wishes when they were youngsters suffering from metal impairment.
Is Dick's father's behavior something we would find admirable in a human being? Of course not. And it is even less admirable in the case of a god. [ Note - In order for the analogy to have been more accurate, Dick and Jane should have been running around naked prior to taking the medication. Dick's father should also have been omniscient but unable to initially figure out what was going on. In keeping with subsequent Christian doctrine, the father should have also condemned Dick and Jane and all their offspring to spend eternity in a blazing torture chamber (which he created for this purpose) after they died.]
A Lucrative Con Job
Most Christians continue to perpetuate the Genesis myth that we are all born with the scourge of original sin, despite the fact that it is nowhere specifically mentioned in the Hebrew version of Genesis. And they continue to peddle this scheme of a sexually-inherited propensity for wickedness, in spite of the fact that it has been convincingly demonstrated to be an anachronism based on faulty translations and biased interpretations by later Christian propagandists who made it up as they went along. (See here.) Of course they must perpetuate this myth because without the concept of original sin, there is no need for a savior to save people from the guilt trip they are trying to foist on everyone. What a racket. First con people into thinking that they have inherited the guilt of a pair of fictitious ancestors who ate the fruit of a magic tree in an imaginary garden after being tempted by a talking snake. Then sell them a quack remedy (Jesus) to cure them from the sentence of death that their loving, compassionate, and merciful God will otherwise impose on them for the disobedience of their ancestors. And when I say sell, I mean sell. Religion is big business. Not only can your average pulpit-pounding hayseed make a decent living at it, but also fat cats like Pat Robertson, the former Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, and Billy Graham have made out like bandits – not to mention the incredible wealth of the mega-churches and religious conglomerates like the Catholic and Mormon Churches. With so many gullible “sheeple” who are so eager to part with their hard-earned money in hopes of finding a miraculous cure for the finality of death, it is no wonder that so many opportunistic snake-oil salesmen are attracted to this line of business. It is the best medical scam ever devised by man – and it is legal. The beauty of it is that the customer only becomes eligible for a refund for false advertising when it is too late, after they are dead. What a racket indeed. The amazing thing is that, in this day and age, so many otherwise sensible people continue to fall for this con job.
As a footnote to the fable of the Fall, it should be noted that God said Adam would die the day he ate the forbidden fruit. The snake, on the other hand, promised that Adam and Eve would not die and that they would acquire the godly knowledge of good and evil. God lied and the snake told the truth. According to the Bible, they did acquire this knowledge after eating the magic fruit and Adam went on to live to the ripe old age of 930.
An Omniscient God Knows Too Much For Free Will To Exist
The absurdity of the Christian etiology of original sin is not the only problem associated with the notion of salvation. The salient role that free will is claimed to play in the process and the omnimax characteristics attributed to God are equally problematic. Although details vary, it is generally believed by most Christians that mankind will ultimately be subjected to a “final judgment” of some kind, at which time God will render a verdict that specifies each individual’s eternal destiny. According to this doctrine, God will base this momentous decision on the free-will choices each person has made during his/her lifetime. Those who have made the appropriate choices (as uniquely defined by a variety of diverse Christian sects) will be rewarded with eternal bliss, while those who have fallen short of the accepted biblical standards (i.e., by behaving in accordance with their inherited sinful nature and not repenting and professing their faith in a crucified, first-century, rabblerousing rabbi) will suffer everlasting damnation. Certainly a reasonable argument can be made that, within the constraints imposed by physiochemical, genetic, sociological, economic, and psychological factors, man does have the ability to make autonomous decisions and that he must accept responsibility for the consequences of his actions. However, a careful reading of the scriptures reveals that such a concept is incongruous with much of what the Bible has to say on the subject. [In what follows, I write with the assumption (however poorly justified) that the Bible is factually accurate.]
The Bible asserts that God is omniscient (Ps. 147:5, Job 34:21; John 16:30, 21:17; and 1 John 3:20) and omnipotent. (Rev. 19:6; Jer. 32:17,27; and Luke 1:37; 18:27) As would be expected of any God worthy of the title, this omniscience is said to include the ability to foresee the future. (Isa. 44:7, 45:21; Dan. 2:45; and John 16:13) Furthermore, according to the Bible, God’s cognitive abilities do not simply represent some nebulous understanding of momentous events. Instead, these abilities encompass a comprehensive awareness of even the most banal trivialities, i.e., knowing the fate of every sparrow, how many hairs are on each human head, the status of the development of each fetus in the womb, etc. (Matt. 10:29-30; Luke 12:6-7; and Ps. 139:15-16)
As discussed above, if God really were capable of this level of cognition, then He would have known that Adam and Eve were destined to eat fruit from the forbidden tree that conferred the knowledge of good and evil - even before these first humans were ever created. Similarly, He would have known that He would one day purposely destroy virtually all of the earth’s biota in a horrendous flood, before He ever created any living thing. In fact, He would have had knowledge of EVERYTHING that was ever going to happen in the universe before He brought any of it into existence. (One is left to wonder why a God, who supposedly knows the secret thoughts of all men (Ps. 44:21 and Ps. 94:11), failed to provide at least some advance warning to prevent the loss of so many innocent lives in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center if He had the wherewithal to do so.)
If the future can be accurately foretold, then it must be firmly established and known in advance. It would be impossible, even for God, to have precise foreknowledge of future events if they were not pre-established in His frame of reference or if they were subject to changes about which He had no knowledge. Even if the course of history were to deviate from some original preordained plan, a know-it-all god would be cognizant of such superimposed deviations from the very beginning. For an omniscient God, there can be only one course of history, and every twist and turn it takes would be intimately known to Him at the outset. Therefore, as far as such a God is concerned, the future is indelibly etched in the annals of time. Consequently, if the future is pre-determined and invariant from God’s perspective, then it is impossible for mere humans to do anything to change it in any substantive way. If we are powerless to alter the pre-programmed course of history, then it logically follows that free will is nonexistent. If God has perfect foreknowledge, then history must be fixed and free will, from the human perspective, is an illusion. No matter how many apologetic hoops the True Believersä jump through or how many theological knots they tie themselves into, this logical conclusion remains intact.
It also follows that, if God has infinite knowledge of the future, He cannot give anyone a fair test. An omniscient God would know everyone’s answers and responses to life’s questions before He ever writes the exam. By definition, an all-knowing God cannot be surprised by anything. (Likewise, an all-knowing God cannot be ignorant of anything, even if He wants to. If He is ignorant of anything, He is, by definition, not all-knowing.) A truly omniscient God would know precisely how every individual is going to behave in every circumstance before they are born. If that is the case, then any judgment that He subsequently passes on them is predicated on His pre-existing knowledge of their behavior. If God is the omniscient and omnipotent author of all things, then we humans are involuntary actors in a play of cosmic proportions. And we actors are compelled to follow His preordained script without the slightest opportunity to improvise. We may think we are acting spontaneously, but, from God’s vantage point, we are doing exactly what He knew we would do from the very beginning. How then could such a God pass critical judgment on any of us when all we are doing is performing faithfully in accordance with the script He prepared for us prior to our appearance on the stage?
[Some may argue that, yes, God knows how we will behave in all circumstances, but that dose not mean he restricts our actions. It only means He knows what freewill choices we will make in the future. But, as discussed above, in order for Him to know from the beginning what choices we will ultimately make, the sequence of those choices must have been preset in temporal space from the beginning. And if they were indelibly written in the book of history from the beginning of time, who, other than God, did the writing?]
God Purposely Creates Hell-bound Sinners
If, on “judgment day,” God proclaims that a person must be consigned to the eternal flames of hell, that is an outcome He would have been cognizant of before the person was conceived. Why, then, would He allow them to be conceived in the first place? Does He not care about the incredible suffering such an individual will purportedly have to endure for eternity? According to the Bible, He apparently couldn’t care less. God’s modus operandi, we learn, is to purposely create wicked individuals whom He will ultimately cast into hell. (Prov. 16:4 and Rom. 9:18-22) What kind or God would deliberately bring prefabricated sinners into existence, then rejoice in destroying them? (Deut. 28:63) Considering these and numerous other passages that reveal disturbing aspects of His demeanor (See Good God???), what kind of person could possibly consider such a deity to be a merciful, gracious, longsuffering God who is abundant in goodness and truth? (Exod. 34:6) Next to this God, who intentionally manufactures iniquitous souls on whom He will inflict the interminable agonies of hell, Hitler and Stalin stand as veritable saints by comparison.
Not only does God’s purported omniscience nullify the concept of freedom of choice, but the Bible also tells us that, in matters related to salvation, free will is totally irrelevant. Rom. 8:28-30 says that those who love God and have been “called,” “justified,” and “glorified” have been predestinated by Him. Rom. 9:23 says that God bestows the riches of His glory on those whom He “had afore prepared unto glory.” Eph. 1:4-7 reiterates that those who enjoy “redemption through his blood” and “forgiveness of sins” have been chosen “before the foundation of the world” and that God has “predestinated us [the faithful of Christ] unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” The elect are also said to have been “predestined according to the purpose” of God (Eph. 1:11) and to have been selected “according to the foreknowledge of God.” (1 Pet. 1:2) In referring to the “beloved of the Lord,” the Bible says, “…God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation…” (2 Thess. 2:13) (See also John 6:64, 2 Tim. 1:9, Eph. 2:10, and Rev. 17:8.) If these claims are correct, then free will, even if it exists, has absolutely nothing to do with salvation. God has already cherry-picked His favorite poster children before anyone has had a chance to demonstrate his/her worthiness, or lack thereof. Why should anyone attempt to curry God’s favor by living a life of righteousness and confessing faith in Jesus if his/her fate has already been sealed “before the foundation of the world”? [Calvinists interpret these passages to mean exactly what they say - that predestination is a fact. Other Christian apologists will no doubt be quick to call attention to scriptures that "prove" predestination (as established by the aforementioned verses) is a bunch of hooey. What this demonstrates, of course, is that the Bible lacks internal consistency and leads to widespread confusion – even on an issue as vital to Christians as salvation.]
Predestination notwithstanding, some Christians accuse that perennial mischief-maker known as Satan of deceiving man into straying from the path of righteousness. If Satan really exists and plays such a role, he can only be doing so with God’s full endorsement. The Bible says that God has ultimate authority over all evil forces in nature. (Mark 1:27, Luke 4:36, 1 Pet. 3:22, and 2 Chr. 20:6) If God really wanted to put a stop to Satan’s diabolical activities, presumably he could do so in an instant. One can only wonder why, if God is as “abundant in goodness” as the Bible claims, He did not nip Satan’s career in the bud before he could wreak any serious havoc. (Again, if God is omniscient, He would have known in advance how Satan would behave in the future.) And why did God bother to create and disseminate so much evil in the first place? (Isa. 45:7 and 54:16, Lam. 3:37-38, Col. 1:16, Jer. 18:11, 1 Sam 16:14, Prov. 16:4, and Amos 3:6) How can anyone hold a hypothetical scapegoat like Satan (another example of God’s inscrutable handiwork) responsible for the evil and destruction that the Bible acknowledges God, Himself, created (and continues to create)? If God is omnipotent and omniscient as the Bible claims, then He is ultimately responsible for all that happens in the universe. In fact, if the Bible can be held as authoritative on such matters, God is going out of His way to assist Satan with his nefarious deeds. With a God who purposely obscures his teaching in confusing parables (Matt. 13:10-11, Mark 4:10-12, and Luke 8:9-10), selectively withholds the “truth” from some individuals (Matt. 11:25-27 and Matt. 13:34-40), closes some peoples’ minds (Isa. 6:10 and John 12:39-40), intentionally makes some people stubborn and dishonorable (Rom. 9:18-21), and deludes them into believing what is false (2 Thess 2:11-12) for the purpose of preventing them from being saved from the everlasting torment of hell, who needs Satan?
Bible believers have the uncanny ability to blithely ignore any scriptures that they find inconvenient. For example, as discussed above, the Bible clearly states that each person’s eternal destiny was firmly established at the beginning of time. Nonetheless, most Christians still cling to the notion that they have a sure-fire means of influencing the outcome in their favor. All they have to do is simply exercise their freewill (which is, as shown above, nonexistent if God is omniscient) to repent and profess their faith in Jesus (supposedly last seen alive in the form of a resurrected itinerant preacher ascending into the clouds over two-thousand years ago) who will absolve them of their life-long transgressions (no matter how horrendous they may have been) and pave the way for eternal bliss.
[Some Christians also are of the opinion that good deeds (and perhaps baptism and other things) must also be part of the equation, but, as is the case with so many other doctrinal issues, common agreement is sadly lacking on the subject. The reason there is no clear consensus on this issue stems from the fact that, on this topic, like so many others, the Bible presents a confusing and ambiguous set of instructions. See here and here for more details on this conundrum. Search Google for “faith vs.works salvation” to see how rancorous the debate among Christians often is on this matter. Amusingly, as is so often the case with True Believersä, each particular sect insists that they have the only correct interpretation.]
Let's assume the repent and believe approach actually works. That sounds easy enough. In other words, no matter how rotten or despicable a person might have been during most of their life (Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer come to mind), they only need to repent and profess their faith sometime before they leave this mortal coil and everything will be hunky-dory. As might be expected, the ease with which this "get out of hell free card" (a.k.a. the "ticket to paradise") can be repeatedly played without fear of forfeiture does little in the way of encouraging consistent moral behavior. In fact, if anything, this purported ability to be repeatedly absolved of one's transgressions often appears to have quite the opposite effect. (Perhaps this helps explain why Mafia members are partial to the Christian faith.) Of course, to buy into this scheme, one must also buy the storyline that a perfect, loving God established a system in which everyone is initially condemned to an afterlife of eternal torment by the scourge of “original sin.” They must also be comfortable with the notion that this horrific punishment is automatically assigned to everyone at birth because of something our ancient ancestors did (were tricked by God into doing) thousands of years ago. (See above.) And they must be blind to the injustice that pertains to subjecting otherwise morally upstanding non-Christians (Gandhi and Thomas Paine come to mind) to the torment of hell only because they are not "saved" in accordance with Christian doctrine, however confusing it may be on the subject. It seems there is nothing too ridiculous for people to believe in if they think it will allow them to continue their iniquitous ways and still be granted entrance through the pearly gates when they die. Of course, there is also that comforting sense of superiority that comes from "knowing" they are special and forgiven. Not to mention the sweet revenge they anticipate will be exacted when those who ignore their revealed wisdom will be cast into the lake of fire.
Apparently after having second thoughts that He might have indulged in a wee bit of overkill (especially after that nasty temper tantrum involving that infamous worldwide drowning episode), God eventually hit upon the idea of producing an earth-dwelling superhuman clone of Himself - by means of a virgin birth, no less. Then, in keeping with His apparent change of heart, God offered his miraculously conceived offspring as a blood sacrifice to Himself to appease His own wrath which He had directed at the objects of His own creation for their misdeeds that He had originally designed them to commit and always knew they would commit. But wait, it gets even more convoluted than that. As it turns out, the sacrifice really wasn’t that big a deal after all*. God’s earth-bound love child, whom He had cleverly arranged to be exterminated by unbelievers, was poofed back to life and magically wafted up to heaven shortly after His demise, none the worse for ware. According to common Christian doctrine, He resides comfortably somewhere above the dome of the firmament to this very day in a place with peculiar mathematics where 1+1+1 =1. [Although He was originally scheduled for an early return engagement (Matt. 16:27-28 and 24:34; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27), His obvious tardiness now generates a great deal of apologetic rhetoric from the True Believersä.] And, as the story goes, if we embrace this gravity-defying “son” of God as a divine entity who will cancel all our bad deeds and grant us entrance into paradise, we will live happily forever after – just like in a fairytale.
* How meaningful a sacrifice really is it when the subject is said to have returned to life a few days after the incident with nothing worse than a few scars to show for the experience? And how grave a sacrifice is it if said individual is then wafted back up to God's upscale retirement home in the sky where he will enjoy the good life for an eternity? A meaningful sacrifice is one in which someone dies for a noble cause and stays dead with no hope of popping back into existence. Furthermore, wouldn't a clone of an omniscient God know that His forthcoming death would only be temporary and that He was going to be resurrected in short order and reunited with the rest of Himself in paradise? Wouldn't that tend to take a great deal of the trauma and anxiety out of the ordeal - for both parties involved? And wouldn't it be relatively simple for a God clone, who could supposedly raise the dead and walk on water, to effectively anesthetize Himself against any pain He might encounter during the process? (If He didn't, isn't it reasonable to assume that He was a masochist?) As far as sacrifices go, this biblical version seems rather commonplace (Crucifixion was a common form of punishment in the Roman Empire. There is one account of 6,000 followers of Spartacus being crucified in 71 BCE as part of a single victory celebration. See here for more details.) and uninspiring. Is this really the most demanding sacrifice God could come up with to nullify the sin He imposed on everyone for being born? All things considered, it seems He went rather easy on Himself. The sacrifice made by a soldier who is severely injured and permanently disabled as a consequence of defending his/her country from an enemy is far more grievous by comparison.
But what about all those poor souls who died before this self-mutilating God got his act together. In particular, what about all the inhabitants of the earth who were purposely drowned by this loving, forgiving, and compassionate God in His mother-of-all precipitation events? Vast numbers of people lived and died for thousands of years before this divinely orchestrated execution and rejuvenation is said to have taken place. Because these individuals are long dead and incapable of professing their faith in any savior gods that might have materialized after their deaths, it appears to be tough luck for them as far as atonement is concerned. What took God so long to dream up this nifty blood sacrifice idea and implement it? Did He wake up one morning around 0 C.E. and it suddenly dawned on him? "You know, I just had a brilliant idea. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. Today I think I'll propagate part of myself on earth, eventually wonder around in that form doing some magic tricks and preaching in incomprehensible parables, and then arrange for the murder of that part of myself as a sacrifice to the rest of myself. Then I'll bring my dead self back to life and reward anyone who believes this bizarre scenario by absolving them of the sin that I saddled them with because I was miffed that their ancient ancestors had fallen for the trap that I had set for them in the Garden of Eden. However, to make it more of a challenge, the only "evidence" that any of this death/resurrection scenario actually occurred will be in the form of contradictory stories written decades after the fact by self-serving religious myth makers. As for those who harbor any doubts about this storyline, to hell with them."
As tempting as it might be to believe this death-defying scenario, it has nothing more than religious propaganda and the uninhibited imagination of the biblical storytellers to back it up. (Ultimately, it stems from man’s fear of the finality of death which, throughout history, has given rise to many such bizarre forms of wishful thinking.) Considered in the context of historical precedents, it appears to be just another offshoot of numerous other savior god legends of the past. (See here and here.) There are no contemporary extra-biblical sources that verify any such thing ever happened. One would think that someone, other than biblical storytellers writing decades after the fact, would have considered numerous dead saints popping out of the ground and walking like zombies through a city to have been a noteworthy event and that they would have commented on it at the time. (Matt. 27:52-52) Nothing, nada, zilch. All Christians can do is employ a form of circular reasoning in which they use the Bible in an attempt to authenticate itself.
Be that as it may, the presumption that an omniscient God who, before the establishment of the universe, knows everyone’s future behavior and pre-selects the future residents of heaven is logically incompatible with the idea of a “final judgment” that is predicated on individual freedom of choice. Likewise, a God who manufactures the most sublime evils with which to pester and tempt mankind, who purposely creates hapless victims doomed to hell, and who deceives unbelievers so that they cannot discover the “truth” clearly makes a mockery out of the notion that He is a loving and fair-minded arbiter of human redemption. In order to promote the ideology that salvation is contingent upon voluntary choices that one makes during life, it is necessary to discount or ignore much of what the Bible says about the matter. Eccles. 9:1-6 unambiguously informs us that the exact same fate will befall everyone, saint and sinner alike, when we die. Eccles. 9:7 also encourages us to enjoy life to the fullest and eat, drink, and be merry. Praise the Lord and pass the Merlot.
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