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A Ticket to Heaven

Entry 1855, on 2017-05-23 at 23:23:12 (Rating 4, Religion)

When my wife arrived at her cafe a few days ago she found a whole pile of "tickets" stuffed under the door. Regrettably they weren't tickets to the Ed Sheeran concert here next year (not a fan myself, but she seems to be) but they were for something even better: heaven!

According to the ticket: "Entry to Heaven requires that you have lived a perfect life and never broken one of the Ten Commandments. Have you ever told a lie? Or stolen anything (regardless of value)? If so, you will end up in Hell."

This seems rather harsh, especially for people who have no idea what the 10 Commandments even are (less than half the world are Christians), but reading further it seems there is a certain amount of wriggle room, because "But God in His mercy provided a way for ALL sins to be forgiven. He sent His Son to take your punishment: God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

There seems to be a few odd aspects to this system. First, if God is so mercifull why didn't he just forgive us instead of allowing His Son to be tortured and killed? In fact, God didn't just allow it, he required it, or there would have been no sacrifice. After all, who requires the forgiveness? God does. So in order to allow that he needed Jesus to be horribly tortured. Very strange when you look at it logically, isn't it?

But it gets a lot worse than that. It says here that anyone who sins (and since no one has a perfect life that would mean everyone) will definitely go to Hell, no matter how minor the sin. But everyone can be forgiven their sins, no matter how bad, if they make some sort of commitment to Jesus. Later on, the ticket recommends prayer to God listing your sins (that would be a long prayer for some people), stating that you put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, and requesting forgiveness and everlasting life. After the prayer you must read the Bible every day and follow what it says.

So a person who told one small lie (even one which was for the good of the person being lied to) and didn't pray would go to Hell, but someone who spent a life murdering, stealing, etc, then prayed just before his death would be fine. What kind of messed up god is this? This is not a ticket to Heaven, it's a "get out of jail free" card - or should that be "get out of Hell free".

There's a URL (www.2besaved.com) on the ticket which leads to a web site which is one of the ugliest I have seen in recent times. Apparently God doesn't believe in hiring good web designers. At the site you can "CLICK HERE IF YOU NEED TO BE SAVED" (I didn't feel the need) or "CLICK HERE IF YOU'RE A CHRISTIAN" (I'm not) or "CLICK HERE FOR FURTHER STUDY" (that sounded like me). By the way, sorry about the all caps, it's just that kind of site.

The further study was a bit disappointing though, because even the bizarre ticket made more sense than the material in that section. There was a complicated argument about which day is the sabbath, an even worse discussion on how to pronounce God's name (Yahweh), and a rather alarming essay on the correct way to eat meat (hint: it's best not to).

But I'm not even sure why all of this detail is so important, because I can do whatever I want, then get forgiveness from God later.

Now you might have noticed a rather flippant, facetious tone to this post so far. That is because the whole things is just so silly that it's hard to take seriously. But many people do, and that's why I like to write these "anti-religion rants".

Many atheists, even really "strident" ones, like Richard Dawkins (I don't really believe he is strident, of course), seem to back away from criticising the New Testament and the alleged teachings of Jesus in particular.

There's a certain amount of sense in this because the New Testament undoubtedly has a more forgiving, accepting, and positive tone than the Old. But there is one thing about it which is at least as damaging and negative as anything in the Old Testament: the mythology regarding Hell.

Because in the OT, Hell is just a place with no particular function of punishment. In fact both the righteous and unrighteous go there (to two separate areas) and it is best thought of as "the underworld".

It is only in the NT, with the teachings of "kind, forgiving, loving Jesus" that the idea of Hell as a place of eternal torment is introduced. And that place is reserved for whom? Is it morally corrupt people like murderers? No, it is for people who fail to accept Jesus as their "saviour". So Jesus seems to offer salvation but only from a hideous torture that he himself introduced. And not only that, salvation is not given to those of high moral standing but to those who are prepared to become slaves of his particular movement.

If any other leader of any kind resorted to these tactics would we celebrate him as a wise and loving leader or as a hideous despot? I think we all know the answer to that.

So I think it is fair to label Jesus (let's just assume he actually existed for the purpose of this discussion) in that negative way, but we should also have some balance and admit that there is a lot of good stuff in his alleged thoughts too. In the end, he's just like anyone else: a mixture of good and bad. And the New Testament is just like any other book of mythology/philosophy/theology: a mixture of good and bad.

The key thing is that the good doesn't come from the religion. What good is there is recognised because humans, as a social species, have moral standards which are more or less consistent, although they vary to some extent across cultures and across time. We don't get a ticket to heaven through mindless servility to a deity. We get that (metaphorically, because heaven doesn't really exist) through doing the right thing.

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Comment 4 (4713) by OJB on 2017-05-30 at 16:04:58: (view earlier comments)

I am no expert on the methods employed by historians which is why I just take their word for it, but I really cannot see what they find so compelling about the evidence. To say it is overwhelming is ridiculous. To me it seems weak and easily dismissed. I know that a similar case could be made regarding the existence of other poorly supported figures, like Socrates. I'm OK with that.

Can I ask you, what is the single best piece of evidence, in your opinion? I would be interested to know because it all seems second or third hand, contradictory, fake, etc to me. Clearly I must be too critical since the historians seem happy enough with it.

There's also my second point: what does Jesus "existing" actually mean? Obviously the majority of historians (and even some theologians I have spoken to) don't believe in the supernatural stuff, right? So, without that is there sufficient similarity between the reality and the myth to really make any meaningful statements regarding his existence?

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Comment 5 (4722) by richard on 2017-06-07 at 10:35:20:

Sorry for the delay. The question is, why on earth would you then seriously doubt Socrates existence. I bet you don't really. Then be intellectually consistent.

The reason that doubting Jesus existence is nonsense is not based on 'a single piece' of evidence, because any debate about a single leaf distracts one from the existence of the entire tree!

Also, this discussion isn't about any supernatural stuff. It is simply whether he actually existed in history.

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Comment 6 (4723) by OJB on 2017-06-07 at 11:22:41:

Clearly there isn't just a simple existed/didn't exist dichotomy here, but I do have some doubt about the existence of Socrates. But considering he isn't generally attributed any supernatural abilities it is a lot easier to take his existence at face value. With Jesus there are many aspects of his life which are either clearly untrue or highly exaggerated and require supernatural events. This means it is reasonable to doubt Jesus' existence more than Socrates'.

It is a bit like the movies which are "based on real events". Generally the characters portrayed there really existed but they might be unrecognisable if you saw them in real life after watching the movie. That's the sort of attitude I have to Jesus. Just another preacher whose life was grossly exaggerated for religious purposes.

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Comment 7 (4728) by richard on 2017-06-07 at 18:13:14:

I disagree. Lets grant for a moment that because you find the validity of the supernatural events impossible to accept, that those events were indeed fabricated. BTW - we recognise don't we that rejecting the possibility of such events is purely based on your worldview by the way, their isn't anything logically inconsistent with supernatural events being a 'possibility' IF Jesus was actually who He says he was. Nevertheless lets go with the assertion that they are made up. I would suggest that historians would find this actually increases the likelyhood of his 'actual existence'. It would be much less likely that the people making up such stories would also completely make up a person to attribute them too, because it's very easy to disprove the existence of the individual at the time the accounts were written. Clearly that did not happen, because He did exist. It gets worse for your assertion. Because of the nature of the 'stories' (whether true or not) He still had huge 'celebrity status' at the time. It would be exactly like suggesting Michael Jackson or JFK didn't actually exist when they read the historical accounts of him in 2000 years. That would be far far harder than suggesting you or I didn't actually exist in 2000 years, precisely because they were so 'famous', compared to us.

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Comment 8 (4730) by OJB on 2017-06-07 at 22:32:14:

I reject supernatural events because there is zero evidence they exist, not because of anything to do with a worldview, except to the extent that my worldview is based on rationality and the rejection of any unverified claims.

I think you miss my point regarding "existence". If I made up a fictional story with a character who had the same name and shared some of the history of a real person would you say the character existed? How close does the story and the reality have to be before the character in the story can be said to really exist?

Maybe the whole argument about the existence of Jesus isn't really important at all.

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