10 Ways To Stop Feeling Guilty Your Friend Is Going To Hell

roadkill striped over1. Here’s the easiest one: Stop being a part of a church that “irritatingly” teaches the Bible, especially the parts that make you feel bad for the low number of times you have personally shared your faith. After all, the purpose of going to church is just to make you feel good. Right?

2. Find a church that makes you feel like you’re doing evangelism, but never actually encourages you to do it. Usually this falls under the heading of “getting involved in giving back to the community.” Because that’s why Jesus died on the cross. So we could “give back to the community.”

3. Never, under any circumstances, pray for your non-Christian friends to accept Christ. At least not more than once. That would be creepy and fanatical.

4. Stop reading the gospels in your daily time with God. Jesus constantly talked about the afterlife, especially hell. Let’s be honest: it’s pretty tiring to have to keep shielding your eyes from those verses while hunting for the gems that talk about how you can be happy and successful.

5. Lie to yourself when you feel a twinge of guilt for not sharing your faith by repeating the phrase: “Evangelism is God’s (and my pastor’s) job. My job is to be a good example.”

6. Justify your lack of evangelism by telling yourself that you’re trying to not be like the creepy fundamentalists who come on too strong. Like the nuts on Facebook or that crazy church who sent people to your door recently. Because in every other area of your life, of course you stop doing important things because other people take things a little too far.

7. Dabble in other religions, especially Buddhism. Buddhists are cool. You don’t have to believe in God and there are no hard demands made on your life. Of course keep your Christian “cover” (most of your friends are Christians, and, quite frankly, it’s good for business contacts), but don’t let the Christainity thing go to your head. It’s all pretty much the same thing.

8. Stop being so deeply involved in your church. And for the love of God, stop giving to your church. Let other people do that. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Money will eventually drop out of the sky to create and nurture ministries that build up believers and reach non-Christians. Other people will pay for the awesome stuff the church does for your kids. Let other people sacrifice. You spend that hard-earned money on yourself.

9. Every time the topic of hell comes up, bring up the example of the poor lonely native in Africa that’s never heard the gospel, and how it would be horrible if God sent that person to hell. Then make sure you add, “That’s not the God I choose to believe in.” Because as we all know, if there actually is a Creator, he’s too stupid to clearly communicate the way the world that he created works. And he definitely won’t mind if you “create your own” version of reality.

10. Completely block out of your mind the scene of your friend standing before God on judgment day. And the fact when he or she looks back on all the time they spent with you they’ll wonder how in the world you justified not doing everything within your power to nudge them back toward God. Yes, you talked about football, politics, golf, and the Kardashian sisters. But talking about Jesus would have been out of line. I get it. You don’t need that on your conscience. Block it out. You have too much stress in your life as it is. Just do the Buddhist thing and block it all out. Turn on some Jimmy Buffet. And stick to dreaming about your summer vacation.

Know any other sure-fire ways to alleviate guilt for not evangelizing? Leave a comment.

FYI – The Kindle e-book version of Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It) is on sale this week for $2.99! You can order it HERE. It’s designed to help you re-kindle evangelistic urgency and give you practical steps for sharing your faith without getting weird.

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=622370741 Tina Kachmar

    The sarcasm is leaking all over my computer. I think it is an amazing feeling when someone you know, whom you wouldn’t dream in a million years would be interested in knowing Christ, actually participates in banter about Him. It’s a start. I don’t have all the answers, though the Bible has been a part of my life since the age of 5, I feel like I’m reading it the right way for the first time. I can only pray that I turn someones heart to God but it is definitely part of my daily adventures to at least, TRY. Side note, I don’t think people realize that the guy in Africa has never HEARD of Jesus and what he did for us, so I can’t imagine that counts. Just my opinion. More importantly are the ones who have heard of Him and ignore. They are the people we are responsible for.

    • flakingnapstich

      You might try reading it cover to cover sometimes, instead of just the passages used in most Bible studies. The minor prophets and what God has them get up to is a real eyeopening experience.

    • Micheal Pelt

      The sarcasm is leaking all over my computer. I think it is an amazing
      feeling when someone you know, whom you wouldn’t dream in a million
      years would be interested in knowing Vishnu, actually participates in
      banter about Him. It’s a start. I don’t have all the answers, though
      the Vedas have been a part of my life since the age of 5, I feel like I’m
      reading it the right way for the first time. I can only pray that I
      turn someones heart to Vishnu but it is definitely part of my daily
      adventures to at least, TRY. Side note, I don’t think people realize
      that the guy in America has never HEARD of Vishnu and what he did for us,
      so I can’t imagine that counts. Just my opinion. More importantly are
      the ones who have heard of Him and ignore. They are the people we are
      responsible for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Glenn-Booker/1257963295 Glenn Booker

    guilt, condescension, and shame, great basis for religion.

    • Moribund Cadaver

      Christianity in the way it has been developed around the Jesus figure is a master-slave power dynamic based religion. It’s about conditioning people to dance on a rail of pain in order to “earn” the right to be saved from a laundry list of evil invented by the same religion. Sort of a spiritual confidence game.

      If you stick to the Jesus figure alone and remove everything else, including the invention of “hell”, you’d have the basis for a subtle, basically harmless philosophy more than a religion and it would be surprisingly eastern in the big picture. But that doesn’t make a good basis for a theocratic quasi-government order that can be used to gather and manipulate large numbers of people. It also doesn’t provide a sufficient reward for male patriarchs with an authoritarian psychological makeup.

  • Christian

    Sounds like pretty good advice.

  • http://twitter.com/ChattyMonkeyDon Don

    If you read this list in a non-sarcastic way, it’s a great start to getting out of the fantasy world and into the real one.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Depends on whose fantasy you’re living, don’t you think? Just because you don’t buy into Christianity doesn’t mean your version of reality is, well, you know…

      • Artor

        That’s true, but if you do buy into Xianity, then yeah, you’re delusional. Have you actually read through your own Bible? How can you believe that?

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          Yep, I’ve read it a few times. Have you?

          • http://twitter.com/Spawn_of_Santa Spawn of Santa

            Have you read it CRITICALLY and for comprehension, Brian? I find that most Christians, yes, even pastors, don’t.

            • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

              Spawn, yes, I’ve read it critically. Lost my faith in seminary. Long story.

              • http://twitter.com/Eunecromancer Eucliwood Hellscythe

                You have to be lying. No one can criticize the bible, lose their faith, know better, and then get right back on that train. This is only said to comfort people on the brink of losing faith or having doubts. I never see it directed toward people who have already lost it.

                • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                  Nope.

                • Bobby Mathews

                  Actually, that’s not true. When I went to college, I was planning to be a youth minister. Lost my faith and wandered for many years. By fits and starts and small degrees, I was gradually drawn back to my faith. (Though I would say that I’m not an “evangelical” or fundamentalist.) I also kicked the institutional church aside because I found no basis for it in scripture. Now I’m part of an organic fellowship, and have found real relationship with Christ. It’s pretty amazing.

                  For the record, I’m using my real name on here, so if anyone would like to discuss my thoughts/situation w/o threadjacking, feel free to contact me.

                  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                    Thanks Bobby.

          • Artor

            Yes I did, which is why I don’t believe any of that. It’s absurd, self-contradictory, and amoral. Why would I follow a god that advocates misogyny, genocide & slavery? How is the death of a mythical character supposed to have anything at all to do with me or the state of my non-existent soul? Why should I take any of Xianity seriously, and not Buddhism, Asatru or Voudoun?

            • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

              I know. It’s some crazy shizz. But there are very, very good reasons for believing it. “Truth is stranger than…”

              • Artor

                I’ve evaluated those reasons myself and found they don’t stand up to logic, reason, or comparisons to real-world evidence.
                So you believe the Bible is the word of your god, yes? If so, then how do you rationalize it’s support for the things I mentioned above? It is indeed some crazy shizz, so can you explain why you are not crazy for believing it?

                • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                  That’s a great question. I think the answer lies in that Christianity is about a relationship with a person, attested to and informed by a book. As such the relationship takes precedence, and the narly stuff you can’t gut was (1) stuff that happened in previous cultures where they viewed things differently or is (2) just stuff that the Bible talks about that pisses me off, that I don’t condone as being remotely moral or even at times, logical. But in the center is a person, whereby life makes sense, even when the operating manual is confusing at times.

                  • Artor

                    So you’re saying the Bible is NOT the word of god? Or are you just rejecting the OT? If the NT is the word of god, then why do the gospels contradict each other? If you can pick & choose your own morality independent from the parts of the Bible that piss you off, then why bother with the Bible at all? And I still don’t understand how you can have a relationship with a fictional person dead 2000 years, if he ever existed at all.

                    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                      I believe the entire Bible is God’s word. Messy. Confusing. Contradictory. And life-changing.

                    • Artor

                      So are you flouting your god’s law if you neglect to stone someone to death for working on Sunday? Do you beat or kill your kids if they don’t obey you? Do you make sure to get the Biblically mandated price when you sell your daughter into sex slavery? I can’t believe you follow every word of the Bible, because the god shown in there is a monster, and commands some unspeakably heinous actions from it’s followers. I assume you are a generally decent guy, and you don’t follow every word of the Bible, since you’re running a website and not rotting on Death Row. I think you might need to take another long, hard, critical look at your sacred text, and really think about how it relates to the real world. (hint; it doesn’t)

                    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                      That applies to a different time period under different laws. Understood in context, the Bible is one of the most beautiful, power texts I’ve veer encountered. And I’ve a few.

                    • Artor

                      I’m sorry, but that is a tremendous cop-out. I believe it’s Matthew 5:17 that says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” So Jesus himself, if you assume these are his words, insists he does not destroy the law of the OT, but you can disregard it at will. Are you following the Bible or are you not?
                      If we are speaking of literary criticism, please let me share some words from Mark Twain, who knows a few things about beautiful, powerful texts.

                      “The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave.”

                    • misanthropy_jones

                      or, perhaps jesus’ completion of the law is.meant to explain tha the old covenant has been fulfilled and now is the time for the new law to begin…

                    • occams_beard_trimmer

                      Why did ‘god’ need blood sacrifices to fulfill rules he came up to begin with?

                      /And why does ‘he’ need so much money?

                    • misanthropy_jones

                      dunno about the sacrifices. I’ve never come up with a good answer to that. sorry…
                      as for the money, that’s way less god thaan the churches.greed is a failure of humanity, not divinity…

                    • Justwondering

                      Well since it is logical impossible for God to be in the presence of sin and the wages of sin is death. Then God being a just God is going to have to be separated from sin. God cannot close his eyes to sin. But Jesus “the son of God” died so he can take the place of us. He was sinless in all his ways. So he was the only one who can conquer sin. So figuratively his blood is on everyone who believes in him shall recieve eternal life. Because everytime God looks at someone who believes in Jesus he sees jesus sacrific. It was all in God’s plan.

                    • misanthropy_jones

                      the problem with your statement is that it leads to the fact that we, god’s flawed creation, are more capable of love and forgiveness than our all-powerful creator.
                      i, for example, oppose the death penalty because it is morally wrong and unjust. how can my all-loving and all-merciful god support something so heinous. to say nothing of the concept of eternal torment or punishing an innocent for the crimes of others.
                      my religion, speaking personally, is basedd on the belief thhat my god is infinitely better than i am. guess all that’s why so many folks call me a heretic.

                    • Justwondering

                      Well that a different issue. How could somebody perfect look on the imperfections of someone esle and smile? The is the whole reason Jesus camed to die on the cross. It is not that God didn’t want to accept everyone it is just aganist his perfect nature to just accept sin.

                    • occams_beard_trimmer

                      Biggest cop out ever. Either ‘god’ authored the bible or ‘he’ didnt. If ‘god’ wrote it then I will never worship such a misogynistic, sadistic, needy and petulant ‘god’. If not then you are just fooling yourself for your own ego.

              • Artor

                BTW, kudos for actually allowing comments. Many Xian sites do not, as they generally can’t stand up to criticism or honest debate.

              • Eucliwood Hellscythe

                Truth? Your god is all over the place… the character is not consistent. It has shown it is capable of performing the actions it condemns, and no, “unless I feel like doing it myself” is not a valid rule. Unless its possible for souls to have MPD, it doesn’t exist by logical impossibility. Even if it were a consistent character it would be completely immoral. It would have to take me by force.

                Sadly, it is a character so bad that it doesn’t have to exist to cause suffering. You are the character, all xians are the character. It exists in your hearts. You are the person you want us to worship & follow – your values, your thoughts, etc. We are impure until we do so, but inside you know that you can’t possibly expect us to flip morals.

          • http://twitter.com/Eunecromancer Eucliwood Hellscythe

            What? No way. How can you condone everything in there? Or are you the sort to say “Actually, I believe that my god told us to read this book and allowed people to tamper with it so that it is effectively useless”? Either way it doesn’t make sense to go with it.

          • Micheal Pelt

            Yep. I especially liked the talking snake, talking donkey, the unicorns, and the dragons. That was really cool! They should make like a movie or something. I’ve already got a good working title – “Shrek”

            • Karnifex

              If anything, I feel like this is a really great compliment to Shrek. For more than a thousand years, the Bible has been considered one of the pinnacles of human expression, and its themes have influenced all classical literature that has ever been written. That Shrek’s tales are like the Bible’s does not discredit the Bible– it merely places Shrek in the same pantheon as Shakespeare and Milton.

      • lol

        And I base this on nothing

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          I’m assuming someone shared this post on some atheist discussion board somewhere? You guys are out in full force today. :)

          • Artor

            Fark.com posted the link as a bit of humor. They seem to think your reasoning is risible, and apparently, much of the population at large does as well.

            • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

              Thanks Artor. I thought it might have come from Fark. I like that site.

          • http://www.facebook.com/joel.hess.7 Joel Hess

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but I got here through a Christian friend’s post on Facebook, not an “Atheist discussion board.” Although I an atheist and I do occasionally visit discussion board. Your assumptions are unwarranted and typical of theists, who want to believe that atheists are amoral perverts just waiting to pounce on righteous believers.

      • Mark Martinez

        Bwahahahahahahahahaha! Selective reality. christianity at it’s core!

      • http://twitter.com/ChattyMonkeyDon Don

        My version of reality is the one I can see and touch, and confirm with others that they are seeing and touching the same things. Just because certain things in the bible make you feel good doesn’t mean they are real. And apparently God is “too stupid to clearly communicate the way the world that he created works” because look at how many different denominations there are that call each other false. If God’s word was real then it should not be open to interpretation. It should be so clear and precise that there is no debate over what every verse means. I think the more likely truth is it was made up by a couple of guys that aren’t that good at continuity. The character of God is all over the place, behaving like a schizophrenic drug addict who beats his kids and then cries and says he’ll never do it again until next time.

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          That’s not a fair representation of God in scripture. But I appreciate your reprehension for the difficult passages.

          • occams_beard_trimmer

            I found it to be completely fair. It seems to me you haven’t actually read the bible, just a few feel good passages.

            • Justwondering

              The man studied the new testament at princeton i think he would know what he is talking about

              • occams_beard_trimmer

                He should read the old testament which is suppose to be the same god. A ‘god’ who needs worship. A ‘god’ who demands animal sacrifices because the smell of blood “is pleasing to the lord”. A god who KILLS the people he created and claims to love. A god who orders the Isrealites to kill every man, woman and child…except the virgins, they can keep the virgins. A ‘god’ who endorses slavery. But now we are suppose to forget all that because somehow impregnating a virgin with himself so that he can sacrifice himself TO himself fulfills some idiotic rule that he came up with in the first place? To me it is soooooo obvious that this book (which is not good in any way) was written by men seeking power and money and it is still used by those same kind of men, including the owner of this website.

                Read the whole thing. Front to back. The ‘god’ character is a total douche.

  • nochristformethx

    Sarcastic guilt for the self righteous who think theirs is the only way. Too bad there isn’t really this hell that they love to live in fear of…

  • Tim

    “Because as we all know, if there actually is a Creator, he’s too stupid
    to clearly communicate the way the world that he created works.”

    “though the Bible has been a part of my life since the age of 5, I feel like I’m reading it the right way for the first time.”

    Tina’s experience does not seem to be unusual to me. Do you disagree, Brian? It seems to directly contradict your implication that there is a God smart enough to have clearly communicated with his most beloved creations.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      I had a professor in school that used to say, “God has communicated through His word, and he expects to be understood.” I think it takes time to learn contextual exegesis, etc. That doesn’t mean the message was flawed.

      • Artor

        If he expects to be understood, then yes, the message is flawed, because nobody seems to understand it. There’s around 30,000 different sects of Xianity now, and all of them claim they have the One True interpretation. Which one is right? How can you tell?

      • Micheal Pelt

        An omnipotent being, with an eternity to prepare for his creation can’t present a message that is clear and understandable without “contextual exegesis”? Hey! I’m convinced!

      • Tim

        That just baffles me Brian. Maybe my assumption that the Christian God is “all powerful” gets in the way. For me, that sets a pretty high standard. There are many man-made stories and essays that I think are much clearer and more effective at spreading a message. How could the most important message of all time be so ineffectively shared by the one who defined it and can do literally anything?
        The notion that God’s word is very poorly communicated doesn’t seem debatable. Your own experience and the existence of so much dispute and controversy even among believers seem to disprove it beyond question.

  • Tonybob

    Is it ok if I live like a good person, don’t lie,cheat,or steal, don’t murder anyone and love my fellow man, but never talk about it to anyone? I mean, I think the bible has some great stories, and some good life lessons, but I am not at all a religious person. I went to church for many years, was an altar boy, but now have no desire to return. However, I am caring and fair and try to live a good life. According to you, am I still doomed to the fires of hell?
    I am not trying to be a troll, just curious what you think.
    Thanks.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Tony that is a very good question. I actually lost my faith in seminary and jettisoned my belief in hell, for the reasons you probably can easily list. But four years later started believing in it again. It’s a long story. I talk about it in my book Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It). Shoot me an email and I’ll send you a free copy. I’d love to know what you think of it.

      • bbclads

        “let me preach to you offline and sell you a book” is not an answer.

        Tonybob, the answer is in the first sentence, which I have fixed for you: “1. Here’s the easiest one: Stop being a part of a church.”

        You don’t need a preacher. You don’t need a book. You don’t need anyone to ‘interpret’ for you. Go and do good, treat people well, help where you can.

        None of that requires religion.

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          That’s one answer. Unless what I’m talking about is actually true. Then if that’s the case you don’t want to jettison the Bible or being a part of a faith community. Why?

          • bbclads

            But it’s not true. And that’s my point. You don’t need a church. The Bible is an ok book with some decent moral stories. And to follow your leaps of illogic, the parts that you don’t agree with (stoning adulterers, for example), you can choose to gloss of over, because “hey, it’s about relationships’.

            You’ve chosen to interpret this book in a way that makes you comfortable. Rock on. But you don’t need the book. Or an interpreter.

            *You* tell *me* – what’s wrong with how I or Tonybob live our lives – without the book or the belief in the man in the sky? Good is done, a life was lived rewardingly. No one was harmed.

            • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

              I believe Jesus’ message is true, that’s why. You don’t, which is why you choose to live the way you do. Jesus taught, convincingly so, that there is a heaven and hell. Knowing this, and choosing the path your choosing, will lead you there. That’s not my idea. That’s Jesus’.

              • occams_beard_trimmer

                That is not Jesus, that is a bunch of stories told much later about a character named Jesus.

                • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                  Of course there’s the authentic ipsissima vox of Jesus in the gospels.

      • WWW

        There seems to be some confusion as to what “Hell” is. Hell isn’t really a place that God sends you. It’s a state of choice. You didn’t choose to accept your invitation to Rapture… so you get to stay out in the cold with all the others who didn’t accept the invitation. It’s not like God (or anyone else) can force a gift on a person. Go on. try it.

        “All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” – C.S. Lewis

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          I think Lewis said it well.

        • occams_beard_trimmer

          More words from a fiction writer.

      • occams_beard_trimmer

        You believe because you are able suspend logic because you WANT to believe.

        /My opinion.

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          There may be some truth to that, I think, for all of us. But I do think I’ve been as objective as I could be in my search. And I do believe I’ve found the truth.

  • Eucliwood Hellscythe

    See part 6 of the Deconversion series, pastor, sheesh. Isn’t evangelizing when you tell people about how they’re going to hell and then explain that if you never told them, they wouldn’t be going there?

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    I’m afraid I’m not following you. Come again…

    • Taylor Smith

      If you die without ever receiving the word of god, you don’t go to hell, right? According to the rules?

      Basically, when a missionary shows up in a place without christianity, in his own mind he’s instantly damning them all to hell just by opening his mouth about Jesus, and it’s his job to make sure they learn enough from him to ‘earn’ heaven.

      Thanks, missionaries!

  • PickAName

    I fear that the evangelicals are (a) correct about there being a hell and (b) incorrect about them being somewhere else after judgment day. I really don’t want to share my nice atheist’s hell with any of them.

  • Blanche Beecham

    In a jacked up way, I can appreciate the author’s ability to stand in someone else’s shoes. But, it is really nice of the troubled friend to stand by someone that thinks so little of others.

  • E S

    Brian’s going “Screwtape” with this post…

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    Communication is a tricky thing, you know that.

    • Artor

      It’s not that tricky. I can go all day without directly contradicting myself, but the Bible often does it from one sentence to the next. You’d think if you could create the universe from scratch, you’d be able to give some clear, concise directions to the people you created to live in it. Is your god all-powerful & all-knowing, or is he an amateur with the literacy of a bronze-age goatherd? Or is he the fever dream of a bronze-age goatherd? I think the latter is the most likely solution.

      • Dustin

        First off, if every single bit of the Bible meshed perfectly in a surface reading, and every detail was identical, it would hold even less weight because it would be accused of simply being copies of each other, or using massive dedicated collaboration, or huge amounts of editing. It would lose all weight.

        Secondly, most (if not all) of the contradictions are reasonably explainable when you take perspective or context or other things into consideration.

        I particularly find the phenomenon of unexplained coincidences to be very interesting. Basically, it is the way that different books of the Bible, written by different people, fit together and explain unanswered questions in other parts, to make a cohesive whole. Pretty remarkable for being the “fever dream of a bronze-age goatherd”…

        • Artor

          Well first, if the Bible was internally consistent and edited better, it wouldn’t harm it’s weight at all, since it has none except among those who believe it already. Would you put more faith in the Bhagavad Gita if the writing style was different? As it is, the Bible is well-deserving of criticism, and there are a host of analysts who have conclusively shown that it is not written by the people whose names it bears. Not one word in the book came directly from the mouth of anyone named Jesus.

          And yes, contradictions are explainable if you ignore evidence, contort logic, and do amazing mental gymnastics.

          I’m not impressed by this “cohesive whole,” you speak of. Even after heavy editing by the Nicaean Council, King James, etc., it still is abominably poor reading.

          • Dustin

            I’m saying that even less people would believe it, if for example all four Gospel accounts were perfect retellings – people would assume that they were not independent eyewitnesses, but rather other authors who simply copied each other’s works. The fact that there are differences between the accounts actually makes it more, not less, historically reliable, as it lends support to them being independent accounts.

            As for the explainability of the contradictions, there are perfectly reasonable explanations for most of them, no gymnastics required. For example – the last words of Jesus. Luke says that His last words were “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”, but John says they were “It is finished” – contradiction! However, when you remember that John was close to the cross, it makes sense that John might have heard the final “It is finished”, while those further away did not – particularly when you remember that Luke said that “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” was said in a loud voice – something those far away would have been able to make out more easily.

            Most other contradictions have similar reasonable explanations, though the limited space here makes them difficult to get in to individually.

    • Taylor Smith

      If I were the guy who invented the idea of “multiple languages” and created all of them whole-cloth, I would hope I could sort that out.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    The one thing I think we agree on is that if you strip everything away from the person of Jesus, you do have, in fact, a pretty harmless philosophy.

    • Taylor Smith

      I agree. But “stripping everything away from the person of Jesus” isn’t how we got the modern Church.

      “Thou shalt sit on furniture of gold and tell starving third-world mothers and fathers that condoms are the literal cause of AIDS”

      • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

        Again, you’re just as creeped out by the insipid, modern-day church as I am.

    • iamlegion

      If you strip everything about Jesus out of Christianity, what you have is Judaism.

      • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

        Good point.

        • Rich Phan

          so does the Christian OT

      • http://twitter.com/nadiaoxford Nadia Oxford

        Yes and no. I’m Jewish, I went to Hebrew school, and I can’t recall a single instance wherein my teachers tried to scare me with Hell. Judaism generally plays things very fast and loose with the afterlife.

        • iamlegion

          A fair point. IIRC, the main punishment for Judaism is simply not getting to be in the presence of God at the end of days; the additional, active torture of hell seems needlessly sadistic in comparison.

          • http://twitter.com/nadiaoxford Nadia Oxford

            Judaism doesn’t actively seek converts, and it doesn’t obsess over hell. Not a coincidence, I don’t think. ;)

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    Tim, amazingly, I would agree on this. “It’s the most amazingly beautiful, convoluted book ever put together by a committee” the person who delivered our commencement address at Princeton Seminary said.

  • nunyo bidness

    this should have been titled how to guilt people in to spreading a mind virus.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Unless hell is actually real, then it could have been titled, “How people blow off the most important event in human history, with a smile.”

      • Taylor Smith

        That’s pretty much the rationale behind most posts about the Reptilians and the Illuminati, too. “But what if we’re RIGHT?”

      • Brainsick

        Hell isn’t real. The observable laws of physics prohibit it and God (if he exists) can’t break the Laws that He created.

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          In my best Dwight Schrute voice, “False.”

          • Artor

            You’ll have to provide some evidence to back up your assertion. There are good, solid reasons to reject the concept of hell. There are none to suggest that it is real. Do you have anything other than Pascal’s wager to convince us unbelievers?

            • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

              Only Jesus’ word. And the existence of New Jersey. Ever driven through there?

              • Karnifex

                Unfortunately, we don’t have Jesus’ word. Sure, we have Paul’s, Matthew’s, Luke’s, John’s words, etc, but I mean, I’ve read a lot of books by multiple authors. It’s really easy to make a bunch of stories agree when they’re all told by people who lived hundreds of years apart from each other, then edited by a committee to remove any obvious contradictions (Gospel of Thomas, anyone?). If The Bible was ever Jesus’ word, then the sin of Man has long corrupted it.

                • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                  No, I disagree. I think what you see in the gospels, because of the readily apparent contradictions, is the presence of a lack of editorializing.

                  • Karnifex

                    Hmm, yeah, that’s a really good point! I think it’s readily apparent that the authors of the gospels believed that they were telling true stories. I also think that the mind of Man is fallible, and that even if they actually witnessed divine events, they had no way of accurately communicating them. The Word of God, as I in my admittedly-limited viewpoint understand it, is something ineffable, something too beautiful and too obvious and too true to ever put into words. When heard, an unbeliever should weep and repent. But The Bible isn’t this. It’s a great guide, sure. But it’s a finger pointing at the moon. The Truth of God cannot be contained in a book– to say otherwise, as I conceive it, is idolatry.

                • occams_beard_trimmer

                  Actually none of those people wrote those books. It is even easier to get books to agree when the last three copy the first and add things like resurrection.

              • Artor

                Flippancy aside, the New Jersey evidence is the most convincing, but still doesn’t cut it. And you don’t actually have Jesus’ word. You have the word of people who were born decades after Jesus supposedly died, who lied and claimed they walked & talked with him. The gospels are not credible sources, and they certainly don’t have the standing to contradict physics and logic.

                • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                  Of course they’re credible sources. At 46 I can remember very clearly exact conversations I had. The earliest gospel is no later than 40 years out, and the Jesus tradition contained in the Pauline epistles no later than 21 years out (Corinthian correspondence). To say they’re not historically accurate just isn’t fair to the evidence. Sounds like you’ve read one too many Bart Ehrman books.

                  • Artor

                    To say that the gospels ARE historically accurate is not just unfair to the evidence, but requires taking the evidence out to a back alley and beating the crap out of it until it is unrecognizable. Bart Ehrman and many other Biblical scholars agree and have evidence to show that the gospels were not written by the men whose names they bear, and were written well after the times they claim to describe, by people who were not witnesses.

                    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                      They are historically accurate according to the conventions of historical understanding at the time they were written. Later, according to our standards, there might be some problems with our modern-day historiographical penchant for total precision before giving assent to the possibly of an event being “having actually happened” as attested by what we would call a flawed historical narrative.

                    • Artor

                      The sound you don’t hear is me face-palming. You are doing some amazing mental gymnastics to support your book, but when you say stuff like that, I don’t know whether to clap or jeer. Since you seem to think you’re being honest, I’l go with both.

                    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                      I’m being honest. I think this is a fair treatment of the text IMHO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.gagnon.752 Chris Gagnon

    I LOVE all the torture porn in the old testament! Also, I have had several Carpenter Cultists try to be all evangelical with me (I live in small town Virginia), and they all get the same treatment. A listing of facts, beginning with the fact that the Bible is a work of fiction written by Man at the Council of Nicea, and ending with the fact that if the invisible cloud being actually does exist, then he is an Evil, Bloody-handed God who makes Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and modern day Israel look like rank amateurs when it comes to killing.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Chris, the idea that the Bible is a work of fiction created at Nicea is ridiculous. You know that.

      • Taylor Smith

        In related news, notion of a group of men “making up” Bigfoot deemed “ludicrous”. The search will begin in earnest Wednesday.

  • Deek!

    Not bad. Being a non religious person, I can easily say I wish more christians thought like you.

  • CPXB

    The funny thing here is that the Bible *repeatedly* says that Christians should keep their religion private, it tells you to pray inside with the doors closed, not to proclaim your religion on street corners or the marketplace, so forth and so on. But like the dude says, everyone cherry picks their verses.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      While I could be wrong, I think the general consensus is that Matthew 28:18-20 is the general mission of all Christians: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

      • larry longmore

        Whos consensus? Matt 6:5 –
        And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by
        others.

        Some might quibble about the origin of words but the biggest problem with the Bible is that anyone can pull out a fortune cookie & decide THIS is what God wants. People do it all the time because literally any position you care to take comes with Bible verses that support it

  • http://empiricaldissent.com/ Jordan C Bowser

    Wait… Jesus talked about hell? And evangelized?!

    He talked about Gehenna, the town dump. And Hades, the Greek place for the dead. Both of which have been translated as “hell” and thus associated with the modern funky theology of eternal sick torment by an angry god. But Yeshua never talked about that. And… even when he did talk about Gehenna, he was warning the religious, rich, and powerful.

    He never warned a “sinner” about hell.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Debating over the origins of Greek words? You know that words are defined by the way they are used in context, not according to a specific point of origination. Hades was originally what? Or who?

      • Karnifex

        Hades was originally the God of Wealth, and a full-blooded brother to the King of Gods, Zeus.

      • http://empiricaldissent.com/ Jordan C Bowser

        Of course words are defined by the way they are used in context. So when Yeshua talked about the place of the dead according to Greek tradition, he was talking about it in the context of the Greek tradition. Which had nothing to do with torment, fire, or anything that hell is.

        In Greek tradition, as in many cultures’ traditions, death is not necessarily something to be afraid of. Therefore Hades was not a horrible or scary place.

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          I think Jesus was talking originally in Aramaic, so I’m not sure.

  • http://www.movies-suck.com/ Wastrel Way

    Unfortunately, irony is not always merely saying the opposite of what you mean.

    The irony in this entire piece is that it assumes things that cannot be proven and then attempts to castigate people who do not believe them.

  • Jasper

    You’re not too good at this theology thing.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    Or I’m just being honest.

    • Karnifex

      The two are not mutually exclusive. Richard Dawkins is generally being honest, but he is also a poor theologian. The same may just as well be true of you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Albert-Gump-Kaye/100000832881135 Albert Gump Kaye

    “Jesus constantly talked about the afterlife, especially hell.”

    “In total, the word “hell” (hades and gehenna combined) is used about 10-12 times in all four gospels combined, and that’s it. Even when adding the teachings about the “outer darkness, fiery furnace, eternal fire prepared for the devil,” etc, it still isn’t even close. Christ speaks of the kingdom of heaven far more than he speaks about “hell.”

    A piece of advice for Brian Jones….
    Proverbs 13:3
    “He that keeps his mouth keeps his life: but he that opens wide his lips shall
    have destruction.”

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Albert, I believe it is you who should keep his mouth shut. Take the book of Matthew, for instance, just one book among twenty-seven in the entire New Testament. Here is what we learn about hell from that book alone: Twelve separate passages record Jesus’ teachings about the judgment of nonbelievers and their assignment to eternal punishment.11 Matthew 13:49–50 summarizes them all: “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus employed the most graphic language to describe what hell is like: fire (Matt. 5:22; 18:9); eternal fire (18:8); destruction (7:13); away from his presence (7:23); thrown outside (8:12; 22:13; 25:30); blazing furnace (13:42); darkness (22:13; 25:30); eternal punishment (25:46); weeping and gnashing of teeth (8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51). Jesus twice used the word eternal (18:8; 25:46) to convey that the punishment of nonbelievers would continue forever. Second Thessalonians 1:7–9 summarizes what these other New Testament authors taught: “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

  • Goober

    And by God you mean Allah right?

    The Goob hath thusly ruled on this issue.

  • Mer

    So, assuming I’m not of your faith, would you be okay with me proselytizing to you for 5 minutes regarding my own faith or causes or lack thereof?

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Sure. Give it a shot.

      • Mer

        Okay, thanks. I find the notion of god to be silly and shallow and religion similarly pointless. If there is a god who would send someone to hell simply for not following him, that is a petty god not worthy of worship. Aside from that, there is no point to getting all worked up about any of it since there’s no way to prove god does or doesn’t exist. Personally, I’d rather live a good life doing the right thing because it’s the right thing, rather than out of a fear of some eventual divine retribution. That’s about it. Guess it didn’t take 5 minutes, but there you go.

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          Mer, I have lots of friends who feel the same way. Like I tell them, I’ve never met an atheist who didn’t have a really good reason for being one. But for me, after I abandoned my faith in seminary, became an atheist, realized I was screwed because it was too late to send out the law school application, I went on a personal journey, starting with the question about the existence of God. Why do I believe in a God? Jodie Foster in the movie Contact. Her experience. I’m a parent. I love my kids. I couldn’t imagine creating them and then abandoning them without direction. I look around. I see everything around me. This didn’t all just happen. There was a first cause, regardless of what you and I say it is. And starting from that, my journey took me through a whole bunch of stages which I won’t go through here. Needless to say, I appreciate your honesty. And just because we’re in different camps, it doesn’t mean we both don’t share many of the same questions (and frustrations, and anger toward creepy Christians).

          • Mer

            Brian, I wouldn’t say I’m an atheist since you can’t prove a negative. I’m more of what I call an apatheist — I just don’t care. Regarding the kids, I don’t see the point of going for the mystical answer. Of course everything started somewhere, but what does it matter since you can’t prove what that start was? Isn’t this life beautiful enough in itself? Give your kids direction in this life (do the right thing because it’s the right thing, appreciate other people, accept that sometimes bad things just happen, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, etc.) and they can be happy, purposeful people with plenty of direction and sources of solace for the bad times and when you’re gone. And I do appreciate your willingness to converse, but I don’t appreciate your suggesting that your folks need to go out there and proselytize to people like me. I just think that’s rude. If someone invites a conversation, sure, but it’s pretty condescending to assume I don’t already have a fair knowledge of what your beliefs offer and a well-developed set of my own opinions.

          • Real Atheist

            I’m an atheist because I wasn’t raised with a religion and read a lot of books when I was very young. It was just my luck that the bible was in the mythology section, and it didn’t occur to me that anyone would ever think it was a real story. I didn’t learn about religion until I was in the second grade, and by then the “damage” had been done and I was “that weird kid who’s going to hell.” If you questioned the existence of god, you were never an atheist, you were an agnostic. A true atheist doesn’t give a crap about any of the gods; we think its silly to wate our lives arguing about the same fiction by a hundred different names. I think all life is precious because there is no afterlife, so we should cherish what we have and be kind to others. You don’t need religion to be a human being or teach your children about love and morality.

          • occams_beard_trimmer

            You claim to have been an atheist but I dont believe that claim and I think you use it in an effort to gain some ‘cred’. It seems to me you were always a deist looking to acquire the requisite mental gymnastics to allow yourself to believe.

            • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

              And now you’re a mindreader too? Dude, seriously, there are legitimate issues that you’re raising. But most of this is just ranting on your part. We can agree to disagree without going too far.

  • J.R.Brillianton

    I am always amazed, and I shouldn’t be anymore, by the amount of fierce attacks and general dispensing of ridicule against Christianity. I see where many of you claim to have read the Bible, and I don’t doubt that some of you have, but by your responses, you appear to misunderstand a lot of it. For example, those asking why adulterers aren’t stoned anymore if the OT was true, don’t understand that we are in a different dispensation now, the dispensation of Grace. The dispensation of living under the law was given to the Jews, and I for one am glad that we are not under that now. Christ did fulfill the law but He also brought us Grace.
    Some have asked about living a good life, but the Bible points out that none of us can live a sinless life (which is what the law helps us to understand). Christ death upon the cross at Calvary, pays the penalty (death and hell) for us who will put our trust in the finished works of Christ at Calvary. So many of you blaspheme and attack the one who loved you and died in your place, and some how come away with the attitude that the Christians are the mean nasty ones. Like I sais earlier, I am still amazed.
    Brian, that was a good article, I appreciated it. Thanks.

    • Artor

      Where in the Bible is the justification for this position? I find the passage that says, ” For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” I don’t know about heaven, but the Earth is still here, so why aren’t you following God’s Law anymore? You’re claiming that critics don’t understand what the Bible says, but from our perspective, it’s you who don’t understand what’s in that despicable book. It sounds like you’re rejecting whatever you feel like, but keeping the bits that make you feel warm & fuzzy.
      Xianity receives ridicule because it is ridiculous.

      • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

        No, not at all. The Bible gives a clear delineation between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The New one was inaugurated upon Jesus’s resurrection. Obedience to God’s law was done away with as a means to achieve/maintain God’s favor (Book of Hebrews, etc.).

        • Artor

          Okay, so this is one of the passages you explicitly reject then. I guess it wasn’t the Word of God? Why is it still in the book then?

          • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

            I don’t reject it. It doesn’t apply anymore because the situation changed with Jesus’ resurrection, like pre- US constitution ratification and post.

      • J.R.Brillianton

        In Romans 6:14 Paul writes “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” This is just one of many examples of the Church not being under the law that the Jews had to live under. In fact, in the early Church, there was a big debate of just what the Gentiles (not Jews) should have to do as far as the law and being justified before God. Those that put their trust in Christ for salvation shall stand before God in Christ’s righteousness and not our own.
        Bottom line, we are not lawless but we do not need to live under the laws of the Old Testament. Once again I am glad because I love to eat pork!

  • Karnifex

    I’d say all of this is great advice. The less you people keep railing on about YOUR Hell, the less chance your Evil Satan-God is going to drag me into it. Keep your goddamned mouths shut about your Demon-Book, you Whores of Jerusalem; YOU invented Hell, YOU can enjoy burning in it.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    In most cases I think I would agree with you.

  • JT

    “if there actually is a Creator, he’s too stupid to clearly communicate the way the world that he created works.”

    No truer words in this whole article..

  • http://www.facebook.com/zeldatron Zelda Lin

    Any God who would torture a being he “loves” for all eternity for a supposed error in judgement that was made during its brief life is does not ascribe to any principles I would remotely call moral, in fact quite the opposite. I suppose a deity capable of such monstrous, deranged cruelty should be feared, but he is not worthy of true worship. I’m convinced that version of God is a figment of some brutal authoritarian imagination, perpetuated for the sole purpose of controlling people.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Unless that “torture” was being excluded from that deity’s presence, by his or own freewill. Which is the Biblical teaching. Separation from God is something you choose, not something he chooses for you.

      • Karnifex

        So, then, for Atheists, who already exclude themselves from God’s grace, what threat does Hell hold?

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          Loneliness.

          • J.R.Brillianton

            Also, I think it holds the remembrance of rejecting God’s love and gift of salvation. The Bible also teaches about a lake of fire that all none believers end up in and that can’t be pleasant.

            • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

              My best guess is these are metaphors for separation from God. Which, don’t get me wrong, is definitely eternal conscious torment. But not literal fires. Etc.

              • J.R.Brillianton

                Well Brian, we do differ on this point. However, I wouldn’t want to go there regardless, it’s not going to be picnic either way.

              • Bailey2004

                Really? not literal fires. And you say you believe God’s Word. He talks about it all the time in His Word. So, what part of hell don’t you believe? The Emergent Church apostasy version or God’s Word that He wrote?

                • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                  God uses languages. Literally. And metaphorically at times.

                  • Bailey2004

                    What do you mean by “God uses languages?”

      • http://www.facebook.com/tommy.munson.5 Tommy Munson

        Brian, Here is what the bible has to say. It is eternal torture in the fires of hell, and Jesus is the one who sends them to it. No one chooses it for themselves. You should know this if you really read the bible multiple times as you claim.

        Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:25:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:…. 25:41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

        Also…. Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Keith-Burton/1585611491 Keith Burton

    So, another desperate preacher wrote an awful book he had to self-publish because nobody else would. Your advice is a great way to lose friends…which isolates the people who follow your advice, so they’ll be more dependent on power-hungry manipulators like you.

    Yeah, good plan. Almost as good as the evangelical pastor who convinced my dad to trust in prayer for his disabling headaches instead of seeing a doctor. But his plan backfired. Before Dad died from his brain tumor, Mom convinced him to not leave any money to that horrible church.

    So, how about you tell us about all your non-Christian “friends”, and how you badger them about converting every time you see them? I’m betting it’s a pretty short list.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Keith, I’m really sorry about your dad. If I could I’d punch that pastor for you myself. Almost as bad as all the idiots who kept telling my dad he was going to be healed from his kidney cancer. With all sincerity Keith, I am really sorry about your dad.

      • Bailey2004

        “If I could I’d punch that pastor for you myself.” Really? Brian? WOW! You do have a lot of bitterness and anger inside. I don’t like what that pastor did to Keith’s dad either, but God said, “Vengeance is Mine, I’ll repay says the Lord.” Just like that pastor who will receive God’s judgment, so will you and it will be harsher because you chose to become a preacher, can’t be called a pastor, you have no qualities of a Shepherd, to protect your flock from false teachings that are infiltrating churches all across America and you bought into it. You know what I am talking about. The Rick Warren apostasy that the devil is behind and using you to further “kill, steal and destroy.” You are doing a pretty good job for the devil Brian.

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          Please keep commenting. Please keep commenting.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    I concede that.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    I would prefer to view myself as a horrible evolutionary biologist and a mediocre theologian.

    • Teve Torbes

      If you’re, by your own admission, a horrible evolutionary biologist- why do you claim to know how it all started?

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    Yes, and that the name of the deity transitioned over time to refer to a place. Words change.

  • marmenta

    Brain Jones has proven that the claim of Christianity as the source of objective moral values is false if the objectionable parts of the OT only applys “to a different time period under different laws.” Either God’s Word is eternal, or it is not. Is it not?

  • J.R.Brillianton

    Larry, you are right about people who twist scripture for their own benefit but that has always happened. It even happens today in every day events and especially in politics.
    Christ was warning folks not to be a hypocrite that prays openly so folks can say “wow look at that guy, he really is some kind of holy guy.” The thing here is people are calling attention to themselves to receive the praise of men. Talking to people about hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, God and the Christian faith in general is not the same thing. We were/are commanded by Christ to spread the word so that those who will hear and believe can be saved. Christ himself preached openly for 3 years.

  • misanthropy_jones

    um, Jesus only mentions ‘hell’ a few times and always as parts of parables calling for social justice. most of the time he just talks about how we shouild be loving, caring, and non-judgemental to others.
    pretty sure the evangelical crowd aren’t reading things the way they were meant…

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      The Bible Jesus? Man that’s just not accurate. It’s not.

      • misanthropy_jones

        the kjv uses the word hell something like a couple dozen times altogether. the word hell is used interchangeably for three completely different concepts of the afterlife, making it pretty much a meaningless term in the context of that translation.
        read some rob bell, he explains it far better thsn i…

  • George Smith

    Brian, has it ever occurred to you that your friends *have* listened to you (as a good friend would) and found your opinions on the subject of religion to be unworthy of their time?

    My friends have tried to save me numerous times but they always, without fail, want me to hear their opinion and they never, ever address mine with rational, balanced, and unemotional dialogue. It’s hard to convince someone they need saving if you can’t put together a coherent argument and dialogue as to why they need it. But hey, far be it for me, an Internet Stranger to sell you short. Want to have a go at saving a perfectly random person? Let’s find out what you have to say when presented with a fair and balanced argument from an a-religious person:

    Q: Do you believe a parent who lets a child play in the middle of a busy highway is guilty of malice (assume the child gets run over if it makes it easier to decide)?

    If you answered no to the above, you’re a sociopath, so stop here. If you answered yes, then my next question is:

    Q: Do you believe God is all powerful and all knowing?

    If you answered no the the above, then you don’t have an afterlife worth believing in. I’d rather put my faith in a god who is, you know, Godly. If you answered yes,

    Q: Can God use his power to prevent the Devil from influencing my life negatively? In other words, can God prevent the Devil from letting me “play on the busy highway (of life)?”

    If you answered no to the above, then God actually fails the “all powerful” condition from the previous question–go back and think about it a bit more. If you answered yes, and you believe God *CAN* prevent the Devil from negatively influencing me, then we must conclude that ultimately God *DOES* control whether or not I spend my afterlife in the fires of Hell or the wondrous awesomeness of Heaven. Remember, God is all knowing, so he KNOWS which way I’m going to go, and he’s all powerful so he can CHANGE THE COURSE of my life for good if he wants to.

    If you’ve managed to get to this point, then perhaps you’ll be able to see what I and your friends who you’re having a hard time saving have already concluded:

    Either:

    1) God *will* take care of you and see to it that you make it to Heaven, in which case there’s no reason to worry about prayer or anything else (if God wants me to pray he’ll make me pray, if God wants me to start going to church he’ll make me start going, etc.), or

    2) God *won’t* take care of me, and he’ll just let the Devil do his thing, knowing full well where that will lead me. In this case God *IS* the Devil. You may need to think this equivalence case through a bit if it isn’t immediately obvious. In that case, go back to my first question about a parent letting his child play on the freeway. This is a difficult conclusion for many people to see, but if you think about it long enough eventually you’ll get there.

    If you reject #2 and believe God isn’t the same as the Devil (as most good Christians would), then conclusion #1 is what you’re left with. God *WILL* take care of you, me, and everybody. As a result, you don’t need to worry one little bit about saving your friends. God’s got it under control.

    Furthermore, if God is taking care of things, don’t you then think it might be a bit presumptuous of you to be trying to influence things with your own actions? You’re much more likely to be doing the will of God by simply shutting up (no rudeness intended) and letting the big man upstairs take care of things.

    Get it?

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      George I concede that some reject Christianity because they don’t buy it. But I’m not a big fan of of your no-fault, step by step process for arriving safely and comfortably into agnosticism. If there is a God, I’m sure he doesn’t allow himself to be confined by Cartesian linear logic. None of us do, no matter how rational we fancy ourselves.

      • George Smith

        Do you realize:

        1) You are advocating *against* the diligent application of rational and reasoned thought (“God works in mysterious ways so I can too”)?

        2) You have sidestepped actually thinking about and addressing the questions I posed?

        If your car was broken and I gave you the choice of having an instruction manual with a “no-fault, step by step process” for fixing it or taking an alternate approach based on faith (e.g. “Throw pudding in the trunk because I’m telling you it will WORK”), which would you choose?

        Honestly you seem like an intelligent guy. I wholeheartedly believe if you choose to think deeply about this *and* you have the maturity to trust the evidence of reason over the “evidence” of emotion, you will come to same conclusions I have.

        I can tell from having walked this road that it is neither safe nor comfortable, but if in the end you trust that you have a discerning mind and that you–as a person who *has* free will–are capable of making a difficult choice based on the application of reasoned and rational thought, you will find that you:

        – Are a lot stronger than you could have imagined.
        – Are moral and ethical for the sake of your own integrity, not the fear of some horrific “afterlife.”
        – Can help guide those who are struggling with the same sorts of questions, not by avoiding the difficult questions, but by acknowledging them and meeting them head-on.
        – Are much more likely to live your life to the fullest now–this is all you get, so make the most of it.

        Anyway, I’ll get out of your hair, but please realize that if you choose to close your eyes to the difficult questions as you have just now, you’re just going to alienate those people you’d like to keep close. The smart ones, the ones worth keeping, are going to demand the full application of your reason in all things, especially to the hard questions.

        Thank you for taking the time to answer, and good luck with your next book.

        • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

          George I have thought deeply about it. I’m just heading off to my daughter’s lax game and don’t have time for a prolonged response in addition to what I wrote. I would love to see what your thoughts are about my book. Can I send you a commentary copy? The first 6 chapters of the book would be my exact response to your questions.

    • Bailey2004

      George, sin is the thing that has separated us all from our relationship with God, you forget that God gave you freedom of choice to accept Him and have your relationship restored through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, who paid your sin debt in full or you can reject Him with your unbelief. How will you know about God’s saving grace unless a Christian tells you? Jesus commanded Christians to “GO” make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe the things that Jesus commanded. Yes, God is Sovereign and has everything under control, He will not violate your free will. And besides that, you cannot be saved unless the Holy Spirit draws you to God. You see, we don’t go out seeking God, God comes seeking us, so that our relationship may be restored back to Him because of the sin that separates us. God has made a way for you to accept or reject HIm, it’s your choice. God uses us, His children, some plant a seed, some water the seed, but ultimately God gives the increase. It just depends on your choice as to where the seed will fall, will it be on good fertile soil or rocky soil. The choice is yours. God is not willing that any perish or go to hell. It’s by grace and faith alone that we are saved, not works or anything else lest we boast about being saved on our own merit. God has a specific way that He planned. Shedding of blood and sacrifice are the common thread throughout the Bible. Jesus did both according to God’s will. The only thing that will keep you out of a restored relationship with God and your eternity secured is your sin of unbelief. Today is the day of salvation, do not harden your heart.

  • Titus

    Brian,
    You know as well as I do that this post isn’t in the top 100 things you’ve ever written. However, your responses to these critiques are some of your finest work.

    I appreciate you not being a jerk.

    I appreciate you sharing your faith.

    I appreciate you allowing comments.

    I appreciate you actually responding to comments.

    I appreciate that over at your FB page you’re not slamming these people behind their backs.

    Atheist Friends,
    You know as well as I do there are intellectually honest people on both sides of this argument. Brian wasn’t forcing his thoughts down your throats. It got picked up and pasted on a site you’d see. So lay off a little…Brian wasn’t picking a fight.

    You may not agree with the dude, but I can tell you that he’s a real smart, very fair, honest guy. If you met him in any other circumstances, he’s the kind of guy who you’d want to be friends with instead of arguing with.

    So enjoy the convo, because he will too. But don’t make it personal.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Thanks Titus. Appreciate the kind words. And your kind evaluation of the quality of the post. :) Top 100 is pretty gracious.

    • George Smith

      Couldn’t agree more. As a person who disagrees with Brian it’s still clear to me that he’s an intelligent person who is trying to keep it real. Ignore the haters and the rude people. We can have rational discussion that doesn’t spiral down into mud slinging even if we disagree.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    “You don’t need religion to be a human being or teach your children about love and morality.” I agree completely. I do, however, think that there is a richness to the human experience that my faith has brought me that was missing when I was an agnostic. I can’t promise that can be replicated, but I do know it is widely attested to by people I really respect.

    • Mer

      Brian, telling people that faith brings “a richness to the human experience” is not the same thing as telling people “believe what I do or you’re going to hell.” Why does your column promote the latter through evangelism instead of focusing on the former or, better, letting people find their own path?

      • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

        Mer, as Christians we are told by Jesus to share our faith. My post was written satirically towards Christians who know Jesus taught that, but refuse to do so. Jesus was pretty clear what he thought about people who claim to be followers but don’t do what he commands.

        • Mer

          Okay, so this particular column was satirically slanted. But you have written at least one book based on the concept that (to quote the blurb on Amazon) “hell is real and [readers] can help save people from going there.” I guess we can go round and round on this, but it seems as though you’re not being entirely honest about the message you’re putting out there.

          • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

            Mer I’ve been very honest with everything I’ve written. May not have very clear, but definitely honest. Hell is real. I believe that. My job as a Christian is to help everyone who will listen avoid it, without getting weird in the process. I believe the Bible is true. I believe it is powerful. Though confusing at times.

            • Mer

              Perhaps “consistent” would have been a better choice than “honest.” My apologies. But I reiterate, uninvited proselytizing is unwelcome and extremely condescending. You believe you’re trying to save me from hell and I understand that, but in fact, evangelists make my life here on earth more burdensome than it would otherwise be. I don’t go door-to-door trying to dissuade people of faith, after all. I would appreciate it much more if you would encourage others to return that consideration rather than urging them to try to bring me to Christ.

              • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                I think if we could sit down and have a beer (even though I don’t drink) you’d find that what I advocate, in practice, is very close to what you’re asking. Live it out until you’re asked. Be interesting. Not weird. Pray for a open door. Share the truth in love.

                • Mer

                  In that case, I might request that you revisit your “5 Minutes That Will Change Your Friend’s Life” column and various others. The method you advocate here may not exactly jibe with the method you propose there.

                  Regardless, have a good day. Try not to let the more frothing correspondents bring you down.

                  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

                    Thanks Mer. I had a good time talking with you today. Press on.

        • occams_beard_trimmer

          Religion counts on it because it wouldn’t survive without converts and parental indoctrination.

  • Kurt Rogers

    Option #14 goes over the fence (prev. blog)! LOVE the people who are looking at it. This is just what we need to see God doing. Big punch in the arm ( not the bad one ), Brian!

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      :) Thanks Kurt.

  • Barry chant

    Yes, all true — but if I really thought that the salvation of my friends was entirely up to me how could I not feel guilty? Fortunately, I am reassured by Jesus that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him and that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin. This is not an excuse for indifference or laziness–our greatest commission is to preach Christ–but it does remove from my shoulders what would otherwise be an unbearable burden.

  • asdfqwerty

    “create your own reality.” oh the irony.

  • Dustin

    Would those clear man-made stories be clear to people 2000 years ago? Would they be clear to every person, cross-culturally, across all of time? That is the problem that the Bible faces. It is a book that had to be made in such a way that it could be understood by people of vastly different cultures living in vastly different times. And yet, it has found a way to remain relevant across those varied cultures, across the last 2000 years, despite being constantly attacked and facing many attempts to stamp it out.

    Additionally, the Bible is written in such a way that people can get something out of it, at any level. A simple, uneducated person on a simple read through can get something out of it, while an educated dedicated studier of the Bible can get more out of it. It is a book that encourages study and focus and dedication, which are all good things.

    • occams_beard_trimmer

      “A simple, uneducated person” seems to be the target audience. And the thieves are taking advantage of that fact.

  • occams_beard_trimmer

    The bible is the nonsensical fireside ramblings of ancient goat herders. Its Santa for adults who cant deal with the fact that they will die. Fairy tales for maladjusted adults.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    God speaks to us through language. That’s all.

    • Bailey2004

      Huuuuummm, a bit shallow and open ended response Brian.

  • occams_beard_trimmer

    “people would assume that they were not independent eyewitnesses”
    THEY WEREN’T EYE WITNESSES!! Mark, the first gospel written and the one the others copied while adding the resurrection, was written at least 40 years after the death of the supposed Jesus and all the others were much later.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Of course they were eyewitnesses. Dude, there are lot of great reasons to not believe in the Bible. This is not one of them.

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  • ReverendJack

    before god started creation there was nothing: no evil, no hell, no sin. then he created. now there is a world full of evil and sin that condemns a large quantity of souls to hell. therefore, god created evil and has condemned you to hell. he is omniscient, so he must have done it knowingly. not the kind of god i’d like to worship, nor the kind of god that loves us all equally and unconditionally. your own faith cripples itself. if you’d like to defend your faith mail fantasticname13@gmail.com – i will make proper contact for a real debate if you seem like a rational christian

  • http://www.facebook.com/frank.p.montenegro Frank P. Montenegro

    “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”

    Psalm 14:1

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  • http://www.jesuscoffeebreak.com/ Norman

    The only reason a person who is a genuine born again believer should feel guilty is when they refuse to share the gospel with that dying soul. We are all held accountable for the people we come in contact with. God did not give us a spirit of fear. Sharing is caring so love them well.

  • Eddy C Chapman

    Peace unto this house brianjones.com and unto the webservicer (i could not say webmaster for this but one master prefered before me) this statment of exacting judgment with areas of guiltlessness is against the holy truth of christ. When you have done what my master master teacher teacher rabi rabi king of kings lord of lords had spoke out of the mouth of god you would of kicked the dust off your feet as the so called “friend” when there is but one friend *”it is righteous for a friend to lay his life down for a friend” christ my father the only workman worthy of his meat “the workman is worthy of his meat” he whom hues the good fruit of the vine. Do not be deceived by wolves in sheeps clothing. “For what judgement ye judge it shall be judged you” also look at the work of measure you have done by knowing not light in the darkness but darkness alone giving another to be in hell when only my lord my god is rule and reign “think not i am come to bring peace i am notcome to bring peace but a sword to reign on the just and the unjust and MY REWARD IS WITH ME TO GIVE EVERY MAN ACCORDING HIS WORKS SHALL BE” – revelations. This gives all holy truth to whom hath “a pair of balances in his hand and a reed in which to measure” -revelations so keep those truths “blessed is he whom reads and they that hear the words of this phrofessy and keep those things that are written therein” -revelations. What measure ye meet it shall be meet to you again. Cast out devils heal the sick raise the dead. If the house is not worthy kick the dust off your feet as you go and your peace shall return you. Turn your cheek. How many times lord 7 times? 7 times 70. The time IS AT HAND. (Im easy to find and not hidden cfnss@live.com ecchapman

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Not sure what to say…