Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Science, Hellfire and Damnation

Good morning God,
It would appear that there is a link between support for religion and a willingness to inflict punishment. The New Scientist has a report on a team of scientists, led by Emst Fahr of the University of Zurich who have been wondering how religion survives in spite of the fact that it can be so painfully costly.

I have to admit God, I wonder too.
I too wonder at how people can tolerate the perversion of Good News into Bad News, week in and week out. I confess that I had long ago come to my own private conclusion that a frighteningly large percentage of religious people take a perverse pleasure in abasing, humiliating and punishing themselves and others.. they must do.. to do it so often and with such enthusiasm - and be prepared to pay for it too!

The Good News says - your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.
The Good News says - Perfect love casts out fear
The Good News says - you are a child of God - and there is nothing better, higher or more important.

But somehow, by the time religion has finished with it - what is often proclaimed is

God loves you BUT you are a miserable sinner
Even though Christ died for your sins, that's not enough, you must confess, beg forgiveness, say three Hail Mary's, wear a Cilice (a spiked chain worn around the upper thigh), and a horsehair shirt for the next x number of days
God forgives only those who love Jesus
Only those who love Jesus are Children of God

Truth be told, the Church historically probably talked more about sin and hellfire than about You and your love God.
The Church has tended to use punishment and the fear of punishment as a means of control and cohesion, to bind the people together and draw in the weak and fearful.

IF you do/do not (delete as appropriate) ___________ (fill in the blank)
When you die, you will be damned for all time and cast into the eternal fires of hell..
If you believe what we tell you, do what we say
Then we can ensure that this wont happen...
In fact... you might even get to go to heaven (so much nicer than hell)


so sorry... I thought Jesus had dealt with sin?

The scientific team investigating - wondered how religion survived despite the predilection to punishment and came up with this:
"The punishing may be unpleasant but it's in the service of the greater good for that particular group or religion, enabling them to thrive and spread the word,"

And I find myself wondering - what word - the word of truth that declares us worthy - or the lie that demands we punish or be punished?

I'm Wesleyan through and through - Christ died to save us.. from the worst in ourselves  - and others.
For me that includes the push to dwell on, and hence empower, what people call 'sin'.
I am saved from the perverse habit of repeatedly revisiting, anguishing over and punishing myself or someone else for what has already been done and cannot be undone, what has long been forgiven, but not yet forgotten. I am also saved from my worst fears about how unworthy and undeserving I am.

The Good News is that I am in Christ - therefore I can sin no more.
The Good News is that Christ has declared me worthy
The power of sin has been broken - 'no condemnation now I dread' - nor punishment do I fear.

Sure, I still make mistakes, get things wrong, and regret my actions or words - but I take heart from the fact that as I work to overcome such imperfections, You forgive them because You know how I am made, and You have called it Good.

No Punishment needed (or wanted!)


  1. I feel sorry for you. Clearly you have never experienced anything but love for your own intellectual over simplistic ego. If you want to discuss any matter with the minimum degree of seriousness you can find me at
    God bless you.