Judgment Day Concept is Bizarre

judgmentdayA lot of evangelical Christians believe in some version of Judgment day and to me it is a very bizarre concept.  Granted, some versions are more bizarre than others, but let me explain further:

I mean here we are on earth with so many varying religious beliefs, and where even some people who claim to be Christian admit that God’s existence is not very obvious.  Prayer feels like a one way conversation, scientific studies trying to detect effects from gods or a God fall short of detecting anything.  We are unable to experience this God with any of our senses.

Even those that are Christian seem to be so divided in beliefs.  Sure there is some commonality but some of the differences are actually pretty important, like what requirements there are for salvation.

The most common responses from Christians to explain this hidden God are that God must allow us free will, or that God has reasons which we wouldn’t understand for being so hidden.  There are others but they all just seem like ways to explain away what may be the most likely explanation – that gods either do not exist or are not interested in communicating with us.

And then comes the belief in Judgment day.  We are told that after we die we will stand before God and at that point it will all be very clear that he exists and at that point it will be too late.  So much for free will at that point, because it will be very clear that he exists then.  And even though there was much reason to doubt here on earth, we aren’t given any chances when it’s clear he exists.  It’s like God pops out and says “surprise, here I am; see you should have trusted that one sect (which one is anyone’s guess) that had the truth, and now it’s on to eternal punishment for you.”

But anything is possible, so I don’t mind entertaining the question of “what would you say if you die and end up standing before the almighty God?”.  At least it’s a good thought experiment.  This is my guess on how it would go down:

First, I’d crap in my pants (which I suppose is ok if I died of old age since I’d likely have a pair of Depends on).  Then I’d throw up all over the clouds.  At that point my heart would be racing so fast and I’d probably have a heart attack.  Interestingly enough, that may very well be the “second death” that the bible speaks about, so perhaps annihilationism is correct.

Anyways, if I was able to make it through all that and finally pull myself together I’d likely say “I really wasn’t expecting this, but at this point I don’t think I’ve got anything to say.”  He’d be reading my mind anyways, so he would know all the expletives going off in my mind (like “WTF, this is some insanely crazy sh-t”).

I mean seriously though, I’d be so scared out of my wits that I’m not sure that I’d even know what to say.  If I’m allowed I’d ask which sect was the one that got it right.

But the same book that people get this idea from they also get the idea that God loves his creation.  This whole judgment day scenario doesn’t match up with a God that cares about his creation.  A lot of other questionable stories come from this book, so this is why I can take this thing with a bit of a sense of humor – it just doesn’t seem real to me.

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50 thoughts on “Judgment Day Concept is Bizarre

  1. I have thought about that (standing before the judgement) but if this Christian god did finally show itself, I don’t think I’d be scared. Inquisitive, yes, and I might be shocked. But in all honesty, I would want to know why this god was MIA and had such poor representation. I honestly would rather be condemned then spend an eternity with such a god.

  2. I gotta say, when I first started reading this post, I wasn’t expecting “crap my pants” to show up in the text. 😀

    You’re absolutely right, though, and it blows my mind that I went so long never questioning this. I mean, in what other avenue of life would we consider something like this rational? When we’re raising kids, we don’t give vague, conflicting instructions about what’s appropriate, and then lambaste them with severe consequences when it’s too late for them to do anything about it. And no job does this with its employees. We try to make sure people understand the rules before we hold them to strict consequences.

    It’s just a crazy concept…

  3. Victoria – I truly admire your healthy confidence. Can’t say for myself that I’d want to be condemned. I understand what you’re saying though, because if I was standing there not condemned, watching God toss people into a pit of fire I’m pretty sure I’d be thinking “wow, not the nicest guy in the world.” The whole idea doesn’t seem coherent – a dead giveaway that it comes from the imaginations of human minds.

  4. Jason – yeah, I would tend to think the same. At the very least you’d think an all knowing and caring God would understand that we’ve given our best shot and take into account that we are human.

  5. I agree, it doesn’t make sense when combined with divine hiddenness and a supposed desire for all people to be saved, but it makes a whole lot of sense as a psychological byproduct of Israel’s constant suppression coupled with our innate desire for fairness and justice. Our modern conception of Judgment Day is detached from that context, but I can easily see how it would be embraced by a culture yearning for independence.

  6. “Victoria – I truly admire your healthy confidence. Can’t say for myself that I’d want to be condemned.”

    Thanks Howie. For me it’s more about integrity than confidence. When I was a believer, I didn’t really take the time to evaluate Judgement Day. But during my deconvertion, I did. I was utterly appalled. So, I agree with you — I wouldn’t want to be condemned. However, Christians should ask themselves — are they so wanting to live for eternity that they will coward and be loyal to a god that has the behavior of the worst of human kings and your average alpha male chimpanzee?

    Your right — the whole thing doesn’t seem coherent. Death anxiety renders humans vulnerable to this kind of psychological manipulation.

  7. When I was a Christian I loved the song I Can Only Imagine. I lived for the day that I would be faced with the dilemma of whether to stand or fall face first at his feet.

    Now I question why such a magnificent being would desire such a thing. To have all of this praise and worship and adoration? It seems rather narcissistic. But as a believer I never questioned it.

    Just like as a Christian I never questioned Judgement Day. And I think that the fear of the latter is what caused me to never question the former.

    On this side of it, though, it all seems so out there. It’s hard for me to understand how I never questioned it before.

    I guess if I died and woke up in front of this being I would be startled but I’d have a buttload of questions. And I’d get kinda pissed if I wasn’t allowed to ask them.

  8. @Travis – that’s a great point, it makes sense that the Jewish people of that day would have come up with an idea like this. I also think that back then there was a lot more black and white superstitious thinking – what they knew, they knew without any doubts. We still meet people like this today, but I wouldn’t doubt there were many back then like this. If it was obvious to them then they couldn’t see how others could honestly doubt what they were trying to share. That kind of thinking also takes a bit of the bite out of the contradictory concept.

  9. @Victoria,

    Death anxiety renders humans vulnerable to this kind of psychological manipulation.

    Yup, so true – I know death anxiety was a big factor for me when I was a Christian.

  10. To be honest, I wasn’t aware that this was a driving force in my belief. But looking back, and gaining a better understanding of the underpinnings of organized religion and belief in god, I can see that it was.

  11. @Ruth – Just listened to the music video. Beautiful melody and I don’t quite remember it from my Christian days (it may have come out after that). Music can be so powerful in solidifying the strength of our beliefs.

    It’s amazing how our beliefs can change so dramatically over time when we begin to see things in a different light. Perhaps it’s the cognitive dissonance that pushes us after we meet people of other religious beliefs that have just as much conviction as us (that was a big one for me). Or maybe it’s when we meet that agnostic or atheist who just has a hard time believing in superstition or magical thinking. Whatever it is, the strength of our beliefs is such an interesting phenomenon – something I think about a lot.

    “I think that the fear of the latter is what caused me to never question the former” – very good point, I can relate.

  12. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to phrase this question…

    Many of us who were very ardent believers are now puzzled at how we ever believed it so completely for so long. And that’s not just exaggeration, I really find it hard to put myself back in the shoes of my former Christian self, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Why is that, you think? Why do we have such a hard time putting ourselves back in that mindset?

  13. Nate, this is an incredibly excellent question that I’ve pondered a whole lot – something I had planned on someday writing a full post about. I look forward to responses from others on this (and given Victoria’s research on psychology and our brains I’m sure she’ll have some good input).

    I don’t know that I have a good technical answer for this, but it seems our brains do have a black/white tendency to them. While many of us nowadays at least concede that we cannot know anything with 100% confidence, still many of us express extreme confidence levels in our beliefs, and for those like us we’ve even expressed this extreme confidence in opposites within our lifetime. This is one of the reasons I now steer clear of saying I have extremely high levels of confidence in things that are not extremely obvious (like that I exist).

  14. Oh, and by the way Nate, I actually make it a bit of a point to try and think hard about the way I used to believe and why I believed it. Doing that helps me to look more compassionately and respectfully toward others who hold different viewpoints than my own. I really feel that the vast majority of us are giving our best shot at figuring out what is true and real. Sure there are some charlatans that are completely uninterested in that, but I don’t think they represent a very large portion of the population.

  15. Thanks for the replies, Howie. Your last comment in particular really resonates with me. I also try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt about their sincerity. And even though I no longer agree with the typical Christian arguments, I still understand why Christians use them and find them relevant.

  16. @Nate

    I don’t know how well I’ll be able to phrase this question…

    Many of us who were very ardent believers are now puzzled at how we ever believed it so completely for so long. And that’s not just exaggeration, I really find it hard to put myself back in the shoes of my former Christian self, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Why is that, you think? Why do we have such a hard time putting ourselves back in that mindset?

    Because, this is what indoctrination is all about, Nate; what it does and why it is crucial in maintaining the type of belief that has some people flying into tall buildings, bombing abortion clinics, mutilating a child’s’ genitals, executing apostates, justifying D.C.T. accepting blatant lies and fantasy as truth, believing that one is being watched while in the toilet, believing that by putting hands together and speaking to the ether that dreaded diseases can be cured ( while accepting that the same action has never regrown a limb).

    And the list just goes on.

  17. You’re probably right, Ark. When I first read your comment, I thought “nah, that’s too simple an explanation,” but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. Yeah, indoctrination short-circuits logic. We can easily see the flaws in any other religion, because it wasn’t hammered into us before we were old enough to examine it critically.

  18. I’m curious – how do you guys define indoctrination? The standard dictionary definition, or do you have another view of it?

  19. I think my view of it would be in line with the dictionary. My parents were definitely teaching me what they thought was right, but it was still indoctrination. There was never the caveat “this is just what we think, but there are lots of different opinions and you should make up your own mind when you’re older.” No, I was definitely taught a particular view of Christianity and told unquestionably that it was the only “right” way.

  20. Nate, I can relate to what you wrote here. I have recently tried to reconnect with God by doing some things I have done before . But it has been very difficult for me to go back. My analytical mind does not let me believe blindly . I have accompanied my wife to church lately, but I felt out of place. I still believe God exists, but certainly not in the same way I did before (believing in the Rapture, hell, the Bible , etc)

  21. Nate: Yeah, I think indoctrination definitely has a lot to do with this “phenomenon”. I think there are other factors too though, because I grew up in a Jewish family that actually did allow questioning (especially as I went into High School when my father started admitting to me that he was a bit agnostic). But then I became convinced by so-called prophecies that Christianity was true, and it was as if I flipped a switch – I was so completely sure if it. Now there are some other affects going on there too, like death anxiety as we discussed before, but I still think there is something even more deep here. My wife and I keep things very open in our family when it comes to religion. We’ve never told our kids whether or not there is a God. Our answer when they question us is that many different people have different opinions on the subject, and then we turn it on them and start asking them questions. But nevertheless my daughter is completely sure there is no God – she just knows it. And my son is the opposite – he is sure there is a God. Pretty strange, but I think this kind of thinking is more clear among children (although I realize it’s not always the case).

    I also however sometimes see it in myself as well as other adults, not just in ultimate questions, but sometimes in more mundane scenarios at work. There are times where a fellow engineer may feel they’ve covered every possible scenario in a technical question and they are completely sure of themselves only to get side-swiped by some strange effect that they never considered that shows they were actually wrong. I think some of this black/white confidence thinking sticks with us into adulthood. We may say we realize we can’t be 100% sure of anything, but practically speaking we feel it’s so close to 100% that it’s not worth even mentioning. But then we’re wrong even in some of those cases where we are so sure. I wouldn’t doubt there is some evolutionary effect that has caused this – I can see how confidence can be a beneficial trait for survival. I think there is a bit of peer pressure as well – I’ve been told many times at work that I need more confidence when I’m just being honest about the fact that I’m not totally sure about my conclusions. I think a lot of people don’t recognize or think too much about the fact that this pressure is even there.

  22. Hi Noel, long time no talk. I’ve been lurking along on your blog posts, and it looks like it’s been a bit tough going. I hope things have been going better.

    One thought I’ve had when reading some of your posts is that even though there very well may be a God, seeking or not seeking God may not actually change our lives all that much. My wife is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met and she has never believed in God – the whole question doesn’t even interest her. I think a lot of her happiness comes from the healthy attitude that she was raised to have. I wouldn’t doubt genetics has some to do with it as well (but of course that’s not something any of us can change), but I do think that can be overcome.

  23. I see what you’re saying, Howie. I’m actually similar to that. I’ve had bosses in the past get onto me because I’m not very committal. I will commit to trying to do a particular thing, but I never feel like I can fully commit to that particular thing actually happening — I mean, how could I anticipate every possible issue that might come up?

    When it comes to religion, I guess I’m slightly different. I still recognize that I could be wrong about my particular position, but the one thing I’ve learned through all of this is just how hard it is for anyone to actually figure out what’s ultimately true, even when they think they have.

    It’s actually this impossibility that works as further evidence to me. Any god like the ones described in most religions (a wholly good god) wouldn’t expect the impossible from people.

    So I think that’s why I seem so certain about these particular gods. That’s also why rodalena intrigues me so much — she believes in God but believes he’s equal parts kindly wizard and sadist prick.

  24. Funny you mention that, Noel. I’ve been to a couple of events at my grandmother’s church over the last year, and it was just so bizarre to me.

    In fact, at one service, I brought my wife and kids along. At one point, the preacher was stressing how Christians should be focused on heavenly things, and in that way, they shouldn’t be overly concerned with what happens in this life. So he said “how many of us can say we’re really ready to die?” My 5-year old son was sitting in my lap, and all this church stuff was new to him (we left when he was about a year and a half old), and I saw him start to slowly shake his head back and forth. I had to stifle a grin… 🙂

    But it was just so funny that a statement I would have completely understood several years ago, now sounded almost insane to me.

  25. Nate: Yeah, I agree regarding Rodalena. I’ve always been intrigued by her input as well. I think her concept as well other ideas (e.g. the multiple gods idea) resolve a lot of the difficulties that the all good god concept has. Doesn’t mean I believe in any of them, but just trying to rank them as far as possibilities go.

    But for me the whole supernatural question is quite a bit of a conundrum. I mean I see drawbacks to strict materialism, and don’t really see a good reason to discount the supernatural entirely. But then if that’s the case I have no clue how to really put probability values on things that are not natural, because as far as I know statistics is based on a knowledge of natural laws.

  26. Surprise, surprise, but I agree with you. 🙂

    While I can’t say I believe in the supernatural, I’m definitely open to it. In some ways, I think it would be pretty awesome. I at least like the idea of consciousness continuing in some way after I die, though I don’t believe it will. I would just love to know “what happens next,” you know? What happens to my kids and their kids? Do we ever achieve extra-solar exploration? I hope that we at least find some kind of life (bacterial or something) in our solar system before I die, but I’d love to know if there’s more. Of course, it may not be all that fun to watch whenever really bad things happen…

  27. Nate, you highlight very well the pros and cons of living forever. I have the same kind of curiosity when it comes to the future. And I’d imagine an eternity of complete bliss (which is a bit incomprehensible to us humans) would be nice, but otherwise there’s got to be some point where we’d go “okay, it’s been nice to be able to live 43 million years, but I think I’ve had enough.” 😉

  28. I was away from my computer most of the day yesterday, so I’m just now catching up on the excellent comments.

    Howie, I can very much relate to what you wrote regarding the black and white thinking and to curb the urge to not be so sure of yourself because you were once that way with certain beliefs. I can remember how strongly those thoughts ran through my gray matter as I was recovering from the shock that I’d been duped my entire life by a belief system. I was so sure — so convinced that Christianity was “the Truth”. It was humbling. I’ve been deconvered for 10 years, and it’s only been this past year that I identified with soft atheism. I went from being a theist to a deist, then agnostic and now atheist, but I most closely align with humanism and of course, possibilism. 😉

    When Nate wrote that we must have experienced some sort of short circuiting, I would have to agree, especially because of what happens to the brain and hormones/neurotransmitters when we have attachments with others, that that includes attachment with gods. Studies show, using fMRI scans that: “attachment activated regions specific to each, as well as overlapping regions in the brain’s reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. Both deactivated a common set of regions associated with negative emotions, social judgment and ‘mentalizing’, that is, the assessment of other people’s intentions and emotions. We conclude that human attachment employs a push–pull mechanism that overcomes social distance by deactivating networks used for critical social assessment and negative emotions, while it bonds individuals through the involvement of the reward circuitry, explaining the power of love to motivate and exhilarate.

    In Christianity, we are taught to have a personal, intimate relationship with the Judeo-Christian god in the same way as our most beloved such as a lover, spouse, children ,but more so, as Christians are commanded to put this god above their love for their family. That literally changes the brain and distorts our ability for sound judgement/assessment and reasoning. So there’s a lot to the saying “love is blind”.

  29. Victoria – Yup, what you say reminds me of the excitement I had when I became so sure of my belief in my first few months as a Christian. Luckily I wasn’t in an extreme fundamentalist group, but I was still involved in evangelical groups that were conservative enough – people like William Lane Craig and Mike Licona would have approved. It was enough to sense that it was a bit of a mind game. For someone like me who doesn’t have the proclivity toward spiritual experiences, praying always felt like a one way street. Talking with those that said they sensed the voice of God was troubling for me. I mean the belief was that God existed, he wanted a relationship with us, and was perfect. If I believed he was perfect then that meant there must have been something wrong with me. One of the last straws (there were a few) was taking a course with my pastor and a couple of other guys – we read through a book called Experiencing God. There were several things in that book that made me realize that the people saying they were hearing God were actually taking coincidences and very natural events in their lives along with their own individual opinions about what is good and pragmatic, merging those things and then concluding that it was the “voice of God”. What was more troubling was that the results were many times contradictory from person to person.

  30. Oh, that “pretty much exactly” comment was to Travis. (I didn’t realize that the replies don’t show as nested on the web page, because they do in the android wp app.)

  31. You can witness a similar mindset over on this blokes blog – http://siftingreality.com/2014/09/29/are-your-moral-objections-principled/

    It has ”Kathy” written all over it.
    And the host, John Barron, has vehemently criticized YECs’, which further demonstrates how such fundamentalists carve a niche for themselves – as do all fundamentalists from whichever religion.
    I have suggested he read your deconversion story – he has never replied to this.

  32. @Howie
    Courtesy of Wiki.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indoctrination#Religious

    Close enough for me …

    As a pejorative term, indoctrination implies forcibly or coercively causing people to act and think on the basis of a certain ideology.[3] Some secular critics believe that all religions indoctrinate their adherents, as children, and the accusation is made in the case of religious extremism.[4] Sects such as Scientology use personality tests and peer pressures to indoctrinate new members.[5] Some religions have commitment ceremonies for children 13 years and younger, such as Bar Mitzvah, Confirmation, and Shichi-Go-San. In Buddhism, temple boys are encouraged to follow the faith while young.[citation needed] Critics of religion, such as Richard Dawkins, maintain that the children of religious parents are often unfairly indoctrinated.[6]

  33. Ark, yeah that definition is familiar to me. From that I would say a whole lot of religious people are indoctrinated, but some may not be. I was trying to figure out where this extreme confidence can come from if indoctrination may not always be there. As with any psychological thing I guess it’s a mix of different things. Clearly indoctrination plays a huge part though like you said.

  34. Indoctrination attempts to remove the individual’s capacity for critical thought. Add to this fear of punishment ( especially if this punishment will come from a supernatural unseen source at some future date after you are dead and you have the perfect vassal to transmit such hogwash with the absolute conviction that what they are transmitting is right.
    Consider 9/11
    Look at Ken Ham.
    Look at Kathy over at Nate’s.
    Look at the Former Nate! ( lol)

    Consider what was done to German citizens regarding the Jews during the war.

    Such indoctrination is conducted without the necessity to provide verifiable evidence. In fact, I would venture the complete lack of evidence is the reason such indoctrination is carried out in the first place.

  35. You know, it’s kind of funny, but evidence was always talked about a fair amount within the religious group I was a part of. But we didn’t actually examine the evidence. We said it was there, and the “more knowledgeable” among us assured us that it was. And since virtually everyone I encountered already believed in the Christian god, I never saw any reason to go through all that evidence. It just wasn’t very interesting to me. I never thought that the people telling me all of this may not have been right, or even very honest.

  36. Nate: What’s even worse is that some Christians will discourage you away from looking too deeply into the issues. Not sure if you had that happen, but if their truth is so obvious given the evidence why would they do that?

  37. Yes, I’ve seen that. I don’t understand it either.

    I’ve had more than one tell me that they didn’t want to hear too many details of what troubled me about Christianity because they were afraid of losing their own faith. This is puzzling to me… If their religion is true, and God is going to negatively judge those who don’t comply, why would he allow anyone to be misled if they want to serve him? And if it’s true, how could further investigation into it lead someone to think it’s false?

    I just don’t get it…

  38. Yeah, it is definitely puzzling. And these same Christians exhort those who are not Christians to keep an open mind and read all they can about Christianity. As you know I frequently admit my own biases, but my biases don’t shake me from one thing I stand firm on – I go out and look for viewpoints which challenge my own.

  39. Nate, the message preached at your grandmothers church makes me sad . We should be focused on the need of “the least of these” like Jesus taught. The pastor where I attended has been talking about “getting wet with God” so that we can bare fruit . Does this mean we need to have a religious lifestyle in order to effectively serve others? I doubt it. But I do think that doing good may require some spiritual intervention. I don’t want to go back to strict rituals and doctrines (although I may not be able to if I try ) but I do want to connect to my creator , whoever he is. Have u had the same longing ?

  40. Hi Noel!

    No, I can’t say I’ve had that feeling, though much of that probably had to do with my time as a Christian. I know a lot of believers feel a very personal connection with God, but I never did. They seem to view him as a loving, and perhaps kindly father, but I was always very aware of the Old Testament version of God. And I believed that his plan meant most people would wind up in Hell. So he seemed more like a harsh disciplinarian to me, and it was hard to feel close to him. If I’d had a more positive experience, perhaps I would have missed it more.

    However. I have felt a profound sense of wonder about nature and the cosmos since leaving Christianity. I can’t seem to learn enough science these days, or spend enough time star-gazing. So maybe that’s just a different iteration of what you feel?

  41. Nate, that same wonder that we feel about the cosmos and nature brings some of us closer to God. The Old Testament version of God is just that: Old. Christianity teaches that in Jesus, everything becomes new. New covenant, new self, new life, new kind of Salvation, etc. God’s plan is for everyone to be “saved”, not to go to hell, (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 18:23) which is why I believe that the concept of “eternal damnation” does not resonate with Jesus’ teachings. But at the same time, what is Salvation but to live free of our selfish lifestyles? Although I recognize that the Bible is full of contradictions, it also has a lot of hope, particularly the New Testament. If we only focus on the contradictions and the negative, it will be easily rejected.

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