Does organized religion determine who qualifies for the help of God?
According to the members of organized religion, God is a righteous judge who keeps some kind of moral report card on each of us. They say if our final grade point average (or, GPA) is too low, God will cast us into a place somewhere down below called Hell, from which there is no escape. These same God-fearing people also claim: As just punishment for our sins, we will be tortured in a lake of fire until the end of time. They also claim there is a place somewhere up above called Heaven reserved for all the good guys.
However, there seems to be some differences of opinion among these devout and well-intentioned people. They cannot seem to agree about how God's moral report card is kept; who the good guys really are; and why God singles them out to be called good. They all call themselves "God's chosen people."
Is this really true? Has God given the rest of us the short end of the stick? Does God really play favorites like this? This problem is made worse by the fact that other faithful groups sincerely believe all of us flunk the final exam. Since it must take a perfect GPA for anyone to get to Heaven, they claim those who make it, do not deserve to. They say when our final exams are graded, we all need help from someone who is reputed to have a lot of pull with God. Is this true? This method is something we are quite familiar with down here on earth. It is about criminals who walk because someone with pull is able to influence a judge or a prosecutor. We called this a "fix".
Those who believe in this heavenly fix cannot seem to agree about how it is accomplished. First you have to say some magic words to initiate the fix, then you need to get either dunked or sprinkled. This is like a heavenly inoculation, about which there is even disagreement over which kind takes.
However, the dunkers and sprinklers are all convinced of one thing - regardles of the best way to obtain the heavenly fix or inoculation, without it, all of us are going to burn in hell.
Now I must confess that at one time or another I bought the package to cover my ass and play it safe. I have been both dunked and sprinkled. In addition, I have said several different kinds of magic words. Let me assure you I was sincere, or at least I thought I was. I meant to do the right thing as it was explained to me by one of those insiders who claims to be in the know. Are insiders supposed to work from some kind of official heavenly blue print? If so, why do they all seem to be using a different set? This is very confusing.
It sure might be tempting for a person in the know to use this kind of information to control people. First, for what is supposed to be their own good. Second, for all the side benefits to those in the know. Personally, I have never been too impressed by those who try to control me with the threat of punishment, the hope of rewards, or the promise of a fix. Incidentally, religious people testifying to the authority for all these religious beliefs are contained in certain sacred books. Each religion claims God inspired its own holy book. As a matter of fact, some of these sacred books actually claim to quote God verbatim by saying they are the "Word of God". If this is so, why has God never mentioned anything about this to me?
Who should I trust when confronted with such a bewildering number of God's self-styled spokespeople, who cannot seem to agree among themselves? What am I supposed to believe? Since I honestly do not know, and God has not shared this with me, is it OK if I just trust God, and otherwise plead ignorance?
Written by Father
Don B. Walster. Some of his experiences,
both before and after he went to seminary to become an Episcopal Priest,
are told in chapters of his book, "A Spiritual Straightjacket?: The
Religious Right?". Before he met his wife, he ran away from home and
shipped out on tramp freighters to the South Pacific. For a time in the
Great Depression he rode the rods on freight trains with homeless
hobos. After he got married and had his son in 1941, they moved to
Oregon where he was successful in commercial real estate to the point
that he was able to retire quite young. It was then that he decided to
become an Episcopal Priest for reasons that are described in his book.
He started writing chapters when he retired 33 years ago and basically
finished it, except for editing and formatting, in 2007.
Other articles by Father Walster - Belonging and Spiritual