Looking For a Set of Instructions on How to Get to Heaven?
The Bible isn’t a cheat sheet for religious charlatans trying to finance a private jet
I recently wrote a couple of articles about religion.
More specifically, about its purpose and influence on those who seek strength and peace from believing in the afterlife, courtesy of the Man upstairs.
I received a few comments. Most were complimentary. A few recited their own experiences and impressions garnered from their belief and church attendance.
There were also a few dissenters. On the surface, their comments were rousing denials of the Scriptures. With aggressive and determined rhetoric, they strongly denounced anything and everything having to do with God, Church, and religious beliefs.
Some admitted they were staunch atheists, their mindset requiring the summary dismissal of religion as fantasized poppy-cock. Others focused on a specific event — or a series of them — that left them bitter and rejecting of all religious doctrine.
But like I said, most comments were supportive and complimentary.
It got me thinking.
Why such a definite and obvious divide between the two camps?
I don’t recall receiving a single comment suggesting they were undecided, or still in the process of evaluation.
I also wondered why comments from non-believers were so generally harsh — even hostile — about their decision to reject religion. Why were some folks compelled to express themselves with such aggressive resentment?
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” — William Shakespeare
Yes, I know, it’s a generalization. But I definitely noticed a pattern, no doubt influenced by my own subjective beliefs and experiences. So admittedly, my assessment — not judgment — is purely my own.
At first, I found it a bit ironic.
If Christians defended their faith as adamantly as atheists denied theirs, our churches wouldn’t be able to accommodate the Sunday morning throng of worshipers.
So why the difference in attitude between believer and non? And more importantly, why do some find such fault with the Bible as to dismiss it entirely?
The problem appears to come from trying to make the Scriptures serve a purpose other than what Biblical writers intended.
Especially when the Scriptures are convoluted with assumptions or taken out of context to substantiate a personal opinion or increase financial gain.
For example, I bristle when a televangelist ascends the stage to thunderous applause, adjusts their flowing white robes, and immediately reminds viewers their soul is damned unless they pull out their credit card and make a monthly “love offering.”
How much does a good soul-saving cost these days?
Even with inflation, a hundred bucks a month will get you a first-class seat on the soul train to heaven.
It would be funny if it wasn’t true.
And then there’s the individual who has learned that inferring a personal belief in God can help to create rapport, build trust, and manipulate others, especially when they’re trying to sell your something.
These folks are experts at dropping an occasional “God bless you,” into the conversation, making them a shining example of someone who can be trusted to do the right thing, and whose motives should not be questioned.
And it’s not unusual to see these “Christians of convenience” to be later revealed as hucksters and con men, their fabricated faith little more than a tool to pry the last dollar from the desperate and dejected.
Unfortunately, these bad actors are enough for some to conclude that all “men of God” are alike in their quest for financial gain and influence. And as a result, the proverbial baby is thrown out with the bath water as they categorically denounce the idea of religion and a belief in an afterlife.
They’ve rejected the Message because of what a few others have done under the auspicious guise of false authority.
They’ve allowed the actions of others to influence their receptivity to anything religious.
And that prompts a question . . .
Why would someone summarily reject the contents of the Book because of how others have unscrupulously abused it?
Confusing the message with the messenger is a quick and dirty way to dismiss what we don’t want to hear.
“But evil men and seducers will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue in the things that you have learned and have been assured of, knowing those from whom you have learned them.” — Second Timothy 3:13–14 (Modern English Version)
The process of using the Bible to rationalize a personal opinion, action, or behavior is so common it’s been given a name. The process is called “Text-jacking,” which means to remove Scripture from its context and strip it of its original meaning.
Without the original context, we end up with false equivalences, misinterpretation, and flawed conclusions.
Trying to find support for modern-day biases, allowing tradition to “color” the facts, and interpreting erroneous or irrational conclusions from parables are rampant examples of using the Bible for something other than originally intended.
And then there are the less nefarious examples . . .
For some, it’s a great place to write down the family’s births and deaths, creating an ancestral record to be passed down through the generations.
Others prominently display their Bible on the shelf, because it infers religious awareness, of having read the Message, and suggesting their intention is to treat others with respect and kindness.
Still, others use it as a ceremonial symbol of truth, honesty, and integrity — a reference to the origin of expressions like, “Swearing on a stack of Bibles,” or “Raise your right hand and put your left on the Bible.”
All common uses of the Book. Except that’s not what it’s for. That’s not its ultimate purpose.
The Scriptures are a set of instructions on how to get to heaven.
That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Use it for anything else, and you’ve just thrown away the primary and ultimate value of the Book.
Yes, I know the challenge.
Faith is difficult.
To believe without proof, without objective evidence, is beyond logic. Beyond the scientific method.
It takes courage to believe — to have faith in promises made so long ago.
Some tell us they are called to it . . . “I heard the call,” they say.
For others, it is more tradition than a calling. Their parents attended church, and now, they continue the practice.
Regardless of the reason or depth of conviction, today’s Christians continue to invest the time and submit to the principles of their faith. Their rationale is a simple extension of practical logic: “Sure, it would be easier to abandon my faith and not subject myself to the constraints of religious teachings. But in the end, what if I’m wrong?”
Here’s the Takeaway . . .
The Bible contains lots of information.
There are examples of how to get along with your neighbor, how to dismiss those who falsely accuse you of wrongdoing, and inspirational passages conveying encouragement and comfort when life leaves us empty and alone.
And then there’s the pragmatic need to come to terms with our limited lifespan, especially as we get older. With age, comes the realization that without the hope of something beyond the grave, this life often becomes discouraging and meaningless.
Oh sure, we leave our legacy and impact others with our contributions. But in a couple of generations, our influence is like a butterfly in the wind — a quick blur of color on a constantly changing canvas — and then, we’re gone, forgotten, our name little more than a placeholder on the family tree, a vague memory stirred by an old, faded photograph.
Personally, I want more than that. I want the hope of renewal. I want to look forward to something beyond what this world offers. And I want to think that when my time comes, I’ll experience a transition to a better place, without the limitations of a corporeal body and mind.
Yes, the Bible can certainly serve as a guide for living, a book of history, or as a source of inspiration. But that’s not its primary purpose.
As I said before, it’s a set of instructions on how to get to heaven.
If you’re ambivalent about religion, get selfish about it.
Use the Bible for what it can do for you.
Separate the Message from the confusion and distortion fueled by insincere justifications and vague manipulations of scriptural authority. In short, don’t become obsessed or discouraged by the abusive exploitation that others have used for centuries to rationalize their words and actions.
After all, life is short. Eternity is long. Maybe it’s time to put the emphasis where it belongs.
Thanks for reading,
Roger A. Reid, Ph.D. is a certified NLP trainer with degrees in engineering and business. Roger is the author of Better Mondays and Speak Up, and host of Success Point 360 Podcast, offering tips and strategies for achieving higher levels of career success and personal fulfillment in the real world.
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