GOD IS JUST A PLACEBO. He is the ultimate sugar pill for those who fear their own mortality. He is a false comfort to people who cannot accept that death is our only final end. God is a man-made creation designed to placate those of us who cannot accept that the world and all who inhabit it are mere accidents of nature. God brings false comfort to the psychologically weak and intellectually unsophisticated. He is a crutch for cowards who blindly relinquish control of their lives to a mythical, judgmental, man-made being. The joke is, in the end, on the Christian.
At the risk of sounding jaded, I’ve heard it all before. The assumption that faith is merely a placebo isn’t new although, in my opinion, it seems the assumption of someone who either hasn’t spent much time with a Christian or who is painfully oblivious to the judgmental plank in their own eye.
Like most Christians, I am well aware of how we are perceived and talked about by much of the secular community – we are a stupid, judgmental group focused only on making others miserable as we try to avoid death through a feeble, unquestioning devotion to Jesus Christ. Yet, every time I hear or read such opinions, frequently uttered by the arrogant know-it-all or intellectual snob, all I can think is, “You have no idea.”
As I’ve always said, I am no theologian. I’m also useless in a debate. I cannot prove to you that God exists, just as you can’t prove that He doesn’t. I cannot prove to you that I am not, in fact, some gullible simpleton blindly following a religion because I am uncomfortable at the thought of death. After all, you don’t know me. I am your average Jane Doe, a nobody. I can only share my experiences and hope that they shed some light on why a person would choose to follow Christ, you know, just in case you were wondering.
First, let’s address the question of “conversion through fire and brimstone.” Unarguably, there are some denominations whose Sunday sermons seem consistently designed to remind parishioners that hell is forever one sin away; however, this is not typically the subject of every church’s Sunday message. Most sermons focus on living life as God intended which is not with a sense of fear but with confidence in His forgiveness and with a servants heart.
Fire and brimstone preaching may have its place on occasion I suppose. It may be useful for recharging those who are backsliding or for reawakening during times of complacency; however, it is a preaching tool based in fear and fear-based beliefs are usually not sustainable for very long nor do they lend themselves to any sort of positive growth. In fact, I would go so far as to say if someone becomes a Christian ONLY because they are expecting a “get out of jail free” card, not only have they missed the point entirely, but their church and pastor have let them down significantly.
Contrary to the preaching of the critics and the naysayers, I, personally, do not focus on “living for a better death” but on living for a better life. I’ve tried living without much thought or acceptance of God, and it didn’t go very well. I believe we are hard-wired for relationship with God but I denied that belief for many years. Instead, I tried to fulfill that relationship need with other pursuits and bad habits. It was much like forcing a MAC to run with PC parts – it just wouldn’t work.
Despite having access to the blueprint, I continued collecting all the wrong hardware until one day I finally woke up. I realized that all the parts I’d been forcing into the empty spaces were malfunctioning. Jesus was the only one who could fill those spaces. This was not about ensuring I’d spend eternity in heaven rather than hell. It was about living a healthier life NOW, one that brings purpose, peace and contentment. The only way I’ve ever found any of these things is through Christ. Even on my worst days, and I still have them, I am never as empty and aimless as I was when my focus was elsewhere.
There are still many things I grapple with as a Christian and, intellectually, it would be easier for me to dismiss the whole thing. Yes, it would definitely be easier to accept that all life is an accident. If all life is an accident, if it all comes down to survival of the fittest, there really is no moral or spiritual recourse to living however I want to live. If there’s no God, there’s no reason for me not to give into the wants and lusts of my human nature. As long as it makes me happy and isn’t hurting anyone else, it’s “carte blanche,” right? Not exactly. I know many people buy into this idea but, pardon the hackneyed expression, we all end up “paying the piper” in the long run.
Of course, I still have the freedom to choose the way I live, a fact which sometimes seems lost on the non-believer. I could throw in the towel and join the “live and let live” crowd. I am not being held hostage by God. He isn’t keeping me here against my will. He never forced me into Christianity, He will never force anyone into believing in Him. But, I know, deep down, “way on down,” that the carte blanche life is really no life, so I choose to stay with Him, I want Him in my life. I would much rather spend my time wrestling with a life of Christianity than ever feel as empty and pointless as I did when I was living solely for me.
Christianity definitely is not for the squeamish or the weak-minded. I think many Christians struggle with their beliefs, some of us more frequently than others. It is not a sin to struggle with your faith or to question God. I certainly have done so time and time again. There probably is not a question I haven’t asked. Where did God come from? Who made God? Why all the suffering? How could you sacrifice your Son in such a way? While I may be arrogant enough to assume I deserve answers on demand, that is not how it works. I have to accept that at the moment there are some things I will not know.
Not knowing everything, not having all the answers presented before me in a nicely wrapped parcel certainly frustrates and trips me up sometimes, but I can take those frustrations prayerfully before God. I am usually left with a sense of peace after doing so. As one of my former pastors said, regardless of how intelligent we may think we are, trying to understand all the ways of God in this life is like a human being trying to explain to a chicken how we built the Empire State Building.
Despite my struggles and my doubts, I continue on this path because I accept the fundamental tenets that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for my sins and that he truly is “the way, the truth, and the life.” I want to be whomever God wants me to be because of these beliefs not because I am finagling my way into eternal life. At the moment, my human brain cannot even fathom “eternity.” I have no real concept of what that means, therefore, eternal life is not the focus of my Christian walk. I don’t know exactly what heaven will be like, but I do believe it exists, just as I believe hell does.
Yes, my beliefs are scoffed at and ridiculed by many and to them I can say only this: If you are right and I am wrong, what is the end result? I lived my life according to my faith which afforded me peace and contentment? I ended up dead and rotting in my grave with no heaven waiting for me? By then, I will be completely oblivious and totally unaware that I was wrong and you were right. But then, in fairness (and at the risk of sounding a bit “fire and brimstone” myself), we also have to consider this – what if I was right and YOU were wrong?
Either way, I will continue in my walk of faith, though it is a challenging one and I am often unsuccessful. I am and always will be a work-in-progress, but I will do my best to focus on life now and face eternity when it comes.