What if there is no heaven (or hell)?: Inside the Mind of an Evangelical

Do you realize the entire Christian religion is based on something impossible to prove — or disprove? Paul stated what’s at stake in this pivotal verse.

16″For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19)

If you want to know why Christianity is still in business, take a coin and write “fear” on one side and “hope” on the other. Now flip it. These two emotions serve as the primary motivators for faith.

What’s the difference between a playground and a nursing home? Attitude. Nobody wants to die, especially those about to die. There are not many ten year olds contemplating their mortality but hang around a nursing home and the atmosphere is quite different.

The bulk of evangelicals (or any faith group) are born into and socialized in the faith from a young age. I have stated this repeatedly but for good reason. When it comes to religion, geography is all that matters. There are not many baptist churches springing up in Bagdad nor mosques in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Religion tends to be culturally dictated with the rare exceptions of aggressive missionary work.

Another phenomenon which is so obvious as to be almost insulting to mention. Highly educated people do not convert to evangelicalism unless via a crisis experience. Or to put it more succinctly: Healthy happy people do not become Christians. But take that same person and have them be diagnosed with cancer and things change, maybe. Or a person who goes through a painful breakup or struggles with substance abuse and is looking for help.

Christianity preys on the weak and vulnerable. Let me be clear, this is not the same as saying all Christians are weak and vulnerable. The question is, “When and how did one enter the faith?” Was it before the age of eighteen at church, Christian camp, Christian concert, revival meeting, Vacation Bible School, kids Christian summer program, after school Bible study, through an evangelical adult figure? Was it nearing the end of their life in a hospital or nursing home? Was it in an act of desperation or after receiving devastating health or financial news? Was it after an independent and critical study of the Bible? The last one is unlikely.

Christians would be the first to confess the nature of their faith is to rescue those in need. This might be true depending on how you define “rescue.” What exactly are you rescuing someone from and to what safe place are you taking them? Evangelicals would say they are saving people from sin. Prove it!

Here is the crux of the matter. Presuming to save someone from sin so they can go to heaven when they die is speculative nonsense which exploits mankind innate fear of death. And since nobody has ever returned from the dead to confirm or deny Christianity’s claim, they will continue to promise it. Matter closed, right? Wrong.

Envision a little old lady hunched in a pew clutching her Bible and listening to the sermon. The thought of one day seeing her departed husband or the grandchildren who she never sees gives her hope without which she may have no desire to go on living. Why take this precious hope from her?

Unfortunately, if Christianity were an exclusively private faith where believers kept to themselves and did not interfere in the lives of others, things might be different. But they don’t, so they aren’t. Evangelicals especially are desperate to change society to conform to their ideology. This once meant preaching the gospel to others so they could share the same hope. It is well beyond this now. It is not only a public religion it is becoming a political religion as well.

Intruding into other people’s lives seems intuitively wrong. so why do evangelicals think they have a right to force people to chance their lives. Think about it. Evangelicals want to tell others how to live and not live their lives but nobody can tell them how to live theirs. Their motives are suspect.

Why are evangelicals so determined to change society? They are not interested in changing all of society, only the parts they don’t approve of or that affect them personally. They oppose abortion until their teenage daughter get pregnant. They oppose homosexuality until their son or daughter comes out? The oppose divorce until they want one?

Why aren’t evangelicals rising up to denounce hip hop music which promotes a lifestyle contrary to biblical ideals? Why aren’t evangelicals opposing television shows which condone premarital sex or women wearing sexy outfits? Why aren’t evangelicals picketing casinos or liquor stores? Why aren’t evangelicals boycotting football, hockey, cage fighting and other violent forms of entertainment? Do they honestly think Jesus would attend these events?

I often imagine how I would view the world if I were still an evangelical, and one thing is clear: Materialism is more important to evangelicals than spiritualism. Evangelicals would rather shop than pray. They would rather watch television than study their Bibles. They would rather spend money on themselves than those in need. They would rather be comfortable than suffer for their faith. They would rather text than evangelize a stranger. Though admonished to shun the world and abstain from adopting its standards, evangelicals for all intents and purposes are no different from the rest of us. One may argue they are worse because they claim to be better as members of Christ’s church, his bride.

Disgust. There is no more accurate word to describe what passes for authentic Christian faith by evangelicals. They are hedging their bets when it comes to the faith. You can tell to what degree an evangelical really believes by the level of sacrifice and investment he is prepared to make where faith is concerned. They may talk like theists but they live like deists. God is out there but he doesn’t get involved, so why should we.

If today it was proven there was absolutely no heaven or hell, there would not be an appreciable difference in the lives of most evangelicals. Except for a few spare hours each week not much would change. Perhaps the small amount of money they now give would be directed at some charity or humanitarian effort. That’s about all. Maybe society would even get better?

An evangelicaless society would be free to move forward with social justice initiatives and programs. Women would be legally free to take control of their own bodies. Children born into previously evangelical households would not be coerced and indoctrinated into the faith psychologically crippling them later on. Foreign policy would not be driven by apocalyptic visions of the Middle East. The LGBTQ community would not have to devote precious energy and resources to fighting an insidious ideology rooted in a misguided interpretation of the Bible. Like a ship freed from a dragging anchor, society could make social progress as it navigates the turbulent waters of the twenty first century.

Published by ronarends

I was born in London, Ontario, Canada. I attended Capernwray Bible School (England and Austria), Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Il.), the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), London Baptist Seminary (London, Ontario) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I have had several temporary jobs over the years but my focus has alway been on an investigative study of the Bible, Jesus and Christianity particularly evangelicalism. Currently editing a massive literary undertaking deconstructing Christianity and Jesus.

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