Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Missionaries, my dear!

Missionaries, my dear! Don't you realize that missionaries are the divinely provided food for destitute and underfed cannibals? Whenever they are on the brink of starvation, Heaven in its infinite mercy sends them a nice plump missionary.
—Oscar Wilde
A couple of them showed up at my door today, and not being desitute, underfed or a cannibal, I sent them away uneaten. They asked (or rather the one who was in charge did) if I read my Bible and I said "Yes." (Thought bubble: But not the same one you read.) So of course he started telling me about how the end was near and all these wonderful things were going to happen – nothing about the bloodbaths in the streets and all the Jews and other "infidels" who don't convert being killed and thrown into the lake of fire, of course. Then he whipped out a little book and asked if I would read it if he left it with me. I said, "Probably not," so he left me one of the cut-rate tracts – he did compliment me on at least being honest.

It's kind of ironic (and very apropos) that I was looking at an article on Darwin in an old issue of the Skeptical Inquirer earlier and found a quote that expresses my sentiments perfectly – if I'd been feeling feisty I might have tried it out on this guy. As the article points out, "Darwin was not, by anyone's standards, a believing Christian," although he "consistently denied the charge" of being an atheist – and why shouldn't he have been telling the truth, since his problem seems to have been more with Christian doctrine than with God? Anyway, here is the quote, and this has always been my sticking point as well:
"... I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine." (Barlow 1958)
I know that there are people who get around this whole idea somehow, but I can't, and a lot of others have no problem with it, but just accept that the vast majority of people who have ever lived, no matter how good a life they have led, are going to be thrown into eternal torment by a "loving, merciful" God for not believing the right thing.

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