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Godless Conservative American Patriot Society

My Age of Reason
by Gene Johns
April 22, 2011

In a few weeks from the date of this writing, I will turn 57. It has taken me nearly 57 years to come around to the view I now hold about God and religion.

I recently came upon and read a book (first published in 1794) titled, “The Age of Reason,” by Thomas Paine. Mister Paine did not only question the reality of Christianity and the Bible but all religions.

Mister Paine's book was the catalyst that finally got me over the fear of hell and condemnation if I did not believe in the Christian way or doubted that the Bible was the “Word of God.” I already had doubts and questioned many of the stories in the Bible as believable. The book, “The Age of Reason” validated my thinking and allowed me to be true to myself.

“But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.” ~ Thomas Paine

In his book, Mister Paine wrote, “I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine.” With the same reverence, I too do not mean to condemn or criticize those who believe otherwise. I trust you give me the same freedom of thought when reading this declaration of mine, without condemnation.

Except for the rare visit to church to attend a funeral of a seldom seen relative, I don’t have many memories of church as a young boy. That’s because my parents didn’t go to church and therefore I didn’t either. I did on occasion attend a Christian (usually Baptist) church. With whom and why I don’t remember, but, I did go to church at times in my childhood.  

When I did attend church as a child, I usually went to Sunday school where Bible stories were read and discussed. But those experiences were few and far between. When I attended church as an adult, I seldom went to Sunday school.  

So for me, most of my early indoctrination into Christianity came by way of celebrating Christmas and Easter, even though my experience with those two Christian holidays were more in line with the secular celebration (Santa Clause and the Easter bunny) than about Jesus. It wasn’t until I grew up, got married and at times attended church, at times on a regular basis, that I became more aware of Christianity, the stories in the Bible and Jesus.

I mention my lack of Sunday school attendance as a child because I believe it is important to note that my young mind was not filled with stories of the Bible as real events. Some of you will now think that is my problem—I was not groomed to accept Christianity as a spiritual concept and the Bible as the divinely inspired "Word of God."                               

I am thankful I wasn’t indoctrinated with religion at a young age because I believe it allows me to have a more open mind and allows reason and logic to determine my belief instead of religious indoctrination. Believe it or not, I still find it hard to dismiss what I have been exposed to over the years. Christianity and the Bible are so much a part of the American culture and history. It is extremely difficult to let that go. Sometimes the truth (no God) is difficult to accept.

Please know I have wanted to believe in the Bible, Jesus and the promise of everlasting life. I sincerely tried to believe. I have, at times, let it all hang out (emotionally) after a "fire and brimstone" ranting of a Baptist or Pentecostal preacher led me to the altar. I have at times, when devastated by a personal experience like divorce or the death of my young sister or father, opened my heart to God and asked Jesus to help me deal with those awful experiences. For me there always seemed to be something missing—something just wasn't right. 

I now realize what wasn't right. Religion, any religion including Christianity, doesn't    make God real. Sure, religion is about God but religion, as I see it, is nothing more than a manmade concept to empower a few to control others.   

I see religion as a vehicle to enslave humanity to an ideology and not to do   the will of a God. I do believe many if not most people sincerely believe in their religion and the respective holy scripture of that religion. Please remember, I am not challenging their belief—I am only expressing my disbelief.  

I do not believe that any of the so-called holy scriptures of the various religions around the world are the word of God, including the Bible. The Holy Bible validates Christianity and Christianity validates the Holy Bible creating a never-ending circle of self-fulfilling truth for those who believe that the Holy Bible is the “Word of God.”

Mr. Paine gave excellent arguments against all religions, especially Christianity. I found myself appreciating what Mr. Paine stated, “…it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.”

On the surface, I thought and believed I was a Christian, but deep inside I doubted the stories of the Bible and the promises of everlasting life through Jesus Christ. I was trying to believe in something that my reason and logic told me wasn't right. When I professed my doubts, I was always told to have faith or that God worked in mysterious ways. 

There is an old standard Christian song for children that says, "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so." Now I may not have quoted that line correctly, so please don't hold me to an exact quotation. The point I want to make is that all the stories and promises in the Bible are taken as real because it comes from the Holy Bible—the so-called word of God as confirmed by Christians and by the Holy Bible itself.  

Thomas Paine argues how do we know the Bible is the word of God? Because the Bible tells us so? I believe the Bible is nothing more than a collection of myths and folklore. It was put together by men, unknown to us, selecting ancient writings from a selection of ancient writings some of which were said to be inspired by God. Men chose which writings to be included in the Bible and which writings would not. How can we trust a decision of such magnitude to men we know nothing about and believe and trust in the result of their choice?      

I know, it is said the books of the Bible and the "selection committee" were all inspired by God. I ask, could it not be said that Thomas Paine's book "The Age of Reason" was inspired by God so that mankind could be free from the slavery/tyranny of religion?   

For those of you still with me, I know there are a number of you, especially if you are a Christian, believe I am apparently on the path to hell. All members of a particular religion believe their religion is the true religion and that all others are, for the lack of a better word, bogus.  

What I find hard to believe is that God, a loving God, would condemn a soul to eternal hell simply because one truly does not believe in a document that has not been proven to be that of God.

Christians believe, and the Bible tells them so, there was a talking snake, a burning bush that spoke to Moses and a man survived for three days inside a whale (or large fish). These are just three events in the Bible that reason and logic, in my view, cannot accept. Yes, I know and do not deny that with a God all things would be possible. For me, I cannot accept that God would use such magic to direct mankind in the right direction. Why would God violate his laws of nature just to prove a point?  

I do not believe that in the entire world there was only one family righteous enough to save from a great flood. I do not think   that a loving, compassionate God would kill innocent children and babies by drowning them for the sins of their parents.  

I do not believe that in two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, only one family was worth saving. As it turned out, that wasn’t such a good family after all. Again, what about the innocent children, babies? Would a loving, compassionate God murder innocent children and babies? I don’t believe so.

I do not believe that a rebellious angel was cast out of heaven and into hell only to escape the bounds of hell and temp mankind and Jesus. Surely God would have foreseen what Satin would do to his children and prevent Satin from escaping from hell. Why would God allow that to happen and then condemn mankind to hell unless they knew his only begotten son after he was tortured to death? That just doesn't make sense to me. I don't buy it.  

I have always thought the stories in the Bible were much like fables and folklore. If the story of Pecos Bill where in the Bible would it not be accepted as true? You remember Pecos Bill, right? Pecos Bill could ride anything. He soon became bored with riding broncos and wanted to ride a tornado. Well, as the story goes, he eventually ropes and rides a great twister. Now we all know that isn't possible. Is it any more unbelievable than a man surviving three days inside a whale? We know that the Pecos Bill story is not true because it is preposterous. Well, in my mind, it is ridiculous to believe a man can live inside a whale or giant fish for three days and survive.       

No doubt the explanation of my coming of age about religion and God will fall short of converting anyone to my way of thinking. That is okay because that was not my goal. As stated at the beginning of this writing I am merely explaining why I cannot ac cept religion, in particular, Christianity and the Bible, as that of a God. 

Religion, all religions, has taken hold in the world and it will be a part of human nature until something happens that shakes the very foundation of mankind. What that will be, if ever, remains to be seen. I do believe at some point in the future of the world religion will fall by the wayside and go the way of Greek Mythology--interesting to read and study, but nothing more. 

In closing, I would like to leave you with these words from Thomas Jefferson: "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than the blindfold of fear."