The HyperTexts

American Homophobia: is it based on Christian fear and distrust of God?

by Michael R. Burch

Why do so many conservative Christians insist on denying non-heterosexuals the right to marry, when such marriages don’t harm them in any way? After all, homosexuality is not a communicable disease. I’m not going to leave my lovely wife to shack up with some hairy, smelly man (or even a smooth, clean one) just because gay marriage is legal. So what gives?

It seems obvious to me that American homophobia is caused primarily by two things: the “ick” factor and religion.

Certain foods seem icky to me, but obviously my delicate sensibilities don’t give me the right to make eating sushi, snails and eggplant illegal for other people. Just laws cannot be based on personal “taste,” please pardon the pun. Cannibalism is wrong because it’s unfair to the people being killed and devoured, but eating snails is not a “crime” because even if I hate the taste and texture of snails it does me no harm if other people eat them. (Now if it turns out that snails have souls and/or the right not to be eaten by human beings, that's another thing entirely, but at least for today let's assume that it's legal for human beings to kill and eat our friends the animals.)
In any case, opposition to gay marriage seems to be clearly inspired by something other than true morality. True morality involves increasing happiness while reducing suffering. So why deny homosexuals happiness, or increase their suffering? Could it be that Christians are secretly terrified of the God they profess to love and trust implicitly? Please allow me to explore this possibility with a small parable:

Two men were camping in the woods. As they emerged from their tent, they saw a bear charging at them from a distance. One of the men quickly bent down to lace up his tennis shoes. His partner screamed frantically, “Are you crazy? You can’t outrun a bear!”

His friend dashed off, yelling over his shoulder, “I know, I know, but I only have to outrun you!”

The moral of my parable is that Christians who use homosexuals as scapegoats and are willing to abandon them to an “eternal hell” obviously don’t trust the love, compassion and justice of God. In what dimension is eternal torture a suitable punishment for consensual sex, or any kind of sex? True justice, like true morality, aims to increase happiness and reduce suffering. Eternal punishment, being without purpose, would be the height of wickedness, not “justice.”

Perhaps American Christians should have a bit more faith in God. After all, a place called “hell” was never mentioned in the Old Testament, nor or in the earliest-written Christian texts (the epistles of Paul), nor in the book of Acts (ostensibly the self-recorded history of the early Christian church). When the few verses that seem to describe a place of eternal torment were clumsily cobbled into the Bible at a very late date, Christianity suddenly became a very dark, fear-inspiring religion. But 1 John 4 says “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.” So why not have a little faith in love, and stop making our brothers and sisters scapegoats for the “wrath of the Bear”?

About the time I began writing this piece, I received the following joke in an email:


Jesus and Satan are having an argument as to who is the better computer programmer. This goes on until they agree to hold a contest with God as the judge.

They set themselves before their computers and type furiously for hours, lines of code streaming across their monitors. Seconds before the end of the competition, a bolt of lightning strikes, taking out the electricity. Moments later, the power is restored, and God announces that the contest is over. He asks Satan what he has. Satan is visibly upset, and cries, "I have nothing! I lost it all when the power went out."

"Very well, then," says God, "let us see if Jesus fared any better." Jesus enters a command, and the screen comes to life in vivid display, the voices of an angelic choir pouring forth from the speakers.

Satan is astonished. He stutters, "But how?! I lost everything yet Jesus's program is intact! How did he do it?"

God chuckles, "Jesus saves."

The joke made me smile, and reminded me of my own problems with saving programs. I was one of the first programmers to work on the earliest microcomputers. This was before they came to be called “personal computers” or PCs. I was working for AT&T, at that time the largest company in the world, before the spinoff of the various Bell telephone companies. At the time I worked there, AT&T had only mainframe and minicomputer programmers who didn’t know how to program microcomputers, which had only 64K (not gigabytes or megabytes) of memory, and ran at the slogging-through-mud rate of 4MHz (not gigahertz). It was hard to program the early microcomputers because they had precious little space for programs or data. But they were very inexpensive, compared to other computers, and much smaller. Well, to make a long story short, back then programs had to be saved repeatedly because the systems were far from infallible. The only permanent storage device was an 8-inch floppy disk. The disks were thin and flexible, so they really were "floppy." But the engineers who designed the drives made a serious mistake. They used a lightbulb and optical sensor to determine if a disk was writeable or write-protected. If the light could not be seen, the disk was “write-protected.” This meant that if the light bulb went out (which happened a lot), the program could not be saved. So “saving” a program became a mad dash to find and replace the light bulb before the system crashed. This design flaw made “saving” a nightmare. And this makes me think of a vision I had, once, of the apostles Peter and James; I believe it may shed some light on developments within the early Christian church. I will share what I saw and understood, then explain what I believe the vision means.

In my vision, I saw the apostles Peter and James standing before their church. I somehow “knew” the apostles were Peter and James. I also “knew” that they were leaving their church, presumably the Jerusalem church they had founded soon after Pentecost. The book of Acts clearly indicates that Peter and James were the leaders of the Jerusalem church, with Paul being the main apostle to the Gentiles. In my vision, I also “knew” that trouble was coming. I assume the trouble was the Roman legions advancing on Jerusalem, circa AD 66-70. I do not “know” what the disagreement was, that caused Peter and James to leave their own church, but I can make an educated guess. If you will bear with me, I’ll explain. This will involve putting my vision in the proper context.

What does “Jesus saves” mean? If all men died in Adam and all men have life in Christ, and if Jesus Christ is the savior of all men, and if God is to be all in all, as verses in the Bible say, perhaps at some point in the past Christian “theologians” made salvation overly complicated, just as engineers made it difficult for me to save my programs. At the time of Jesus and Paul, “all the world” was a small ring of cities fringing the Mediterranean Sea. Paul was clearly trying to reach the known world (the Roman empire) with his gospel, because he established churches in Asia Minor and Greece, then went on to Rome. There are indications that Paul may have been planning a trip to Spain as well, which would have taken him to the westernmost point of the Roman empire in continental Europe. So it seems Paul may have been working in an arc, from Asia Minor to Spain. But Nero used Christians as scapegoats for the fire that destroyed Rome, and it seems likely that Paul died in Rome, at the hands of Nero, sometime before AD 70. There are indications that other apostles may have headed for Egypt and India.

But Paul and the other apostles didn’t know about North America, South America, Australia, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Europe, Russia, China, Japan, southeast Asia, or most of Africa. The “world” known to the early Christians was just a tiny slice of the globe. So the idea that all people had to believe in Jesus in order to be saved made no sense. The early Christians who came to this conclusion had no idea that there would be billions of people to reach, and that it would be 1,500 years before millions of them would even be discovered. But did Paul believe that only Christians would be saved? It seems not, because he said Christ was the savior of all men, “especially believers” and he spoke of Jesus being the Firstfruits of the resurrection, to be followed by Christians, then by other people, including all Israel. It seems likely that Paul was a universalist, and that his epistles were later revised by other Christian theologians who ended up creating an irrational religion that denied any hope of salvation to billions of human beings who had never heard of Jesus, or whose faiths precluded them becoming Christians (as with the vast majority of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists today).

The Hebrew prophets were universalists; they never spoke of place called “hell” and they said that even Sodom would be restored and that all Israel would be saved in the end. In his vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones, Ezekiel saw the entire nation of Israel resurrected, “an exceedingly great host,” and the Israelites believed in God after the miracle, not before. Paul agreed with Ezekiel that all Israel would be saved. There are many verses in the Bible that speak of all human beings being saved, including the second sermon of Peter after Pentecost, in which he spoke of “the restitution of all things to God, spoken of by all the Holy Prophets since the world began.” According to Peter’s sermon and the book of Acts, taken as a whole, the resurrection of Jesus confirmed the prophecies of Hebrew prophets like David and Ezekiel that death and Sheol (the grave, not “hell”) would not triumph over human beings, thanks to God (not the faith or works of man). While the early Christians claimed that Jesus was the Firstfruits of the resurrection, and thus the Christ, they clearly believed that other human beings would also live beyond death. Somewhere along the line, the dogma emerged that only Christians would be saved, but there are many verses in the Bible that are clearly universalistic, in terms of salvation.

It's also important to understand that neither Sheol nor Hades means “hell.” When the Bible says that death and Hades will be cast into the lake of fire, it doesn’t mean that “hell” will be cast into “hell.” Obviously, that makes no sense. Sheol and Hades were the “grave,” not “hell.” The writer was saying that death and the grave will be destroyed, no longer being needed. This is like saying, “Death, where is thy sting?” or, in the words of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, “death shall have no dominion.” Suffering and death are the enemies of man; time and again throughout the Bible there were claims that suffering and death would end, one day.

Ironically, the words used in the Bible leave Christians with no basis for condemning anyone to “hell,” since the Hebrew language has no word for “hell” and the Hebrew Bible covers thousands of years of events without ever suggesting that anyone was ever in danger of suffering after death. If God dictated the Ten Commandments to Moses, and if Moses wrote the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, how is it possible that all sorts of temporal punishments for sin were discussed, but not the far more important eternal consequences? Clearly, according to the Bible, hell did not pre-exist because it was never mentioned in the books of Moses, or in the later chronologies and books of the prophets. But according to the Bible, hell was never created either, because there is no verse in which the creation and purpose of hell were ever announced.

Sheol was clearly the “grave,” not “hell,” because Job asked to be hidden from suffering in Sheol, King David said God would be with him in Sheol, and the sons of Korah said God would redeem them from Sheol. If Sheol means “hell,” these verses refute the idea that “hell” is a place of eternal suffering, where God is not present, and from which no one can ever be redeemed. So in either case, the Old Testament refutes the dogma of an "eternal hell."

The other Hebrew word sometimes translated as “hell” is Gehenna. But Gehenna is a physical location in Israel, just outside Jerusalem. At the time of Jesus it seems to have been a fiery, smoking landfill. But today Gehenna is a lovely park and a tourist attraction. You can find pictures of this picturesque “hell” on the Internet. And some wonderful discoveries have been made in “hell.” The healing pool of Siloam was discovered in Gehenna. And the oldest extant Bible verses were discovered in “hell,” on small silver scrolls. These verses contain the benediction: “The LORD bless thee and keep thee, the LORD make his countenance to shine upon thee, and give thee peace.” Hell would be a strange place for God to preserve the oldest-known verses from scripture (unless, perhaps, he doesn’t believe in hell).

The Greek word Hades doesn’t mean “hell” either. As with Sheol, Hades was the “grave” and everyone went to Hades, good and bad alike. The Greek hell was Tartarus. There is only one verse in the entire Bible that contains the word Tartatus. But that verse (2 Peter 2:4) is about fallen angels awaiting judgment. So according to the Bible, “hell” is not for human beings and it is not eternal.

The Hebrew prophets never said the ability of God to save was limited by human faith or works. In fact, they said just the opposite. The limitation of the ability of God to save because of human faith and/or works is the invention of Christian theologians. The New Testament vacillates between different opinions about salvation, because different theologians tried to place different limitations on the power of God to save. Clearly if God is capable of saving everyone, and if God is a being of unconditional love who wants to save everyone, then God can save everyone, because he’s God. There is no need for “hell” if God is able to save. He could save human beings in one of two simple ways: either by changing human nature or by changing the nature of the world to come, so that suffering and death are no longer possible. If Hitler cannot cause me to suffer or die, then there is no reason for Hitler to go to hell. If I am not perfect in this life, and if heaven is perfect, then in order for me to enter heaven, it seems obvious that either my nature must change, or the nature of heaven must preclude me from suffering, or causing anyone else to suffer. But Christians cling to the idea that God can make them able to enter a perfect heaven, but for some inexplicable reason won’t do the same thing for other people. If he is able to save everyone, but allows a single human being or any living creature to suffer for all eternity, then obviously God cannot be called loving, compassionate, wise or just. No good human being would cause or allow another being to suffer for an extended period of time, if he could easily end the suffering.

The problem with Christian theologians is that they want to make salvation complicated, rather than simple, the way engineers made it difficult for me to save my programs. Christian theologians claim that Jesus saved the thief on the cross merely by nodding his head (this is the basis of the deathbed confession), but then they say Jesus will refuse to nod his head at other people he could easily save. Of course that makes no sense and turns Jesus into an unjust monster. If I could choose between causing Hitler to suffer for all eternity or allowing him to enter a heaven where he could neither harm nor be harmed, obviously I would not choose to cause him to suffer eternally. And it seems unlikely that Hitler would choose to suffer for all eternity, if he had a better option. So if there is a God like the Christian God, the question becomes whether God is good, and whether he is able to save. Only a God who is not good or who is unable to save could possibly need a “hell.” So when Christians claim that only Christians will be saved, they are either saying that God is not good, or that God is unable to save, or both. A good God would save everyone, if he was able, just as we would save other living beings from suffering, if we were able.

So the faith of the Hebrew prophets and Paul – assuming Paul was a universalist – makes perfect sense, if God is able to save. But other Christian theologians clearly did not agree with Paul and the prophets. The writer of Revelation, John of Patmos, was clearly a Judaizer, not a Pauline Christian. He said Jesus would condemn Christians for eating the wrong foods, when Jesus, Peter and Paul clearly said that no food makes a man unclean. John of Patmos also said that Jesus would murder the children of an adulteress, presumably for being related to her, when of course the Bible says Jesus chose not to condemn an adulteress, much less murder her children. John of Patmos not only said that Jesus would murder children, he also said that human beings would be tortured with fire and brimstone, in the “presence of the Lamb and the Holy Angels.” (So much for hell being “separation from God.”) By the time Revelation was written, a virulently cruel and unjust version of Christianity had emerged.

Why this happened is understandable. John of Patmos probably lived through hell, here on earth, in the city of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in AD 70. At that time Jerusalem was surrounded by the armies of Rome. In order to break the will of the Jews, the Romans erected forests of crucified Jews outside the walls of Jerusalem. According to historian Max Dimot, up to five hundred Jews were being crucified per day. The Jews inside Jerusalem were starving to death and murdering each other for food. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus said the Jews were driven to madness – first by religion zealotry, then by starvation. He said the famine inside Jerusalem became so intense that “all natural affection was extinguished” as family members competed with each other for morsels of food. Dimot called the besieged Jerusalem a “hellhole.” More than a million Jews would end up dying from disease, starvation or war. There were violent divisions within the Jewish ranks, and the Roman commanders knew this, so they allowed the Jews to kill each other in large numbers, waiting for over a year before they finally attacked and overthrew the city. They even allowed pilgrims to enter Jerusalem at Passover, then refused to allow them to leave, further straining the food and water resources of the Jews trapped inside. Zealots inside the city murdered the Jews who spoke for peace, throwing their corpses over the ramparts. John of Patmos may have been one of the ringleaders among the most violent factions. When he speaks about Rome (“Babylon”) and apostates within Jerusalem (the “whore”), he sounds like Hitler (who also called himself a prophet) ranting about the Jews. But the Jews could have chosen peace at any time, and according to Josephus, many Jewish elders recommended peace. It was the Zealots who wanted war and murdered those who wanted peace. John of Patmos sounds like a zealot and warmonger of a surreal order. Was he prophesying what would actually happen, or trying to force God, Jesus and the Angels to do his bidding? Thomas Jefferson called him a lunatic, and I agree. The Jewish soldiers were outnumbered 80,000 to 20,000 and were facing Rome’s best legions. There was no hope of victory, but religion-mad leaders inside Jerusalem “knew” God was on their side and insisted that a warrior Messiah would rescue them. Obviously, they were wrong.

The “beast” of Revelation was clearly Nero(n) Caesar (the letters of his name not only add up to 666, they also add up to 616, the other number found in some of the early texts; the number depends on whether one counts the second “n” in “Neron” or leaves it out). The verses about food being incredibly expensive were obviously true for that time. The coins that bore the images of Roman emperors would have been wildly unpopular, hence the “mark of the Beast.” Imagine having to pay for food with a coin stamped with the image of your worst enemy. (Nero was also the high priest of the state religions of Rome, and he was also worshipped as a god, with sacrifices being offered in his honor.) Babylon was a codeword for Rome. The “whore” was a codeword for apostate Jerusalem, which had killed the prophets and Jesus. Stars cannot “fall” from the sky, so the language of the plagues was clearly metaphorical. Hundreds of years before, Solomon had used similar metaphorical language to refer to a single human death. There is no reason to believe stars will ever “fall” to earth, because if a single star approached the earth, it would rip our solar system apart long before it arrived.

Josephus describes Titus, the Roman commander of the siege, as trying to persuade the Jews to surrender, so that the temple could be preserved and civilian lives spared. But according to Josephus a “false prophet” kept predicting that God would save the people inside the temple if they resisted, and this resistance led to the destruction of the temple. Could this false prophet have been John of Patmos himself? It seems possible. Finally Titus lost patience, and the entire city of Jerusalem was leveled to the ground. The final death toll, according to Josephus, was 1.1 million people, with 97,000 more being taken prisoner. That’s a high price to pay for religious mania.

John of Patmos was obviously writing about the siege of Jerusalem, and he clearly expected Jesus and the Angels to rescue the Christians, murder the Romans, then torture them with fire and brimstone. But just as obviously, he was wrong. When the events predicted did not come true, other Christians “pushed” those events into the future. As a result, American Christians are in a very similar predicament today. Millions of Christians believe that non-Christians will go to “hell” and that Jesus will descend from the skies to defeat their enemies at the last possible minute. The Christian faith keeps pushing the United States toward war in support of Israel, against Muslims, in the foolish and terrible belief that Jesus Christ will descend from the clouds to murder millions or billions of non-Christians. But John of Patmos was a deranged man, a false prophet, and no Christian. Why do so many Americans foolishly believe that Revelation is “true,” when it turns Jesus and the Angels into mass murders and torturers of the people of other religions?

It is easy to prove that Jesus will not return the “same way” he left, because it’s obvious that Jesus never ascended into the clouds in the first place. If he did, as the book of Acts claims, then the four gospels would agree. No one who stood in the crowd of onlookers and watched Jesus ascend into the clouds, with angels explaining that he would return in a similar manner, could have possibly failed to write down what they saw and heard. So obviously Jesus didn’t ascend into the clouds, and the writer of Acts either “went overboard” or listened to someone else who did. If I am an eyewitness, I might get small details of an event wrong. But if I saw a man ascend into the clouds while angels stood beside me explaining what I was seeing, I have no doubt that I would get those amazing details right.

So we have to accept the fact that parts of the Bible cannot be believed. And there is obviously a problem with the ideas that heaven is reserved for Christians and that Jesus Christ will return to earth to become the greatest mass murderer in human history. And of course the Bible contains verses that say fathers can sell their daughters as sex slaves, that girls who have been raped should be murdered on the assumption that they were guilty, that boys should be stoned to death for being stubborn and rebellious, etc. No one can believe such verses came from a loving, wise, just God. Jesus opposed the stoning of an adulteress; how could he have authored Deuteronomy 22, which commands the murder of girls who had been raped?

In my vision, Peter and James were leaving their church, presumably the church they had founded. Trouble lay ahead. I believe that trouble was the advancing Roman legions. There was a rift in the church. I do not “know” what the disagreement was, but I can make an educated guess. Peter and James knew Jesus, and therefore they knew that he would not kill anyone, including the Romans. John of Patmos (not the apostle John) and other men like him may have insisted that Jesus was the warrior-messiah predicted to defeat the enemies of Israel. So they may have confidently insisted on remaining in Jerusalem. If I am correct, then Peter and James were right about Jesus, and John of Patmos was wrong. I don’t believe that a being of the highest order – Unconditional Love – would murder anyone, or send anyone to “hell.” It seems Peter and James chose to avoid war. I believe we would be wise to do the same.

I believe the “apostasy” mentioned in the New Testament was the transformation of Jesus into the anti-Christ, when some Christians began to say that Jesus would go head-to-head with Nero, defeat him, then destroy all the world that stood in opposition to the Chosen Few, sending all non-Christians (and many Christians) to hell. John of Patmos was saying that Jesus would condemn Christians for eating the wrong things, and for having affairs. Of course I do not mean that Jesus actually is the anti-Christ. I believe both Nero and John of Patmos were wrong. Nero was the high priest and tyrant of the Romans. John of Patmos tried to turn Jesus Christ into the high priest and tyrant of the Jews. But a true religion based on love, compassion and justice does not need conquering tyrants. The United States does not need a tyrant or a high priest or a state religion. Unfortunately far too many Christians are willing to believe that evil is good, because men like John of Patmos claimed to speak for Jesus, saying things for him that he never would have said himself. Anyone can attribute words to other people, once they are no longer here to speak for themselves. The parable of the Good Samaritan is incompatible with an intolerant God. The idea the Jesus Christ would condemn people to an “eternal hell” for having premarital or extramarital sex is incompatible with what he said to the men who wanted to stone an adulteress. They would have caused her momentary suffering ended by death. But according to Christian theology, Jesus Christ is infinitely more cruel than the cruelest Pharisee, because he will cause or allow people to suffer for all eternity, for having sex. In what dimension is eternal torment a suitable punishment for acts of physical intimacy? Of course this has never made any sense whatsoever. Many Christians have been driven as mad by their religion as Jews like John of Patmos were driven mad by theirs.

No good father or mother would dream of torturing their children for having sex. Good mothers and fathers would caution their children about the obvious dangers of not acting responsibly. But if two consenting adults decide to have sex, no good parent or good judge would consider torture – much less eternal torture – a suitable punishment. Most parents and judges would not suggest any punishment at all for sex between consenting adults. Why, then, did John of Patmos say that Jesus would murder the children of an adulteress, then torture human beings with fire and brimstone?

Why are so many Christians willing to believe the worst about Jesus, simply because a deranged man tried to summon him to destroy his enemies, when he may have been one of the main instigators of the war?

There is no reason to believe in an “eternal hell” because a God who is able to save does not need “hell.” If there is not a God who is able to save, then the Bible makes no sense, because from beginning to end it speaks of a God who is able to save. Granted, there are verses that make the God of the Bible seem like a monster, but they could have been added by men like John of Patmos, who were either deranged, or evil, or both. There are verses in the Bible attributed to Moses which say he ordered the slaughter of defenseless women and children (Numbers 31) and the murder of girls for the “crime” of having been raped (Deuteronomy 22). Such verses can easily be explained: either (1) Moses was not a man of God, or (2) after Moses had died, other men put words in his mouth. But such verses could not have originated from a loving, wise, just God, so it is ridiculous to call the Bible “infallible” because it isn’t.

Anyone who reads the Bible with a clear mind can see how terrible things came to be said of Moses. The evidence is in the Bible itself. During the reign of the child-king Josiah, his Levite priests saw the opportunity to take advantage of the situation by writing a new book “of Moses” which they then pretended to “discover.” This book was obviously the dreadful book of Deuteronomy. It commanded the commonfolk to bring all their animals to the Levites, to be sacrificed, which allowed the Levites to become rich without working. Over and over, the book of Deuteronomy cajoles the people to not “neglect” the Levites, and threatens them with dire punishments if they think for themselves. Deuteronomy instituted a reign of terror, as it commanded that entire cities be wiped out to the last person if they entertained different religious beliefs, and even commanded parents to slaughter their own children (chapter 13). The Levites then followed their own advice, murdering people who disagreed with them, and even digging up the bones of other priests, to desecrate them. How can such evil be “the will of God?” Chapter 14 commands the commonfolk to give a tenth of their earnings to the bloodthirsty priests. Chapter 15 commands the people to give their best animals to God (i.e., to the Levites). Chapter 17 gives all authority to the Levites and orders the murder of anyone who refuses to listen to a priest! It also put the kings of Israel under the thumb of the new “law of Moses.” Chapter 18 commands the commonfolk to give the Levites the firstfruits of their grain, wine, oil and wool. The Levites clearly wanted the first and best of everything for themselves. Chapter 20 says that women and children of distant cities can be taken as “plunder” (slaves), but it commands genocide (the slaying of everything that breathes) when cities were taken within the Promised Land. How can anyone believe that Jesus would have commanded the slaughter of defenseless women and children? Incongruously the Levites told the Israelites to spare trees, saying, “Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?” According to the Levites' “wisdom,” it was better to spare trees than innocent babies. Chapter 21 says that captured women can be raped, with the option to let them go as “damaged goods” if they don’t please their rapists. The same chapter says that parents should murder their sons if they are stubborn or rebellious. Chapter 22 says that girls can be murdered if they don’t bleed on their marriage nights, since they didn’t “prove” they were virgins. It also says that men and women should be murdered for having extramarital sex, and that even girls who had been raped should be murdered or sold to their rapists, unless they were “lucky” enough to be raped in field where no one could hear their cries for help. Is this the “wisdom of God”? Chapter 23 says that children born out of wedlock and their heirs must be discriminated against for ten generations. Is this wise, or just? Chapter 25 forces a brother to marry his dead brother’s wife. Is that fair? (If the man refuses, the woman is allowed to spit in his face and call him names!). It also says to cut off a woman’s hand if she touches a man’s balls in a fight. Chapter 26 again reminds the people to give a tenth of their earnings to the Levites. The later chapters of Deuteronomy are full of blessings and curses obviously designed to entice and intimidate the Israelites into following the “commandments of God,” which were clearly the commandments of licentious, bloodthirsty, barbaric priests. And yet millions of Christians insist that the Bible is the “word of God.” But big parts, like the entire book of Deuteronomy, obviously aren’t.

The worst book of the Bible, by far, is Revelation, because it turns God, Jesus, the Angels and Christians themselves into vengeance-mad demons. The “saints” of Revelation were not men and women of compassion and reason, but lunatics screaming for vengeance and blood. The Jesus Christ of Revelation is not a being of unconditional love, but the puppet of a religious fanatic driven mad by war. It is easy to understand why men like John of Patmos were driven mad, if they lived through the terrible siege that ended in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem. The Romans and Jews of that time were like oil and water. The Romans relied on military power to dominate other people. Many of the Jews of that time considered all other races “unclean” and insisted that God preferred them. Both sides contributed to the catastrophe. Today American Christians face a very similar catastrophe. Like John of Patmos, they insist that only they will go to heaven, that God prefers them to people of other faiths, and that God’s love is not unconditional but can be manipulated by “faith.” Like the Romans, they use military power to dominate and bully other nations. This is obviously a recipe for disaster. Soon after the Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem, the decline and fall of the Roman empire began.

I know two very spiritual people who claim to have had experiences with angels. They described beings of unconditional love. Today many Americans have had near death experiences (NDEs) and claim to have followed a light into heaven. That light is often described as the light of unconditional love. Many children have had NDEs and speak of the light of heaven being the light of unconditional love. People of other faiths and atheists also have NDEs and often report similar things. There is no reason to believe that a compassionate man like Jesus would turn into an unjust monster and send people to “hell” for not believing in him, when he never spoke to them personally. And it never made sense for the early Christians to claim that salvation was by faith, because it would be more than 1,500 years before “all the world” would be discovered. What happened to billions of people who died never having heard of Jesus Christ, or hell? How could God be considered “just” if people died, then woke up in hell for not believing in someone they had never heard of? But if they didn’t go to hell, and people who hear of Jesus and don’t believe in him do go to hell, then the worst thing anyone could possibly do would be to mention the name “Jesus” to anyone, including their own children.

It only takes two minutes of thinking to realize that orthodox Christian theology makes no sense whatsoever. To believe that God is good and that salvation is by grace requires one to become a universalist. To believe that heaven must be earned requires a belief in reincarnation, because how many human beings are even close to being ready for a perfect heaven? To believe in hell is ridiculous, because how can we tell our own children that they are in danger of hell? That only drives them to despair. I know, because my parents told me there is a place called “hell” and that human beings go there, and it took me 46 years to overcome that terrible brainwashing. But the Hebrew prophets never said anyone would go to hell, and I don’t believe the early Christians were condemning people to hell either. After all, there is no verse in the Bible that announces the creation or purpose of hell.

My “educated guess” is that Paul and other early Christians were universalists who were very excited about the revelation of the existence of heaven, the nature of Jesus Christ (unconditional love), and that they were very hopeful about things improving here on earth if people followed the teachings of Jesus and the prophets. It seems they were trying “pave the way” for something wonderful to happen here on earth. I don’t pretend to understand exactly what they expected to happen. But there were obviously deep rifts in the early Christian church, because Paul claimed to be free of the chains of the Jewish dietary and circumcision laws, but John of Patmos clearly believed certain foods were still unclean. Paul spoke of unconditional love being greater than faith and hope, in 1 Corinthians 13. Other writers – perhaps later copyists of the Bible – claimed that Jesus was deliberately misleading the masses who flocked after him when he spoke to them in parables, and was only interested in saving the “chosen few” (THEM). This was clearly the idea of Mark 4:10, for instance. When the copyists of the NT invented “hell” by borrowing the concept from the pagan Greeks (there never was a mention of a place called “hell” in the Old Testament), the idea that God would save only the Chosen Few at the expense of the rest of the world resulted in a terrible, dark new religion. This terrible new religion would soon go on a rampage, murdering millions of human beings in the most terrible fashions imaginable – burning “witches” and “heretics” at the stake, boiling them alive in oil, drowning them, etc.

It all began with the transformation of a compassionate man, Jesus, into an unjust monster. It started with the invention of “hell” and the addition of the little word “but” to “Jesus saves.” Orthodox Christian theology is now based on the idea that “Jesus saves BUT.” Obviously, no one should be forced to believe in someone who is unable or unwilling to speak to them personally. If Jesus is a being of unconditional love, I know he will not condemn me for not believing in him. If he is not a being of unconditional love, then he has not lived up to the most inspired passage in the Bible: Paul’s epiphany on Divine Love in 1 Corinthians 13. Is it possible for the first great evangelist to have a higher vision of the love of God, than the reality of that Love? And didn’t Paul clearly say that if God is not Love, all the words of the Bible are mere noise (“clanging gongs and tinkling cymbals”)?

Ironically, the people who claim to love and admire Jesus are the ones who turned him into the anti-Christ. Because of my vision, I don’t believe the apostles Peter and James agreed with this vision of Jesus, because they knew Jesus personally. And I don’t believe Paul had this vision of Jesus because it seems he had a vision of a truly loving God. I believe the later copyists of the Bible changed what the original apostles said. Hopefully some of the original texts will turn up, and confirm that the Satanic Verses of the Bible were not in the original texts. Today we do not have any of the original texts. All we have are copies of copies. And when we compare the texts we do have, it’s obvious that many revisions were made. Origen and Celsus were early critics of the copyists. Origen was one of the most respected early church fathers. Celsus was a non-Christian. While they disagreed on matters of the faith, they agreed that the copyists of the Bible were changing things. Celsus said they were changing the texts as if they were drunk. And John of Patmos seemed to agree also, as he sternly warned other Christians not to change his words. So the Bible itself contains evidence that the early Christian texts were being changed.

I believe Paul died before the idea of an “eternal hell” became entrenched in a few verses in the NT. If the dogma existed while he was alive, surely he would have argued about this new dogma, the same way he argued about circumcision and unclean foods. Once Paul and the original apostles were dead, the fate of the Bible rested in the hands of the copyists of the Bible. The oldest Bibles extant today were probably paid for by Roman emperors like Constantine. Roman emperors understood the need for order, and having the ability to condemn people to hell was a wonderful way to keep primitive, superstitious people in line. Greek philosophers pointed out that no wise man believed in hell. Unfortunately many of the early Christians in Greece and Rome came from the lower classes, and they didn’t have the Old Testament scrolls (which were rare and expensive), so they had no idea that the God of the Bible and the Hebrew prophets had never mentioned a place called “hell.”

Unfortunately, most Christians feel compelled to cling to hell and “Jesus saves BUT,” even though “hell” was never even mentioned to Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel, Moses, David, Solomon or a long line of Hebrew prophets. Paul never mentioned a place called “hell” or “Hades” in any of his epistles. Hell was never mentioned in the book of Acts. Yes, there are a few verses here and there that seem to describe a place like hell, but there is no verse in the Bible that ever announces the creation or purpose of hell. So according to the Bible, hell did not pre-exist and it was never created. How could a loving, wise, just God create hell and forget to mention it to his best human friends? Obviously “hell” was the invention of human beings. Unfortunately, most Christians condemn their own children, and all the children of the earth, to an “eternal hell” for the “sin” of being born human. They do this in the name of a God who never even mentioned a place called “hell” himself. But where is there a verse in the Bible where God ever clearly said, “I have created a place called hell, and from this day forward human beings are in danger of it”?

Of course there is no such verse in the Bible.

Christians will attempt to wriggle off the hook, by saying they don’t condemn children to hell, but they do. Everyone understands what “Jesus saves” means, if only Christians can go to heaven. Children grow up. If Christians would only put two and two together, they could see that they are condemning their own children to a “hell” that was not a revelation of God, or the Hebrew prophets, or Jesus, or Paul, or any of the apostles. Clearly, “hell” was a very late, very clumsy addition to the Bible. It was added after Paul died, and it was added in Greece or Rome, where people had never read the Hebrew Bible and there was no debate about the matter, because the ignorant people there already believed in “hell.”

The HyperTexts