Throwback Thursday: You are Going to Hell for that.

Every Thursday, I dig out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the right and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Good news, guys! We’re onto my third journal! And it’s not a Pooh journal! I’m not really sure how I got a hold of this one, but it’s actually not terrible looking. If have to take this to public places, I won’t feel the need to explain to everyone notices it.

Don't be so optimistic, journal. You're still terrible.

Don’t be so optimistic, journal. I’m sure your insides are still terrible.

There’s also this on the first page. Not really sure what I was going for, but whatever. Nice drawing, 12-year old Ashley.

Bald? Gorilla arms? Massive eyes? Must be Zooey Deschanel in a twisted universe.

Bald? Gorilla arms? Massive eyes? What the hell is this supposed to be? 

Anyway, I decided to call this one Libby. I don’t journal too much these days, and I think it’s because I have a close friend to talk to about things. Also, I fancied myself a bit of a young, alive version of Anne Frank. 

Thursday April 20, 2000

Dear Libby, 

My gosh I wanna cry. I saw Godspell with Kali, and it was so heart softening. It’s about how it would be it God had walked the earth today instead of 2000 years ago. I don’t want to tell you about the begining, it’s too long. But the end, omigosh, it was so sad. The guy who plays Jesus (Ben, he’s the pastor’s son, but sort of a QT) prayed to his father in heaven when everyone else fell asleep. And when one of his friends came rushing in with men to get him and tie him to a 3’x4″ board of wood, there was a sense of urgency. With Ben crying in fake pain, Kali and I sat there, tears in our eyes, we watched as the men dragged him to the stage to be put on a real cross. He acted so well, all while people pretended to put fake nails in his wrists. Then he sang out in his soothing voice, “God, I am dying…” Then, “God, I am dead…” And he hung his head, which gave the illusion the life was gone from his body. The people took his body and held it high and walked out thru the audience to the doors. After about two minutes of watching the people mourn over his death, (oh yeah, b4 he was wearing a superman t-shirt.) he walked up to the stage in a clean white suit, giving everybody the reassurance that God’s always with you. Ben was singing, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord…” And oh the words still murmer in my  mind. 

It’s strange, over the period of 3 weeks, I’ve been exposed to the story of Jesus’s death twice, and both, my eyes got all watery. I think it’s a sign to something, but what? 

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s a sign that you saw a theatrical production that was a bit heavy on the pathos.

Wut.

Wut.

I think it’s dangerous to introduce religious concepts to children before they develop critical thinking skills. When you’re an impressionable child, you don’t understand rhetorical techniques. You don’t understand how sounds, colors, lights, words, melodies, and key changes can combine to manipulate your emotions to sway you. It’s clear that even though I knew the things in front of me weren’t real, I was still moved by the production. In that sense, you could say it was a great play.

And I would be okay if it stopped there, but it doesn’t. It pulls you further to feel that guilt. It’s YOUR sins that are piercing his wrists. It’s YOUR sins that are driving that crown of thorns on his head. It’s YOUR sins that have lashed his back. YOU crucified him by being exactly what he created you to be: a human who is foolish and selfish. If you’re like the majority of the population, you haven’t done anything so terribly offensive to warrant this sort of punishment. It stands to reason that if Jesus hadn’t died, we’d have to endure hell, right?

One of the Sunday school lessons that has been fused into memory was one that illustrated the severity of sins. We were asked which was worse: “Killing another person or lying? Taking the lord’s name in vain or disobeying your parents? Being envious of your friend’s toy or not resting on Sunday?” Because we were children and were faced with a dichotomy, we picked one or the other. Some of them seemed arbitrary, but I remember working with my group to come up with an answer. When we were done, we presented our answers and PSYCH! No matter what we answered, we were wrong.

“Each sin is the same in God’s eyes. Whether you lie or say his name in vain, whether you kill someone or are jealous, a sin is a sin,” the teacher told us. “But the good news is that Jesus died for all of your sins because he loved you. All you have to do is accept it.”

Give that message to a child too early, and she’ll spend a great deal of time anxiously determining how terrible she is. I had been jealous of my friends’ toys and sometimes I lied to my mother about cleaning my room. And since I never knew if I had truly accepted Jesus into my heart (I accepted him roughly 23 times between the ages of seven and 18), I was constantly in fear of burning forever because I didn’t know if I was doing it right.

I’m sure there’s a argument with twelve talking points about how mistaken I am, and that my real issue is that I just don’t know Jesus. If I knew him, I would understand these things. And maybe this will make some of my family sad: I once had that faith, and now I don’t. What happened to me? 

 That is the definition of faith – acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that we cannot prove.   – Dan Brown

I don’t have faith in God anymore. I’m just no longer willing to accept something for which I’m unable to find compelling evidence. While it’s nice to think of someone who will guide me to what I need to do, but I’m more willing to to believe in my own ability to change my circumstances and figure it out from there. If I’m unhappy with some aspect of my life, I’m the one who has to make the changes. Praying is not going to give me a promotion or raise: working hard and being innovative will. Praying is not going to cure my occasional bouts of depression: fresh air, good books, and quality time with friends will. Why credit this guy with changing my life when I’m the one who put in the legwork?

This isn’t my usual Throwback Thursday. It took a quick and hard turn to the serious, but that’s how these things go. I don’t have much of a message for Young Ashley this week. Just keep your chin up and don’t be so melodramatic. Also, QT? B4? You’re writing English, not Bingo coordinates.

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16 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: You are Going to Hell for that.

  1. Actually, even though I just started to read your blog, I really like this post. I’ve struggled with the “God” issue for a long time – and even now, still feel that Catholic-guilt because I don’t believe in the Christian God.

    I was catching up on my DVRd programs, one of which is The Colbert Report, and he had on author A. C. Grayling who is Professor of Philosophy, and refutes religion and doesn’t believe that there is a god. He also says that he could be wrong, but for him – he believes that there is none. At one point during the interview he said, “Well, if there is a Hell, there are a lot of very interesting people there”.

    I agree. I was so fascinated with what he had to say that I will be adding his books to me reading list, including his latest, “The God Argument”.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this. I didn’t think it would be a very popular post since any discussion on religion and God tends to be a very polarizing subject. What bothers me most about it is that any naysaying in regards God is seen as inherently offensive. It shouldn’t be that way. People see things differently and there’s no reason to be offended when someone doesn’t believe what you do. I started reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins a few weeks ago (I got distracted by a novel, so I’m returning to it now), and it’s pretty incredible how much reason must be skipped over to have faith in God. Even more interesting is how that leap if reason is regarded as admirable, though it would be considered foolish with any other claim.

      Anyway, thank you for reading! I’ve heard good things about that Grayling book, so I’ll probably be adding it to my to-read list!

      • And thank YOU for the tip on The God Delusion!

        Nice analogy with the cookies! As for your other comments/responses to comments – I’m in full agreement. I don’t feel that “God” is inherently bad, however – those that believe in the Almighty often seems to be wearing blinders and have a very narrow focus on the world. The “closed parachute” argument: minds are like parachutes, they only work if they are open.

  2. You can do all the things you want with faith in your life as well. God, or Jesus (whomever really), isn’t there for tangible things. I’m not going to get a raise cause I pray, but when I’m lost, I can occasionally trick myself into believe that God has a plan. Sometimes that alone is enough to keep my head up for another day. My religious ideals may be mistaken for lyrics to ‘Amazing Grace’, or maybe my religious ideals were reinforced through that song.

    The problem I have is there are thousands of people in the same place, and then they have kids and feel obliged to insert them into a religious setting and restart going to church. Thus your problem is restarted for a new generation, because parents grasp at attempts to raise their children in similar ways that they were raised, Church and all.

    • Being religious and having a personal relationship with Jesus are two totally diff. things. One is about a real relationship with God and the other is not.

      • As I mentioned in another comment, personal relationships with God don’t bother me so much. It’s the organized religion that does. Just as you’re free to have your beliefs in God,I’m free to not have those. Why should either stance be offensive to the other? People wouldn’t take offense if I wrote a blog post about how I don’t believe peanut butter cookies are the best kind of cookies. (I use cookies because like cookies, there are many different gods I could believe in.) It would simply be how I felt about cookies. Similarly, this is how I feel about God.

    • I understand what you’re saying. What bothers me most is when God is used as an excuse for not doing anything. “God will take care of things” or “Give it to God” are phrases that, to me, reek of a reluctance to take ownership and responsibility for one’s life. That passivity can be enticing and doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as it’s kept in check with reality. If you’re seeing a relationship with God as a positive and uplifting force in your life, I suppose that’s fine. The problem comes when individuals’ ideals are forced onto others in attempt to control their behavior and lifestyle.

      There have been plenty of amazing things done on the name of God, but there have also been some terrible and disgusting things done under the same name (crusades, witch trials, jihads, the near annihilation of Native American culture, the cover-up and reluctance to turn in child molesters, the holocaust…the list would be impressive if it weren’t so disturbing.) I don’t have a problem with people having a personal relationship with God, but the way organized religion is constructed in such a dangerous and self-serving way is the part with which I take the biggest issue. A mode of life that discourages honest questions and validation through other sources isn’t one I want to step in line with.

      That being said, if others are interested in discussing their beliefs and ideas about faith and religion, I’m completely open. I think that first, children should be taught basic morals and ideals, but not under the religious veil. As a child grows, she can choose to believe or not -whichever she chooses, it should be her choice, not just because she was born into a Christian family.

  3. Parents want what is best for their children. We are told in scripture to raise up our children in the Lord and when they are old they
    will not depart from it. We dont have to GRASP at anything and shove it at our children. We are instructed thr. scripture to do so. Its for their ultimate protection and love. My children were each given a bible early on and we went to church and at bedtime prayed. I didnt always do things perfect and failed and dropped the ball when they were in college. Believe me I tried to show them what ways not to go or who not to trust. I tried not to force them to go anywhere and always encouraged them to turn to God as the one true source in this life. I would fail greatly if I did not give them the one true gift every parent should give, God. Things come and go, people will let you down but God is the same today and tomorrow. He will never let you down. Dont believe the lies this world tells you. I never knew Ashley went to this production and I never liked Godspell because it wasnt Godly. So with all this said, its sad that she felt so feared into believing God was this way, when in fact He is not at all like this. Hes a loving and caring and slow to anger God. One who loves us and created us in His image and greatly loves us.

    • I understand that you’re told these things in the bible, but what makes that good? The fact that it comes from the bible? What about other things in the bible? What about having slaves or inviting strangers to rape daughters instead of the male guests? There is so much cherry-picking throughout the bible that it doesn’t make sense to me to say it’s good just because it’s in scriptures.

      You should take credit for raising kids who are strong, smart, and honest. We turned out good because you and dad instilled good morals that aren’t dependent on a God-figure for their goodness. I don’t lie or cheat because it’s unfair and cruel to other people involved – not because I’m afraid of going to hell. I think I’m still a good person. Not believing in God doesn’t make anyone a bad person. Ultimately,it’s his or her actions that will determine that. And since none of your children are criminals or manipulative jerks, I’d say you did pretty good.

      So don’t say you dropped the ball when I went to college. That was my opportunity to learn more about the world around me and see other perspectives I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I’m still developing as an individual and learning more about both sides of this argument (currently Christian Apologetics via J. Warner Wallace and CS Lewis and atheism/skeptics via Richard Dawkins). My point is that there is absolutely NO REASON you should feel that you’ve failed as a mother or Christian just because I don’t hold the same beliefs that you do. I’ve developed into someone completely different from Young Ashley, as all children are supposed to, and you shouldn’t feel any regret about how I was raised.

  4. I hope you won’t be offended by what I say here. But – just a little food for thought. Think about who might have possibly given you your talent, beauty, wisdom, ambition and opportunities? Yes, you must do things for yourself and make your own way, but there is a very good possibility that God gave you your characteristics. They are blessings and you are wise to use them well. To whom much is given, much is expected. You can do great things!

    • No offense taken. I think that many of my characteristics are from my upbringing. I’ve been told I look a lot like my mother (simple genetics explain this – half of my genes are from my mother, half from my father). As far as my talents and whatnot, those too come from my upbringing. My mother is a creative and artistic person. While I was growing up, she was always making something new – sewing a dress, cross stitching, baking something new. I saw that those things made her happy and I followed suit. My father is a responsible and curious man who is often watching or listening to something educational. That’s where I get much of my discipline and inquisitive nature from.

      I think I’ve simply found things I enjoy and I’ve developed them to what we call talents. Again, it all goes to personal hard work. Though I still have the basic skills, I’m not able to play many of the pieces of music I could in high school and college because I’m not playing my violin for two hours a day. I wouldn’t be able to express my thoughts and experiences if it wasn’t something I did on a regular basis.

      My point I guess, is that the things one would say are my talents are the things I’m most passionate about. They are not things I just picked up one day and was awesome at, rather I’ve spent lots of time learning about and cultivating my skills. In the context of this discussion, I’m sure it sounds arrogant, but I’ve worked hard to be good at writing and playing violin. I don’t think they’re these gifts just given to me by a god figure. I enjoyed reading as a child, so I decided to start writing, and I further developed that skill by reading constantly and taking classes in college. When we were young,a friend started playing violin and I joined her. I developed that skill by practicing every day and taking advantage of lessons and opportunities for performance whenever possible. It all comes back to the time I’ve spent cultivating these skills, not to a god.

      • I keep looking for the ‘like’ button to like all of your comments, Ashley, but, alas, this is not Facebook. 🙂 But thanks for posting this link on Facebook! You are positively a gifted writer and thinker! I love reading your blog when I stumble upon it! Cheers, Andre

  5. I understand your line of thought. I agree that all of your hard work does make you what you are. You can be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far. But, perhaps leave a little room in your life for the possibility of God. I really enjoy your writing! See you around the office.

  6. I’m with you, Ashley. I’ve had many religions throughout my young life, and as an adult I have come to realize that none of them make much sense. I see religion as a tool to manipulate and rule the larger population. I will raise my children without it, and if they should someday choose to embrace it, out of their own free will, then good for them. I want my children to be able to think and act for themselves, not make decisions based on the threat of burning for eternity.

  7. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: This one time at bible camp… | Everything is Blooming

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