Climbing the Christian
belief mountain

by Marcus Loane

The Christian belief mountain is a theoretical space on which all Christians live. Their location on it depends on which doctrines they believe. At the bottom of the mountain are Christians who have the largest number of specific beliefs which they regard as essential. These are often the result of accepting Bible teachings literally. For example they would believe that a snake talked to Eve in the garden of Eden. They also include things like it is wrong for women to wear jewelry and makeup, and that smoking or going to the cinema is a terrible sin. In the USA these Christians are sometimes labeled fundamentalists. Many of the beliefs have no Biblical basis at all but are deeply entrenched. Further up the mountain Christians have a shorter list of essential doctrines which must be believed. Most of the mountain contains Christians who believe in God and that Jesus existed and was the son of God. Near the top of the mountain, the beliefs in the virgin birth and the ressurrection drop off the essential list. This is liberal Christian territory. Still closer to the summit the belief that Jesus was the son of God becomes non essential but his teachings should be followed. At the very top a belief in God and any historical existence of Jesus is not required. Christians living at the top think we should act as if there were a God and Jesus, and we should follow the principles of Jesus. His existence or non existence is regarded as irrelevant. Those at the peak are technically atheist, although they would not use that term. They see the myths of Christianity as being beneficial to society. They do not use the word myth in a pejorative sense - myths can be enobling.

I should point out that many Christians don't really know what they believe about various doctrines - they don't know exactly where they live on the mountain. That is not a criticism. It is a natural response to a system that has little clarity and is rife with inconsistencies. The existence of the mountain is strong evidence for the non-existence of a Christian God. If there were a Christian God then the doctrinal differences could be settled simply by asking God. This is what many of the disagreeing parties claim to do yet God tells them all something different!

All those living on this mountain label themselves Christian. Many of the Christians living on this mountain only recognise those living at the same or lower heights to be "True Christians". Usually the pattern is that anyone further up the mountain than them cannot be a True Christian and their souls are in great danger. Anyone living further down the mountain is regarded as uneducated, misguided but usually harmless.

There is often a migration up the mountain by individual Christians throughout their life as they abandon more and more beliefs as unreasonable. Most stop this climb before the summit. The reason for this may be an emotional one. To have spent many years of one's life occupied by beliefs, and to then realise they are false, can be depressing. It is much less traumatic to settle into a position where there might be some part of the belief system that is true or at least useful. I think that is why most are left with this "residual" Christianity. To leave the mountain altogether and realise that none of it is true or even useful is a real shock to the system. A new worldview has to be built from scratch. Regrets over wasted years may surface. Embarrassment over what was once believed and vigorously defended may be another factor. Retaining some, any, tiny scrap of Christianity is the easy option.

The mountain can be left behind and many have done this. It would entail creating a new world view, perhaps incorporating a secular philosophy and ethical system. You can explore new ideas and think what you like, and it no longer matters if you are incorrect. Being incorrect is not a sin. No just God can punish an honest search for what is true. No souls are in danger from erroneous conclusions. Peace of mind can result.

You could eventually regard your past religious beliefs as a learning process and a valuable part of your journey to where you are now. You are certainly not alone on that particular life path.

Marcus Loane

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