This morning as I was on my way somewhere I passed a sign in front of a church that read “Salvation: God’s Greatest Plan.” People far smarter and more thoughtful than I have spent thousands of words over the years illustrating the stupidity of this particular claim of Christianity, and I’ve mentioned it once or twice myself as well. But, ah . . . I can’t resist taking another crack at it. So, briefly:
Salvation is God’s greatest plan. Oh, really? A reminder of what the church behind that sign considers salvation: According to the rules established by an omnipotent and benevolent God, all of us are doomed to eternal torment in Hell from the moment we’re born. This is because Adam and Eve, the original two humans, violated a local ordinance regarding the picking and eating of fruit, though in their defense they were a) unaware that the repercussions of their misdemeanor would extend to all future generations to the end of time; and b) misled by a talking snake. With all of his beloved children now damned to Hell thanks to Adam and Eve’s original sin (though no one mentioned Hell for a few thousand years), God the all-good and all-powerful leapt into action, and a mere four thousand years later he put his plan for salvation into effect.
And a brilliant plan it was. First, he impregnated a young girl without her consent or even her knowledge, though he was gentleman enough to send an angel to inform her once her pregnancy was already underway. Second, when the child, Jesus, who was actually God himself in human form (God also remained in Heaven this entire time — Christianity explains this by calling it a mystery), was born he was declared King of the Jews, and his birth was celebrated in Heaven and on Earth, with a special star appearing in the sky in his honor, and kings traveling from far away lands to pay tribute to him. Third, when Jesus was a grown man, working as a carpenter and itinerant preacher since the kings and everyone had totally forgotten about his earth-shatteringly momentous birth, he was publicly executed in one of the most horrific ways imaginable. Remember also, because this is especially important to the third step, that Jesus had somehow lived a completely sinless life. He was morally perfect, totally innocent of any crime. Nailed to a cross and allowed to slowly choke to death on his own blood. And this was the ultimate fulfillment of God’s great plan of salvation.
The same God created the entire universe just by declaring it to be so, remember. He put the stars in the sky, he created the land and the water, light and dark, every living organism, including the microscopic ones that cause most of the diseases that he never told anyone about — and the best he can do to save his precious people (who he created in his own image) from everlasting torture (which he also created) is to crucify an innocent man?
How does one claim his or her part of this salvation? Accept that Jesus died for you, to buy forgiveness for your sins. The only problem I can see with this is that it’s irrational and psychotic. Jesus died two thousand years ago. I never knew him, and neither did anyone else alive today, and neither did anyone else they ever met. He didn’t die for me because I did not exist when he was alive. More importantly, he has no authority to forgive my sins, or the sins of anyone else. That’s not how forgiveness works, I’m afraid.
Take a few seconds and make a list of your sins — not all of them, obviously, just the ones that leap immediately to mind. What are they? Who were they against? Did you cheat on your significant other? Apologize to him or her, not to Jesus. Did you steal $20 from your Mom’s purse? Ask forgiveness from your mother, because she’s the only one who can give it to you. Jesus has nothing to do with it, and neither does God, and neither does anyone other than you and the person you have harmed by your crime. God ought to know this.
Christian salvation isn’t a great plan. It’s thousands of generations of neglect capped off by a gruesome public murder, none of which has anything to do with any of us. I’d start god-shopping.