It’s the “Old Notebooks” series, where I read back through the fantasy stories I wrote as a kid and mock myself mercilessly in order to mitigate my mortification!
PREVIOUSLY IN THE “SCRIGGLY” NOTEBOOK: Atlantis is seemingly already well on its way to sinking, but Jordan and her friends are too busy with their singing and drawing lessons to do anything about it. Also we learned that Atlantis is absurdly sexist in addition to being absurdly classist, and I had a rant about the Titanic. Oh, and Jordan referred to Prince Alex as simply “Alex” (scandalous!) apropos of absolutely nothing. Hurray!
August 14, 10,223 B.C. – Monday
I can see the floods from the stables. We will evacuate tomorrow. Singing and drawing lessons have been discontinued.
YOU DON’T SAY!
It’s about time, criminy. I get the feeling you could run into those stables screaming, “Jordan! Isabel! There’s a huge tornado headed straight for us! It’s literally right outside!” And they’d be all, “Mm, okay, just let us finish this horsey sketch real quick. We can do it from memory, you know!”
August 16, 10,223 B.C. – Wednesday
I am very sick. So is poor Isabel.
Curse you, singing lessons!
We are evacuating to
CetinaCetirul Island. We will all pray and beg Cetirul to take away the rain. And then, if wilwe please him, he will “Destroy the rain by his mighty hand and make the land the way he created it to be,” or so Slinky says.
The hell am I reading right now, y’all.
… Crap. I wrote this.
That makes me sick.
Me too, Jordan. Me too.
was sis so nice, why do people get burned alive or eaten alive or whatever just to make him happy?
Oh no… Oh no, please, let’s not go there…
A true God would love his people, and not require innocent lives to be lost in order to be pleased.
NO, LITTLE ME! NO! NOT A RELIGIOUS TIRADE! YOU AREN’T STRONG ENOUGH!!!
I don’t serve Cetirul. I’m not sure who I serve. I know I serve some God.
Oh. Oh. Oh, you dear sweet summer child.
So, uh… this is gonna be fun, right after that big feminist rant I had in the last entry. Time for me to dive into another very serious and often controversial subject. Yay!
Here’s the thing: I’m a Christian. Always have been. This is a big part of my identity. However, my understanding of Christianity has changed A LOT over the years. Nowadays I consider myself a progressive Christian (meaning I don’t believe God is a Republican, to oversimplify a *wee* bit) and also a universalist (meaning I believe eventually every single soul will be saved, and there’s no such thing as a hell where unbelievers will be tortured for eternity). I won’t get too deep into my own beliefs here since 1) it would definitely take more than one blog post, and 2) my beliefs are in pretty much a constant state of rejuvenation anyway. But I wanted to clarify my actual stance now, because…
… I used to be a very conservative, southern-evangelical type of Christian. I grew up in a very conservative Christian household, and I went to a private Christian school for my entire life (except for a few years when I was homeschooled). And one of the things that both my family and my school really drilled into my head from a very young age was what’s commonly known as “apologetics”—that is, strategic logic-based arguments designed to “prove”1 conclusively that my God is the real God, and everyone else is not just wrong but very obviously wrong, and anyone who denies it is simply too prideful (or evil) to admit what they really know to be true deep down.
That last part is really necessary for a lot of Christians to maintain their faith. Because, of course, one of the biggest, most terrible conundrums of traditional Christianity is the belief that all people who don’t consciously “accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior” are going to hell for all eternity. Literal hell, suffering the literally worst torments imaginable, for literally ever. This has nothing to do with being a good or bad person. Anyone who does not follow Christianity specifically (and even some “fake” Christians)—regardless of how kind, brave, selfless, or heroic they were, or of how many lives they touched or how much they may have changed the world for the better—will go to hell for eternity.
This includes people who have never even heard of Christianity.
Not because Christians want it to, but because logically, it would have to. Even as a little kid I remember wondering, “But wait… if the only way to be saved from hell is to ask Jesus into your heart… what about people who die before they ever hear about Jesus? What about all the people who lived before Jesus? Are they going to hell just because they were born in the wrong time and place? That hardly seems fair.”
I was asking the right questions, of course. And I wasn’t the only one to ask this question. Christians for centuries have come up with ways around this problem. Dante Alighieri let the “virtuous pagans” spend eternity in Limbo, which was still technically hell but was actually pretty nice (just not as nice as heaven). C.S. Lewis had the virtuous Calormene (i.e. Muslim) Emeth, who ended up in Narnia’s version of heaven despite worshiping the wrong god, because he’d been unknowingly yearning for and serving Aslan all along. Most Christians will have to deal with this problem at some point in their lives, and everyone deals with it slightly differently.
Christians have to find an answer to this problem because, if you don’t, this “Christian” God starts to sound exactly like, erm… “Cetirul” up there: a god who requires people to be burned alive to make him happy, who requires innocent lives to be lost in order to be pleased. And that’s no good for us Christians, because our God is supposed to be better than all those false gods that humans have invented for themselves throughout history.
So what’s the answer to this problem? Is it that maybe this terrible idea of “God” and “hell” is exactly as awful as we instinctively feel it is, and that maybe this version of “God” is just as made-up and false as all the other gods we so easily dismiss?
The correct answer (at least the one I usually heard growing up) is something like this: God has made sure everyone instinctively knows the truth, deep down, but the vast majority of people are too prideful and stubborn and addicted to their sins to accept it. Therefore they deserve their fate. They practically drove themselves to hell and stood at the door with fake IDs begging the bouncer to let them in.
And when you think about it that way, it doesn’t seem so bad anymore. God can’t help burning millions of people alive for all eternity: they brought it on themselves. And the bonus here, of course, is that all us “saved” people get to feel awesome because we were the ones who were “smart” enough or “wise” enough or “humble” enough to figure out the truth and accept it.2
The point is, if you’re a Christian who believes in eternal hell, one key to making yourself feel at peace with the whole thing is to believe that The Truth is freely available to everyone, regardless of what time or place you were born in, and that everyone should just be able to figure it out if they’d only stop being so stubborn and open their eyes. The ones who can’t see it are obviously just choosing not to see it out of some sense of wicked pride.
… And yes, this would hypothetically include people living on Atlantis in the year 10,223 B.C.
Oh, I can see exactly what Little Me is setting up here. She’s positioning “Cetirul” as the obviously false, violent pagan god who is worshiped by the Hilariously Obvious Villain,3 while Jordan—the pure-hearted heroine—naturally rejects this false pagan god and instinctively senses the existence of another, more benevolent True God out there.
It’s a bit of a case of fantasy-world apologetics for the Christian God—but more importantly, it’s a case for Jordan’s “goodness” vs. the H.O.V.’s “badness.”
The funny thing is… I almost actually kinda love this passage. I honestly do. Because even though I don’t really like what I was intending to say here, I like what I almost unintentionally said. The way it’s phrased, it almost sounds like, through Jordan, I am questioning the “God” of hell here—the “God” who burns people alive forever. It’s certainly not what I originally meant, and I don’t think I was consciously thinking about hell at all when I wrote this. But it seems like the doubts are already lurking just there on the borders of my consciousness, trying desperately to push over the line even while I fight to hold onto the certainty that I’ve got it right.
The other funny thing is, if you were to ask me, right now, what God I serve? My answer would probably be something very similar to, “I’m not sure who I serve. I know I serve some God.”
I don’t believe in hell anymore. But I do believe in God. Just not the same “God” I believed in back then.
I do like to think that if I could go back and show Little Me a glimpse of the God I believe in now, and reassure her that it’s actually okay to believe in Him and to let go of all those old stifling, hateful, harmful ideas that cling and gnaw and poison Christianity like tumors… I feel like she would have been a much happier little girl.
… WOW. That was heavy. Phew. Sorry. Between this and the “women and children first” thing last time, it’s like Little Me was conspiring to push all my most sensitive buttons at once.
All right, well, that rant took up a lot of words, and, glancing ahead a bit, it looks like Jordan’s about to dive into a rather lengthy story about her adventures with the flood. So I think I’m going to just go ahead and end this post here. What calamities could have befallen our
daring boring heroine in the rising floodwaters? More importantly, will she ever make out with Hot Robert? Tune in next time to find out!
P.S. #JORBERT 4EVA!!!!!
1.↩ Of course, there’s a bit of a problem with trying to prove conclusively that God exists, and that’s… Well, I’ll let Douglas Adams sum it up for me:
“I refuse to prove that I exist, says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”
“Oh dear,” says God. “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
“Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white, and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”
Unfortunately (but understandably) we were never taught Douglas Adams in Sunday School.
2.↩ Never mind that large numbers of us were probably raised in Christian homes, and so didn’t actually have to “figure anything out” anyway.
3.↩ Who, by the way, hasn’t actually done anything bad yet, other than having a rat-like face and being just generally sorta shady. And, lest we forget, he still has a horse named Puzzle, which continues to be strangely adorable. So I’m only calling him the “villain” in the same sense I’d call Alex the “love interest”—in name only.