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Saturday, February 11, 2012
Andrew On: "What’s the Difference Between “Good” and “Godly”?"
What’s the Difference Between “Good” and “Godly”?
One time I went to a bible study where the minister spoke for an hour or so about the difference between being “Godly” and being merely “good.” He was essentially arguing that everyone who was not in “God’s True Church,” their “goodness” was of “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” while ours was “Godliness,” because as faithful followers, we were all partaking of “The Tree of Life.” During the course of laying out his argument, he made several ludicrous statements that left many people other than me also scratching their heads and asking some pointed followup questions. Now that I look back on it, I realize that by picking that topic, he was forcing himself into a position in which he would have to say a few ludicrous things because he was trying to prove something that wasn’t true.
I was raised in the theory, and believed for so many years, that because I was raised in WCG by parents who were faithful believers, that their children are therefore sanctified, as Paul says:
1Cor 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
And then, when I was baptized, so the theory went, I had to have the holy spirit, if for no other reason than because that is what the bible said God had promised. I had followed all the rules, just the way HWA and the bible said.
In time, I had to begin to admit to myself that I had no empirical evidence to suggest that this theory was true. When I talked to other people about my inability to confirm this theory with any sort of experience of power or help that might be associated with the presence of the holy spirit, they would say things like, "that's everyone's experience."
Finally, I had to admit that it made no sense for me to believe that I had the holy spirit. The real world told me that I was not who church leaders told me I was. We were not "God's people." "God's True Church" was just a social club of people with rich imaginations united by a generous helping of gullible. (Now, I just hate it whenever I hear people say "God's" anything, because I know that what I'm hearing is a lie being repeated by a stupid person who is willing to believe in anything for no reason.)
It doesn't matter where you put the holes, whether you attribute them to HWA, Church of God Seventh Day, some other broken link in the chain, or even the bible itself, it doesn't change the fact that I believed, I played by the rules, and God did not honor the promises that people, including Apostle Paul, told me He would. If God isn't delivering on things promised during this lifetime, then why should He be expected to deliver on things promised for after I die? Tilt. Train wreck. Full stop. End of story.
There are plenty of good, moral, and ethical people in the world who don't believe in God. I am just tired of the idea that all those decent people are “evil,” “lost” or “deceived” simply because they don’t believe in the social club, the rituals, the afterlife, etc. I am tired of the idea that I am somehow “better,” “special” or “holy” because I have performed the rituals and believed that God was working with me (even though He wasn’t). If there is an afterlife, can’t I just believe when I get there? Why should believing without any reason to so all-important? Can’t I just be honest about all of this? Why can’t it be good enough to be merely “good”?
What is the difference between being “Godly” and being merely “good”? In one case, I am deceived, superstitious, and elitist, in the other I am just a regular guy trying to do what is right. Either with or without an iPhone and a Prius (in my case, without). Hmm. How about, can we just agree that religious people don’t have a monopoly on being deceived, superstitious, and elitist? And therein lies my point: there aren’t any real differences. We’re all just people who are trying to do what is right in our own eyes, even if we have radically different ideas about what is good and what is right.
The truth is, merely “good” is all I’ve ever been. I have no room for the baggage, the elitism, and the superstition anymore. All of that stuff just gets in my way. The idea that I was ever anything more than merely “good” was an illusion that was pawned off on me from before I was old enough to sort out the lies from the fiction. Maybe merely “good” without all that other crap is actually better than with it. It’s certainly more honest.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there is plenty of wisdom in the bible, and in many other religions and philosophies of the world too. The problem is, I think that because life is as complicated as it is, religion gets complicated too, perhaps overcomplicated. But maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe religion ought to be a simplifying force instead. The whole point of religion is to help us make sense out of life. Making sense out of life implies allowing us to see it in simpler terms. For thousands of years, the simplifying aspects of religion has been conveying peaceful wisdom, while the complicating aspects have been drawing people out into the battlefields. I don’t see why religion itself is not of “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
So, what is the simple wisdom? Be honest with yourself. Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Deal with each other in good faith. Be optimistic about others. Fall in love with humanity, warts and all.
Why can’t this be good enough? Can’t we just let all the other baggage go? All it does is complicate things and makes it more difficult to live up to any of the simple, yet profound stuff.