be baptized at the same time. A few years later,
after one of my brothers and I had become interested in catching and keeping reptiles, the pastor of my church told
a story in one of his sermons about a man who had found a family member being threatened by two deadly venomous snakes.
In the story the Jesus surrogate shot
both serpents through the head with a single shot.
After that I knew that the truth was being stretched in religious teaching.
"No," I responded.
"I cannot give you salvation, but I can tell you who can," the Pastor replied.
I was familiar with this advertising slogan.
"There is a fundamental difference in our beliefs," I said. "I believe that truth is not limited to revelation,
but can be learned by those with open minds."
"Truth is only found in the Bible," the Pastor retorted.
"Which version of the Bible do you believe is the truth?" I asked.
"The King James version," he answered.
"It is my understanding that the King James version was created sometime in the 1600s," I said. "Does this mean
that people did not have access to the truth until then?"
"Before that the truth existed, but it was in Hebrew and Greek." he said.
"So, for 1600 years most people were condemned to Hell because they could not read Hebrew or Greek?"
"People are condemned to Hell for their sins," he said.
"I do not believe in Heaven and Hell," I said. "I cannot imagine God bothering to sentence people to eternal reward or punishment."
"All people have Original Sin as told in Genesis," he said. "People have free will to obey God or not."
I said, "A few years ago, the Pope apologized for the Catholic Church's treatment of women. It seemed to me that the Pope should have also
apologized to snakes. To believe the story of the Garden of Eden, one must believe a snake was very smart or Eve was very, very dumb."
He said, "The serpent was just a dumb animal with no soul. The Devil used it for his purposes."
"God does not sound very just to me if he cursed an animal that had no choice in what it did," I stated.
"The truth is in the Bible," he said.
"Getting back to finding the truth in the Bible," I added. "It seems clear to me that the point of the story of the Garden
was that Man should not eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This seems to be a clear metaphor for the advice that people
should not classify others as being either good or evil. But this is precisely the principle that our religions are based upon. So I conclude that
organized religions are in opposition to the Word of God."
"It is not for us to interpret the Bible," he said. "The truth is revealed in the Bible."
"I have had a revelation, more than one," I said. "One revelation came to me while I was listening to a lay preacher deliver his message.
The revelation was very strong. I could imagine it to be as powerful as the Burning Bush that Paul saw on the Road to Damascus."
"You may not believe in Hell, but consider what you risk," he proposed. "What if you are wrong and you have not taken advantage of
your chance for Salvation?"
"Your argument was proposed by Pascal, the mathematician. He thought he was proposing a logical way to stack the deck in his favor." I said.
"However, the converse is just as strong. What if you are wrong and you have wasted your eternity chasing a false God? I guess this is
why most so called believers favor the concept of Redemption. They can live their life like there is no tomorrow, but still have a chance
for salvation just before they die."
"I know where I will go when I die," he said. "And, I know where you will go."
"I do not worry about where I will spend eternity after I am dead," I replied, "any more than I worry about where I spent the eternity
before I was born."
The Pastor handed me a pamphlet and left to join his compatriots waiting at the car.