I was recently found guilty in a court of law for committing a crime. Once the jury pronounced the verdict, the reality of the guilt all came crashing down on me, but I knew that I had done what the authorities had said I had done and there was no use in denying it. I became resigned to my fate. I awaited the sentencing, hoping that I wouldn't be cut off from my family and friends for a completely unbearable amount of time by the judge.
The judge began, "You are hereby sentenced to a prison sentence of 25 years in a maximum security penitentiary. However, your sentence has already been carried out. You see, you are qualified to participate in a new prison sentence recovery program. Because we have several prisoners who have been found to be not guilty after serving nearly all of their sentences, we will apply the time that they served (in their innocence) to your time that you have been sentenced to. Because of this program, your effective days in prison equal zero for this crime."
WOW! How awesome is that?! I ran out of the courthouse jumping for joy. Justice was served! Or was it? I, essentially, was able to get off scot-free, even though I was actually guilty as charged. I began to feel some remorse. I began to wonder about whether or not I could go on knowing that I was guilty of a crime and yet received no real consequence. I began to wonder if this treatment was tenable as a long term solution to crimes committed in society. What would be the deterrent to committing crime if nobody ever served any jail time? Sure I was happy to be free, but I didn't deserve to be. Can I live with knowing that someone innocent paid for my mistake and I am powerless to do anything about it.
Then my mind was drawn to that poor fella who basically served out my prison sentence for me. Do I owe him a debt of gratitude? What would possibly be sufficient to pay back something that really never could be paid back? I tried to forget about the poor sap, but I couldn't help but wonder why things had to go down the way they did.
How do I really feel about this scenario? I don't really like it. It seems to encourage crime because when there is little to no perceived consequence for doing something wrong, that seems to be an invitation to repeat the unacceptable behavior. Something deep down tells me this would just not work.
At this point I should say that I have not really been convicted of any crime (other than traffic court), but I wanted to explore the possibility of this scenario with you. The other reason I am writing this imaginary tale is because this is exactly what Christians ask anyone who believes in Jesus to do.
Christians say that because we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (not sure why this is, by the way, or how, as a child of God, I could immediately be cut off from his presence due to someone's behavior over 6,000 years ago - which was a no win situation since there were supposedly two conflicting commandments given for Adam and Eve to keep) we are basically convicted eternally for this "crime". The punishment for which is that we are all forever banished from the presence of God.
So we are all guilty of some crime (perhaps of being an enemy to God, which still begs the question, why would God create enemies for children?) and are told that we are not even capable of carrying out the punishment for such apparent wrongdoing ourselves (which to me is extremely frustrating...I hate being told I am not capable and I would never tell my children that. Can you imagine, "Oh sorry son, you're just not capable...") so we need a perfect, innocent savior to pay our price (serve our sentence) for us. This is the perfect plan of an all-knowing God of the universe? What happens when God realizes, what we all know deep down, that if you pay people's punishment's for them, you end up encouraging the behavior you are trying to avoid? Everybody likes being given things they don't expect, but when people are given salvation from punishment there is no lesson learned and the behavior really doesn't change.
Of course, all this redemption must have a price. So God says, the price is set by Jesus, after all, He is the one we are all supposed to be paying back. So, in my parable above, if I go to the prisoner who effectively served my time for me, what would he want? I would think he would want to just forget about the whole thing and move on with life. So is that what Jesus wants? Apparently there is some confusion among the Christians about exactly what Jesus wants specifically from all of us. The LDS church teaches that Jesus wants all your good works (which are really never enough and requires everything you have or will ever receive and all your time and talents and 10% of your gross income, etc., etc.) and he'll make up the difference (what little is left after all we can do). Wow! What difference? It seems like LDS believers that do all that is asked of them will have more than paid their price and earned their way to heaven. I think many LDS secretly believe that the more they do in the way of good works, the less Jesus has to suffer for our wrongdoing. So they are really noble creatures at heart, they just have to accept the whole Jesus paying my price thing because of this barrier that was built up because of Adam and Eve's screwup.
Anyway, this is all making my head hurt (must be those terrible demons), but it is my ongoing reaction to the question of whether or not I think God exists. There is so much lacking in common sense that people have to swallow in order to believe in God. I will try to outline more in the future.