Born Again: The Halo & The Noose

You Wear a Mask Called Counterfeit

Living in the bible-belt of the US, I'm surrounded by Christians. Daily I see their judgment and condemnation of others. But I know a lot of these people because we grew up together. I know their past and much of what they do today and for me to call them hypocrites is no exaggeration. You see, many of these people are born again and for them that act of being born again in Christ, whatever that means, absolves them of all their past errors and allows them a clean slate after talking to a dead Jew and his invisible dad in their minds. There's something deeply troubling about this mindset, because it offers that one is not obligated to actually make amends for their actions. Even the murderer can receive this absolution through being born again, even though there is no possible means to physically make amends for that deed.

David Berkowitz is a perfect example of this. Better known as The Son of Sam, Berkowitz murdered six young adults and attempted to murder seven others. In his official statement to police, he confessed to all the shootings and claimed that his neighbor’s dog was possessed by a demon and made him do it. He received six consecutive life sentences and has been imprisoned since 1977. During his incarceration, Berkowitz has found Jesus and become an evangelical, born-again Christian.[1] This is all well and good, except that this has brought Berkowitz a sort of notoriety and a fan club of Christians who are championing his release. Now I believe that anyone can change and this man may sincerely have changed, BUT I do not believe that finding Christ changed this man. I believe that he is attempting to exploit others beliefs for his own personal gain - and that is precisely the sort of thing I'm out to fight against.

Identical Before and After Photos

So here's my main gripe with this born again idea; You see, most born again Christians were raised Christians. They were taught the same moral code that the holy man teaches them now. They heard the same parables and fables as a child that they hear each Sunday from the preacher-man. So why didn't it take the first time? Why is it that these people have such a laundry list of sins they've indulged, that they feel a need to start over from scratch? The honest truth is that these people needed to grow up a little in order to change, but they're afraid. They remember their failures and believe they can't keep from repeating them on their own. Even though they have grown up and don't actually need some religion as a crutch, they've been paralyzed by fear and by their own faults to such extent that they've forgotten how to walk on their own.

Atheism is about throwing away the crutches. It's about understanding that only our own two feet can carry us forward. The atheist says, "Instead of being born again, why not just grow up". For many of us, we realized that not only do we not need god for morality or compassion, but in many cases the supposed morality  of the bible runs contrary to reality. More importantly, the atheist position holds one to accept that all deeds in life have real world consequences and that we are each responsible for our actions. We understand that we are judged in this life by our peers and we are expected to own up to our shortcomings and failures. But in the Christian worldview all the believer needs do is fold their hands and talk to the invisible man with a plan and all is well. Nevermind whether or not they've made amends for their deeds with those they actually erred against, as long as they can console their own minds with the idea that their God forgives them... then all is right in their tiny little world.

No Photoshop Allowed

The idea of being born again is a lot like the idea that you don't have to diet and exercise to stay healthy, you can just Photoshop all your pictures so it looks like you're healthy. You may look good on Facebook, but in reality you're a tub of nasty inside and out. You see, there really aren't any do-overs in life. That old saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression rings true - but what a lot of people fail to realize is that this applies to ourselves more than it does to others. Most of us are willing to accept that people can change and are willing to offer a second chance, but we have a hard time doing this with ourselves. Many people think that in order to change, they have to completely erase who they were and start over, and what better way than to be born again in Christ. After all, it's just like Photoshop in that it doesn't actually require the subject to do anything at all.

As an admin of a Facebook page I'm an avid user of Photoshop and I'm always impressed with just how much the program will allow me to do. The program is so good that a talented user can render images that the human eye can't detect as faked at all. And therein lies the problem. You see, just as with a Photoshopped picture, the persona that you see in the born again Christian may be far out of line with reality. I mean, any rational person should have some serious doubts about whether or not a man like Berkowitz is the fuzzy teddy bear he's trying to portray himself as - especially when his supposed change of heart is based on acceptance of the idea that a long dead Jew as having died to erase the murders he's committed from his permanent record. I'm not saying he can't change, but I'm highly doubtful especially because he brought religion into the equation. It seems highly manipulative.

Shedding Skin

The born again Christian believes they are a caterpillar, who through Jesus, can become a butterfly. In order to do this, they believe they must shed their skin, so to speak. They have to leave behind their old self and become something new, but they couldn't be further off base. Humans are more like dogs; We have a winter coat that we must shed, but underneath we're still the same dog. This is what happens when we mature or grow up. We shed our winter coat of immaturity in favor of a permanent coat that suits most needs. This distinction is important because we must remember that winter coat in order to keep from letting it grow back. The born again Christian tries instead to bury the person they once were and say that the person they once were has no bearing on who they are now.

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Neil Gaiman once wrote,

It's like the people who believe they'll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn't work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.

This statement is a very profound and true statement, and it's one every born again Christian could do to learn. No matter how much we wish we could erase the mistakes of our past, without those mistakes we wouldn't be who we are now. To deny our past is to deny our present and future. Maybe I'm not the same person today that I was ten years ago, but for better or worse that person then was me too. It was a version of me that lacked maturity and a sense of personal responsibility and caused me a lot of trouble in life, but that version of me became who I am now and without those mistakes who knows where I'd be now.

The Halo & The Noose

The worst aspect of the born again mindset to me, is the halo of self-righteousness that the born again Christian assumes to be hovering over their head. They tend to be some of the most judgemental people who are critical of everyone around them, but lack the integrity to turn that criticism upon themselves. Introspection is the key to personal growth and without it we become stagnant.

When I was a teen I bullied a young boy relentlessly for being a homosexual. I was verbally and physically abusive to that boy for no reason other than that I was raised to believe that his kind were an abomination to God, and if God hated them then it was okay for me to hate them too. So when my "friends" also behaved this way, and even many of our parents, it just seemed acceptable. But that boy later killed himself, and that death is as much my fault as anyone else's. It is a stain on my heart that I will carry the rest of my life. There is no amount of dunking in water that can wash it away, and I can never make amends for it. I can't be forgiven for it, because the person I erred against is gone. That is personal responsibility and sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to accept.

I have but one question for the born again Christian and it's best expressed through these words:

"The Noose" - by A Perfect Circle
So glad to see you well
Overcome and completely silent now
With heaven's help
You cast your demons out
And not to pull your halo down
Around your neck and tug you off your cloud
But I'm more than just a little curious
How you're planning to go about
Making your amends to the dead
To the dead

Recall the deeds as if
They're all someone else's
Atrocious stories
Now you stand reborn before us all
So glad to see you well

And not to pull your halo down
Around your neck and tug you to the ground
But I'm more than just a little curious
How you're planning to go about
Making your amends to the dead
To the dead

With your halo slipping down
Your halo slipping
Your halo slipping down
Your halo slipping down
Your halo slipping down [repeated]

Your halo slipping down to choke you now
[1] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Berkowitz

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