“Paul was the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” Thomas Jefferson
I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church, the bastion of Protestant fundamentalism prior to the “Charismatic/Full Gospel” schisms of the 1970s. In spite of the lingering vestiges of their historical racism, they were genuinely decent people who in no way intended to delude or indoctrinate, they taught me nothing that they themselves did not hold to be reality; I never had any doubt that they were genuinely concerned for my "eternal soul". And in spite of the pagan leanings of an early life filled with well used opportunities to explore nature, I never seriously question what they taught me, even during my education as a scientist. It was not until I became a father, and understood the unconditional love of a parent for his children, that my indoctrination was shattered. Jesus talked about this unconditional sort of love, he once described God by telling the following story about a father:
A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, “I want my share of your estate now before you die.” So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’” So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” But his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” So the party began. Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. “Your brother is back,” he was told, “and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.” The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!” His father said to him, “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!”
When I became a father this story, this revelation, awakened me from my dogmatic slumber. The idea that God finds us so loathsome that Jesus must be sacrificed in order that He not have to torture us in hellfire forever is the teaching of Paul, not Jesus. Please don't think less of me for believing that God is Love.
"But the Jews, looking around them, saw always an Oriental despot, and so, looking over the world at-large, thought there must be a despot overall, and the consequence was they conceived one of the most immoral Gods ever imagined." Alfred North Whitehead