One thing I find fascinating about cities is the street life. Melbourne on a Saturday came alive with buskers, people people with "Free Hugs" signs, and even a street preacher. Unfortunately the cold wind and a restaurant to find prevented me from hearing much of his preaching, but he and his group were still there near my tram stop. And since my tram was nowhere in sight and he approached me with a flier, I engaged him.
His earlier preaching was about how we would all be accountable to God, and that hellfire would be the accountability for our transgressions. So imagine my surprise later when in a one-on-one he said that belief in Jesus Christ was the only way to get to Heaven.
That was a point I pressed him on, since that view seems prima facie absurd. He admitted it was possible that murdering rapists could get into Heaven, though he found it unlikely without much reason to it. But when I brought up the Catholics who participated in the holocaust, the conversation took a tribal turn.
Him: "Who said Catholics are going to Heaven?"
Me: "Don't Catholics believe in Jesus?"
Him: "Yes, but they believe in other things. It's belief in Jesus only, not Jesus and saints and other things."
Here I found myself in a position I thought I'd never be: defending Catholicism and its role in Christian history. Catholicism is a nutty religion to me, but it's hard for me to understand why certain protestant sects hate it and don't consider it Christianity. Mainly that it was Catholicism that decided the texts and the dogma that is at the base of modern Christianity. It takes a history denier to deny this, and that's who I was conversing with.
I was immediately challenged to who my source was, and mentioning historians and the Nicene Creed wasn't enough. I needed to name the exact historian who had filled my mind with Catholic lies. He asked if it was Josephus, who he identified as a 15th century historian. After explaining who Josephus was (1st century Jewish historian) I left to catch my tram.
Two things came to mind, one hearing him preach and one through conversation. If all that matters is belief to be saved, then it's no wonder that ignorance follows. What's learning going to do other than seek to diminish that belief? Unfortunately for me, I get disappointed when people are unwilling to make sure they have their facts straight. I should not have a better understanding of a belief than those who believe in it.
The other thing that struck me was how silly the preaching on immorality was. 2500 years of moral philosophy, and the best he could do was invoke an afterlife?! It makes me wish that people with philosophy degrees would preach on street corners, at least then there might be something relevant said on the subject.More than anything else, the routine was amusing. I couldn't help but laugh!
Hadn't he heard that God is dead? The question of accountability framed in divine retribution not only was at odds with his stated beliefs, but doesn't serve a purpose in modern thought. Of the reason surrounding behaviour, theistic thought plays little role outside of theistic pursuits. It's not a choice between lack of accountability and following God's Word, but a question of how we are accountable to one another. That relationship still exists irrespective of whether God does.