October 30, 2011
I am both of those things and openly so.
But unlike many people who use those words, I actually understand what they mean.
When it comes to "antichrist" there are four, count 'em, exactly four verses in the Bible that mention "antichrist." And, in the Bible, "antichrist" doesn't refer to what you (probably) think it does. For your edification here they are (from the New International Version using biblegateway.com):
Antichrists are simply people who do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Guess what? Right now there are over four billion of us. Four billion antichrists. Actually 4.6 billion antichrists in the world right now. (Based on a world population of 6,955,911,941 estimated 17:37 UTC (EST+5) Aug 16, 2011 4,660,461,000 - antichrist, 2,295,450,940 - Christian) And, yes, I'm one of them. Because I'm agnostic.........quite openly so.
Now for good or for ill --------- and this case it's for ill in my opinion -------- contrary to popular belief the dictionary doesn't shape us. We shape the dictionary. Our use of language is what's recorded in the dictionary. As we change the way we use words, the definition is altered. If you don't believe me, then check out this definition of "terrorist" from my 1968 edition of Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language:
Terrorist -- a person who practices or favors terrorism; specifically, a) an agent or supporter of the revolutionary tribunal during the French Reign of Terror. b) a member of any of certain extreme revolutionary societies in czarist Russia.
Now check out definition #3 in a modern definition of terrorist. It says "formerly" because that's no longer how the word is used.
Terrorist -- 1) a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism. 2) a person who terrorizes or frightens others. 3) (formerly) a member of a political group in Russia aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror. 4) an agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror in France. --- Dictionary.com
This is the dictionary definition of "antichrist":
Antichrist -- 1) one who denies or opposes Christ; specifically : a great antagonist expected to fill the world with wickedness but to be conquered forever by Christ at his second coming 2) a false Christ --- Mirriam-Webster Dictionary
The dictionary definition of "antichrist" has expanded to include our non-Biblical incorrect usage of the term. Okay, I understand that's how the dictionary works. But almost every time I've heard the word "antichrist" being used it's not the antichrist of the Bible; it's the antichrist of the dictionary. The usages of "antichrist" I hear skip over the first part of the definition "one who denies or opposes Christ" and start with "specifically : a great antagonist expected to fill the world with wickedness but to be conquered forever by Christ at his second coming 2) a false Christ."
A current popular example is "Obama is the Antichrist" --------- well, not according to the Bible he isn't because he is a Christian. Now, if he actually were a Muslim, then, certainly, Obama would be "an antichrist" --- whether Obama would be "the Antichrist" is something I doubt, but I'm an agnostic. That means I doubt that there is or ever will be a "the Antichrist."
(Now just how it is that Lutherans think the Pope is the Antichrist, I don't begin to comprehend. He's not the Antichrist by any definition of the dictionary. But, then again, if there are Christians who can think that Catholics aren't Christians, I'm not surprised there are Lutherans who think the Pope is the Antichrist.)
So I understand that there are two definitions of "antichrist." What I would like is for other people, especially Christians, to demonstrate some understanding of the origin of the word and so to also understand that there are two definitions of "antichrist": one Biblically based definition and one culturally based definition. And before Christians go hurling that word around as an insult that they understand
1. They're not using the Biblically based definition
2. "Antichrist" actually includes most of the population of the planet and it always has.
There have always been more people who don't believe in the divinity of Christ than do believe in the divinity of Christ. That includes the followers of every other religion on the planet, the non-religious, atheists and agnostics like me.
And speaking of words that people use without having any idea of their actual meaning, let's discuss "agnostic."
Agnosticism is about a lack of knowing. Absolute "knowing" ---- that's religious people and atheists. Okay, some religious people and some atheists: People who know there is a god(s) or people who know there isn't any such thing. People who claim to know irritate me. You don't know; you believe. There's a difference.
Agnostic -- a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably ; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the of God or a god --- Mirriam-Webster Dictionary
Agnostic -- One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God. --- The Free Dictionary
Contrary to popular belief (especially among fundamentalist Christians), there's nothing in there about Satan worshipping. That would require believing in Satan to begin with. I neither believe nor disbelieve. I don't know...........that is the heart of agnosticism. We don't know; we admit we don't know. And we certainly don't think it can be proven one way or the other, not in this lifetime.
Being agnostic leads me to another "religious" term people use without understanding it................
I came across a website in which Mohammad, prophet of the Muslim mythos, was called an apostate of hell. Presumably this was from a Christian who thought he was saying something derogatory. Humorously, he was saying a halfway nice thing about Mohammad. Once I stopped laughing to myself, I was left to contemplate the English language and the people who use "uncommon" words thinking it makes them look smarter when all it does is make them look ignorant.
You see, my general impression of hell as depicted in the Christian mythos is that hell is a negative place. Evil. Sin. Torment. The home of Satan and his minions.
If that's true, then you want someone to be an apostate of hell.
An apostate of hell is someone who was once a follower of hell and gave it up. So tell me again how being an apostate of hell is a bad thing?
An apostate is someone who commits apostasy:
Apostasy -- 1) renunciation of a religious faith 2) abandonment of a previous loyalty --- Mirriam-Webster Dictionary
So calling Mohammad an apostate of hell is saying he's no longer loyal to / a follower of hell. It's only a halfway nice thing to say about Mohammad because it's also saying that Mohammad once was a worshipper of hell. But, hey, at least that Christian thinks Mohammad gave it up. Well.........no, he doesn't, but that's what he said even though it's the complete opposite of what he meant.
The origins of misusage of the term "apostate" I pin on the 1976 movie "The Omen." The evil nanny protecting Damien was described as, "She is an apostate of hell." Sounds powerful. Sounds evil....................Sounds wrong.
That line, "She is an apostate of hell," is the earliest misuse of the word that I'm aware of. And "The Omen" was an incredibly popular movie that's still being watched today, so I could see where it could have led to a misunderstanding of the word's meaning because clearly the people filming the movie misunderstood the word's meaning.
I think in "The Omen" they thought "apostate" and "apostle" meant the same thing, but thought the word "apostate" had more punch and sounded more mysterious than the everyday term "apostle." Especially since many people didn't know the meaning of the word "apostate"..........including the screenwriter, the director, the actors, the producers and anyone else involved in the making of that scene.
If the nanny actually had been an apostate of hell, she would have helped try to kill Damien. But she wasn't an apostate of hell. She was an apostle of hell. (And, so far, this misusage of the word hasn't become so commonplace that it's caused the dictionary definition to change, and I hope it never does.)
Now as I said in my opening sentences, I'm an apostate. Not of hell. I was never a hell practitioner. But I am an apostate of Catholicism. I was also once a heretic and may still be a schismatic of the Roman Catholic Church. (When I left the Catholic church for a non-denominational Christianity I became a heretic and a schismatic. When I stopped being a Christian, I stopped being a heretic and started being an apostate. I'm not sure if that still makes me a schismatic.) Any one of the three (heresy, schism or apostasy) caused me to be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church (Code of Canon Law 1364). No bell, book or candle involved unfortunately -------- I would have enjoyed the ceremony. It was an automatic excommunication latae sententiae. (But I haven't given up hope. Maybe someone with authority in the Catholic Church will read this and give me the full ceremony or at the very least send me the official letter.)
More generally, I'm not just an apostate of Catholicism, I'm an apostate of Christianity.
In no longer believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ I'm both an antichrist and an apostate. But at least I understand what I am.
For the inevitable reaction from those of you convinced I'm going to burn in hell, think on this..........
If you're one of those Protestants who believes that salvation is found only through accepting Christ and once you accept Christ you're washed in the blood of the lamb, then by your religious doctrine you get an automatic pass to heaven and all your sins, past, present and future, have been forgiven by your acceptance of God's grace through Jesus' sacrifice (or as I call it "salvation through saying the magic words"). So, by your own standards, I'm not going to hell. Because I once did believe in Jesus Christ and once did accept him as my savior. Hence, all my sins were forgiven and if my now denying the divinity of Christ is a sin then I'm already forgiven for it. If your religious doctrine is correct, then I've already been handed my ticket to heaven. Chew on the irony of that; I find it to be delicious.
This is my first piece on religion, though it won't be my last. If you want to read more about someone misunderstanding what he's talking about there's "The Single Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard or How To Prove a Stereotype." For more more general misunderstandings read "Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner? The Socially Accepted Racism"or "Hollywood's Bizarre Take on Rape." For a misunderstanding relative to nature there's "Let the Hurricane Roar -- 'Cause What Can I Do about It Anyway?" Or you can check out many other topics in the Archive.