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I feel God in this thread. Or not.
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Feb 12th 2007

I know that the topic of religion and spirituality has been broached here before, so I don't feel like this is out of place here. My church asked this question yesterday:

WHAT IS YOUR BIG QUESTION ABOUT LIFE, GOD, RELATIONSHIPS, JESUS, SPIRITUALITY, OR THE CHURCH?

It's for a series they're doing sometime in the spring. I don't have any answers, and I'm not trying to stir debate; in fact, I don't plan on posting in this thread again, I have no judgments, and I want to hear it all. I just know that there is a huge variety of people and beliefs here, and I thought it would be interesting to get questions from here. They're looking for all kinds of questions: serious, sarcastic, practical, mystical, etc. With such a well-spoken bunch, I know there is plenty to be found here.

And in case you're interested in what kind of church it is: it's Christian, non-denominational, young congregation (age 20-40, mostly), we meet in a school auditorium, and most of the people who attend (including myself) do so in jeans. So go from there.

Feb 12th 2007

My question...not really mine but I get asked it ALL the time: "Who are you to say that your way of thinking/your beliefs are right, and everyone who believes differently is wrong? Maybe you're the one who's wrong. After all, they are as firm in their beliefs as you". This one always leaves me going "uhhhh"

Feb 12th 2007

"Who are you to say that your way of thinking/your beliefs are right, and everyone who believes differently is wrong? Maybe you're the one who's wrong. After all, they are as firm in their beliefs as you".

Mach 5,

This statement is precisely why I left organized religion, and have a problem with most (read: not all) organized religions. I mean, spirituality shouldn't be a competition, right?

And, LT (Oh, Queen of Interesting Threads), this one is a doozy. I'd call it dangerous, excepting the fact that we are a respectful bunch. So, I think the debate here will be fascinating.

That said, I am not traditionally "religious" (I was raised Catholic, and, the day I was confirmed, I was given permission by my parents to leave the church), but I consider myself deeply spiritual. I read somewhere that most cultures have a version of The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That, for me, is spirituality and respect for all humanity in a nutshell. Simple, but brilliant.

Feb 12th 2007

I was raised Catholic, and, the day I was confirmed, I was given permission by my parents to leave the church

I'm curious how that conversation went, whatevs. Why didn't they ask you that beforehand or just leave it to you to make that decision if and when it came up on its own? And how long was it before you took them up on the offer?

I was raised Catholic too. By the time I got to college I'd pretty much given it up. A few years later I came back to it on my own terms. I'm inclined to think the best cure for being Catholic was Catholic school.

"Who are you to say that your way of thinking/your beliefs are right, and everyone who believes differently is wrong? Maybe you're the one who's wrong. After all, they are as firm in their beliefs as you".

This question presumes that the firmness of one's beliefs determines their correctness versus other belief systems. The way to answer is to step back and ask yourself why you believe what you do. If your faith has a solid foundation you won't feel threatened by others who subscribe to a different faith. You'll also be more likely to focus on commonalities like "The Golden Rule" whatevs mentions.

I fully expect that this thread at some point will degenerate into the bashing of particular religions or religion in general. Anyone want to start a pool?

Feb 12th 2007

I'd really like to see it not degenerate, so I'm betting on success instead. Let's surprise ourselves!

I've spent a long time studying religions (yes, plural) and I've enjoyed discourse with people of varied life paths.

The only thing that upsets me is when people attack my right as a thinking person to believe in God. I cannot conceive of where earth/humans/tables/shoes/cars/everything came from if not from a Something that I refer to as God. Okay, so Big Bang means big bang of something coming from nothing? I don't see the logic in that.

I was convinced by the Buddhist argument that there is no such thing as nothing. By naming the nothing, there is something. So if we can conceive of there being something, even white space or darkness or light, anything, before the Big Bang, then perhaps that's what God is.

I have further details for what I believe for this life, what we deal with every day. But I do dislike being written off as foolish or stupid or uneducated for believing that there is God. Unscientific, sure. That just means I believe more in God than in science, and I've come to be fine with that.

It's working for me so far.

Feb 12th 2007

I mean, spirituality shouldn't be a competition, right?

If you seek spirituality for spirituality's sake, this makes sense, but members of most organized religions hold particular views on reality which conflict with the worldviews of other religions (and of those who are areligious). Members of conflicting religions may both be very spiritual, but their beliefs cannot both be true.

Feb 12th 2007 edited

"Who are you to say that your way of thinking/your beliefs are right, and everyone who believes differently is wrong? Maybe you're the one who's wrong. After all, they are as firm in their beliefs as you".

This statement is precisely why I left organized religion, and have a problem with most (read: not all) organized religions. I mean, spirituality shouldn't be a competition, right?

While some may note that there is good in all religions, many also are discouraged by organized religion because they have seen so much hypocrisy and misuse of power. The problem does not lie in the fact that groups are organized. The Bible in fact tells us that God has always used an organizational arrangement to instruct those who worship him.

In the early books of the Bible, God gave directions by means of patriarchal family heads such as Noah, and Abraham, who became spokesmen to their families. Later, when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, he gave them direction through Moses. At Mount Sinai, God organized a nation of people and he provided laws and regulations to govern their worship and their relationships with others. He later established the priesthood and raised up prophets at times. Later still, he sent his son, the messiah (Hebrews 1:1)

There were many occasions when it meant your life to listen to the channel provided to mankind by God. If those Israelites in Moses’ day decided that they just didn’t want to organize, they and their offspring would have died as slaves, without ever inheriting the Promised Land. Even though God listens to the prayers of individual persons, he has always provided instruction through an organizational arrangement.

Members of conflicting religions may both be very spiritual, but their beliefs cannot both be true.

That’s true. If you are saying two different things, both cannot be true. The Bible even says that this is so in Ephesians 4:5 which states that there is, “One lord, one faith, one baptism.”

If you find that certain organized religions have not satisfied your spiritual need, you have the right not to affiliate with them. The Bible even tells us to, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” in 1Thess 5:21. Observing how closely a religious organization adheres to the scriptures will tell us if it is proving all things and holding fast to what is good. God’s word tells us that the scriptures are the standard by which we can determine if our way of thinking/our beliefs are right, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2Tim 3:16.

Feb 13th 2007

I'm fascinated. Thanks for the post. :)

Feb 13th 2007

Excellent post, ToasterOver101!

I nervously read this thread when it first popped up, because I have seen threads of this nature in many other discussion forums (although this is the first religion related discussion in any Office Forum I've been to) and they almost always degenerate into Christianity bashing, Islam or Catholic bashing, and end up with a lot of UPPER CASE ARGUING followed by many many !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'s. But like whatevs said, we are a respectful bunch, and I think there's hope for some understanding and positive discussion here.

If you find that certain organized religions have not satisfied your spiritual need, you have the right not to affiliate with them. The Bible even tells us to, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” in 1Thess 5:21. Observing how closely a religious organization adheres to the scriptures will tell us if it is proving all things and holding fast to what is good. God’s word tells us that the scriptures are the standard by which we can determine if our way of thinking/our beliefs are right, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2Tim 3:16.

I like this thought. I like the idea of encouraging others to seek it out for themselves. I am a Christian, and because I have tested my faith and have found it to be true, I desire that others might share in all the good things that I have experienced. Yet, because people are fairly sensitive these days about other people forcing their religions on them, I try not to force my beliefs down other peoples throat. I am sure that's not an effective approach. I try to 'sell' my faith, if you will, though my example. Now, the noticeable thing about my example is that it is flawed. I make mistakes. I fall short. I miss the mark. And yet, I believe I am still loved, and still cared for by my God. As TO101 said, if you were to read the Bible, and found that it didn't inspire you to be a follower of its precepts, that is entirely your choice. My God doesn't force you to believe in Him. So why should I try to force you to believe in Him? Nobody wants to be bullied into belief. It won't be genuine then. I'd love to tell you all you want to know about me and my faith, but I won't forcefeed you. If you have questions about what I believe and why, I say load me up with the questions. I'd love to be of assistance. My caveat is that I'm absolutely not a Bible scholar or a theologian. I'm just a servant. But I'd love to help you if I could.

Feb 13th 2007 edited

Pan- I enjoyed reading your post. The only think I will add is that I don't think believing in God has to be unscientific. If God exists (I believe so) then God created the laws of science.

If your faith has a solid foundation you won't feel threatened by others who subscribe to a different faith.

Similar to what Brian said, if your faith is solid, science shouldn't have to be feared or written off as incompatible. (I'm not referring to you, Pan) There are people in my past who advised me to drop out of certain college classes because they would lead me astray. This was very disturbing. Not only were they implying that I can't think for myself, but they believed that education was actually an enemy of their religion. (BTW, I didn't drop out.)

Regardless of your religion/spirituality, I believe it is healthy, possibly even a responsiblity, to understand other religions and beliefs.

TO101 I appreciate your post as well. A lot to take in... need more time.

And LT- you have ovaries of steel for creating this thread ;)

eta...

Nobody wants to be bullied into belief. It won't be genuine then. I'd love to tell you all you want to know about me and my faith, but I won't forcefeed you. If you have questions about what I believe and why, I say load me up with the questions. I'd love to be of assistance. My caveat is that I'm absolutely not a Bible scholar or a theologian. I'm just a servant. But I'd love to help you if I could.

I think that's awesome, Daoust. I really respect that.

Feb 13th 2007

Well y'all are awesome. That question I posted wasn't coming from me. I'm just not always sure how to answer someone when they accuse me of having an elitist mindset & being narrow-minded. In some aspects, I am narrow-minded, I suppose. I hold firmly to my beliefs & if people have issues with it, I have to remind myself it's really God they have issues with, and try not to let it bother me. Anyhoo, I'm very surprised at how respectful everyone has been so far. Kudos!!

Feb 13th 2007

I just get annoyed when Christians distinguish themselves from Catholics. What's that all about? Hard feelings should have gone the way of Martin Luther by now. Rome isn't any greedier than these national televised evangelists, nor priests any creepier than these pastors that set themselves up in their own churches to rule a community. Distinguish Protestant from Catholic if you need to, but don't remember that Catholics were the Christian originals.

I don't really need a specific response to this, but since LT is looking for questions, that's what I would bring up.

Feb 13th 2007

First of all, I'd like to say that I agree very much with what Daoust said. Excellent post.

The thing that strikes me about the question Mach5 posted is that it's kind of a cop-out. It's true that believing in any given religion implies that other religions are wrong, but my answer to that question would be something along the lines of: I'm not here to comdemn anyone else. The point of a religion is to guide those who believe in it, not to deal out insults/threats/etc. to those who don't, and to fault religion as a whole simply because there are people with different beliefs is to miss the point. I hear people argue over political beliefs and call each other wrong and other names all the time, but I've never heard anyone say "I don't believe in politics."

Feb 13th 2007 edited

I've never heard anyone say "I don't believe in politics."

What about anarchists? :)

(That was purely a one-liner. Good post.)

Feb 13th 2007

I posed the question because it is what I am most frequently asked. I was just wondering if y'all had any responses that don't make me sound like a goober. =)

Feb 13th 2007

I posed the question because it is what I am most frequently asked. I was just wondering if y'all had any responses that don't make me sound like a goober. =)

Oh I know, and I've been confronted with it in the past too. Sorry if I made it sound like I thought it was your question.

Feb 13th 2007

Distinguish Protestant from Catholic if you need to, but don't remember that Catholics were the Christian originals.

I'm always learning stuff I didn't know about my religion. I recently wrote about the visit of a patriarch to this Indian Orthodox church. Never heard of the denomination before. Turns out the apostle Thomas (doubting Thomas) went east while guys like Peter and Paul went west. Thomas founded a Christian church in India. It developed and flourished completely independent of the western church. It's almost like a parallel universe - no east-west split except by geography, no protestant reformation. They have a pretty good argument for being "originals" too. The church service was very Indian culturally in terms of the garb and the artwork. But the mass was a lot like what I see every Sunday. Then again, I covered my first Episcopal service last year, and that was pretty similar too. I don't know why it surprised me, but it did.

Feb 13th 2007

ST, I agree with you. I don't believe that science disproves the existence of God, but plenty of people do. I lived with a scientist for a long time who was wrestling with that very question.

I also wasn't hating on the Big Bang. I actually believe in the Big Bang, I just believe that the potential matter of the universe is all God, so that all things are made out of God, similar to the Chinese concept of "chi" in its various stages of refinement (the energy that is the material of the universe), or the Hindu idea of Brahman (the spirit and substance of the universe), or the Buddhist idea of Buddha nature(that we are all Buddha at heart and therefore separations are false and merely part of the temporal world). Being that I'm a Westerner from the Christian tradition, I choose to call these things "God" instead, because that's the word most meaningful to me.

Feb 13th 2007

Catholics (or should I say early Christians) did a good time of absorbing the native culture in order to get the locals converted. So, if the natives celebrated Winter Solstice, then you put your Christmas as the same time. Many local gods became saints. Therefore there is a lot of local flavor in the Christian churches (I'm sure the same is true for Muslims).

National Geographic had a good article about some of the Italian parishes that celebrate "Christian" holidays that pre-date Christianity. In one instance, the priest leads a procession around the town on a pre-determined path, stopping at several points along the way. From archaeological digs, it was found out that the town walls once lay along the modern path, and the points they stopped were at the old gates to the town. So, sometime in their pagan past, there was a celebration where they marched around the town walls and stopped at the gate, and that continues, even though the walls are long gone. There were other interesting customs now tied to Christianity that were obviously from a long-forgotten past.

Feb 13th 2007

I think that must happen with any religion coming in to a region. When Buddhist came to Japan, it adopted Shinto gods as Bodhisatvas and other religious figures, too.

I read an article once in which someone made an argument that people of a Buddhist region readily accepted Jesus because he seemed like another incarnation of the Buddha. I wish I remembered specifics on that one, but it makes sense (Jesus's teachings and Buddha's sutras sound very similar).

Feb 13th 2007

(Well, on main points, at least.)

Feb 13th 2007

Pan, the more general term for what you were describing about a ubiquitous god is called pantheism. Good name choice, huh?

Feb 13th 2007

Pantheism-w00t!

Feb 13th 2007

This has got to be a miracle. We are in agreement more when discussing religion than we are when discussing JAM :)

Feb 13th 2007 edited

The more general term, from dictionary.com:

pan·the·ism /ˈpænθiˌɪzəm/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[pan-thee-iz-uhm] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –noun
1. the doctrine that God is the transcendent reality of which the material universe and human beings are only manifestations: it involves a denial of God's personality and expresses a tendency to identify God and nature.
2. any religious belief or philosophical doctrine that identifies God with the universe.

I think that Hindus and Buddhists wouldn't agree with the idea that they are pantheistic. The chi idea doesn't necessarily conform to one religion, from what I understand, so it probably fits the description.

As for me, Pan's a theist. :)

the·ism /ˈθiɪzəm/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[thee-iz-uhm] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –noun
1. the belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism).
2. belief in the existence of a god or gods (opposed to atheism).

I'm not rejecting revelation or a personality for God, I just haven't commented on it yet.

Feb 13th 2007

While some may note that there is good in all religions, many also are discouraged by organized religion because they have seen so much hypocrisy and misuse of power.

I am one of these people, I feel that there are good parts of religions, but thinks that the organizations on the whole tend to do more bad than good. I may be biased though for the reasons that my brother is an Oscar, and there are a few Angela's in my family, and that we have encountered in real life.

While there maybe plenty of open-minded individuals on a board whose conversations are centered around an intelligent and well written show, my experience is that the majority of people tied to a certain religion can not say the same. I think when you weigh the things people do in the name of religion there is always more negative than postive. Again, this is just my opinion, I know there is no scale or way to tell such things.

I think I am religious, I reflect and finding mean in life. To an extent I believe in a God, not one who is looking down and trying to balance the scales of my actions, but one that is in the beauty of life and nature. I have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, and yet I know that just because things are right for me they may not be for another. For example, you can not convince me eating meat, with all it's social and environmetal implications is ok, yet I am still able to love and respect people who do, even if they have not been able to come to the same conclusions as myself.

Feb 13th 2007

I wrote:

I was raised Catholic, and, the day I was confirmed, I was given permission by my parents to leave the church.

Brian wrote:

I'm curious how that conversation went, whatevs. Why didn't they ask you that beforehand or just leave it to you to make that decision if and when it came up on its own? And how long was it before you took them up on the offer?

I just spent the last hour writing a really thorough response to this, and then my computer booted me. Sigh. Anyway, Brian, I did not choose my words carefully.

It's not like my parents said "Hooray! You're confirmed! Do you want to leave the church?"

I had been asking for years to leave; they offered up a compromise: Stick it out until confirmation, then, you decide. So, I did. I got confirmed, and then I left.

By the way, everyone is so thoughtful re: this thread. I could spend the next several hours responding to the previous posts; I won't. I'll just say this: You are all extremely insightful, and I appreciate everything everyone has to say. Peace.

Feb 13th 2007

It's not like my parents said "Hooray! You're confirmed! Do you want to leave the church?"

I didn't think it went down that way, but you just made me laugh out loud picturing that scene. While that would be insane, the way it actually happen makes me think your parents are pretty wise. You can only offer your kids your faith. You can't force it on them. At least that's the kind of thing I've been thinking about a lot lately. Sorry about your computer woes, by the way. That's really frustrating.

Feb 13th 2007

I'm agnostic. It's not very exciting on the fence.

Feb 13th 2007

It's pointy, though.

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