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How far will you go to be "INCLUSIVE"?

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A recent thread by another member raises a pertinent question in our day and I'd like to hear from as many as are interested. The point is about being inclusive.There is a movement now, from the Pope down it seems, to be ecumenical. To see ourselves as the children - ALL of us - of the Creator God. With the great variation around the planet in these most closely held beliefs, how do we know which is correct? Surely not all can reflect the same being. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a man that was born of a virgin mother through an act of God himself. I believe he lived a life as a man and was executed on a Roman cross as a payment for all the transgressions of every other human on earth from that time until today. I believe he physically resurrected the third day and is alive in this moment. THAT is what defines a Christian - it is called the gospel.

There are church pastors out there these days who are forming a blend of religion called "Chrislam" in which they say that Allah and God are the same entity. Devout Muslims AND devout Christians spurn this.

So enough of my personal beliefs. The question I have is how far would you go to be inclusive? Is there any tenet of your faith you will not sacrifice to be in agreement with others? More importantly, would you actively defend inclusivity if it meant harming those who choose NOT to be inclusive?

The Christ said "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except by me" That is a direct and VERY non inclusive directive. So if a Christian is true to the word and will not join in an ecumenical movement, would you shun or actively try to silence them?

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I don't worry about being "right", I worry about being good good and being an asset to the planet. If God is all-loving and all-knowing, then he knows what's in our hearts, will forgive us when we're wrong, and loves us always despite our faults or beliefs. I can't imagine a deity that would condemn us because we were/are ignorant, lack knowledge, or question our faith. It's only humans that do that to one another. I believe the sacred loves us and welcomes us with open arms.

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I'd be inclusive towards anyone who wasn't violent or oppressive about their beliefs. I like to think that we live in societies civilised enough that we don't have to kill each other over differences of opinions. I also like to think that we live in societies where laws are determined by the democratic method of both public and governmental debate. I guess those two are among my strongest principles, and anyone from any religious or non-religious strain who wants to infringe on that doesn't get any overtures of inclusion from me.

If it's your opinion that Christ is the Son of God you absolutely should express that, so long as you're OK with me expressing my opinion that he was a fanatic with a bronze age morality. I'll discuss it with people who are willing, but I'm not going to meld my beliefs with everyone else's in the name of inclusiveness. On the contrary, I think it's the differences between us which make Humanity so interesting.

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There will be a bit of a problem over John 14:6 where Jesus declares, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Biblical Christianity is exclusive, not inclusive. Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God, and for that matter neither do Hindus, Buddhists, etcetera. To suggest that they can "coexist" like the bumper sticker says as one all inclusive faith is nonsense.

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Almagest, I would very much like to hear you're thoughts of Jesus Christ the man.

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As an indifferent agnostic I'm willing to go to the extremes of inclusiveness. It would be the worst place in the world where all people thought and believed the same thing.

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A recent thread by another member raises a pertinent question in our day and I'd like to hear from as many as are interested. The point is about being inclusive.There is a movement now, from the Pope down it seems, to be ecumenical. To see ourselves as the children - ALL of us - of the Creator God. With the great variation around the planet in these most closely held beliefs, how do we know which is correct? Surely not all can reflect the same being. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a man that was born of a virgin mother through an act of God himself. I believe he lived a life as a man and was executed on a Roman cross as a payment for all the transgressions of every other human on earth from that time until today. I believe he physically resurrected the third day and is alive in this moment. THAT is what defines a Christian - it is called the gospel.

There are church pastors out there these days who are forming a blend of religion called "Chrislam" in which they say that Allah and God are the same entity. Devout Muslims AND devout Christians spurn this.

So enough of my personal beliefs. The question I have is how far would you go to be inclusive? Is there any tenet of your faith you will not sacrifice to be in agreement with others? More importantly, would you actively defend inclusivity if it meant harming those who choose NOT to be inclusive?

The Christ said "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except by me" That is a direct and VERY non inclusive directive. So if a Christian is true to the word and will not join in an ecumenical movement, would you shun or actively try to silence them?

Hmm. Well, this is a good topic of conversation and I appreciate you bringing it up. As an immediate point of reference, I am a Christian, and am in fact (God willing) studying to become a pastor. Here's where it gets tricky, though: I've been called a 'big liberal' by some and a 'conservative' by others. I'm sort of in the middle, I guess you could say...I suppose it really depends on the issue. If it's a 'social' issue; like whether or not I would allow homosexuals to be members in my church...I have no problem with that. As I said on another thread; I see myself as a sinner saved by grace...so who am I to judge? I'm not the judge. If someone comes to me and is earnestly seeking to know God to the best of their ability; who would I be to close the door on them? So there: 'big liberal.' But then if some supposed Christian says "I don't believe Jesus was truly raised from the dead; He is alive in our hearts" I totally and strongly disagree. I believe in a very literal resurrection and I would not compromise this at all. So there: 'conservative.' And I would defend that against anyone who challenges it. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for me and that He also saved me from the hells of my own making before Him. My testimony is forever linked to my ministry...and I would never compromise His REALITY. For me, the Lord is no abstraction. He is real, present. So in short, I agree with all of this: "I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a man that was born of a virgin mother through an act of God himself. I believe he lived a life as a man and was executed on a Roman cross as a payment for all the transgressions of every other human on earth from that time until today. I believe he physically resurrected the third day and is alive in this moment. THAT is what defines a Christian - it is called the gospel."

But I disagree with this: "Surely not all can reflect the same being." and this: "There are church pastors out there these days who are forming a blend of religion called "Chrislam" in which they say that Allah and God are the same entity. Devout Muslims AND devout Christians spurn this." How do we know they AREN'T the same "entity?" While being a Christian, I study comparative religion and have done so for a decade now. I'm actually specializing my Master of Divinity in Interreligious Contexts...so I guess I'm one of those dreaded ones of which you speak who fosters ecumenism. As I mentioned in another thread, there are various religious "systems" in the world...and who are we to be so arrogant as to proclaim that God cannot work with others within those systems? Is God the one that is placing such limitations on man; or are we the ones placing such limitations on God? Religion is imperfect because humanity is imperfect. Furthermore; those who are so quick to dismiss or attack a faith like Islam, sadly, often know very little about it. They've never gone to the source. I've read Christian books marketed as being unbiased looks at other religions...and then it says something like Allah has a wife and Muslims also worship a moon goddess. This is nonsense; little more than ultra-right wing Christian propaganda. When I began reading the Holy Koran many years ago I was amazed at some of the beauty and truth therein. It was the same as I began to read Muslim writers; and I came to love the Sufi mystics. I think we have to look at the source before we can render such judgments.

But just to play devils-advocate...if we take those words at face value; how can we also be convinced that the Jews worship the same God as the Christians? Really; I'm serious. The Talmud has verses that say Jesus is roasting in Hell and that the Virgin Mary was a prostitute. It's disgusting; but it's there...and yet no one talks about that. You always here the term Judeo-Christianity and these same people then attack Islam as a tool of the devil. Really? In the Koran Jesus is seen as a Holy Prophet, and the Virgin Mary is a saint; the only woman in the entire Koran afforded such veneration. Now again; just playing devil's advocate; which view seems CLOSER to the Christian view?? Do you see my point?? In no way am I slamming Judaism either. I also really love and respect the Jewish religion...but the point is...the three great Abrahamic faiths all have differences and similarities. Why, then, is it so difficult to accept the possibility that yes....we are dealing with the same "entity?"

Lol it is one of my vocational goals to be on the forefront of ecumenical work and dialogue. I mean think about it my friend; we need it now more than ever. People are being killed for their faith all over the world. Christians are being killed by fanatical Muslims. Muslims are killing each other for following or not following a said path of Islam. Tibetan Buddhists are lighting themselves on fire because they have no other way to speak out against the atrocities a radically secular government (a modern day Nero Caesar) has placed on them. So ti my mind; rather than fighting over our differences we should be fighting TOGETHER over things like human rights and against the winds of secularism that have swept across the world. Ecumenical work is NECESSARY.

Finally, to answer your question point blank: "That is a direct and VERY non inclusive directive. So if a Christian is true to the word and will not join in an ecumenical movement, would you shun or actively try to silence them?" no...I would not. While I now must sound like one of those 'big liberal' Christians and you might even question my beliefs altogether etc.; no I would never persecute someone who does not follow this 'spirit.' While I disagree with some of your ideas, as noted, I agree with others; and again...I am no judge. God is the judge. Therefore I respect your opinion even if I don't share it. You should be free to express your faith in the manner you wish.

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There will be a bit of a problem over John 14:6 where Jesus declares, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Biblical Christianity is exclusive, not inclusive. Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God, and for that matter neither do Hindus, Buddhists, etcetera. To suggest that they can "coexist" like the bumper sticker says as one all inclusive faith is nonsense.

No, the idea is not to be one all inclusive faith; but to be inclusive of ONE ANOTHER. We can acknowledge our differences but work together to build bridges from our similarities; because ALL of these said religions have much in common. Just look at the countless parallel statements of Jesus and the Buddha as but one example. Religions can differ on "theology" but can come together in areas like ethics, human rights and social justice.

And as to prayer or whether we worship the same God; to quote the great Huston Smith: "What a strange fellowship this is, the God-seekers in every land, lifting their voices in the most disparate ways imaginable to the God of all life. How does it sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange, ethereal harmony? We cannot know. All we can do is try to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice as it addresses the divine."

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No, the idea is not to be one all inclusive faith; but to be inclusive of ONE ANOTHER. We can acknowledge our differences but work together to build bridges from our similarities; because ALL of these said religions have much in common. Just look at the countless parallel statements of Jesus and the Buddha as but one example. Religions can differ on "theology" but can come together in areas like ethics, human rights and social justice.

And as to prayer or whether we worship the same God; to quote the great Huston Smith: "What a strange fellowship this is, the God-seekers in every land, lifting their voices in the most disparate ways imaginable to the God of all life. How does it sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange, ethereal harmony? We cannot know. All we can do is try to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice as it addresses the divine."

Precisely - "we cannot KNOW"- therefore our only point of contact barring a miraculous intercession or visitation is what his word says. Christ once said a house divided could not stand. Why would one who proclaims only truth then teach an opposite reality? The "Jesus" of Islam is diametrically opposite in actions of the Son of God. In fact John told us that those who deny the father and the son are anti Christ - again - his words. Why would a God breathed text sow such confusion?

But in answer to

I don't worry about being "right", I worry about being good good and being an asset to the planet. If God is all-loving and all-knowing, then he knows what's in our hearts, will forgive us when we're wrong, and loves us always despite our faults or beliefs. I can't imagine a deity that would condemn us because we were/are ignorant, lack knowledge, or question our faith. It's only humans that do that to one another. I believe the sacred loves us and welcomes us with open arms.

Then I take it that you would not support a movement that shouts down or otherwise penalizes Christians - so long as they do no violence in their causes? I ask because I have seen in my own lifetime a dramatic change in the way Christians and their message are received and treated. I expect that to intensify and become violent at some point. As an example - last night in the US was a celebration of music - the Grammy's - a mixed wedding ceremony for same sex as well as gay couples occurred. I believe people have a freedom to live their lives as they see fit and I have no say over who marries who. But can you imagine the audience reaction if someone stood on the stage and spoke of the gospel? Think honestly for a moment... do you imagine cheering? Even a respectful silence? What do you imagine would occur?

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There will be a bit of a problem over John 14:6 where Jesus declares, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Biblical Christianity is exclusive, not inclusive. Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God, and for that matter neither do Hindus, Buddhists, etcetera. To suggest that they can "coexist" like the bumper sticker says as one all inclusive faith is nonsense.

Co-existence with others whose beliefs or faiths are different is not nonsense, and in fact, it is being done and has been done throughout history. The continued existence of our species depends on collaboration and cooperation, which is hard to accomplish in an environment tainted by exclusivity.

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Precisely - "we cannot KNOW"- therefore our only point of contact barring a miraculous intercession or visitation is what his word says. Christ once said a house divided could not stand. Why would one who proclaims only truth then teach an opposite reality? The "Jesus" of Islam is diametrically opposite in actions of the Son of God. In fact John told us that those who deny the father and the son are anti Christ - again - his words. Why would a God breathed text sow such confusion?

But in answer to Then I take it that you would not support a movement that shouts down or otherwise penalizes Christians - so long as they do no violence in their causes? I ask because I have seen in my own lifetime a dramatic change in the way Christians and their message are received and treated. I expect that to intensify and become violent at some point. As an example - last night in the US was a celebration of music - the Grammy's - a mixed wedding ceremony for same sex as well as gay couples occurred. I believe people have a freedom to live their lives as they see fit and I have no say over who marries who. But can you imagine the audience reaction if someone stood on the stage and spoke of the gospel? Think honestly for a moment... do you imagine cheering? Even a respectful silence? What do you imagine would occur?

Did you read my previous post, though? #7? I know it's longer but I responded to you in considerable detail. My point is...the Jesus of the Talmud is ALSO diametrically opposed to the Jesus of the Gospels. How could the fact that He is 'roasting in hellfire' be interpreted any other way? AND YET we refer to them as People of the Book and we even call ourselves Judeo-Christians. So if on the one hand you acknowledge that Jews are praying to the same God (as most conservative evangelicals do) why, on the other hand, are you so quick to dismiss the Muslims who ALSO quote the Old Testament etc. By your same view the Jews would also be 'anti-christs' then. It's hypocritical IMO.

Edited by Marcus Aurelius
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Precisely - "we cannot KNOW"- therefore our only point of contact barring a miraculous intercession or visitation is what his word says. Christ once said a house divided could not stand. Why would one who proclaims only truth then teach an opposite reality? The "Jesus" of Islam is diametrically opposite in actions of the Son of God. In fact John told us that those who deny the father and the son are anti Christ - again - his words. Why would a God breathed text sow such confusion?

But in answer to Then I take it that you would not support a movement that shouts down or otherwise penalizes Christians - so long as they do no violence in their causes? I ask because I have seen in my own lifetime a dramatic change in the way Christians and their message are received and treated. I expect that to intensify and become violent at some point. As an example - last night in the US was a celebration of music - the Grammy's - a mixed wedding ceremony for same sex as well as gay couples occurred. I believe people have a freedom to live their lives as they see fit and I have no say over who marries who. But can you imagine the audience reaction if someone stood on the stage and spoke of the gospel? Think honestly for a moment... do you imagine cheering? Even a respectful silence? What do you imagine would occur?

I've never based my actions on fear of what might occur. When I say I'm inclusive, I mean it, with exceptions made for those who cause harm. In no way do I expect the rest of the world to align with my beliefs, likes, dislikes, or faith. And I think there were plenty of people in the audience who would respectfully listen to an acknowledgement of one's faith. But Grammies are not an appropriate venue for preaching the gospel. Some people are private about their faith, because they don't advertise it doesn't mean it's not there. And is there not a category for faith-based music? Gospel, I know, is there one for Christian music? Contemporary Christian, maybe?

I've spent a lifetime trying to avoid the trap of judging other, and that's really what exclusivity is about. I'm not always successful, but I have learned that it is not my place to do so. I am always taken aback by the number of people who not only judge, but also feel it is their right and duty to do so. I just stick with the love they neighbor stuff. As far as I know, when it was delivered to Moses there were no exceptions and no exclusions.

Edited by Beany

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There are church pastors out there these days who are forming a blend of religion called "Chrislam" in which they say that Allah and God are the same entity. Devout Muslims AND devout Christians spurn this.

I don't know. I believe that Islam came directly from the success of Christianity. They "stole" our God and ascribed different words to Him. So, I think it is clear that the Muslim Allah is the Christian God. But the practices of each religion is different to the point where one has to be wrong for the other to be right.

The question I have is how far would you go to be inclusive? Is there any tenet of your faith you will not sacrifice to be in agreement with others? More importantly, would you actively defend inclusivity if it meant harming those who choose NOT to be inclusive?

The Christ said "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except by me" That is a direct and VERY non inclusive directive. So if a Christian is true to the word and will not join in an ecumenical movement, would you shun or actively try to silence them?

I'd have to say that I'd not be willing to throw out any major tenets of Christianity. I'd not in any way agree that Muhammad is a Prophet of God, any more then I believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I do agree with large parts of the Koran, but then it is lifted much from the Old Testiment of the Bible. I'd also agree that the only way to Salvation is through acknowleging Jesus as the Savior. But, I'm not against letting others worship as they want. I just agree that they aren't going to the Christian Heaven.

If there was a uniting movement, I'd not speak against it, or act against it. I'd simply let them go to wherever they're going.

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There will be a bit of a problem over John 14:6 where Jesus declares, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Biblical Christianity is exclusive, not inclusive. Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God, and for that matter neither do Hindus, Buddhists, etcetera. To suggest that they can "coexist" like the bumper sticker says as one all inclusive faith is nonsense.

Christianity is exclusive. That is one of the reasons the Romans wanted to wipe it out, I believe. I do believe all the Abrahamic Relgions follow the same God, but I do also believe only One can be completely right. The practices of the 3 main Faiths is such that there is little overlap as far as what is required to succeed to the afterlife.

No, the idea is not to be one all inclusive faith; but to be inclusive of ONE ANOTHER. We can acknowledge our differences but work together to build bridges from our similarities; because ALL of these said religions have much in common. Just look at the countless parallel statements of Jesus and the Buddha as but one example. Religions can differ on "theology" but can come together in areas like ethics, human rights and social justice.

I work with Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Christians and Atheists every day, and I've yet to see religous intolerance from any of the hundreds of people I work with. We have engineers and other employees from India, China, Vietnam, Israel, Pakistan and Japan all working together seemlessly every day. True... These are all highly educated people who came to America to work and not to Preach, but I do believe that religion is not the boogy man that some always want to make it out to be. It is only when the ignorant are led by the ambitious that religion becomes a point of negative emotion. At least IMHO.

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I will respond more to this later but it is really quite silly to say that the God of Christianity and that of Islam are different. Anyone calling on "The One True God" is calling on the same God. Even the bible says both offsprings will make a great nation, and both come from Abraham...

bible scholars, this is old news but please freshen up:

http://www.bibleinfo...ut-muslimsislam

The opinion that we have separate Gods and that one is real and one is fake (or that one is demonic) is the epitome of the bigotry portrayed in each of the faiths.

Edited by SpiritWriter
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Did you read my previous post, though? #7? I know it's longer but I responded to you in considerable detail. My point is...the Jesus of the Talmud is ALSO diametrically opposed to the Jesus of the Gospels. How could the fact that He is 'roasting in hellfire' be interpreted any other way? AND YET we refer to them as People of the Book and we even call ourselves Judeo-Christians. So if on the one hand you acknowledge that Jews are praying to the same God (as most conservative evangelicals do) why, on the other hand, are you so quick to dismiss the Muslims who ALSO quote the Old Testament etc. By your same view the Jews would also be 'anti-christs' then. It's hypocritical IMO.

Anyone who denies the father and the son is an anti Christ spirit. Of course the Jews deny Christ. But the Jews do not attempt to extinguish people of other faiths. And my point in this thread is to explore how far a person would go to stand firm in their faith - not how far they will bend to accommodate the belief of others. Your need to "reach across the aisle" is a perfect example of Chrislam. I must ask - do you believe that Jesus is the way, truth and life, and that no man comes to the father but through him?

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I feel the need to clarify a point. While I totally agree that Christianity is exclusive by it's nature, true adherents would never be oppressive on the unbeliever. We are commanded to go and spread the word but never are we exhorted to force anything on anyone. It is a free choice and we are to love everyone regardless their decision. That does NOT mean that we must accept their beliefs as valid or to mingle with them in what we consider to be sin. It is this new age dogma of everyone being "right" and there being no absolute morality that is destroying many today - imo. To call oneself a Christian, yet to deny his own commands is a lie to oneself. If pleasing man is more important than obeying God then the recompense is deserved.

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I will respond more to this later but it is really quite silly to say that the God of Christianity and that of Islam are different. Anyone calling on "The One True God" is calling on the same God. Even the bible says both offsprings will make a great nation, and both come from Abraham...

bible scholars, this is old news but please freshen up:

http://www.bibleinfo...ut-muslimsislam

The opinion that we have separate Gods and that one is real and one is fake (or that one is demonic) is the epitome of the bigotry portrayed in each of the faiths.

Islam categorically denies the father and the son - it is anathema to them. John says all who do so are anti christ - and, btw, he wrote that a few hundred years prior to the introduction of Islam. So how, exactly, is it that they are one and the same? How can one reconcile that both doctrines come from the same God? Why would he sow confusion among those he wants as followers - especially to the point where they would kill each other because of his words?

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Almagest, I would very much like to hear you're thoughts of Jesus Christ the man.

I'll try to sum it up without going too far off topic. :P

  • Firstly the authentic character of Jesus of Nazareth has been greatly obscured by the writers of the New Testament. There are numerous contradictions, and a particularly glaring fabrication in the story of Nativity, which can't decide whether Jesus was born in 4BC or 6/7AD. The major concoctions in the tale are the Roman census(which did occur in Syria and Judaea) and the bizarre practise of having people return to their ancestral homes to be counted. It's how Joseph and Mary, who live in Galiliee, wind up in the town of the prophesied birth of the messiah despite the fact that the census was conducted for tax purposes, and it would make no sense whatsoever to count those who weren't paying taxes in that province. All of this is a later insertion to make the man Jesus fit more closely to the prophecy. This includes the virgin birth, an idea that I find absolutely disgusting, that a woman can only carry the Son of God if she hasn't been defiled. Personally I think vaginas are wonderful things and I'm proud to have entered the world through one. Not so much in Catholicism, for example, which invented the immaculate conception of Mary to make her even purer than your regular filthy old woman.
  • If you go by the words of Christ alone, it is readily apparent that he doesn't stand for the things Christians say that he does. He says he comes not to bring peace, but to bring a sword. He says turn the other cheek, yet drives Money changers from the temple with a whip. The dual pillars of Love and Family values are undermined when he instructs his disciples that they cannot be true disciples unless they hate their family and their own lives, which I find to be a particularly nasty and conveniently overlooked bit of scripture. From his words alone it is suggested that his coming was intended for Jews primarily and gentiles secondarily, and even goes so far to refer to a gentile woman as a 'dog eating crumbs from its masters table.' War, violence, filial and self loathing, racial supremacy, all of these things run counter to my system of values.
  • Jesus chides the only rational Disciple, Thomas, for wishing to see his wounds before accepting the Resurrection, saying “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Blind acceptance of authority helped facilitate the worst atrocities of the twentieth centuries, perpetuated by both religious and non-religious entities. To name a few - Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, Francoist Spain, Pinochet's Chile, and Imperial Japan. I fail to see how someone is blessed for possessing a trait so dangerous to human prosperity and survival.
  • Most strikingly to me is the fact that Jesus didn't foresee a world without slavery, made no statements against it, and told slaves to endure their lot. Surely God Incarnate would have known that the institution would have been abolished in the 19th century, yet he has the classical period world view of an ordered cosmos where everyone is consigned to their lot in life and speaks as if that order would still be in place during the Second Coming. Well if this was all part of God's plan all along, why not make abolition a key doctrine in Christianity? What of all the slaves who died faithless due to the harsh treatment of their masters and the silent response to their prayers, who based on Jesus's own doctrine would have been confined to eternal hell fire for the sin of not having a limitless tolerance for suffering?

Now to try and steer this back on topic. :P This is just a glimpse of my values, which I'll share freely with those who ask, because I'm dedicated to the idea of the Socratic Dialogue. To me conversation is the best way to bridge two people, the longer they talk the more likely they are to find common ground. At the very least they can walk away with a better understanding of one another, and for that reason I'm for inclusiveness in public discourse, except for the previously mentioned cases.

But can you imagine the audience reaction if someone stood on the stage and spoke of the gospel? Think honestly for a moment... do you imagine cheering? Even a respectful silence? What do you imagine would occur?

I think the response would be boredom. The Gospel's answer to human suffering is terribly inadequate; Endure this life in humility under God and you'll inherit his kingdom. We see people suffering from starvation, exploitation, abuse, rape and murder on a daily basis and we need more than the unsubstantiated promise of an afterlife to alleviate that. To me that is a defeatist view of the world. Those things can be overcome through human will and co-operation. And personally, I think Slaughterhouse-Five has more humanity in it than the Bible.

However, if I was at an event and someone wanted to give a reading from scripture I wouldn't bat an eye. There are times where it's appropriate for me to be an argumentative jerk and there are times when it's not. It would be downright disrespectful of me to make a single noise during the reading, not only to the speaker but to those in the audience who wanted to listen.

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Co-existence with others whose beliefs or faiths are different is not nonsense, and in fact, it is being done and has been done throughout history. The continued existence of our species depends on collaboration and cooperation, which is hard to accomplish in an environment tainted by exclusivity.

Here here. In fact the secular structure of Western Governments emerged not out of atheism, but a realisation that different denominations of Christianity had to get along, and the best way to do that is to ensure that the government remains as neutral as possible on religious matters.

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I suspect it was probably the writer of John's Gospel, whether or not he was actually called John, who said ""I am the way, the truth and the life". Magnificently poetic though it is, I'm afraid it seems way out of character with what we're told of Jesus from the other Gospels. John (whether or not he was called John) was after all eager to promote his own particular version of the Gospels. Anyway, regarding the Question, I think Jesus has been very badly served over the millenniums by those who tried to make "Christianity" into a political system to rule the whole world. I think his original message was exclusive, since he realised that what he demanded of his followers was very demanding and it took great courage to stick to their principles, but that was his personal message of non-violent subversion of the religious/political establishment, not that this was a moral system and a great long list of prescriptive rules that everyone had to follow in order to book their ticket into Heaven. But I don't think that means that his message was exclusive in that it was the only way to guarantee Eternal Life, and that everyone else would be cast into the Great Pit of Despair. I think his message was that God was everywhere all the time, all around, and he wanted to be able to make people see this, and when and if they did, then the revolution would happen and the Kingdom of God would indeed be upon us. And as such, I think there are some definite similarities with the ideals or aims of some other religions, of escaping from the wheel of existence and coming into harmony with God. So yes, it was exclusive in that to be one of his followers was demanding and not for everyone, but not exclusive in that the aim that he wished for was not dissimilar to what other religions and faiths seek as well.

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I suspect it was probably the writer of John's Gospel, whether or not he was actually called John, who said ""I am the way, the truth and the life". Magnificently poetic though it is, I'm afraid it seems way out of character with what we're told of Jesus from the other Gospels.

In my experience, for that to make sense, one has to be in an otherworldly dire situation when one has to decide on whether to accept Jesus as one's savior (to get one out of that situation), or reject His help (and accept the consequences of one's alternative choice). The afterlife seems to have a ring of finality, and many people assume that they will have some kind of control there, as in having some kind of power or ingrained knowledge to manipulate that surrounding and situation.

"I am the way, the truth and the life..." It's simple enough of a statement. Does one accept, or reject it? That's something else, altogether.

Jesus or not, one has to see a divine being who is willing to offer you that way out or salvation because believe it or not, a soul (fresh from the planet earth) will be baffled in the afterlife. It's the wildest rollercoaster ride. That personal connection or meeting is very important. So, our life on earth is, for the most part, to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

Many believe in reincarnation. It's probably one of the alternatives. Perhaps we reincarnate to finally figure out that Jesus is the way out, a ticket to Heaven? That's also something to think about, but who really wants to reincarate?? Go through this earthly existence again...and again??

What I do know is that God is "unconditional love." It's "unconditional" because it's not action, all inclusive. It's actually the quality of a Divine Being. "Uncondtional love" naturally flows out, radiates, etc. To be around the "Lord" is to experience this deepest sense of love, not of this world kind of thing. Some say it's like being swallowed by love eternal, and when they actually look back on the experience, they have no idea how they managed to leave it. Was it grace? Was it through the will of that divine being?

Accept or reject. That's the key. Our hearts know the answer. It will be more intense in the afterlife. Therefore, faking it will never happen. Accept or reject.

Just sharing.

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I'm constantly baffled by the mental gymnastics that go on in the minds of believers. How is "Accept or Reject(and burn forever)" at all reminiscent of Unconditional Love? It seems to me to be a major condition of Gods love that you must accept the human sacrifice that no one asked for.

I'm also curious how you can claim to know anything about the afterlife when all we have to go on is the speculations of schizophrenics and epileptics, and NDE anecdotes.

I've already given a handful of reasons why I cannot accept, strongest of all being the love I bear for my father. He has had a very real presence in my life, and I would rather accept the alternative than force myself to feel something contrary to every fibre of my being for an unsubstantiated promise.

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I know there's someone out there who would know the answer to my question. Is there anywhere in the New Testament that clearly gives us the right to judge one another? As far as I know, that action is exclusively reserved for God, but is there any text that specifically gives Christians that right? The commandments are very clear & simple in regard to rules of behavior, it's unequivocal and impossible to misinterpret, are there any other passages that speak as clearly in regard to how Christians should hold or treat members of their community? I'm not asking this to be rude, just trying to better understand the issue. And to better understand my mother and how/why she reached the conclusions she did. She was always inclusive, never judged, never said an unkind word, and was guided by her biblical reading & interpretation. She spent her whole life studying the bible, and was one of the biggest influences in my life, not in a religious sense, but in forming a code of ethics.

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Beany, I think part of the problem is the meaning of the word "judge." It is true that God is the final judge: the one who hands out the sentence for crimes committed. The role of a Christian should be more like a referee throwing a flag on a play. In Galatians 5:19-23 there are two lists. One is the works of the flesh, and the other is the fruit of the Spirit. We should be able to discern between the two behaviors, and point out to an individual if they have exhibited the fleshly works. Too often, Christians try to assume the lofty position of God and hand down judgment on a "sinner". Instead, the Christian should exhibit fruit of the Spirit and gently lead the individual away from the fleshly works.

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