Saturday, February 25, 2012

Talk To Me About Your Faith, But…

There’s an abundance of ideas that people have about the Creator. I don’t knock any of them unless they try to hard sell me that theirs are undoubtedly right and that I have to give up mine and take on the ones they have. I, on the other hand, probably have nothing to teach them since they’ve positively made up their own minds, case closed, about the nature of reality. They probably won’t be that interested in what I have to say, anyway. I’m of the opinion that if God intended to plainly reveal his plan of salvation He would have done so in such a way that there would be no doubt about who He is and what one must do to obtain deliverance.  Everywhere and at every moment there would be a complete agreement as to how the universe was created,  the plan for humankind, God’s intervention in the workings of the world and the nature of redemption. Someone may say, “Well, it’s in the Bible plain as day and quote John 3:16 but there are many different notions about the meaning of that verse among various Christian groups. The Catholic Church, for example, teaches that one must become a Catholic for one to truly understand God and that includes following the teachings of the Church. It is interesting though, that the Church teaches that one does not have to be a Catholic to be saved while many evangelical sects require adherence to their dogma to be.  So what about other faiths? Judaism does not recognize that Jesus was the promised Messiah and has very good arguments for that and its views on the nature of salvation. Hindus and Muslims have their own ideas about Jesus that seem equally valid as well. Now I believe that there is a basis for belief in some intelligent creative power that under girds all existence. I think most do but there are some that are staunch atheists that can find no evidence for it. I don’t try to argue with them about it and just state my beliefs and that’s it and they usually don’t try to impose their disbelief on me, either. Certain theists, on the other hand, having placed such an importance on the correctness of their teachings are often inclined to making a big deal out of their big God and turn off others in doing so. They actually seem to imprint their biases onto their deity with the requirement that others in turn must follow what they have uncompromisingly posited as  The Truth.

Often when I think about Jesus’ sayings, it seems like many of those that profess to follow him look amazingly like the very souls that Jesus berated in the gospels. They are self-assured, pushy, argumentative, hypocritical, self-righteous and oblivious to the haughty way they come across to those they’re preaching to and most often minimize the parts of his sermons that stress mercy, understanding and tolerance in favor of those sayings that promise an eternity in hell for those who don’t believe as they do. Besides Jews, only Hindus and Buddhists appear to have envisioned enough room in heaven for those other than themselves and though each may think their religion better, they seem to have the capacity to stress agreement over difference.

We live in a complex world where political, economic and social forces are impacting believers and non-believers alike and there may be a time coming soon when it will be risky to lay claim to faith in any one of the world religions. Society has developed a tradition of tolerance over the last few centuries in which there is a healthy degree of distance between State and Church but this may not last if we lose a large part of the civilization we have come to enjoy. Many, both in and out of religious circles have noticed a quiet consolidation of power by elites who have blatantly lied to us about many things including the real reasons for going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 9/11 attacks, the Tonkin Gulf Incident, the overthrow of democratic republics such as Mohammed Mossadegh’s Iran and many more going all the way back to World War I and beyond. What palpable silence from the pulpits of so many different faiths when their priests, rabbis, imams and pastors could have taken a prophetic stance and alerted their flock to the deception that was and is plainly evident and pervasive in high places within government and banking. Why are they still holding back now as we are being robbed before our eyes by highly placed rip-off artists in Armani suits?  Could it be that they afraid of losing their precious 501C3 tax-exempt status or some other state-sanctioned benefit?

So I’m more than glad to talk to you about your faith, just don’t pass judgement on those like me who happen to have a different point of view than your own. More often than not one can find a greater abundance of truth telling among those who choose to keep their religious beliefs to themselves than those who are most ardently trying to push the wayward sheep hurriedly into the Kingdom. As Jesus himself said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matt. 7:15)  Have you looked inside yourself to root out your own waywardness? Are you really sure you can distinguish between a sheep and a wolf just because of what you have absorbed from your spiritual leader? Rather than obsessing so as to how to convert me, wouldn’t it be better to first take out the log from your own eye before taking out the speck in mine? Then we can sit as equals and leave the saving to the will of whose Kingdom we all hope to have a share in.

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