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March 07, 2012

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These are often claimed by atheists as being simply still in the closet fearing having their house firebombed.

I laugh everytime someone tells me they are against organized religion. I ask, "What else that is organized are you against? Traffic, workplace, school?" If it is only religion, then is your real statement that you don't believe any religion is true and that people should keep their false beliefs to themselves? And have you considered that you are organizing self-authoritative religious belief systems?

@kpolo - Ask the Pope why he keeps flying to South America to try and silence non-organized religious groups. (in other words, born-again spirit filled Christians). These Roman Catholics eventually woke up to realize that 'Organized' religion was a farce that kept them from the true freedom that Jesus Christ brings. And it's anything but 'organized' and Yes, they still stop at traffic lights on the way to their organized schools...

Lance,

You mean, why does the Pope go to South America to speak out against the Prosperity Gospel and heretical "Charismatic" cults that distort the Gospel and make it into some sort of New Age empowerment psychobabble? Gee, can't imagine why he'd do that. I certainly don't know of any other Christians who'd take a similar line. Must be part of his conspiracy with the Jesuits to establish a One World Religion persuant to the Seven Bankers' and Illuminati's plan for a New World Order.

Good eye, kid, good eye.

I was a "none" for decades. And I was a Bible-reading, praying Christian.
My lack of affiliation was laziness about attending church which I rationalized into not needing church. I fully believed in God, Jesus, the Trinity, the virgin birth, etc.; every dogma I knew about.
But I also invented my own commandments (it's okay if you aren't hurting anybody else), and allowed all kinds of thinking (New Age and Darwinistic, for instance) into my belief system.
Thankfully God opened my eyes, led me into debates on evolution, and then to apologetics, and then back to church.
My point is, a "none" is not necessarily anywhere near being an atheist, but it is still a very dangerous place to be.

There are no amputated limbs in the body of Christ.

This is a case where defining your terms is crucial. What definition is being used in regards to religion? I have the suspicion that this would help direct the conversation.

Daron,

Falling into "None" was where I began my trip into Eastern religions, and then into atheism. No doubt, it's a gateway drug. As Greg's fond of saying, ideas have consequences, and "None" is also an idea. A densely packed-idea, full of self-approval and other heady concoctions.

-----
Dr. Beckwith,

Well said!

"He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father,"

I've always liked this statement. I'm sure Francis and maybe Bennett will recognize that this is only the first part of a longer sentence. A google search to find the quote led me to Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, where one can read a thoroughgoing treatment of the necessity of church membership. I hope Wiki is reliable enough on this for the Roman Catholics among us.

Being Reformed, I heard the above phrase from somewhere besides from a Roman Catholic, in the latter portion of the link, Calvin is quoted as loosly paraphrasing the originator of the statement, Cyprian where he is quoted as saying:

"He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother."

There, we can all claim that this historical Christian thinking.

"God is looking for those who want to know the truth about Him."

Aye. Aye. Aye.

The problem with most 'Seekers' is that they're deceiving themselves. You cannot be a Seeker if you do not know what you're looking for (how else would you know how to identify what you're looking for?). And if you do know what you're looking for, then you're no longer seeking.

So Seekers do the exact opposite of God wants them to do - they actually try to impose their view of truth on God. i.e. they assume the position of God, because they're the ones deciding what truth is.

And that's exactly why 'Seeker-ism' is so seductive. You get to play God.

Francis,

Can you expound upon your statement in terms of the role of the RCC? For example, do you believe a Methodist or Presbyterian congregation to be an amputated arm, or only a "none?"

To Daron, Francis, et al,

I agree that a Christian cannot be a Christian in isolation. We are made to be Christians in community and will almost certainly slip into arrogance and selfishness when trying to be a Christian by ourselves. I was raised with a certain ecumenical mindset-- I was baptized in my grandparents church as an infant which was a Greek Orthodox Church in good standing with the RCC. I was a member of an Episcopal Church for years, then an Evangelical non-denom church, attended a Baptist church in college and am not a member of an Evangelical Presbyterian Church (formerly PCA and still very conservative). While I certainly agree with the theology of some churches more than others, I think it is important to know the essentials and be able and willing to worship with any congregation that teaches the Gospel.

Hi Austin, is any congregation that "teaches" the Gospel a church?

Here's a quote:

"Both Rome and Protestants claimed to be the true church, each denouncing the other as a false church. Additionally, there were Anabaptists and other sects which condemned both Rome and Protestant congregations as false churches. Today, the problem is exacerbated by a myriad of religious assemblies, all claiming the title of Christ's church. How should a man sift through these conflicting claims? How can he know which church he should join?

The reformers were sensitive to this dilemma, and the creedal formulations of Protestants addressed the issue in a strongly pastoral manner. The creeds hearken back to those basic issues we have already examined: the way of worship, and the way of salvation. From scripture, the reformers concluded that we should look for three basic marks to identify the true church: 1 the preaching of the gospel, 2 the proper administration of the sacraments, 3 the right exercise of church discipline. Where these three marks are clearly present, we may rest assured we have found the church of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Further explanation can be found here.

Church membership is a necessary element of Church disclipline, if one can show up [or not] on his own whim with no submitting to the shepherds, they are not in church, they are vagabonds.

Gods never asked us humans to build religion. Many believe that religion is abused to control the mind of people. Bibles are old. We are new. We are born to live as a human being and not a religious person.

But I do believe there is spiritual parent like our physical parents. And like our physical parents can’t be a religion, nor can our spiritual parents be.

I have faced new definition of my spirit and destiny through a book called

HEAVEN ABOVE THE HEAVENS (by Jamigug)

It’s worth a read.

David,

I believe if you consult the Books of Genesis and Exodus, you will find YHVH asking Abram and Moses, among others, to do exactly that. Fast forward to the end of the gospels, and Jesus (who is also God) issues the Great Commission--once again, asking his followers to establish a religion.

But I guess other than that, God never asked anyone to establish a religion. I wonder if Jamigug has a different memo?

-----

Austin,

I can't speak for Francis, but if you're really wondering what the RCC says about other Christian churches, you might read through Vatican II, in the "Unitatis Redintegratio" section. Covers the "official" Catholic position towards pretty much every other religion, and the degrees of separation between Rome and Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, Reformed, etc.

I came to loathe church in my early teens, and stopped attending with my family as soon as possible.

Far away from any church, Christ regenerated me in early adulthood. I knew first hand the reality of the Christian Faith.

Even then, I still shunned church because I felt I would loose the spiritual vitality I received upon being Regenerated. This was based upon past experiences and "Christians" I rubbed shoulders with.

After a while I gave in and gravitated towards the Charismatic "guitar church" crowd.

During a meeting, a teacher began teaching against the 5 Points of Calvinism. He produced the 5 Points in order to refute them, however it was then that I heard the "technical Gospel" for the first time. After hearing the truth, his refutation seemed ludicrous.

I dropped out and began studying Reformed Theology on my own.

I still shy away from all churches since many are political "Tea Party" types and blatantly Arminian or worse, in my area.

Brad,

Interesting that your quote notes a discrepency between the Reformers and Rome, but then quotes the Reformers on what is necessary for the "true church." Further, churches would disagree on which sacraments are proper...

So which is the true church?

Hi Austin, I dont think the Westminster Divines were overtly stating which sacraments are being administered, but that they were properly administered. By proper adminstration, a theological justification would set the terms for its sacramentology. I dont think that this was supposed to be a defense of which sacraments are administered, but that they must be a part of the normal work of a true church.

As for which is the true church, it is one that preaches the gospel[this isn't just any gospel], it properly administers the sacraments, and it exercises church disclipline[excludes non sheep from the communion] for the her purity. If I'm not settled in my conscience through biblical justification about what sacraments are to be administered it matters less than the belief that the church must be resting on some justifiable ground for what it does attempt to properly administer. In other words, I think they are saying that it's more important that a church perform these three duties, than that they do it perfectly.

To anyone who makes the comment that they don't like organised religion I say simply: "Would you prefer it disorganised?"

How effective can yo be if you are disorganised?

When you think about it, surely only an enemy of a religion would want it disorganised.

:-)

Josh,

I think they prefer religion disorganized for the same reason that small children prefer a house to be disorganized. It gives them more freedom to do as they please. When you have authority, and structures, and rules, and rituals, and lines of succession, and so on, it creates a hierarchy. This desperately offends people who view this as "putting other people between me and God." As if God somehow can't get to them past a Bishopric.

The attraction of a lot of home church, or Bible Christian, or Charismatic beliefs is that it's just the individual and God. It's very easy to feel like you're doing well, when you get to play the legislature, executive, and judiciary of your very own personal "Kingdom of Heaven."

I think it was Chesterton who observed, tongue in cheek, that if someone dislikes the Papacy, they should really be worried about denominational churches where *everyone* is their own pope.

I've seen a fair bit of disorganised religion - it can get very ugly and often ends up more controlling and abusive than any Papacy.

I love the perceived freedom and immediacy of being disorganised, but in the end I think I perform better when organised.

When Christians want to bomb Iran to side with Israel-- and Christianity Today quotes Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachman on a story about KONY 2012 -- (Lord's Reistance Army - leader -) that appears to take those two seriously more than stopping crimes against humanity -- is it any wonder there are NONES, and the godless (check this out?) God save us from those who follow Jesus!! http://www.inlander.com/spokane/article-17576-the-godless.html

Well, Paul... I could almost tell what you were talking about. Good attempt, want to take a couple breaths and give it another try?

Paul, I agree. The "Religious Right" and the "Neo-Conservative" Republicans permanently put an end to my attending church locally. If I didn't know Christ first hand and that he repudiates everything they stand for, I'd be the biggest skeptic.

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

For the OP...

Religion is about finding out what's true - about God, the world, ourselves - and aligning ourselves according to that reality.

Maybe for others...

Religion is a habit of thought that helps them make their way through their lives.

Maybe the OP's take on religion is actually an example of such a habit of thought - one that includes a constituant habit - the habit of saying This is really true.

RonH

Ron,

Maybe there's an alien starship parked on the dark side of the moon. Do you have any specific, persuasive reasons behind your speculation? Or is this more of a "What if?" as if the rest of us were too ossified in the brainpan to consider such a possibility?

If "spirituality" is in any way connected to "relationships" then some kind of organization will become necessary, if only for the sake of co-ordination of activities in a peaceful manner.

"Spirituality" entails learning how to love ourselves, and others as we love ourselves.

Learning to love others is intrinsically connected to "relationships".

It is desirable to co-ordinate activities in a peaceful manner.

Therefore, it is desirable to have some mode of organization associated with "spirituality".

What then is religion if it is not organization?

Organizations can be flawed either by the flaws of the people who belong to it or by systemic problems, such as regulations that are unwieldy, unnecessarily complex, unjust, contradictory, or incomplete, or by directional problems that pollute the corporate mission and culture. All of the "or"s in the preceding sentence are NOT exclusive "or"'s.

That is more simply said by the following:
Religion entails organization, and organizations can be flawed in many ways. But all of these flaws can be boiled down to human error. A healthy organization is always willing to honestly examine itself, and to continuous improvement. This entails a corporate culture that seeks to enhance the life of every one of its members.

So, it naturally follows from all of this that a healthy religion will promote the ultimate well-being of each of its members. That being the case, one might even consider such a religion to be enlightened.

One might also ask, "Who is the source of this enlightenment", that is to say, do our minds somehow produce light out of darkness or is there some great light that shines into our minds from somewhere beyond ourselves.

How can we evolve spiritually beyond being jealous, murderous beasts?

But, these are obviously outside the scope of this blog, so, I cease and desist herewith.

God bless you all! :-)

"But, these are obviously outside the scope of this blog, so, I cease and desist herewith."

Hi TomP., no so say I.

However, I suspect many of "the nones" are rejecting objective truth and God's authority over their lives for subjectivism and their own definition of spirituality.

Don't kid yourselves, you all are living in a way you think your personal god(read: you) want(s), and everyone else is wrong.

NZO,

And you know this how?

A myriad of ways, and I've yet to be proven wrong.

What answer would you prefer to refute:

1) 1 bible - tens of thousands of sects interpreting it however they wish.

2) The overuse of the No True Scotsman fallacy, whereas Christians invariably claim that someone, or a group of people, "were never real Christians".

3) How you don't actually follow the bible, as it's impossible to do so given the blatant contradictions in it; so you pick and choose what you like - that's your "god".

NZO,

You've interviewed all 2.1 billion Christians extensively and personally to ascertain these universal truths? You've read the entire Bible, cover to cover, and consulted the appropriate contextual sources to interpret it in an effort to resolve these contradictions? And every single Christian, without exception, has said that "some group of people were never real Christians" (I actually don't see the problem with that, since obviously many people aren't Christians, but I get what you're after). Is that your claim? You've empirically proven all these statements, and are prepared to submit the evidence in some sort of multi-terabyte digital volume, or perhaps a really, really big book?

It seems the blog ate my response 8(

NZO,

That happens sometimes. If you ask Amy, she might be able to recover it so that you needn't re-do it, especially if it was lengthy.

Bennett,

No, I don't really have to interview all the christians to know these things. Is your argument one from incredulity based upon that?

1) Each sect has its own way of interpreting the bible. Do you disagree?

2) Find any freethinker/atheist blog where christians post, and you'll find that fallacy from each and every one. Without fail. However, I did not actually say "every single christian, without exception", did I? I said it was overused... and since my sample is from those that have the confidence to try and convince atheists, I have to assume this happens with most.

Especially things like:

"well, if you're an atheist now, you never were a TRUE CHRISTIAN" <--- happens a LOT

But mostly it's to distance themselves from other sects, or churches, or specific christians.

The problem, of course, is that every one of them reads from the same holy book. (note: not just ANY book is the sole provider of morality, direction, rules, and answers to 2.1 billion people)

3) Err... I can't even express how much of a no-brainer this one is. Do I need to

1) I actually couldn't say how every sect interprets the Bible. I personally don't see why another sect disagreeing with mine means that mine is wrong, though. That's an outsider-looking-in problem, and only valid if all the choices are randomized. Speaking in terms of general literary analysis (stuff we all should have got in high school), I'll tell you this--every human being who reads any book comes away with their own interpretation. So there's as many ways to read the Bible as there are readers. Even better, everyone changes over time. The way I read the Bible now is quite different from how I did as a child, or a younger man. This links into your #3, which is actually a remarkably dense (by which I mean, loaded with meaning) question. Hardly a no-brainer. The Bible is complex, and difficult, and all readers interpret things differently. I would ask, however, whether this has any bearing on larger questions. It's something of a deeper issue, and trying to suss it out without a richer theological and philosophical grounding is akin to trying to understand microbiology before you understand biology before you understand natural science before you understand scholarship. We can get into the deeper stuff later, if we can find a common frame of reference and layer up some greater understanding.

2) I can only offer my condolences to all involved in debates like that. If you're prepared to keep being as pleasant and engaging as you have been so far, I can try to do likewise, and maybe we'll have a more productive discussion?

3) See 1

You don't see the problem with people 'interpreting' what they see as The Word of God? Shouldn't there be ONE way to read it, and that's "god's will"?

Again, the bible seems fairly straightforward, and itself has no instruction manual on how to read, or interpret it, in any way other than a direct reading.

2) Condolences? Why?

NZO,

If it had an instruction manual, people would all interpret that differently. If you study linguistics or literature much, you'll find that this is just how life works.

God didn't make robots. If he could make us all read a book exactly the same way, why not just control our every move? That's the level of mind control you're talking about. It's not a rational expectation.

Now, that said, I am Catholic and thus believe in the authority of the Church hierarchy to "referee" disputes on meaning, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So there is, in fact, a solution to your problem of "what the heck is up with all these Protestant sects going at one another's throats about differences of theological opinion?" I agree that that is problematic, and it's part of what made me sign up for RCIA classes. If you're just throwing darts at a board and hitting random interpretations, then the multiplicity is a pretty big issue. If you're getting in there and considering the explanations on their own merits, then it becomes more clear.

As to the condolences--it sounds like a lot more heat than light was generated in those exchanges. People were quarrelling, by the sound of it, rather than offering reasonable arguments or trying to befriend one another. Am I misreading it? Doesn't seem like you or anyone else had much fun, or tried genuinely to better one another, but I could be wrong.

The problem is we "think" that people interpret things differently. But we aren't looking at the parts of the bible that the do that with.

I have asked a lot of people that I know what the following passage says:

'Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'

and I have yet to hear someone say that Jesus is saying there are many ways to the father.

Now granted, there are a lot of side issues with this, such as, "Did Jesus really say this?" and "You can't believe the bible because of all the 'other' contradictions.", but the core is not really up for interpretation.

It might not accept it, but you can't mistake what it says.

Most people want to deal with the side issues and linger in the mud then deal with the real core issue.

People make excuses rather then arguments. They dismiss rather then research. Not because it's not true, but because they don't want it to be.

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