We don't agree about everything and that's OK. What we do agree on is the need to carry on the discussion in a civil way.

Before you contribute to a discussion, familiarize yourself with logical fallacies. Ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated.

The goal here is for civil conversation so be nice; no profanity. Anyone who calls another person an idiot will be banned.

Lastly remember, when someone disagrees with your views it does not mean they like you less as a person. If you can't handle being disagreed with then go away.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Orthodoxy or Orthopraxy?

Orthodoxy: Adherence to accepted norms; specifically creeds. In other words "right beliefs."
Orthopraxy: Emphasis on action/activity. In other words "right doing."

Of course beliefs and practices should go hand-in-hand but we're all human and struggle to live the best possible life according to our beliefs. So I'm interested in starting a conversation with you, my readers. What do you think is more important; right beliefs or right actions? Why?

Earlier in my life I interpreted the entire Christian faith and Bible through the lens of Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourself. It is a gift of God." But I no longer just accept what I was taught in church, I've studied and learned how to think, not just what to think.

Ephesians is credited to the apostle Paul; probably the second most influential person in Christianity (after Jesus, of course). But I no longer interpret the Bible through this lens for two main reasons:
1) Paul never met Jesus, he only learned about Jesus from the teachings of his disciples. Jesus' own teaching (up next) contradicts this idea.
2) Most Biblical scholars don't even think Paul wrote Ephesians, that it was written by someone claiming to be Paul. (This is fairly common and immensely interesting. If you want to know more about this, I highly recommend Forged: Writing in the Name of God - Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.)

So what did Jesus teach? After all the Christian faith is about following Jesus and being Christ-like.

When asked what the most important commandment is, Jesus didn't name any of the 10 commandments, he said "Love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind." Followed immediately by "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 23:37-39)

Jesus taught a radical message of love. You can't love anyone by just quietly believing it in your heart and never expressing that love! If your spouse says they love you but they never hold your hand or kiss you good night, you wouldn't feel very loved.

Today, I understand the Bible and more specifically the person of Jesus through the lens of Matthew 25:35-45 "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him 'Lord, when did we see you  hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and cloth you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?' The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (repeat for those who did NOT do these things)

The best part of this description is the people who did the good deeds were surprised to learn this pleased the lord! They didn't care for their fellow man because they expected eternal reward or public recognition, they just did these things because they were the right things to do.

If you profess to love Jesus with all your heart and yet you proclaim the poor deserve their lot and refuse to help them, that is not Christ-like. If you believe Jesus died for your sins but you spend your weekends in strip clubs, that is not following his teachings.

Remember "If you love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15

So there you go, that's my opinion. What's yours?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What I do believe ...

I laid out in my previous post what I don't believe, which basically boils down to everything I was taught in various churches through my life. Many people have wrongly assumed this means I believe nothing, that I've made up my mind and declared there is no God. That's not true.

Yes, I attended the Minnesota Atheist Convention and in many ways my views are aligned with atheism. But there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what atheist means and how it is perceived - atheism like it's counterpart theism is a statement of belief, while agnosticism is a statement of knowledge. I don't believe  in the God taught by the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. I think any attempt to anthropomorphize God are simply human attempts to comprehend the incomprehensible.

There is a Buddhist proverb I think explains how I understand God:
 Several blind men were gathered around an elephant and each of them ran their
 hands over different parts of the elephant. The man who felt the leg declared "an
 elephant is like a tree!" The man who felt the torso declared "an elephant is like a wall!" 
The man who felt a tusk declared "an elephant is like a spear!" The man who felt the trunk
 declared "an elephant is like a snake!"

Each of the world's religions offer truth and beauty and meaning. It's impossible to study other world religions and maintain that yours is the one true religion. I think each religion is humanity's attempt to describe their experience with something numinous. 

I believe the divine can be found within rather than without. I believe the divine can be encountered in the beauty of nature, in the moments of love between people.  I believe any religion that leads you to treat other people with love and compassion is a wonderful religion. I believe any religion that leads you to demean and abuse other people is a bad religion. 

I don't fully know what I believe. I am still searching and I don't think I will ever have a definitive answer, but that's OK with me because I enjoy the search.