Hey everyone. Before the move,the Senate used to have a thread on "Understanding Christianity." It was meant to be a place to clarify misconceptions about Christianity, a place for anyone to ask questions, and a place to have in-depth theological debates too. Since it is Christmas Eve, I thought now would be a good time to bring it back. Please be respectful to everyone. Everyone is welcome: Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Atheists, Agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, those unsure... everyone. Please be respectful of Christian beliefs, and other people's beliefs. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * To start us off, I have a topic that's been bothering me for a long time: "Fear of Hell"/"Greed for Heaven" versus "Loving God" Here's something I just wrote a little earlier tonight... I'm a Christian. I believe in... 1. Jesus's moral teachings. Ex: love, forgiveness, hope, not judging or condemning others, your observance of rituals is not as important as what's in your heart, etc. 2. Jesus's Death on the Cross and his Resurrection. The events of Holy Week (from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday) 3. the Trinity. God is One, but present in 3 persons: The Father... The Son... The Holy Spirit. 4. the Incarnation. Jesus was/is the Incarnation of The Son. 5. Atonement (aka Salvation/Forgiveness/Heaven)... it's a result of Jesus's actions during Holy Week (his death and resurrection), so we can have an eternal life of bliss after death & everlasting union with God and reunion with loved ones (from having followed Jesus's moral teachings). I think those beliefs are shared by the majority of Christians, like most of those in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant branches. (Though I know some Christians, like Mormons, don't believe in the Trinity or the Incarnation in the same way). But I have some less-traditional beliefs too... 1. Equality of all before God * I believe men and women are equal, and gender doesn't matter at all to God, women and men should be treated the same except when it comes to the obvious biological differences, (and by following the logic of gender equality, homosexuality/gay-relations/gay-marriage aren't inherently any more sinful than heterosexuality/heterosexual-relations/heterosexual marriage). * Also, I don't believe God favors any ethnicity/race/people over any other. Of course God can have a special plan for each person, and several people from a similar background can have a lot in common in God's special plan for them (so a people may appear like they share the same plan/destiny or seem favored), but no one is actually inherently favored by God just on account of their ethnicity/race/family. * Except when it comes to sin (which I see more as a sickness to be healed than as a crime to be punished), all are equal before the eyes of God. 2. Truth from God comes in many forms * I don't believe everything in the Bible is meant to be taken literally in the historical/scientific sense, and that science is compatible with Christianity (they mostly deal with separate questions, anyways). I'm fine with Evolution and the Big Bang. And science is always testing/updating their theories. God gave us brains, and the desire for truth. Truth is truth, God brings it to us from many sources, the ultimate source is still from God. 3. Believing in and following Jesus means... believing in and following his message of Love * I believe that following Jesus means following his moral teachings. Not necessarily belief of him as divine or the Messiah or his resurrection. All those who love, truly and selflessly love, will be welcomed by God into Heaven. God is love, and all those who love dwell in God, and God dwells in all those who love. Jesus has provided salvation and eternal life to those who truly love, whether they call themselves Christian or not, because everyone who learns/learned how to truly love is a Follower and Friend of Jesus. * There is good in every person, in life in general, in the universe in general. * Including some good in other religions and philosophies too. There are some concepts that Christians can learn from that would make them better Christians (although of course not everything is compatible). * There doesn't need to be any conflict between the religious/spiritual and atheists either, just respectful disagreement. Being atheist/agnostic or from some different religion/philosophy is not necessarily sinful. * As for "hell," it is the experience of us and our entire life story (with all its flaws, all our dark moments/thoughts/feelings/actions when we thought no one was looking or that no one could mind-read us) becoming instantly known by everyone. And that is contrasted with now knowing the perfection of God, and how far we fell short in life, so we are seeing it all from an objective view, from God's eyes. We are "naked" before the eyes of God, and we burn from our own shame. It's not God punishing or torturing us, it's us coming to terms with the truth of what we did and what we were meant to do. But it doesn't last forever. Eventually, whether it's a moment later or aeons later, we find peace with others and forgiveness with ourselves, through love and the help of God, and our state of mind changes so we can enter "heaven." Still, a lifetime of torture on Earth would be better than a single moment in that "hell." At the same time, there should be no fear of hell. 4. Personal connection to God * Everyone can have a deeply intimate and personal relationship with God on their own, without the aid of a priest or a formal organization. * Although, some people do prefer the aid of a priest or a priest-like figure, and that's not wrong, someone guiding them can help them become personally closer to God too. * Everyone can benefit from interacting with and learning from others with both similar and different beliefs (especially those who study to try and become "experts" in the faith). * Every person has to find which way is best way to help them grow and become a better person. 5. Courage, Love, Faith, and Hope in facing Death * We should have no fear of death. * I strongly believe in God and Heaven. But I also accept there's at least a small possibility that they might not exist. * I strongly believe they do. But even if they don't, I'm at peace with the universe, including death. * Every person, at their core, is good. Life itself, at its core, is good. The universe itself, at its core, is good. These things don't change, even if there is no God or Heaven. * I can't say with complete 100% certainty what Death is, or what comes after, I can just say what I believe. * But whatever the outcome is, I believe it is good. * (1) Eternal, conscious happiness and reunion with loved ones, or; (2) eternal, unconscious, peace and reunion with loved ones (like sneaking into your already-sleeping parents' bed to fall asleep yourself). * Maybe I'm right about believing in God and Jesus and Heaven. * Maybe I'm wrong about believing in God and Jesus and Heaven. * But either way, I'm happy and at peace. So yeah, those are my beliefs. Hope it helps you understand my mindset of what it means to be motivated by "loving God" instead of by "fear of hell / greed for heaven," as I'll get into in a second. (*Though I'm not saying that somebody has to have all of my views in order to be primarily motivated by simply "loving God" instead of fear/greed, I don't mean to imply that at all, it's just to help illustrate my mindset, which I don't think I can describe directly). I understand those latter 5 beliefs aren't exactly traditional Christianity (but I have most of the traditional views too, as written in the first list). I have no problems beings friends with, learning from and debating the more-traditional Christians... as well as Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Baha'i, Sikhs, Confucians, Taoists, etc. In fact, I really enjoy it and look for it! Life would be very boring if we all had identical beliefs But, speaking as a Christian (and I don't mean to offend anyone by saying this), I'm afraid that my religion is plagued with spiritual sickness and in dire trouble. I try to act and be a better person and a better Christian because I love God, and I love other people. But it seems that for many people today, "Fear of Hell" is their driving spiritual force and primary motivator, not "loving God." I can see that many Christians today are really motivated purely because they're afraid of hell. Also, almost always accompanying that fear of hell is selfish desire (greed, really) for heaven. Being driven by fear, and by greed, even if it comes with following the letter of the law (but definitely not the spirit of the law) seems like a spiritual disaster to me. (And that's not even getting into how I don't think some things considered by traditional Christians to be sins are actually sins, but that's another debate). Not only are "fear of hell" and "greed for heaven" being the primary motivators for so many Christians, instead of "loving God," really bad for those people... it's also pushing many people away from Christianity altogether because that's all they associate the religion with. Especially young people (and it's a fact of life that eventually the older generations will pass away...), and it's happening all over the world. Christianity itself, as well as its image, have been poisoned by "fear of hell" and "greed for heaven." Yeah, there's probably always been people whose fear and greed are the primary reasons they're Christian, from the very beginning. But it seems to have already reaching a breaking point, and associated with Christianity as a whole. Many Christians and non-Christians have probably never even realized the distinction I'm talking about. And the result is so many good-hearted people are leaving. And there are those who would have been open to joining a "loving God" Christianity, who will never even consider it because they just don't associate Christianity with that at all, just with the selfishness of fear and greed. Has anybody else even noticed that this is what's been happening? Was anyone else, before reading this post, even able to make this kind of distinction? Or did you never really think about it in this way before... but now that you have, you can clearly see that this is exactly what the problem is that you've never been able to pinpoint before? Do you see this as big as a problem as I do? Or am I just completely wrong about this? General thoughts/opinions about anything I wrote?