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Senate Understanding Christianity

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ghost, Dec 24, 2012.

  1. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Oct 13, 2003
    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. :D

    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?
    Estelita and Sarge like this.
  2. Lowbacca_1977

    Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 28, 2006
    This is something I've seen a lot, although from a different perspective. I'm fairly used to seeing/hearing the arguments that atheists can't be moral without god (I'd not be surprised if some of the other more different religions get similar complaints) that tend to then involve people saying things like "If you don't believe in god, why don't you go murder and rape people". To me, that sort of question seems to imply that they don't think the morals they taught make any sense, but that they do that stuff because they fear the consequences if they don't. It seems emblematic that there seems to be a vocal group that don't have the concept of WHY the morality is good (in some cases, anyway, there's elements of religious morality I disagree with) based on how it helps yourself and others, and it's treated more as an arbitrary rule set.
    Arawn_Fenn likes this.
  3. Arawn_Fenn

    Arawn_Fenn Force Ghost star 7

    Jul 2, 2004
    To "fear of Hell" and "greed for Heaven" I would add "lack of critical thinking" or equivalently "inability to question the beliefs of one's parents".

    PRENNTACULAR VIP star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Dec 21, 2005
    I stopped believing in heaven and hell quite a while ago. Don't really believe in any afterlife these days. Mostly because of the problems you bring up. I like to think that my Christian faith and worldview is much better off because of it.
    Heavy Isotope likes this.
  5. Jabba-wocky

    Jabba-wocky Chosen One star 9

    May 4, 2003

    A) How are you judging what people's motivations are Ghost. Isn't that sort of hard to access?

    B) On what basis are you concluding the afterlife doesn't exist, Penn? What do you make of all the pretty explicit references to it?
    Chromide likes this.
  6. Condition2SQ

    Condition2SQ Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 5, 2012
    Indeed; I find that statement a bit bizarre. I mean, the most seminal Bible verse of all time and the one that most crystallizes the Gospel message--John 3:16--makes explicit reference to it.
  7. LostOnHoth

    LostOnHoth Chosen One star 5

    Feb 15, 2000
    I'm not sure I understand the point of Christianity without an afterlife. Does this mean you don't necessarily believe that Jesus died and was resurrected, ie, you are skeptical of the supernatural aspects of Christianity?
    Chromide likes this.
  8. Jabba-wocky

    Jabba-wocky Chosen One star 9

    May 4, 2003
    Yes, do you at least believe in the resurrection, both ours and that of Jesus?

    PRENNTACULAR VIP star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Dec 21, 2005
    LoH, the point would be living what the kind of lives that Jesus says he came to make accessible: full/abundant/eternal lives.

    Concerning the after life, I shouldn't say I don't believe in an afterlife. More accurately, I'm just apathetic about it and skeptical. The Bible clearly expresses that God has intention and a plan concerning the course of the universe, and this plan centers on him "reconciling the world to himself". Beyond that, the Bible is pretty vague. Some people die and some people live, and aren't given detailed explanations about what exactly that process is. So I just don't worry about it.
  10. Jabba-wocky

    Jabba-wocky Chosen One star 9

    May 4, 2003
    Not to press the issue, but that's only the opening of a pretty long and explicit passage about stuff after death, and how exactly it ties into everything else the religion is about. I guess I'm not sure how to reconcile "all men most miserable" with your apparent indifference. How do you make sense of all these things?
  11. timmoishere

    timmoishere Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 2, 2007

    This pretty much sums it all up.
  12. Souderwan

    Souderwan Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Jun 3, 2005
    In my observation, there are two related components of Christianity--the mythology of Christ and the philosophy of Christ.

    The mythology of Christ includes the virgin birth and associated "Christmas story", miracles, crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, divinity, trinity, etc. The philosophy of Christ is the sum of his teachings and the demonstration of his life philosophy in some of his interactions with the establishment as told throughout his mythology.

    It has been my experience that it is critically important to the church and those who "believe" that you wholeheartedly accept the mythology of Christ. They latch on the phrase "I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one cometh unto the father but by me" as primary evidence of how critical this particular component of being a Christian is. In many churches, the mythology of Christ is the primary focus of the teachings and the indoctrination of this mythology into children and repetition of this indoctrination into adults is more important than the philosophy of Christ. Indeed, I remember learning in Church at a young age how it didn't matter what you did or what you said--only what you believed. That Jesus (God) knew your heart and so if you sinned against him in your heart, you were doomed to the eternal pits of damnation and what-have-you.

    So I grew up believing in the mythology of Christ. But also in the irrationality of Christ. I imagined a hell full of perfectly fine and upstanding people who did everything that Jesus espoused that we should do--love one another, be a good Samaritan, do unto others only what we would have done to ourselves, turn the other cheek,do not judge one another, etc--but simply didn't accept Jesus as their lord and savior, for one reason or the other. I also imagined a heaven full of murders, rapists and thieves who accepted the mythology but never behaved in a way commensurate with it. The whole thing reeked of irrationality.

    Of course, the more educated you are, the more difficult a time you have with defending the mythology of Christ. The problem becomes much more difficult when you take on the full text of the Bible as defensible. As with all mythology, there are fantastical tales and logical inconsistencies abound. Jefferson famously described the Jesus' philosophy with respect to the bible as pearls on a pile of dung. While I may not personally adopt such strong language, there is wisdom in it.
    Darth_Invidious likes this.
  13. Lowbacca_1977

    Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 28, 2006
    Just a brief reminder that this should be more about discussing Christianity than trying to dismantle or attack it, and that posts need to be more than just posting images/links.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  14. Souderwan

    Souderwan Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Jun 3, 2005
    While you may or may not be directing a part of that reminder at me, upon re-reading my post, it didn't capture an important part of what I wanted to say and came across as entirely negative. So I shall clarify.

    What I was hoping to point out is that to many, being a Christian means subscribing to the mythology of Christ, first and foremost, and philosophy of Christ as an afterthought. When those two come in conflict, the mythology wins out.

    I am a Christian who holds no value in the mythology of Christ. To me, none of that is relevant in the end. The message is far more important than the messenger. I neither require nor desire that Christ be divine or imbued with supernatural powers or have come to Earth through remarkable means to appreciate the wisdom of his teachings and apply them to my daily life.
    Darth_Invidious and DarthBoba like this.
  15. Rogue_Ten

    Rogue_Ten Chosen One star 7

    Aug 18, 2002
    but... "the message", the whole manifest "point" of the religion and its texts, is "believe in jesus' resurrection and identity as the son of the creator of the universe and you get to live forever" - inherently "mythological" in nature. maybe you mean you like some of the secondary philosophy about being nice to people and striving for peace and social justice that came out of it in some select, generally only barely adhered to (if at all) strains of interpretation?

    but you've devoted your working life to a machine and an organization that carries with it the potential to end all life on the earth so you have a pretty funny way of showing it...?
  16. darthcaedus1138

    darthcaedus1138 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Oct 13, 2007
    God is

    All Knowing
    All Caring (Loving)
    All Powerful

    but Evil exists. And God does not actively seek to stamp it out. There seems to be no reason why God would allow Evil to plague the Earth UNLESS

    One of those first three things isn't valid. God works for 2 out of 3 perfectly fine. But not all 3. He can be all knowing and all caring, but not all powerful, which means he can't do anything about it. He could be all caring and all powerful, but if he doesn't know all things that happen he's ignorant to the evils of the world. He can be all knowing and all powerful, but if he doesn't give a damn then he's not going to do anything.

    An argument could be made for free will, that God granted us free will and let us go on our way. But free will is not an excuse for letting Evil get as far as it has, since in the Biblical sense it's a separate entity (The Devil, Satan) that God chose not to eradicate or limit to any large extent. Free will also flies in the face of the purported 'plan' that God has for everyone. If we have free will, then why does God have a predestined plan for us? A Godly plan for us and free will don't exactly coexist very well.

    So, for my money, God is either incompetent or does not exist.

    Other questions to ponder:

    Why does God allow other religions to exist? Are all religions valid? Just one?

    If just one, why make it so difficult and, well, improbable that most people would get to that one?

    If God exists, does Satan then automatically exist? Does an evil entity need to exist?

    What does God need with a starship?

    Can I get an amen?
    BUZZINHARD and timmoishere like this.
  17. Arawn_Fenn

    Arawn_Fenn Force Ghost star 7

    Jul 2, 2004
    Those places exist in real life! However, they are both America. Hell is America as atheists experience it: a place where all the rewards go to the worst people, and those of moral character always finish last.
  18. rhonderoo

    rhonderoo Former Head Admin star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Aug 7, 2002
    Brian, I grew up in a religion very similar (protestant Christian, of the southern variety....). As a child and young adult, the mythology was more important than actual actions, morals and behaviors. In all honesty, it's probably what made agnostic, to the chagrin of all of my family - immediate and extended. As I grew older and was exposed to more, I grappled with the concept that good people would go to "hell". My indoctrination was always, no matter what, about belief. Anyone, no matter how good, that didn't believe and "accept" Jesus as their lord and savior would perish in eternal damnation. This meant that if they didn't partake in the act of baptism (Immersion!!!) literally... they were damned. Pretty small minded, if you asked me. Not only that, but my particular branch of Protestantism picked and chose pieces of the bible to the point that hypocrisy became all too easy to spot. They could explain why pets wouldn't go to heaven, why children of a certain age got a pass (down to the age), and why we shouldn't marry Catholics or dance. There was always a feeling of doing it to "go to heaven". To this day, when I rarely discuss my beliefs with those in that circle, the question is always, "What about heaven? Don't you want to go to heaven? Shouldn't you believe, just in case?"

    I haven't let go of my faith of an all-encompassing presence completely, but I cannot call myself a Christian anymore. Mostly due to the Church and/or organized religion. My opinion of Jesus, the man, is one of admiration and I do think he was a great man... and I also think most "Christians" that I grew up with, or were familiar with... would dislike him and consider him a liberal hippie. ;)
  19. Mar17swgirl

    Mar17swgirl Force Ghost star 7

    Dec 26, 2000
    God gave us free will. He loves us so much and so perfectly, that He completely respects our choices in life, even if those choices are evil. Yes, He could actively "make us better" - but that would destroy our free will (we could no longer choose freely, because we wouldn't be able to choose evil). Of course He wants us to be good, but He wants us to be good on our own free choice. And if we choose evil, He respects it, even if He doesn't like it and it pains Him.

    You mention Satan, but you seem to forget that Satan is not God's equal - The "God = Greatest Good, Satan = Greatest Evil" duality does not belong in Christianity. Satan is only a fallen angel - he chose evil, because angels, too, have free will. But he is not God's equal, and in the end, he will be destroyed, as we believe.

    And regarding God's plan for every one of us - this doesn't clash with free will at all. Yes, God may have a plan with each of us, but each of us can still choose freely whether we want to learn it and follow it, or not (like, if you're going on a trip somewhere, and your friend gives you a map, you can still throw it away and choose your own way). And God will respect our choice.
  20. DarthLowBudget

    DarthLowBudget Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Jan 17, 2004
    Getting back to the point of the OP, I think you've got a grip on something that is a major current in Christianity, but it isn't at all new. It goes all the way back to the middle ages and beyond. The Catholic Church was founded out of political expediency, and for a long time it maintained its power through the manipulation of noble family lines and monarchies and the selling of plenary indulgences. Not saying that has anything to do with the basic philsophy of christ, but as an institutional structure, the "fear of hell/greed for heaven dynamic" was the rule rather than the exception.
  21. Jabba-wocky

    Jabba-wocky Chosen One star 9

    May 4, 2003
    On what basis are you arguing this? Isn't pretty much half the current topic of this thread (and the majority of the objections non-believers herein have raised to the religion) about God's "actively stamping out evil?" Isn't that sort of the whole point of Hell?
  22. Arawn_Fenn

    Arawn_Fenn Force Ghost star 7

    Jul 2, 2004
    ^ This, by the way, answers the recurring question about the role of destiny in SW.
  23. Souderwan

    Souderwan Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Jun 3, 2005
    Not true.


    rhonderoo: I hear what you're saying. I always find it interesting the various interpretations of Christ that are out there. It took me a while to come back to saying that I'm a Christian because of my disgust with the organized church(es). But I've decided to reclaim the term for my own purposes. I'm a follower of Christ's teachings and to me, that makes me a Christian.
  24. Rogue_Ten

    Rogue_Ten Chosen One star 7

    Aug 18, 2002
    i suggest you check yo bible, son
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  25. Souderwan

    Souderwan Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Jun 3, 2005
    I've read the bible cover to cover. And I've done plenty of reading outside of the bible. I'm plenty versed, thanks. Good luck in your own studies, kid