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User:Mendel/Religion

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Most of you know that I've no problem expressing my convictions in non-religious terms. On this page, I'm outlining my basic beliefs that connect them to Christian theology, as the topic comes up on chat or wiki occasionally. I'm open to expanding the article where needed, so please ask, comment and criticize!

Is the bible god's way of telling people what to do?[edit | edit source]

For centuries of oral and written tradition, countless people have found the stories in the bible important enough to pass on; the community shaped by them has stayed alive, more or less successfully, for over 4000 years. The bible is a body of "research notes" on the meaning of life: what is the right thing to do? My experience is that doing my own research, finding out for myself what the right thing to do would have been (or, ideally, is) in situations that give me trouble, tallies with what's written there. In its role as a guide to living "right", the bible isn't a recipe: it doesn't set external standards that you can follow and, as a consequence, live well. As I piece together the puzzle of my life, it's nice to find confirmation in the bible: to see that other people have come to the same conclusions I did, before me. (But if I can't come to the same conclusion on my own, I can't really be sure I've understood.) Corollary: if your beliefs contradict the bible, you can be pretty sure you're wrong (maybe about the bible, though).

Does god exist?[edit | edit source]

The fact that we have free will means we can't know: certainty in this matter would remove all moral ambiguity, and hence limit our freedom to things that don't really matter. It's one of the first stories in the bible: how mankind, as it learns to discern right from wrong, is expelled from paradise and learns to suffer (no suffering like knowing somebody could have made it better). That's the reason why god makes Jesus be 100% human. There's just not going to be a "big sign from heaven" that makes you believe. There isn't belief without doubt.

Yet, why is it that if we seek an answer silently and diligently within ourselves, we can often see what is right, even if it's not comfortable; why is it that people are nice to us without being compelled to; why does love exist? To me, these are signs that god exists (not proof, I know!); the fact that every human has the power to listen within and find out what is right means that god has the power to move every human, and thus accomplish everything that actually matters.

God acts in this world through people; this is the only way he acts; and that means we will never be able to decide if god exists, or whether people "just are that way". But if we want to talk about this special way that people are; if we want to tell others what makes us do things we don't really have a reason to but which feel right nonetheless; if we want to share these experiences with each other, then we can use the name for it that people have been using for ages: we can say that we have encountered god. (But it's not mandatory.)

Why is it so hard to be a Christian?[edit | edit source]

We all know of some self-professed Christians who don't seem to act with all that much of Christian love. If you've tried it yourself and expected a magical change that turns your life for the better, you were probably disappointed. Well, that's partially because of what I said above: it's still a tough job figuring out what's right or wrong, even with the help of other people and the "hint book". It's also the way the religion has been set up.

At the beginning of the New Testament, there's a key scene where the "devil" tempts Jesus. At this point in life, Jesus has had an education unrivalled in his society. He was a smart kid (Arguing religion with priests at an early age), and his parents took him to Egypt at an early age, where he no doubt learned a lot. Having come back home, he no doubt felt he could achieve anything he wanted. As his arrival in Jerusalem on Easter showed, he probably could have set himself up as the leader who drove the Romans from the land; with what he knew, he could have become rich and famous. He didn't feel that was to be the meaning of his life, though. He took the hard road because he felt he was able to make more of a difference that way, even though it meant that he ultimately failed at life: it is that failure that Christians worship every time they look to the cross.

Christians worship this failure because is at the same time the symbol of ultimate belief: to accept that "if my life is to have meaning, I need to die now" means to conquer an enormous load of doubt. It expresses a strength of belief that few have reached since. Jesus' life is a standard that nobody can live up to: if you try, you already know you can't succeed; and if you don't try, you'll have doubly lost. (Meet a complacent Christian and you'll know they have failed). The Lord's prayer asks for forgiveness for our sins (failures) as a matter of fact; it's a given that everybody fails.

Why am I a Christian?[edit | edit source]

I believe even though it means I must fail because that it is the only way my life can have meaning. It is the only satisfactory explanation why I have been put here. It is the only lasting way to tackle and overcome my doubts and fears. The meaning of my life doesn't change because it it's tough and demanding of me; I can't choose another if it doesn't suit me, much as I couldn't choose another set of laws of physics.

I don't use god when talking to people about right and wrong because that's just a name that doesn't help us much to relate to what is going on; it's more likely to confuse than help these days. I don't even use it in my thinking much; my convictions are my very own, I didn't get them out of a book, and if I could only think about them in the terms of that book, they wouldn't really be mine.

If I'm about the meaning of life in general, why do I identify myself as a (protestant) Christian? Partly it's tradition (it's the faith I grew up with). Partly it is recognizing that my beliefs about life make me one. My belief about death, too: I don't know what happens to my soul when I die, this might be the only life I have, so I've got to make it count.

It's the only way to become happy and not be ignorant.