The kind of religion I reject

I accept that God is real, and necessary for the Abrahamic religions to make sense. But I reject the sort of religion that insists on having a heavy burden of proof. Psalm 145:18 says that God is near to all who call on him, meaning that we do not have to dogmatically hold to particular doctrines to have a relationship with God. There are philosophical issues as well, if God is omnipotent, and all loving, he would wish to make his message as easy to accept as possible. This is perhaps my biggest problem with Christianity, that it insists that the resurrection of Christ must literally have happened. I am also not dogmatic about the immortality of the soul, free will and other such doctrines.

Thoughts?

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Dear Reggie,
I agree with you 100%. Jesus taught us to create a personal relationship with God and you really do not need anything more than that.

Matt 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

All of the manmade churches and doctrines are superfluous when it comes to this key relationship.

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Hello Reggie,

Judaism (The Law of Moses, etc.) is the Abrahamic religion is it not? As a religion, Judaism mandated animal sacrifices that pointed to Jesus who was the final sacrifice for man’s salvation and redemption for once and for all. The death of Christ that freed us from the debt from our sins is the fulfillment of Judaism and its laws (Matthew 5:17). Hence the New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ.

As for God’s keeping things as simple as possible, didn’t Paul in the New Testament inform us of his keeping the gospel message as simple as possible by staying with the basic truth that Christ was crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)?

Is it not written (documented) that the truth sets free (John 8:32)? The precepts of the Christian New Testament gospel is truth that reveals our hope and guides us in the pursuit of it, not man-made dogma that unnecessarily burdens (1 Corinthians 2:4). If Jesus’ resurrection is only burdensome fiction then the whole plan of salvation revealed in the Old and New Testaments would be a worthless tale that would leave us literally without hope. Neither would you or I have hope for resurrection.

The fact that we have free will and immortal souls destined to live beyond this life lines up with reality. Is dying like a dog only to go into oblivion our hope? Can we live this life with meaning without hope (1 Corinthians 15:19)? Biblical hope including the gospel is too precious to take lightly. It is only by this hope that we have meaning in life and help for enduring the hardships of this present fallen life.

No. We don’t want to add burdensome unnecessary dogma to the gospel.

Earl

Resurrection of the dead shows up in the Tanakh too, see 2 Kings 4:8-37.

The point I was trying to make was that we do not need a belief in the immortality of the soul to believe that life after death is possible through a physical resurrection.

Well this is a repack of the Divine hiddenness argument.
Most of it is dependent on premise one of the argument: 1. If a loving God exists, everyone who wants to be in a relationship with him or her will be able to do so.

God’s omniscience has very little to do with it. It’s the all loving part that it relies on.
And we can only know the things he has revealed to us. This whole argument in a sense is us trying to understand the reasoning of an omniscient being. (Which is dubious in my opinion.)

There are several objections to premise one:

Freedom of choice (You’ll have to grant free will)
Christians believe that God wants a relationship with us. And that he wants us to consciously make a choice. If he would reveal himself then we would practically be forced to believe in him.
He wants people to respond out of love and not out of fear of his existence.
Reminded of Jesus his words : “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

God might have different goals
God might (Id say does due to our wicked ways) want to cultivate a different character in all of us.
He wants us to come to him with pure motives. Not selfish or impure motives such as pride or personal gain. Pascale wrote: “Thus it is not only right but useful for us that God should be partly concealed and partly revealed, since it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness as to know his own wretchedness without knowing God.”

Time
We only address the present in this premise. But doesn’t fully take in consideration the future.
What if God has other reasons to defer revealing himself fully to us? Perhaps it has to be deferred until we reach a certain kind of maturity? A good analogy would be a baby and a mother.
The direct relationship is withheld until birth to allow further growth.
So perhaps this world serves another purpose that God has in mind, and thus makes it harder for us to reach a deep and direct relationship with God. Per Paul: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Most theists believe in an afterlife. And this earthly life devoid of a true relationship with God is just a tiny moment compared to eternity knowing him. An eternal punishment in Hell is also used as extra weight to the argument. Since an all loving God would never send someone to Hell. This has several objections but my personal objection is that there’s a growing amount of people who don’t accept that the Bible teaches such a thing. I don’t accept it.

We might reasonably wonder why God has made reality to be as it is. Why it isn’t easier for us to find him. But i can’t call it a strong argument just because we cannot begin to think we can understand divine psychology. I could see personal doubts about it.
Your issue with the resurrection is a difficult one. It is indeed true that there is no Christianity without the resurrection. But we can’t change reality. Either you accept it or you don’t. And if you don’t i’d say you hold the Jewish beliefs more. I’d say Free will is also quite important. The soul less so.
Hope what i’ve said was at least a bit of use!

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The kind of religion I reject…

First of all there are different levels of rejection depending on whether they do harm to others or do harm to its members, whether that harm is objectively measurable, or it is simply something I see no value in for me personally.

So… I reject these types of religions:

  1. Religions which violate the principles of a free society. Some religions are clearly incompatible with a free society such as those which practice human sacrifice.
  2. Religions which make claims which are inconsistent with the findings of science. Rejecting these doesn’t mean I restrict myself to what can be supported in any way by the findings of science, only that religions I accept do not contradict what the objective evidence has actually shown.
  3. Religions with logical inconsistencies. For the most part this is somewhat unlikely. All it generally takes is an alteration of the basic premises to make a religion logically consistent.
  4. Religions which rely on principles which are inconsistent with those by which people live their lives in a free society. Even if this doesn’t promote behavior incompatible with the principles of a free society, it is still a rational disconnect with everyday life. When the disconnect touches on matters of morality then it is likely that this religion does harm in the moral confusion it generates.
  5. Religions which contradict the reasons why I believe in religion in the first place. This purely a matter of what I am going to find value in for me personally. To run through the consequences of these quickly…
    a. this would include religions which deny a nonphysical aspect to reality.
    b. this would include religions which deny human free will or deny that our essence is a product of our own choices.
    c. this would include religions which believe in an excessive amount of violation of the laws of nature.
    d. this would include religions which deny the role of choice and faith in what we believe.
    e. this would include religions which insist that its claims are perfectly objective.
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Dear Mitchell,
That is a detailed list! Mine is simple: none.

For me religion = doctrine > (leads to) indoctrination = sin against spirit.
Best wishes, Shawn

I don’t deny that God and the angels are non-physical (so I don’t deny there is a spiritual realm), I just reject the ‘dogmatic’ adherence to the immortality of the soul (or the insistence that humans have a spiritual body at all) as unnecessary. This is not to say I reject it out of hand, I see it as a possibility that it exists, but not a fundamental of faith.

When I said free will, I meant libertarian free will. I lean towards belief in compatibilist free will (which I think is compatible with even the most fatalistic worldview). Again, I won’t rule out existence of libertarian free will, but to be painfully honest, I really don’t care. My faith could survive with either worldview.

Both of these are in the category of rejection which refers only to me personally. Just because these contradict my own reasons for believing doesn’t provide any objection to other people finding value in them.

a. The belief in a spiritual existence is essential for my own religious belief. And this enables me to connect solidly with Christianity and the Bible because of Paul’s clear affirmation of this in 1 Cor 15. It answers both my feeling that the mathematical laws of physics are not the absolute ground of reality and my feeling that our essence is our own creation. I don’t use the pagan word/notion of the “soul” and the spirit is not absolutely immortal or imperishable. The spirit can die due to its own chosen nature, and it is only the resurrected spirit which is imperishable.

b. I am solidly in the libertarian incompatibilist category and this derives from my most basic experience of existence. I have no use whatsoever for religion or philosophy which contradicts this. I acknowledge the serious philosophical problems with the idea of free will, but I believe these are answerable.

It’s interesting that you equate religion with sin against spirit. Over time, you’ve expressed many clear cosmogonical beliefs, you share your beliefs with a group of like-minded people (not necessarily on this site), your beliefs shape and direct your daily choices and moral code, and you have opinions about other religious and spiritual traditions. All these things are part of the human experience we call religion.

I’m not saying it’s bad thing to have beliefs or to use those beliefs to shape our choices. We all do it, and we probably couldn’t cope with life otherwise.

I’m just saying it’s doubtful your own belief system is something so beyond religion that it wouldn’t be called a religion. Even the religions that call themselves “the One True Religion” are still human religions.

To say that all religion is a sin against spirit is actually a pretty strong doctrinal statement.

Dear Jennifer,
Every religion that I have be introduced to has a “we believe…” statement, but enforce them differently. Not every one indoctrinates their members through creeds and other methods, but it is indoctrination that is a sin against the spirit.
Best Wishes, Shawn

Indeed! And it describes a religion far more restrictive and exclusive than I could support. The only sin I believe in are self-destructive habits (both of thought and action) and this certainly does not include the practice of teaching religious precepts to others. I mean, personally, I don’t think religion is of much value unless it is the result of personal exploration and discovery. But that is a far cry from Shawn’s idea of sin. Reminds me of a sermon I once listened to which gave the example of making a sin out of wearing red socks. To me it just sounds like an empty excuse for self-righteousness and denouncing the other people.

Hi Shawn,

Yes, every religion has “we believe” statements. But don’t you yourself have some clear, definite “I believe” statements?

If your point is that indoctrination is the problem, then I’d probably agree with you (depending on your definition and understanding of indoctrination). However, you phrased your original point with equal signs that are, well, equal! So in your post, you equated all religion with sin against spirit. If this was not your point, please clarify.

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You’re not making a sly reference to our illustrious Canadian Prime Minister, who is known for his colourful socks during public appearances, are you? (Not to worry, I jest.)

I, too, cannot support such a restrictive definition of how to understand our relationship with God. In particular (based partly on my experience working in a lay capacity in the mental health field and based partly on my research into the neuroscience of the brain-soul nexus), I’ve seen the damage to lives when individuals embrace restrictive, exclusive, dualistic cosmogonies.

Medicine has long held the ethical precept of “do no harm.” I wish more religious traditions in the world today would accept this same ethical stance with regard to how the brain is actually wired and how our major belief systems can affect the brain’s function.

I have no issue with religion per se because, when done well, it can provide important functions not met by other institutions in our society. I do, however, have a problem with specific doctrines that I’m pretty darn sure can damage the brain – and therefore damage our ability to be in relationship with God while we’re here as human beings.

It goes without saying (based on historical and current news accounts) that religious leaders quite often miss the mark by a wide margin. That’s why we need transparency and accountability in all our religious streams and schools.

Dear Jennier,
God has been sending prophets (the spirit of truth) and spiritual pioneers since the beginning. Each has attempted to teach some part of the Truth of God. Jesus only taught for three short years and was often misunderstood by His apostles. He was unable to teach the entire Truth of God. He promised to keep sending the spirit of truth to teach more about God, Heaven and the Kingdom of God. He did this because He knew that people were not enlightened enough yet to bear the weight of everything He wanted to teach.

Jesus didn’t teach about religion and He only spoke of the church in the Kingdom of God. He said it was built on the rock solid faith of Peter, and it was in our hearts. The Kingdom of God has one Church that teaches one Truth.

For these two reasons, I cannot accept any manmade religion that is based on an interpretation of incomplete information and exists in this world. Buddha, Jesus, Origen and Zwingli did not come to create a new religion. They came to lead us to a higher level of enlightenment so we can comprehend the truth of God.

Best Wishes, Shawn
BTW, I edited my previous post to remove the equality of doctrine and indoctrination.

So you don’t consider Judaism a religion? Because Jesus spent a lot of time not only talking about it, but living it and encouraging others to do the same - not that all nations and peoples must become Jewish, but that he is the fulfillment (not the abolisher) of God’s program earlier carried on through the nation of Israel. We don’t hear later apostles trashing religion(s) either except when any of them (including their own) become tools of legalism and oppression. We even read James giving a generic litmus test for religion(s!) that consist of … is the tongue bridled? Are the least of these cared for?

None of these sound like religion-rejection to me. Religion in-sufficiency perhaps, but not religion rejection.

So your last paragraph I think at least comes near the truth:

While I can appreciate (and even think this way myself) that following the Truth is not just another religion, there is nonetheless an arrogance entailed in our refusal to acknowledge that we ourselves are evaluators of everyone else and stand outside their mere participation in various parochial religions as we alone objectively evaluate them from our unique and transcendent platform above all of theirs.

Because the above expressed arrogance is the rallying cry of … every true proselyte of every religion or outlook ever! [including those embroiled in Scientism or anti-religionism] Instead it becomes us to reach for an attendant humility of recognizing how we ourselves are seen by those who consider themselves outsiders to what we embrace, and to acknowledge that yes, what we have does generally carry the label of “religion”, even while it may deny that label for itself. Lewis has it right, I think, when he observes that while a man is busy being religious, he doesn’t think of it as religious because he is too busy doing it. But I think Lewis would also acknowledge that such a man, if in any contact with world or culture whatsoever, would not shrink from the self-reflective knowledge that what he himself is doing/believing is seen as religious participation by others and even by himself in later reflective moments.

In a final paradoxical thought about this, I think it fair to think that the significance of the Incarnation may lie in its intrusive and revolutionarily subversive invasion into all our cultural systems and religions. And as such a transcendent act (which qualifies as arrogance were it not God) it [the incarnation] yet has the attendant humility to not only make room for other religious participation, but even to gently let itself be considered “just another of all these religions” by those who have yet to see it otherwise.

[I think the above paradox is resolved when the true believer comes into his or her own in the presence of Christ and takes up without shame or obnoxious pride the “arrogance” of surety and conviction that everybody inevitably has regarding their own grasp of whatever truths they are convinced about.]

Yes, Judaism is the prefect example of a religion, because as you rightly say, had Judaism taught the truth about Jesus, it would no longer exist today, they would all be Christian. Jesus did not teach Judaism, he disagreed with their interpretation of the texts and violated their laws.The apostles were teaching the new covenant which conflicted with Judaism. I try not to bash religions, and suggest that, taken as a whole, they can lead to the truth by following the common themes and eliminating the conflicting teachings.

That isn’t right. He did privilege the Spirit of the law over the letter - you’ll get no argument from me there. But in Matthew 23:2 we read of the perfect chance for Jesus to repudiate Judaism entirely. And repudiate he did, but not the religion - only those who were failing to catch on to its Spirit. My paraphrase: They sit in the seat of Moses, so do what they say, but don’t do what they do.

That isn’t a rejection of Judaism. The apostles weren’t toying with throwing out Judaism entirely. They were on the other end of that spectrum, wrestling over how seriously and completely Judaism should be imposed on new believers.