Why Go to Church If You Don’t Believe Anymore?

littleguy

I’m a Catholic lapsed and lost, an unaffiliated spiritual seeker. Still, I am drawn to church every year at this time like metal to a magnet. But not just to any church. I am drawn to one of the largest cathedrals in the world, a majestic structure that sits atop one of Manhattan’s highest points, in Morningside Heights. On Good Friday I head from my home in Westchester for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

For years now it has been my practice to go there to walk the Stations of the Cross. That means joining an afternoon crowd that grows as we walk, a crowd drawn to the same place and time, men and women, young and old, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, with evident disabilities or hidden ones. We gather in the back of the church in near silence, shoes shuffling on marble, dwarfed by the soaring ceiling and looming stained glass windows. We will make our way through the steps of Jesus’s crucifixion, carrying a big wooden cross, so big it has to be hoisted on the shoulders of four or five people. One year, I helped carry the cross from the third station to the fourth, surprised by the power of that touch—I felt it physically. This year, I only got to reach and touch the cross before the people at the front had to lower it to enter a room, and I lost my grip.

Our path takes us not to simple representations of the Stations of the Cross, but from side altars to the main altar, through the Great Bronze doors to the Seven Chapels of the Tongues, designed to honor the people from countries far and wide who landed on the shores of Ellis Island when it opened in 1892.

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At each stop, the minister gathers us together and a volunteer reads about the station—one station in English, the next in Spanish—and then we move on. The text is contemporary, about love and loss, sin and goodness; we pray for the sick and the healers, the powerful and the powerless, the good and the evil, for ourselves. We traverse the hidden corners of the cathedral until we arrive at the last station, number 14, where Jesus is laid in the tomb. From there, we move outside to a garden, where we stand in a circle, the cross gone now, face to face with one another.

I am both in the process and outside of it. I believe in something, but not most of this. I hold on because there is some deep comfort and some essential discomfort here. I can’t let go. Why? What draws me year after year?

I don’t believe in Jesus Christ as God any more—or maybe I believe in him as a little piece of God. But I believe that others were, and are, that little piece of God too. The truth is that for me, the way of the cross symbolizes the deepest challenges of life. Jesus surrenders to his fate, to those who misunderstand him, who can see no other path but to annihilate him. He falls three times under the weight of his terrible burdens. The women who know him weep; Veronica dries his bloodied face; his mother crumbles at his feet. He is stripped and shamed, nailed and hung—a long, agonizing death.

It’s gruesome, this crucifixion at which I’ve chosen to be a modern day witness. We’d like to think it’s out of time. It isn’t; people are still being crucified, which makes me even sadder.

Still, I come. But this year, unlike other years (that year when, hope renewed for a time, I wrote a book celebrating what courageous women were doing to change this punishing, patriarchal church), this year, my faith is gone. I can see a time when this awesome church will be an awesome museum, a monument to beliefs long discredited, as alien to future human beings as the gods of Greek mythology are to us. But this journey, this way of the cross, symbolizes for me all of our travails; the people who support us along the way; the heartache our suffering brings to those who love us; the choice we face to meet violence in kind, or to try for mercy—and most importantly, to me, the wrenching doubt that propels Jesus to cry out in his despair: “Father, why have you forsaken me?”

Whatever Jesus was, God or prophet, I thank him so much for acknowledging the big questions: why are death and suffering entwined in human life?  Who would design this? In the end, Jesus resigns himself, commends his spirit to God in faith. Was his faith rewarded? Will ours be? I want to know: how did Jesus really feel when it was over? Was it all worth it? Did he come to life again, not in body (that belief is fast becoming myth even in Christian circles) but in spirit? Will we?

The service finished, I head out of that beautiful garden at the back of the church toward the street, in the rain. But this year I am not ready to go home. This year, as I traveled through the stations, I wanted my mother with me. We used to go to Mass together on Easter Sunday, right up until she died seven years ago.

I feel like my mother is walking with me today, and to return the favor, I decide to go back into the church to light a candle in her memory. I climb the steep stairs to the cathedral and head for the information desk. I’m told it will cost $3 for a candle, an extra $2 if I want a colorful flower decal on it, signifying the cathedral. I go with the decal.

My mother was a headstrong Catholic with her own interpretation of her religion; she took what she wanted and left the rest. She held onto her faith as she raised two children alone after my father died—and after she retired from her clerical jobs she became a painter and a poet.

I head down the aisle toward the first bank of candles. While I’m sure the wall beyond the rack of candles commemorates something meaningful it is too dark to see much and the spot doesn’t draw me. So I keep walking and looking. Then I notice another bank of candles on the other side of the church. A soft light illuminates the wall directly behind the candle rack. A plaque reads: “American Poets Corner.”

I smile. This is perfect.

There are grave-like stones embedded in the floor honoring different American writers, with quotes from each of them. I read, searching for the right words. Then I find them. They belong to Walt Whitman. They say: “I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

Tears come. I know she will want to read, to stay for a while—so I get my mother’s candle a spot in the front row. I set it on fire. I pray to my mom. I thank her. I ask for forgiveness. I tell her I love her. Then I head for home, to await the resurrection.

 

 

Photo: “The Little Guy” courtesy flickr user Steven Kelley via Creative Commons

  • AKHF

    St John the Divine is an Episcopal Church

  • i remeber when i was a child, my mother usually take me to church

    ____________________
    Tour du lich Han Quoc

  • fkissling

    And your point is?

  • Jim Reed

    I think the point is why go to church?

  • Jim Reed

    Another question might be why go to church if you DO believe? Is it because people are led to believe going to church is pleasing to God, and so might help get you into heaven? If so, maybe people should consider going to church might just be encouraged by the church because it helps them gain and keep control over you, and that helps the church survive. A side issue might be if the church doesn’t survive, would the world be better off?

    I guess the point is maybe people should stop listening to the church because listening to the church makes it virtually impossible to hear God.

  • Jim Reed

    One reason for going to church might be churches like shown in the picture at the top of this article might have inspiring architecture that can make you feel God. We know architecture of the past could only give the illusion of feeling God, but newer larger churches, with modern lighting effects might be enough to get beyond the illusion and actually feel God, at least in spirit.

  • indrag13

    I’m a recovering Catholic and the reason I don’t go to church is because God doesn’t go to church.

  • Veritas

    Going to church:

    1. The community of Christians supports eachother in good times, and in time of need
    2. To remember who you are; a child of God, not some accident of a random process, equal to all the other people created as you were. No greater, no less. No more or less deserving and loved by God even if in your current life, you can find no one else who loves you
    3. To remember you have a purpose and a responsibility to others.
    4. God doesn’t go to church, he is everywhere, but his people meet him in community in church
    5. Many more, please add what you believe….

    There are more reasons to go, and if you think the church is there to control people, you are both right and wrong. Right because some in authority abuse this, as in every organization so you might avoid any human institution. Wrong because that is not the main purpose, and you underestimate the people in the masses that go to church. There may be some that are gullible, but the the elderly are over-represented there, and if you think you have more wisdom than them, I will refer you to ask your grandmother what she thinks of that, and Reread number 2 above

  • Judith Maxfield

    Why church?
    To me the point is to understand and feel you are not alone with your questions about life and its meaning. In my Episcopal church we deal with questions more than dogmatic and pat answers. Why? Because we respect everyone has their story, a way of growing and learning – its a lifetime effort to evolve. We need each other, which is the point of Christ anyway – how to experience rather than to “believe” a set of positions given to you. A good word is “praxis” – a deep way of faith and trust in that loving force we seek.

  • Jim Reed

    That is a good idea, but after all these centuries of the church developing apologetics it is difficult. There are so many layers to work through.

  • Jim Reed

    I guess it depends on your state of mind. If you believe, you can find support. If you question, they will answer, as long as you accept the answers. If the questions are too hard, everything falls apart.

  • Jim Reed

    God is a concept.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Thank you. Yes, you have an excellent point. The vector line kept moving and perhaps died with WWI, certainly in the Holocaust and WWII. The question of mere survival was and is open for debate. When belief is coupled with the powers that be, the dream disappears – for a while. I do wonder if enlightenment – or the Spirit (real in my mind) is spreading again. The world is tired. Wisdom is holy to me and something that needs to overcome dogma as well. Science can save physical health, but not the whole body. We do need each other or no one gets “there” at all.

  • TiredOfTheBS

    Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.”

  • Veritas

    Ask the questions, make them answer. Aquinas said faith is reason seeking understanding

  • Veritas

    That is correct but the church is not a building it is the people, a community.
    Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me” and where 2 or three are gathered in my name, there am I. The book of Acts tells the story of that community.
    Jesus also said “you are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church”
    Paul wrote his letters to the churches of various places.
    The book of Revelation, Jesus sends letters to the 7 Churches.
    The Church is the body of Christ, and that is a community.. The foot can’t say to the eye, you’re not needed.

    There is plenty of evidence that a Church is inseparable from Christ, for he is the head of the church. If you have trouble in a church, remember John’s letter that asks ” if you do not love your brother, who you can see, how can you love God, who you can’t see?” And Jesus in john’s Gospel says “they will know you in that you love on another”

    It is often very difficult to be in community and love the difficult people that often inhabit the church, but there is plenty of gospel evidence that Jesus expects that of us, for our own good, I suspect.

  • indrag13

    by which we measure our pain…

  • I am an atheist and participate quite substantially in my religious community, which is Reform Judaism. There is nothing at all odd or strange about this, if one conceives of one’s religion as being more than just a body of supernatural propositions. My religious traditions, institutions and practices connnect me to my people, both past and present, regardless of whether anything supernatural exists.

    I actually just wrote, not long ago, an essay very much like this one, regarding my continuing involvement in the synagogue for my own blog.

    http://daniel-kaufman-rpur.squarespace.com/blog/2015/3/13/religion-without-spirituality

    **Many here will know me under my old ID — Aravistarkheena. I have dropped it in order to simplify things, which were getting rather confusing.**

  • Rubbish. I am as skeptical about the supernatural as anyone. Nothing about my religion has “fallen apart” as a result.

  • Jim Reed

    Maybe you just need to be more skeptical.

  • Maybe you should be more thoughtful, instead?

  • Jim Reed

    Ok, what religion is it that has not fallen apart as a result of skeptical questioning/

  • Judaism. Which is my religion.

  • I have explained this above/below.

  • Jim Reed

    That is a tough one because Jews don’t necessarily believe. They can be like Aravis and just appreciate the history and philosophy without actually believing in any of the magic. You have to appreciate the Jews. Like the documentaries on TV explaining why the exodus was not an actual event that happened. Most of the time it is a Jewish researcher explaining how you can’t take those Bible stories literally (from the point of view of archaeology)..

  • I am Aravis. It’s explained in my other post.

    There is an entire branch of Judaism that is inherently skeptical. It was founded by Mordechai Kaplan, who left Conservative Judaism to form it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconstructionist_Judaism

  • What struck you as wrongheaded or implausible about this article? Made perfect sense to me.

  • This is the book in which Kaplan expounded his ideas most clearly:

    http://www.amazon.com/Judaism-Civilization-Toward-Reconstruction-American-Jewish/dp/0827605293

  • Love me some Aquinas. I just taught some of his stuff in my Topics in Western Humanism course.

  • Jim Reed

    I don’t know that I said anything was wrongheaded. I said,”Another question might be why go to church if you DO believe?” I was looking for people who believe the Bible (hopefully not Jewish) so I could question their Bible beliefs and see where it would lead.

  • And a very lovely one. I used to live in NY and worked at the Jewish Theological Seminary, which is very close. I’ve spent many hours in that nave — the largest gothic nave in the world.

  • Jim Reed

    I imagine there is a lot to admire there and what I like most is they are not evangelical, not out to convert people. In today’s politics, Jews are the most interesting segment, because they have to decide what to do about Netanyahu. I imagine it will take them some time to sort out. They should take their time and decide carefully because it might be the thing that most makes it possible for change in America. The one thing they can’t do is just maintain status quo because that is now gone. Things will change. I am a spectator watching the show.

  • Veritas

    There are many layers to understanding, but who would expect a God who created such a complex universe that it boggles our minds, to be simple. The creator is deeper than the creation. Always more to discover…but remember the simple part; love God, for he loves you and love your neighbor. In this is all the mystery and beauty of everything else.

  • Jim Reed

    You can express love of the world, through environmentalism. You can express love for others, through political choices that favor society in general more than favoring the rich. You can’t express love for God, and expressing love for religious institutions is counterproductive.

  • Veritas

    Those expressions of love are distant, as would be love of an institution. True love requires investment of your heart in the people around you and in their sufferings. Dickens a Christmas Carol is a great illustration, as Scrooge said he paid taxes… But he turned his back and used this as an excuse to shield his heart. We do not admire Scrooge , do we?

    Environmental concerns for God’s creation is an expression of love to God, as long as it does not fall into the trap of being at the expense of people, especially the poor. So much of environmental activism sees humans as a plague on the earth.

    Prayer is spending time in the company of God. This is an expression of love as it would be spending time with any friend.

  • Jim Reed

    Humans are a plague on the earth when they exploit the environment for greed. Should we protect lands through a system of national parks, or strip mine a few states for profit and leave the waste products to pollute whatever is left? This has long been a national struggle, and the rich all individually want their own profits because other rich are getting theirs, and they each want a share. I understand greed and what it does, but unfortunately Christianity sold their soul to the party of the rich, and for whatever reason they are willing to go along with letting the rich ruin the environment for larger profits. By whatever reason, I mean they know the only possibility of getting the world to end times is electing and following Republicans because if the Democrats are in power we are not going to start a war with Iran, and they have been told this war is necessary for reasons of Biblical prophecy.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Here I am,Jim Reed—A genuine,born-again, blood-bought, Spirit-filled child / servant of Almighty God in the flesh,of 40 years standing…Go for it.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    So exactly what is it skeptical of,Mr.Kaufman,and what is the point of this skepticism?

  • Thecla

    The question, ‘why go to church if you don’t believe anymore?’, assumes a very parochial understanding of religion. It assumes (1) that religion is essentially a body of doctrine, (2) that participating in ‘organized religion’ means signing onto the doctrinal package, and that the whole purpose of going to church is to express one’s commitment to the package, to strengthen one’s faith in the package, and to learn church teachings and their applications through sermons, Bible study and the like.

    This is the assumption that comes from taking Evangelical Christianity as the religious paradigm. It is not the way in which, e.g. Greco-Roman pagans, Hindus or, according to Daniel Kaufman (below) Reform Jews would understand religion.

    Following that less parochial understanding I see religion as essentially a body of individual and communal practices, myths and symbols, embodied in an institution that maintains buildings as sacred spaces, organizes ceremonies and supports the arts that contribute to rituals and church decor. The theology is a metaphysical sandbox to play in. The doctrines are interesting. It’s a pleasure to play with them, try to make sense of them. Nothing hangs on believing them or getting the theology right, much less on believing them with any high degree of conviction.

    I believe that there may be some supernatural or other, though not with any high degree of conviction. It’s all a matter of (enjoyable) speculation. Church is in any case a pleasure in and of itself, regardless of one’s beliefs. Some like the ‘community’; others (like me) just plain enjoy the buildings and rituals, the myths, art, history—the whole churchy business. This is essentially the take of most ‘mainline’ Christians, even if many could not articulate it or be willing to admit it.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Frankly,I’d like to know the point of unbelievers in church myself.It strikes me as somewhat bizarre.Anyone?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Why do you keep pretending that you actually have any real knowledge of authenic Christianity Mr.Reed when its clear by your posts that you don’t?

  • Jim Reed

    “Authentic” Christianity is a system of pretending you are part of the true church, as opposed to other Christians who are part of the false church. That is one small part of my extensive knowledge about Christianity.

  • Jim Reed

    One of many bizarre things about church.

  • Jim Reed

    Skeptical of the divine aspects of religion.

  • Jim Reed

    The basic problem is a religion based on the gospel Jesus story. The gospels were written in the last part of the first century about a supposed man living in the first part of the first century. But in between we have an extensive written record of Christianity from the writings of Paul, and Paul’s Christianity is based on a Christ that Christianity was finding in old testament scriptures, and visions. It knows nothing of the later gospel stories. This means the gospel stories were not Christianity until later in the century when they were made up, so gospel Jesus is a myth.

  • Jim Reed

    So you are explaining Christianity even though Christians can’t articulate it and would be unwilling to ever admit any of it. That is the same thing I am doing, but we kind of take the concept in different directions.

  • Thecla

    I did not say that Christians couldn’t articulate this view or wouldn’t admit to it. I said that many couldn’t or wouldn’t. There are certainly many others in mainline denominations that both could and would–and do. And I am certainly not doing what you are doing if I understand you correctly. Personally I’d like to see Evengelicalism wiped off the face of the earth and everyone converted to liberal Anglicanism–so that those buildings and ceremonies can be supported and financed.

  • Jim Reed

    I only know of two that are doing what you are doing, you and the other guy who used to post here.

  • You are exactly right. What’s amazing is the extent to which critics like Jim Reed actually accept the evangelical, fundamentalist conception of religion.

  • Then again, the people whom you know really isn’t an indicator of *anything* is it. In 2013 there were over 2 million Episcopalians in the US. Worldwide, the Anglican communion — of which the Episcopal Church is a part — is over 80 million.

    You need to get out more.

  • It is skeptical regarding the supernatural dimensions of the religion. It views Judaism as a civilization, not a body of supernatural commitments.

  • Several of us have explained it, including the article itself.

  • You’re just not a very good listener/reader are you?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Sorry,FAIL!!–Authentic Christianity isn’t a “system”,Mr.Reed.Mull and reflect,and try again.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Sorry,Mr.Reed…from my perspective,again: BIG FAIL! It does you no good to trot out the long-discarded theories of the discredited”school of destructive criticism”,theories weighed in the balance and found wanting by scholars far more careful and meticulously scrupulous in their research that the liberal schools were.When I described myself as I did,I echoed,in a sense,St,Cyprian,who described the born-again experience almost perfectly,an experience no amount of supposed intellectual acumen can account for October

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    So,in effect,as an atheist,in your concept of Judaism,God has neither existence nor necessity…Got it.How very,very sad.

  • Thecla

    I know many, many more. There is a world outside of Religion Dispatches.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    The article,and the failed attempts to explain it,are ultimately incoherent;it’s simply illogical to frequent an institution that to all intent and purpose has no meaning for you;the various reasons offered for doing so just doesn’t make sense.What exactly are you doing that you don’t do away from church,mosque,synagogue as an unbeliever? Frankly,just going through the motions of what can only be described as”empty,dead religiosity”strikes me as bizarrely hypocritical;again I ask: What is your point?

  • Jim Reed

    People who talk about authentic Christianity have their idea of what Christianity should be, and so they would see those with ideas that match theirs as the authentic Christians. I don’t think you could define authentic Christianity any other way. Would you say those who have an authentic personal relationship with Jesus are authentic Christians, and others aren’t? I think that would confirm what I am saying.

  • Jim Reed

    And yet the Bible still shows the gospel story is a later construction that doesn’t match earlier Christianity, and that shows Jesus is a myth.

    Seek a spiritual experience and you shall find.

  • Jim Reed

    I doubt they would be Epsicopalians if they thought the religion was only about the beauty of the buildings and music and poetry.

  • Sad to you. Not to those of us who find meaning and support in our religious communities.

    How about living and letting live, you know?

  • I already explained what it means to *me* in this thread. That you find it incoherent, doesn’t mean that I do. And what do you care, if I get meaning out of my participation in my religious community? It’s not as if my views are a secret to anyone. And in truth, many, many Reform and Reconstructionist Jews are of the sort that I am — Jewish ethnically and culturally.

  • Thecla

    What I am doing in church is participating in the liturgy I love with body and soul, singing hymns, reflecting on the theology, going for communion, always getting aesthetic experience, occasionally getting religious experience, and thoroughly enjoying myself. There’s nothing empty or dead about this: it’s deeply emotional and sometimes even thrilling. I don’t, and can’t do that away from church: you can’t do liturgy alone.

    As far as being hypocritical I have never claimed to believe theological doctrines with any degree of conviction: we are all agnostics now. But I don’t disbelieve with any degree of conviction. Theology is metaphysics, and metaphysics is speculative. No one in my church really cares whether I believe the doctrines or whether I believe them with any degree of conviction. No one is asked to ‘give testimony’ or to claim that they’re ‘born again’ or to give credence to Bible stories. I know people who, unlike me, are convinced atheists who are involved in the church and have never claimed to be religious believers.

    There is nothing ‘illogical’ about frequenting an institution regardless of one’s beliefs if it is a source of pleasure.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Well,shucks Mr.Kaufman…once you log on,”live and let live”kinda goes out the window,doesn’t it? (At least as long as you engage,right?)—You keep confusing me here.Now,maybe my concept of religion is somehow flawed;I’m aware that at its heart Buddhism is really an atheistic philosophy;Shinto…I can’t make any comment on that;I know practically nothing about it.But YOU,sir,specifically stated that your are an atheist,and now here you are speaking of”religious communities”.I’m simply baffled as to why an avowed atheist would interact with a supposed religious community.Religious in what sense? Help me understand that,Mr.Kaufman.I’m not trying to be difficult here; I just can’t reconcile the two disparate worldviews.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Sorry,Thecla,but that’s the most inane nonsense I’ve heard so far;to all intent and purpose you might as well go on a cruise or a road and play Yahtzee or Scrabble.Seriously??

  • I have answered your question already in this thread. I explained my reasons for continued participation. I indicated that I have written an entire essay on this, which I published on my blog — to which I gave a link. And I have even explained that there is an entire denomination of Judaism — Reconstructionist Judaism — that largely eschews supernatural commitments.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconstructionist_Judaism

    If you still don’t understand, after all this, then I can’t help you. What I don’t understand is why it bothers you that people — who are harming no one — derive meaning from something you don’t understand. That’s where the live and let live part comes in.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Well shucks,Thecla…Thank God that authentic Christians are called to Christ,not any type of -ism,liberal or otherwise.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Well…I’ll say no more,Mr.Kaufman.Perhaps you and I will never understand each other;that may be the saddest”thread”of all.I’m sorry that you thought your stance bothered me;it doesn’t,I was simply exercising my curiosity on what I perhaps erroneously assumed was a public forum.If I offended you,my apologies.At any rate,I’ll take your advice—au revoir,and may the God you don’t believe in bless you anyway.SHALOM!

  • Oh, no, not at all. I’m not offended. And of course this is a public forum.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Hey,Mr.Kaufman;I was surprised to find out that you are a professor of Philosophy at Missouri State University!(You’re in Springfield,no?)–I mention it because I saw it on Disqus; I am a resident of Kansas City,Missouri(Nice to meet you! )—By the way,my favorite philosopher is Dr.William Lane Craig;I think he’s teaching at Biola.Anyway,good to know you,sir—GO MIZZOU!!!!

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    That being the case,Thecla,now you know why men go to whorehouses after”church”;no denying the pleasure found in that place,presumably. (I don’t speak from experience.)–At any rate,if that’s REALLY the reason you attend religious services,just to satisfy YOUR…whatever you call it—Wow.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    I have found Him,Mr.Reed.My parting advise to you would be to get out of the cramped,truncated space of your own head (and the heads of other mere men/women,living or dead),and engage Him in who dwells…”all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”…i.e.The Risen Lord. At any rate,I’m done with this fruitless conversation.May Almighty God bless you. PEACE IN CHRIST.

  • Jim Reed

    I have to be skeptical. People claim they have Jesus in their hearts, but the more strongly they believe, the more they tend to have strange ideas about everything political and religious. They can seem more focused on the destruction of this planet than they are on saving the planet for future generations, and doing it in the name of the Lord. I think we need to start with the facts on the ground, and not what people say they feel in their hearts. People also seem to be caught up in the groupthink. If they are part of a church where people are feeling the Lord, they tend to feel it too. It might just be if you expect to feel God in your heart, you set yourself up psychologically to feel something, which you will interpret according to how the group says you should.

  • Jim Reed

    I guess it is like preaching to the choir. Christians who consider themselves to be authentic Christians do better speaking to their own than they do to the rest of us.

  • Veritas

    Humans are not a plague on the earth than are ants who change the environment to suit their survival, or even termites, and Christians have not sold their soul to any party, since the church is world wide. Christians as a whole, do not advocate destruction of the planet, but appreciation of creation, use not exploitation.

    Exploiting and destroying is the territory of the greedy, and a sin. A large chunk of environmental activism and ideas result in poverty and starvation, and illness without regard for those people who suffer. This is not love for anything.

    Examples; the calls against GMO such as strains of certain disease resistant crops, denies possible life saving food to poor, based on myth and not scientific evidence

    Use of biofuels, that raise crop prices, destroy natural woodlands and the Amazon to produce alternative energy sources. ( this to stem climate change… What does deforestation do to climate).

    There are more of these examples but the forum is belief in the spiritual.

    I disagree with most of the comments scattered through this section… There IS a spiritual dimension even if some commentators have not recognized it in their lives. It is not arrived at intellectually, Nicodemis at first couldn’t grasp it, to the Greeks, as Paul said, it was Folly, but in the depths of our beings it is there.

    Some place it as the connectedness of all life, some as the Star Wars Force. These may be a start for some, but there is more to the universe than can be found in your philosophies, Horatio, and Authentic Christianity is a relationship with Jesus, a person. the doctrines and the “rules” are to consider in understanding who This person truly IS.

  • Jim Reed

    I don’t know that you can say God comes out a loser and/or a liar. It is more like evangelicalism might be the loser here. Whatever happens to them, you really have to say they did it to themselves.

  • Jim Reed

    There is a new book, “One Nation Under God” explaining how in the 50s the rich needed a way to combat socialism to keep control over the nation, so they came up with strategies to use religion and preachers like Billy Graham to turn the nation against government solutions and make us more pro-business. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like it could have a lot to do with Christianity in America selling out to the Republican party. They did it because that is what the rich wanted, and they were funding the process. It is not a global thing, it is an American thing. This is the kind of issue we should working through there on RD. Did Christianity sell out in the 50s, or the 80s, or 2000, or a little of each of those?

  • pennyroyal

    indeed Republicans have sold out to the religious right. In the 60s and 70s we in MA still had governors and senators voted in by democrats, me among them. But Republicans have lurched far to the right after our first Evangelist in Chief, Ronald Reagan. Up until that time we had a strong wall of separation between church and state. Hobby Lobby and our repub. presidential contenders show that theocracy lurks in the wings. Religion is taking over the public square, or rather the ultraconservative version.

  • pennyroyal

    religious humanist here, go to church (sometimes) but don’t do the supernatural.

  • pennyroyal

    some in my circle supported Netanyahu and the brutal incursion into Gaza. But I disagree civilly and we’ve stayed friends.

  • Jim Reed

    After recent events it is more at a breaking point. All you have to do is say Netanyahu can’t be trusted, and it would be hard for anyone to argue with that after he reversed for the day of election, then changed back the next day.

  • Thecla

    I didn’t suggest that all pleasures were good or that the purpose of church-going was to get any old pleasure.

    The quest for the experience of God’s presence—mysticism—is a feature of almost all religious traditions. Except possibly Confucianism (if it counts as a religion) and Evangelicalism.

  • Veritas

    There is more to christianity than the billy Graham, and neither party has a monopoly as the party of the rich. They are both the power of the rich. The republicans promise the poor a job , and exploit their labor, the democrats promise the poor a helping hand, and exploit their votes. Neither does anything to lift them out of their situation, as they are needed where they are. Catholics are Christians and have been a staunch support for the dems, until the recent election, and still the bishops back the social policy, but for life issues. The orthodox churches have not backed anyone, and mainline Protestant churches vote as their regional tastes dictate. But christianity is worldwide as a faith, not one country.
    This all misses the point that was our initial starting point; there is a dimension unseen, that is beyond politics. It is where the true heart of humans seek.

  • Veritas

    And I add, those who are unbelievers, may be searching for something to believe, and have not yet found it, but they are at the right address

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Hmm…I get that,Veritas;thanks!

  • Veritas

    Could it be that it moves you spiritually, and you have not yet discovered that is what it is?

  • Jim Reed

    The Democrats are flawed, but they at least are kind of on our side. The Republicans are totally on the side of the rich, and they are doing a great job. Whatever we think about who backs who, Bush got elected and I give Christians credit for that. We also have Republicans in charge of congress, and their biggest supporters (aside from that fraction of a percent that is not many votes) is serious Christians. You need to be careful about that true heart of human seek. The rich have used their money to get control of Christianity, and that is the illusion they have been selling. I think that is the point of this new book.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    I don’t know if you have any knowledge of what The Scriptures actually teach,Thecla,but according to Our Saviour,from the perspective of Scripture,what you presumably mean by…”the experience of God’s presence”…can only be found In Him,that is Christ Himself,and God’s Presence can ONLY be revealed by Him:…”no one knows who the Son is except the Father,or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”… ( The Gospel of Luke,chapter 10,vs.22,ESV.)—So,there it is.Again,let me be clear: This is what The Scriptures teach,and as Christians it is what we believe to be true,and trust to be true.Now,I’ve been a born-again, blood-bought, Spirit-filled child / servant of Almighty God for 38 years,almost 39;I’ve been a student of my faith for over 25 years,in all its aspects: historical,intellectual,spiritual,et.al,and in all my studies,whatever else has been said,I’ve NEVER heard any scholar,even the most virulent atheist,refer to Jesus as a liar or fabricator.Again,I’m only testifying to what Scripture -believing Christians adhere to,you know,those brain-dead ignoramuses you refer to so dimissively as”Evangelicals”,yes? ( I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt here,Thecla;perhaps you don’t know that Jesus Himself is the Original Evangelical.Look up the word,and get the true understanding of what evangel means,instead of engaging in insulting,derogatory,pejorative attacks against your brothers and sisters in Christ…or is that a characteristic of”liberal Anglicanism”?)

  • I bet you that many of them have the same type of relationship with their religion as I do.

  • Cheers!

  • Jim Reed

    I thought about that, and it is an interesting concept, and there is a lot to consider. You see it as a link to history, and continuing a tradition of great thinkers and how that evolves down through the what ends up being millenia. Perhaps at one end of the Christian spectrum some Christians have a lot in common with that, but there is a catch. The catch is Jesus, and the concept that Jesus died for sins, and that links Him to the ultimate salvation of believers. The issue for Christians is either you believe in Jesus, or you don’t, and it might be possible for them to see the religion as a philosophical line of reasoning, but I still have to wonder about that link to the concept of Jesus. Does that block them out from ever reaching the fullness of seeing the religion as about humanity? Are there any Christians who have reached the level of saying there isn’t really any Jesus, but that doesn’t matter because it is just a religion?

  • It’s not just that. It’s a link to one’s own people — to the people that share your culture and traditions. And that includes things like the values that are handed down and which, hopefully, become more refined, over time. An Episcopalian today has very different values from an Anglican of 200 years ago, but the nature of that change is an organic, gradual one, in which the connection from past to present is not broken, but rather, evolved. In the same way, though my values are undoubtedly different, in a number of ways, from those of my great-grandparents, they are nonetheless evovled from them and thus, connnected in a way that meaningfully connects *us*.

    I don’t see why the same couldn’t be true for a Christian and for the history of Christian understanding of the values taught by Jesus.

  • Jim Reed

    I imagine a thousand years from now they will be evolved to a state where they are very different from today. Right now the teachings of Jesus, which I think you would have to interpret as Christianity, are a big problem for the world. I think the problem comes down to that salvation thing, and as long as Jesus is seen as bringing salvation Christianity will continue to be a force of division that harms the world. They might be trying to make it better, but they have to bite the bullet and just face the fact that Jesus has no connection to salvation. The religion can never be anything better than just a philosophy of humanity, and they have some growing up to do before they are there.

  • For some, yes. But for the sort of Christian the article describes or the sort that belongs to the kinds of liberal churches we are talking about, the teachings of Jesus have an entirely positive effect — one of kindness, charitbleness, and toleration. And again, there are millions, upon millions of people, for whom this is what it means. That does not discount the other millions, for whom Jesus’s teachings mean something vicious and uncharitable, but neither does their existence discount the group that I am talking about.

  • Jim Reed

    I can see how it certainly does seem that way, but there is still a problem, at least from what I have seen. Even among the most kind and tolerant, if they also believe in the salvation of Jesus, and you press them hard enough on the details of what that means, they all will reach a breaking point. I think it is due to the disconnect that comes from believing contradictions. They can work extremely hard to control the problems and reduce the consequences, but that contradiction is still there, and what happens when it is reached? They have to deal with it somehow. That is why Christianity will be a problem as long as it includes this salvation concept. The most kind people can greatly reduce the problem in themselves, but they can’t eliminate it.

  • Given that they themselves do not report this “problem,” I see no reason why you need to be concerned with it. Seems to me like you are looking for a problem, rather than reacting to one that is evident.

    Would it be that hard to limit your critique to evangelical, fundamentalist, and other such forms of Christianity? Why is it so important to you to find fault with every single Christian on the globe? It’s pretty glaring and obvious to the rest of us, out here, that you are grinding an axe.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Thank you,Daniel…I am astonished at Mr.Reed continuous going on an on about whatever his idea of the Christian faith is;since his claims has very little bearing on actual Christianity,as an even cursory examination of the faith reveals,I’m not getting what his purpose is in his posts.I try not to be rude or disrespectful on these sites,but this must be said: I’m not privy to Mr.Reed’s level of education,but so far he is proving the adage that just because you have a bunch of alphabets trailing your name, that’s no guarantee that you know what you’re talking about.In the Christian world,it’s fine if you don’t believe that Jesus is who we(or He)says He is,but it’s not the place of unbelievers to attempt to lecture Christians about what WE believe; frankly,you just sound asinine.

  • He has no alphabets as far as I know.

    He is rehearsing what is called the “mythicist” view of the historical Jesus. It’s main proponent is an historian named “Richard Carrier.” It is not a view that has caught on much, but it has some very enthusiastic supporters — like Jim.

  • Jim Reed

    He wrote a book, “On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt”. I was wondering, does that mean we might have reason for doubt, but we are not yet sure? Apparently the world just demands that it be put that way, for some reason.

  • Jim Reed

    I guess you are right there. It has historically been the place of Christians to lecture unbelievers on what to believe.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    That may have been the wrongly-held belief of SOME Christians,Mr.Reed( your seemingly obsessive need to throw ALL Christians under your particular bus is bordering on the bizarre,sir,and does not befit someone who is supposed to be a fair-minded person.),but the Christian mission,properly understood,has no mandate to coerce anyone to adopt its tenets .Our Saviour always invited people to entrust their eternal destinies to Him;the invitation is ALWAYS:…”whomsoever will,let him/her come freely”…Free yourself from your warped,ill-informed version of pseudo-“christianity” Mr.Reed,and seek a life-transforming, life-saving, life-giving relationship with the Risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.THAT’S your open-ended invitation,Mr.Reed–you are certainly free to reject it.—PEACE IN CHRIST.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Whatever Mr.Carrier wrote,his doubts are his own.There are far better scholars than he is that posit otherwise,so…what’s your point,Mr.Reed? As the Scriptures themselves teach,…”Let everyone be fully persuaded in their own minds”… ( Romans 14:5b)–So…speaking only for myself,the Holy Spirit has fully persuaded me,Mr.Reed.What’s holding YOU back,other than your own unbelief?

  • Jim Reed

    He makes a pretty good case, and the more you look into it the worse Bart Ehrman looks with his Did Jesus Exist book. That might be less of a problem now because Ehrman seems to understand and is backtracking a bit.

  • Jim Reed

    That sounds like a lecture.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Great RD conversation that brings Job (Hebrew Bible) to mind. Also called “the book of wisdom”
    To Reed: Why do you spend al lot of time defending via negativa a position? What happened to you? Why bother being a judge especially on Christianity? Sorry, but get a life, please.

    Job 38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
    2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
    3 Gird up your loins like a man,
    I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
    4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
    5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
    6 On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone
    7 when the morning stars sang together
    and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?
    Much more in Job 38 if you wish…………..
    Something to think about for all of us.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Yep. i’m sorry to say, I’m guessing that Reed’s attitude – and some others here on Rd – is the opposite of the Evangelical belief system but on that same horizontal track of sameness if you change that line into its circle – it meets at both ends. Its really the same thing. You learned from the dominate American cultural system of how to construct your positions and attitudes.

  • Judith Maxfield

    I like your comments. I also like that in the TEC, on Easter Sunday, our Bishop Mary stated that there are other ways to have a spiritual life, but for her, the choice was and is Christianity. I’m glad she choose the liturgical manner of the Episcopal Church. What a respectful and humble position for universal compassion which is the ethos of the Jesus way.

    I must say that for me, a statement from Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossen that we need a worldview, tested down through time, that gives us an alternative and heathy means by which to question life, something we must learn to do. For me, Christianity, the good kind, offers a way to save myself from the ways of the world run by imperial powers that will always be, it seems. I trust rather than believe this statement because it changed me so I could internally give me the freedom to not here the world and know my true self.
    Yes, the church had it wrong at time as it attempted to live with the imperial power game. But there were always those who “got” it, and did impart a way to counter the cruelty and suffering. The bar of our level of enlightenment and ethics was raised and is still being raised from that tradition. I think this meets with David Kaufman’s statements about liturgical practices in the church.

  • Jim Reed

    I’d have to say, we have learned a lot since you first asked those questions. That concept of the earth having a foundation and a cornerstone are now obsolete, as are the ideas of angels shouting for joy as creation was finished. It all started with a big bang, and creation has been expanding ever since. Fact is, it is not yet even half done.

  • james warren

    The ancient theological beliefs and proclamations are no longer compelling or persuadable. This is the reason both Christianity and Islam are under a sustained and focused attack these days.
    And why the bigotry, hypocrisy, elitism, patriarchy, other-worldliness and homophobia easily show that Christianity has become a religion Jesus would have rejected.

  • Jim Reed

    I think the problem is Christianity sold their soul to the party of the rich.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Two point on Sin:
    I never thought God was particularly concerned about my personal “sins”. He had bigger fish to fry, like killing over a million Jews, his original children. However, if you define sin as alienation from God, than yes, we can talk about it. All suffering begins with that premise. How about dying in a crucifiction, tortured, betrayed by friends, alone, in pain and God did not step in to physically save you? You are totally alone in your death.

    Sidebar: On personal “sin”, not necessarily related to the above: Diedrich Bönhoffer stated it was silly to think God would step in to physically save you. He wants you to stay in the tension, even at the cost of pain. Its children who want the parent to step in and save them. God knows they can’t grow up if he as the father does step in. I’d rather think God would rather have us grow up.

  • james warren

    Jesus was undone by the dominant powers of his day, including organized religion. Christians keep putting the theology of “dying for our sins” on Jesus’ crucifixion and death. The idea did not start to take hold until more than a thousand years later in the theology of Anselm of Canterbury.
    The quote that Jesus gave his life for “the ransom of many” uses the
    Greek word for “ransom” which means liberation from bondage and nothing else.

  • james warren

    You’d think there would be a mandate to study history and the Christian tradition and try to find out the answer and the reason a salvation by a blood sacrifice really came from.
    Jesus and John the Baptizer held fast to the more ancient tradition of a God of mercy who requires only repentance and a contrite heart. The more biblically recent tradition came from Aaron, Moses’ brother and his priestly belief in the spilling of blood on the altar.
    Besides, Jesus clearly said his message was not for Gentiles, but to the House of Israel. He referred to them as “dogs” and mocked their praying style. Now the faith has become a religion of Gentiles who have turned the iconoclast into a divine icon.

  • Jim Reed

    In practice sin is alienation from the church. God is not concerned with the concerns of the church.

  • james warren

    There is a powerful metaphor in the New Testament: the curtain in the temple ripped apart the moment of Jesus’ death. It was the curtain that separated the worshippers from the “Holy of Holies” the real presence of God behind the veil that only the priests could be.
    Humankind no longer needs separation from the divine. It is available to everybody.
    No churches, no priests and no mediators like Jesus.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Well, you totally missed the point. Of course you are right – but only literally. Science and its hubris lives in a fleeting time until the next discovery changes everything.
    To attempt putting Job’s beautiful lines into Evangelistic prose…..

    is there something that causes one to remember, honor and respect what we have learned? Did it cause any scientist to think twice about releasing the secrets of the Atomic age to the U.S? Do all people immediately grasp the need to remember and protect the environment? How about using science to murder humans? What will cause us to see our connection to the rest of the world? If you can answer that, lets talk.

  • Jim Reed

    We have a savior who is going to lead us to Mars, and from there to the rest of the solar system, and eventually across the universe. The farther we spread the more we will have nothing to fear from what any god might decide to try to do to us.

  • Judith Maxfield

    All that proves is you are speaking for God over a very serious issue. Again, you are working from your own whatever and again generalizing from Evangelical belief and practice. Jesus and St. Paul for that matter did not set up a church and did not force anyone to start one. If that is done by force or intimidation it is flatly wrong and blasphemy.

    If you are so interested in this stuff, why not learn more about it in an open posture instead of setting it out to prove its all crazy. Look to those who risked everything to transform the world out of grief and being fear ridden. And they don’t have to be Christian to do that.

  • Judith Maxfield

    I guess you think thats cute. Here ends any conversation since flippancy is the court jester.

  • pennyroyal

    the pope has said that he wants to convert any aliens we find in the universe. Care to comment.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Yes, very forward looking. You appear young looking in that small photo. If thats true, I rejoice. I heartily agree.

  • pennyroyal

    how do you know we are only half way through time? Einstein whispering in your ear?

  • Jim Reed

    Learning more about it can be counterproductive because that means being trained in the way they want people to think. The only way to clearly see Christianity is to step back and view it without having them play the mind games on you.

  • Jim Reed

    The fact is creation is way less than half done. Watching it in progress shows you that.

  • pennyroyal

    That’s not at all apparent to me.

  • Jim Reed

    God is having a tough time in the 21st century.

  • pennyroyal

    it’s religious violence that’s the threat. Arab states, the USA, Israel, with their religion infused ‘democracies’ that are the real threats. Scientists are mostly humble. Oppenheimer regretted his involvement in nuclear efforts but it was Truman and the politician calling for more bombs and more powerful bombs. Science is a tool. It can and is used for good and ill, just like religion. But religion is older and for millennia has maimed and killed with impunity and no regret.

  • Jim Reed

    We have a billion Catholics here on earth to save. I pray there won’t end up being more.

  • pennyroyal

    FYI, the pope did comment on aliens and conversion. Thanks for the compliment on my flippancy. Humor cuts through the political cant. The kings who hired jesters knew that.

  • Jim Reed

    Hey, that flippancy belongs to me.

  • pennyroyal

    there are 7 billion humans here on earth. I pray that we stop breeding sometime soon. The Catholic Church is tying its future to increase and the world groans from the mass of human flesh eating, fornicating, shutting, and making wars. The pope even went to the Philippines to prop up the churches official pro-natalism there. When there was a huge flood the local churches sent bibles instead of food.

  • Jim Reed

    We know how to solve the problems, but the church and the Republican party do their best to prevent the solutions. The Republicans like the way things are working now because they are getting rich. The church likes the way things are going because we are almost at end times.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Misunderstood or used for evil, religion can be used. However, to say its the religion is akin to saying “its the drug / drink, hubris that made me do it” – whatever which is self induced is the tool that harms. The concept of religion cannot to the evil, only those who use it for their own end. Even your use of English cannot express it correctly. I’m sorry, but I am very tired of hearing such language. Religion by itself is not the danger. People are, even if they can’t think for themselves and reject what they should know is wrong by today’s most universal body politic. They still are responsible for their actions.

  • Judith Maxfield

    No, I said I am done with conversation with you. Its too silly and you enjoy rolling in the mud.

  • james warren

    Jesus was full-bore into the wisdom tradition (often called “Sophia” the female helpmate of God). Job and Ecclesiastes are also wisdom texts. Wisdom theology says we are only here for awhile until death takes us and we learn little while we are here.

  • pennyroyal

    oh, but your peck-sniffery is so exaggerated.

  • pennyroyal

    Of course, people are responsible for their actions, such as making religion into a tool to harm others. Religion is a human creation and if humans are in danger, and they are in danger from environmental collapse,then ipso facto, religion would be in danger. I mean no disrespect to your particular beliefs, many of which I probably share (coming up on my 50th year of marital fidelity), but I do agree that religion is “used” by humans for evil purposes. We all have good and bad inside us; we are responsible for acting on the latter.

  • Jim Reed

    We are only here for awhile until death takes us but now we can learn more because we have the internet.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Yes, I knew these things as you stated. I only wish those who replaced Wisdom for science as the end all could understand this. Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing. I say the creed in my liturgical church every Sunday. We all understand who Sophia is and when we say , “I believe in the Holy Sprit, the Lord, the giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, She s worshiped and glorified”. I love the thought the Nicene Creed has been said every Sunday for about 900 years. I feel very connected to those who went before me and died so I could be where I am today. I am no longer alone trying to figure things out by myself. I had the feelings as a child but had not the words and understanding. Now I do as my confession of fidelity to the living Christ.

  • james warren

    The only unfathomable truth is that the creeds have an empty center. They acknowledge Jesus was crucified, dead and buried and resurrected, but they say nothing about his ministry, his ethics, his parabolic teaching of the Kingdom of God and his healing and compassion.
    A Jew who thought Gentiles were dogs and made fun of their praying style has been hijacked by those same Gentiles and placed on a pedestal of divine idolatry.
    “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.”
    “Pray to the Father in secret.”
    “The Father makes his sun to shine on both the evil AND the good and sends his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.”

  • Judith Maxfield

    care to explain?

  • Jim Reed

    When I was a child, I lived in a remarkable world where adults talked to God in secret, and got answers. On Sunday we went to a place that was God’s house where a man of God lived, and he had an upstairs room that was extra close to God. I was just a child.

    Perhaps I am still trying to figure it out. I know there is the good and the bad, and the bad part is especially obvious. What about that good part? Does it have any Divine connection? Any at all? I think we need to find out. If it does have a divine link, even a small one, that would be truly remarkable. If not, then it would be better if we all at least knew that. You can’t find out unless you press the issue to the max. It is counterproductive to just believe.

  • pennyroyal

    looking down your nose at someone who disagree with

  • Judith Maxfield

    My comments should have been addressed to Jim Reed. I kept making typos and did not realize I somehow slipped over to your commentary. I apologize for that. I had too many incoming and outgoing responses to the Disqus emails at the same time. I needed a break to eat and didn’t take it. I’ll be more careful the next time.

  • Judith Maxfield

    You never really answered me but skipped around in flight – literally – to Mars, a stretch way to far – literally/

  • Jim Reed

    We can grow beyond our religions and religious questions. We will expand beyond earth. We will some day become a hundred new species. You may be too focused on your questions to see the answers.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Here is my reply from a famous poet, Rainer Marie Rilke:
    From “Letters to a Young Poet, Letter 5:
    If you trust in Nature, in what is simple in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don’t hate anything.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    Jeez, grow up and get a life. Even I learned by the time I graduated college that most Christians really could give 2 shits about whether or not Jesus was God, they just like singing in choir/praying with one voice together/studying a text together.

    I’d encourage the Mods to ban this guy. Everytime he talks it just takes things down the wrong path and derails conversation on here.

  • Jim Reed

    You can not care whether or not Jesus was God, and Christendom can accept that, and deal with it. It is only when the question gets answered, Jesus is a myth, that it becomes more than they can handle. Instead of the question form, try putting it in that more positive form. Say, “Jesus is a myth and I don’t care.”

  • Jim Reed

    That’s something to think about.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Yes, thanks. Certain existential questions of life deserve patience. Living life’s questions and waiting for answers is like a mantra for me. I am a Senior and have learned not to jump too quick on answers.

  • pennyroyal

    No apology needed. I try to do too much at once, too.

  • Fired, Aren’t I

    you’re just babbling random nonsense at this point

  • Jim Reed

    I think it makes sense. As long as there is a range of opinions, the religion is safe. Bart Ehrman says the miracles never happened and the stories were invented, but he sees enough evidence from the unwritten oral tradition to say Jesus exists, and he becomes a hero of Christendom because he is standing up to those saying Jesus was a myth. From the Christian point of view, if Jesus was an actual person then the accepting the miracles is just a matter of faith, and they can live with that no matter what the evidence says. But if Jesus was not an actual person, just made up in the gospels, that is a game changer for them.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    What do you think sin is,Mr.Warren? If you don’t understand Scripture-based theology,just say so.That way you won’t demonstrate how utterly out of your depth you are.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Almighty God NEVER has a” tough time”in ANY century,Mr.Reed-it’s only humanity who has a tough time with HIM. ( Like you,for instance!!)

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Where does the Nicene Creed refer to the Holy Spirit as”she”,Judith? Is that how Jesus referred to Him,or is the Gospel of John a mistranslation throughout?

  • Judith Maxfield

    Can I assume you know the words? I use the Book of Common Prayer which does use the masculine he throughout. Don’t think Jesus used the she, but i am trying to remember scripture and how Jesus ever addressed the HolySpirit in prayer or otherwise. He did many times refer to “being born from above”, which obviously refers to the Holy Spirit. In his time and being Jewish, maybe other words were used for the same. In my church our Rector does not mind if one uses he or she for the Creed. I hear many voices, mostly women use she. If you read my piece somewhere on RD i explained that the Holy Spirit is thought to have the feminine attributes of nurturing and soft love, a connecting kind of care between the people. Its the unseen “glue” that holds us in communion. In the Eastern Church, the Holy Spirit is seen as “Sophia” translated as holy Wisdom. Maybe they understood better than the Romanized clergy who were in a primarily masculine dominated society. Mary is celebrated, or was, in the Eastern Church in Pentecost as Wisdom ( if i remember correctly). Go online for more. I believe its perfectly fine to use she if it is really meant to honor the Spirt and Wisdom. Maybe its actually a better and closer understanding to use she.

    Jesus referring to Him? Are you referring to God? Than yes of course. For the rest I’d have to read John again. Your question would not have occur to me. it makes sense to me that since John was the last of the gospels written, somewhere after 90 – 120 (I believe is usually given for dates,) the ‘he” is used. We have to respect the cultural lens of how society was. Also, there are maybe translations, but the version you read is the one picked, but don’t know the background of that. Its also true that languages may not have a word for the neutral quality of something. English may have ha it but i guess dropped. i’m not an expert in that study etymology. i studied German and there is die for she, das for the neutral and der for he. Its funny but a maiden in German was das; don’t know if its changing. I’m trying tot be accurate and hope this helps. Remember too that in my education “He” also meant the universal everybody, male and female. Has that changed? I may be showing my age.

  • Jim Reed

    The church is the god of the Christians, and it is struggling in the 21st century. God is not involved, and it is up to us to work through the issues. The struggle is progressives working to fix things while conservative Christians drag their feet. It is a losing strategy for the Christians because they are slowly being dragged into the future against their will, and are bleeding of a few members in the process.

  • Jim Reed

    If something is wrong, it is against the law. Beyond that, sin is from extra rules the church sets up to have more control. In this country, we had to have separation of church and state so that Christians couldn’t pass laws to make sin a crime. That was what the founding fathers established, but eventually the rich needed more control over peoples lives, so they turned to the church, and the church is working to turn their sins into crimes. Now we have to fight the Christians to keep our nation clean of sin being against the law.

  • james warren

    You probably mean to say that my interpretation of scripture is different than your own interpretation.

    Sin is described as “missing the mark” as the Jews defined it.

    I do not believe in Jesus as the slaughtered “Lamb of God” as John claims. Based on history, it does not work for me as a metaphor. It points to a God of jealousy and justice that demands the spilling of blood. Both Jesus and John the Baptizer believed in a God of mercy that wanted repentance and a contrite heart.

    Since John wanted to show that Jesus died to take away sin was one of the main reasons he has Jesus dying on the Day of Preparation, when the paschal lambs were slaughtered. The other three gospels have Jesus dying on Passover proper.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    It’s not a matter of interpretation per se,Mr.Warren…The Scriptures teach the concept of the much-maligned penal substitutionary atonement so emphatically and clearly that to deny it would be like looking up at a clear,sunny noonday sky and claiming that it’s raining. ( And it began in the Book of Leviticus,NOT with Anselm.) And if YOU have a problem with John, the Epistle to the Hebrews lays it out even more clearly.But your problem is not with any given apostle,it’s with Jesus Himself,who left NO legitimate doubt as to why He came.I’ve studied the various supposed “theories”that attempt to explain the reason for Jesus’ death,and they ALL have one thing in common: NONE OF THEM have ANY Scriptural foundation whatsoever,which means that all of them except PSA are the products of man-centered hypotheses,speculations,and guesswork.So…it’s irrelevant whether you or anyone else agrees with Almighty God or not,Mr.Warren.When all is said and done,as Scripture says: “Let God be true,and every man (or woman,for that matter) a liar”…JESUS IS LORD!!!

  • james warren

    This is exactly the reason that Christianity and Islam are under sustained attack these days. The ancient theological formulations of belief are no longer compelling or persuasive today. The bigotry, homophobia, hypocrisy,elitism, other-worldliness, patriarchy and violence speak to no one these days.

    I think you may be one of those believers who believes the Bible to be inerrant and believes your own understanding of it is also inerrant.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Hmm…Well,I’ll say this,and I’ll be done with this fruitless dialogue,Mr.Warren.I’ve been a student of Scripture for over 25 years,and my”understanding”of it,as you put it,has been forged and shaped by many teachers both ancient and modern,from the great Apostle Paul to William Lane Craig.But my greatest Teacher,and the One who taught and is still teaching all those who trusted Him then and do so now,is the Holy Spirit Himself,as Jesus said He would be.Yes,I believe the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation,and I make absolutely NO apologies for it.As for Christianity being under attack,so what? We were told to expect that;that’s the norm,although it’s less so in this spoiled,overfed,comfortable nation; my brothers and sisters who are suffering in places where it is literally death to be a Christian…well,that’s REAL persecution.At any rate,there is a certain sense in which I agree with you in part; unfortunately there have been,and are, presumed “christians”who have been guilty of exhibiting the ugly characteristics you listed in your post.But those who have done so acted contrary to the express commands of The Saviour,so it is patently unfair for you to attempt to throw ALL Christians under your particular bus. ( But then,I rarely expect fairness from unbelievers.)—At any rate Mr.Warren,as I said,I’m done with this conversation.Believe what you will,sir,as will I.God bless you,and go in peace.

  • james warren

    Noted.
    Thank you, sir.

  • Jim Reed

    It does seem self serving. The greatest teacher of all is the Holy Ghost who resides in your heart since you are a true Christian. Those who are not true Christians don’t have access to the Holy Ghost, so they don’t learn the truth the way you do. Can you see how that is ultimately reasoning in a circle?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Well,you pretty much laid it out just as the Scriptures teach it,so…do you have a point,Mr.Reed?…”the Helper,the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you”…(John 14:26)—so,ever has it been thus,from that day to this,in the teachings and guidance of ALL God’s People.[ See also Romans 8:9 ]—So,again Mr.Reed,this is what the Scriptures teach,and this is what authentic Christians abide in,trust in,believe in.As I’ve said before,as an unbeliever you simply cannot grasp what The Word of God conveys,something you make abundantly clear every time you post.What is the problem?You claim that you’re knowledgeable about the Christian faith,so what is it that seems so hard for you to understand? I await your reply;after that,I won’t engage with you again.—PEACE IN CHRIST.

  • Jim Reed

    I think only a non-believer could ever truly understand Christianity. The deeper a true Christian gets into the religion, the more involved he gets in the illusion, and the harder it becomes for him ever to see the religion is caught in a tight spiral of believing it’s true because it’s true. The group psychology makes it even more that way. It is hard to ever wake up and break free when the Christian group is continuously encouraging each other to believe ever more strongly, and comes with its system of rewards and punishments to praise their fellow believers, and correct or chastise the doubters.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Well,that’s it,Mr.Reed–I’m done.The sad thing about this whole wasted interchange is that you have deluded yourself into thinking that you actually believe that you know what you’re talking about! If it wasn’t so pitifully sad,it would be hilarious.Adieu,sir.Go with God.

  • Jim Reed

    I do know what I’m talking about. I have been through it, and all my family has. There are levels beyond the state of just believing what the religion wants you to believe.

  • Fred Garvin

    “Entirely positive”? Really? Mainline Protestantism, for all its preaching “Celebrate diversity!” remains as middle class, middle aged and middle brow as it ever was; it’s still barely 5% non-White after 40 years of “inclusiveness”. It’s basically NPR at prayer.