My good friend Mark and I have been having an extensive ongoing email conversation about quite a few topics including home prices, construction and the overall economy.‚ However, over the next day or two I am going to publish a few bits and pieces of our conversation as it pertains to religion because I am curious to have other people’s input.‚ Our conversation below is off the hip and unresearched and we werent’ thinking of sharing it when we were writing, so focus on the larger ideas and thought structures rather than individual details.
Mark: When are you going to become a Christian? Hehe =)
Joel: I always try to test my theories and ideas and principles using all sorts of acid tests.‚ I find that debating with people on both sides of an issue and then doing independent research to find the raw data like you were saying works best for me. For me, there are no ‘sacred’ theories/ideas/principles that I am unwilling to question and investigate further.‚ Many things that I had initially believed to be true I found out actually didn’t make sense or were just plain false.‚ For instance, I used to believe as a little kid that I had 7 layers of skin because I was from South Dakota where it was cold, I believed in Santa/Easter Bunny, I believed that homosexuals should be put to death, and many other silly/incorrect ideas.‚ As for your question of me becoming a Christian, I have & continue to thoroughly investigate all sides of various religious philosophies, but the evidence has been overwhelmingly against any such belief system.‚ If I ever do convert, be very wary of me… I’m probably trying to work some sort of power grab scheme lol.
From what I have gleaned from my observations and studies, religion of all types is not only incorrect, but it is also very harmful to humanity.‚ Much of the war, torture, genocides, and loss of individual freedoms in history has been directly linked to religion.‚ The problem is is that ignorant peoples are easily swayed by newly arising religious figures every day- for instance there is a fat Mexican right now who claims to be the real Christ and has amassed over a hundred thousand followers!‚ People are too trusting and tend to believe what they are told, especially if it is espoused by a charismatic person.‚ Many of these mystics, psychics, televangelists and others prey upon people’s desires to believe that their lives will improve or that there is life after death or they will see their loved ones in paradise/heaven/outer space.‚ Its an easy sell when you tell someone that their son Bobby is waiting for them in Heaven and all they have to do is believe in God or that their wife Sally has followed all the little Scientologists up to Pluto and if they “purify” themselves they can go too.‚ Many manipulators have used this scheme to gain followers: David Koresh, L Ron Hubbard, Mohammed, Zoraster, Brigham Young, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Dalai Lama, Charles Manson, and on and on and on… there are literally tens of thousands of these people, some more successful than others.‚ I have actually thought about starting my own mini-religion modelled on these fellows… you get more women, cash and zealot followers easier than you can in any other line of work.‚ Poor/ignorant people fall for this stuff every day.
Mark: Hehe I was just giving you a hard time about the Christian thing, always fun to do.‚ I understand completely why you feel that religion has done more harm than good to humanity.‚ I have listened to Christopher Hitchens several times and I have heard many others explain that point of view.‚ Surprisingly I must say that too often that is the case.‚ Religion hasn¢â‚¬â„¢t caused the problem however, people abusing and misusing it has caused the problem just as cars don¢â‚¬â„¢t cause wrecks, and it is the people who drive them that cause wrecks.‚ I do believe in Christianity though I don¢â‚¬â„¢t believe what all ¢â‚¬Å“Christians¢â‚¬ would claim is Christianity.‚ I do believe the Bible however.‚ I also believe that many of those you listed are truly manipulators; however the only person I completely disagree with is Jesus for a long list of reasons.
I could go many ways with the religion versus no religion idea.‚ The easiest way for me to do this is to picture a world with no religion.‚ Everyone on earth is affected by it, whether they put their faith in one or not, whether they talk against it, whether they hate it or whatever else.‚ Everyone is affected by it just as we are affected by the wind and weather.‚ People have tried putting certain religions to death oftentimes backfiring and causing the religion to explode in followers.‚ Religion will never die.‚ It will always be around like it or not.‚ So individuals have several decisions to make, most of which are just subconscious.‚ How do I feel about religion, do I put faith in one, if I hate religion what am I going to do about it, how do I avoid anything religious so I don¢â‚¬â„¢t have to deal with it, and so on.‚ Very rarely does someone come along with an agenda to abolish religion because it is basically impossible without annihilating all humans.
How is a world with no religion a good thing?‚ And for the other side, how is a world with religion a good thing?‚ I admit I am not persuadable on this due to my personal beliefs, I have spent large amounts of time thinking, researching, and praying about it and have already found more than enough evidence and I just simply have faith in what I believe.‚ However if I was a confused individual with complete objectivity in every way, I might start by making a list with two sides.‚ One side for each of the two questions above.‚ Then I would go through and make a huge list of all the positives and negatives for each question.‚ Just because I may have one side longer than the other doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t really conclude anything either way, because it is only based upon my own personal findings, but it may help me at least have a better understanding of myself and why I believe the way I do.‚ Whether you believe that the world is better with or without religion, you have to live with it, but I personally believe it is better to have religion as long as the truth is really out there, and it is.
Also as for saying that religion being linked with war, torture, genocide, and the like, those would occur whether there was religion or not, and in my opinion they would be more frequent, not less frequent without religion.‚ In most religions worldwide, a vast majority of the followers are peaceful people who do little harm to others.‚ However every single religion has people in the minority who distort, twist, and dement what the tenets of that religion are.‚ Just as the media focuses on all the negative things going on in the world because that¢â‚¬â„¢s what entertains people, so it is easy to look at all the negatives religion has caused.‚ And unfortunately in our country, Christianity has gotten abused so often it disgusts me.‚ All the things you said you get sickened by sicken me too.‚ However being someone who honestly follows Christ and who believes and reads the Bible, I still believe that Christianity is true and what it speaks about are meant for building others up not tearing them down.‚ Because of my viewpoints on sin and evil, I believe that since all of us are sinful, we are all going to distort the truth at times.‚ But I also believe the Holy Spirit guides and directs as He has with me in my own personal life.
Let¢â‚¬â„¢s say that you make a law based upon a truth.‚ For example, the truth is: human being¢â‚¬â„¢s lives are valuable.‚ Then the law would say something like: You will get executed for taking another person¢â‚¬â„¢s life.
Now in a world with billions of people, there are some who don¢â‚¬â„¢t believe that humanity is worth saving, some who believe the truth stated above that human¢â‚¬â„¢s lives are valuable, and some who don¢â‚¬â„¢t give a care either way.‚ With that many people, just about every viewpoint anyone could think of would be practiced and lived out, at least in a world of sin.‚ Now some of those from the camp of those who believe human¢â‚¬â„¢s lives are valuable may decide they are sick of living this truth out.‚ Or maybe they didn¢â‚¬â„¢t believe the truth but pretended to so that they would be more easily accepted by the culture or those with that particular belief.‚ Now let¢â‚¬â„¢s say these individuals go out and kill a bunch of people for whatever reason.‚ The reason they did it doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t matter as much that they did it.‚ Does this mean that the initial truth everything in this example is based upon is a lie?‚ Of course not, but yet plenty of people may look at the evidence and say over time that human being¢â‚¬â„¢s lives are not really valuable.‚ Or maybe they will just put in clarifiers like, this person¢â‚¬â„¢s life is only valuable if they are really smart, good looking, etc.
So in that example, if Christianity is the truth, you can see that people may believe it, may not, and everything in between.‚ But just because someone living under the guise of Christianity goes out and does something terrible, it doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily negate the fact that Christianity is the truth. The same is true for all religions.
Anyways, that¢â‚¬â„¢s enough thoughts for one email.‚ I don¢â‚¬â„¢t want to give you or me a headache thinking about it, but those are my initial thoughts.
Joel: I love our conversations.‚ Very entertaining.‚ I kind of want to grab bits & pieces of our topics and make them into blog posts if you dont mind (especially the religion thing).
My question to you is, other than your personal religious beliefs, why is Jesus any different than all the other mystics & preachers?
Also, I didn’t really understand your point in the last paragraph about Christianity being the truth.‚ Are you saying that even if religion is false that it leads people to have better lives so we should believe in it anyways?
Mark: I don¢â‚¬â„¢t mind if you post stuff we talk about.‚ Sometimes I may look like an idiot because I am not researching, I am just going off the top of my head, but it doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t bother me.‚ =)
For me I believe Jesus is different than any other prophet, mystic, preacher etc.‚ Assuming you have faith that he actually existed, which obviously I do,‚ for a lot of reasons, I guess the first reason he is different is that he is the only man to actually fulfill hundreds of prophecies written about just such a man.‚ Again, you have to have faith that it was God¢â‚¬â„¢s plan and not coincidence that he fulfilled them in such a way.‚ Second, Jesus didn¢â‚¬â„¢t come to gain power, or money, or any kind of worldly possession which distinguishes himself among many, though many still were selfless like him in the history of the world.‚ Third, Jesus came to specifically die for the sins of mankind, and through the fulfillment of yet more prophecy, he chose to die in the most painful way known in ancient history.‚ Fourth, Jesus didn¢â‚¬â„¢t come claiming to have some new religion or start a new type of worship, he came as a fulfillment of scripture in the old testament and he summed up the old testament through the way he lived and what he taught, and then enabled man to have a personal relationship with God by claiming that he was God and that because he died and bridged the gap of sin, we can now have a relationship directly with him.
Jesus lived a perfect life, and died for all the rest who are imperfect.‚ I understand why many people think this is a stretch of faith to believe in, but looking at the Bible, all the archeological backing that it has, and all the unexplained acts that have occurred to baffle scientists over the years, there is plenty of evidence to at least consider why Christians believe what they do.‚ By the same token, it takes a lot of faith to believe the earth just randomly exploded into existence over billions of years.
I get confusing when I start rambling on as I do, so what I was trying to say about Christianity in the last email is that just because many people do stupid things in the name of religion, doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t mean it is false and worthless and dangerous.‚ People will always find stupid things to do in the name of something whether religion is there or not.‚ So to answer your more recent question:‚ Even if religion is false, it leads people to have better lives so we should believe in it anyways? ¢â‚¬â€œ Religion is just a term that can be defined as a cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.‚ The religion you are referring to are those that follow some supernatural teaching or divine being.‚ The reason I clarify is that what you believe could technically be defined as religion, evolution can be, or any other worldview associated with the cause and origin of life and afterlife.
I think people lead better lives in the pursuit of truth rather than the disconnected life of apathy.‚ Countries where apathy and atheistic worldviews have sunk in are where spiritual principalities are not manifesting themselves.‚ Go to India if you want to see someone possessed by a demon or evil spirit.‚ See what that is like, feel the power in it, feel the fear.‚ To try to explain it through science when the darn thing talks to you through someone is just silliness.‚ And why on earth do demons flee people when Jesus name is invoked.‚ In no other name are demons cast out.‚ And surprisingly it doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to matter what language it is evoked in either.‚ I understand I probably already lost you at this point because I am going on about things pretty deep into spirituality.‚ But the truth is out there for those who look.‚ There is purpose in this world, it is not all for naught. ‚ And I think people are happier overall when they have a sense of purpose in life.‚ You for example, you have goals, dreams, aspirations, maybe you don¢â‚¬â„¢t call what you believe a ¢â‚¬Å“religion¢â‚¬ but you actually are getting something out of life.‚ I respect that, and I respect all who do that.‚ I just believe that through religion, Christianity specifically, fulfillment comes in its most complete form.‚ And for those who practice living out the Bible, their lives will reflect something that the rest of the world who don¢â‚¬â„¢t believe will draw back with wonder.
It is just too hard for me to be quick about writing =)‚ Sorry for being so long =)
I hope you guys were able to work through our somewhat disjointed conversation to understand the root of the ideas.‚ What do you think?
People have strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but I still expect you to be polite.‚ This means you, Tara 😉