If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?

Do you Have to be Christian to Go to Heaven?

Since there are so many religions, which one is right?

Why are there so many religions? Isn’t there only one God? Why didn’t God say the same thing to everyone? How do I know which religion is right?

Perhaps God does speak the same truth to people all around the world. The question is, when God speaks, what do people hear?

Two people can listen to the same story and come away with very different meanings. We hear what we need to hear in order to face our own particular challenges. People of different times and cultures hear God differently, according to their own cultural and spiritual conditions.

It’s not that God is different for different people. God is eternally the same. It’s that we humans are different from one another, and we each see God in our own way. God gives every person and every culture what’s needed to know and love God, and to love and serve their fellow human beings.

It is common for people think their religion is the right one. Many Christians say you have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven. Yet the Bible does not focus as much on what we believe as it does on how we live. People who live good, conscientious lives of service to others are living in the spirit of Christ no matter what name they may use for God.

Does God have a multiple personality disorder?

At last count, there were . . . well . . . I won’t even try to count all the different religions in the world! Besides the large, well-known world religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, there are countless smaller religions, including many varieties of traditional, cultural, and nature-based religions, throughout the world. There are also a billion or so people who don’t belong to any particular religion, either because they are atheist or agnostic or because they follow their own personal spiritual beliefs.

All of the religions have some concept of God—although some do not talk much about God. However, if we ask adherents of the various religions what God is like, we will get many different descriptions. Within the different religions God has been pictured as a male or female human being, as various kinds of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and insects, as being with a human body and the head of an animal, as a tree or a plant, as lightning and thunder, as the sun, moon, or stars, and in many other ways.

When we start talking about the different mental and emotional characteristics of God, things get even more interesting. God loves and hates, is wrathful and merciful, is omniscient and forgetful, is unchanging yet relents from punishments that were planned, is all-forgiving but condemns everyone who doesn’t believe or do certain things.

Does God have a multiple personality disorder? How could one God be so many different things all at once? How could God be so many contradictory things at the same time? After all, if we ask people of the various religions how they know what God is like, most them will say that their beliefs originally came from God.

Are all religions except mine wrong?

Okay, there’s another possibility. Maybe all of those religions got it wrong.

Or maybe there is one that got it right. The religion I believe in! It may be Christianity or Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, but if it’s my religion, it must be the right one. Otherwise why would I believe it?

It’s funny, isn’t it? No matter what religion we look at, the people who believe in it think they are the ones who have the real truth about God—and that all the other religions are a little bit off . . . or a lot off.

Of course, there are many religious people who take a broader view. But what about all the people who say that if you don’t believe in my religion, God will condemn you? What about all those Christians who say that you can’t be saved and go to heaven unless you believe in Jesus Christ?

If people in every religion claim that theirs is the right one and everyone else’s is wrong, how can we believe any of them? And why didn’t God make it a lot clearer to us humans on earth exactly what we’re supposed to believe about God and heaven?

Who’s confused, anyway? God or humans?

Let’s tackle some of these questions. The first thing to recognize is that God didn’t make all those religions, people did.

“What?” you say, “Didn’t God talk to all those prophets and write all those books for all those religions?” Yes, God has spoken to many prophets, priests, and ordinary people over the ages. Some of them have written down what God said to them, and those books have become the sacred texts of the various religions.

But have you ever had the experience of saying one thing, and having the person you were talking to hear something different? Just because God said something to a priest or prophet, that doesn’t mean the listener heard exactly what God said. In fact, psychologists tell us that we humans always interpret what we hear according to what we have experienced, and according to how we understand the world around us.

Let’s take a simple example: the words “I love you.” We might think these would have the same meaning no matter who we say them to. But think about the different ways this simple, common phrase will be heard by a child, a spouse, a parent, a friend. Now think of how it would be heard by someone who has just screamed in your face, “I hate your guts!” How would it be heard by a child you have just disciplined? How would it be heard by an elderly parent whom you have just moved into a nursing home against her will?

In exactly the same way, although God says the same thing to all people everywhere, each one of us hears it differently according to our own particular culture, experiences, and beliefs. The difference is not in God, but in the listeners. God says “I love you” to people in all times, places, and cultures. Each one hears that message in a unique way. The many and varied sacred texts of humanity are the result.

So which is the best religion?

Mine is, of course!

But seriously, if God is infinitely loving and infinitely wise, as the theologians and mystics of all the major world religions say, don’t you think God would do a good job of providing religion for the people on earth? Don’t you think God would provide a way for all people to experience God’s love and wisdom?

We could argue until the cows come home about which religion is the best or truest, and it would be a monumental waste of breath. God is not concerned about which religion is better than other religions. God is concerned with how well each religion brings its people closer to God, and how well each religion moves its believers to love and serve their fellow human beings.

So the short answer is: Each religion is best for the people who believe in it. If God truly is loving and wise, wouldn’t God provide every person and every culture with the religion that works best for them? Would a loving God really leave vast segments of the world’s population out in the cold? We humans come in all different varieties. And we need a variety of religions to help us find God, faith, and compassion for our fellow human beings, each in our own unique way.

Don’t you have to believe in Jesus to be saved?

Perhaps you really want to believe that God is present in all religions.

But what about all those Christian preachers who say that if you don’t believe in Jesus you’ll go to hell? And what about all the Bible passages they quote? Is it possible to believe the Bible and still think that non-Christians can go to heaven?

First of all, the Bible itself is full of people from different religions. Before Christ came, there was not a single Christian on earth. Everything in the Old Testament was originally about how people could be saved before Christianity even existed. In the New Testament John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ Apostles preached their message to Jews and non-Jews alike. And though traditional Christian preachers have selected the passages that command us to believe in Jesus, they have pushed aside a far greater number of passages in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that command us to love God, love the neighbor, and obey God’s commandments if we wish to be saved.

The Apostle Paul clearly stated what non-Christians must do to be saved, before he made his famous statements about being saved by faith in Jesus Christ:

God will repay everyone according to what they have done. To those who by patiently doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:6–11)

He then goes on to talk about related issues of law and conscience, concluding that all of this will take place “through Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16).

Paul’s later statements in the same letter about the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ are intended for Christians. His letters are addressed to the groups of Christian believers in various towns and cities. And of course, if you say you’re a Christian but you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you’re in trouble, because you are rejecting your God.

Is God prejudiced?

It all boils down to this: Is God narrow-minded or broad-minded? Does God provide salvation only for one part of the world’s people who believe the “right” way? Or does God provide salvation for all of the world’s people?

Both the Bible and common sense say that God will accept into heaven those who live good lives according to their own conscience and their own religious laws, while those who selfishly reject the truth and live evil and destructive lives will suffer the consequences.

For Christians, this means believing in Jesus Christ and living according to his teachings in the Gospels. For Jews it means believing in God and living according to the Torah. For Muslims it means believing in Allah and living according to the Qur’an. Those who believe in God, and live a good life according to their beliefs, are showing their faith in God by their actions. And even those who say they don’t believe in God but live a good life according to their conscience are following God’s law.

Jesus taught that action trumps words in this brief tale:

What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.”

He answered, “I will not.” But later he changed his mind and went.

Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, “I will, sir,” but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?

“The first, they answered.” (Matthew 21:28–31)

And even more directly:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

In short, salvation is based, not on mere words, but on action. And those who do the will of God by living good lives according to their beliefs and their conscience are showing their faith in God, whether they call it faith or not.

Then why do we need Jesus Christ?

If people of all religions can be saved, why do we need Jesus Christ? Good question! In fact, it’s such a good question that it needs its own article. See “Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?” But for now, consider this: If Jesus Christ really is God as Christians say he is, doesn’t that mean he is God for all people, and not just for those who call themselves Christians?

It doesn’t matter what name we call God (as long as it’s nice!). No matter what name we use, it is the same God we’re calling on. There’s only one of ’em, you know!

And no matter how many different ways we may hear God’s voice, it is the same message being given through all the religions of the earth: Love God and love your fellow human beings. Live by the truth, live with compassion. Do not do what is evil and say what is false, but follow God’s commandments and engage in good deeds of useful service for others.

All who do these things, no matter what their religion, are part of the spiritual community that is God’s universal church on earth, and will be part of God’s heaven when they pass into the spiritual world.

This article is © 2012 by Lee Woofenden

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About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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106 comments on “If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?
  1. jahnosecret says:

    For what it’s worth I see God as the hub (the centre of all) and all the religions as the spokes. As you say, we can hear the message in different ways but we are all connected to one God. Thanks for another thought-provoking and enlightened post. Peace.

    • DougDoesLife says:

      This is a great post. While not a Christian, I feel as you do on this topic… One light, many candles, as the saying goes. It isn’t any more complicated than that…

      • Lee says:

        Thanks for stopping by, DougDoesLife, and for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the post!

        • Pam says:

          God bless your efforts in getting the word out. I stumbled upon this after writting the following:
          . Please I ask in the name of God for all who love Him to please consider…. first the fact that He loves us, second, the fact that He loves us all equally. I ask that for a moment you focus on God and not the beliefs or rules of your religion.

          Focus on God’s love for you, removing from your mind everything you ever learned from your religion and allowing God’s love in. Consider why you are the religion that you are. You are the religion you are for the most part because of your ancestry. Had you been born to another family of another religion…. you would believe that religion. Not only would you believe it, you would believe it to be the one, the only true religion.
          Now consider as I believe we all do, the existence of a supreme being, of one God. How do you see God?
          Our impressions of Him have largely been dictated by our religious upbringing. With that being said and your focus on the God of love, please consider….that maybe what our religion has taught us is not entirely accurate. I believe at the root of all Godly religions is love. Because interpretations of God’s message in writing can vary among individuals of even the same religion, and because no holy book was written dictated from the audible voice of God, please consider removing what you have learned and instead asking God to speak to your heart directly. Know that He WILL! God exposes what’s wrong to bring about right. He will provide His truths to every individual who asks.

          Everyone…please help spread the word. Share and welcome others into God’s family regarless of religious beliefs.

          Thanks Lee, Thank you God for leading me here to share my mutual belief.

    • v ic says:

      yes one god..people believe from child hood the religion names,all about the same things.be good to every one help who you can help be faithful no matter what be good it is contages you will catch it but you have to out it out there

  2. Marissa says:

    Some thoughts:

    Relationship with God doesn’t sound like it can be found through any and all religions. In fact, religion is the biggest roadblock to seeking a relationship with God. Most religions look to be based upon this “works theology” (“If I can do enough, say enough, pray enough, give enough, sacrifice enough perhaps God will show me favor or send me to Heaven.”)

    Religions contradict each other; therefore, they cannot all be true. (If truth is relative, then the statement that truth is relative is an absolute truth and would be a self-defeating statement by proving that truth is not relative. But, if truth is absolute, then the statement “truth is absolute” is true and not self-defeating. It is true that truth exists. It is true that truth will not contradict itself.) Mormonism teaches that there are many gods in existence, and that you can become a god. Christianity teaches that there is only one God, and you cannot become a god. Islam teaches that Jesus is not God in flesh, where Christianity does. Jesus cannot be both God and not God at the same time. Some religions teach that we reincarnate, while others do not. Some teach there is a hell, and others do not. They cannot all be true. If they cannot all be true, it cannot be true that all religions lead to God. Furthermore, it means that some religions are, at the very least, false in their claims to reveal the true God (or gods).

    Your words: “…don’t you think God would do a good job of providing religion for the people on earth? Don’t you think God would provide a way for all people to experience God’s love and wisdom?”

    Er, yes. If one God exists, and he happens to be an all-knowing, 100% wise, truthful, all-powerful God, absolutely. If God has not done so, he’s certainly not an all-powerful, omnipresent, perfect God – and I wouldn’t be interested in a ‘less-than’ god, for I’d certainly be putting baseless stock in a puny god.

    The bible itself says that the Christian faith would be a lie, and useless in the following case: “…And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

    Instead it makes the claims: “This is what the Lord says… the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6) The Bible insists there is only one God, and that all other gods are substitutes (Isaiah 44:9-20 – ‘worthless (44:9)'; ‘man-made (44:9-11)'; ‘detestable (44:19)'; illogical (44:19)'; ‘powerless (44:20)’, etc.)

    By its own claims, the bible tells you that the Christian faith MUST either be a lie, or it is the only faith that can be true.

    Your words: “…although God says the same thing to all people everywhere, each one of us hears it differently according to…”

    This is how the bible (Romans 1:20-26 ) explains how people have chosen to hear God: “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired…They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself….”

    Thank you for letting me take up so much space here ;-)

    • Lee says:

      Hi Marissa,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comment! There are a lot of issues to cover here. I’ll respond more substantively after I’ve had a chance to mull it over a bit.

    • Lee says:

      Hi again, Marissa,

      Thanks again for your comment, and for the Bible quotes and references.

      As I said in the article, “You Cannot Serve both God and Money,” when reading the Bible it is important to:

      1. Pay attention to the exact words, not passing over or adding anything to the text.
      2. Put particular verses and statements in the context of the story in which they are embedded, and of related statements elsewhere in the Bible.

      With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at exactly what the Bible says . . . and what it doesn’t say.

      The issue of a “works theology” is such a huge topic and there is so much misunderstanding about it that I’ll wait on that one until I can devote an entire blog post to the faith vs. works controversy.

      Meanwhile, I’ll respond piece by piece to the other issues you raise. They all have to do with the truth or falsity of Christianity vs. other religions, and with the true God vs. false gods.

    • Lee says:

      First, a word about absolute truth vs. relative truth.

      There is absolute truth. To borrow and adapt words from John 1:1, absolute truth is with God, and it is God.

      There is also relative truth. Relative truth is with and in everything else but God.

      We humans, with our finite, limited minds, could no more grasp and comprehend the absolute truth as it exists in the core of God than we could grasp the full reality of God without being destroyed in the process. It is simply too powerful and too brilliant to fit into anything but the infinite mind of God. (See the article, “How does Jesus Appear to Us? Can We See God Face to Face?“)

      In other words, all the truth that we humans have is relative. But it is relative to the absolute truth that God has and is. This means that we humans can be closer to or farther away from the absolute truth that is God, but we can never rightly claim to actually have the absolute truth. That glory belongs to God alone. It is sinful pride and a lack of humility before God for any human being to claim to have the absolute truth. Those who do so are stealing God’s glory.

      Does this mean that there is no right or wrong? Not at all. Some things are contrary to the truth.

      But let’s not get tangled up in human syllogisms about absolute truth vs. relative truth as if we humans could ever claim to be absolutely right. Being absolutely right is God’s job, not ours.

    • Lee says:

      This also means that no religion is absolutely true.

      Yes, religion can be an obstacle to God, because religion is a human institution. This doesn’t mean the various religions are wrong or bad. It means that each religion embodies God’s love and truth as adapted to the particular human beings who follow that particular religion. And since we humans cannot grasp or handle the absolute love and truth that is God, it must always be veiled and adapted to our level of comprehension and of love. That’s why we have various religions.

      That’s also why the various religions have teachings that conflict with one another. Different people see things differently, and God has to speak to us according to the way we see things. Otherwise we would reject God altogether.

      However, let’s not forget that the various religions of the world also have many points of agreement.

      That’s why it simply doesn’t work and isn’t true to say that Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong. What about the teachings of other religions that are the same as the teachings of Christianity? If all those other religions were wrong, wrong, wrong, it would mean that Christianity is also wrong in the areas where those other religions agree with it.

      For example, in Islam, there is a tradition that there are 99 names of God. These names describe various attributes of God. Among them are “The Compassionate,” “The Merciful,” “The King,” “The Almighty,” “The Creator,” “The Omniscient,” “The Loving.” If you read down the whole list, nearly all, if not all of the names of God in Islam describe characteristics of God that are also found in the Bible and in Christianity. If Islam were completely wrong about God, this would mean that most of the things Christianity believes about God are also wrong.

      People of various religions tend to emphasize the beliefs they hold to that are different from the beliefs of other religions. That’s how we humans distinguish ourselves from others and maintain our sense of distinct individual, community, cultural, and national character. But the fact is, on most of the practical fundamentals of religion, the various religions of the world agree with one another.

      What are the fundamentals of religion?

      Jesus himself told us when he answered the question put to him by the Sadducees and Pharisees, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

      Jesus responded, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (see Matthew 22:34-40).

      I suspect that there are very few religions in the world that would disagree with the two Great Commandments that Jesus says are the most important teachings in the Bible. And don’t forget that he was quoting these two commandments from the Hebrew (Jewish) Scriptures.

      In other words, though the various religions of the world do have many different and even conflicting teachings about God, spirit, salvation, the afterlife, and so on, when it comes to the practical fundamentals of how to actually live our religion as taught by Jesus, all of the major religions are in agreement: The most important thing is to love God above all, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

    • Lee says:

      Now let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:14-19.

      This statement of Paul is in the context of a discussion of resurrection from the dead. Paul’s main point is that if Christ’s resurrection from the dead did not happen, then Christianity is a lie, and the things that he is preaching and that his Christian listeners are believing in are a lie.

      I’m a Christian, and I agree with him. If the resurrection of Christ is a false teaching, then Christianity as a whole is based on a falsehood. For one thing, Christ’s resurrection is one of the major demonstrations that Jesus Christ was not a mere finite human being like other human beings, but was, in fact “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

      However, saying that Christianity teaches the truth on this subject is not the same thing as saying that all other religions are false. And Paul does not say that all other religions besides Christianity are false. He says, rather, that Christianity is true.

      About the most we can say is that Paul teaches that Christianity possesses a greater truth than the other religions that existed at the time.

      However, possessing a greater truth does not make all other beliefs false. It simply makes them a lesser form of truth. As presented in the New Testament, the truth of Christianity does not make all other religions false. Rather, it presents Christianity as offering a greater truth than what the previous religions offered.

      To put it in plain terms, the New Testament teaches that other religions besides Christianity still work. (See, for example, Romans 2:1-16.) But it teaches that Christianity works better.

      Obviously, people of other religions will still object to this. They will not believe that Christianity has a greater truth than their own religion. But the main point here is that saying that Christianity is true as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 is not the same thing as saying that all other religions are false. And true Christianity as presented in the Bible extends salvation to people of other religions as well as to Christians.

      Please keep in mind that the whole passage (not to mention Paul’s letters as a whole) is directed at Christians. When Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins,” he is talking to people who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. Clearly, if Jesus Christ is a false god, then those who believe in Jesus Christ are believing and hoping in a falsity.

      Paul is not saying that the faith of all non-Christians is futile if Christ was not raised from the dead. Only that the faith of Christians is futile if Christ was not raised from the dead. (There is also a sense in which even the faith of non-Christians would be futile, which is presented in the article, “Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?

      It may seem like a fine point, but if we read Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 15 carefully, not adding anything to the text, he simply does not say that all who don’t believe in Jesus Christ are believing and hoping in a falsity. I happen to believe that non-Christians are missing a beautiful and powerful element of God. However, if they believe in God and love God, it is still God that they love and believe in, even if they do not believe in the specific expression of God in Jesus Christ.

      If it were not possible to believe in God without believing in Jesus Christ, then all of the good people who believed in God before Jesus Christ was born would be believing in a false god, and would be in hell as a result. If it were not possible to believe in God without believing in Jesus Christ, then the great figures of the Old Testament—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and so on—would all be in hell because they believed in a false god.

      But as your next set of Bible references show, the Bible does not teach that believing in God without believing in Jesus Christ is believing in a false god.

      • Lee says:

        The short version of the above comment:

        It is simply not true, and it is not the teaching of the Bible, that if Christianity is true, then all other religions must be false. Even if Christianity possesses a greater truth as the New Testament teaches, other religions still possess and teach a great deal of truth. And though the New Testament does offer salvation through Jesus Christ, it also teaches that people of other religions can be saved even if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ. (Once again, see, for example, Romans 2:1-16.)

        I am aware that this is contrary to the teachings of most of the Christian churches up to this day. But what’s important is not what the Christian churches teach. What’s important is what the Bible teaches. And this is what the Bible teaches.

    • Lee says:

      Isaiah 44:6, which you quote from, reads:

      Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

      This was the God that the ancient Jewish people worshiped. When God made this statement through the prophet Isaiah, Jesus Christ had not even been born. And yet, the God of the universe was still present and available to all people on earth to be loved and worshiped.

      I believe that Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of God that can be known to humankind. But even those who do not know or believe in Jesus Christ can still know God, just as those who believed in God before Jesus Christ was born could know and believe in God.

      The incarnation of God as Jesus Christ does not take God away from all the other religions of the world. Rather, it adds a new and more personal presence of God for those who are willing and able to accept it.

    • Lee says:

      The rest of your references to Isaiah 44 are from a sequence on the absurdity of idol worship. The full version is found in Isaiah 44:9-20.

      This passage is not about people who worship the one God of the universe under various names, as do people of many religions around the world. It is about the futility and absurdity of human beings making gods out of wood, metal, and stone, and then bowing down and worshiping them. It is idols that are pronounced “‘worthless (44:9)’; ‘man-made (44:9-11)’; ‘detestable (44:19)’; illogical (44:19)’; ‘powerless (44:20)’, etc.”

      In the Bible itself, there are people of other nations who worship the Most High God. For example, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, was a Midianite (descendants of Abraham through his wife Keturah, whom he married after Sarah died). Jethro was a priest in Midian, and offered sacrifices to God with Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel (see Exodus 18:1-12).

    • Lee says:

      And finally, you quote from Romans 1:20-26.

      However, to get the full impact of what Paul is saying here, it’s necessary to read the whole sequence: Romans 1:18-32.

      In particular, Romans 1:18 reads:

      For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. (emphasis added)

      Romans 1:18-32 is not talking about good people of other religions besides Christianity. It is talking about evil people who have been taught about God, but who reject God because they are evil. Such people are unwilling to accept God’s sovereignty over their lives because God tells them not to engage in the evil and destructive behaviors that they wish to engage in. As a result, they substitute false, man-made images and idols for the true God of the universe.

      Now, if you believe that all people of all other religions besides Christianity are evil, there’s not much I can say to you except that I respectfully disagree. I have experienced for myself wonderful, kind, loving, and thoughtful people who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and of various other religions. These people believe in God and love God. They have devoted their lives to following the teachings of God as they understand them, and to living a life of love, compassion, and service toward their fellow human beings. They are following the two Great Commandments given by Jesus.

      These are not the people Paul is talking about in Romans 1:18-32. They are not people who “by their wickedness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). They are the ones Paul is talking about in Romans 2:14-15:

      When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness.

      And a few verses earlier:

      For he [God] will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6-11)

      As Paul says, God shows no partiality. Christian, Jew, or Greek (which basically meant “pagan”), God will “repay according to each one’s deeds.” Those who are wicked and self-seeking will experience wrath and fury, while those who do good will experience the glory, honor, and peace of eternal life.

      This is the teaching of the Bible.

      The Bible does not teach that all non-Christians are evil and will go to hell.

      Rather, the Bible teaches that Christians are saved by believing in Jesus Christ and living by his teachings, Jews are saved by believing in God and living according to the teachings of the Law, and “Gentiles” (or “Greeks”) are saved by “doing instinctively what the law requires,” and by living good lives according to their conscience.

      I am aware that there are other passages in the Bible that are interpreted as meaning that all who do not believe in Jesus Christ are evil and will be damned to hell. But Romans 2 is in the Bible for a reason. And I believe it is put right near the beginning of all of Paul’s letters in the Bible for a reason. It is there to teach us that if we are interpreting the Bible as saying that all non-Christians will go to hell, then our interpretation is mistaken and false. In Romans 2 Paul lays out clearly how people of other religions besides Christianity are saved. And he does this before making his famous statements about being saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

      Unfortunately, most of the Christian churches and Christian leaders have largely ignored Romans 2, and skipped right to the last part of Romans 3. As a result, they have misinterpreted the rest of what Paul said in his letters, and have hatched false doctrines about all non-Christians being evil and going to hell, which the Bible does not teach.

      • sunil nagar says:

        My personal experiences and beliefs, why don’t we build temples, mandir’s, churches, mosque
        in one plot, who believes in their religion will go to their temples or churches etc,,, but a single
        Godly soul who believes there is one God,will go to all temples of beliefs and respect every religion,
        my truth of Who God really is !!!! No pride of religion, not what the bible said, the Gita said or
        what Quaran said etc,,, this is his playground called earth , his creation, just purely serve mankind
        cause True God is in every soul of the body ♥♡♥♡♥

  3. What you state is true: Other religions may contain and teach elements of the truth about God, and those things stay true, whether they’re in one religion or a different one. You rightfully say: ‘Some things are contrary to the truth.’ Indeed. A serious consideration regards those who would reject any truth of God, once confronted with it, or as you put it, those who would reject ‘more’ truth as it’s presented to them. The deceptive thing about religions is that they teach some truth alongside things that are contrary to truth (we can call this a ‘lie’), which, for our human, finite minds, sets people up to become confused on how to discern truth from those things that are not just erroneous to truth, but contrary to it. So that, thus, once confronted with more truth, they may reject it, and if so, leads to not worshipping God ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24).

    There’s a reason why God includes in the bible “‘…his worshipers must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” You’re correct in that many who lived and died before Christ came could have certainly gone to God because of the faith that they did have in him – with the truth that He had given them at the time, of course. But if He has since given more truth (for He knows we don’t grasp all truth at once), the rejection of Christ, for example, would cause any rejector to have made the choice to cut off relationship with the true God (‘they exchanged the truth for a lie’ – Romans 1:25). The ‘contrary truth’ within any religion, once accepted over the truth that God reveals more of, causes a person to then choose to worship an imaginary god of their own making – a god who is not God.

    But just as in my own search for truth, encountering and once having been open to various religions who taught something about God, God has always been powerful enough to give practicers of religions truth different from what their religions teach them. At those times God proves who is truly willing to worship Him ‘in truth’. Thus, those to whom God speaks of and reveals more truth, or for those who reject Christ once presented with the knowledge of who He is (as did many described in the bible), well…

    Thanks again for the time you’ve taken to respond – I sincerely appreciate your repetition on not adding to nor taking away from the bible. It reminds me of this verse stated in the bible, which I have a reverent fear of (1 Corinthians 10:32-33): “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” Which then leads to what is required to be ‘saved’… ;-) (John 3:16-18, etc.)

    • Lee says:

      Hi again Marissa,

      It’s helpful to make a distinction between the head and the hands when considering whether someone has “rejected Jesus Christ.” Believing intellectually in Jesus Christ does not save a person. But actively believing by living according to what Jesus Christ taught does. That’s why Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

      For what the Lord himself taught about who will be saved and who will be damned, please read Matthew 25:31-46:

      “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

      “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

      “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

      “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

      “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

      “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

      “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

      There is no mention here of belief. Only of loving God by loving our fellow human beings. We show by our actions what we truly believe. All who live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, even if they do not believe in Jesus intellectually, are believing in Jesus with their hearts and their hands.

  4. Jason says:

    I just stumbled upon your post, simply searching to see if anyone had the same views as myself. As a young boy, (being raised Christian) I remember asking my father this same question. How do I know Christianity is the right religion? Cuz I wanted to make sure I go to heaven too! His answer was different from my beliefs today. “Because Christianity is the one and only true religion and I have nothing to worry about as long as I believe in Jesus Christ, and that he died on the cross for our sins.” Even as a young boy, I was not satisfied with this answer, for I was raised a Christian, just as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, etc. children are all over the world. It didnt seem fair that a little Buddhist boy half way across the globe doesn’t get the same chance to go to heaven because he was raised under a “wrong” religion? This bothered me and made me question my religion. “What if my religion is wrong?” Because I’m sure all religions claim that theirs is the “right” religion.” This left many questions unanswered and just more confusion for a very long time!” Only years later, and learning and researching other religions did I have the “eureka!” Moment! Much of exactly like you described here in your post! I learned that while there are many religions and viewpoints, they all ironically tend to lead to the same generalized beliefs! Often many of the stories coincide if you look at it as “the big picture of all religions” they just might say it in a different way. I’ve came to the conclusion that certain differences and beliefs are just a matter of human interpretation. Religion is a human creation, god however is not. The way one person to the next may see the same thing very differently. But in the end, they still saw the same thing. In this case the big picture of all religions. I do not believe any one single religion is completely right or completely wrong. That religion should not be over analyzed and picked apart word for word. The “big picture” of all religions involves a god, or gods, loving their god or gods and living a life of loving one another, being a genuine good person, loving our fellow brothers and sisters, being caring, thoughtful, doing good deeds and making the right choices. This is the basis for all religions, and I am at peace that even though I don’t necessarily affiliate with a particular religion, I do believe in a higher power of some sort, and that by living my life in the way described in many religions as “living for god” that I too will have my place in heaven along with all the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and so on! I am a very peaceful person and love all human beings from all walks of life and religions. I’ve also learned from my own experiences, that having soo many different types of religions creates segregation and discrimination between religions. Much like racial discrimination. If someone thinks that their religion is the “right” religion and everyone else’s is wrong. This inferior complex often leads to hate towards others of different beliefs and religions. Not saying that everyone in a particular religion hates or doesn’t love others from other religions, but this is a very common aspect in many religions which has often caused conflict, hate, and even wars in the past, present and future to come. Perhaps the world would be a more loving peaceful place if more people had the same viewpoints that you and I share. Peace and love to all men and women of all religions!

    • Jason says:

      Is there an actual name to this sort of belief that all religions will lead to god in their own way? These are my true beliefs, so when asked about my religion from others, is there a word for it? Or do I have to go into the whole explanation of my beliefs? Thank you sooo much again!

      Jason

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your long and thoughtful comment. It’s always good to make a connection with kindred spirits! I enjoyed, and agree with, your thoughts.

      As you’ll see if you spend some time with the various posts here, Annette and I are Christians. However, we don’t think Christianity has an exclusive on God. In our view, those Christians who think their own religion is the only way to be “saved” have misunderstood the teachings of the New Testament. A lot of our time and effort here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life is to present a broader and deeper view of Christianity–one that affirms the goodness of other religions while also highlighting the finer points of true Christianity.

      In general, the more fundamentalist wings of every religion tend to be exclusive and combative about their religion, the moderate wings tend to be middle-of-the-road and more accepting of people of other religions, and the mystical wings tend to see God as equally present in all the religions of the world.

      One classic formulation of the commonalities on the mystical end of all religions was published in 1945 by Aldous Huxley: The Perennial Philosophy. You don’t have to agree with all of Huxley’s viewpoints to appreciate the broadness of his vision.

      Good question about whether there’s a specific word for the belief that all religions lead to God in their own way. In my own tradition there is a phrase covering it: “The Universal Church”–which includes all people everywhere who believe in God in some form, and who live lives of love and service toward their fellow human beings. This draws on Jesus’ own statement of the fundamentals of real religion: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

      As for whether there’s a name in more widespread use to describe this belief, I’ll have to think about that.

      Meanwhile, explaining your beliefs to people is not a bad thing! ;-)

      • Jason says:

        Thank you lee for your response, and shedding some more light on the subject. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comment in great detail. It’s such a good feeling to be able to converse with others who share my same viewpoints on religion. You have a very good insight on your beliefs, along with a very good knowledge to back up what you say. So many people will say something regarding religion, and when asked why? Their answer is “because that’s what the bible says”, yet ask them to quote or even tell you the general area of the bible that they claim says something, and they have no clue. I’ve had many debates about religion with other “Christians” including my own parents, and these are the answers I get all the time. “The bible says so!” Or “it’s what god says or wants” it’s very frustrating, because they will argue with you till they are blue in the face, that they are right, and You am dead wrong for not agreeing with them. My parents don’t like the fact that I don’t believe in what the bible says the way they believe. I guess religion is one if those things such as politics, it’s just a very touchy subject that people have such strong views and beliefs, that they simply cannot hear anything that doesn’t go along with what they believe, because they are simply right, and anyone else’s are simply wrong. They have no problems condemning and judging others for their beliefs or lifestyle, sexuality, etc… And many go to extremes of telling someone that they are bad people, are going to go to hell, or even say that god hates them. Ironically going against everything that they claim to be as religious, loving, godly people! It just blows my mind how naive and hateful people can be, and argue, it’s not their word, it’s Gods word. From what I gathered from the bible basics is that god is a very loving, caring person. I just wonder how happy god will be with those who put false hateful words in gods mouth, when they come to meet their own judgement day. I believe in being the best person I can be, i don’t judge, hate or treat others any differently because they are of a different race, religion, or sexuality. I truly love thy neighbor for the way that god created them. I don’t consider myself any better than anyone, or any worse, we are all human beings, brothers and sisters. Perhaps if more people lived their lives that way, the world would be a more loving and peaceful place.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Jason,

          Good to hear from you again.

          Yes, people do get very sensitive, and sometimes very defensive, about their religion. People’s religion is very important to them, and they hold it close to their heart. When their beliefs are questioned or challenged, it can feel very personal to them.

          It is also very common for people who have adopted a new set of beliefs that they find very exciting to want to tell everyone about it–only to find a solid wall of resistance and rejection from almost everyone they talk to. Sad to say, it is sometimes necessary to seek out and find a whole new circle of friends who share similar views, or at least are more open-minded and interested in different perspectives.

          When discussing and debating religion with others, keep in mind that people stick with one set of beliefs or another because they need those beliefs to keep themselves on track spiritually. Even if their beliefs may seem very wrong to you, you’ll most likely be fighting a losing battle if your goal is to try to get them to change their mind.

          It’s especially hard when people take intolerant positions toward various groups of people based on their religious beliefs. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of being intolerant of intolerant people! ;-) It is a spiritual exercise in itself to treat people with tolerance and respect even if they don’t show the same consideration for others.

          Speaking of intolerant views people adopt based on their view of the Bible, you might enjoy this post: What is the Sin of Sodom?

  5. Kim-Cio says:

    World Peace!

    I was touched because I, myself is very defensive when someone overrides my belief. Until one time, I got doubt of mine.
    I am now very excited to behave and openly accept different views of religion. It has just so very complicated until I have eated all bites of this article.

    More power.

    Kim

    • Lee says:

      Hi Kim,

      Thank you for your beautiful comment. It gives me joy to know that this article has provided some delicious and eye-opening spiritual food for you. I love believing in a God who loves people of all religions. This is a belief that helps us to love one another even though we may be very different from one another.

  6. Jill says:

    Hi,
    I came across your comments, when I googled ” How do I know if Christianity is the right religion”. I do have to say Lee, everything you wrote on this page makes complete and absolute sense to me. Its crazy to think that I was lead to this page, to open my eyes a little wider. So thank-you….very very very helpful! May God bless you.
    Jill

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jill,

      Thanks for your kind words. I am glad you were led to this page, and that my words brought you a little more light. Blessings on your spiritual journeys!

  7. Emmi says:

    Thanks so much posting this. I consider myself on the agnostic side, but am deeply interested in all religions. Growing up in the U.S, I was raised with a Christian attitude but was a person who traveled and read a lot, thus was curious of other religions. I have come to believe and find similarities in many different religions, and have been told countless times by fellow Christians that I am NOT allowed to believe in anything but Jesus Christ and that he ONLY exists in the bible, but I just don’t see it that way. I see his teachings everywhere, but the cruelty I hear has made me doubtful of ALL my beliefs and frightened of damnation. I want to find god everywhere in the world and love him, not follow him through fear. This post really brightened my day and helped me feel gods love again.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Emmi,

      Thanks for your thoughts. It is unfortunate that many Christians have gone for a rather black-and-white, fear-based version of Christianity. This is not the Christianity that I see taught by Jesus Christ in the Gospels, nor by the early Christians who wrote the Acts and the Epistles.

      For a more faith- and love-based version of Christianity, I invite you to browse the various articles on this blog. If you have any questions, please feel free to submit a “spiritual conundrum.”

      There is nothing to fear from God. You are moving from darkness to light!

  8. Doug Webber says:

    Wow, lots of comments on this one. From scripture, even Jesus acknowledged that those who did not know him could enter heaven. Here are the passages that I had found, before knowing about Emanuel Swedenborg:

    1. Servants who did not know of their master were punished less than those who did know (Luke 12:48). So with more knowledge comes more responsibility.
    2. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were already in heaven before Christ (Matt. 22:32, Luke 16:19-31)
    3. Jesus had no problem with those who did not follow him and yet were able to cast out demons (Mark 9:38-41)

    So to say just one religion saves is very narrow minded. The universal maxim: do the good by the truth that you know. All who do this will enter heaven. While everyone knows the truth through their conscience, Christianity knows that this same truth became incarnate in human form. Thus Jesus said “I am the truth.” So why Christianity? Why not a direct personal relationship with the One, instead of an abstract one?

  9. Amiee says:

    I have a hundred questions for God, only if they can be all answered honestly I will feel so much better. But my questions are not normal questions, ok wait they are normal but nobody would dare to ask the questions I tend to ask people. So anyways back to the real topic, my thoughts on this subject are I believe that there is one God and he told men to find ways that they can keep their children and women safe. That’s were all the different religion come in to play. They (Religion) are written rules for safety. If there were none we would all be the same. There is ONE GOD. God Bless to all.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Amiee,

      Thanks for your comment. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a direct pipeline to God?

      I don’t . . . . However, if you have a question or two that you think others would be interested in as well, feel free to submit a “spiritual conundrum.” If it’s something I think I can help you understand, I’ll write and post an article here about it.

      I do agree with you that when we follow the rules given by our religion–especially when we actually care about God and other people–this world is a much safer place than when we don’t.

  10. idiotwriter says:

    I am enjoying reading here – I could go into a whole long conversation but won’t – only felt I needed to say SOMETHING for the amount of time I have just spent reading. I am kinda glad to have found your site – mulling it over a bit.

    • Lee says:

      Hi idiotwriter,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your good comments. I’m glad you’re finding these articles thought-provoking and helpful. I will give you a response on your longer comment, but it may take a little more time. You ask some great questions!

  11. mark says:

    Generally, one God (which I believe) who is capable of allowing his only begotten son to be sacrificed for the benefit, salvation, of anyone whom will believe, would be capable of any other way to give people a chance to believe. Specifically however, please enlighten those of us who remain confused by reincarnation. As an example, Krishna conciousness teaches an absolutely beautiful and devoted life to God (whom appears in any way he chooses but still only ONE god). The bible seems to teach that we come through this human “life” but once. I understand that this could be once per each human life and I have considered that each human life, even reincarnated, is once. Please provide your take on this. Unless I have misunderstood, according to Krishna teachings, heaven is not the “final” or utmost attainment. Thank you for this forum and the ability to search for truth rather than search for ways to verify an opinion.

  12. mark says:

    Hi again, just to clarify my question, it seems to me that anywhere our God is, that IS the final destination or highest attainment. And that Jesus walking the earth is an amazing proof of the love our God has for us. Jesus showed us exactly, by example, what a perfect human life is all about. Believe and act, love each other, love God the most. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could connect all the “religions” together instead of focusing on the differences and opinions and separating them? Then we’d have no “mine is right and yours is wrong”, which is all man made. In the end, ALL whom believe and act and love each other all seek exactly the same attainment, which is everlasting life with our God. I am so interested in hearing your views regarding reincarnation. Thank you! May God bless you.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comments and questions. I’ve been mulling over how best to respond. I’ve decided that the issue of reincarnation is big enough that it will require its own post, which I hope to write some time within the next month.

      Meanwhile, you’ve laid out the question very well. The Bible is fairly clear that we have one life on earth–and that is the belief of the major religions based on or related to the books accepted as Scripture in the West: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Meanwhile the major Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, generally teach that we go through multiple lives on earth before moving on to a state of eternal union with God.

      I do agree with you that the most important thing is not what particular religion we belong to or what particular doctrines we believe in, but whether we act on our beliefs by loving each other and loving God the most. So although I don’t believe that our individual spirits undergo reincarnation in the physical sense, I also don’t consider believing or not believing in reincarnation to be an essential issue for our spiritual life.

      Still, there are many valid reasons people believe in reincarnation, and those reasons need to be taken into account in any response. Reincarnation is a major issue for many people. I hope you won’t mind checking back occasionally, or following the blog, until I’m able to do it justice in its own blog post.

      • mark says:

        Certainly I do not mind waiting while you consider this topic. I realize it is quite a task to tackle! As you say, reincarnation is a major issue for many people. Of all the “eastern religions”, I personally consider Krishna Consiousness to be the most inclusive and informative of all “religions”. The guru I studied with totally believed in Jesus and the bible and did a good job of providing information without even a hint of trying to “convince” me that one or the other was right, or better, or wrong. So, I learned a lot. Still, I found myself gravitating to Jesus… likely due to my existing relationship with Him. Besides, Jesus said, “…if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father.” How can it get better than that!?

        Thank you!

  13. Salim says:

    There are as many ways to God as the number of human beings on earth

  14. Deewan says:

    Specially as per mine small knowledge, i feel that ”religion is just a good principle” to avoid people from doing unwanted actions, like killing, stealing, telling lies, even remaining away from unwanted practices, which directly harm our self, etc.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Deewan,

      Thanks for stopping by. If religion influences people to avoid harmful and unwanted actions, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

  15. Cindy says:

    Hi,
    Just wanted to ask would you label yourself a Christian?
    I grew up being a Christian but have recently been uncomfortable with how so many people can be ignorant to other people’s belief.
    I really agree with what you said about even atheists would be living in God’s law if they live a good life too.
    Religion shouldn’t be forced onto someone whatever path someone wants to take should be enentirely up to them.
    I really like this article because I too believe that what’s most important is living a good life whether God is real or not but I just wish that people would accept that not everyone interprets messages the same as everyone’s belief makes us who we are.
    I think anyway

    • Lee says:

      Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughts.

      Yes, I am a Christian. My version of Christianity is probably quite different from what you grew up with, however. For more on that, see the article, “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach. Or simply spend some time looking through Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life to find out more about how Annette and I view Christianity.

      I do agree with your thoughts. We must be free to follow the spiritual beliefs and take the spiritual path that work best for us. If we live a good life according to our beliefs, showing love and kindness to other people and serving them in our own unique way, we are building a life of heaven for ourselves. We are living by the spirit of what Jesus Christ taught, even if we may not label ourselves Christians.

      My own beliefs are strongly Christian. And as I have said in this and several other articles on the website, this means that I believe God is loving, merciful, and wise, and has provided a path toward heaven for everyone, everywhere, each according to their own character and culture. True Christianity is not just about beliefs. It is about loving God and loving our neighbor, as Jesus Christ taught.

  16. Mark says:

    Thank you for the time and effort you put into addressing reincarnation. I have tried to understand the thought process of it and still do not. Your study is thorough and I appreciate this very much because I want to understand as much as I can! I’m sorry though, I still do not understand a basis for believing in reincarnation. For me, in all my limited studies nothing compares to prayer. While in prayer I have a connection to reality and do not feel as “blinded” to spirituality. Without going into details, I receive gifts that would mean little to nothing to anyone else, but to me are meaningful and priceless and could not originate from anywhere else but the spiritual. Either than or I have a lot of irony in my life… and irony never crosses my mind at those times. I believe in God, and Jesus, and prayers are heard for those who believe. This is my path.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Mark,

      It sounds like you have a good and satisfying spiritual practice.

      About reincarnation, do you not understand why people believe it, or why people don’t believe it? Or something else?

      • Mark says:

        Thank you! Instead of just reading books I actually spent time with a “guru”, to try to learn, and I came to understand that, to me, it was not idol worship and also it was one god, that was my understanding. But no matter how it was explained, even though I tried to understand, I just could not accept reincarnation. It is quite clear to me that trying to understand the entire spiritual realm (or whatever work fits your comfort level) in the human condition is at best, limited. For me however, it just doesn’t make sense. I don’t see the relevance nor the spiritual “gain”. We have all the chances we need in this one life!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Mark,

          Thanks for taking the time to explain further. It sounds like you and I have come to similar conclusions, even if we arrived at them by a different route.

          I completely agree with you that people who follow other religions are not engaging in idol worship. Their religion is just as real to them as ours is to us. Assuming they are genuine and sincere, they are truly following God as God appears to them. That’s what this article is all about! :-) And I think it’s great that you made the effort to learn from a living teacher rather than simply “hitting the books.”

          And about reincarnation, I, too, cannot accept it. Like you, I don’t see the spiritual gain in it. The further spiritual growth that it offers can take place far better and more completely in the spiritual world after we have built the “foundation” here in the material world.

          Still, I don’t argue with those who hold firmly to a belief in reincarnation. I know it provides them with a sense of justice and meaning in life, even if I think that reincarnation is unnecessary and that there is greater meaning and justice without it.

          Thanks again for your thoughtful comments! If you have any further thoughts to share or questions to ask, feel free to post them in a comment or to submit a Spiritual Conundrum.

  17. Ben Williams says:

    This is a very interesting discussion, and one that I’m sure most people of faith have thought about at some point. Having travelled the world and experienced people from different religions in different settings, it is obvious that there are many who have found God through diverse paths. It is also true that religion is man made, however, when we examine the founders of each faith there are marked differences, and ones that could ultimately poison the well, so to speak.

    Whilst I am certain that heaven will be filled with many from different faiths and cultures, because they followed Gods ways, there is only one being that claimed to be the way the truth and the life who actually lived his entire life worthy of that claim. There is another prophet, for example, who founded a different religion, who according to the accounts of his own devoted followers murdered those who wouldn’t follow his new religion. This is happening on a massive scale in the Middle East and Africa now because of his commands and because he is the perfect example, according to this religion. Does his example and teachings, which inform that religion, represent God’s will for mankind?

    Ultimately, I find people who claim that truth is a movable feast according to perception are building their spiritual homes on shifting sand. Truth, counter to popular, fashionable, opinion, is often, if not always, black and white and can be answered by a simple question:

    Does God exist…yes or no. Is god a clearly defined being who although perceived differently by men, is one consistent being…yes or no. Did Jesus, according to the accounts we possess, perfectly represent God? Yes or no? Now since we don’t exactly know God, we can’t be sure of this answer, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a right or wrong answer to this question if God exists and he is a clearly definable being. Likewise, because of the huge differences between the life and teachings of Jesus and the life and teachings of Mohammad, for example, the religions that base themselves on these men are not the same and cannot equally represent God.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. The basic point of this article is, to put it in your words, “that heaven will be filled with many from different faiths and cultures, because they followed Gods ways.” This is an idea that the fundamentalists of various religions–including Christianity–reject. I am glad that you and I agree on this point. It is vital to understanding God as a universally loving and just God

      I also agree with you that truth is not ” a movable feast according to perception.” However, we humans are a movable feast. The truth itself is eternal and does not change, because it is part of the being of God. We humans, though, perceive that truth in various ways. And though I do think we can have clearer and less clear perceptions of the truth, it would be hubris for any human being or religion to claim to have the absolute, pure truth. Only God has that, because God is truth.

      If ten artists get together and paint the same scene, each painting will be distinctly different, even though they are painting the same scene. And each painting will express some unique human take on that scene. Further, every person who views each painting will also see something different in it. Religion is more like a painting than a snapshot. And each religion expresses to its followers some unique perspective on the eternal truth that is God.

    • Lee says:

      About Christianity in comparison with other religions, I am a Christian, and there are many reasons for that. Foremost among them is that I believe that Jesus is, in the Bible’s words, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). If I thought a different religion offered a better and clearer expression of God, I would join it.

      However, to be fair, Christians have just as much blood on their hands historically as Muslims or people of any other faith. Even today, there are Christians slaughtering Muslims in various parts of the world. The U.S.–a predominantly Christian nation–is currently engaged in armed conflict with Muslims in the Middle East, and has killed vastly more Muslims in various Middle Eastern countries than the number of Americans who were killed by Muslims on 9/11. U.S. drones and U.S. soldiers on the ground are targeting Muslims every day. Recently, a report surfaced that the navy SEALS who killed Osama bin Laden unloaded over a hundred bullets into him after he was already lying dead on the ground.

      I do not condone such violence by Christians, Muslims, or people of any other religion. But it is a fact that the people of various religions, including Christianity, have interpreted their Scriptures and their founders–including Jesus–as condoning war and bloodshed against those who do not share their faith.

      Jesus himself engaged in armed violence in the incident of clearing the temple with a whip (John 2:13-22). He also made the statement, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The Bible is full of violence–and that violence is not confined to the Old Testament. In the book of Revelation there are vast wars involving millions of combatants.

      Personally, I interpret the wars and violence of the Bible as referring to spiritual battles of good against evil. But many Christians interpret them quite literally. They believe that their religion commands them to take up arms against any who oppose their faith. And right up to this day, various groups of Christians have done just that. And they have done it, not only against people of other religions, but against fellow Christians who happen to belong to a different branch of Christianity.

      I once attended an impassioned speech given by an American Muslim Imam saying that Islam is a religion of peace, and that those who are taking up arms in the name of Islam are misrepresenting their faith, and giving it a bad name. He stated bluntly that the religion they are preaching and acting upon is not Islam.

      The fact is, every religion has its zealots. Christianity is no exception. And every religion has its advocates of peace and harmony among the various races and cultures of earth. It is not fair or objective to judge other religions by their fundamentalists and zealots, while judging our own religion by its moderates and mystics.

      In short, every religion has its beauties, and every religion provides its people with a unique human perspective on the eternal truth that is God. The fact that large groups of people in each religion have turned their religion into a cause for war is due to our common human failings of greed and a desire to rule over others, not due to defects in God’s many ways of reaching out to us through the various religions of the world.

      Even if some religions may give a clearer picture of God’s truth than others, all of them contain the basics needed for their followers to love God and love their fellow human beings.

      • Ben Williams says:

        Hi Lee,

        Thank you for your thoughtful and challenging response to my comments.

        I don’t want to be rude, but I do wonder if you are suffering from a chronic case of pluralism [Pluralism (noun) 1. a dogmatic adherence to the belief in the validity of a diversity of views and practices demonstrated in a deliberate effort to see other points of view.] the reason I say this is the following quote from your reply:

        “We humans, though, perceive that truth in various ways. And though I do think we can have clearer and less clear perceptions of the truth, it would be hubris for any human being or religion to claim to have the absolute, pure truth. Only God has that.”

        This the absolute heart of the issue. Do you believe Jesus when he said ” I am the way, the truth and the life.” You can’t be a subscriber to pluralism if you do. If you don’t, you aren’t a Christian. Some things are Black and White, and Jesus asks us to make that choice about him.

        With regard to your second response, of course, I am familiar with the oft quoted passages that suggest that Jesus condoned violence, although I have never heard anyone before say that he engaged in armed violence. That particular passage is controversial because there is much evidence to suggest that the correct translation says he used the whip to drive the animals out, but let’s just say that he used it to scare or even physically drive the traders in the temple out. Do you read about a battlefield covered with the bodies of the fallen? No. At worst a couple chaps might have got a red mark on their backsides…but that is the extreme case scenario.

        As an ordained Christian minister I’m sure you are aware that when Jesus talks of a sword dividing a household or of not bringing peace he was predicting the trouble that would come to those who followed him, a warning that he makes consistently to his followers. The passage does not say “kill your family members who do not follow me ” or “until the world is subdued to my teachings there will be no peace”.

        Yes he tells his disciples to carry a sword when they go out, but he doesn’t command them to lop the heads off the unbelievers if they don’t convert. Rather he says for them to shake the dust off their feet and move on. At worst one might construe this command as a reason to have arms for self defence, but given the turn the other cheek command, even this is a stretch. The fact is he doesn’t tell them what to do with the sword, so we don’t really know what he meant by it, but to conclude that he was suggesting they be violent is a leap.

        While these very few passages might be used by those who are seeking to be violent as a justification (or for pluralists to somehow demonstrate that Jesus was just as violent as the next crazy prophet from that region), not only are they ignoring the context of the passages, but also just about everything else that Jesus taught, and most importantly did.

        Do you, as a Christian minister, really conclude that the life and teachings of Christ justify the bloody deeds that have been committed by people in his name? That seems to be what you are saying in part, which I find odd. Of course the Old Testament is a different matter, but Jesus abrogates the nasty stuff, part of the reason he got on the wrong side of the teachers of the Law.

        In my original remarks I talk specifically about the prophets themselves, not the followers, but if you are to relate the two, I think that anyone who reads the gospels would conclude that those who engage in violence of any kind are generally not following the teachings of Jesus, so you could argue they are not true followers.

        What about Mohammed? Does the same argument apply to him? Are you familiar with the life and teachings of Mohammed? Are you aware of the fact that in the Hadiths his own faithful followers describe accounts of him slaughtering Christians, Jews and pagans in the thousands, raping captive women, and having sex with his nine year old wife? I’m certain you would be familiar with the commands in the Quran about how to treat infidels and unbelievers, and how Muslims are allowed to lie to us for the furtherance of Islam, which makes debate with Muslims futile. You could argue that those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam in the Middle East, in Africa, in Burma, in Russia, in Europe, in China, in Indonesia, in India etc are doing exactly what Mohammed told them to do and did himself.

        The difference between Mohammed and Jesus (and just about any other prophet, except possibly Moses) is night and day.

        Therefore, to conclude, while I agree with your analysis that atrocities have been committed by people from all religions, the facts show that Christians who do so are directly disobeying Christ. Muslims, on the other hand, are obeying their prophet. Using words like moderate or zealot are irrelevant, really you need to define people as true followers of Christ or true followers of Mohammed.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ben,

          Thanks for your reply. To respond to your last point first in good Biblical fashion, I would suggest that if you really want to understand Islam, you speak with Muslims who are not fundamentalists.

          Not to be rude, but it sounds like your view of Islam comes more from fundamentalist Christian apologetics than it does from reputable Muslim sources. Whether or not you agree with Islam, it’s best to learn about it on its own terms rather than learning about it from the negative analyses of its opponents.

          Personally, I’m not a Muslim, and I wouldn’t presume to speak on behalf of Islam. However, I’ve had enough conversations with American Muslims to realize that Islam is every bit as complex and layered a religion as Christianity is. Just as moderate Christians don’t generally take literally the commandments of God in the Old Testament to slaughter enemies, including men, women, and children, as good and useful instruction for today, so moderate Muslims do not see the bloodshed in that religion’s historical roots as commanding literal bloodshed today.

          In short, before coming to all of these negative conclusions about Islam in comparison with Christianity, I would suggest expanding your view of Islam by learning more about it from moderate Muslim sources. Then you’ll be able to compare apples with apples.

        • Lee says:

          About Christianity being a religion of peace, and Jesus not literally commanding war and bloodshed, that is my view of Christianity, and it is apparently your view of Christianity as well.

          But try to tell that to the vast numbers of Christian fundamentalists who do take the “sword” stuff literally. We can interpret these things spiritually and metaphorically all we want. And I happen to think that’s the best way to interpret them. But it’s hard to argue that when Jesus told his followers to carry a sword, he was just engaging in metaphor and didn’t intend them to ever actually use the sword. Why would someone carry a sword–or a gun, for that matter–if they had no intention of ever using it? That doesn’t make sense. If you would never, under any circumstances, use a gun, it would be better not to carry one.

          And practically speaking, as I already said, Christians have engaged in, and continue to engage in, just as much violence as Muslims or people of any other religion. Presumably Christians who engage in this violence do not believe that they are violating the tenets of their religion. And no matter how wrong you or I may think they are, they will have just as strong a belief that you and I are wrong. We are simply weak Christians in their view, unwilling to put our lives on the line for our faith.

          In general, it’s a weak argument to try to compare Christianity positively with other religions on the basis of Christianity being less warlike and more peaceful. History and reality just doesn’t bear out this argument. And the Christian scriptures themselves certainly do not make an open and shut case for it. Once again as I already said, the Bible is full of violence, and that does not stop with the Old Testament. Jesus’ own words and actions on this front are such that they can be interpreted either way.

        • Lee says:

          Now about pluralism, the definition you give sounds like a definition written by people who don’t like pluralism.

          In my dictionary, the two most relevant definitions are, “A condition of society in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups coexist within one nation,” and “Philosophy: The belief that no single explanatory system or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life.”

          In the first sense, I’m a supporter of pluralism.

          In the second sense, I’m theoretically not a pluralist. I naturally think my own explanatory system can account for all the phenomena of life.

          Pragmatically, though, none of us is really that smart or that broadly experienced. We are not God with infinite knowledge and experience of reality. We’re finite human beings, with limited knowledge and experience. So even though I happen to believe that the theological and philosophical system to which I subscribe could account for all the phenomena of life, I don’t think that I personally, or even the whole gang of my fellow believers, could actually accomplish such a monumental task. And I must admit, there are some things I just don’t understand. And probably a lot of things of which I am totally ignorant.

          That is where I do think multiple systems and approaches will help us to gain a better understanding of reality than one system alone. When many people approach the same problems from different perspectives, through comparison of the results of those various approaches we gain a better understanding of those problems than if we approached them from only one perspective.

        • Lee says:

          Finally (for now):

          As I have said several times before, I am a Christian. I do believe what Jesus taught. However, I have a very different view of the meaning of what he taught than that of many traditional Christians. And I simply don’t think it’s as black and white as all that.

          The universe does have black and white in it. However, it also has many shades of gray, and a nearly infinite variety of colors. To limit Christian belief only to the blacks and the whites is to subscribe to a flat, monochromatic posterization of a complex and highly nuanced religion.

          This is not the place to provide a full explanation of why I think that particular black and white view of Christianity is mistaken and short-sighted. But here are two articles that will provide some of the basics:

          Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?

          Can We Really Believe the Bible? Some Thoughts for Those who Wish they Could

  18. Ben Williams says:

    Hi Lee,

    I think we are going to have to agree to disagree, but before I sign off I will point out that I have gained my understanding of Islam from visiting and spending time in many Muslim countries (Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Aden and Tunisia) and from living in the UK most of my life where there are many more Muslims per head of population than the US, so I have not gained my understanding from Christian fundamentalist websites, but rather by experiencing first hand the suffocating, oppressive and unfair societies that this vile religion spawns. I have also gained my understanding by reading the Quran, the Haddiths and speaking with devout and secular Muslims. It is often the latter who have the most negative things to say about Islam and how the West is tying a noose around its own neck.

    But enough,because I know all too well that I am wasting my breath. If you can come to the conclusions, and say the things you have about Jesus after years of contemplating his life and teachings, then I know there is no logic or argument that I can create that will make you see the light.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately, in Muslim countries, and in many Muslim communities around the world, a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is the dominant one. This is akin to what the Christian nations would be like of the Christian fundamentalists were in the majority and controlled those nations. They would be very different nations than they are now, with moderate and secular Christians largely in control.

      I specified moderate American Muslims because these Muslims often (not always, I know) live in the U.S. specifically to get away from that stifling fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that is so endemic in the Middle East and even in Europe.

    • Lee says:

      About Jesus, for the most part in these comments I have not said what I personally believe. Only what many fundamentalist Christians–whom I strongly disagree with–believe.

      My own belief is expressed in the article I linked in a previous comment. I believe that Jesus is God with us as the Bible says. I do not believe that there is any parallel (in the usual sense) between Jesus and any human prophet, such as Moses or Mohammed. Jesus is God. All the rest are merely human.

      Unfortunately, a large segment of Christianity believes in Jesus in a very different way. And they do take very literally the Biblical–including Gospel–statements about swords and warfare. This, at least, you must admit if you have spent any time at all with the Christian fundamentalist zealots who parallel the dominant Muslim fundamentalists in the Middle East.

  19. Ben Williams says:

    Hi Lee,

    From everything I have read on here you are a gentle man who loves peace and wishes harmony between people of different religions, and that is an incredibly Godly approach to take. I can see that you believe the same about Jesus as I do, but maybe because of our different personality types, express that differently, so I will continue this discussion and will try to be as open as possible.

    From my observations of Islam in the wider world, the vast majority of Muslims are ordinary people, just wanting to get on with daily life without trouble. They are incredibly hospitable, something I have experienced many times, but their religion has a fatal flaw that will inevitably lead societies that adopt Islam down a certain path. That flaw is Mohammad. He said a lot of good things early in his prophethood, but he turned pretty nasty later on. I am not exaggerating when I say that the Hadiths record genuine atrocities committed by him. He also commanded his followers to treat unbelievers harshly, and even to kill them. He was particularly viscous towards the Jews (he beheaded a thousand in one day after they surrendered to him). Now here is the heart of the flaw…Mohammad is upheld as the perfect Muslim, the one towards whom all young men must look to as a model of perfect behaviour. Since in Islam all his early commands are abrogated by his later ones, it follows that a true Muslim will adopt the same detestable behaviours that Mohammad did in his later years. Thankfully the vast majority don’t, but when men around them, or their leaders head down that path, they rarely stand in the way as they know these men are not behaving in a way that is inconsistent with Islam. This is why so few Muslims openly condemn the atrocities that are happening in the Middle East and Africa at the moment.

    To your point about Christian fundamentalists…it must be an American thing. Since I became a Christian over 20 years ago, I have never encountered the type of Christians you are talking about. I went to a number of evangelical churches in the UK and now attend one in Canada, and find loving communities that detest violence.

    I agree to a point that when Jesus told his disciples to carry a sword when they went into the surrounding country, this could, and maybe was intended to be interpreted as a license to have a weapon for self defence. However, the only time that one of his disciples was actually violent, Jesus stopped him, and healed the soldier. Unlike Mohammad, Jesus never ever commanded or participated in genuine aggression (the temple was from all accounts a visceral reaction to seeing the house of God turned into an extortion racket gouging travelling worshippers).

    Early Christians were non violent, this is not true of early Muslims who rampaged across the Middle East slaughtering all who wouldn’t convert. I honestly believe that you, and the many well meaning people like you who wish to see harmony, who suggest there is no difference between true followers of Christ and true followers of Mohammad are in fact playing straight in to hands of the enemies of Christ.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your further replies.

      To be clear, I am not saying that there is no difference between true followers of Christ and true followers of Muhammad. In fact, the main point of the article is that different religions are required on earth precisely because of the differences among people and cultures. If Christianity had been a suitable religion for the people who founded and adopted Islam, they would be Christians, not Muslims.

      I know Christians like to think that their religion would work for everyone. But God is in charge in this world, not us. And I believe that God has provided the various religions for the various cultures of the world because God sees the character and personality of each culture, and provides for it the particular religion required to reach the people of that particular culture and character.

      In short, true followers of Christ and true followers of Muhammad are different, and that is why they are Christians and Muslims, respectively.

      What I am saying is that each religion has the basic teachings needed for its followers to love God and love their neighbor–which, according to Jesus, are the two most important commandments in the entire Bible (“the Law and the Prophets”).

      As you say, most Muslims are good, thoughtful, hospitable people. For them, this is what their religion teaches them to be. And they live by their religion as they understand it.

      You make a very good point that their leaders are the ones who tend to vitiate their religion. If they are living under fundamentalist zealots, they will tend to be pulled in that direction. If they live under more moderate and peaceful regimes, they will live more peaceably. As a group, American Muslims are much more liberal and peaceful than their counterparts in much of the Middle East. This is both because they live under more peaceful conditions and because they choose to live in a more liberal country due to their own approach to life.

      I’m aware of the charges against Muhammad. I’m aware that those Muslims who lean in that direction can justify literal jihads and literal warfare against the infidel by reference to their holy book and the actions their prophet.

      However, I don’t agree that this is the inevitable course of Islam.

      We have many Christian fundamentalist zealots in the U.S. who stockpile weapons and periodically engage in various types of armed violence based on their religious beliefs. Usually they are suppressed fairly quickly. But if they were ever to grow greatly in numbers and gain power, we would be living in a very different country–a much more violent and intolerant one, similar to the countries that are ruled by Muslim fundamentalists.

      Meanwhile, Islam has its moderates and even its mystics. The mystical Sufi branch of Islam has a broad, tolerant, peaceful view of humanity. It views the war and bloodshed in Muslim scripture and history not as a pretext for literal violence, but as an expression of the spiritual warfare of good and justice against evil and injustice.

      Islam originated at a very violent time in human history. It would be surprising if there weren’t violence associated with its beginnings. But just as Judaism has left behind its early practice of animal sacrifice at the tabernacle and then the Temple, which was central to its religious practice in pre-Christian times, and instituted a synagogue system and a concept of personal sacrifice to replace literal animal sacrifice, so Islam is able to change and grow beyond the violence of its early years.

      I believe it is only a matter of time before this happens.

      Unfortunately, the areas of the world where Islam predominates are still quite violent. This makes it harder for that religion to move out of fundamentalist zealotry and into a more moderate stance, as most of Judaism and Christianity has done. As the conflicts that plague the Middle East are gradually resolved (not without much conflict), and that region moves toward a more peaceful existence in some possibly distant future, I believe Islam will take a similar course.

  20. Ben Williams says:

    With regard to Christian fundamentalists creating societies like the ones created by fundamentalist Muslims, if they were to create ones that were focused entirely on Christ and his teachings, they would be amazing…even if people had swords for self protection!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ben,

      If Christians in general were focused on loving Christ and living by his teachings, we would be living in a very different world!

  21. Ben Williams says:

    Seriously mate, you lost me when you said that Jesus Christ isn’t for everyone. As an ordained minister are truly a woof in sheeps clothing.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ben,

      I must admit, this comment gave me a good chuckle. :-D

      About Jesus Christ being for everyone . . . or not . . . please read my article, Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit? It’s just too big a subject to do justice to here.

      To reduce it to slogan-like brevity, I would say that Jesus Christ is for everyone, but not everyone is for Jesus Christ.

      In somewhat less cryptic but still brief form, I would say that the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ saved everyone on earth–no matter what their religion–from certain damnation. It was a universal salvation that covered the entire world, including non-Christians. However, not all people can accept Christianity as their religion. And within the various religions, not everyone accepts the salvation made possible by Jesus Christ’s redemption of the world.

      This will probably not make sense without reading the above-linked article.

    • Lee says:

      One other quick response:

      What I said was that Christianity as a religion does not work for everyone. That’s quite different from saying that Jesus Christ isn’t for everyone.

      Christianity as it actually exists in the world is not very much like what Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated in the Gospels. If Christianity as a religion were truly Christlike, then Christianity would work for a lot more of the world’s people than it presently does. As it is now, Christianity as a religion often gives Christ a bad name, and repulses many people who might otherwise accept Jesus Christ.

  22. Lee: Thank you! I have been struggling with these issues for the past several years. The struggle is coming to a head this week as I prepare a lecture on scripture for this weekend at a Catholic retreat. Born and raised Catholic, faded from religion in my 20s and 30s, then soaked in New Age and reincarnation during that era, “born again” into fundamentalism with John (fell in love with Jesus), then repulsed by fundamentalism (everyone’s going to hell but us), now back to Catholic. Why? Because I realized that it DOES NOT MATTER. Jesus is my God. I’m still in love with Him. Jesus is not everyone’s God. Yes he said, “No one comes to the Father but through me.” I believe that means, “I died for everyone,” not “You’re all screwed.” Pope Francis thinks that as well (though I am not a staunch defender of the hierarchy). In fact, much of it offends me. I am discontent with much of Catholicism, but I was/am much more discontent with fundamentalism, and there are certainly fundamentalist Catholics as well. They reproach me when my Protestant tendencies manifest themselves. They think Protestants are going to hell. I’m devoting much of my lecture to the Inquisition, and how Deuteronomy was used to justify the burning to death of heretics and the arrest of Galileo. I hope I’m not stoned.
    Anyway, it has been quite an anxiety provoking experience putting the lecture together. Self examination often is. Your comments have been affirming and comforting. Thank you.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found this article helpful. And wow! It sounds like you’ve really gone through the full cycle, spiritually speaking. I hope your lecture goes well. If you have a moment, stop by afterwards and let us know that you were able to escape both stoning and the Inquisition! :-)

      It does help to have a community of fellow believers to share our faith with. If one isn’t available that fully accords with our own beliefs, then finding a generally comfortable and congenial one is often still preferable to having no community of faith at all. Good luck on your future endeavors!

  23. Well Lee, I did escape stoning, but not the Inquisition! The priest in attendance called me into a room afterwards to proclaim his disgust with what I had to say. “Why did you trash the magisterium?” “You blew it.” etc There is simply no way of not offending a fundamentalist Catholic with a simple retelling of the stories of the Cadaver Synod, the Albigensian Crusade with the Massacre at Beziers, the burning to death of Giordano Bruno, and the trial of Galileo, just as there is no way of not offending a fundamentalist Protestant in saying that the world was not created in the exact manner that is described in Genesis.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the post mortem! You were brave to wade into that lion’s den with some history that is very uncomfortable for that particular organization. The Inquisition continues! ;-)

  24. Hello,

    I must say that your article has enlightened me. At least I have some answers. I was born Catholic, still Catholic for formality. My interest in the Catholic church started windling slowly as I grew up and started to discover gaps and inconsistencies in Christianity. I felt like a fraud going to church, receiving Holy Communion, singing along and yet my heart wasn’t there. Sometimes guilt hangs over me and I don’t know why. I believe in God’s wholesome existence, just not sure about religion. I have 3 qtns for you;

    1. Free will. From the little I know about Christian teachings, God gave man free will. But the more I have thought about this notion the more I have come to believe that it is not real. Here is why- God is omnipotent, omnipresent,blah blah… He is the beginning and the end meaning He knows each person’s future, which means He has already mapped out each person’s path (this implies pre-determined choices/options). How then can we speak of free will vis-a-vis God’s will? For free will to have meaning, any choice one makes should be sanction free. e.g if we indeed have free will, people can choose to not believe in God without any reprisal or punishment. But hell exists as punishment for sinners.
    Of course we have power of choice over certain simple things like where to live, what to buy, when to pee, who to marry, number of children etc. But I feel as though this is a faux free will because each of us is just a self fulfilling prophecy living out the path drawn by God.

    2. Generational curses. I interacted with a Catholic priest on one occasion. We talked about generational curses. He told me that there were special prayers one could say to the Holy Spirit for a revelation about curses in one’s family. He explained that some people’s misfortunes are not their own doing but rather a product of a generational curse. Well I found it hard to believe. I am not an expert on the Bible but I know that this issue is mentioned somewhere in the O.T, something about the sins of the father…(Please enlighten me :D). Furthermore, how can they be valid if Jesus brought universal salvation to mankind and conquered sin and death? Secondly if generational curses are valid it implies that a mere man’s words can alter God’s will/purpose for another person. I could be wrong though. And thirdly if they are valid, why would God let a person suffer for sins he did not commit. It would not be fair for one to bear his ancestor’s burden and yet he was not privy to their misdeeds.

    3. Basing on the teaching commanding us to love, even our enemies,can God forgive Satan? Just wondering….

    • Lee says:

      Hi priscanagujja256,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comments and great questions! I’m glad this article is helpful to you. I have also heard about issues with Catholics and guilt, so I don’t think you’re alone in that. About attending services, I would say that if they are helpful to you, you don’t necessarily have to agree with everything that goes on in them. But if they are not helpful to you, it may be time to question whether to continue attending, and perhaps search for something else that offers more of what you are seeking.

      Your questions are great ones, which deserve whole posts on their own. Perhaps if you follow the blog you’ll one day find that I’ve answered one or more of them more fully! For now, here are some very quick responses, just so you’re not left hanging for too long.

      1. Yes, free will is central to Christianity as I understand it. Without it, there is no meaning to most of the Bible’s teachings about choosing God, goodness, and love over selfishness, evil, greed, and hate.

      My view is that while God knows our future, God does not decide or determine our future. Another way of saying this is that although God knows what choice we will make, we are still the ones making that choice. As a simple example of the principle involved, if I drop a ball, I know that it will fall to the ground, but I don’t cause it to fall to the ground.

      For a post that deals with related issues, see:
      How does God Govern Humankind? Is God Actively Involved in our Lives?

      2. The idea of generational curses comes, among other places, from none other than the Ten Commandments, where we read, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5, King James Version).

      It’s hard to deny that children do suffer for the sins of their parents. And we often struggle with the same issues that our parents struggled with. So in this sense, the “iniquity of the fathers” is “visited upon the children” for generations.

      However, I believe it is possible to break these “generational curses” through the process that the Bible refers to as being “born again,” and that my own spiritual tradition calls “regeneration.” On that, see this article:
      Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth

      For more on the issue of suffering for the sins of parents, please read Ezekiel 18 in the Bible, and see also this article, which draws heavily on Ezekiel 18:
      If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First

      3. Yes, I do believe that God forgives even Satan. The separation between Satan and God is not because God has condemned Satan, but because Satan has rejected God.

      However, from my perspective, Satan is not some fallen angel, but rather is the combined evil of all humankind gathered into a single composite evil being. In other words, Satan and the Devil are the same thing as hell. For more on hell from my perspective, see:
      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

      About God loving even the evil, here’s a beautiful passage from the Gospel of Matthew:

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

      I realize these are brief and inadequate answers to some very big questions. But I do hope they’ll give you something to hang onto until that halcyon day when I can write up some posts that do justice to these huge subjects.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  25. Nitin Chauhan says:

    I think this article if known to every religious and non-religious person on the planet will save a lot of troubled minds from confusion with which they are suffering and will reduce lot of conflicts also.

    But then I guess people need to have a burning desire to discover the mystery. This article and all other knowledge is just one google search away, but the concerned person needs to feed in the correct inquiry before he gets enlightened with knowledge. The deeper a seeker seeks, the deeper he will go. We need to start directing our free will in right direction and then more will be revealed to us.

    Thanks again for the article lee :)

    Nitin

  26. SeekerOfTruth says:

    With all of these religions creating so much confusion, we must know that they are man-made. Because Is Good and He Is Not the author or creator of confusion.

    God Is a Spirit(and His Spirit is within each and every one of which He created). Therefore, in the order for us to please God and be or become Saved, we must live according to our Spirit. The flesh is mammon(that which we shall not serve. Because the flesh is evil and not good). We must not serve God and mammon (Spirit and flesh). So serve God. God directs, corrects, disciplines, speaks to and through, us in our Spirit, which He created in His likeness and in His image (the Spirit).
    Now, there is flesh (all of our senses and our brain which speaks to our senses, our limbs, and more…..)and Spirit, because that is what He liked for us. Our flesh becomes of God, if and when we serve our Spirit only, which is the wrestle, the fight, and the battle. While our flesh has become evil due to our own thought and our lack of Spiritual knowledge.
    Remember, (We) wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but, against principalities (a territory of a prince (ruler), powers, and the rulers of the darkness (lack of Spiritual knowledge) of this world, against (Spiritual) wickedness (morally bad or not knowing) in high places (greater degree).

    • Lee says:

      Hi SeekerOfTruth,

      Thanks for expressing your thoughts and sharing your inspiration.

      I agree with much of what you say. We certainly are in a spiritual battle between light and darkness. And we must follow God and spirit, not flesh and blood, if we are going to win that battle. I also agree that if we do follow God and spirit, then we will become servants of God in our flesh (our body) as well as in our spirit. The flesh is evil only when it fights against God and spirit. When it is the willing instrument of God and spirit, it becomes blessed and good, not from itself, but from the spirit that moves it from within.

      Yes, the various religions are made by humans, not by God. Even Jesus did not start a religion or a church. His followers did. The various Christian churches are human attempts to follow Christ’s example. The quality of a church or a religion depends upon the quality of its leaders and of the people who belong to it. We humans, being imperfect, will never follow God’s will perfectly. As long as there are human beings involved, there will be some confusion, because none of us has a perfect understanding. Only God does.

      Still, if a religion moves its people toward living more God- and spirit-filled lives, and toward loving and serving their fellow human beings, then it is doing its job, even if it isn’t perfect, and has some confusion.

      However, if a church or religion strays too far from doing God’s work, and becomes self-centered and greedy instead, it will be removed from its place, lose its power, and fade into insignificance over time. That is how God exercises judgment on human institutions that no longer serve God. The wheels of justice may sometimes turn slowly, but they do turn. God’s justice will prevail in its own time.

  27. 5hmh says:

    I believe there is a difference between faith and religion. If you truly believe(have faith) in God and in what he teaches all these worldly concerns such as religion become pointless. Follow what God says, and everything else will fall into place. In the end Christianity is no better then any other religion,I guess you could say the word of God is the one true religion, but in the end the word of God transcends our worldly/human existence. In short religion is pointless, the word of God and faith is all that matters.
    But that is just my humble opinion.

    • Lee says:

      Hi 5hmh,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that the key issue is our faith in God–and also following what God teaches.

      However, many people do not have the ability or commitment to go it alone spiritually. They need a church or spiritual group to belong to in order to receive spiritual teaching and get together with others to strengthen one another in their faith. This, I think, is why in addition to faith, there have been various religions on the earth throughout recorded history.

      Without faith, and the life of kindness that accompanies true faith, religion means nothing. But for people of faith, religion can be a guide and support for their faith.

  28. Sham says:

    Hello,
    Firstly Mr. Lee, great work. Your thoughts and ideas are wonderful.
    I was an atheist for most of my lifetime though never disrespected any religion or beliefs simply because i feel i am not that capable or have so much of understanding.
    To believe in any religion or any form of god is one’s own right. We all are in one direction but in different paths. Many believe they are right and the other person is wrong.
    It is always according to me wrong to say it is only we who are correct. My religion is only correct. Unfortunately people see who has taught was rather than what has been taught. All religions say there is love. People do not understand that there is in real just one religion and that is the religion of love. The basic truth in all religions, irrespective of country or race is one and the same
    In the words of a famous baba in India,
    There is only one religion, the religion of Love;
    There is only one language, the language of the Heart;
    There is only one caste, the caste of Humanity
    Nations are many, but Earth is one;
    Beings are many, but Breath is one;
    Stars are many, but Sky is one;
    Oceans are many, but Water is one;
    Religions are many, but God is one;
    Jewels are many, but Gold is one;
    Appearances are many, but Reality is One.
    God is something which i feel a human being is incapable of understanding. It is beyond his capacity to understand what god is thoroughly and completely. We in our lives try our very best to understand and end up misunderstanding each other itself leading to unwanted issues. We all are creation of god. Everything is created by god. Whatever happens is because of god. But what is god? Who is god? We will never know. But we can reach god only through silence and love. Irrespective of religion, god loves everyone through various religions. We need to have faith not only in the religion but also have faith in the god in the religion. Not just the words, but the wisdom. God will never discriminate.
    We are all members of the same family, bound by the Religion of Love.

  29. Udit Jain says:

    God see everyone same it’s humans divide all us

    • Lee says:

      Hi Udit Jain,

      Thanks for stopping by. Yes, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). God brings us all together. We humans separate ourselves from one another.

  30. Marlon Balraj says:

    I feel as though this article presents a very narrow view of what one could call “God”, most apparent in the fact that you refer to this entity in the singular form. This conception of “god” is not only singular and perfectly “good”.

    This sprouts from the fact hat when expounding your ideas, you often draw similarities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which doesn’t seem very diverse considering they’re Abrahamic faiths and therefore share very similar traditional ‘history’ with bits added on as time and culture and geography shifted. Though you do mention other faiths, and the personal conceptions others have, you mainly respond to comments in these threads in such fashion.

    It makes sense to say that these faiths have the “oneness” of “God” with some Hindu religions, where all gods are an expression of the same entity, Brahma . . . but that’s modern . . . let’s wind back the clock. What about Vedic religion? What about the ancient Greeks? Romans? Persians? What about the Isrealites and Caananites that worshiped Yaweh among a pantheon of other gods before those gods were demonized in the Hebrew Bible? Those gods are not singular, nor are they always good, they represent aspects of nature and life. You mentioned this somewhat, but most don’t have conceptions of salvation or afterlives, or even sin.

    I think it would be more logical to hold and speculate from the position that there is a human socio-biological desire to be connected to a community and to ascribe meaning to things which don’t seem to have meaning, to give consciousness to impersonal forces. This is something utterly verifiable in the psychological and sociological fields, it has testable hypotheses and predictions.

    Instead, you choose to see the similarities between religions as proving a conception of “God” that is purely speculative. Despite a tradition of Aristotle and Descartes, god’s perfection and “goodness” are in question. If there is/are creator(s) for this universe, this entity’s only defining characteristic we can be sure about is that he/she/it/them is the creator. That’s it. We cannot prove anything beyond this. Yes, many modern faiths propose this kind of god. Can you respond on why you didn’t take this into account?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Marlon,

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      Yes, I am speaking from a monotheistic perspective, and I presume that most of my readers who are not atheists will be monotheists rather than polytheists. Spiritually and philosophically, monotheism works better than polytheism to explain the nature of the physical and spiritual universe. That’s why the general trend in religion over the past few thousand years has been away from polytheism and toward monotheism. As you say, even Hinduism, a historically polytheistic religion, has developed the idea that all of the gods are different expressions of a single underlying God.

      However, the same general principle described in the article applies to polytheistic religions as to monotheistic religions. Those who adhere to them and practice them faithfully with the intent to please their gods and serve their neighbors will find their place in heaven after they die. Ultimately, the important thing is not the belief; it is the intent and the action as informed by the belief. Beliefs simply mold and shape good (or evil) intentions in one direction or another. If the motivation is good, it will eventually find a channel toward good.

      Proof is a slippery concept. As popularly used, it really means preponderance of evidence, not absolute proof. The fact is, we cannot even prove that the material universe exists. The only things for which we have direct evidence of their existence are non-material in nature. For more on this, see the article, “Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?

      • Marlon Balraj says:

        Simply because monotheism seems to be a better explanation does not mean that it is the one that should take the front and I feel as though it demeans the beliefs of other faiths to assert particulars of that faith are incorrect because your conception of god is correct. An obvious one is the notion of an afterlife, something not every religion shares, not even modern ones.

        But will take the notion that monotheism works better, and forgive me if the bulk of my response is to the “Where is the Proof of the Afterlife” concept because that is one of the assumptions of the universe I think you’ve made.

        If we are to go, as I said, to the Cartesian tradition, I’d take the epistemological claim of the cogito to the Lichtenberg level. The only thing we can possibly know is that not even that “I” am thinking, only that “thinking is occurring” and some part of it has the impression of consciousness, as the agency of the “I” is too great a speculation for the cogito argument.

        There is therefore no way to pluck out the “proof of spirit” versus “proof of matter” that you do. I don’t understand the connection you draw between having emotions, which is simply thought occurring to having a soul or spirit. As the Cartesian meditations expound, emotions and feelings are a type of thought. We cannot know the nature of these thoughts, “material” or “non-material”. Those descriptions, even, are extremely problematic, because they come from a supposed material world. You are placing a dichotomy that you know of (experiencing sensations as material and experiencing cognation as immaterial) and trying to fit it in a speculative universe where you are only a Cartesian “thinking thing”. In such a universe, all things could be an extension of the thinking that is occurring and there is no “material” or “immaterial” because such a distinction could not be made.

        If we are to live in this “thinking thing” universe, where the only things we experience are extensions of the though that occurs, then we still to operate under the laws that make themselves apparent to us. This universe of thought, of course, is the universe we may live in. A part of this thought has the impression of consciousness (I might try to call this part “me”), and therefore must assert that it is conscious; and a part of it experiences touch and must make the assumption that touch exists and there exists an extension of thought that is interacting with it to give it the sensation of touch. This extension appears in the thinking universe to be a wall, and I receive its touch through what I will call a hand. I hope I am being clear enough, because this thought experiment makes it apparent that even if we are in the cogito universe, we still have to operate under the laws which SEEM to work. Every day some extension of the thought universe (we can call this extension the “sun”) rises, as Aristotle put it when he tried to explain Induction, and every day it would set. From this I can garner the strong assumption that it will rise and set again. And each morning and night it does, making my assumption stronger. Operating in this universe makes very little difference. We still have to use our rationality, or otherwise this universe, even if it is an illusory extension of the thought that occurs, would begin to be rather an uneasy place to “live” in.

        (In addition to this, and an argument I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about so sorry if it seems a bit mad, but the Induction Problem that Descartes uses to slowly destroy the “material” universe would also work for his logic. Though rationality works for us a hundred times over, it only “seems” to have worked. There is no way to know that the logical train from A to C will go through B. When it boils down to pure speculation, it can be asserted that we can’t even use our rationality to conceive the cogito argument because our rationality and the processes it uses (syllogisms, etc) are a priori based assumptions.)

        But I apologize for that wordage. I feel as though it lead you away from what I was trying to communicate. Let’s just assume we and the universe actually properly exist because while you say proof is a slippery slope, I think I’ve made it clear I think epistemology simply a landslide.

        What Descartes says about God in his meditations was what I was commenting on. Descartes holds the traditional Aristotelian view of god as the Unmoved Mover, the perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, and ‘good’ being. This is why he has to create the “evil genius” to describe the illusions and trickery that he works with to establish the cogito. However, this action betrays his thought of “god” as an entity of “good”. Meanwhile, in his hypothetical universe, there needn’t be an evil genius. The “Evil” genius could simply be God, the entity from which Descartes asserts we have all of our information about the universe. God needn’t be any mortal conception of Good or Evil. God could just as well be a child playing with a ball of of “thought” (or in the universe we think we live in, a ball of cosmic matter) and out experiences are the output. What I am trying to assert is that there is only a very shallow depth of characteristics we can ascribe to God. There is little else beyond the assertion that he/she/it/them is the creator. Creation is the only attribute we can ascribe to this entity. That’s it. The logic doesn’t follow that he should be good and love his creation, or that his good is the same as ours . . . his good could be our evil for all we know. Indeed, an “afterlife” and a “reward” for pleasing this entity (though how we could please an infinite being I don’t know) seems to be purely a wish.

        And to the “near-death experiences” notion . . . the parts of the brain that control reality perception literally are not functioning properly when one is in such a state to have such an experience. One could be dreaming and that dream will seam a thousand times more real, more amazing, more fulfilling, than what they eventually wake up to. And if you assert we don’t have a brain, I assert that in the “thought universe” it is difficult (if you follow the arguments I put up above) to assert that “dying” happens to thinking things . . . which we simply don’t know.

        I hope I am being clear and not insulting.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Marlon,

          Thanks for your further thoughts.

          To be clear, I am not a Cartesian. Descartes made many leaps of logic in his derivation of the entire structure of God and spirit starting from Cogito ergo sum.

          However, I do think that Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” aphorism itself has merit. The only thing of which we have direct experience is our own consciousness–which he identified as “thinking.” He could also have said, “I feel (emotionally), therefore I am.” Regardless of whether you wish to accept this as an “I” or as some other entity, the fact remains that our mental and emotional states are the only things of whose existence we have direct, incontrovertible evidence because we experience them for ourselves with no intermediaries. Everything else we experience indirectly.

          It is on this basis that I state in the “Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?” article that there is more evidence for the existence of the things usually called spiritual than there is for the existence of the things usually called material. To add some specificity, there is more evidence for things not measurable in time and space–such as thoughts and feelings–than there is for things that are measurable in time and space–such as stars and galaxies. And science deals only with things that can be measured in time and space.

          The idea that the physical universe exists objectively out there is an assumption, not something that can be proven. Yes, that assumption works pretty well. Things seem to operate quite consistently as if the material world does exist objectively out there. However, it still remains an assumption, since an equally valid interpretation would be that the world of mind operates by definite rules, and that is why we seem to perceive the (possibly nonexistent) physical world around us to operate by definite rules.

          Atheists who speak of mind operating arbitrarily, and therefore denigrate it as being an invalid basis for reality, are in the stone age as far as their understanding of mind is concerned. The more we research the mind, the more it appears that it does indeed operate by a complex but definite set of rules. There is nothing arbitrary or haphazard about it. Flying pink elephants and such are a ridiculous canard of atheists who seem to miss the point that whatever reality may be, it has definite characteristics, and is not a blank canvas on which we can paint any old thing that strikes our fancy.

          This also means that not all conceptions of God and spirit are equally valid. They may provide a pathway to God even if they are in error. However, there is spiritual truth and spiritual falsity just as there is material truth and material falsity. Spiritual reality is not dependent upon our conception of it for its reality. God is also not dependent upon our conception of God for God’s reality. If God exists, then God exists as a definite entity independent of our particular conceptions of God. So we can’t just come up with any old thing and say, “That’s God.” Or at least, we can’t do that if we wish to understand (to the limits of our mental capacity) what God actually is.

          Back to material reality, as I say in the article, I happen to believe that the material world does exist objectively out there. But I recognize that this is an assumption, and not something that can be conclusively demonstrated or proven. It would do atheists and materialistic scientists a world of good to have the humility to recognize that their view of reality is based on something that cannot itself be proven. Perhaps then some of the hubris observed in their unfounded pronouncements about the non-existence of God and spirit would be ameliorated. If theists would have the same humility, then perhaps the interaction between the two could cease being a shouting match and instead become a productive conversation.

  31. Kenica365 says:

    I read your insights and the questions many people ask themselves everyday. Which religion is right and wrong? Is there such a powerful being known as God? Is it wrong to question the all mighty God of his existence? Many religions influence or try to persuade others that there religion is following the right way to God. That others won’t be saved if they don’t have the Holy Spirit sealed in them if they don’t get baptized at the right age to Christians beliefs. I understand they have there beliefs and what they follow on there everyday life but wouldn’t you question yourself once. In my way of thinking, religion doesn’t matter to me, I was born in a catholic family and I personally wasn’t the church type of person and people from different religions would say you have to go to church to be closer to God or your going to hell. I always ignored the fact that not going to church would label me as a non believer and condemned me to my fate known as hell. I thought that was utterly ridiculous since I have done nothing wrong but believe in what is right. I’m a curious one, I question everyday life, if God made us in his image why didn’t we all come out pure and kind hearted as he did? We all doubt and we can’t lie about that. I was never religious, never will be since Im not that type of person, but it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God any less. But why be known or labeled as a Christian, Catholic, Muslim, or so on. What satisfaction do we get from it? Why not just be a freedom of belief and follow what feels right to me? As long as I’m doing right isn’t that good? If I follow what the bible says isn’t that right and good? To some people, it seems it just not good enough. All of us have sinned, that is true and you can’t say you haven’t. We all have had a small doubt, done something bad, or wrong. We have all broken at least one rule or law along the way. So does that label our fate to eternal damnation? There are worse things, killing another human being with no remorse and liking it is surely seen as your fate to be hell am I right? Well, many Christians say ” God forgives many since he loves all his children”. Which yes he loves all his children and many killers are forgiven perhaps since there heart showed the truth of realizing what they have done. But they still broke a rule and jus to say perhaps went to heaven. How about the other millions that were forgiven possibly. They say lying is a sin, which it’s bad to lie but not as bad as killing a person, we all lie whether it’s a white lie or a big lie but I see no harm in it, it’s just a habit we all do and that better the killing obviously. Even stealing is a sin which yes it’s wrong but to what extent? The government steals from us everyday, a child stealing food to survive is still stealing regardless but for the right to survive another day, or stealing from the rich and give to the poor. It benefits another person not yourself, for the child it benefits the child and is it wrong though? I say no, because lying and stealing is common we all have done it and we broke God’s rule. But he will forgive us if it was for a good reason. There’s always evil in good and there’s always good in evil. They both can’t live without each other. There needs to be a balance in light and dark. We are not good or evil, we are just neutral since we harvest both deep inside. We all have love and hate in us. We all have a killer inside of us or a hero to save lives. I personally think being considered a type of religion you are in is pointless since you can’t fight to see who wins this battle since every religion is right in there own way of speaking. So why fight back to see who is the right one to follow and refer to others. We are born on the same earth no matter what part we reside, we voice our opinions which is alright, we ask questions which is completely healthy to do, since we aren’t perfect or we cant say we know everything since there’s no one smarter then God. Our questions won’t ever be completely answered which is fine since that what makes us still question and think of everyday things. Just live and keep on living the life you wish to have, love yourself and love others and worry a little less. That seems like a good start and religion isn’t everything, it’s how you connect the dots that make your life. You know better then anyone what is right and how you should live it.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Kenica365,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Lots of things to think about! People usually think of being religious as belonging to a particular religion, going to church, and so on. That works well for those who like to be part of a group that shares their faith. Others are more individualistic in their beliefs and their spiritual practice. As long as there is a desire to live for what is good and true, serve others in good and useful ways, and ideally look to God as the source of everything, then the person is on a pathway to heaven. At least, that is my belief.

  32. Michael says:

    This page has been very helpful.
    Thanks to all that has dedicated time in putting this page together.
    I have always considered myself a Christian by standard even without attending a church very often in my adulthood as I did growing up and for a lot of years I have struggled with what seems to be taught so often that if you don’t accept Christ in your life then you are wrong as to me this has always implied all others in the world will not be accepted into heaven because other beliefs are so differnt but yet the same.
    I always found this act of judging others to be opposite of what was trying to be taught through the teachings of Jesus as I could not understand how in learning To accept and follow Christ so many chose to pass on judgement to others who chose to follow there own relegious beliefs that didn’t follow Christ …
    It has always seemed to be taught as a double standard and that part I could not accept …in looking up the topic I found this page and it has given me a totally differnt view point that I needed
    Again thanks to all that took time to share their own insight here as well

    • Lee says:

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for stopping by and expressing your thoughts. I’m glad this article was helpful for you! As I see it, Christianity is about loving and serving our neighbors, not about judging and condemning them if they don’t believe the same way you do.

  33. JIM says:

    Belief in God is great nothing wrong with that. If you don’t believe in God that’s Ok to as long as you have good moral upbringing and you believe that you want to search for answers as to why there is life on this planet why are we here and how did the universe get here I believe someone had to light the match and I personally call that someone GOD.
    What I don’t believe in is religion . From beginning of time man was fighting and killing not so much in a religion state but in a tribal system than religious beliefs of each tribe took over and wars began.
    Jesus the Prince of Peace showed up and started a religion called Christianity just to try and get the population of the world at that time to have some moral guidance Than over the next few hundred years whoever didn’t agree with Christianity change it to suit themselves Now we have fanatic religious terrorists
    DO away with religion believe in GOD or a Search for God Live on this planet in peace as we where meant to do.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughts.

      Ideally, religion would be a gathering of people who believe in God, and strengthen one another in that belief, and in living their lives according to it. Unfortunately, like most other human institutions, even if a religion is good and helpful when it starts, it tends to get corrupted by money and power as it grows and gains influence over people’s minds and hearts. I believe that’s what has happened with most religions today. There is a need for renewal, or more likely for replacement with new ways for people to gather together in God’s name, for God’s purposes.

      I expressed more of my thoughts on this in relation to Christianity in particular in this article:
      Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!

  34. Brynn says:

    I believe that there is only one God and therefore one religion. “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Wouldn’t this mean that the same church that Jesus Christ established many years ago should be on the earth today? I believe that that same church is on the earth today.

  35. Shari says:

    FYI I belong to the “Mormon” church. I like to think of Joseph Smith when he asked God which of all the churches is right and his answer came as the First Vision.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Shari,

      Thanks for your comment. As I say in the article, God speaks the same message to people of many different times and cultures, but all hear it differently, each according to that person’s or that culture’s own unique experience.

  36. D says:

    I think this…

    Humanity is capable of Great Good and Great Evil.

    Individually, Good and Evil is innate; it’s within us.

    Collectively, Good and Evil = Greater Good and Greater Evil.

    The good will do good and the bad will do bad but if you want the good to bad then you’ll need a religion for that.

    I don’t believe we were born in sin and need to seek forgiveness. I believe we were born good.

    • Lee says:

      Hi D,

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      As with most other things, religion is good for those who are good, and bad for those who are bad. Ideally it convinces those who are bad to be good, but that doesn’t always happen.

  37. Sydney says:

    This made me so happy when I saw someone else thought like I do. This is what I’ve been trying to tell anyone that tells me others are wrong in what they believe. It upsets me when people can be so narrow minded at times, I wish they’d realize everyone is different and interprets differently. I love how you stated this, how religions come from the same base. I couldn’t agree more. I feel everyone started at the same religion, but just like when you play that childhood game Telephone, words and phrases are changed and heard differently, therefore at the end, people get different meanings. It’s a relief and very refreshing to see someone put something like this up. I love this article and I support every word!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Sydney,

      Thanks! I’m glad this article hit home for you! It makes no sense to me that God would create billions of people and give most of them religions that don’t work. Why would God do that? God loves all people, not just the ones with the “right” religion (which is our religion, of course! ;-) ).

  38. Gary says:

    Hello, Lee
    You’ve hit the nail on the head. The truth is, I’ve seen manifestations of EVERY spiritual path I’ve ever followed. From Christ to Ramana Maharshi to intergallactic humans. I think you’re right in that God will tailor whatever response is necessary to reach us, while remaining hidden behind the curtain–a mystery. Meanwhile, expressing this opinion is not likely to make you popular. too much is invested in one’s belief, religion, spiritual path, etc. So yes, there is a Jesus, a throne room, a heaven, but it doesn’t stop there. Even the belief that everything else is a satanic deception is a belief!
    Thanks your putting yourself out there!
    Gary

    • Lee says:

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for your good words. Truth is not a popularity contest! Having said that, this is the most popular post on the blog so far–which gives me some extra hope for humanity.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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Earlier Posts
Lee Woofenden speaking at Fryeburg New Church Assembly, Fryeburg, Maine, August 2012

Lee Woofenden speaking at Fryeburg New Church Assembly

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