Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Re: What I Believe

Niffer responded to my previous post in comments on my blog and hers. I'm going to respond here with a new blog post. She says:
In the end, most religions ... share the same basic principles. Live and let live. Don't judge. Do unto others as you would want done to you. Help those less fortunate than yourself. Do not get greedy.
At a very basic level, I agree with you. Most major religions do have a fairly large amount in common. And the examples that you gave are perfect. However, the commonality can only go so far. At some point it becomes impossible for compatibility between different faiths. Here's a simple example: Christianity, Judaism and Islam say that there is only one God. Hinduism says that there are many. There are two possibilities here: either one side is true and the other is not, or both sides are false. It's really difficult to say that both sides are true, since they are saying conflicting things.

Which brings me to one of the biggest differences in Christianity from every other major religion out there. It's the reason that I think that Christianity is true, despite the bad behavior of some of its participants. That single difference is the concept of grace. Let me see if I can explain grace to you by telling a story.

Imagine that you lived on the moon. And you send me an email: Hey, MJH, come visit me on the moon. I've sent a rocket to the park near your house so that you can come visit. All you gotta do is get on the rocket, and I'll take care of the rest.

My reaction might be: that rocket seems like a silly way to travel. There's got to be a better way. And so I write an email back to you that says: Hey Niffer! I'd love to come see you, but I think the rocket doesn't make any sense. I'm going to try a car. I mean it has a lot in common with a rocket. It has seats. And windows. And it's used for transportation. I'm going to give it a try because, you know, it's a *LOT* more fuel efficient. Besides I own a car. And by taking the car, I get to drive. I'm going to head towards New York and see if that gets me any closer to you. Thanks for the rocket, but I'm going to try my way. And then I drive off to New York.

You send me back an email: No, MJH, that won't work. You can't get to the moon in a car. And you can't get any closer to me by going to New York. The only way is to get here is on board the rocket that I sent you. I'll move it to Central Park in NYC. When you get there, get on the rocket and it'll take you right to me.

Now, I could try driving all over the place. I might even try boats, and airplanes. All of which are great modes of travel. But they are simply not suited for the job of getting me to the moon. At some point, you might say to me: MJH, I realize that you don't know how to get to me. But I know where I am. And I know how to get there. Considering where I live (the moon) don't you think I'd make arrangements for you to get to me? Why do you think I'd leave the transport entirely up to you?

I think that this is the relationship that God has with us. He has made the way for us to get to him. And that way is grace: Jesus coming and dieing so that we can be turned back to God. There are tons of other religions, that have lots in common with Christianity. But in every other one, you get to God by the stuff that *you* do. And in every other religion, you are bombarded by the feeling of not having done enough. In Christianity, you don't have to figure out how to get to God. It's not about what you do. It's about what's been done for you. You could, for example, become a Christian and be assured of finding God in 2 minutes. There is no other religion that can say that.

Frankly, Chrsitianity is the only faith that makes sense to me. God is so different than me. He's apart from me. It makes sense to me that *he* will come to me. He will bring me to him. Not the other way around.

So yes, there are similarities between religions. But there are also important differences. And the one difference that separates Christianity from the rest, is the one that makes the most sense to me.


mjh said...

Niffer, I really *really* want to encourage you to go find a church that is going to help you explore this topic. I would *love* to sit down with you and discuss this. But I don't live anywhere near Colorado.

As a consequence, I want to encourage you to find 1 hour and check out my church's internet service:

If you decide to do this, let me know when, and, if you'd like I'll show up in the lobby (a chat room) to answer any questions you might have. You'd even get to see my real name.

Niffer said...

The fact that you listed "I like to debate" as one of your 25 things about yourself should have warned me about this. LOL.

In a pathetic attempt to continue with your analogy, I will comment on providing you with a rocket to go to the moon...

Sending you a rocket might work for you. In this culture, you do not have a fear of rockets and you understand the basic technology behind it. But maybe in another culture, they are terrified of technology because they've never seen it before and it doesn't mesh well with their way of thinking. In that situation, sending the rocket to help those people get to the moon would have the complete OPPOSITE effect from what I would want. They would start protests and maybe even tell their children scary bed time stories about what would happen if they ever stepped foot into the rocket that is in their yard.

Maybe that culture would do better with a great big long staircase that goes to the moon. Yes, it would take a VERY long time to walk up that many steps, but they would be more comfortable taking that route because it is closer to, and relates better to the life that they live day by day.

Maybe another culture would do better with getting instructions on how to get to the moon. Maybe they get a "Do it yourself" manual where they can learn how to make their own rocket, or their own space elevator. This culture feels more confident in learning for themselves what it takes and what it means to reach the moon.

Heck, maybe it's enough for a person to just dream about the moon because if he meditates enough, he can reach that moon-like state.

I can see your argument about how a car would never get you to the moon and that people could drive around for years and never reach the moon.

I think that's why I believe that you need to believe *something*. I do believe in a higher-being and I treat others with as much respect as I can. But there exists people who just aren't that kind-hearted. They don't respect the human race, as a whole, and thus they aren't interested in taking a shuttle, staircase, space elevator, or even dreaming about the moon.

If you don't have respect for life and those around you, then I see no reason for you to continue to be in their presence, whether that be here on Earth or in Heaven, or even in this life or the next.

Of course, I say all this with the word "you" being in general, and not aimed at YOU MJH. I hope you know that, but my guess is that you are giving what I write the benefit of the doubt, just as I do for you, because you never know the tone of voice someone has while typing.

Niffer said...

In regards to you encouraging me to find a church to help explore this topic, I do appreciate the thought.

What I would REALLY like to do, though, is to take a class on all the religions of the world so that I'm more educated in what I'd like to say. I bet there are some good books out there. I should look into that.

I may or may not check out the internet church service, though I think it's a neat idea for your church to reach out in that manner. I'll let you know if I do, but the problem is that most of my time spent online is when I'm at work, so I don't know if and when I would be able to dedicate a good chunk of time to it.

Heck, it took me all day just to type out my response, and it still came out sounding silly to me. Oh well.

Have a great rest of the week!

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