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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

I was listening to a talk by a Buddhist monk, and he said something interesting. He said one can be spiritual without being religious, and religious without being spiritual. I think I have always believed that, but hadn’t given it much thought till that talk. It’s an interesting point.

For some people the two terms may be synonymous. I think they are definately different. One can find spirituality  through religion I think, but religion itself is an organized belief system to which one can belong and  follow it’s ‘rules’, ‘perform’ the actions required without being spiritual at all. I’m sure we’ve all come across examples of that.

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The issues of abortion is a big issue for many Christians, particularly the Christian Right in America. “Why?” I ask. Does that seem like a silly question to you? If you are one of those Christians the answer will probably seem ‘obvious’ . Well I’d like to question some more your vehemence concerning abortion in this post. I also feel the issue is not really debated, discussed and explored as much as it should be – quite often you just hear “It’s wrong”.

Abortion is a big, emotional topic. I’m not going to try and cover all the various arguments for and against it, nor am I stating my personal position on the issue here.  I will make such arguments in other posts from time to time. For now I’m just exploring a few questions that come to mind…

My first thought as to why it’s such a hot topic is because of the commandment ‘Thou shalt not commit muder’. Ok…that makes sense. And not committing murder is a universally held moral, whatever your religion, that the majority of people believe is a correct one.  But then why, do many of those anti-abortionists favour the death penalty? That is undeniably hypocritical, is it not? (Of course, you may argue in terms of what the definition of ‘murder’ is and the justification of it according to circumstance…but that is another issue.)

Next thought: If the issue is about following what you say are God’s commandments, then why are you not also so vehement, so vocal, about other issues that appear to be in conflict with the other commandments? Surely, if you insist these are God’s commandments, they are all equally important. Or are you saying some are more important than others?

Let’s see…

What about “You shall not commit adultery”? Now why aren’t you all up in arms about the number of people who commit adultery? Why are you not campaigning to get the law to do something about those found to have commited it? Anyone can tell you how much infidelity adversely affects peoples lives. Could it be because many of you have committed it yourselves, and that’s, well,  just a bit too close to home for comfort…?

What about “You shall not steal”? Why not be up in arms about the number of burglaries and theft, and say, the number of such crimes that are not solved. I don’t see you with placards protesting about that. These crimes have a real emotional and psychological affect on their victims which can last a long time, and shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.

These are just two of the commandments other than “You shall not commit murder”. So if your argument is that abortion is wrong because it’s murder, and the commandments forbid it, then why aren’t you just as passionate about adherence to the other commandments? Picking and choosing are we?

My other concern is this – what are you doing about the mental and emotional well-being of the mothers and babies/children concerned? Do you wash your hands off them once the law has been changed the way you want it?  Who will look after all the babies that are born that are not wanted, or are brought up in homes by mothers who are just not ready to be mothers or are perhaps not good mothers (I’m not for a minute saying all women who would have had an abortion or are in the position of considering it are not good mothers)? What are you doing to ensure that there is enough support for them to deal with giving up their child ,  raising one when they are not ready to, or are not coping well with being in that situation. What are you doing to ensure those babies will be given good homes – that they will not stay in a system where they are passed about from one foster home to another or grow up in an orphanage (and yes, I know there are alot of people who have been adopted or grown up in foster homes that have been well loved and are happy. My concern is with hose that haven’t been so fortunate. How do we know those numbers won’t increase?). If you want to effect a change, ie make abortion illegal, a change that will affect women’s lives, you must ensure that good systems are there so that this  change does not impact negatively on their lives.

We need to ensure first and foremost that women are helped as much as possible not to be in that situation in the first place – through education, good sex and relationship education. Education about contraception, about being in a good relationship, etc…I’m sure you can think of a myriad ways the problem can be tackled. I don’t have all the answers. My point is, if you are so vehement about abortion being illegal, then why aren’t you so vehement about ensuring our societies bring up girls with the education and life skills so they do not find themselves in that situation in the first place, or at least so that the chance that they will is minimized. It’s all very well saying you shouldn’t do this or that, but what are you going to do to help them not do it?  As Christians, if you don’t want them to go down the road of having an abortion, and you claim to care so much about human life that you can’t bear the thought of a foetus being killed, then where’s your voice campaigning to ensure the support is there these women will need if they cannot do so.

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I was watching a very interesting documentary tonight on  the History Channel, ‘The Bible Unearthed’, about the archaeological and historical evidence for events in the Bible. Some events are supported very clearly , other events not so much, for example where there seem to be discrepancies in the dating of an event.

Well, it got me thinking. One clear thing I took away with me after watching this, and something which I often wonder, how Christians can ignore, is that the Bible is a collection of writings, written down by many ‘men’, no matter where their inspiration came from.  That is not to say that there is no basic truth or wisdom in what has been written. I believe there are good, valuable, universal teachings to be found in it applicable for both Christians and non-Christians alike. 

 We have to remember that as such, the writings would be subject to human error (debates still continue for example, over the orignal Aramaic word used for what has been translated as ‘virgin’ – whether or not the original meant ‘young maiden’ or ‘virgin’ in relation to Mary..)  or even exaggeration to make a story have more impact on the audience. A point borne out in the documentary.  Just as today the media, politicians, campaign groups, religious leaders, whoever wants us to support what they say, will to some degree resort to expressing their cause in such a way as to grab our attention and appeal to our emotions.  Just as history books can be be biased, (even if the facts are correct in terms of dates and events), towards the historians’ perception.

So why is the Bible any exception? In reading it and trying to understand it I think it is important to remember this. That doesn’t mean we can’t explore it’s teachings and try and learn from it.  Neither does it  invalidate the fundamental message of Jesus which is repeated in all the gospels.

Consider also that these writings were compiled into one book, the Bible as we know it, by ‘men’.  There are many other writings other than those 27 deemed suitable for inclusion by the ecclesaistical authorities.  Why were some writings left out? Was there some message in those they did not want to include? What were the political and religious circumstances at the time? Would this have affected the choice made? It is easy to blindly say “The Bible is the word of God, and all other writings must be rejected”, but when you really look at the history of it’s compilation it doesn’t seem so clear. So why not explore these other writings I ask you? May they not have valuable insights or teachings too? It is certainly interesting to read some of the other gospels, and something I plan on discussing more in other posts,  such as The gospel of Thomas in the Nag Hammadi library.

One question which I would ask,which arose out of watching the documentary,  but which requires further exploration, is why as a Christian pay so much attention to the Old Testament? Shouldn’t a follower of Christ be concerned with his message…his message about how to live, and how to live with each other? So why even bother with the Old Testament other than as an interesting historical read? There seems to me to be so much that is  extraneous which is part of the Christian faith today which Christians get caught up in, which detracts from Jesus’s core message, which divides the faith, and which  alienates people from  it who would be otherwise open to the message of love, self-knowledge, and compassion that Jesus preached.

I’m sure that is not what Christ wanted.

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It perplexes me as to why alot of Christians inisist on taking the creation story in Genesis as literal, and deride and condemn the opinions of those who try to look a bit further and actually  understand it in the context of when it was written. Many religions have stories which are not meant to be literal but are a way of trying to explain things in terms people of the time, without the science and knowledge of the world around us we have now, could understand. If a 6 year old came to you and asked you what quantum particles were how would you explain them? Would you sit down and start going into complex detail about quanta, entanglement and the structure of particles? No…you would describe it in simplistic terms that the child could maybe understand. And then they would only just barely have some  idea what quantum particles were. They would not have a true picture in their mind because they don’t have the necessary understanding and knowledge to fully comprehend them.

So why don’t alot Christians take a similar approach to the creation story. Why is it not possible that creation as described in Genesis is a way to try to explain to people of the time in simplistic terms how life was created. Even now, with all our scientific advancement since then, there is so much about the world around us, seen and unseen, that we do not understand. Even that which we think we do may be proven in time to be incorrect in some way. And we have limits on what we can understand and comprehend.

I think maybe, these Christians are afraid of the idea of the Bible not being literal here, for if it isn’t, then what else is open to question? They need to hang on to something. But questioning, and trying to truly understand what is written need not cause their belief system to come crashing down. Only through exploration can we find truth. We may not always like what we find.

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