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Author Topic: Religion equal to belief in God?  (Read 3017 times)

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Offline ShadowRaven4d4Topic starter

Religion equal to belief in God?
« on: March 29, 2011, 06:45:24 AM »
This has always seemed to bug me...in my discussions and observations of people who hold to a particular faith, when I get down to discussing subjects like evolution or the working's of the universe, the first thing out of say a Christian believers mouth is "Do you believe in God/Jesus?" and I always answer "Yes I do", which leads them to say "Why aren't you Christian then?"

What is it exactly that's lead people to this "you must be devoted to THIS system to believe this" idea? The belief I chose was spiritual, I observe and analyze what I know and use that to increase my standing in what I believe, this almost always seems to meet with extreme hostility on the part of those who are devoted to their belief saying that I'm assuming I understand God's plan or some other such nonsense.

For what reason do these individuals I encounter lash out at my choice of beliefs and what has lead them to believe you can't believe in a higher power unless you follow some scripture?

Offline Solstice

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2011, 09:30:30 AM »
Although I am not, if you will, one of 'those individuals', I believe I have a fair estimation of what their thought process looks like.

It starts with the assumption that their religion (which I will presume, for the sake of this conversation, is some denomination of Christianity) is correct, because if they didn't believe that they probably wouldn't be of said religion.

Within their religion, it's not only specified "God and Jesus exist," but also, "God and Jesus want you to do X and Y, but not Z"; the religion comes with instructions on how to live one's life. From this point of view, claiming to believe in God/Jesus but not following the whole religion is clearly arrogant, as you're saying you, indeed, somehow understand God's will better than the people who wrote the Bible (who, depending on who you ask, may have been divinely guided when doing so) did.

It's viewed as an assertion that you are inherently superior to both the person you're talking to, as well as their preacher or other religious leader.

...That's my $0.02, in any case. Not saying that I endorse any of the above, but that I believe it's a fairly accurate explanation of why people react that way. Someone else may have greater insight.

Offline ShadowRaven4d4Topic starter

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2011, 10:09:06 AM »
That explanation makes sense without triggering any sense of annoyance or reaction of anger on my part, thank you.

On that same note though, one could make the same assumption that they are arrogant to believe their books and preachers all have it 100% correct. I can't fathom the idea of believing I understand what is called the ethereal realm perfectly and without error, thus why I chose my mode of belief.

It brings to mind the statement "The Lord works in mysterious ways" which going by that statement its difficult not to wonder things like "Are these rules set so that were tempted to break them?" which can hold water as an argument based in the assumption humans react strongly to reverse-psychology and humans enjoy doing what they are told not to do.

Online Silk

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2011, 10:37:57 AM »
That explanation makes sense without triggering any sense of annoyance or reaction of anger on my part, thank you.

On that same note though, one could make the same assumption that they are arrogant to believe their books and preachers all have it 100% correct. I can't fathom the idea of believing I understand what is called the ethereal realm perfectly and without error, thus why I chose my mode of belief.

It brings to mind the statement "The Lord works in mysterious ways" which going by that statement its difficult not to wonder things like "Are these rules set so that were tempted to break them?" which can hold water as an argument based in the assumption humans react strongly to reverse-psychology and humans enjoy doing what they are told not to do.

The problem is that "The lord works in mysterious ways" tends to just be used as a get out of awkward question free card. The general why do people suffer, why did it happen in Japan etc.

Offline ShadowRaven4d4Topic starter

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2011, 10:47:13 AM »
The problem is that "The lord works in mysterious ways" tends to just be used as a get out of awkward question free card. The general why do people suffer, why did it happen in Japan etc.

I agree, it seems to be the main fall back when people don't want to think of their God as cruel.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2011, 11:50:20 AM »
This has always seemed to bug me...in my discussions and observations of people who hold to a particular faith, when I get down to discussing subjects like evolution or the working's of the universe, the first thing out of say a Christian believers mouth is "Do you believe in God/Jesus?" and I always answer "Yes I do", which leads them to say "Why aren't you Christian then?"

My answer to these people is usually 'Not the same one you do,' - and it usually goes downhill from there, depending on how much effort I want to put into brain-tweaking them.  I typically have enough knowledge of their text to keep them from dismissing me completely, and it usually ends up with them ending the discussion in bewilderment.  Most recently, it merely involved knowing the five books in the Christian Bible that were taken from the Jewish Pentateuch. 

Offline Sabby

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2011, 12:48:23 PM »
This has always seemed to bug me...in my discussions and observations of people who hold to a particular faith, when I get down to discussing subjects like evolution or the working's of the universe, the first thing out of say a Christian believers mouth is "Do you believe in God/Jesus?" and I always answer "Yes I do", which leads them to say "Why aren't you Christian then?"

This one seems like a no brainer to me. God and Jesus never shut up about how disappointed they are with you for not following The Bible, and regardless of how much they love the world, they will still do the tough love (Hell)

So yeah, I don't blame the common mindset of 'belief in God = Christian' The guys kind of clear on this matter. This is just the Christian God, which I'm pretty sure you're referring to.

Offline Avi

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Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2011, 01:27:06 PM »
I think it ultimately comes down to this:  For many people, belief in God needs to lead to some kind of lifestyle change.  For example, when I converted from Catholicism to the Church of Christ, I changed the way I live.  I read Scripture more, I work harder to avoid sinful behavior, and I try never to assume that tomorrow's going to come.  I always live as if, at the next moment, I could end up at the end of the line and I'm going to find out whether I made the grade or not as a person.

While this is my personal choice, and I certainly would not force this lifestyle on anyone, it gives me a sense of structure in addition to my faith, and that, to me, is very important.

Offline ShadowRaven4d4Topic starter

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2011, 02:59:30 PM »
I think it ultimately comes down to this:  For many people, belief in God needs to lead to some kind of lifestyle change.  For example, when I converted from Catholicism to the Church of Christ, I changed the way I live.  I read Scripture more, I work harder to avoid sinful behavior, and I try never to assume that tomorrow's going to come.  I always live as if, at the next moment, I could end up at the end of the line and I'm going to find out whether I made the grade or not as a person.

While this is my personal choice, and I certainly would not force this lifestyle on anyone, it gives me a sense of structure in addition to my faith, and that, to me, is very important.

Not forcing your life on others is respectable. its just that sometimes I find the sort of people who do as hypocritical. "Love thy neighbor" would include respecting the faith they choose to hold would it not?

Offline Oniya

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Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2011, 03:16:24 PM »
It can go either way on that one.  I've seen people say that loving their neighbor means trying to make sure they don't go to hell - which means making sure they hear about the 'one true way'.  That's the sort of thing that tends to annoy me if they get too persistent (or wake me up on a Sunday morning.  My door, my rules.)

I find religion to be a very personal thing, so Avi's take on things resonates with me a lot. 

Offline ShadowRaven4d4Topic starter

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2011, 03:29:31 PM »
It can go either way on that one.  I've seen people say that loving their neighbor means trying to make sure they don't go to hell - which means making sure they hear about the 'one true way'.  That's the sort of thing that tends to annoy me if they get too persistent (or wake me up on a Sunday morning.  My door, my rules.)

I find religion to be a very personal thing, so Avi's take on things resonates with me a lot.

Yes Avi's take is peaceful and respectable. Unlike the people who get arrogant or cocky about their beliefs and look down their nose at the rest of humanity.

My beliefs are structured around the idea that "God isn't going to condemn the majority of humanity to eternal suffering because they followed the wrong path", which means that I don't accept any religion as "the true path" because no matter what religion it is the rest of the world is condemned. I can't accept a God so cruel as that.

Offline Will

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2011, 03:33:22 PM »
Yes Avi's take is peaceful and respectable. Unlike the people who get arrogant or cocky about their beliefs and look down their nose at the rest of humanity.

My beliefs are structured around the idea that "God isn't going to condemn the majority of humanity to eternal suffering because they followed the wrong path", which means that I don't accept any religion as "the true path" because no matter what religion it is the rest of the world is condemned. I can't accept a God so cruel as that.

Actually, just like most sweeping generalizations, that's not true.  There are religions that don't see the uninitiated as doomed to eternal hellfire or oblivion.  It's just a trait that we're familiar with due to the incredible popularity of the Abrahamic faiths.

Online Silk

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2011, 03:37:17 PM »
It can go either way on that one.  I've seen people say that loving their neighbor means trying to make sure they don't go to hell - which means making sure they hear about the 'one true way'.  That's the sort of thing that tends to annoy me if they get too persistent (or wake me up on a Sunday morning.  My door, my rules.)

I find religion to be a very personal thing, so Avi's take on things resonates with me a lot.

Which is why the bible is also known as the good book of multiple choice.

Offline meikle

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2011, 03:56:23 PM »
"Do you believe in God/Jesus?" and I always answer "Yes I do", which leads them to say "Why aren't you Christian then?"

Notably, I'm pretty sure if a Christian asks you, "Do you believe in Jesus?", they're not asking, "Do you believe Jesus was a person that existed," but they're asking "Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God (and by extension, the only real path to salvation?)"

So if you say, "Yes, I believe in Jesus," I'm not sure how you can expect a Christian to have any other response than "So why aren't you a Christian?"  (I'm not religious at all and I'm not certain how you can believe that Jesus is divine without being a Christian.)

Quote
"Love thy neighbor" would include respecting the faith they choose to hold would it not?

People try to persuade people they love to make lifestyle changes all the time.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2011, 03:57:55 PM by meikle »

Offline ShadowRaven4d4Topic starter

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2011, 04:21:10 PM »
Notably, I'm pretty sure if a Christian asks you, "Do you believe in Jesus?", they're not asking, "Do you believe Jesus was a person that existed," but they're asking "Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God (and by extension, the only real path to salvation?)"

So if you say, "Yes, I believe in Jesus," I'm not sure how you can expect a Christian to have any other response than "So why aren't you a Christian?"  (I'm not religious at all and I'm not certain how you can believe that Jesus is divine without being a Christian.)

People try to persuade people they love to make lifestyle changes all the time.

easy, you believe all humans are divine and that Jesus was simply here to show us what we would all be capable of at our pinnacle.

Offline meikle

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2011, 04:26:07 PM »
Well, what makes Jesus unique in that regard?  If all humans are divine, why is Jesus the pinnacle, and not any other religious figure or philosopher (the Buddha?  Various Saints?  Kongzi or his disciples?  Hillel?)

If someone asks you, "Do you believe in Jesus?" and you answer, "Yes," but what you mean is, "I believe all humans are divine and Jesus is not unique in that regard," you're not really answering the question they're asking, except in a pedantic sense.

By choosing not to extrapolate (and maybe you do, but it's not the impression you give in the OP), you're misleading people with your answer.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2011, 04:28:20 PM by meikle »

Offline ShadowRaven4d4Topic starter

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2011, 04:28:15 PM »
Well, what makes Jesus unique in that regard?  If all humans are divine, why is Jesus the pinnacle, and not any other religious figure or philosopher (the Buddha?  Various Saints?  Kongzi or his disciples?  Hillel?)

If someone asks you, "Do you believe in Jesus?" and you answer, "Yes," but what you mean is, "I believe all humans are divine and Jesus is not unique in that regard," you're not really answering the question they're asking, except in a pedantic sense.  There's implications to the question that an answer of "Yes" does not address.

I would first answer with "Yes I believe in Jesus but I perceive him as" and then explain how I saw him.

Offline Shjade

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #17 on: March 29, 2011, 07:15:10 PM »
I have to admit to being confused by the thread, just a bit. I read the title and thought, oh hey, discussion of spirituality vs. rigidly enforced rules and rituals; then found it was really more like "God = Christian?" which is a topic rather more narrow in scope. What's the difference, you might ask? Well, I was going to open with something leading toward Taoism or Buddhism where, no, following a religion does not equal belief in God, or even god, necessarily, and goes in an entirely different direction...but oh well!

I'd say Meikle's going in the right direction there. It's a little odd to look at a conversation that is, essentially, "Do you believe in Christ?" "Yes, but I'm not a Christian." It's just...I mean...that is literally the defining trait of Christianity. It's in the name. I could argue that, from at least a surface reading, even if you envision Jesus being something rather different from any existing branch of Christianity, you're still under the umbrella of "Christian" by virtue of having Jesus as your focal point for what a perfect human being can be and your example for what we should all try to live up to in life. Some other, wholly new variety of Christianity, but definitively linked none the less. If, on the other hand, you believed all humans were divine and Jesus was just another guy, rather than this unique purveyor of miracles and so forth as "an example of what we all could be," that'd be another story. From what you've said so far, though...I think I'd need a more detailed explanation of your beliefs before that conversation could go any farther, really. We're just working with extremely basic concepts from both sides - yours and Christianity's - and on that level they don't seem extremely different, which would probably lead me to ask, "How are you not a Christian," myself. Not in an accusatory way, more in a, "Seriously, explain to me in what respect you aren't," way.

Note that that's not saying "you must be Christian to believe in Christ," it's pointing out that believing in Christ (spec. with regard to his being part of/exemplifying a higher power, not just that he existed - I'm pretty sure that Islam, at the least, also makes reference to Jesus, but not with the reverence Christianity does) is what defines being Christian. Claiming to believe in Christ but not being a Christian is rather like claiming to be a vegetarian around a mouthful of steak. It's not that you can't DO it, it just...sounds strange. And contradictory.

Online Silk

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #18 on: March 29, 2011, 07:30:25 PM »
Yeah, Islam just teaches that Jesus was the prophet before Muhummad, and instead of dieing on the cross, Judas took his place, thereby negating his claim for true divinity.

Offline ShadowRaven4d4Topic starter

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #19 on: March 30, 2011, 08:02:22 AM »
I have to admit to being confused by the thread, just a bit. I read the title and thought, oh hey, discussion of spirituality vs. rigidly enforced rules and rituals; then found it was really more like "God = Christian?" which is a topic rather more narrow in scope. What's the difference, you might ask? Well, I was going to open with something leading toward Taoism or Buddhism where, no, following a religion does not equal belief in God, or even god, necessarily, and goes in an entirely different direction...but oh well!

I'd say Meikle's going in the right direction there. It's a little odd to look at a conversation that is, essentially, "Do you believe in Christ?" "Yes, but I'm not a Christian." It's just...I mean...that is literally the defining trait of Christianity. It's in the name. I could argue that, from at least a surface reading, even if you envision Jesus being something rather different from any existing branch of Christianity, you're still under the umbrella of "Christian" by virtue of having Jesus as your focal point for what a perfect human being can be and your example for what we should all try to live up to in life. Some other, wholly new variety of Christianity, but definitively linked none the less. If, on the other hand, you believed all humans were divine and Jesus was just another guy, rather than this unique purveyor of miracles and so forth as "an example of what we all could be," that'd be another story. From what you've said so far, though...I think I'd need a more detailed explanation of your beliefs before that conversation could go any farther, really. We're just working with extremely basic concepts from both sides - yours and Christianity's - and on that level they don't seem extremely different, which would probably lead me to ask, "How are you not a Christian," myself. Not in an accusatory way, more in a, "Seriously, explain to me in what respect you aren't," way.

Note that that's not saying "you must be Christian to believe in Christ," it's pointing out that believing in Christ (spec. with regard to his being part of/exemplifying a higher power, not just that he existed - I'm pretty sure that Islam, at the least, also makes reference to Jesus, but not with the reverence Christianity does) is what defines being Christian. Claiming to believe in Christ but not being a Christian is rather like claiming to be a vegetarian around a mouthful of steak. It's not that you can't DO it, it just...sounds strange. And contradictory.

I do admit that it was my initial intention to try and convey that question. Open spirituality vs. Rigidly enforced rules that is. However I can't help but take a philosophical and psychologically analytical look at the subject. I always find myself intrigued by the way people think and work, its really a ironic spin to my own stubborn nature, its hard to make me flex my view unless your explanation makes sense in a way I can't deny.

I will go with "Jesus is a representation of the future average joe" option. My belief is that as humans grow and gain a larger understanding of the universe spiritually and scientifically, naturally our minds will expand to encompass the abilities, or "miracle working" that was evident in Jesus' time. While I may believe there was a Jesus I also believe there was a Buddha, and a number of other spiritual leaders over time. I choose to be spiritual because I find that no one system holds all the answers I seek. I was raised Christian at first, which played a role, then turned agnostic as I tried to seek what I felt was the right belief for me. I came on spiritual because of a church my mother found called "Inner faith" which teaches pieces of all religions, though admittedly with a focus on Christianity. One of the preachers for this church said something that resonated with me on a profound level.

"There are many roads up the mountain of God, but the view from the summit is the same."

It was this statement that lead to my choosing to be Spiritual.

Offline Jude

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #20 on: March 30, 2011, 01:55:38 PM »
The term "spiritual," at least in the way that the average 20-something new-age hippy uses it, is not the sexual equivalent of "polyamorous" no matter how badly its proponents want to believe that it is.  Just as polyamory requires consent, knowledge, and acceptance of an open-relationship from every party involved for it to be legitimate, in order for the spiritual-relativist-absolutist-no-one-is-wrong movement to have any intellectual credence "truth" would have to consent to signing away its singular nature.  And, as far as I'm aware in my study of it, it's done no such thing.

The closest you can come to claiming that it has is in analysis of particle-wave duality, superposition, and Schrodinger's Cat.  Thankfully we don't live in a quantum death trap anymore than the world's major religions actually agree on anything.  Hell, the followers of each and every faith don't even agree with each other on what their faith is all about.  Disagreement on the truth doesn't mean everyone's right anymore than it necessarily means there is no truth, but of the two the latter is the more tenable position.

Granted, I realize this is an unfashionable viewpoint amidst the sea of echoing platitudes characterized by the phrase "can't we all just get along," but at least I recognize that I don't know what the grand truth is either.

We can talk about what the view looks like from on top the mountain once someone actually proves that they've successfully climbed it.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #21 on: March 30, 2011, 02:04:08 PM »
Actually, there is something at the core of most of the major religions that seems to be relatively consistent:  'Be good to each other, live a good life, and something good will be waiting for you in the afterlife.'  This core doesn't require that one believe in any specific deity (although belief in an afterlife or reincarnation helps with the last part - I suppose that could be generalized to 'the future'.)

Offline Jude

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #22 on: March 30, 2011, 02:07:20 PM »
That's really not true.  There were plenty of early religions that didn't incorporate a concept of the afterlife rewards system (TM) or even benevolent supernatural powers.  Take the religion of the Ancient Greeks for example, or the Ancient Mesopotamians.  The statement that you made is really only applicable to modern, particularly western, religious concepts.  And even they don't agree on how to accomplish those ends in the least.

Besides, I could easily make up a religion that disproves your point, then what?  My religion isn't valid because I made it up?  Where do you discriminate?  The bottom line is, there is always a fine point of discrimination you have to eventually apply.  If everyone's truth true?  Does that include heaven's gate and other cults?
« Last Edit: March 30, 2011, 02:10:19 PM by Jude »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #23 on: March 30, 2011, 02:22:39 PM »
I did specify 'most major', but since you brought it up...

Ancient Greeks had the Elysian Fields as a reward, (check Odyssey 4.563, and Pindar's description:

And those that have three times kept to their oaths,
Keeping their souls clean and pure,
Never letting their hearts be defiled by the taint
Of evil and injustice,
And barbaric veniality,
They are led by Zeus to the end:
To the palace of Kronos,
Where soothing breezes off the Ocean
Breathe over the Isle of the Blessed)

and Tartarus as a punishment  (reference the myths of Sisyphus, Tantalus, and Ixion).  There was also the Asphodel Meadows, which was for the more-or-less 'ordinary' folk, who hadn't been particularly good or wicked.

Offline Noelle

Re: Religion equal to belief in God?
« Reply #24 on: March 30, 2011, 05:29:04 PM »
Actually, there is something at the core of most of the major religions that seems to be relatively consistent:  'Be good to each other, live a good life, and something good will be waiting for you in the afterlife.'  This core doesn't require that one believe in any specific deity (although belief in an afterlife or reincarnation helps with the last part - I suppose that could be generalized to 'the future'.)

I don't really consider this that significant, given that three of the major world religions are all derivatives of one another. The Quran happens to be the most vocal of the three by basically saying, "Hey, you guys had your chance and then you went and fucked up God's word, so that's why we're here", which also explains why they get an honorable mention in the Quran and the consolation prize of a "lesser" heaven rather than burning forever. In terms of my man JC, while they do recognize Jesus as a figure in history, they don't consider him to be divine...Hell, I'm not even so sure he's mentioned anywhere as being a prophet, but rather a Very Cool Dude who did some honorable stuff and deserves our respect, but not our worship. This is where they frown on Christianity, as they see the Holy Trinity as being a form of pantheism.

Besides, it's a little difficult to ascribe to the "many paths" mantra and then turn around and try to legitimize one theory over the others (such as the 'afterlife rewards program') by way of popularity contest. By logic of "many paths", you're admitting that it doesn't matter what people think or how many people think it, because everybody's right and everybody wins and no matter how many believers follow a religion, it is completely insignificant.