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Author Topic: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)  (Read 4389 times)

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #50 on: August 30, 2010, 08:25:28 PM »
I went looking, and I can't find any reference to 'obedience' as a Christian virtue.  The Seven Heavenly Virtues are listed as either: (Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility) or (Prudence, Justice, Restraint/Temperance, Courage/Fortitude, Faith, Hope, and Love/Charity).  The 'Knightly Virtues' include Devotion, which is kind of close, the Prussian Virtues do include Obedience, but I'm not sure how 'religious' (I believe Prussia was Lutheran at the time) those are - they may be more political than Biblical in origin.

Offline Noelle

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #51 on: August 31, 2010, 03:21:26 AM »
I would say Mary represents a pretty great figure of obedience, at least from where I'm standing. While it may not be explicitly stated, I still feel like it's very strong message all the same -- you can always choose not to obey, but you're expected to always come back to God to 'come clean', so to speak. I guess this is where I ask, in a perfect world, would God prefer followers who obey him completely to those who err and repeatedly require forgiveness?

Offline Neroon

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #52 on: August 31, 2010, 05:51:41 AM »
I'm sorry, Noelle, I'm going to have a slightly off-topic rant now.  I apologise not just for the off-topicness but also for the possibility that I could be ranting at you, which I most emphatically am not.  Just so as we're clear about it.

You used the phrase, "you can always choose not to obey, but you're expected to always come back to God," and that is what's sparking my mini-rant.  I hear a lot about expectation in my line of work, usually along the lines of, "This is an optional after hours training session, but the expectation is that everyone will spend three hours doing this in service training on... ...and a register will be taken so we know exactly who has attended."  Clearly in this context, this is not an expectation, this is a requirement.  Increasingly, constructions like "You are expected to" are substituted for "You must" and that means that I have to look at "you can always choose not to obey, but you're expected to always come back to God" with some doubt as to what you mean with it.  That's why I get particularly pissed off with changing language patterns- they get in the way of genuine communication.

OK, the mini-rant is over.  Hopefully it explains why I must ask if by "expected to always come back to God" you mean "have to come back to God" or if you mean that "God wants you to come back to Him" or "God thinks it is likely that you will come back to Him".  If it's the first of the three, then one might say that there is no compulsion to return, at least as far as I have observed.  Of course, experience may force me to change that opinion at a later date but so far there is no reason for me to do so.  If it means that "God wants you to come back to Him" or that "God thinks it is likely that you will come back to Him" then quite clearly this is only reasonable.  When I have arguments with my daughter over whatever the thermonuclear-device-threatening-domestic-calm of the day is and she strops off to say she's going to live elsewhere, I expect her to come back to me, in that I want her to and think that she will do so.  I neither have the inclination nor the ability to force her to return to me and would be devastated if she were not to do so but that doesn't stop me expecting her return and the inevitable tearful and joyful reunion when it happens.  I would say that God expects our return in the same way, given the Father imagery of the New Testament and the teaching of the parable of the prodigal son.

The fact that my daughter strops off like that with almost clockwork regularity doesn't stop me from accepting her back, nor does it make me less keen to seek a reconciliation.  She's a teenager and such emotional outbursts are par for the course.  Would I prefer her to completely follow all of my rules and do as I say?  No, I would not, but neither do I prefer her rebelliousness.  It is, as some might say, a false dichotomy, to suggest that I would have to prefer one over the other.  If I am permitted that freedom to have no such preference I would suggest that God also lacks such a preference.  The father's answer to the "good" son in the parable certainly suggests so, why else would he be told that, though there was no celebration for him, he stiall had everything that the father had?

Offline Shoshana

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #53 on: August 31, 2010, 10:30:00 AM »
Typing from my Blackberry again, so expect typos!

I just thought of another spot where biblical obedience wasn't ideal--or at least wasn't enough.

Some backround: a few years ago I was asked to take a long-term subbing job for kids with some deep problems--they had already driven off multiple subs. They were a tough class: apart from the near-constant fist fights and such, they would also sit there comparing their self-inflicted cuts and burns.

I felt sorry for them, but I didn't think I was prepared to handle them. I was dealing with two different tragedies in my own life, after all.

So I was sitting at an event in a Jewish museum in Manhattan, silently rehearsing my "I quit" speech, which I had intended to give the principal the next day.

And then this lay person came up to the podium to speak. I think he was a lawyer. He was supposed to talk about the Dreyfus Affair--but instead he talked about that week's parsha. (A parsha is the section of the Torah assigned to each week in the Jewish liturgical calendar--we read the whole Torah, in order, over the course of a year.)

The parsha for that week was about Noah. The speaker talked about how Jewish tradition has come down hard on him. Why? I mean, come on. Noah did everything G-d asked him to. But we still criticize him, the speaker said, "because the Jewish response to human suffering has never been to huddle in a boat and ride out the storm!"

Those words hit me like a thunderbolt. I never made that resignation speech. I decided to stick it out, figuring that if nothing else, I could give the kids some consistency. It turned out to be one of the best teaching experiences in my life.

Of course, maybe we're still too hard on Noah. That's something we debate every year in Torah study at my synagogue. But I think the lesson that obedience sure ain't everything holds true regardless. 
« Last Edit: August 31, 2010, 10:35:54 AM by Shoshana »

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #54 on: August 31, 2010, 11:07:02 AM »
It's interesting that you bring up the practice of reading the entire Torah.  I really doubt that the majority of religious people engage in that kind of in-depth study, discussion - and apparently debate.  I can guarantee that over the course of a year, the readings (one selection from the OT, one from the Epistles, and one from the Gospels) do not cover the entire Bible, and sometimes those that are read don't really stick.  When I was in catechism, there was an incident where we were asked what our favorite story from the Bible was.  I was somewhere around 10 at the time, and - while I couldn't remember where in the Bible it was - I said it was the part about the lady clothed with the sun, and the dragon.  (It's in Revelations, for the curious - yes, I was a strange kid.)

My teacher claimed to have never heard of that story, which frustrated me because I'd actually heard it in church multiple times.

Offline Shoshana

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #55 on: August 31, 2010, 11:52:46 AM »
It's interesting that you bring up the practice of reading the entire Torah.  I really doubt that the majority of religious people engage in that kind of in-depth study, discussion - and apparently debate.  I can guarantee that over the course of a year, the readings (one selection from the OT, one from the Epistles, and one from the Gospels) do not cover the entire Bible, and sometimes those that are read don't really stick.  When I was in catechism, there was an incident where we were asked what our favorite story from the Bible was.  I was somewhere around 10 at the time, and - while I couldn't remember where in the Bible it was - I said it was the part about the lady clothed with the sun, and the dragon.  (It's in Revelations, for the curious - yes, I was a strange kid.)

My teacher claimed to have never heard of that story, which frustrated me because I'd actually heard it in church multiple times.

Interesting! I can understand why you'd be frustrated, lol.

If you go to synagogue on a regular basis, you'll be exposed to the whole Torah over the course of a year--every synagogue reads the same parsha each week, and Judaism has a big holiday on the day we finish the last parsha of Deuteronomy and start over with the first parsha of Genesis.

But you can sit in shul  (that's Yiddish for synagogue or school) and never pay attention. Especially since the reading from the Torah (and from the prophets--that's a separate reading called the Haftarah) are in Hebrew. So if you don't understand Hebrew and you don't follow along in the English, you can let the whole thing wash over you while you meditate or even chat with friends. (Many synagogues are quite informal during services.)

But there's always a group in every shul who meet with their rabbi to discuss, argue and debate the week's parsha. That's where you have the closest readings of the text, and, in my opinion, the most fun!

However, I've found that some Christians aren't comfortable with this kind of discussion. I think there may be a cultural divide here--Jews feel free in Torah study to criticize G-d, Moses, and anyone else in the text. We feel free to question the lessons the Torah seems to present and, heck, to bring up issues of textural criticism and atheist points of view--after all, a surprising number of observant Jews are atheists or agnostics.

As an extreme example, I remember our rabbis saying, "But why would G-d do such a thing?" One guy shrugged and answered, "Because He's a bastard."

Everyone laughed--including our rabbi. I thought it was hilarious, but when I relayed the story to a Christian friend, she was deeply offended. And I had trouble convincing her that the guy who called G-d a bastard is a deeply devout theist. But like all of us, he has some issues with the Almighty.

On the other hand, some Christians really love all the argument and debate in Jewish Torah studies and are fine with criticizing G-d and biblical figures. And some Jews prefer the more respecful approach of Christians. But, in general, I'd say that cultural divide exists.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2010, 11:58:59 AM by Shoshana »

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #56 on: August 31, 2010, 01:11:18 PM »
I go through phases in my Biblical study.  I did, for several years follow a pattern where I read through the whole Bible over a two year cycle.  It was an interesting experience but in the end after two cycles, I eased up on the planned route and moved to a more intuitive pattern following where I follow particular interests.  At the moment, for example, I'm looking at some of the Apocrypha as it seems to have been a while since I read them.  I have to say that I am particularly enjoying the story of Tobit.  While such an approach miight lack coverage, it does allow better depth of reading.  I imagine that, in some years, I might go back to the prescribed route again. It all depends.

Certainly, I like to argue about the actions of the people in the Bible and it's true that I do have serious issues with some of St Paul's teaching.  For all that the he did great things, I find it very hard to warm to the man, as he is described and that in turn means that my evaluation of his teaching is coloured by my emotions.  While I might not have gone so far as calling the Lord a bastard, I've certainly called St Paul a mysogynistic old git a time or two.  In the end, it is through such argument and debate that our understanding is deepened and that can only be a good thing.

Offline Lord Drake

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #57 on: August 31, 2010, 01:39:00 PM »
One very interesting thing that I try to do when my brain is not melted too much is to try to correlate my religious themed readings with the historical and political settings. For example it is interesting to read the Revelations keeping in mind that it was a text probably written by a representative of a current that was averse to the one headed by St. Paul...

Actually to understand the Bible and in general the other religious texts of humanity one must always keep in mind the kind of society they were aimed to when they were written. Although I think Neroon already said that in a post before...

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #58 on: August 31, 2010, 02:03:42 PM »
Actually to understand the Bible and in general the other religious texts of humanity one must always keep in mind the kind of society they were aimed to when they were written. Although I think Neroon already said that in a post before...

Very agreed.  A good percentage of the proscriptions in Leviticus make perfect sense socially and even medically when you consider the fact that you're dealing with a small, mostly nomadic population surrounded by hostile nations.  Pork and shellfish are particularly prone to becoming unfit to eat in the conditions that you would encounter in that environment.  Large families would ensure survival in the face of high mortality, infant and otherwise.  I recently read that the deaths and sickness following the miracle of the quail (in Exodus, when the Israelites were getting tired of manna) could have been caused by a form of poisoning resulting from the migrating quail consuming quantities of hemlock.  (I think that's used as an example of disobedience being punished - I could be wrong.)

One thing I noticed when I was looking up virtues in general was that the Roman philosophers saw virtues as the 'golden mean' between two excesses.  Courage, for example is the virtue between cowardice (excessive caution) and foolhardiness (insufficient caution).  Obedience, under that definition of virtue, would also fall between two excesses - perhaps lawlessness and blind adherence?

Offline Shoshana

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #59 on: August 31, 2010, 02:17:42 PM »
One very interesting thing that I try to do when my brain is not melted too much is to try to correlate my religious themed readings with the historical and political settings. For example it is interesting to read the Revelations keeping in mind that it was a text probably written by a representative of a current that was averse to the one headed by St. Paul...

Actually to understand the Bible and in general the other religious texts of humanity one must always keep in mind the kind of society they were aimed to when they were written. Although I think Neroon already said that in a post before...

Well yeah, but that's only one component. History and textual criticism are important to understanding the texts--but so are the interpretations and commentaries and arguments and debates about the text throughout the centuries--up to and including our interpretations and commentaries and arguments and debates about the text today.

And, in Judaism at least, Midrash is important. The kind of Midrash I'm talking about is sort of our 'fan fiction' of the Bible--all the extra stories we've created to fill in the blanks the Tanakh leaves us with. ( Again, the Tanakh is the word we use for what Christians call the 'Old Testament.')

Part of what makes religious texts so eternally intriguing is the same thing that makes Shakespeare's plays so eternally intriguing--you start with flawed characters and moral quandries and then let generation after generation color the text with their own insights.

To make this point, Jews never use the expression "The G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." We always say, "The G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Jacob" (And some of us add the matriarchs, but that's another story.) But we phrase it that way to remind ourselves that every generation must experience G-d, the tradition and the text for themselves, bringing their own insights. No point in just worrying about what it meant to the original audience-- although, again, that needs to be part of the mix.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2010, 02:26:14 PM by Shoshana »

Offline Serephino

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #60 on: August 31, 2010, 10:30:02 PM »
I don't know if Noah is a good example.  The people who laughed at him died in the flood.  And if he hadn't obeyed God then his family would have died too.  Again, you don't have to obey, but in most stories there are serious consequences if you don't.  God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for disobeying... a lot....

I guess the actual literal text encourages blind obedience, but most don't take the Bible literally.  That I can accept, and believe to be a good thing.  I get along well with Christians who think for themselves instead of accepting what they're spoon fed in church.  I don't believe in the Bible at all except as a source for some entertaining stories.  Examples can be found for both sides of the argument because the stupid thing contradicts itself constantly.  That, and there are different versions.  It's supposed to be the infallible word of God, and anyone who changes it is supposed to be cast into the 9th circle of Hell, and yet, I have seen at least three different versions.

I've yelled at God before.  I've had bad days where I've cussed him up one side and down the other.  I'd like to think he understands that I'm blowing off steam and don't mean most of it.  He made me, short fiery temper and all.....

Shoshana, if you don't mind answering a few questions... I'm curious about a few things.  First of all, why do you write the word God with the hyphen in the middle?  I'm also wondering what the Jewish view on Jesus is, and why he isn't accepted as the Messiah.  If this is off topic you can pm me, but I am genuinely curious.     

Offline Shoshana

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #61 on: September 01, 2010, 07:23:37 AM »
Shoshana, if you don't mind answering a few questions... I'm curious about a few things.  First of all, why do you write the word God with the hyphen in the middle?  I'm also wondering what the Jewish view on Jesus is, and why he isn't accepted as the Messiah.  If this is off topic you can pm me, but I am genuinely curious.     

Jew are quite careful with the names of G-d. The most important of all these is the actual name spelt by the Hebrew letters Yod Heh Vav Heh. We don't even pronounce that name--firstly because a tradition arose of only pronouncing it on certain high occasions at the Temple, and now there is no Temple. And secondly because we consider it too sacred.

(We took the opposite road of Hindus in that respect; Hindus also recognize the sacredness of the names they use for G-d, but many Hindu traditions encourage you to repeat names of G-d over and over. Same principle, but Judaism and Hinduism went in completely opposite directions with it.)

We have two main substitutions for the Yod Heh Vav Heh: while praying or while reading the Torah during services we use 'Adonai,' which means 'Lord.' (You'll notice that many Christian Bibles use "Lord" instead of the actual name of G-d. A few modern translations use the Name but, in most, whenever you see "Lord" in the 'Old Testament' referring to G-d, it's almost always a substitute for the Yod Heh Vav Heh.)

In more casual conversation, or when reading the Torah outside of services,  we use "HaShem" instead of the Name; that just means  "the Name."

Here's where the answer to your question comes in: we are very careful with the Name of G-d; we never throw out or crumple up or deface any paper that has the name written on it. We bury worn out copies of the Torah (or anything else with the Name) instead of just throwing them out.

Many Jews feel that all forms of the word 'G-d' should be so protected, and that's why they don't even write out the word 'G-d.' Because it's possible that someone could print this conversation and later toss it in the trash, I prefer not to spell out the word 'G-d.'

Other Jews are okay with spelling out G-d, feeling that only the Yod Heh Vav Heh requires protection. In general, the more Orthodox you are, the more likely you are to use the hyphen than to spell out G-d. But that's not always the case: I'm not Orthodox and I use the hyphen.

As for Jesus--the important thing to remember here is that Christians have a radically different understanding of 'messiah' than Jews. Jews don't see the messiah as a divine personage. The messiah is  just as a human being who brings about a just and righteous world. (Or sometimes multiple human beings, in the case of Jews who hold with a collective messiah.) 

So that's the role of the messiah according to Judaism: perfecting the world, bringing peace and righteousness throughout. That clearly hasn't happened. This is still an imperfect world. Ergo, no messiah yet.

And whatever Jews think of the idea of a messiah (some are quite hostile to it and don't believe in any messiah), we agree on this much: don't wait for a messiah; do your part to heal the world today. Help bring the world closer to perfection. This is the duty of every human being.

I think Christians agree. The Christians among my friends and family, anyway, don’t sit around just waiting for Jesus to return. They’re doing their best to make the world a better place.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2010, 07:28:00 AM by Shoshana »

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #62 on: September 01, 2010, 04:12:06 PM »
I guess the best example of what I was saying would be the story of Jonah.  I can't remember what he was supposed to do, but he decided to disobey God.  Then God had him swallowed by a whale and carried to where he was supposed to go.  So yes, the choice is yours, but there will be negative consequences if you don't follow the rules.

I guess the rules depend on what detonation you are.  Catholics are the strictest I think, and I will never understand them.  The church I went to was Methodist.  In that church the sermons came from both OT and NT.  I do remember though on Rosh Hashanna (sp?) or otherwise known as Jewish New Years, we learned about it in Sunday School, and even went to a nearby river and threw dirt into it.  I felt really silly.

Before we attended the Methodist church, I went to Sunday School at a Lutheran church.  They focused mostly on the OT.  More than once I wondered why Jewish history was relevant to Christians.  Then I found out that the OT and the Torah are practically the same book and became really confused as to why it's included in the Bible.     

The Torah is the first books of the Old Testament. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (in no particular order.) The Old Testament has Psalms, David, Ruth, Joshua etc. with the first five. So they don't have the Torah in the Bible because it would be redundant (depending on your translation.)

Offline Shoshana

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #63 on: September 01, 2010, 06:14:40 PM »
Quote
The Torah is the first books of the Old Testament. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (in no particular order.) The Old Testament has Psalms, David, Ruth, Joshua etc. with the first five. So they don't have the Torah in the Bible because it would be redundant (depending on your translation.)

Right--except the books of the Torah are in a particular order. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers need to be in that order because the narrative begins in Genesis, and continues through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers--although the narrative is interrupted in Leviticus for some in-depth information on the Kohanim; that is, the priests and the priestly sacrifices and such.

Deuteronomy, on the other hand, doesn't exactly continue the story. Instead, Deuteronomy shows us Moses giving his last speech to the Israelite people, pulling no punches (he's pretty brutal to us) and summing up much of the rest of the Torah along the way. Deuteronomy does, however, sort of conclude the narrative as it ends with Moses's death.

Anyway, the Torah is those  first five books. The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh includes the Torah plus the Prophets and the Writings; altogether, that makes up what Christians call the "Old Testament."

However, while Jews and Christians have the books of the Torah in the same order, we use a different order for the rest of the Tanakh/"Old Testament." And to make things a bit more complicated, Roman Catholics include some books in their Old Testament  that Jews and Protestants leave out, such as First and Second Maccabees.  (The Tanakh leaves them out because they only exist in Greek; no Hebrew original survived. I'm not sure why Protestants leave them out. But both books are still important in Judaism; First Maccabees tells the story of Chanukah, after all.)
« Last Edit: September 01, 2010, 08:29:30 PM by Shoshana »

Offline Serephino

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #64 on: September 01, 2010, 11:34:22 PM »
Jew are quite careful with the names of G-d. The most important of all these is the actual name spelt by the Hebrew letters Yod Heh Vav Heh. We don't even pronounce that name--firstly because a tradition arose of only pronouncing it on certain high occasions at the Temple, and now there is no Temple. And secondly because we consider it too sacred.

(We took the opposite road of Hindus in that respect; Hindus also recognize the sacredness of the names they use for G-d, but many Hindu traditions encourage you to repeat names of G-d over and over. Same principle, but Judaism and Hinduism went in completely opposite directions with it.)

We have two main substitutions for the Yod Heh Vav Heh: while praying or while reading the Torah during services we use 'Adonai,' which means 'Lord.' (You'll notice that many Christian Bibles use "Lord" instead of the actual name of G-d. A few modern translations use the Name but, in most, whenever you see "Lord" in the 'Old Testament' referring to G-d, it's almost always a substitute for the Yod Heh Vav Heh.)

In more casual conversation, or when reading the Torah outside of services,  we use "HaShem" instead of the Name; that just means  "the Name."

Here's where the answer to your question comes in: we are very careful with the Name of G-d; we never throw out or crumple up or deface any paper that has the name written on it. We bury worn out copies of the Torah (or anything else with the Name) instead of just throwing them out.

Many Jews feel that all forms of the word 'G-d' should be so protected, and that's why they don't even write out the word 'G-d.' Because it's possible that someone could print this conversation and later toss it in the trash, I prefer not to spell out the word 'G-d.'

Other Jews are okay with spelling out G-d, feeling that only the Yod Heh Vav Heh requires protection. In general, the more Orthodox you are, the more likely you are to use the hyphen than to spell out G-d. But that's not always the case: I'm not Orthodox and I use the hyphen.

As for Jesus--the important thing to remember here is that Christians have a radically different understanding of 'messiah' than Jews. Jews don't see the messiah as a divine personage. The messiah is  just as a human being who brings about a just and righteous world. (Or sometimes multiple human beings, in the case of Jews who hold with a collective messiah.) 

So that's the role of the messiah according to Judaism: perfecting the world, bringing peace and righteousness throughout. That clearly hasn't happened. This is still an imperfect world. Ergo, no messiah yet.

And whatever Jews think of the idea of a messiah (some are quite hostile to it and don't believe in any messiah), we agree on this much: don't wait for a messiah; do your part to heal the world today. Help bring the world closer to perfection. This is the duty of every human being.

I think Christians agree. The Christians among my friends and family, anyway, don’t sit around just waiting for Jesus to return. They’re doing their best to make the world a better place.

Thank you for answering my questions.  I like learning about others' beliefs.  I may not agree, but I don't see that as an excuse to bury my head in the sand. 

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #65 on: September 04, 2010, 12:49:19 AM »
Prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, love...
debate everything as we might, those are the lessions I'm gonna hold on to

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #66 on: September 04, 2010, 12:58:05 AM »
And above all the others, the greatest of these is Love.

Offline Ironwolf85

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #67 on: September 04, 2010, 01:10:02 AM »
yep... debate theology and dogma all we want, those virtues that christ taught remain unchanged, and the good book is supposed to teach them, that is it's pourpose, not to be used as a tool for persional ambition, not to act as a excuse to do bad things... it exists to teach virtue.

The Greatest is Love.....