A couple of weeks ago, I asked readers to send in responses to this:
The questions we’ve never had good answers for include: who gets to decide whose God takes priority; and whose version of “the right” God should become the standard for deciding where the proper dividing line must be? There aren’t just differences between different religions, but under the same religious umbrella.
In our debate about the proper dividing line between religious rights and equality, I thought it was important to try to nail it down further, to get us out of the blanket belief by two many that when they say “God” or “God-ordained” that most or all Americans hear those terms the same way. We all don’t.
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It isn’t a small distinction. Remember, when have presidential candidates proclaiming that they wouldn’t rule out using federal troops to stop abortion and that they would defy the Supreme Court if it ruled in a way they believed was immoral. Who gets to decide what’s moral?
Here are some of the responses:
We all laughed at the woman who said Jesus will pay her bill, so what is the right amount of dependence on God?
When I was up in the Washington D.C. area, a preacher at a mega church had good insight. He said, "You do your job and God will do his."
What this means is illustrated by the story of one of the times that Jesus raised someone from the dead. It was a friend of his. He heard he was sick but was delayed a few days in getting to his town. When he got there, the guy was dead for about three days. He was buried in the traditional tomb with the big boulder closing the entrance. Jesus said to take him to the tomb.
When He got there, He asked the people with him to roll away the boulder. Certainly if Jesus could raise a man from the dead, he could wave his hand and move the boulder. But He asked them to do it. Humans should do the things that they can do and God will do the things they cannot. This woman at the buffet certainly could get a job and pay for her own food.
Hello Mr. Bailey,
Years ago when I was about 10, I asked my father, “Why don't you and mom go to church or ever talk religion?”
He replied: “There are so many different ones I would be afraid I was going to the wrong one.”
As far as talking to you kids about it, I just don't want to give you any wrong information. I was a Protestant for many years because my grandmother took me to a Protestant church with her, married a Protestant and we raised our children in that way. I later turned Catholic, as did one of my daughters.
Now at the advanced age of 86 plus I find it difficult to sit on hard pews and listen to religious programs on TV when I do not attend a mass. This is what I have learned:
Joel Osteen: So full of hope & good news.
Fr. Cedric Pisegna: God is not boring.
Charles F. Stanley: God sometimes uses the wicked to achieve his purpose.
Reruns of Billy Graham: Grow your faith and help others to do so.
Mother Angelica: Have a truly devout good and faithful sense of humor .
Joyce Myers: Enjoy everyday life in your faith for God wants us to be happy and prosperous.
You asked if we're at peace, with our ways of following God. This opens up an avenue of comments on the subject. Though He be known by many names, He is but one. Being raised Roman Catholic and attending 12 years of parochial school, you may think my mind set is grounded in these beliefs.
Contrary to that, I happen to have a few thoughts about things. While Peter was the original Pope, it would appear the other disciples each founded their own church! There are many forms of Protestant teaching, however all are set on Christian beginnings. Both Christians and Jews follow the Bible. Granted the Jews may not follow the New Testament, both follow the same Ten Commandments. Among these are: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal and a big one, Thou shalt not kill. Catholics and Protestants have been killing each other over mainly political differences.
I would suppose Muslims and the Koran do not follow the same teachings; having never read a Koran I don't know for sure. At this time, the Sunni believers are openly killing the Shiite followers because they disagree with the way they practice their faith.
Some years back, 12 or so, I was introduced to the Universal Life Church. This is a non-denominational group with an easy to grasp concept, at least with the way I understood it. They do not ask one to forgo the religious teachings (whether they be Christian, Islam, or Jew, having simply putting them alphabetically ) or beliefs they were raised with, but simply to follow something from the Book of Matthew, mainly 7:12: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” More plainly, do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. An easy and simple way to approach living with the wishes of God.
How unfortunate that people just can't manage to follow this simple example. Yes, guilty of not complying myself at times, but who among us can say they haven't been?
Though He be known by many names, He is yet one God. From Allah, to The Great Spirit (as the "heathen" Native American Nations called Him), all religions recognize but one Supreme Being, God.
There, I've managed to take up some of your time and maybe give you some food for thought. These days, I'm what's considered a secular Catholic, or one who doesn't openly practice one's faith. I like to say that I don't "practice" my faith - because I follow it.
Who gets to decide whose God takes priority? The God with the strongest adherents, of course. Not the adherents with the strongest faith; those with the greatest firepower and the greatest political influence.
That's why faith has always spread with conquerors rather than with missionaries. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, not because of its compelling message, but because Constantine won a battle.
Islam failed to replace Christianity in Europe, not because its message was flawed, but because its armies lost the battles of Poitiers and Vienna. Conquest is why people in Europe are nominally Christian, people in North Africa are mostly Moslem, and people in India are largely Hindu.
Conquest becomes culture, and most people adhere to the religion their family and neighbors follow; that religion is the only one they've been immersed in all their lives. It's the only "truth" they know.
Then, say you have two groups professing different religions, or even different variations of the same religion. Each is convinced that what they believe is religion and what the others believe is mythology. Each is convinced that what they believe is truth and what the others believe is error at best, evil at worst. And say each is told by their holy book that God has made it their duty to insure that truth prevails over falsehood, that their true religion is defended against the others' false religion.
Then you have conflict forever and ever, world without end. And anywhere one side prevails, that side's God gets priority.
Cynically but realistically yours,
Almost twenty years ago, my grandfather gave me a book concerning morality and religion in a loose and appealing collection of amazing personal stories. The author’s premise was that when you encounter something in life that really hits you personally, makes your heart beat faster, and stirs your entire being, God is talking to you and you have experienced religion.
Since reading the rather facile yet powerful book, I have held that knowledge in the back of my mind and developed my own personal religion.
I guess this would be a good point to mention I am a Unitarian-Universalist. For those not familiar with this religion, we celebrate the freedom to choose our own religion, draw from many theologies, and celebrate humanity.
We have a set of seven core beliefs, two of which are the inherent worth and dignity of every person, as well as justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. I find special religious messages in my friends’ Bar Mitzvah, First Communion, and Christian weddings.
Politics and religion are so interwoven, it is almost impossible at times to separate the two. Interpretations of the Bible differ significantly among congregations and religion is used to justify widely differing political opinions. In a society marked by increasing polarization, it becomes necessary to develop guiding principles in order to function properly.
Recently, the Klan held a rally at the South Carolina Statehouse, during which a Klan member was noticeably suffering from possible heat exhaustion. A black police officer generously and graciously assisted the man. The very actions of that police officer evoke a great sense of respect and admiration, to say the least, in the hearts of Americans. I’m not sure I could have found the strength to assist a Klan member. That kind of bravery in the face of hostility is simply awesome and profoundly illustrates the sort of guiding principles of religion in pluralistic US.
Eckhart Tolle teaches that we are all essentially one. One with the earth, animals, the sky, the trees, and most certainly with ourselves. I’m still wrapping my head around that one, but what if were, in fact, true? We can spend our time here on earth using religion to hurt others, elevating ourselves and disenfranchising populations, or we can find ways to live as a functional whole. It’s really a quite profound notion. Maybe there isn’t one religion, one God, or one dogma that governs us.
Recently, a woman in our town ate at a seafood buffet and thought God would pay her bill. This gave us an opportunity for compassion. She was professing faith. Perhaps in the next months, she will find a new job that affords her many meals out. Maybe she will come to understand a deeper message, that her prayers would be answered in a different, less material way. Most of us have experienced times when we questioned our faith.
If we can set aside the potential for religion to divide us and focus on some paramount, unifying values (many of which are celebrated in our religions), we begin to transcend the stalemate of contradicting religious positions. We can all celebrate hard work, honesty, community service, integrity, friendship, and peace. In a new world in which the Supreme Court recognizes gay marriage, it might be effective and peaceful to realize we can become a healthier, more vibrant society if we put aside our resistance to the decision. Personally, I am pleased beyond words with the decision, but I realize many of my conservative Christian friends are not.
With more people entering lasting marital unions, we have taken a dramatic and compassionate step toward embracing diversity, realizing the world isn’t all about maintaining the status quo, and widening our view of how to live together effectively. I don’t expect that conservative churches will spontaneously start allowing such unions and I respect their right to their own beliefs and practices. Ultimately, the circle has widened and we are now a richer and wiser people.
It would be quite foolish to think that one God or religious interpretation could answer all the questions in the modern world. The cornerstone of our society is “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Let us not use religion to curtail those rights. Instead, let us be more compassionate and benevolent. The vision of embracing differences and emphasizing common societal values through religion creates a world of hope…one in which all of us have a place. Now that warms my heart!
I would like to answer by going through your column. I wonder who the high profile atheists are that think that evolution is provable. It is a theory and so far it is not provable. So I can not prove that GOD exists to high profile atheists ( which by the way how does one become a highly profiled atheist). GODLY people have faith. People of faith have been under attack for thousands of years. So what is new? In fact if we were not under attack I would know we are doing something wrong. As to your question which GOD is the right one? You can answer that one. Do we identify GOD as the right one when he does what we want him to d?. I wanted GOD to cure my 47 year old son with 2 small boys of ALS but GOD did not. We buried Jeff last week. Our faith has not wavered in fact it is stronger today than ever before. You would like me to question my faith because evil people do things in GOD'S name.
If you believe in GOD you have to believe in SATAN. Why? Because GOD wrote an instruction book for believers and it clearly points out SATAN as the evil in the world. This instruction book tells us until you put your trust in GOD in the flesh. GOD will put a veil over your eyes so that you will not understand the book. Issac you are full of questions but you never have any answer?. You claim to have attended church all your life but how do you see GOD in your life? Can you be honest enough to put that answer in your column.
My solid answer is there is no answer . No one is right and no one is wrong!
This is my truth, an 88-year-old relocated white northern former Baha'i woman!