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I admit that I have been remiss updating this blog with thought experiments as promised.

So, to make up for this I have a good one for you - especially those of you who are theologically minded.

Let's start with the premise that God exists and that God created a perfect world for humankind.  If that is the case, then it is no accident that the world's population has so many different belief systems.

Is it possible that every major belief system has something to contribute to our spiritual welfare?  If we look into the heart of each religion, we may actually see that each one has a different insight for us - and that together they point the way to a righteous life.

The word Christianity, I believe, comes from the Greek word christos - which means good.  And goodness, according to Jesus - comes from the ability to forgive.  Now Jesus himself shows the most extreme form of this generosity (after all forgiveness is a form of giving perhaps?) by sacrificing his own life to provide forgiveness for all of humanity.

I have been told that the word, Islam, in Arabic, means submission... If you were to go to a mosque, you may be surprised to find that there is no furniture there for worshippers to leisurely sit back in to pray to Allah.  Instead, Muslims bow all of the down to God to show their complete submission.

Judaism, is related to the Hebrew word yehuda, whose root is the Hebrew word todot - which means thanks in English.  If you watch a religious Jew throughout a day, he (or she) will thank God for so many 'little' things through the day.  There is a blessing of gratitude when washing hands, eating bread, drinking wine, seeing a rainbow, eating a new fruit - you get the idea.  In Judaism, the central idea is that an attitude of gratitude changes everything.

Buddha literally means 'awakened one' in English.  My understanding of Buddhism is incomplete, but I would suggest that Buddhism is centrally concerned with the idea that we should become awake (or highly cognizant) of the fact that we can control our mental states, and that happiness is a choice, not a congruence of outside environmental factors (such as wealth or fame).

Sikhs are descended from the Warrior caste in India, and pledge to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Jains believe they cannot reach Nirvana unless they cause no harm to other sentient beings...  They will sweep the land before them to avoid stepping on worms, wear masks to keep from swallowing flies, and eat fruit that has already fallen from trees - to live up to this promise.

And so this is my perspective.  I think it is vital that we look outside the religions we are born into to learn the spiritual lessons around us.  After all, if the world was created by God, it is no accident that all of these wise and spiritual teachers from different religions are here to help us.

Peace,

Jonathan Starr

Posted on Monday, December 17, 2007 7:39 PM Philosophy , Personal , Religion , Thought Experiments | Back to top


Comments on this post: Belated Thought Experiment

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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"I think it is vital that we look outside the religions we are born into to learn the spiritual lessons around us."

That's only valid if we invalidate all faiths and view them as myth and not a direct result of God trying to communicate with us.

Take Christianity: Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the light; nobody gets to the father but through me". Therefore, all the stuff the Jains do is in vain; Jews don't believe in Jesus; Sikhs may defend the defenseless, but unless their sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ its in vain; etc., etc.

So this is where we encounter a tension: how do you take the best of various religions when each one, to some degree, demands entire devotion and singularity...outlawing other religions and branding them as false (i.e. even the Jains you mention...if their way is the only way to get to heaven, or Nirvana, then the vast majority of the world is screwed...I used Christianity as an example above, but all the faiths you mention fall into this issue).

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Dec 18, 2007 12:02 AM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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D'arcy,

I appreciate your comment.

Personal faith is a touchy subject, and I did not mean to strike a nerve.

My personal belief centers around an extremely beneficent deity that would not deny happiness to individuals because they did not subscribe to a particular faith. I agree that the extreme versions of each religion demand complete submission to their own faiths with no tolerance for any outside thinking - and these narrow, parochial visions are a tragic failing in my opinion.


Left by Jonathan Starr on Dec 18, 2007 1:32 AM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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D'arcy,

South Park explains my view pretty well actually....

<object width="425" height="355"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ur_xV9ztFvg&rel=1"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ur_xV9ztFvg&rel=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355"></embed></object>

Enjoy,

Jonathan Starr
Left by Jonathan Starr on Dec 18, 2007 1:46 AM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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LOL...Sorry Jonathan, I hope my response didn't come off as an angry response or anything...I love discussing this stuff and was just posting a response, but it wasn't a "How dare you suggest...!!!" type of thing...just adding my .02 cents.
:)

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Dec 18, 2007 6:11 AM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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LOL @ South Park!!!

"Mormons was the correct answer...Mormons"

Classic...

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Dec 18, 2007 6:14 AM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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How exactly does "reading what someone said and taking it at face value" equate to being an "extreme form" of a religion?

While Christianity for example is indeed extremely non-Islamic, you are here referring to members within Christianity as being extreme just for believing what He said?

What it seems like you're saying is that you have two groups of Christians: one that actually believes what Jesus said (the extremists) and one that doesn't?

Left by Travis Laborde on Dec 18, 2007 6:50 AM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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Travis,

My view is that it is extreme for someone to believe that a person who is good in all of his or her works, but has an 'imperfect faith' is condemned to eternal damnation.

I also think that righteous people can come from all faiths. I was in the presence of the Pope John Paul and his holiness to me was tangible. However, I witnessed the holiness of a sadhu in my travels in Northern India as well. And *my belief system* is that we have something to learn from both of these individuals.
Left by Jonathan Starr on Dec 18, 2007 7:35 AM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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Well heres 2c Worth ...

As far as Christianity is concerned:
I think you may have read to much into the Original Greek Definition of Christos as an implied subtext for defining for Christianity now.

Christianity is invariably considered a movement of equals who strive to be like Christ. Christ being Jesus whom to Christians is the Personification of God.

Alas is it 5:40a and I desperately need sleep!
Night All. :)
Left by Ande Turner on Dec 18, 2007 10:43 AM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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I appreciate your comment.

Point taken - I carried the literal translation of each religion's name to divine their significance a bit far.

But I think, the overall point still stands. Each religion emphasizes different aspects of spirituality.

Much like the golden hammer anti-pattern (if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail), using just one form of spirituality seems limiting to me.

I've probably exhausted this topic by now... Thanks for indulging me,

Jonathan Starr

Left by Jonathan Starr on Dec 18, 2007 12:17 PM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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Exhausted? Dude, we're just getting started...
;)

I think there's two different issues being discussed.

The first is whether we should disregard thoughts, opinions, comments, and ideas from other faiths that are not our own. I agree that we would be idiots to not consider what these other faith leaders have to say. There was a show I liked watching on TLC where this Jewish Rabbi would visit homes and act as a marriage/family counsillor. He was awesome, and imparted great wisdom. Did the fact that his chosen faith was different than mine discount what he said? Of course not. At a human level, we need to listen more to those that are wise and have good ideas and thoughts.

(2nd issue)
However, when we look at it from a "what does their faith teach" point of view, things get dicey. Christianity, as a faith, is monotheistic: one God, and ours is the one. Jesus said "Nobody gets to the father but through me." If that's the case, then any other faith that teaches another way to heaven, God, Nirvana, wherever, that doesn't involve Jesus is right out. On the flipside, if we want to be inclusive of all religions, we have to _exclude_ Christianity, because by nature it can't be included without invalidating the entire faith.

I can't comment on the makeups of Islam, Juddaism, or other major world religions (or their sub-religions), but I'm guessing they run along the same sort of thinking: Our God is right, yours is wrong.

It's not a matter of what we think, its a matter of what the faith teaches to be doctrine. I don't know that we can avoid this pitfall.

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Dec 18, 2007 1:57 PM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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There are groups of believers in each religion that invalidates the other faiths. It may even be the official dogma or canon for the religion (I think one reader quoted Jesus, "I am the way, the truth, and the light; nobody gets to the father but through me.")

Some people have noticed the religious insistence for (1) having lots of children (in the Koran, four children are expected from Muslims, in the Old Testament, the first order God gives is "Be fruitful and multiply" to Abraham), (2) indoctrinating these children in one way of thinking to the exclusion of other ways of thinking, and (3) copying word for word without mistake the Canon of works for the religion. One might surmise from this evidence that religions on their own have properties in common with information viruses.

(If you look into the Bible, there are many other weird references which have strange information virus overtones. Why is the world created with a word - a representation of knowledge? Why are Adam and Eve removed from the Garden of Eden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge? Why is God's true name ineffable according to Judaic tradition?)

Anyway, I think there are individuals in each faith who question the dogma that only one religion has the answers. From my viewpoint, while there are more Christians (around 1.5 billion souls from what I hear) than any other faith, there are still more non-Christians (around 4.5 billion people) than Christians. For a Christian that's like going into a room of twenty people and finding four who agree with you - and fifteen who don't. That would make me think twice.








Left by Jonathan Starr on Dec 18, 2007 2:25 PM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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I found this link (http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html)
which has a chart showing an approximation of the religious population of the world...I was actually surprised to see that it backs up what you say about Christianity being the top religion. I always assumed with the larger populations in the middle east and Asia that Islam would have been the dominating faith.

However, its interesting to note that my first reaction when I looked at the pie chart was "Mormons and JW's?! They aren't Christian!"...although I'm sure many of the denominations listed would say the same thing about each other; The Catholic church doesn't recognize the entire protestant movement as an equal or partner for example.

So its not just going into a room and finding 4 who agree with you...its more like maybe finding 1 ;)

I started reading a book called...what was it...A History of God? My dad read it and he liked it...it would have dealt with how the "big three" out there (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) all share one man: Abraham, and how all faiths point to him as their "father"...and what they means for how each of the faiths relate to each other.

Unfortunately, I started reading it and realized it was a "This is why I hate the church" rant by an ex-nun who wrote the book like a Michael Moore movie: layers of facts sprinkled with opinion and personal emotion.

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Dec 18, 2007 4:50 PM

# re: Belated Thought Experiment
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So Jonathan, you're saying that Jesus was an extremist right? I mean, He's the one that said that He was "the only way..."

There is a very big difference between saying that Jesus was an extremist and saying that of His followers, some are extremists (the ones that actually believe what He said) and some are not.

I believe Jesus when He says that He is the only way.. I agree that this makes me an extremist, because He sort of made a really extreme comment there didn't He?

But that doesn't make me a "extreme form of Christian." Just a Christian.

If I didn't believe Jesus, I wouldn't be a Christian at all, would I?
Left by Travis Laborde on Dec 19, 2007 7:24 AM

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