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Honest To Jesus

Posted Thursday, February 19, 2009, at 9:15 PM

I first started my seminary training at Saint Paul School of Theology (a United Methodist Seminary) in Kansas City, Mo. At the beginning of one 6 credit hour Bible class I learned that Robert W. Funk PhD. had just be awarded the United Methodist Church Scholarly Teacher of the Year Award. Later I found out the Dr. Funk, Founder of the Jesus Seminar, and his colleagues had published a paper stating that only 16% of the sayings attributed to Jesus, the words written in RED, in the Gospels could be attributed to Jesus.

Growing up I was taught that the Bible was to be taken literally and that every word in it was divinely inspired and true.

I decided to go to seminary to seek answers to questions that I felt I needed answers too. I had been literally raised in church. I often tell people that when I was young I had a "Drug Problem." Every time the church doors were open my mother would drag me to church. Over the years I did learn a few things about God and Jesus and his Disciples. I also learned that if a person missed church, smoked, cursed, drank, went to the movies, played cards or monopoly that they were a back slider and outside the Grace of God.

I hoped that attending seminary would help me exorcise some of my own personal demons and give me clarity as to the full nature and purpose of the bible, God and religion in my life. Now I find out that some of the most renowned bible scholars couldn't agree with bible teachings. For six years they debated the issues in the bible and they finally agreed to disagree.

I worked as a pastor for several churches in a Parrish in NW, Mo. for several years during seminary, then I decided to go to law school.

I talk with people all the time about religion. I'm reminded constantly that I wasn't alone on the ship called Quest, looking for answers and finding more questions than answers. How can we as humans ever think that we could grasp the reality of the divine; to explain the inexplicable; to know the one and only truth as to who God is and why are we here and how can we the creation communicate with our creator? Looking back years later I can tell you that I think seminary was a good part of my life. I also find that there is no pat answers. Life itself is a quest and the time that we have on this small planet is a part of that quest.

I'm John Q.


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Smokin' Cheetah - yes, that is very typical of organized faith. I have to admit that many church groups are filled with very honest, hard working, and generous individuals tring to do "the right thing". However, you do not need any religion to do "the right thing", and much of the money given to religion goes to running their business (payrolls, housing, building/church maintenance, etc.). Their good deeds could be significanlty enhanced by giving to non-religious organizations where the overhead is much lower. Look at the Catholic church and all the riches they have acquired in all the churches around the world. And the pope recently has claimed that condoms make the aids epidemic work, when the reality is that his words end up costing millions of lives in Africa by heeding his word. Europe is more secular than religious; the US has an estimated 15 percent that are atheist or agnostic. When will our country wake up and quit beliving in the adult tooth fairy? There is no god, so continue to be good and get on with the only life you have. Don't let fear scare you into beliving what your heart tells you is not real!

-- Posted by RationalThinker on Wed, Apr 22, 2009, at 4:18 PM

By the way, if anyone really wants some healthy discussion pertaining to religion and especially atheism, along with many blogs and video debates, just go to http://richarddawkins.net/ . It is a fantastic oasis for free thinkers.

-- Posted by RationalThinker on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 7:27 PM

Thanks to Smokin and Oklahoma for being very cordial while I admit I can't help but be critical of ALL religion, and their dogma. Oklahoma, I don't believe that your own perception is an act of faith; that is our true reality. The question whether it is real or not is only an argument for philosophers, of which I am not one. All religions can't be right, and I don't believe any one religion is right. I spent most of my entire life believing I might have something wrong with me since I had always been surrounded by extremely religious people, or people who claimed to believe in Christ even if they didn't even go to church, and I could not bring myself to believe. I had never heard anybody say they didn't believe any of it or proclaimed to be atheist, so the word atheist sounded so terrible. I clung to agnostic as that was as daring as I could be in conversation, and still some people claimed I was going to hell. Once I found out that there were actually lots of people that were atheist, and many were some of the most intelligent, I have no longer feared the label atheist, which is true to my mind and heart. I wish you all well and I do respect your opinions, especially because you proclaim not to want to push them off on others (at least I assume you don't go around knocking on doors).

-- Posted by RationalThinker on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 7:23 PM

I have enjoyed all of these earnest posts by good people. So, I nod and smile to each of you as we pass on the road. I, for one can only believe what I percieve. Believing that my own perception is real is in itself an act of faith. Who knows?

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Tue, Feb 24, 2009, at 11:30 PM

Smokin' Cheetah, your analogy only briefly works, but Nascar? At least it does have some humor in that regard. I assume your denomination analagy only applies to Ford and Chevy (Christian denominations), and the cars for Islam, Buddhism, and other non Xtian religions won't get you to the promised land (finish line)? What about those of us who don't buy into any of those cars at all, and think the cars you are talking about are just imaginary or urban legends? I guess we just can't quite make it to the imaginary finish line?

As far as the Old Testament vs the New Testament, sounds like you are accepting the premise that the Old Testament has a bunch of garbage in it, and was written by men whose words were not totally handed down by god, is that right? Well, there is plenty in the NT that would lead you to believe it too was written by men who just thought they were inspired by god, and perpetrated a story starting with an impossible virgin birth of an infant who is both human and supernatural at the same time. His supernatural being is both god and the son of god at the same time. Supernatural beings being born of a virgin mothers go way back in myth well before Christ. The bible may contain some historical information, but even that is small. And yes, evolution is a fact. It has taken millions of years for man to evolve to our current state. Do you not believe in evolution? Do you believe that man is only somewhere around 6,000 years old? Since the theory of evolution 150 years ago, scientists have been continually proving it stands up to test after test. Even after gene theory and the discovery of DNA and the mapping of the human genome came along recently, the proof of the theory continues to stand up and pass all tests. Its taken millions of years to make it to where we humans are today, and as much as nobody wants to die and no longer exist, the fear of that does not make the religious and tribal myths of our past claiming there is some supernatural being watching over each and every one of us every second, as much as some want it to be true, just doesn't make it true. The wonder of life and the universe is so marvelous that we just need to make the most of our time here and quit wasting it chasing an improbable sky daddy. If you truly believe that certainly is a choice I can accept and no argument may change that for you. But I know there are many people who have never really bought into all this "religious stuff", and might not be aware they are not the small minority they might have thought they were. Christianity is a minority of the world population and there are billions of people who are either agnostic or atheist who recognize that all religions are man made. For those, the point is, you are not alone as Xtians around you might lead you to believe. You won't be going to hell for eternity and you don't have some Santa in the sky looking over your shoulder spying on your every action. And, you certainly don't need someone watching over you to live a good and moral life. Your morals exist outside of religion, and that is a really good thing!

-- Posted by RationalThinker on Tue, Feb 24, 2009, at 4:14 AM

NanaDot: "physicists do still have limits to their knowledge whether they acknowledge those limits or not". There may be theoretical limits, but science ia all about exploring the unknown in whatever incremental pieces it can. Having unknowns does not add one positive argument for a supernatural being. Our scientific knowledge is filling the gaps and places for god to hide is becoming so small that there is little room for one to hide.

"Religion is a way to guide right relationships". If you don't believe the bible literally, then what part do you pick and choose. If you DO believe it literally, there is just too much ridiculous crap in it that is wrong (Leviticus is filled with pure crap). Moral behavior has evolved way before Christianity and separate from Christianity. Christianity is not needed to live a moral life; in fact, many believe Christianity and the interpretation of the bible causes many to lead immoral lives.

-- Posted by RationalThinker on Sun, Feb 22, 2009, at 6:01 PM

I Just hope some of you wake up from the delusion there is a "sky daddy" looking over your shoulder simultaneously with the billions of humans currently inhabiting the planet. Folks, Jesus was just a human being and whether he was delusional like those who claim to know God personally today, or just scamming like the current faith healers of today, nobody will every know. And as far as the minority religion of Christianity, what do each of you think you would be if you had been born into one of the more dominant religions? Guess what, you wouldn't be Christian. If you really read your bible, especially the old testament, you'll see views expressing women to be slaves to the whim of totally abusive males and supporting the stoning to death for offenses most rational people feel are minor today. Wake up, it was written by tribal individuals who thought back then that tsunamis and earthquakes were direct results of unhappy deities. Only one third of the planet claims to be Christian, and of them, many if not most, either don't go to church or only do so out of habit. No one wants to die, but that doesn't make believing in a sky daddy true. You have been mentally abused if you have been brainwashed to believe that someone is watching over you and the other billions of people every minute of every day and will commit you to an eternity of hell fire and torture for many natural things that humans do. Being good and living by the golden rule was around a long time before Christianity came along and you don't have to be Christian to live a good life. We know scientifically without any doubt that modern man has been around for over 100,000 years. Why was it only 2,000 years ago that god decided to intervene in a remote piece of our planet that was sparsely populated (compared to Asia, Europe, and South America)? Roughly 20 percent of the population does not believe in any religion, and 99 percent of the upper echelons of scientists are atheist. Just remember that you are not alone if you find it hard to believe in a supernatural being. What gives "John Q" the authority to claim he has inside knowledge and knows there is such a supernatural being? He doesn't know and he cannot know. Now quit wasting your time worrying about someone continuously looking over your shoulder, and get on with the rest of your life!

-- Posted by RationalThinker on Sun, Feb 22, 2009, at 8:04 AM

Nana, The quest goes in both directions. For me it's mostly because I couldn't swallow a line of denominational or non-denominational dogma (BS).

Religion is both powerful in it's pure virtue and in its evil. Religion can be orchestrated to bring hope, happiness,peace, fulfillment. Religion has also been wielded to dominate and control the masses. To subjugate the people to achieve control of them either individually, nationally or internationally; to conquer and to destroy.

It's when we can hear a different voice and not be hell bent on killing it that we as a religious person, group, denomination or national body finally take the step towards truly loving our neighbor.

-- Posted by John Q. on Sat, Feb 21, 2009, at 9:29 PM

NanaDot, a part of the quest for me is to understand why in a religion founded on love, respect, generosity and acceptance; "love my neighbor as I love myself," there is so much intolerance. Instead of mutual respect we seem to deliberately put up obstacles to separate and exclude. The word I grew up with was "the kind." All the teaching in the bible were specific and applied differently depending on which kind you were. If you were faithful according to the denominational teachings you would be accepted. If your life lacked anything the denomination required then you were free to change everything in your life that contradicted those teaching and were welcomed into the church to be like us. If you past was not perfect you somehow had to earn the right to belong. Everyone judged you by their own standards of acceptance.

Unfortunately, the majority of the people don't attend churches because of this intolerance instead of acceptance.

On the battlefield, soldiers risk their own lives trying to save their wounded or injured comrades. Unfortunately, in the church we somehow tend to shoot the wounded and even insist that the body be buried outside our cemetery.

-- Posted by John Q. on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 6:22 AM

I'm on that road/quest and the more the complex religious ideas are the more they lack clarity. The simpler the concept the more profound and clear. For instance: Love thy Neighbor. Three simple words whose meaning is so clear and yet this phrase is so profound in its directive to "Love thy Neighbor".

Hey maybe I will see you on the "road/quest."

Peace

-- Posted by salinemg on Thu, Feb 19, 2009, at 10:13 PM


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LARRY MAXWELL
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Larry Maxwell is a retired businessman who often writes about topics related to faith and religion.
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