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(R) Again this is long and I would not complain if you opted not to post this in your site, but I wanted to comment to you.
(MB) I'm concerned only with what is being said. If the discussion is interesting, I don't worry about how long it is. There are replies here which go on for up to nine pages.

(R) I speak much more elegantly than I type, and do not make myself clear.
(MB) Not to worry. Some people are better when speaking extemporaneously than when writing and trying to figure out what the right words might be.

(R) Also I have done much research and comparisons, my personal theories of what God is and what the purpose of life is, are very odd, at least I fear others would think so.
(MB) If you've read much of the material I've written, I'm sure you'll notice that I have many ideas which aren't exactly mainstream. But, where does societal change come from if not for those of us who challenge the status quo?

(R) It would take days to explain everything I learned, and much of the research I was doing I no longer have. That is why this may sound a bit ...stupid... I hope you do not feel this way, and I ask that if you do, please do not post it on your site, because I do not want others to see me as being stupid.
(MB) You have nothing to worry about on that account. Your ideas are far more rational and are expressed much more eloquently than those of many others who have written to me and which are published here. Besides, nobody who seeks the truth is stupid in any way. It is only those who have abandoned the search who will have problems with me and with other thinking people.

(R) I want to thank you for posting my comment and your honest opinions on it. Some of the facts you mentioned I did not know, and I appreciate the knowledge! I do feel that there are a few points that in which you misunderstood the meaning of what I was saying. I hope you do not mind if I clarify, and make a couple comments.
(MB) Please do! I don't want there to be any misunderstandings for either of us. Proper conclusions can only be reached when all premises and arguments are clear.

(R) 1.. Your question as to if my mother had put any study into her religious beliefs is not simple to answer. My mother has the most giving heart of any person I have ever met. She goes out of her way to help perfect strangers, and she cries over their pain. She seems to have 'empathy' for people. She was raised Christian, and lives as a Christian is supposed to live (unlike most people I have met who call themselves Christian). I think had she been raised as a Jew, Buddhist, or any other religion, that she would be just as faithful to that religion. I guess what I am trying to say is that my mother follows the Christian beliefs, but feels that as long as you believe in God, (higher power) and follow the basic moral guidelines, you are ok! (going to heaven, etc.)
(MB) There's very little agreement -- even among the most devout Christians -- as to just what "Christian beliefs" are supposed to be. There are no common virtues which are exclusive to Christianity and it's probably safe to say that there are exactly *0* people who unfailingly follow the Bible as a whole, the New Testament in particular, or the words ascribed to Jesus to the letter. Living a good and moral life does not require religious faith. However, any system of belief will impress its standards upon its adherents. So long as their behavior is something that is worthy of emulation, that's all that really matters.

(R) 2.. I do agree with what you said about having faith, (That answer, needless to say, invokes the paradoxical admonition that one must believe before he can believe.) But also faith is more than that. Faith is when you feel something is true so strongly in your heart, that there is no shred of doubt remaining. This is true faith!
(MB) Agreed. But, true faith and true facts are not necessarily one and the same. I've often invoked a quote from Timothy Ferris (from "The Mind's Sky") where he writes that the broad emotional appeal of an idea or theory is, in no way, indicative of whether or not it is true. Now, there's certainly nothing wrong with faiths or philosophies which make us feel better. We just need to be careful to be able to separate feelings from reality.

(R) 3.. What I meant by all being the "words of God" was not as in the Christian sense of the word. I should have said that they are the wishes of the higher power. I also mentioned that not all religions have "books". Many were passed down by stories, but the stories explain the wishes of the higher power regardless if they are the exact words. This was poor wording on my part, I apologize.
(MB) It's really a similar problem. Whether or not the "words of God" are written down or are related solely through the spoken word, the problem remains as to whether or not those words actually came from the deity in question. If so, we need to know whether or not those words are being related exactly as the deity uttered them. Given the relative importance of any such words and the dangers of misinterpretation or misrepresentation, I would think that one dare not adhere to them strictly by faith or out of fear.

(R) 4.. Your suggestion for how to teach my son about God, is the EXACT, almost word for word suggestion my mother gave me!
(MB) Too bad that more mothers don't feel the same way.

(R) 5.. Your quote from Hinduism which says that it doesn't matter which god you pray to because it is Vishnu who answers, states my point exactly. It doesn't matter what name you use to describe the "higher power", 'He' will answer. I cannot see how a person who lives a good life, helps others and learns and grows will be condemned for calling God Vishnu, or any other name. (a rose by any other name would smell as sweet)
(MB) That is an argument that the fundamentalist Christians have yet to be able to answer successfully. Besides the fact that they can't demonstrate that prayers are answered *at all*, they also can't show that it is their particular God who would be answering them. If one follows such teachings as the Eight-Fold Way of Buddhism, he will live a good life without praying to a supreme deity at all. This suggests that prayer is just another crutch for emotional satisfaction.

(R) 6.. I said "Assuming that they are all God's word they all must be true. I took a different viewpoint when reviewing them." I agree with what you said, but again I do not think I made myself clear as I think you misunderstood. What I meant by that was this. The way I was studying the religions was not leading me to any results, therefore I reviewed all of the information using the assumption that all of the moral values, and the most basic of ideas were accurate. I had lists of different aspects of different religions and how they all can coincide if you consider the amount of symbolism in each.
(MB) In this respect, religions merely serve as codifiers for societal morality. Their doctrines also provide the force necessary to compel the faithful to adhere to their dictates. Of course, time and societal evolution have the combined effect of producing changes in morality. Such changes can be witnessed within the Bible itself. How much of Mosaic law still applies today? Heck, if somebody sacrificed an animal as a burnt offering today, he'd be branded as a devil worshipper and would likely be carted off to jail on a "cruelty to animals" rap.

(R) 7.. You said "Actually, there is a more mundane reason for why most were passed down as stories. It is simply that most of the stories were developed prior to the invention of written languages for those societies (to include the Hebrews). Therefore, the oral tradition was the only way to pass them on." YES this is true of many of the older religions for a time, but the stories were written and the persecution, and the fear is historically noted as well.
(MB) Most of those ancient oral traditions were eventually written down, but there is no way to show that the written versions are identical to the original stories. There is little reason to suspect that fear played much of a role (if any) in delaying the written versions. After all, many religions consider suffering and martyrdom of the faithful to be the ultimate act of devotion.

(R) 8.. Every religion has their own version of Jesus., I know I should have been clearer on this one. No other religion actually believes in a savior, however they all have their "special" people for lack of better words. Each religion has a person or people who serve as a special teacher of the religion. It is too difficult to explain what I mean in brevity. Basically if you consider Jesus as a great teacher, not a savior, then you should be able to note a reference to a great teacher in every religion.
(MB) Christianity would not have nearly its level of popularity if Jesus was not considered to be a divine savior. Buddha and Confucius, for example, were far better teachers, but neither has been deified or considered to be anything other than a mortal man. The Greek, Egyptian, and Norse religions (among many others) had no comparable "Jesus" figure -- either mortal or divine. Muhammad was mortal, but is given special consideration as Allah's prophet. In more primitive religions, it is the shamans or priestly class which serve as the bridges between laymen and their deities. I can't think of any religion which does not have a central teaching figure or a group of teachers who proclaim and enforce the teachings.

(R) 9.. Yes, all religions do promote the same moral values. Some are more specific than others. The Bible states the ten commandments. Pagans have just one. "an ye harm none, do as thou will" Again you must think in the most basic of terms. Do good. This is also a complicated issue.
(MB) Your quote is the basic tenet of Wicca. Not all pagans are Wiccans, but Wiccans are pagans if "pagan" is defined as "religion without God". There is a "goddess" figure in Wicca, but it is closer to "Gaia" than to "God". What Christians know as "The Golden Rule" is common to all belief systems and predates Christianity by at least a thousand years. It has likely been accepted in one form or another ever since Man first formed social groupings.

(R) 10.. I did not know that about Satanism. I try to avoid the topic, it gives me the creeps.
(MB) Satanism could be considered an eclectic religion, but it's not something which descends to the level of devil worship. It's easy to confuse the two since Christian doctrine merges the two concepts. Satanism is better viewed as an alternative system to Judeo-Christian morality, but it is not inherently evil.

In fact, non-believers have more freedom to explore all that life has to offer since they are not under the constraints of any artificial dogmatic system.
(R) Oh how I wish you could understand what I am saying here. It is not about believing in a bunch of rules, and manipulation. It is not about blind cultist following of an idol. When you have "faith" (True faith as I mentioned above) there is a peace in you. A weight lifts from you, and you are free to be happy. I cannot explain how I feel about this. All I can say is that since I have found my answers, I have never been happier. Not happy like when you were a child and got the new bike for your birthday, but true peace. I wish I could tell you, but I cannot. It sounds a bit cheezy I know, but it is so true!
(MB) I understand the feeling. It is similar to the state of enlightenment that practitioners of Zen Buddhism try to attain. It is the peace which is established when one rids his mind of doubt and stress and opens it to all things. It is to be distinguished from the shallow ecstasies of those who proclaim their righteousness in the loudest possible voice. Those who have found their enlightenment have no need for shouting and hellfire. They teach by example rather than by proclamation and don't worry if all who hear them are not instantly converted.

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