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jsawyer

Christian Atheist Perspective

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"By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus."

 

As a Christian Atheist I find it difficult to approach God by any means. Life is to complicated not to have contradictions so I will attempt to give my thoughts.

 

<b>How does language “an approach to God” fit your spiritual needs?</b>

 

As stated above, I find it difficult to “approach God” period. I am close to accepting an immanent spark that is inside each of us that can grow in the Buddhist sense.

 

<b>What language would you have used for you own spiritual journey?</b>

 

A roller coaster ride with its ups and downs and twists and turns.

 

<b>Do you feel as the life and teachings of Jesus have brought you closer to an experience of God? How so?</b>

 

Here again we have this “God” word that I have a problem with. My understanding of the social gospel of Jesus does bring me closer to a realization that the spark that I have inside me and I believe is inside everyone can grow.

 

<b>How does the absence of salvation language help or detract from your spiritual path? </b>

 

It makes it much easier for me. I find most “salvation language” very condescending.

 

<b>How does the Jesus of history or his teachings affect your understanding of God? </b>

 

Here we have that “God” word again. I am not sure that a historical Jesus ever existed. We have very little historical evidence apart from the writings of his followers to attest to his existence. Josephus does make mention of a man that people claim was this Jesus. The teachings attributed to him do give us a way to approach life in a more just way.

 

<b>How might our understanding of who and what we are, as human beings, change if we remove the need for the sacrifice of Jesus as the Pascal Lamb, our redeemer?</b>

 

It eliminates a scape goat and requires that we take personal responsibility for our own actions.

 

<b>What is the difference between savior, hero, master, teacher, or prophet for you? </b>

 

The term “savior” has no useful meaning for me.

 

A “hero” is someone that you admire because he has done something that you consider significant.

 

A “master” or a “teacher” implies one who has knowledge that can instruct you. Both are interchangeable for me.

 

The word “prophet” as used in the Old Testament seems to be to have had a dual meaning. It meant someone with knowledge of the future and it also meant someone who knew the consequences of a current action.

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I just turn my attention continually or progressively to the soul to remove the ashes that cover the fire or spark. These ashes are the different layers of the mind and when they are pure and developed, the light of the soul can shine through them and be seen. This light of the soul simply is and does not direct or condemn my actions or others. In this state I enjoy the contradictions knowing I can't change the wave, but I can surf it.

 

I look at Christianity in a different light or energy. I like to think of One God revealed in three aspects in the Holy Trinity, which is an expansion of the rudimentary idea of God. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are the Generator, the Operator, and the Destroyer, God. The generator is the Father that creates the universe and the operator is the Holy Ghost, which is the energy that maintains creation. The destroyer is The Son who regains the all-pervading consciousness by sacrificing the physical life for the spiritual life or seeing the physical life as the spiritual life since energy is in matter and it switches back and forth. E=MC2 In this concept we are all the Sons of the Father the finite in the in-finite.

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I just turn my attention continually or progressively to the soul to remove the ashes that cover the fire or spark. These ashes are the different layers of the mind and when they are pure and developed, the light of the soul can shine through them and be seen. This light of the soul simply is and does not direct or condemn my actions or others. In this state I enjoy the contradictions knowing I can't change the wave, but I can surf it.

 

I look at Christianity in a different light or energy. I like to think of One God revealed in three aspects in the Holy Trinity, which is an expansion of the rudimentary idea of God. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are the Generator, the Operator, and the Destroyer, God. The generator is the Father that creates the universe and the operator is the Holy Ghost, which is the energy that maintains creation. The destroyer is The Son who regains the all-pervading consciousness by sacrificing the physical life for the spiritual life or seeing the physical life as the spiritual life since energy is in matter and it switches back and forth. E=MC2 In this concept we are all the Sons of the Father the finite in the in-finite.

 

I am not sure what all this means. I don't believe in the "Holy Trinity". Can you please translate what you have said in a common man's language?

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The word “prophet”

 

Martin Luther King was a prophet in that he expanded our concept of what was just. Justice as an idea or a value already existed, thus he was able to be understood.

 

soteriology which is often concerns only "salvation" can be seen as a statement about the basic problem of being human; for example, learning how to play nice in the sandbox; and the solution; in this case, perhaps the evolution of ethics and morality. If I understand Buddhism, the problem is suffering and the solution is the practices of Buddhists.

 

Dutch

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I don't believe in the "Holy Trinity".

Should we object to it? If so, on what grounds?

 

George

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Should we object to it? If so, on what grounds?

 

George

 

To believe in the Trinity you must believe in a God, you must believe in a Holy Spirit that has a separate existence and you must believe that Jesus was God separate from the "Other God". I don't believe in any of these concepts.

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To believe in the Trinity you must believe in a God, you must believe in a Holy Spirit that has a separate existence and you must believe that Jesus was God separate from the "Other God". I don't believe in any of these concepts.

Do you object to others believing in these concepts?

 

George

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Do you object to others believing in these concepts?

 

George

 

To me that would be illogical. I cannot be you or any other person. I can only be me and express my ideas that have come from my experiences and my understandings.

 

“The follower of Christ, whose service means an ever-growing understanding of his teaching, and an ever-closer fulfillment of it, in progress toward perfection, cannot, just because he is a follower, of Christ, claim for himself or any other that he understands Christ's teaching fully and fulfills it. Still less can he claim this for any body of men.

 

To whatever degree of understanding and perfection the follower of Christ may have attained, he always feels the insufficiency of his understanding and fulfillment of it, and is always striving toward a fuller understanding and fulfillment. And therefore, to assert of one's self or of any body of men, that one is or they are in possession of perfect understanding and fulfillment of Christ's word, is to renounce the very spirit of Christ's teaching.” --Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You

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The Trinity is just another way of talking about duality in unity or unity in duality on an intellectual/intuitive level.

 

On the physical level if one does not like to talk about God then the duality in matter can be discussed. Matter has a dual nature, which is expressed in a particle and wave theory. The particulate nature of matter dominates the behavior of large-scale objects. These are the things we see with our senses because they are within are range of experience. The wave nature dominates small-scale (submicroscopic) level, which is beyond our range of experience. Our senses can’t grasp this so we need tools like the electron microscope. We use the words Quantum Mechanics to explain this with its set of laws and principles to explain the wave-particle duality. Quantum Mechanics is a concept used to explain that a particle and a wave are basically two manifestations of the same underlying entity (a string). A string is a term used to explain that a particle is a packet of compressed waves. The wave particle duality theory is just a bunch of words that say that particles do not exist without waves and vice versa. These words are to show the intellect, which exists in a world of duality that unity is possible.

The String Theory has been evolving since the 1980s. It brings together the most important aspects of quantum field theory to unify all fundamental forces of nature, including gravity. It explores and searches in our intellects for an explanation for unity using physical laws and theories. It predicts that everything in the universe, from galaxies and suns to atoms and subatomic particles, can be broken down to small loops of vibrating strings. These building blocks of our physical world are merely a pattern of vibrations, an ocean of energy.

 

The Trinity I feel is just words to describe what the mind can’t comprehend. It is a theory also to satisfy the intellect so we can have a spiritual experience beyond the mind of the unity of everything in our world of duality. I feel it is not a theory fixed in stone, but one that is also meant to evolve. If one does not like the term God I can think of this word meaning a medium or ocean of pure consciousness. In this ocean or medium the Holy Trinity is in equilibrium. In this theory the Trinity is just a term used to express the three basic forces in nature. The trinity contains the force that freezes the water so that it may manifest itself in the form of icebergs or physical matter so pure consciousness may materialize. The Trinity would be the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. When the Holy Trinity is in equilibrium it transcends the limitations of time; past, present and future; the genders; masculine, feminine and neuter; and the mind; conscious, subconscious and unconscious. When the equilibrium is disturbed, each principle of the Holy Trinity has the opportunity to express itself. I won’t go into detail, but I feel this is just a theory to explain the emergence of being from non-being or what we refer to as creation. In creation there is still oneness, but the awareness of this oneness in all things becomes lost in the individual awareness of the parts. I respect your aversion to the words Trinity and God. This is just my explanation so I can merge my Christianity and scientific nature.

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To me that would be illogical. I cannot be you or any other person. I can only be me and express my ideas that have come from my experiences and my understandings.

Okay, thanks. There are those who do object to what I think are benign beliefs of various religious groups.

 

George

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Guest billmc

"By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus."

 

As a Christian Atheist I find it difficult to approach God by any means.

 

I would understand that difficulty, Jsawyer. Just for the sake of discussion and contemplation, I, as a Christian panendeist, don’t find the word “approach” to precisely reflect what I believe or my own experience either. The Point is fine, as far as it goes, for this forum, of course. But I would change “approach” to “awareness.” To me, the word “approach” points towards separateness, the concept that God is “over there” or “out there” and that we are “here” and need to find a way to “get to” God. Much religion is founded on this precept and says that we need books, prophets, organizations, rituals or rites, etc. to help us bridge the gap. But, for me, the life and teachings of Jesus make me more “aware” of God and what we call God’s kingdom inside of me.

 

I find it difficult to “approach God” period. I am close to accepting an immanent spark that is inside each of us that can grow in the Buddhist sense.

 

This is also part of the Christian Wesleyan tradition, that there is a divine spark in each one of us. As I’m sure you know, the Bible might refer to this as “the image of God.” John Wesley did not believe in “total depravity.” He believed that we could find, to some extent, God and God’s grace in each one of us. God is not separate from us.

 

My understanding of the social gospel of Jesus does bring me closer to a realization that the spark that I have inside me and I believe is inside everyone can grow.

 

Bingo! I like the way you put it – “realization.” Once we understand that something of God is in everyone, we see the commonality. We no longer see ourselves as separate from God or from others. And that spark grows.

 

I don't believe in the "Holy Trinity".

 

Neither do I. The concept that God is one being made up of three persons, and only three persons, just doesn’t make sense to me. Now, panendeism or panendeism makes sense to me, that we are all “in God”. But the notion that God is “one three-persons being” makes my brain hurt. :)

 

This doesn’t mean that I object to others believing in the Trinity. If the doctrine makes sense to them and helps them be more aware of God in them and God in others and leads toward compassion, I see no harm in the doctrine. I don’t object to it, I just don’t think it is understandable. But the doctrine is usually used as a test of orthodoxy to determine whether one is a Christian or not, i.e. to judge people. George seems to think it is a benign doctrine. It may well be so today, thank God. But I know that some people in the past have been burned at the stake for challenging the doctrine of the Trinity and that Unitarians were persecuted because they didn’t accept it. If the Church had held to panentheism or panendeism, they might not have been willing to kill someone else who also had “the divine spark” inside them. So I question the doctrine’s sensibility and its misuse as a tool of orthodoxy.

 

I appreciate your thoughts on this Point, Jsawyer!

Edited by billmc
correct spelling

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While i do not personally advocate any doctrine of the Trinity and refrain from any explanations, i see it like George that the doctrine of the Trinity in itself is benign. People, in my view, don't put people to death for belief or non-belief in a doctrine thought i certainly admit that is the reason many times given. It is deeper than that. I think if the doctrine of the Trinity wasn't there there would be another doctrine or reason used. It seems to me that people put people to death for not believing or agreeing as they do, not because of the doctrine itself. Take away the trinity doctrine and people will still be put to death.

 

Now as far as an explanation of the Trinity goes, personally, i have never read a more intellectually satisfying answer than Soma has written in post #9 here.

 

Just my 2 cents,

Joseph

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Guest billmc

People, in my view, don't put people to death for belief or non-belief in a doctrine thought i certainly admit that is the reason many times given. It is deeper than that. I think if the doctrine of the Trinity wasn't there there would be another doctrine or reason used. It seems to me that people put people to death for not believing or agreeing as they do, not because of the doctrine itself. Take away the trinity doctrine and people will still be put to death.

 

I tend to agree with you, Joseph. I suspect it ultimately goes back to fear. If people consider their beliefs and/or religion to be some sort of security blanket, they normally don't want that challenged or taken away. Though some might think Point 1 to be restrictive, I've found that the life and teachings of Jesus are open to a W-I-D-E range of interpretations and viewpoints, allowing for a great deal of personal freedom. So I think it comes down to the heart. After all, we have had the doctrine of "Thou shalt not kill" for about 4000 years and that hasn't helped us much. :( IMO, we need to find "God inside", not just ourselves, but in others.

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People, in my view, don't put people to death for belief or non-belief in a doctrine thought i certainly admit that is the reason many times given. It is deeper than that. I think if the doctrine of the Trinity wasn't there there would be another doctrine or reason used. It seems to me that people put people to death for not believing or agreeing as they do, not because of the doctrine itself.

Joseph

 

Yes. Xenophobia and intolerance run deep. Religion is often as much a social identity as it is a belief system. It is the perceived threat to 'us' by 'them' that is the underlying culprit.

 

Shi'a are not killing Sunni, and vice versa, today in the Middle East over the succession to the Prophet 1,500 years ago or the 'proper' way to hold ones hands while praying. Religion is the dividing identity that underlies the clash. Hindus in India are not killing Muslims over theology. They are killing them because they are a different ethnicity. They are different. They are them. Often this ethnic competition coincides with political and/or economic power and then all hell can break lose.

 

George

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Concerning the OP on finding an approch to God by the teachings of Jesus, my personal experience did not include all his teachings or really much at all of Jesus's reported teachings to approach God. With each person, i guess it is different in what is needed or might i say lacking to approach God. For me it was just a one liner he is reported saying. It might not have been reported in a context that provided a deeper understanding that was to come later but it was sufficient. Being "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

There was guilt in my life whether conscious or unconscious and much of it i latter found was as a result of by conditioned religious beliefs and judgement of others. When i took hold of this saying and after much failure and praying and being prayed for and using what i thought was sincere words to put it into effect, i gave up. Then , while alone driving , a piece of forgotten unforgiveness was brought to the surface of my consciousness. i knew then i was still holding onto it and immediately decided to forgive and surrender it. That to me made available a transforming experience that has grown since 1980. While i believe i have a deeper understanding now of why and how, just one teaching for me was enough to clear the way to approach God. That same teaching may have been said in other religions but it was Christianity for me.

 

Joseph

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To believe in the Trinity you must believe in a God, you must believe in a Holy Spirit that has a separate existence and you must believe that Jesus was God separate from the "Other God". I don't believe in any of these concepts.

To me that would be illogical. I cannot be you or any other person. I can only be me and express my ideas that have come from my experiences and my understandings.

 

"The follower of Christ, whose service means an ever-growing understanding of his teaching, and an ever-closer fulfillment of it, in progress toward perfection, cannot, just because he is a follower, of Christ, claim for himself or any other that he understands Christ's teaching fully and fulfills it. Still less can he claim this for any body of men.

 

To whatever degree of understanding and perfection the follower of Christ may have attained, he always feels the insufficiency of his understanding and fulfillment of it, and is always striving toward a fuller understanding and fulfillment. And therefore, to assert of one's self or of any body of men, that one is or they are in possession of perfect understanding and fulfillment of Christ's word, is to renounce the very spirit of Christ's teaching." --Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You

 

I would also say (imo) that the Kingdom of God is within. Christianity for me is not something that I have attained and there it is for ever more, but it is the road I have taken towards the divine. That is not to say (IMO) that there are no other paths to the divine. Now what do I mean by the divine. Well I have never found anyone who can describe God to the understanding and satisfaction of all and so I would say to know God totally is not given to humanity to do. So God for me is a continuing revelation. Just as I believe God inspired Jesus I believe God inspires all.

I would say it is expressed in that still quiet voice within each of us. Some will call it the voice of God, Goddess, Spirit, or variations thereof, and another that of humanity. It is my experence that it connects each of us regardless of what we call it or the belief we have about it. I do not believe atheists or agnostics or whatever, are any the less touch by it. I believe it inspires the love of each of us and the best of us. I believe it connects us with life and the wonder of the universe we live in.

Others are very free to make their own mind up about such things but I say that is God. Just as I beleive God reveals through the life of Jesus.

Edited by Pete

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I'm very open to nontheistic interpretations and applications of Jesuism, otherwise known as Christian atheism. (I often use the term "God" in more metaphorical sense to represent the interdependent web of all existence or ground of being, rather than a anthropomorphized supernatural creator entity anyways.)

Jesuism (Jesusism or Jesuanism) is the personal philosophy encompassing the moral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and commitment or adherence to those teachings. Jesuism is distinct from and sometimes opposed to mainstream Christianity. In particular, the term is often contrasted with the theology attributed to Paul of Tarsus and modern Church doctrine. Jesuism is not necessarily opposed to the Christian Bible or Church doctrine, but rather it does not affirm their authority over the teachings of Jesus. As a philosophy, Owen Flanagan characterized "Jesusism" as naturalistic and rationalist, rejecting the conflict between faith and science. Though not specifically associated with Jesuism, the red letter Bibles are one method of studying the teachings of Jesus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesusism

http://en.wikipedia....ristian_atheism

For myself, I believe in living in such a way as to honor both those who have come before me (my ancestors and my heritage) and those who will come after me (my descendants). I believe that all things in the Universe (Nature) are interconnected and that we create unnecessary suffering when we forget about the profound interrelatedness of all things. I believe that how we treat each other, other living beings, and our environment should be based upon this understanding. I believe the ethic of reciprocity, commonly known as the Golden Rule, is a good, general ethical guideline for daily living. I think it is important that we consider the needs of others, especially the less fortunate, before our own wants and desires. I seek out supports which help me to maintain this perspective. I do not think any of this requires one to be "religious".

Edited by DaveS
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I have met people who describe themselves as "Jesus Followers" rather than Christians for many of the reasons you have described DaveS. For many it is unthinkable to question the traditional churches take on things but for those who do and have, it seems to lead to a journey in which a person never goes back (In my experience).

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I think the most fundamental element in Christianity is the Resurrection of Christ.

 

Without the Resurrection, we are believing in no god at all.

 

Who would really put their beliefs into someone who has been nailed on the cross, who suffered the most humiliate punishment of that time? The disciples would just want to carry him back to the house, and make sure they try to rescue this almost-died-man.

 

The situation will be so different if Jesus had been found rising from the death, and while the disciples think back what He has taught them, understand that He was the Son of God.

 

If what Jesus taught was true from God, then what we believe today is valid.

 

I am what I believe today, because the evidence showed positive toward Christ.

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Did Jesus resurrect? Was Jesus the saviour of all because of his sacrifice? Was Jesus God? Was Jesus the Messiah? Is what the bibles says always an actually true account? Did the Gospel writers or Paul ever know Jesus? Did Jesus actually exist? Did the story of Jesus get mixed with other faiths like Mythras and Horus?

There are many questions I cannot answer with certainty and even more questions are being posed every day. Yet, for me the message that we are to love each other is the message that I believe is from the divine. The lessons I believe are inspired by the divine in a way that all else that has been added to the faith over the years falls short of (IMO).

The evidence in my view is that the same message has touch the heart of many in many faiths:- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule

That for me it is the same spirit of God that Jesus testified of and that has spoken to mankind long before Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul, and indeed Abraham, or Isaac existed. In this many have died for the love of another and in doing so they are born again as love in those who remember them. Many have also taken broken lives and made them anew and resurrected themselves to the spirit of love. I believe even if someone does not believe in the resurrection they can still have faith in Jesus. Christianity is the faith of ressurrection and not necessarily the ressurrection as an historical account (IMO). A belief in living anew and living according to that still small voice within that many call God and speaks of loving God in spirit (John 4: 23-24) and others (1 John 4:8; John 13:34).

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antho91

 

I agree with you. Like Paul says, if Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain. If we as Christians do not accept this, and not talk it away using myth etc., then what should we hold true? If we don't believe that about our own tradition, then why even be open to what any other tradition believe? Buddha didn't attain nirvana and didn't obtain enlightenment after his life. There really is no Tao. There will be no Jewish Messiah. Allah doesn't want us to submit to him. There is no truth in the symbolism Hindus use to portray Brahman in this world as Shiva, Vishna, and there really is no genuine truth to what the images of God portray as Ganesh, Hanuman, etc. I guess Krishna never really give the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. Do we expect people of other traditions to hold their beliefs as not really happening? Why should we then be so accepting of their beliefs and not our own?

Edited by matt67

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I would say hold on to the Spirit and not what someone tells you or writes down.

John 3:5-8 NIV (New International Version)

 

5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[a] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

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I agree with you. Like Paul says, if Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain. If we as Christians do not accept this, and not talk it away using myth etc., then what should we hold true?

 

How about "And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them" (Luke 6:31)?

 

George

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Matt67,

 

Whether one believes Jesus as recorded was fact or myth, i have found in experience has little bearing on behavior. Isn't it more important that we DO the will of God than whatever lip service we may give in our views or beliefs?

 

Just my own view and experience to consider,

Joseph

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