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Thought provoking questions we have received, with our responses

Part 3

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:

bullet Should this site ban ads related to Wicca and the casting of spells?
bullet Why people reject absolute truth
bullet Is it OK for a newspaper to show a picture of two lesbians?
bullet Was Irenaeus correct? Will God refuse to forgive a sin after one is saved?

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Should this site ban ads related to Wicca and the casting of spells?

Incoming Email: Is it part of the creation science belief to believe in and support Wicca and spell casters? Is this something that is supported in the Bible?

Our response: It is customary to capitalize the names of religions and the word "Bible." So we have altered the incoming Email which left both words in lower case.

To answer your first question: Creation science beliefs are typically held by religious conservative. In North America, these are typically fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians. The latter hold a wide range of beliefs among about Wiccans:

bullet One minister from Texas preached a sermon a few years ago in which he advocated that the government commit genocide by rounding up all Wiccans and stoning them to death. As I recall, he got a sustained round of applause from the congregation.

bullet A Baptist pastor, also from Texas, also advocated genocide: he suggested that the U.S. Army round up Wiccans and exterminate them by napalm.

bullet A Wiccan was lynched by a mob of conservative Christians circa 1990 in the U.S.

But there is also a strong tradition within all wings Christianity in favor of religious freedom and religious tolerance. Both involve letting others follow the spiritual and religious path of their own choosing, without discrimination or oppression -- even though you disagree with their beliefs. As far as spell casting is concerned, this can be viewed as a form of prayer. A person casting a spell to influence the weather and a Christian praying for rain are performing essentially the same function. So, I would suggest that most American Christians, including those who believe in creation science, support the U.S. Bill of Rights, including the freedom of religious belief, religious speech, religious assembly and proselytizing. They would support the right of Wiccans and spell casters to follow their religious and magickal beliefs, even though they may disagree with them theologically.

I assume that you are objecting to the Wiccan and spell casting banner ads that sometimes appear on our web site. These ads are chosen and placed by Google and are outside of our control. To remove ads that people want to place would be censorship. That would conflict with our group's support for freedom of speech. Still, we recognize that some of our visitors will be offended by pictures of negligees that are described as "lust-worthy" and by gross pictures of toenails being destroyed by fungus growth.

Your second question asked whether Wicca and occult practices are supported by the Bible. The answer is both yes and no. There are quite a few instances of black magic, divination and occult activities described in the Bible in a positive or neutral light. They involved some of the great leaders of the ancient Hebrews: Joseph, the high priests, Elisha, and Daniel. In the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) Paul and Peter are mentioned.  However, certain occult practices are specifically forbidden in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). These include: making contact with spirits (not of God); making contact with the dead; foretelling the future by using lots or interpreting signs in nature; snake charming, magical knot tying, and spells which harm other people. These categories do not include the type of spell casting performed by the people who appear in banner ads on our site. They would probably refuse to do spells that attempt to harm or even manipulate others.

There are many themes which run through the Bible. One is intolerance of other religions. The book of Joshua describes religiously-motivated genocide and many instances of mass murder of people who were part of a culture that worshiped other Gods, including helpless newborns, infants, children, men, women and old folks. On the other hand, the Bible also extensively promotes justice. In modern times, justice is generally linked to fundamental human rights, such as freedom of religion, assembly and speech. So I feel that a case can be made that the Bible both supports and prohibits religious freedom.

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Why people reject absolute truth:

Incoming Email: Many people reject absolute truth because they do not like the fact that some day they might have to answer to a higher power -- God -- who has absolute standards. To placate their consciences, they believe that only relative truth exists. Therefore they think that they are not accountable to a higher power.

Our response: This is a very common belief system. It is consistent with what psychologists know is the almost infinite ability for humans to delude themselves. We hear it mentioned a great deal by conservative Christians on the web sites and radio programs that we have monitored. But it is deeply offensive to Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, and other non-theists. They have no belief in God, for the simple reason that they see no evidence for the existence of a deity. For them to believe in a deity would be intellectually dishonest. Most view the great world religions as having been created by very human people, as their best attempts to understand deity, humanity and the rest of the universe. Because these are all purely human creations, their visions all differ.

If non-theists learned of a proof that God exists, then they would willingly accept God's existence. But they can find no evidence of this, to date. So they develop their personal ethical rules for behavior, independently of religious belief.

They are not trying to avoid consequences. After all, if they accept the teachings of conservative Christians and if it turns out that the only true religion is Islam, then they might well be destined to eternal torture in the Islamic Hell. If they accept Islam, and it turns out that the only true religion is conservative Christianity, then they might well end up forever in the conservative Christian Hell. So, there is no foolproof way of avoiding someone's Hell.

Humanists and other non-theists will probably continue in their beliefs and base their moral code on secular principles, unless God decides to reveal himself in some unmistakable way. Judging on past performance, this is unlikely to happen during their lifetime.

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Is it OK for a newspaper to show a picture of two lesbians?

This was not a question raised by one of our site's visitors. Rather it is a question raised by the webmaster. It was triggered by a column of the ombudsman of the Toronto Star on the editorial page of that newspaper for 2002-JUL-27.

The ombudsman asked whether it was ethical for The Star, one of Toronto's leading newspapers, to publish a certain photograph of two women without their consent. I recall seeing the picture when it was published. It showed two young women who were obviously lesbians, deeply in love with each other, and oblivious to their surroundings. They were attending the Gay Pride parade in Toronto. The Star published their photograph even though the photographer did not get their names, and did not get their permission to publish it.

The ombudsman defended the publishing of the photograph because it was taken in a public place. They had every legal right to do so. But I wonder if it was an ethical decision. Consider one scenario: The two women appeared to be of college / university age and may well have been students who were dependent on their parents for accommodation and/or financial support. If they were in the closet, and were "outed" by the photograph, the repercussions on their life/lives could have been quite severe. Their parents could have disowned them, thrown them out of the house and/or terminated their financial support.

My feeling is that The Star had every legal right to publish the photo. But, with the prevalence of homophobia in North American society, the impact of this could have been severely negative to one or both women involved. As it happens, one of the women had been "in the closet" and was "outed" by the photo.

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Was Irenaeus correct? Will God refuse to forgive a sin after one is saved?

Incoming Email: A young person, who was apparently "saved" earlier in their life, has recently committed a sin. They are worried that they are "doomed to Hell because God won't forgive...[ant] post-conversion sin. Please help me interpret the following quote by Irenaeus, it makes me feel such great despair."

"Christ will not die again on behalf of those who now commit sin because death shall no more have dominion over Him...we should beware, lest somehow, after [we have attained] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we [will] obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but rather be shut out from His kingdom." Against Heresies," Book 4, Chapter 27, Section 2:

Our response: There were literally dozens of conflicting beliefs circulating around the early Christian movement at the time of Irenaeus. In fact, there were three different "denominations" within primitive Christianity:

bullet The Jewish Christians who got essentially wiped out by the Roman Army when Jerusalem was destroyed.

bullet The Pauline Christians who followed the teachings of Paul. They survived and became the early Catholic Church which eventually became the origin of over 20,000 Christian faith groups today.

bullet The Gnostics who believed that Jesus was a spirit being who came to earth give people special knowledge so that they could escape their earthly bodies and attain Heaven. Some were adsorbed by other Christian groups; others were exterminated by the Pauline Christians.

But even within Pauline Christianity, there were lots of conflicting views expressed. Back in those days many people agreed with Irenaeus that the act of being baptized wiped away one's sins. Thus, a lot of people put off baptism until the last moment, when they were dying. Constantine the Great was one of these. There were more conflicting beliefs about the nature of Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit than one can count on the fingers and toes. Gradually, over the first few centuries of the church's history, these different beliefs got straightened out at a series of church councils. In each case, one official position was chosen by majority vote, or by political pressure, and the others were declared heretical. One of the heresies was this belief by Irenaeus. The church rejected his teaching on this matter.

Within the Roman Catholic Church, baptized members who commit a sin can have them forgiven through a church sacrament of confession. Within Protestant churches, saved individuals can have their sin forgiven by sincerely confessing it to God.  Even actions which one's denomination may consider great sins can be forgiven this way. Of course, if murder, assault or some other crime is involved, there are often additional legal consequences with secular authorities.
 
We can approach your concern in another way. If you have been saved, then you are a child of God. God has some of the same feelings towards you as you have (or may have in the future) towards your children. If you are a conservative Christian, then you probably believe that there are only two destinations after death: Heaven and Hell. Now: could you imagine your child doing something so bad that you would send him or her to be eternally tortured in some kind of prison? I am certain that you will feel that there is no crime so terrible that you would abandon your own child in this way. By the same logic, could you imagine a kind, loving God who would abandon you -- one of his own children -- for doing something wrong?

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This topic continues in the next essay

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Copyright © 2000 to 2014, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-SEP-23
Latest update: 2014-OCT-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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