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Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:

bulletAdam and Eve and homosexuality
bullet"If you say Jesus sinned then I know you ar [sic] from Satan!!"
bulletHow do I find the one true religion?
bulletDid Jesus die on the cross?
bulletA general attack
bulletRoman Catholics, abortion, and birth control usage
bulletChange the name of this web site

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Adam & Eve and homosexuality:

This is a continuation of the previous question in this series: "How can a Christian disbelieve any major part of the Bible?"

Incoming Email: "If a person that is gay claims to Christian, then the story of Adam and Eve cannot be supported in their belief system. I would see a gay person being more inclined to believe in evolution."

Our response: Christians hold diverse beliefs about whether an adults sexual orientation can be changed, and what is the cause(s) of one's sexual orientation. The Garden of Eden story need present no problem to gays and lesbians who are either conservative or liberal Christians:

bulletConservative Christians tend to follow the historical teachings of Christianity. They interpret the story as indicating the fall of humanity, and the entry of sin and death into the world.
bulletMany Liberal Conservatives take one of two positions:
bulletSome interpret the story of the Garden as a simple religious myth derived from earlier Mesopotamian and Babylonian sources that contains very helpful material for one's spiritual understanding and guidance. But the story is unrelated to real events.
bulletOthers consider that the Adam and Eve story really represents the rise, not the fall, of humanity. It describes in symbolic form how proto-humans -- human like species who were more animal like than human -- became fully human by the development of a moral sense.

Neither interpretation would necessarily present unique problems for gays and lesbians. They might, for example, believe that sin did enter the world through the behavior of Adam and Eve, and that it taints humanity and the rest of the world to the present day. But they might also consider all safe and consensual sexual activity by a committed couple in accordance with their sexual orientation to be free of sin, whether the couple is of the same or opposite genders. Thus, even if they interpret the Adam and Eve story as introducing sin to the universe, they might not accept an inevitable connection between homosexual activity and sin. They might consider  same-sex behavior to be sinful only if it is non-consensual, manipulative, unsafe, performed by person(s) with a heterosexual orientation, or outside of a committed relationship.

You commented on homosexuals and the belief in evolution. I have never seen any statistics on this. Surveys have shown that over 99% of biological and geological scientists believe that evolution really happened; some of them would be gay or lesbian. Most American adults believe in either theistic evolution or naturalistic evolution. I would guess that evolution is more common among homosexuals than among heterosexuals on the basis that many gays and lesbians have been rejected by their faith groups. This might tend to make homosexuals reject their faith group's teachings.

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"If you say Jesus sinned then I know you ar [sic] from Satan!!"

Actually, we didn't say that. You are apparently referring to our essay "Did Jesus lead a sinless life?."

In the essay, we explained that from a conservative Christian viewpoint, Jesus -- and God the Father -- is incapable of sin. Then we explain that if one looked upon Jesus as a human being, subject to Jewish and Roman law, that he is alleged to have committed actions which most people would consider as serious sin -- even criminal acts. This included: conspiracy to steal an animal, aggravated assault in a religious building, violating various of the Mosaic laws, etc. These latter beliefs are held by many religious liberals and secularists.

The point of our essays -- and of many other essays on our web site -- is that there over 1,000 Christian organizations in the U.S. and Canada who teach many different beliefs about Jesus, God, Christianity, the Bible, morality, human sexuality, etc. Our web site merely tries to explain all sides to each topic. This principle extends also to our essays on abortion access, equal rights for gays and lesbians, spanking, death penalty, etc.

We do not normally reach conclusions in our essays. We merely report the full diversity of beliefs held by people of disparate theological backgrounds. We are merely reporters, not innovative theologians.

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How do I find the one true religion?

Incoming Email: "Where I live, people who follow different Christian denominations argue with each other. So do people from different religions. How can I know which religion and which denomination is the true one?

Our response: The basic problem is that religions tend to be based on faith. Thus they cannot easily be proven or disproven. If there were a way to prove religious truth then the one "true" religion would be found or created, and everyone would convert to it.

Religion has to be accepted on faith. People come from different faith traditions and accept different religious belief systems as true. There is a massive disagreement among religions and among different traditions with a single religion. Some religions teach that the number of Gods is zero; at least one teaches that Gods and Goddesses number in the millions. They teach very different beliefs about social problems, like abortion access, and equal rights for gays and lesbians including the right to marry.

Still, almost all religions to share one belief in common: the Ethic of Reciprocity (a.k.a. the Golden Rule). It is expressed in slightly different ways by many different religions. If everyone were to follow the Golden Rule as taught by their faith group, the world would be a much less violent and more loving place. That might be a good place for you to start. If you integrate the Golden Rule ito your life and base your interactions with other people on it, then you have at least a base from which to search for theological answers.

There may be no way of proving which religion is "true." But we can try to determine which religions are the most useful. By observing followers of different faith groups, we can see which ones are the most loving and which are the most hate-filled; which groups encourage violence, and which encourage peace and cooperation.

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Did Jesus die on the cross?

Incoming Email: How do we know whether Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected three days later?

Our response: Actually, the most common interpretation of the gospels is that Jesus died on a Friday afternoon and was resurrected sometime before the early morning of the following Sunday. This means that, in modern terminology, he was resurrected within a day and a half of his death, not three days as is often said.

There are many theories about the existence of Jesus and the events related to his death. For example:

bulletConservative Christians are absolutely certain that Jesus was executed by the Romans via crucifixion, died, was resurrected, and later ascended to Heaven. They regard the Bible as inerrant. Jesus' death is described in all four Gospels. They feel that there is no possibility that it did not happen as it is explained in the Bible.
bulletMany liberal Christians also believe that Jesus was crucified, died, and resurrected. However, they believe that many of the details of these events in the gospels are inaccurate. They represent religious propaganda against Judaism, and an attempt to absolve the Roman Empire from responsibility in Jesus' death. They tend to pay greater attention to his teachings than his death.
bulletMuslims, followers of Islam, generally believe that Jesus did not die on the cross but was elevated to Paradise by God while he was still alive. They base this on the belief that God would never have allowed one of his main prophets to be executed in this way. Since Jesus did not die, he was not resurrected. Muslims generally regard Jesus as the second greatest prophet in history, exceeded in importance only by Muhammad.
bulletGnostic Christians hold a variety of beliefs:
bulletSome promote Docetism, the belief that Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; that is, Jesus merely appeared to be human to his followers. They reasoned that a true emissary from the Supreme God could not have been overcome by the evil of the world, and to have suffered and died.
bulletOther Gnostics believe that Christ did die on the cross. They define his resurrection as occurring when his spirit was liberated from his body.
bulletSome liberal Christian theologians, religious skeptics, and others believe that Jesus existed, was crucified on the cross or stake, and his body was tossed into a mass grave site to be eaten by scavengers. Jesus was not resurrected nor did he ascent to Heaven.
bulletOther liberal theologians believe that:
bulletJesus was an itinerant rabbi in first century CE Palestine, but that most of the content of Gospels are of events that never happened; they were invented by biblical authors to promote their theological beliefs. In particular, the Gospel of John contains very little historically accurate material, or
bulletHis life story was based on an individual who lived in the second or third century BCE, overlaid with a lot of fictional material, or
bulletJesus was not a real person. The stories of his life were based on prophecies in the Old Testament, augmented with fables and myths from other heroes/god-men/saviors, like Krishna from India and Osiris from Egypt

These various belief systems, and others, cannot be resolved. There will probably never be a consensus about the existence, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

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A general attack

Incoming Email, with spelling and punctuation unchanged, alternating with our responses:

bullet"if you promote religious freedpm then why to name other religions as bad."
bulletI don't think that we label any religion, or any belief that they teach, as bad. However, we do criticize actions by specific religious groups which harm others. We also compare the teachings of various religions with each other and with the findings of science.
bullet"All religion is based on one thing Speculation and the fact that people ruin there lives trying to live by gods word is a joke."
bulletThere are hundreds of different religions in the world. I think that a lot of people would agree with you, except for their own religion. Most people consider their own religion to be true and good, even as they regard other religions as being false. Among those who worship a deity, many believe that their God or Goddess or Gods or Goddesses are the only deity or deities in existence.
bullet"no one can prove there is a god."
bulletTrue. No one has yet proven the existence of a God. But then, nobody has disproved the existence of a God either.
bullet"And why is there so many different variations of religion."
bulletThis is because over the last millennia, individuals all over the world have tried their best to create religions based on their concept of deity, of ethics, world origins, rituals, the status of people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, etc. They did this largely independently of each other, and thus arrived at completely different religions. Of course, many people feel that humans did not create their God. Rather, they believe that their God created humans and revealed the one true religion to humanity. They feel that all of the other religions, and all of the other traditions within their own religion, are in error to some extent .
bullet"i thought they were all wanting the same thing but still using religion as an excuse to kill people."
bulletTrue. They all want people to live up to the expectations of their deity. They also, with few exceptions, teach the Ethic of Reciprocity (a.k.a. The Golden Rule). However, religions have generally done a bad job teaching their membership that the Ethic refers to all humans, not just fellow members. They often teach that persons of a given race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. are sub-human and not worthy to receive full human rights. Once you have defined people as sub-human, it is easy to demonize them, discriminate against them, oppress them, and even exterminate them. This path leads to the gas ovens.
bullet"So to end with ill say that probably your whole site is an error"
bulletSince we explain all viewpoints, and because there are generally at least two viewpoints on each issue -- from abortion access to same-sex marriage; from the atonement to heaven/hell -- then any given visitor will see almost all of our essays as containing errors. We expect that. It is unavoidable

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Roman Catholics, abortion and birth control:

Incoming Email, with spelling and punctuation unchanged, alternating with our responses:

bulletWhere in the F--K do you plan to tell me you found a group of CATHOLICS that support widespread access to abortion? Have you lost your f--king MIND trying to pawn off that bulls--t?
bulletWe normally do not reply to abusive letters. However, your letter contained so many factual errors that I feel moved to respond. There is a Roman Catholic group -- that is a group of individuals who were baptized Roman Catholics and have continued as devout members of the religion -- who are members of "Catholics for Free Choice." They publish a periodical which we have seen on the newsstands of large book stores. They, and other similar groups promote access to abortion. I suggest that you go to www.google.com and use the search string "catholics for free choice" You will get about 874 hits.
bulletWhat do you do...just make s--t up and post it? Did you even ask ONE question before putting this dumb ass s--t out there for public consumption?
bulletWe are at a loss to understand this sentence. We are quite aware that the magesterium of the Catholic church is unalterably opposed to abortion. But we are also aware that there are devout Catholics who feel that the magesterium is wrong. These members of the laity promote abortion access and choice. Finally, there are the Roman Catholics themselves. In the United States, the incidence of abortion among Roman Catholics is considerably higher than among Protestants and is equal to that of the general population.

We are merely reporters. We do not pass moral judgments on people who promote abortion access or women who obtain abortions. We feel that our visitors need to know what the real situation is, so we report all viewpoints. Please don't be furious with us; we are just reporting reality.
bulletI ma a Catholic, and we do not even believe in BIRTH CONTROL, much less ABORTION as a morally acceptable choice.
bulletIt is not clear to what group you are referring when you mention "we:" Again, the magesterium is unalterably opposed to all of the "artificial" methods of birth control; they do allow what they regard as natural methods. But polls show that Roman Catholic laity use birth control about as frequently as the general population. This shows up in the average number of children born to Roman Catholic families. They are within a few percentage of the rest of the population. You may be personally opposed to birth control. The magesterium certainly is. But the general population of Roman Catholics certainly are not.

You might want to read a couple of books on this topic:

Tobin "The American religious debate over birth control 1907 - 1937"
Leslie Tentler, "Catholics and Contraception: An American History"

Again, please don't shoot the messenger. I can understand why you are distressed at the widespread acceptance of abortion, abortion access, contraceptive use and contraceptive availability. But don't take it out on us. We are just reporting reality.
bulletYou...are a group of f--king idiots!
bulletThat comment does not reflect well on your faith -- either on Christianity or Roman Catholicism.

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Change the name of this web site:

Incoming E-mail: Change the website from "religious tolerance" to "religious acceptance."

Our response: Thanks for the suggestion, but I think that we should retain "religious tolerance" Many people interpret the term "religious acceptance" as meaning that they must accept the beliefs of other religions as equally valid and true, when compared to their own beliefs.

We don't want to promote that message. We welcome and celebrate religious diversity. We feel that diversity is OK, even if people believe that their religion alone is the "true" faith and that all other faiths are at least partly false.

Our main concern is that people accept the right of others to have religious freedom: to hold different religious ideas -- no matter how strange they seem. So we are working towards a culture in which people can hold tenaciously to their own beliefs, can reject or partly reject the validity of the beliefs of others, and work tirelessly to prevent anyone from experiencing religious oppression or discrimination.

So, for example, if a Christian student is prohibited from wearing a crucifix or cross, or a Jewish student is prohibited from wearing a Star of David, or a Wiccan student is prohibited from wearing a Pentacle, the outrage would be the same. It would be loud and persistent until the student's human rights were respected. We can and should fight for the students' rights even though we totally reject some of their religious beliefs.

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Copyright 2003 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-APR-11
Latest update: 2005-MAR-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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