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Thought provoking questions that
we have received, with our responses

Part 13:

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This topic continues from the previous essay

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Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:

bullet Adam and Eve and homosexuality

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

bullet How do I find the one true religion?

bullet Did Jesus die on the cross?

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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. However, the Garden of Eden story need present no problem to gays and lesbians who are either conservative or liberal Christians:

bullet Conservative Christians tend to follow the historical teachings of Christianity. They interpret the stories in the first part of Genesis as indicating the fall of humanity, and the entry of sin and death into the world. They generally believe in the scapegoating principle that guilt and the consequences of sin are transmitted from the guilty to the next generation who had nothing to do with the sinful act -- eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

bullet Many Liberal Conservatives take one of two positions:
bullet Some 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 actual events.

bullet Others 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 and ethical 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 perhaps 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 also 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?." We simply explained the diversity of beliefs in North America concerning Jesus and sin.

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. Many religious liberals and secularists take this view .

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 children, 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 massive disagreement among religions and among different traditions with a single religion concerning provably hundreds of topics. 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 -- if any -- is "true" unless God exists and decides to communicates truth directly with humans. We conducted a pilot study to determine whether humans can assess the will of God. Our tentative conclusion is that they cannot.

While we may not be able to determine which religion is "true,"we can assess which are the most useful. By observing followers of different faith groups, and by comparing followers from various denominations, traditions and sects of each religion, we can see which ones have the most loving members, and which have the most hate-filled believers. We can measure 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:

bullet Conservative 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 exactly as it is explained in the Bible.

bullet Many 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. The Gospels include religious propaganda against Judaism, and attempts to absolve the Roman Empire from responsibility in Jesus' death. Liberals tend to pay greater attention to his teachings than his death.

bullet Muslims, 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.

bullet Gnostic Christians hold a variety of beliefs:
bullet Some 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.

bullet Other Gnostics believe that Christ did die on the cross. They define his resurrection as occurring when his spirit was liberated from his body.
bullet Some 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. They believe that Jesus was not resurrected nor did he ascent to Heaven.

bullet Other liberal theologians believe some of the following:
bullet Jesus 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.

bullet His life story was based on an individual who lived in the second or third century BCE, overlaid with a lot of fictional material.

bullet Jesus was not a real person. The stories of his life were based on prophecies in the Old Testament, augmented with excerpts from the lives of a number of itinerant rabbis, and including 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 details of the existence, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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Copyright © 2003 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-APR-11
Latest update: 2014-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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