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Archive for December, 2022

by Jim Gordon

Here we are at the end of another year. It can be a time of sadness in some cases, but usually it is a time of excitement and anticipation for a new beginning.

The past happenings of the year are either remembered as sad occurrences or as happy memories. Either way I think they help shape us into the person we are becoming.

Each new year seems to give us a sense of renewed purpose and goals of doing better, whatever that may mean to each of us. For some it is going to the gym, others want to read more or volunteer more. Many want to get closer to God while others want to distance themselves further from religious ways.

We are all different. We all have different ideas on life yet we are so similar in many ways. We all want to be loved and accepted. We all want to be happy and successful in life. We want to have a purpose and fulfill a meaning that is suited for us. My belief is we accept one another the way we are. We are not all going to agree or condone some of the actions of others, but we can still respect and treat each other kindly. We can be friends and still be as different as night and day.

No matter how hard we try, none of us have it all figured out. None of us have it all together and none of us have the right to force others to live, act or believe a certain way just because we think we are right. We are responsible for ourselves, and those of us who are Christians are to let the love of God flow out to all people no matter if they agree with us or not. We are only asked to love God and love one another.

As this is the last post of the year, I wanted to take a minute and thank each of you who take the time to read our articles. There are many different views and thoughts on life among our readers and I know not all agree with what we say…and that is OK. We do not try to force our views on others. We write about how we feel and how we see things at this period of time. Each of us has our own views and opinions and we should be able to share those views and still be accepting of others.

We also want to make sure that no matter who you are, what you believe, no matter what religion, race, sex, gender or nationality, we consider you friends and are glad you take the time to read our articles.

So, until next year, we here at Done with Religion hope each of you have a good holiday season. We are hopeful you will continue to visit our site and find encouragement, acceptance and friendship throughout the new year.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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By Mike Edwards

Many Christians assume the Bible teaches we must forgive without any expectations. The Bible can also be used to claim repentance is required. God does not forgive the rebellious (Josh. 24:19); “… if they repent forgive them” (Lk. 17:3). The Bible wasn’t meant to be a rules book to advise what every individual should do in their circumstances. “Turn the other cheek” is not meant for a domestic victim. One is free to forgive without expectations, but you have come to the right blog if a victim and you think certain expectations are important before forgiving a person.

Doesn’t God expect genuine forgiveness before getting into Heaven?

Many defend that the Bible claims you must always forgive no matter the circumstances. But those who defend easy forgiveness would not agree God forgives without acknowledging any wrongdoing. They would suggest you can’t enter Heaven without seeking forgiveness from God. The assumption is God expects and can discern if you are being genuine in repenting. Maybe even God has certain conditions or expectations if seeking forgiveness. Aren’t we supposed to imitate God?

I am suspicious of those that “just want to move on” 

A bully or abuser who doesn’t acknowledge their behaviors and just wants to move on is suspect. I have hurt others to know how I should go about asking for forgiveness. It isn’t about my feelings but the victim’s feelings. I don’t know why some guilty folks focus on their expectations and not their victim’s. The guilty obviously know they have done something wrong if asking for forgiveness. Those refusing to wrestle with expectations communicated by victims don’t acknowledge the seriousness of their actions. The innocent decides next steps and if a future relationship is possible.

Wrongdoing must be recognized 

If one is not held accountable for their wrongdoing, might they just do it again? Quick or easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t openly acknowledge their actions, will they continue to abuse others? The guilty need to stop with excuses or blaming others. Those with the same upbringing or circumstances don’t always mistreat others. The guilty must take responsibility and accept steps a victim wants taken next. 

Restitution isn’t always possible 

Bad memories can’t be erased; positive memories robbed by the guilty can’t be restored. This is why certain relationships cannot always continue.  Those that have hurt others are not in a position to insist on a future relationship. When restitution is possible, discussions are necessary unless the guilty aren’t really sorry. 

To forgive or not!

In my mind forgiveness isn’t really a discussion until the guilty acknowledge they need forgiveness. But for some forgiving despite lack of remorse can control bitterness. For others to forgive despite lack of remorse can cause feelings of further victimization and bitterness. We must stop guilting victims, according to the Bible, to forgive their violator no matter what. Those hurt must seek the mind of God what actions in relationship difficulties lead to your best interest in the long run in a world full of disappointments. You may discover God is emphatic!

Should We Forgive Others Without Expectations?

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Michael Donahoe

Have you noticed how many people seem to only include their preferred group? They only include people who think like them, have similar interests and likes. If you think differently or have different views and opinions, people feel you should stay in your own group with like-minded people, but leave the other group alone.

We seem to find this attitude in every walk of life, but within organized religion or institutional church it seems even worse. We all should be accepting of people in general in our daily lives. Yet, we see this so often within Christianity with the wide variety of denominations and interpretations of the Bible.

When it comes to including people who we see as completely different from us, African-American, Native-American, White, LGBTQ, Atheist, Muslim, Jew and so on, we tend to want to keep each group separate. We think as believers in God we need to separate ourselves and not associate with those who see things differently. Why is it the word inclusion seems to make so many Christian people cringe?

Really, behind all the labels we put on people we are all basically the same, so why not associate and get to know people who we feel are different from us? We can learn from one another, get to know one another and find that we really are not all that different.

We see Jesus do this all the time when reading the gospels in the Bible. He did not differentiate people based on their religion, belief, lifestyle, sexuality or nationality. He did not separate himself from those who thought, believed and lived differently. He loved and accepted all people and showed them the love of God.

Obviously loving and accepting people does not mean total agreement, nor are we going to always get along in life and live happily ever after. Yet I believe it does mean treating others the same, with respect, kindness, acceptance and with the love of God through the power of the Spirit within.

Inclusion is not a bad word. It is not a bad or unholy way to live. Inclusion is about ALL of us. Inclusion is about living full lives – about learning to live together. It makes the world our classroom for a full life. Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community. It is about our abilities – our gifts and how to share them. Inclusion is the way of God and the way of showing the love of God to all we meet.

***

Michael Donahoe was added as a writer as his views fit perfectly with those of Done with Religion. He also writes on Substack at https://myopinionblog.substack.com/

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By Mike Edwards

I wrote the below for my children a couple of years ago. It is much longer than my usual Posts. I am sharing here in case you can relate and maybe be encouraged that changing your views of God can be a wonderful and worthwhile journey.

What I remember growing up was being made to go to church all dressed up. We often as a family went to church three times a week – Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday. (My kids would have killed me). I hated going to church so much! Though I wasn’t close to my Dad and Mom, I do give them credit for introducing me to my Creator. They were very much traditionalists or old-fashioned and not easy to get close to.

Looking back, it is surprising I was into God as much as I was after I left home and headed to college. I am still into God to this day for whatever reason. It certainly isn’t because I am more moral than others. I just think each has their own journey with God – it is neither a sign of strength or weakness. I still haven’t figured out why some are inclined to believe there is a Creator and what some aren’t. If inclined to believe there is a Creator, I don’t know why some pursue a closer relationship with God and others don’t.

I wore my beliefs on my sleeves beginning in college. I am sure I offended a few. I felt compelled to inspire them to have a relationship with God. I assume that was partly because of what I was taught about heaven and hell growing up. It didn’t take me long to no longer believe in a literal Hell. Jesus didn’t come to earth to save us from being tortured forever. 

I graduated from college in 1980 and got married in 1982. I was born in 1957 in case wondering. The best thing that happened to me going to college, though my parents made me go or live on the streets, was meeting my wife. One reason we married was because we shared the importance of having a relationship with God. We still have that connection, though my beliefs about God have changed a lot. I can’t stop the questions in my head about what God is really like. My wife accepts more what she has been taught and I must confess – she is more like Jesus than I probably am. Okay, maybe 60-40!

We took our children to a church on Sundays when they were young. We encouraged them to attend smaller meetings within the building with people their own age, but they mostly chose to hang with their parents in the big room where adult sang and listen to preaching. We let our children when older decide whether to go to church on Sunday.

I am not sure if I went to church out of guilt all those years, but not going to church didn’t feel like a choice. The institution of church worked for me for years and continues to work for many, but people need to feel free than obligated to pursue God on their own terms. Obligatory relationships are seldom life transforming. I am convinced the Bible doesn’t mandate followers must go to a church building once a week. The “church” in the New Testament actually refers to those individuals who choose to follow Jesus. The church (individual) doesn’t go to a church. The church seeks to encourage one another. In the NT this tended to happen in homes of followers. 

We attended Church until I was around fifty or maybe sooner. My views about God begin changing shortly after graduating from college in 1980 and getting married in 1982. Attending Seminary for a year in 1981 was an important year in my life. I became exposed to different beliefs about God than what I had been taught growing up going to church. I was so impacted that professors were open to teaching and admitting different opinions existed. I will never forget being impressed that three professors at Trinity wrote a book together on the end-times. They all had different views and that was okay. In my early years I was never introduced to the possibility of different views than what being taught. I had to learn that on my own.

I can remember a pastor I respected greatly telling me a sign of leadership was being certain about what one believes and teach that to others. I know though they went to seminary and surely read biblical scholars that didn’t always agree what the Bible teaches about God. I think leadership is letting others know there are many possible views according to the Bible on a matter. One must be allowed their own journey in deciding what they believe about God, unless their God encourages beheading due to unbelief.   

The reason I eventually decided to stop going to church was because when I opened my mouth, I would offend leadership.  There was not a lot of open dialogue in the building when it came to discussing different views of God. I am not one to keep quiet when I don’t agree, but I knew it wasn’t healthy to always be divisive. I simply got tired of trying to fit in. I couldn’t pretend my beliefs weren’t changing. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t think certain beliefs being taught actually lead people away from God than toward God.

I doubt I will go back to church. I haven’t found a church that allows honest, open dialogue different from their own beliefs. They seem to assume unity requires agreement. My wife would like to find a church we both could attend, but I doubt such a church exist that we could co-exist. I still dig the woman though! I believe God simply encourages us to find others to encourage us in our spiritual journey. That doesn’t have to be on Sundays in a building.

I begin writing about my changing views about God in my twenties. That seem bizarre to me looking back because I am not a good writer and had not written much before. But I loved sitting and writing down my thoughts of what I thought God was really like contrary to what I had been taught. I suppose it was a form of communication about God that I couldn’t have with others.  Church buildings are uncomfortable talking about beliefs different than theirs. I hated that people may be tuning out God for the wrong reasons. Blogging my thoughts became my outlet.

I begin to question if Hell was real, if God condemned gays though that question came later, whether God really favored men over women for leadership roles, if the Bible really was somehow magically infallible or inspired by God though not dictated. I doubted Jesus died because God was pissed at us for sinning and we were going to Hell if not believing in Jesus as our Savior. See here for my main beliefs about God  http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/what-i-believe/

In my twenties I weirdly wrote a 100-page paper opposing Calvinism (God chooses who goes to heaven) and no one was requiring such a paper. I wrote a lot about God’s views of women and that I didn’t believe God thought women should be submission to men any different than men should be submissive to women. It probably had something to do that I was married to a strong woman and I had two daughters that I didn’t want to be at a disadvantage to men. I sure as hell knew men weren’t smarter than women.

Eventually, a friend Tim helped me to create a website/blog around 2008. I called it https://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/ I also begin blogging at  https://donewithreligion.com/  in 2018. I named my blog as such because I wasn’t claiming I was right about God, though I feel strongly about my beliefs, but I wanted to encourage open dialogue that I never experienced being in church and still don’t to this day with friends who are into God. They grew up with beliefs about God that I have left but they haven’t. 

I am not sure why I am not lonelier concerning my spiritual journey. I am very much isolated from family and friends in my beliefs about God. Family and friends who are into God have beliefs that I felt compelled to leave beginning in my twenties. I don’t bring up God much with them because I have experienced discussing my beliefs are discouraging to them. I just don’t feel a freedom or openness to believe as I do as opposed to what they have been taught growing in the institutional church. I don’t sense the institutional church encourages individuals to develop their own beliefs as I try to encourage others to do.

Then, I have friends who simply aren’t into God all that much. They aren’t looking to have spiritual conversations, and I don’t wish to push such an agenda if they aren’t interested. I would definitely attend a group who desired having open dialogues about God, but I have not found such a group at this time. I am also open to leading such a group should such an opportunity present itself. Most those who want to have spiritual conversations attend institutional churches, and when I share my beliefs I find myself being more divisive than encouraging.

This is my spiritual journey. I am now retired for 6 years and still love reading, talking, and writing about God. I try to write a Post on both above blogs once a week. I used to write more often but once a week seems right for now. I can’t stop the questions about God popping in my head. I can only hope the questions I ask online are others’ questions and it may help them in their journey.

My Spiritual Journey These Past Six Decades

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

 

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by Michael Donahoe

It is hard to believe we still need to mention this issue. Women deserve equal treatment and equal rights just like any other human being. It is hard to believe that only a few years ago women could not vote, hold certain jobs or do many day-to-day things that men were doing. Women were to have their place in the family, and they were not to step outside that role.

As we look back over history, we see women have always struggled. They were looked upon as property back in biblical days and had no say in anything. Even today in some middle eastern countries, women are treated as property rather than as human beings.

Speaking of biblical times, it seems to me at least Jesus treated women on an equal basis with men. We often read that he spoke with women, respected and cared for women and had many friends that were women. That was unheard of in those times. We read of many women who supported Jesus and were part of his ministry. Yet today it is still common for women to be rejected for ministry such as being pastors or church leaders.

So often, especially in religious circles, women are treated as second class citizens and as being unequal with men. They are supposed to wear certain kinds of clothes, they are supposed to stay in the home and raise kids or only work certain kinds of jobs. Fortunately, things have been changing, but there is still a long way to go.

It is sad to hear of women being abused by their husbands. This should not be. Husbands are told to love their wife as they love their own body. Husbands and wives, or any marriage partner, should be treated as equals and with love and respect. For those who are abused, I feel it is best they leave the situation and move on. Even though the bible talks about divorce, I do not believe God intends for women to stay in abusive relationships.

I remember growing up and getting my first job, it amazed me when I learned that women received less pay for doing the same job as me. I could not figure out why that was the case.

In the years I worked as a firefighter, I saw more fairness and equal treatment than I did in my first job or within the church. The position of firefighter received a certain pay and it was the same if the position was filled by a man, a woman, someone who was black or white, gay or straight. And as firefighters we gave the same equal service to all human beings no matter who they were.

I hear complaints about women’s lib, equal rights and feminism from time to time and it makes me mad. Why do so many of us men think women are not as capable as us? I believe women are just as smart, strong, capable and able to do anything they desire. I believe what a person does in life depends on their qualities, training, capabilities and desires and not on whether they are male or female.

I believe all human beings have the same ability to accomplish the desires God put within them. Men and women have differences in that it takes both to create a new life, yet other than that, we are all basically the same and are deserving of equal treatment, equal rights and equal pay.

In Galatians 3:28 it is mentioned that there is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This is not to take away the importance of men or women, but to say we are all human beings, equally important and loved by God.

I pray that we come to fully accept and appreciate women as equal human beings. It is time discrimination and unfair treatment of women, or any human being comes to an end. It is time we realize that women, as well as all people, are loved and accepted by God equally.

***

Michael Donahoe was added as a writer as his views fit perfectly with those of Done with Religion. He also writes on Substack at https://myopinionblog.substack.com/

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By Mike Edwards

National polls suggest the majority of people believe there is a God. I am not wanting to be judgmental, but I sense a large part of that majority don’t necessarily pursue a daily close relationship with God. I am not saying they don’t score higher on the moral scale than me, though I typically have daily silent conversations with God. I just am convinced an ongoing relationship with God can make us a better person and nation.   

Claims made about God keep some from pursuing God 

Many of us are into God but many of us left the institutional church because claims about God’s character was contrary to our deepest moral intuitions. Why believe in a God you can’t respect. It is only intuitive that a Creator loves the ways their creations ought to love one another. Beliefs about God’s love that don’t match how you know you ought to love your neighbor may be amiss. Don’t believe everything you hear about God! See here.

Hidden agenda in relationships keep some from pursuing God

Conversations with God followers often feels like them trying to change your beliefs. That can stifle exploration. I hate to admit I use to have an agenda with those outside the institutional church. I was taught God’s good news was saving people from Hell so they could get into Heaven. I was wrong according to Jesus. See here.   The ship may have sailed others trusting us to have open conversations. All I know to do is to focus on a life where actions speak louder than words in case others want to pursue God. 

Some don’t want to give up stuff or change

I suppose many may believe there is a God but don’t pursue because it would may require they consider changing some habits. If you know what you are doing is harming others and you don’t care, that is on you. But if struggling with habits that you know are hurting you and others, God doesn’t have a list for you to conquer before getting to know God.

Bible, church, prayer, etc.

Christians may suggest if you aren’t reading your Bible, going to church, praying daily, etc. that you can’t be close to God. Don’t buy it. If the Bible isn’t fun to read or leading to positive changes, put it on the shelf. If interested read blogs or books that get you thinking about God.  Not interested in attending the institutional church for whatever reason. Okay! See if can find relationships that share your beliefs through other means. It isn’t easy but worth a try. God doesn’t have a list of traditions to adhere to. God is willing to have a relationship on your terms.

Other reasons to not pursue God

I wrote on this topic a few months ago. See here  I suggested additional challenges to pursuing God more intently:  

  • Maybe because you can’t reconcile why God doesn’t intervene more with evil and suffering in the world
  • Maybe because of some trauma in your life
  • Maybe because God-followers as a group are poor role models

Do you want to think more about God daily? 

Find something that works for you – reading, writing, a brief prayer daily, whatever. Discover what works for you that gets you more on the path you want to be. I am a better person than I would be because of God’s influence in my life. I don’t always return anger with anger, sometimes I forgive when asked, sometimes I hold doors, or go the extra mile to be nice. Don’t believe everything others claim about God. I am convinced seeking God’s help in loving others is a life worth living.

Why Do Many Believe In God But Don’t Pursue A Close Relationship?

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Michael Donahoe

Why is it many of us who call ourselves Christians spend more time defending our beliefs rather than enjoying time spent with others? Often, we do it not only to non-believers, but even to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We know how Jesus lived; he loved others, accepted those who the religious crowd did not like, he was kind, loving, forgiving and caring to all he came in contact. It seems the only people who he had a problem with were religious self-righteous leaders. Yet, we see many of those who claim to follow Jesus go out and argue with those who interpret the Bible differently, or who do not believe the same or live the same.

It seems to me rather than fight and argue over doctrine, interpretation and belief we would do better to love, accept and show compassion. After all, Jesus said to love God and love one another. He never said judge and condemn others or avoid those who think differently.

This certainly does not mean we have to agree with everyone, but we do not have to fight and defend our way of thinking. Many of us think we have it all figured out and our way of faith is the only way. We think we have to persuade others to come to our way of thinking or they are doomed to hell.

I am not sure any of us have it all figured out, in fact I know none of us do. We all have room to question, learn and change. I know my wife and I are doing more questioning than we ever did, and we are finding new truths as we walk in the Spirit daily.

When it comes down to it, I feel we should be open to accept others no matter what their way of thinking. People want to be loved and accepted, they want to be happy and get along with others. When we get all religious and defend our point of view, it does more harm and drives people apart more than anything.

As followers of Jesus, we should be seeking strength to accept and love everyone. No matter what they believe, what their faith or doctrine is, no matter their religion, nationality, sexual preference or color, we want to see them as Jesus sees them. This type of love comes from the Spirit of God who is within us.

Naturally, people will not always agree, but we want to look past those areas of disagreement and find the commonalities we have and share the love of God together. This does not happen by condemning and bashing people nor by trying to prove we are right and they are wrong.

Love does not mean seeing eye-to-eye, it does not mean we agree or even like some of the things people do, but it does mean we look past the differences and love them as Christ loves them. Let’s look past the labels and see people who have feelings, who want love and friendship, people we can get to know, learn from, share thoughts and ideas with, and accept as fellow human beings who are created in the image of God.

***

Michael Donahoe was added as a writer as his views fit perfectly with those of Done with Religion. He also writes on Substack at https://myopinionblog.substack.com/

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By Mike Edwards

Confession – nowadays I seldom sit down and read the Bible as much as I did in past. I usually needed a commentary. God just wants a relationship whether spurred on by reading the Bible or other means. You may talk to God when exercising. You may be inspired by listening to certain music. I would like to suggest ways to make reading the Bible less complicated. The Bible is unique – the Bible remains a best seller year after year, not just the first year published. 

Interpretation challenges

Biblical scholars who respect the authoritative nature of Scriptures don’t interpret the same passage similarly. Ephesians 5 is interpreted to teach wives should be more submissive to husbands than are husbands to wives. Other scholars believe this same chapter teaches mutual submission among married folks. Many may be unaware biblical scholars who respect the Bible believe Scriptures don’t condemn gay monogamous relationships. See here.

Inspiration challenges 

We can’t prove God inspired the writings of the writers to always portray God accurately, but if God did inspire all of the Bible which version or view did God inspired: 

  • Karen Keen in Scripture, Ethics, And Same-Sex Relationships points out that a scribe added sentences to the oldest manuscript we know of on Isaiah 2: 9-11. Our current Bibles read (The italicized words added to the original): “So people will be brought low and everyone humbled— do not forgive them. Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lordand the splendor of his majesty! The eyes of the arrogant will be humble and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (p. 59, 126). Later scribes intensified God’s anger which may or may not best portray God’s true nature.
  • 28:63 says God takes pleasure in destroying. But, Ezek. 33:11 says God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. So, which view portrays God most accurately?
  • It seems throughout the OT that animal, blood sacrifices are necessary for God’s forgiveness. But later OT writers begin to write that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6). Why wouldn’t writers at least say both animal sacrifice and contrite hearts are necessary? So, did Jesus die to appease God’s wrath and need for sacrifice or to convey God’s love and inspire all to follow Jesus’ example?

So, how can we best decide what God is really like? 

See here: Your Moral Intuitions Best Tell You What To Believe About God!

Reading the Bible

The Bible is complicated. The Bible came together over hundreds of years. Books are not a single document written by one author but often shorter texts collected together with possible reworking by editors. We don’t have to decide if the David and Goliath story happened as exactly as it did. You can study resources for historical analysis, or enjoy reading the story and contemplating what God may be challenging you in how to love others like you want to be loved. Relax! Not even biblical scholars can claim to have the right interpretation.

We can’t be sure of Jesus’ meaning when reading a parable. Study other resources if your like. Me personally, I am going to read the parable and seek to discern the message God intends for me in loving others. Interpretations about God’s love toward others, that don’t match how you and most know you ought to love your neighbor, may be amiss.

How Can We Make Reading The Bible Less Difficult And More Enjoyable?

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

 

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