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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

by Jim Gordon

Let’s just say this right off, Jesus was not a Christian. Also, Jesus was not white, nor American, nor a Republican. 

Here in the United States, when we think of Jesus we usually think of Christianity. Actually, Christianity is just another religion that men started based on Jesus. Jesus did not come to start a religion, yet in our modern era, Christianity is thought of as a religion more than it is a lifestyle of following Jesus. 

Jesus does not belong to any particular religion, nationality or political party. He loves and accepts people no matter what they believe, where they live, who they love, who they vote for or what they look like. He came to show the love of God to the human race which includes all people in every part of the world.

If we describe being Christian as a follower of the example of Jesus, then there is nothing wrong with using this word to describe our fellowship with Him. If we use the word Christian to describe belonging to a particular church, following a particular doctrine or set of rules or belonging to a particular political party, then we have totally missed what being a Christ-follower is all about. I would rather not have anything to do with the word Christian used in this sense. 

Jesus is the Son of God, and He loves all people. Jesus came to show us what God may really be like, a God of love and acceptance. A God that loves the entire world. God does not see Muslims, Jews, Christians or any religion. God loves people, all people, every nationality, every political party, every race, every man, woman and everyone who is LGBTQ. God sees people who need and want love and acceptance. The only way people are going to come to true fellowship with God is through Jesus…not Christianity. 

It is time we stop looking to organized religion as our way of becoming acceptable and pleasing to God. We need to look to the example of Jesus and allow the Spirit to live through us to love all those we meet each day. Stop demanding that people come to follow your doctrine, your rules, your beliefs and accept people as they are. Show the love of Christ to them and let the Spirit do the work of God in them as God sees fit. 

We are never going to completely agree with each other on doctrine and religion. Only through Christ and the love He gives will we be able to love and accept others. Let us be known by the true meaning of the word Christian, being someone who is doing the works of Jesus and following the example of Jesus by loving God and loving one another. 

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

What loving parent demands love. Forced love is an oxymoron. If you believe in not loving people like you want to be loved, good luck in life. I am convinced God only wishes for all to consider the possibility of a loving God who desires to help in our journey to become the person deep down we want to become. Loving, human parents don’t require certain beliefs from their children before hoping they will consider a closer relationship. Are we better lovers than God? 

Does God love skeptics? 

Most agree an unloving or tyrannical God isn’t worth believing in. It is only intuitive, if a Creator exist, that a Creator loves the ways their creations ought to love one another. A parent obviously loves a child who finds it easier than their other children to accept them and their ways. But we don’t unlove our skeptical children. A greater pain may be when our children ignore us. Spiritual or human parents are always hoping for consideration to prove the possibility of a better relationship. 

Is believing the resurrection of Jesus and Jesus is the Son of God a non-starter? 

I am convinced Jesus’ resurrection isn’t legend but others may not. Jesus told followers He was coming back from the dead and they didn’t believe Him despite witnessing Jesus’ miracles beforehand. They only believed after seeing Jesus resurrected with their own eyes. I would like to think more of us if we witness a man or woman coming back from the grave, after killed on a cross, would be convinced of their message. But none of us lived during biblical times. 

Some can’t logically wrap their heads around Jesus being both man and God. Exactly how does that happen chromosomally? Isn’t it logically impossible to be God and not God? Some may be willing to accept that Jesus was an extraordinary man who epitomized who God was. Why can’t we begin there in discussing what teachings of Jesus seem to represent what a loving God is like? 

You don’t even have to believe the Bible or what it teaches

You certainly don’t have to believe in magical trees and talking snakes. The global flood story could describe a regional flood in hyperbolic terms to convey moral, spiritual food for thought. God doesn’t require literal belief in any event in the Bible or else! Be careful thinking you have to believe what some claim the Bible teaches. Scholars disagree what the Bible teaches about many moral issues, including if there is really a literal hell. See here.  Now if God physically appears before your very eyes, you might want to consider what They claim.

What do you lose taking a leap of faith? 

No one can prove God exist or doesn’t, but billions in the past have believe in the possibility of a Creator. They couldn’t all be lunatics. Do you want to be more in with God? I am not sure there is anything to lose in beginning a journey of faith if the desire is to live life with fewer regrets. Personally, the biggest reason for being a God-follower is the inspiration and encouragement I sense in striving to be a better human being. Give God a chance to influence you positively.

What Beliefs Does God Demand To Be “In” With God?

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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.

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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

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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 Mike Edwards

Well-meaning people, especially politicians who represent those who believe in a God and those that don’t, say things like “we need to get back to biblical truths” as a nation.” But those who appreciate the Bible don’t all agree what the Bible claims God thinks about gays, women, destiny of unbelievers, etc. Different interpretations of the Bible are normal. We need to find a way to speak of our personal beliefs without assuming all are necessarily committed to the Bible, God, or agree what the Bible claims about God.   

Belief in God or unbelief is not an excuse for chaos

Politicians often claim or imply that our rights are given by God. Any such belief is personal not universal, or one is claiming God doesn’t desire a mutual relationship. Self-evident rights may be found in a Book or natural law, as we all have an inborn sense of good and evil. No rational being argues sexual abuse isn’t evil. We can though have healthy debates what climate policies are for the greater good. We can share our personal beliefs in God and other matters in the public arena without imposing or assuming we all agree what biblical values are.

Biblical truths are debatable

Hell is often used in religion circles to scare one into a commitment to God. Some commitment if just looking to avoid burning forever after death! Biblical scholars and laypeople don’t agree what the Bible says on Hell. Some argue unbelievers burn in Hell after death. Others believe the Bible reveals all when meeting God will become convinced their Creator is loving and desire to live for eternity with God. Circumstances here on earth may prevent such belief.

Religious folks often claim views contrary to their own views aren’t biblical. But even if you believe the Bible is inspired by God, the Bible requires interpretation. It is often said we best know God according to “biblical truths.” The truth is contrary biblical interpretations exist for many moral issues. No one can claim their truth is God’s truth according to the Bible. Yes, the Bible says murder is wrong but that is an obvious truth to those that don’t have a Bible.

Insisting on biblical truths often leads to misrepresenting God

It’s logical to suggest we can’t always be certain what an invisible, inaudibly God thinks, but supposed certainty has led to justifying slavery and other atrocities. Certainty has led to condemning gays, though scholars who accept Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree the Bible disapproves of same-gender loving, monogamous, consensual relationships. Women, though gifted, are denied entrance into the priesthood or pastorate in God’s name. Often uncertainty, not certainty about God, protects against imposing possible false beliefs about God. God surely is able to reveal their Likeness to individuals who desire a relationship.

Can We Stop Saying “Everything Happens For A Reason”!

Can We Stop Saying “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin”!

Can We Stop Saying Our Rights As A Nation Come From God? 

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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 Mike Edwards

God commanding violence in the Old Testament makes no sense in light of New Testament emphasize on non-violence. Check out I Sam. 15:3 where God says: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them: put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Many OT passages advocate violence in God’s name.  If you don’t think this is morally shocking to many, think how you would react if you read this same command in the Koran. How do scholars justify these commands by God in a book God supposedly inspired thus seemingly approved how God is depicted?

Bible inspired view #1

Many scholars may hold on the idea that God inspired the Bible because if not inspired we can’t know then what God is truly like. Those who suggest God approved or agreed with every word declared about God defend violent passages in several ways:

  • God is God, these are special circumstances, so God at times may make commands that seem contrary to human moral intuitions. The Bible advises we should imitate God but how can we do that if God’s actions seem evil at times? Are we to imitate those actions?
  • Warfare rhetoric was common in ancient literature to induce fear and victory. But, even if God wasn’t meant to be taken literally, why would God inspire violent metaphors to specifically include women, children, infants, and animals? Even human leaders don’t use such rhetoric.

Bible inspired view #2

Some scholars suggest that God inspired/influenced the Bible, but sometimes God allowed the writers to get God wrong to contrast with Jesus’ teaching about God. But “inspired imperfection” leads to guessing what passages are true views of God and which ones are not. Even if you believe in “inspired perfection,” you still must interpret if the language is warfare rhetoric or exactly what God meant to be carried out. Using our moral intuitions in deciding what God is like and would do is unavoidable.

An uninspired view of the Bible may be a better option

I think most would assume God approved what the writers penned if God inspired or influence such a thought. God either controlled the writers’ thoughts and writings to perfectly represent God, or God did not control writers reporting their views of God even if false portrayals. Writers/editors of the Bible didn’t intentionally lie but were honest about their understandings of God at the time. This may explain violence wrongly contributed to God. I doubt God inspired any writings contributing acts of violence to God in the OT. 

Why it matters?

People read the OT and since it contradicts their intuitions of a loving God, they tune out God. Who blames them! How do you follow One you don’t respect? Also, the Bible says: “Follow God’s example…” (Eph. 5:1). We know evil people are looking for an excuse for violence; good people may be trying to be obedient to God and sincerely believe their circumstances may warrant what God commanded in OT times. After all, God inspired such views. We might know God better if we assume the Bible isn’t inspired. One cannot avoid using their moral intuitions when it comes to interpretation or statements made about God in the OT. Do you have a hard time believing the OT’s God at times? I got a hunch you are right! Don’t leave your moral brain at the door!

Was God As Violent As Old Testament Claims?

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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 Mike Edwarads

Some suggest God doesn’t cause suffering, but allows it to bring about a greater good. The problem is that greater good doesn’t always come about. A surgeon may have to break open your chest to save your life, but what purpose is served from rape, torture, betrayal, murder, deception, corruption, incest, and genocide as if part of some grand plan?  From this twisted perspective, evil is good! God never wills or desire suffering. God desires to always bring joy to all. 

God’s love cannot be controlling 

We must come to some understanding why a loving God doesn’t stop a lot of suffering. A perfect God’s love must be uncontrolling just as it can’t be manipulative. Perfect power is uncontrolling. Ask older kids about their parents! A God who supposedly can prevent suffering but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child suffer. Keep in mind God doesn’t have hands and feet but is a Spirit. Evil and suffering in the world may be because God cannot intervene single-handedly without being controlling. God can’t interfere in suffering without human help.    

Why did God bother creating freedom? 

It is not logically possible for God to create freedom unless there is the possibility of love or hate.  I don’t know of any human parent who brings children into the world not desiring their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced. Without freedom we could accuse God of not creating the very best world where only true, authentic relationships can develop. Freedom allows human to develop qualities of moral character that cannot be created initially.  Freedom cannot guarantee a pain free universe. 

God not interfering may be the most compassionate

If I try to force my rebellious son to do right presently, he may further rebel or stay away forever. Not stopping my son may be the only hope I have that he eventually freely chooses good and experience joy from that. If I am patient and allow time for possible moral development, then he may freely choose to trust I have his best interest in mind. God didn’t create suffering to foster dependency; God created freedom out of love. Controlling love can have negative consequences.

Possible explanation for lack of healings 

Lots of prayers asking for healing are obviously not answered. If God can control disease and other evils, we are left to assume God’s love is infrequent. Miracles don’t happen because some people are less sinful or beg better at the feet of an arbitrary God. Conditions in our body may not always be right. Various biological and environmental factors are involved such as cells, organs, etc. If God doesn’t deny human freedom, it may not be a stretch to say God has to account for natural freedom as well. Miracles can happen when God’s uncontrolling love aligns with countless factors known and not known. God surely intervenes by all means when circumstances will allow.

Where is God?

An uncontrolling God may not always be comforting, but controlling love is an oxymoron. God has to be true to their loving nature. God is always doing all they can to stop suffering, but seeking God’s influence in our lives can be powerful. My seeking to influence others for good with God’s help is how I can best impact this world for good. A world seeking God’s guidance is unimaginable.

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 Jim Gordon

We are nearing another election season here in the USA. Each time election time comes around, I get aggravated seeing churches endorse candidates and allow politicians to come to their service and talk or be recognized. This is just another sign to me that the modern-day Christian church is off base and involved in things they should not be. There is separation of church and state for a reason.

I am not saying we as individuals should not be informed and that we should not vote. Each person should take the time to know what the candidates stand for, and then get out and vote for the ones they feel will do the best job. Yet, that does not mean churches need to be the ones to endorse candidates and issues.

The Church (“Church” meaning each individual believer) is here to love one another and show the love of God to all we come in contact with. The church (“church” meaning organized religion/building) is just another big business today. It is time the church stops allowing politicians to come in and be recognized as another way to get their name in front of voters. The “church” needs to stop being just another big corporation in America, and be there to encourage the “Church” to start being what God intended, a people sharing the love of God with everyone.

Another reason the church should not be involved with politics is, unfortunately, politics in general is a major divider between people. Most people who are Republican think the other party is a danger to our country, while those who are Democrat feel the same about the other party.

Rather than work together for the good of the country, there is more time spent on overcoming the power of the opposite party. I see more fights and arguments over political views. I see friends and even families separated because of their differing political ideas. Sadly, politics is certainly something that divides and brings out the worst in people.

Obviously, no specific politician or political party will be the answer to all our problems. It will take politicians and political parties working together for the common good of the people of this country. Finding such politicians will be up to the people who will get out and vote for politicians who are willing to do what is necessary for the good of us all, and not just a specific political party.

In all of this, I feel the job of the church is to focus on spreading the love of God to all people and not get bogged down in the game of politics which can cause further division among the people.

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

Polls suggest a majority of people believe there is a God or Higher Power, but we should be careful in our words assuming all have such a belief. Besides, many believe in a God but don’t agree what rights a God may bestow such as for gays. I cringe when those in the public arena claim our inalienable rights come from God. I find such a statement disrespectable to those who aren’t convinced there is a God. Even God respects one right to believe or not.

Not even the God of the Bible demands belief

If we didn’t have a Bible, we wouldn’t expect a loving God to force beliefs on others. Parents bring children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love for authentic relationships. Evil clearly exists today but God doesn’t annihilate immediately those who oppose God. God doesn’t demand belief but desires a relationship. And scholars don’t agree the Bible teaches a literal Hell as an eventual consequence for unbelief. Some biblical scholars believe the Bible reveals all when meeting God, if God exists, will be convinced their Creator is loving and desire to live for eternity with God. Circumstances here on earth may prevent such belief.

Do our rights come from man or government? 

I am opposed to politicians not being more careful in their language that implies or assumes all must believe in God to be on the straight and narrow. It is said we need to get back to biblical values but not all agree what those values are. Similarly, those who claim man or government give us our rights is just another version of required religion. We do not need to proclaim to all that our rights are given by God or Government.

Where do our rights come from? 

We all should have the freedom to establish our own beliefs. But there are universal self-evident truths. Even terrorists believe in the golden rule in relationships for themselves. They can deny your rights due to your beliefs but don’t dare deny their rights to their own beliefs. Self-evident rights may be discovered in a Book or natural law, as we all have an inborn sense of good and evil. No rational being argues for the right to sexually abuse or murder others. We can though debate what climate or immigration policies are for the greater good. A democratic society best allows making policy decisions that impact more than the individual.

How do we communicate our rights? 

We can share our personal beliefs in God and other matters in the public arena without imposing them on others. I am convinced that is how politicians must communicate who choose to represent all their constituents. They may share their personal beliefs but not communicate to imply God commanded a new world order. Don’t assume all believe in God. Determine what are self-evident truths and those that aren’t such as climate control or immigration policy. Fortunately, in a democratic society non-self-evident, beliefs are determined by vote. In other societies, those in power determine policy.

Can We Stop Saying “Everything Happens For A Reason”!

Can We Stop Saying “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin”!

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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Does it Sound Familiar?

(Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash)

by Jim Gordon

When I think back over my life within the church, I realized that I have been involved in church for nearly sixty years. I know my parents took me to church on the first Sunday I was home from the hospital and ready to be out in public.

I have so many good memories over the years of growing up in church. When I say church, I am talking about the building, the organization, the traditional religious system that we all think of when we say church.

I remember all the usual parts of church like going to Sunday school, vacation bible school, children’s church, junior church and youth group. I liked going to these activities and I never asked to stay home or miss them. Actually, I was disappointed if I was sick and could not go.

In the first church I was part of, I remember the main thing I was taught in Sunday school, at least in my eyes, was how to eat a cookie with my finger through the hole in the middle. I do not think my parents were very happy with that and it was not long afterward that my parents moved to another church where I stayed for another 20 years.

At that church we were taught all the traditional bible stories and were rewarded with pins for good attendance. I enjoyed learning and was presented a bible for doing so well with quizzes and attendance. I enjoyed meeting new kids my age and getting to know them, although it took a long time to do since I only saw them for an hour one day each week.

I was always part of vacation bible school each summer. My mom helped as an assistant or a teacher and I enjoyed hearing the bible stories and making crafts. I remember at the age of ten I accepted Christ at vacation bible school. I can remember listening to a nice older lady talk about how God loved us and sent his son to die for us. I remember raising my hand when she asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as savior, then I walked up front and was led in a prayer. Even at the age of ten I realized that just because my parents were Christians, I needed to make a decision for myself. It was the best decision I ever made.

Moving Up to the Youth Group

As the years went by, I moved up to the youth group and the various activities young teenagers get to do. I can remember one time I was on the phone with our youth leader for well over an hour as he tried to talk me into going on a youth camping trip that I wanted nothing to do with. He was sure he was going to talk me into going but in the end, I won out and did not go. I wondered why he spent so much time trying to convince me to go when he could have talked with three or four other kids who may have really enjoyed it.

Of course, as teenagers we would always find the best seat in the Sunday morning worship service, which was the back row. I think the pastor was just happy we were even in the service at all. I was also on the church basketball team and met more new people. I thought it a little weird that many of the kids on the church team were hot-tempered and foul mouthed. I knew that most were not regular church attendees and they only came to church during basketball season. I also knew they were required to be at church as often as possible if they wanted to play. Once basketball was over, I never saw them again until the next season.

(Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash)

Once people found out I could play the drums and the piano they quickly enlisted me to play for special services and the children’s church. I did not want to do it since I was extremely nervous about being in front of people, but I felt I would be wrong to turn down using my ‘talents’ for the Lord.

Once I said yes to something the ball really started rolling. Next, I was helping with Junior church, going on youth conference trips out of state, doing visitation with the pastor and then added to the Administrative Board. Wow, that was an eye opener.

I had always had a high regard for the church board members who were the ‘backbone’ of the church. I thought what spiritual people they must be to be entrusted with the plans and happenings of the church.

It did not take long to see that what went on in the monthly meeting was certainly not very spiritual. Up to that point, I had never seen so much arguing and disagreement in my life. Needless to say, I did not stay part of the board very long. I decided to leave that to the much older and wiser people (who knew how to argue much better than I).

Well, so much for the early years of my church attendance. It was pretty typical and non-eventful, but I really enjoyed the many experiences. I learned a lot and met many people who I enjoyed being around, although most of them I never saw outside of the church building or church events. This pretty much brings us up to my church history as a young adult.

The Young Adult Years

As a young adult I continued on with the weekly attendance at the same local church, although the particular place would be changing over time.

At my ‘home’ church my parents were always active and well known. My dad was the Sunday school superintendent and lay leader. My mom helped in junior church, vacation bible school and worked in the office on Sunday. As a young adult I have to say I enjoyed the popularity of being known by about everyone in the congregation. I even had my own key to the church building so I could go in anytime I wanted and pray or play the piano or just talk with a friend or two.

I think it was around this stage that things began to change for me. I began having questions about things I was reading in the bible, but I knew that it was best to keep these questions to myself. I figured there were logical explanations that I would figure out as time went by, or maybe it was a matter of not completely understanding the bible. Yet I knew they were not questions I should bring up openly or people would begin to question my faith.

A friend of mine invited me to his church one evening for a special service. After the service he introduced me to his pastor and we talked a little bit. The pastor was very friendly and seemed interested in having me there. He kept talking about getting together with me to play checkers and talk a bit, but when I told him I had a home church he all of a sudden lost interest, thanked me for coming and took off to talk to someone else.

After twenty years or so in my home church I felt it was time to move on. I thought I had come to a point where I was not learning or growing and a new church would be the answer. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a long-drawn-out process of eventually leaving the system.

As I began to venture out and look at other churches I first went to a church of the same denomination, thinking new people and a different pastor was what I needed. It did not take long to realize I was not satisfied any more than I was at my previous church. So off I went looking for a different denomination to try out.

A friend of mine at work suggested visiting his church because it was friendly and exciting and had a pastor that preached the ‘full gospel’. I thought I would give it a try and after a couple visits thought I had found the most spiritual people in town. I also found a woman there who later became my wife. It was a non-denominational church and openly participated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was on cloud nine for a while thinking I had found what I was looking for, a place where the Spirit was falling on the congregation and God would show up for each service.

It took ten years but as I got to know people on a more personal level, I found out they were not as spiritual as I had first thought. It turned out that many of them only used different spiritual words and terms but were no different than any other Christian I knew. The church service, although livelier and more exciting, was still pretty much the same format and normal way of doing things.

(Photo by Rachel Coyne on Unsplash)

So, what did I do? Yep, my wife and I headed off to another church. This time we landed at a different style church than I had ever been in before, a mega-church. Wow, talk about exciting. They had a full band and the service was televised so there were lights, sound systems and performers in make-up. Again, I thought I had found the most spiritual people I had ever known.

After about three years it all kind of lost its excitement. I again noticed the same underlying system was in place. It was a little different in the fact that the pastor, if seen anytime off stage was escorted by body guards. When I wanted to walk around the large church complex and take a look at things ushers stopped me and told me I was not allowed in that particular area. Now to someone who used to have a key to the church building this was a big blow. I just could not get used to the tight security and the TV professionalism the pastor and musicians carried out each week.

One Marriage Ends, Another Begins

About this time my marriage of thirteen years fell apart. Things just did not work out and we went our separate ways. It was a blow to me because I was always taught in church how much God hated divorce. I had heard that many pastors and church workers in the past were told they could no longer participate in leadership roles at church due to being divorced. I decided, due to guilt mainly, the best thing to do was to drop out of church. I figured I would no longer be accepted there and actually thought God might be mad at me. This went on for about three years.

Now the best thing for me happened when I met a new woman who would eventually become my current wife. Yes, we ended up getting married even though I was taught divorce was wrong but remarriage was even worse. We both felt very much in love and believed that the love we felt could not be wrong and we believed God brought us together to live a happy life for him. I also felt good when we agreed we needed to get back to church. Fortunately, things began to change when we found our new church.

This time we ended up back at a denominational church but much smaller and more like the church I grew up in. The pastor was different. He seemed to have an enthusiasm and preached with excitement that neither of us had seen before. It was a friendly church, yet as time went on, we realized it was a church that was pretty much run by two different families. As we got to know the pastor more, we found that he was frustrated from the pressure put on him by these families who wanted things done their way. We also found out that the pastor recently had an encounter with the Holy Spirit and he was preaching with new power and enthusiasm, something we really enjoyed but this particular denominational church wanted nothing to do with it. The pastor was a great help to my wife and I telling us about grace, forgiveness and the love of God like we had never heard before.

Unfortunately, this did not last but for a few years. The pastor moved out of state and the church kind of fell apart. So again, off we went looking for something else. What we found next was the beginning of the end of our time in the organization and began my final part of church history. Remember I have been part of the traditional church organization for some forty years at this point.

After our last pastor moved out of state and that church faded into history, we found a church that had interested us and excited us for a year or two. A friend of mine had told me about it and it sounded great to us. It was a non-denominational church and since our last church was gone, we decided to give it a try.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

This church was a little larger than what we were used to but was not a mega-church. The people were very friendly and there were so many activities in which to participate. We really liked that they gave food to the homeless and the poor in the area, they handed out water at parades and did several community related activities. After some time, we noticed that very few people tried to get to know us or spend time talking with us because they were so busy staying in groups with people they already knew. My wife actually called two different home group leaders and tried to find out information on joining the group but was met with resistance from leaders who did not seem to want ‘new’ people in their group.

Dissatisfaction with the church

It was at this time I was feeling a real dissatisfaction with the church system. I felt there must be something more, this did not seem to be what Jesus meant when he said he would build his church. There was so much division and separation, no one was allowed to talk or discuss anything and only a select few had control of the service, yet what I saw in the bible said we should all have a word, or a song or a prayer. I read that Jesus was the head and each of us are equally important parts of his body. And what about the verse telling us we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and he dwells within us. I kept thinking about this and wondering why so many said the building was the church and they kept saying come to our church because the Spirit is going to fall and God is going to show up at this particular meeting. Yet the bible said the Spirit fell a couple thousand years ago upon the Church, which was the people not a building. The Kingdom of God is within us and God is always with us, he is not going to show up at a special service when He is already within us.

It took us ten years at this particular church of going through the motions of getting up on Sunday morning, going to a service where we sat quietly looking at the back of someone’s head, going through the typical three songs, prayer, offering and listening to one person tell us their view of God, then getting up and walking out the door not seeing or hearing from anyone until the next Sunday. After several years of questioning and much dissatisfaction with the way the organized church seemed to be, we finally made the decision to leave the system and look to God for guidance. We began seeking the Holy Spirit to teach us because the bible says with the Spirit, we do not need anyone to teach us.

Of course, we were told by several people that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves with other Christians, yet I could not find in the bible where that meant we had to do so in a building on a specific day at a set time. My wife and I started asking God to lead us to people who we could encourage and who would encourage us. It was not long before we started having chance encounters with people, most of whom were going through or had gone through the same thoughts and feelings we were having.

Outside the Walls of Religion

We have found being outside of the organized church, we have been more open to meeting and accepting people who were different in their beliefs or lifestyle. We read in the bible where Jesus loved people and he did not separate himself by denominations or beliefs. Jesus was God in human form and God is love. We certainly did not always see a lot of love within the system because many seemed to think they were better than others or they had to stay away from certain people. So many felt they needed to point out the sins and mistakes of others or they were denying God.

We feel the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin and it is not our job to point out where others may be wrong, if they are wrong at all. The Spirit will do the job of pointing out what needs to be changed and dealt with, we as followers of Christ are only called to love.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

Since being out of the system for about seven years now, neither of us have any desire to return. We have put our dependence on God and the Spirit for guidance and we are finding more and more believers to have fellowship with outside the walls of the traditional church. We would certainly not tell anyone not to go to church if that is what they want to do. For myself, I had many years within the system that were good and meaningful. I learned many things and had many good experiences in the system. My wife and I were not abused or hurt by the church but we felt a real unrest with the system. After being out of it we have found more meaningful fellowship and a closer walk with God than we ever did in the past.

Will we ever return to the church system? I do not know. Right now, I would say no because we have found a freedom and a dependence upon God that we never knew within the system. Yet we want to follow God and do what he leads us to, so if that would be where he wanted us sometime in the future then we would return.

I personally feel the system is wrong, not the people. There are many people within the organization that truly love God and are seeking to do what pleases him. There are many pastors and church workers who feel they are doing what they were called to do and I will not fault them for that. I think the organization is the problem. The organization is dependent on human leadership and human interpretation which causes division. I do not believe the church system is what Jesus was talking about when he said he would build his church. The Church is the people, not a building nor an organization.

Final Thoughts

If you are satisfied within the church system, then stay where you are until you feel God leading you to something else. If you feel the same unrest in your soul that we did for many years and are thinking of leaving the organization, then do so without any guilt. The Kingdom of God is within us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We can have fellowship any day, any place, any time when God brings us together for a meal or a time of talking or praying with another person or two. We want to live each day of our lives in fellowship with the Spirit, listening for his guidance and showing the love of God to any he brings along our path.

So, this brings us to the end of my church history as I knew it growing up. Yet it is not the end of my Church history because I am, along with every believer, part of the Church. It is not a building, it is not a system, not a man-run organization but it is each and every one of us who love God. Each of us are equally functioning parts of the body following Jesus who is head of the Church.

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