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Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

After many years of growing up in the traditional institutional church many things have changed over the past few years.

Of course, while in the religious system I was ‘set apart’ from the supposedly wrong kind of people. We had our friends within our particular brand of religion and tried to stay away from people who saw things differently.

We were told it was best to associate with like-minded people and fellow believers who agreed with our doctrines and interpretations, but beware of people who have different beliefs or who came from difference faiths or, worse yet, no faith at all.

After over fifty years in organized religion my wife and I came to a point where we felt it best to leave the system and follow a life with God outside of organized religion.

I would not tell anyone to do this or try to draw anyone out of church if that is where they are happy and satisfied. I personally believe the system is flawed and for those who choose to do so, it is better outside the walls than in. But that is a decision I would leave to each person to make under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I can say for us, after leaving we have been happy with the life we have found. We have freedom to follow the Spirit as he guides us. We rely on him rather than putting our faith and trust in a pastor or some spiritual leader. We have found more meaningful fellowship as God brings people into our lives to actually talk rather than sitting quietly in a service looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us.

After going through the process of leaving and starting to write on Done with Religion, I have had the opportunity to meet many new people from various walks of life, various faiths and religious beliefs. I have met many nice people that are LGBT and atheists as well and I am so glad to have done so.

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It seems to me being open to being friends with all people is so much better and interesting than feeling we are some kind of holy people who should stay away from others. It does not take long to realize that the labels that are placed on others do not completely described the person behind it.

Obviously, we are not going to agree on many subjects yet we can look past those differences and find many things we do share in common. We all want to have a meaningful, purposeful life. We all want love and friendship. We all want to get our bills paid, enjoy life and be happy. We all have causes and interests we want to promote and be successful at doing.

So rather than thinking you have to stand your ground on certain topics and separate yourself from others, look past those things and see the fellow human being in each person you meet. It seems much better to enjoy the friendships of all kinds of people in this life rather than let the differences separate us.

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As a Christian growing up in the traditional church we always heard that atheists were our enemy. They deny the God we love and say he does not exist.

As time has gone on I have found that only part of that way of thought is correct. Atheists are not our enemies. In fact, they are no different than anyone else with the exception that they do deny that there is a God or any gods. I have several friends that are Atheists and believe it or not, they are normal people just like you and me.

AtheistsandChristiansAccording to statements made on atheists.org, “Atheism is one thing: a lack of belief in gods. Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion”.

The idea that Christians and Atheists are enemies and cannot get along is the wrong way to think. So many Christians see things differently and interpret the bible in so many different ways, yet we are all part of the body of Christ. We all have our unique and individual thoughts, interpretations, ways of life and interests. In the same way, although Christians and Atheists see things differently there is no reason why we cannot get along and treat each other respectfully and with kindness.

Christians and Atheists are the same in the fact that, again quoting from atheists.org “All atheists are different. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints. Atheists exist across the political spectrum. We are members of every race. We are members of the LGBTQ community. There are atheists in urban, suburban, and rural communities and in every state of the nation”.

Christians come in all the same areas as mentioned above. We are all unique and, coming from a Christian perspective, we are all created in the image of God and are loved by God.

I understand that Atheists do not think this way, and that is OK. Rather than condemn one another and argue and name call, we should accept that we are different and we see things differently. Unfortunately, I see this happen from time to time from Atheists and Christians alike. I wish we could accept that we are different in this one area and treat each other with respect and decency.

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One last quote from atheists.org “Being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re sure about every theological question, have answers to the way the world was created, or how evolution works. It just means that the assertion that gods exist has left you unconvinced. Wishing that there was an afterlife, or a creator god, or a specific god doesn’t mean you’re not an atheist. Being an atheist is about what you believe and don’t believe, not about what you wish to be true or would find comforting”.

Not much different from Christianity. We cannot prove anything spiritually or in regard to creation or evolution or if God is real or not. We certainly believe in God. We believe Jesus came to show us that God is love, yet we cannot prove it one way or another.

I am certainly not an expert on Atheism and as a Christian I do not think Atheism is the correct way of thinking. Yet Atheists think the same way about us Christians. The main point for me is to be accepting, loving, kind and respectful to all people no matter how they choose to believe, not believe or what they do not accept. Under all the labels such as Christian, Atheist, LGBT, Muslim and so forth we are human beings who have a variety of interests in life, we want to be happy and live a good life. There is no reason why we have to act as enemies due to a different perspective on God.

From my viewpoint, God is able to take care of himself. We can talk until we are blue in the face but that will not change most people. It is the Spirit that leads people to the Father. He will convict people of what needs to be changed in their lives, it is not our job. Until God makes himself known in a way that Atheists come to know there is a God, we should accept the differences and continue to love God and love others just as they are.

(Quotes taken from atheists.org About page at https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/about-atheism/)

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In a day when many feel it is the job of the Christian to point out the sins and mistakes of others, I personally do not see Jesus being that way.

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Jesus associated with all kinds of people and he showed love toward them. He was genuinely interested in them and accepted them. That does not mean he always agreed with them, but he accepted them as they were. He treated them with love and respect.

Acceptance does not necessarily mean we agree or condone the actions of another, it just means we are kind, respectful and show the love of God to them. We obviously are not all going to agree on things, yet we should be able to treat one another with kindness.

Many say we have to point out the sins of others and warn them of impending doom or we are not fulfilling our obligation as a Christian. Yet I feel that we are told the Spirit will convict people of changes that should be made. The Spirit will draw people to the Father. We are not called to do the work of the Spirit, we are called to show the love of the Father to all people.

My opinion is that showing love and acceptance to people is more in line with the way Jesus treated others. He did not condemn, he did not hate, he did not associate only for ulterior motives of getting people to join him. In fact, the only people Jesus seemed to have issues with were the religious leaders who thought they were so much holier than others. They were mad at Jesus for associating with people they determined were the sinners and lower class of the day.

For me, rather than point out sins, rather than show condemnation and many times down right hatred towards people, I would rather do what Jesus tells us to do. Love God will all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor (all people) as yourself.

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Love and acceptance does not mean we agree on everything. We love through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Love and genuine friendship will draw people into conversations and respect for one another, thus providing an atmosphere where we can all learn from one another and respect one another.

Unfortunately, one of the major issues many christians seem to have is in regard to LGBTQ issues. I am not sure why, but people who consider this to be a sin jump on this issue more than anything.

To me, I like to follow this way of thinking. Whether you are LGBTQ affirming or not, there is no reason to treat people with hate and contempt. Whatever you think about LGBTQ, right or wrong, affirming or non-affirming, be respectful, kind and show the love of God to all people.

We are all made in the image of God. We all have our interpretations and opinions. We each have to follow what we feel is right for us, but we do not have to force our views on others.

Accept each other for who we are and follow your convictions for yourself. There is no reason to be hateful toward anyone. We are all loved by God just the way we are now. If there is anything that needs to be corrected or changed in us, the Spirit will gently persuade us in the way we should go. It is not up to people to do the work of the Spirit.

Love and accept others. This means LGBTQ, atheist, people from different religions, races and nationalities. You do not have to agree with them. Show them love. Love makes more of an impact on people than does hatred, condemnation and forcing personal views on them.

Remember we are not told to go force our views and beliefs on others. We are told to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.

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Growing up in the organized church, I was taught over time that we actually had enemies within the religious world and that certain groups of people were to be avoided.

I do not think this was done openly but very subliminally, it was just something that you picked up over the years in the christian religion.

I can say this because I spent well over fifty years in the organized christian church and I know how I used to feel. Fortunately, not everyone in the church system feels this way but it does seem to be a pretty normal way of thought for those of us who grew up in it.

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Let me be clear, I no longer think this way. I believe Jesus came to show the love of God to all people and he accepted and respected everyone.

Yet in the church system I found that things such as, if you attend a certain denomination all the other denominations do not quite measure up.

If you are a christian then those outside of christianity are to be avoided. Of course acting like a friend so you can witness to them and try to convert them to christianity was OK. I know for a fact that friendship with ulterior motives can be very disheartening.

I found that inside the christian religion atheists are considered to be our enemy. They deny that God exists and it is best for us to stay far away from them so that doubt does not creep into our own way of thinking.

Inside the church system the gay community is to be condemned and shunned. Anyone openly admitting they are gay is an abomination to God and thus to us also. After all, people choose to be gay and that means they are choosing to go against God. Wait, I do not remember choosing to be straight, it is just the way I am. Is that not the case with people who are gay?

People of other religions such as hinduism, buddhism. confucianism, gnosticism, judaism, islam or a host of other religions were considered to be confused and wrong in their beliefs. Nothing measured up except christianity. Still, christianity is a religion created by men. Jesus did not come to start a religion and he is not the head of the christian religion.

Being outside the walls of religion, I have come to see people as people. I have come to know several people of all beliefs and ways of life and have found them to be good friends. We all have our different backgrounds and beliefs but we are all basically the same.

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No matter what label the world or religion puts on people, that does not completely describe who they are. Each of us is a person who basically wants the same things and same goals in life. We all want to be happy, to be loved and accepted and to live a good life. We all go about it in different ways but the basics are the same.

Rather than judge and condemn others who do not see things the way we do, it is time we do what Jesus said to do. Love God and love others. We are not here to judge, condemn and try to force people into accepting things the way we see them. The Holy Spirit will draw, convict and change people if that is what is needed. We are only called to be loving and kind to all we meet. Being loving does not mean we always agree, but we can show the love of God and be respectful even in our differences.

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Many times in the christian world we find people who are acting and responding in ways that are very judgmental and condemning.

Especially when it comes to the gay community, atheists and those of various religious groups and denominations that differ in doctrine from what we think is right. Many of us christians have a hard time accepting people who think differently.

We would rather fight and defend our interpretation and doctrine and prove our christian moral way of living rather than show the love of Christ and accept people the way they were made.

I do not understand why we feel the need to try to prove our point and why we feel it is required to make sure everyone knows that the way we follow God is the only right way.

bibleversions

A lot of us cannot even accept and associate with other believers from a different denomination. So many people say their version of the bible is the only true version or their type of church is the only true church.

I get so fed up with the pride and arrogance of some (not all) groups of christians who think they have it all figured out and their way is right and you had better believe like they do or they want nothing to do with you.

Even some christians in the same church, those who have been good friends for years will turn on you if you leave their church. How many times have you been involved in a church and think it is great and the people are loving and kind only to find once you leave the group you never hear from any of them again?

Though no longer within the institutional church, I had been in the system for well over 50 years so I know what I am talking about. I am not out to bash the church but it does aggravate me to see people who are supposed to show the love of God to all people, yet act so unloving and judgmental to people who think differently. Fortunately not every church or christian group is like this but certainly it is the norm for a lot of them.

jesusseeninyou

Why is it that so many christian people are so mean and condemning to gay people? Why is it we see atheist as our mortal enemy? Why do we reject the interpretations and beliefs of other christians who attend a different denomination, or worse yet who do not go to church at all? Jesus, who is our example, was not like that yet many people did not grow up in church and did not read the bible. Because of this they do not know what Jesus was like. They only know that we who claim to follow Christ act in such a mean and unloving way.

We need to remember that behind every label we put on people there is a human being. No matter who we are, what we believe, no matter what our lifestyle or our feelings about God, we all are deserving of love and acceptance. Just like each of us who are now christians were loved and accepted by God even before we knew anything about Him, we should be loving and accepting to everyone we meet because we may be the only Jesus they see.

 

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So many times we christians get the idea that we are not supposed to associate with people who are not believers. We seem to sometimes isolate ourselves and feel the need to separate ourselves from those who see things differently.

book-store

I at one time felt the same way myself. I wanted to be in church every time the doors were open and I wanted to work for a christian book store so I would constantly be around christian people. Boy how my views have changed.

 

I have also noticed that a lot of christian people seem to have bad feelings toward those of different race, LGBT, atheist, muslim and even other christian denominations. At one church I actually saw some of the worst hatred toward the pastor of the church.

I had been involved for years in the church and around religious people. I do not want to put everyone into the same basket but there seems to be many that feel this way.

Fortunately I have had a change of mind and have come to find that separating ourselves is not what God intended for us anyway.

Jesus said he did not want to take his disciple out of the world, yet he said to come out and be separate. What was he talking about? Could it be he meant that we were to come out of the religious system and the world system and live in the Kingdom system in this world now? We know we are not to separate ourselves from those living in the world, yet we can separate ourselves from the religious and world system by allowing the Spirit to guide us, teach us and love others through us.

We know the world system is opposite from the Kingdom system. The world system is the mess we call life today under man’s rule, thinking only of ourselves, hatred, greed, worry and materialism to name a few. Or as 1 John 2:16 says, for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.

Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you. The Kingdom of God is love. We know the Spirit of Christ came to live within us as believers and we no longer need the religious system or a building and pastor since now we are the temple and the Holy Spirit is our teacher.

Jesus did not separate himself from those who thought differently. Rather than being isolated from those who think, believe and act differently than those of us who believe in God, I feel we should be out there around those who are different and show the love of God to them.

It is just as in our personal families, there are those who have different views, different beliefs and different lifestyles yet we love them. We are to be the same with those in this world, we can have our differences yet we respect and love them anyway.

lovegodlivelikejesus

Jesus said to love God and love others. He never said we have to agree and be the same. But we are not to treat those who are different from us with any less love and acceptance. Rather than separate ourselves and make it look like we think we are better than everyone else, we should allow the Spirit to live through us showing the love of God to everyone.

 

Not everyone is going to believe like we do or accept our way of thinking. Jesus never said to only associate with like-minded people. We are to love God and love others, showing them that God loves them just as much. Whether we believe the same or not we are all humans created and loved by God. We are to let the world see the love we have for our Father and for one another remembering that Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”.

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I am becoming more and more angered over the so-called religious freedom acts being signed into law in various states across our country.

I know it sounds good, and I do believe everyone should have the freedom to choose their religious beliefs or to not accept any religious beliefs. Yet a lot of these bills sound more like discrimination to me.

When we sign into law a bill that forces one groups views on everyone, or when the religious beliefs of one group are forced on another group, that is not standing up for your faith…that is discrimination. When we can forfeit the normal human rights and privileges that everyone should be entitled too, just because they do not go along with one groups ideas of morality and normal day-to-day living, I think we have gone to far.

ReligiousFreedomAct

I can hardly believe in our modern time laws are being passed saying that if you have a certain religious belief, you do not have to give the same rights and consideration to a certain group of people just because they differ from you.

What happened to the teaching of Jesus to love our neighbors and do not judge. Do we not remember that Jesus spent time with the non-religious people and those who the religious crowd would not spend time.

We need to remember, just because people are different, just because we have different views and different faiths or no faith at all, God created us all and He loves us all. We, as his followers are to do the same.

We are not going to legislate christian morality. We are not going to convert anyone to our way of thinking by passing laws, especially those that discriminate against anyone. Remember, as christians we are to love God, love our neighbor, love our enemies, love those who hate us and mistreat us. The Holy Spirit is the one who will convict the world of sin where convicting is needed. We should stop trying to do the job of the Spirit and love one another in spite of our differences.

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