20 Quick Steps From Loving God to Hating Others

  1. I know God. You, having a different God, clearly do not God.
  2. My God is the true God. Your God, therefore, cannot be the true God.
  3. My God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and sustains the world through a mere exercise of his or her will. Your God is a sorry delusion that only someone raised in your foreign culture could even begin to consider credible.
  4. My God is the God. Your God is an imposter.
  5. My God offers eternal salvation. Your God is a one-way ticket to a place no person would ever want to go.
  6. My God is good.
  7. Anything that exists in opposition to my God is bad.
  8. You clearly have a choice: my God, or your deceptive evil.
  9. If you choose your deceptive evil over my awesome God, then, as you surely understand, you limit my options.
  10. For verily has my God called upon me to resist evil, in all of its manifestations.
  11. And if you choose to align yourself with the evil that I am sworn to resist, then surely you understand that in my response I have no choice.
  12. I will draw your blood, and the blood of your children.
  13. I will be deaf to your screams.
  14. What can I do? My God, being infinitely good, will stand for nothing less.
  15. My hands are tied, you see? I am a servant of the most high God.
  16. Of the only good, real, and true God.
  17. We will be victorious.
  18. We will take your land. We will take your children. We will take your women.
  19. We will take all that is yours.
  20. And when we have done that, and you are vanquished, our God will be pleased.


See how easy?

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  • Stephen McBride

    When were you in Northern Ireland, old chap?!

    Actually that’s a bit unfair, given that the NI conflict was effectively a politcal and ethnic one, rather than a religious one. But there are elements of the above I’d have grown up with.

    Over here in the UK, this seems to be manifesting itself in schools and colleges amongst elements (and I stress elements) of disaffected Islamic youth, mainly male. I know the iman of the mosque in the town where the school I work in is, is tearing his hair out over this very issue, and he, and parents, battle against the various political youth groups that see a recuitment base amoongst boys aged 15-20.

    Is there a solution? The history teacher in me would, alas think it not likely. I would however gladly be wrong on that score.

  • Micheal G Groshong

    Typical crusader mentality of the 12th Century. No much has changed in some forms of Christianity today. It was wrong then and it is wrong, now.

  • Amy

    This makes me so sad.

  • It’s exactly this “all or nothing” mentality that has driven the evangelical and fundamentalist church for several decades… and it pretty much defines how “conservative” politics is defined as well… “I am good, everything else is bad, trust only me.”

    Which is reason to call into question everything they say. As a Christian, I question EVERYTHING… and it’s a good thing. Here’s why: when we demand or require facts for our faith, it ceases to be faith. Faith… doesn’t require evidence; in fact Scripture says it IS evidence.

    So yes, I question everything — even the Bible. I don’t have to have it as “infallible” in order to follow its teachings or to worship the Christ it describes. I even pick and choose how I follow its teachings. We all do it. Some of us are just a little more willing to be honest about it.

  • Yes. You absolutely nailed it. Exclusivity comes from both fear of the other and quest for power. As Emil Brunner pointed out “Claims to Truth are claims to power.” Which makes me worried when I hear some preachers go on and on about “absolute Truth” to which they have access, and anyone who disagrees with them do not, and are, therefore, evil. And that`s a politically and theologically dangerous place to be.

  • Fe’Dricka Moore


  • My husband I were so hoping you would write a follow up answering yesterday’s question, and of course, you did not disappoint.

    Great answer!

  • Judi Phillips

    Yes indeed exclusivity. If I had the ability to write a respectable essay, I would love to write about how exclusivity is destroying society and how it begins with the brainwashing Yahweh Cults (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). If “God” is one thing, then “God’ cannot be something else, or the “other’ thing, leaving ability for clever people (men) to describe and account for “God’ in their own preferred way, excluding whatever they deem helpful to their dogma; like exclusion of women, which is half the species, half the battle licked. Gay people fit into the exclusion category just fine.

    “God” has innumerable names and identities. God IS EVERYthing. God is the Creative Force of Life. God (and Goddess) are one in the same and ALL inclusive. No one NEEDS A CHURCH of people telling what is what. Dump the flippin religion and witness “God” in your OWN WAY! God is love and life. How easy could it be? “God” is not difficult, people are.

  • Since I am not a universalist (Christian or otherwise), I bought about the first third of it, but beyond that it clearly got out of Jesus-like conduct.

  • I don’t get it.

  • It reads – to be honest – like a “camel’s nose in the tent” article.

  • Driftwood2K11

    Completely agreed, John. The other part of your thought process here also leads to what we see in so many churches today, the idea that these Christians are somehow being oppressed (see “War on Christmas”) by the demon/pagan/liberal/atheist hordes. When your faith is exclusive, you can also claim sacrifice, because by it’s exclusivity, anyone who isn’t a part of that particular faith is working to bring it down from the outside. It’s why in so many of those faiths, seeking out questions beyond the small window afforded in only certain Biblical translations results in the persecution of anyone who dares to look.

    I remember, at one point, asking a friend (this was in high school), why the King James Bible was the only accurate Bible, and his response was that Satan worked through “elitist” scholars who bent the Word to their will. When you face that kind of mindset, coupled with it’s exclusive nature, you get a dangerous combination.

  • It sounds exactly like what the Dominionists have planned for the USA.

  • “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven….The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.” – Mark Twain / “The Lowest Animal”

    “The inventor of their heaven empties into it all the nations of the earth, in one common jumble. All are on an equality absolute, no one of them ranking another; they have to be “brothers”; they have to mix together, pray together, harp together, hosanna together–whites, (blacks*), Jews, everybody–there’s no distinction. Here in the earth all nations hate each other, and every one of them hates the Jew. Yet every pious person adores that heaven and wants to get into it – He really does. And when he is in a holy rapture he thinks he thinks that if he were only there he would take all the populace to his heart, and hug, and hug, and hug!

    – Mark Twain / ‘Letters from the Earth’

    (*sanitized for my protection)

  • Donald Rappe

    From the principle that all religion except mine is false, it immediately follows that all religion is false. (Paul Tillich wrote that somewhere.)

  • Now THAT is a serious quote. Thank you, Donald. (And Merry Christmas! I didn’t get a chance to express that to you earlier.)

  • The only thing I would add (or tweak) to make this more reflective of the dynamic out there is “certitude.”. It is the certitude with which many believe theirs is the only god or the only way that feels so dangerous to me. If any of these zealots would consider there MIGHT be another way…even to entertain the notion…and that these ways might coexist, it would be so much less frightening to me. We humans are too often way too certain of ourselves and the unknowable for my comfort level.

  • Amanda Hiland

    Amen, John! 🙂

    In my life I have seen Muslims chase Christians around with this attitude, I’ve seen Christians chase people of other faiths (or no faith) around with this attitude, and I’ve even seen atheists chase Christians around with this attitude (which I thought was kind of weird.) It is silly and counterproductive no matter which way it goes. I would have been laughing if I didn’t know how very dangerous the viewpoints which these persecutors hold really are.

  • Richard W. Fitch

    If “God” *IS*, God is ONE.

    “I know now in part; then I shall know even as I am known.”

    An abstract of The Six Blind Men From Hindustan:

    Trunk = snake

    Leg = tree

    Tusk = spear

    Ear = fan

    Side = wall

    Tail = rope

    All right and wrong at the same time.

  • I believe in one God. Therefore, your God must be ok because there is only one God. Duh.

  • That’s like saying all the contestants on To Tell The Truth are fakes.

  • charles

    it seems to create tension with John 14:6

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.


  • Gary

    I confess…I am a Christian Universalist. (I.E. I believe Christ provided the means of salvation…but it was the “Good News for ALL men” as the angel declared that night when The Christ child came into the world.

    Religious bigotry is as offensive as racial or homosexual or any other type. Perhaps even more so because it is often to root of the others.

    Once again…outstanding post.

  • Gary

    The good news…the path Jesus provided…was for ALL men according to the angel’s declaration on the night He was born. Christian Universalism is alive and well…praise God.

  • Mr. Dixon for the win!

  • The problem is that you can’t make an accurate measurement when you only have one fixed point.

    If by “religion” we mean denominations, yeah, it’s wrong to go around saying all other denominations are false. (I use “denominations” here to include non-Christian religious beliefs.)

    But if by “religion” one means a relationship with God that transcends denominations, then one is not necessarily wrong to say any other form of religion is false.

    Let me offer this analogy:

    It is wrong to say the only acceptable liquid to drink is Diet Pepsi and that anyone who says it’s okay to drink any other type of soda is making a false statement.

    It is not wrong say we need water in some form to survive and that anyone who says drinking other liquids (ammonia or gasoline, f’r instance) is okay is making a false statement.

  • IIRC, “the troubles” are at least a century older than Protestantism.

  • Mindy

    This!! Yes. And John – your post is spot on, as usual.

    Exclusion via certainty and the “fingers-in-the-ears-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA” response to any dissenting opinion. The exclusion, of course, which we dare not question.

    So we must.

  • Gregory

    Sorry to introduce an opposing view point, but every modern atheist regime has behaved exactly that same way. Think of how tolerant Nazism, Russian and Chinese Communism, and Italian fascism were of of opposing philosophies. It’s not just religious folk who have believed/ behaved in an “all or nothing” stance.

  • Gary

    How is this an opposing view when the topic is exclusivity?

  • The scary part is, I just finished reading someone who was saying this about a fellow Christian. Like,

    My God is all-knowing, and all-powerful, and sustains the world through a mere exercise of his or her will. Your God is a sorry delusion that only someone raised in your completely foreign culture (i.e. an American Liberal) could even begin to consider credible.

  • Seconded. This isn’t a Christian problem. It’s a human problem.

    Many of us – maybe most of us – rely on a single unit of measure: ourselves. The more other people behave like us, the more praiseworthy their thoughts and actions seem. Doing things another way – even if it works just as well for them – seems wrong to us. I think the tendency is stronger in some people than others, and I think some people do a better job of growing out of it than others, but the basic tendency seems pretty universal to me.

  • Hmm.

    Insert “My lack of God…yadda yadda… because your belief in a God is a petty delusion and you are holding back the godless utopia which I dream about.”


    But the topic was specifically about religion, not the lack thereof.

  • Is there a “Take another option” in this?

    I’m fond of “Believing I am right about any given thing, but walking away and letting the wrong person be wrong.”

    Religion aside, it’s been a good way to quell household and workplace fights.

  • Gary

    Oh my…scary.

  • Scott

    I see no tension at all. Christ died once, for ALL. Therefore ALL come to the Father, BY HIM.


  • Did you put this up before and then take it down? R am I having someone else’s acid flashbacks?

  • Christy

    And so that makes totalitarian-minded religious folk different how? Which means they have the entire concept of God and the Divine…..how shall we say: FUBAR.

  • Well, it’s a good flashback. 🙂

  • Christy

    Yes, ego and selfishness, they are a human problem – all the more galactically maladjusted when infused with religion.

  • Tricia Sturgeon via Facebook

    Wish I had one of those right now. :/

  • This post is brand new, as of about an hour ago.

  • (wait. maybe two.)

  • Or four. :: RUNS ::

  • Holly

    Yes. Exactly.

  • Hmm… I swear the link was posted with a dufferwnt heading and I commented on it. Perhaps it is bedtime for me, lol?

  • Either way, excellent post, John!

  • Reminds me of children on a playground: ‘My daddy can beat up your daddy!’

  • Joe Lang

    Reminiscent of the argument of the student who, when challenged by his thermodynamics professor to prove that Hell is either exothermic, (giving off heat and therefore adequately stocked with fuel to last forever), or endothermic, (absorbing heat and likely to eventually run down from lack of fuel), stated as the beginning of his thesis that the question of who would go to hell was satisfied by the fact that all religions consider all others to be heretical. Therefore, all are doomed to go to Hell, meaning a completely adequate supply of fuel.

    However, given that, the student noted that the question left out important data, such as area and amount of energy released by one candidate who entered Hell. However, his conclusion was that Hell is decidedly exothermic. He based this on the fact that he had asked the nurse in the clinic if she would go out with him and she had replied, “When Hell freezes over.” Since she had not yet gone on a date with him, Hell must, therefore, have a more than adequate supply of fuel and would be glowing for the forseeable future.

    (Yes, he was the only student who passed that particular test.)

  • EmilyS

    LOVE IT!

  • This verse does not mean what you think it means. Mainly, that Jesus is the only way to God.

    Firstly, it’s taken out of context. Jesus was talking with his disciples, trying to comfort them after revealing that he would soon die.

    Second, the English words for “I” and “comes” were, I believed, mistranslated from their original Aramaic and Greek words. The word translated as “I” is the Armaic “ena-ena” which means “I-I” as in the great “I AM” or God. Similarly, the word “comes” in the original Greek was “Erchetai” which is translated as “to arrive” or “to go” and is a present-form verb. That means this verse was meant specifically for those he was talking to at that time.

    I think it would make more sense if you read it as “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I AM is the way and the truth and the life. All of you here, right now, have come to the Father through me.'”

    Or, if you really wanted to make it apply to the “now”. You could read it as “Jesus answered, ‘God is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to God except through God.'” Which is still very true.

  • Donald Rappe

    I particularly agree with your last paragraph. In this statement and many like it John the Evangelist is laying down the foundation for what would become known as the doctrine of the Trinity. It is not intended to bring God down to the human level, an idolatry; it intends to raise the human to the divine level, in Jesus. The arrogance that contact or inclusion in the Jesus movement is a necessity for the salvation which Jesus offers is hand in hand with a misconstruction of the trinity teaching. The compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ is not in conflict with the compassion of the Bodhisattva Quan Yin, She who hears the cry (of all). The trinity teaching tells us that The God reveals himself in more than one divine Figure. This was necessary to amalgamate the Jewish and Greek religious ideas in early Christianity and it remains a serious basis for Christian universalism. (For God so loved the world …)

  • Donald Rappe

    In hoc signet vinces FUBAR.

  • An interesting alternative title would be, “I’m just a religious bully because the Bible tells me to be one.”

  • I keep trying to find where in the bible it give people the right to be a bully. It is that kind of mindset that I try harder every day to distance myself from.

  • Which is exactly the point. Far too many people use their religious views as a basis for their bully behavior.

  • Lymis

    I agree, except that that sad part is that it more like two first cousins saying “My grandpa can beat up your grandpa!”

  • Aaaaah. As I was saying. Sorry – new fan. Haven’t scrolled the archives. :). Ever read “Does God Have a Big Toe?”. Misrashim for children, but I’ve never read a book that better encapsulates my feelings about god and religion.

  • Lymis

    While I don’t ascribe to Biblical literalism or the inerrancy of all translations, I do note that (at least in modern English) the quote is exactly what you say: “No one comes to the Father except through me”

    What it does NOT say is things like:

    “No one comes to the Father except by being a member of a branch of the Church people will organize after my Resurrection.”

    “No one comes to the Father except through a book that people will write, organize, edit, vote on, translate, and editorialize after I am not around in Person to explain it any more.”

    “No one comes to the Father except as a result of what theology they believe while they are still alive.”

    “No one comes to the Father except through earthly allegiance to Me in the sort of way people support kings and governments.”

    There is absolutely nothing in that quote the even implies that a Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or agnostic cannot “come to the Father through Jesus.” It doesn’t even imply that they would have to stop being Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or agnostic to do so. It’s pretty clear that Jesus didn’t feel people had to stop being Jewish to get to God.

  • joe

    Christians forget the part where Christ said we should,”resist not evil.”

  • Or more to the point, “My daddy can beat up your daddy, but he’s not here so I’ll beat you up instead. My daddy will be so proud.”

  • My daughter has a Masters in Medieval History. “Killing” for God as been going on forever. The whole thing is LUNACY!!

  • My daughter has a Masters in Medieval History. “Killing” for God as been going on forever. The whole thing is LUNACY!!

  • Eddie Matchett

    I think that human beings will always find an excuse to do those things – religion (and especially ‘exclusive’ religion) is just a way to justify those types of behaviors. We don’t like to just blatantly do something – we need an ‘excuse’.

  • Well put John. And sadly, O so needed. Alas, we need to have such reminders put before us. The following words are my attempt to avoid exclusivity: http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/Postlude.html


  • Aliyah Aldridge via Facebook

    Do you think exclusivity is responsible for the profound moral distortion of fundamentalists?

    For these people, the rules of their religion are about others – not them. Mohamed Atta died with vodka on his breath. Haredi in Israel light fires on Shabbat to protest busses running on Shabbat. I don’t think I have to persuade you that Christian extremists are in their own lives often loath to follow the commandments of Christ.

    The religion of fundamentalists and extremists is about power. It’s not about what they believe – it’s about how they’re right. It’s not about how they run their lives, but how they run yours. It’s not about submission to God, but dominion of man. It becomes a sort of identity movement not dissimilar to racist or nationalist movements, and the commandments and doctrines of the faith become mere weapons to use against others.

    It’s not just about power and ego though. There is a true moral and ethical blindness. Christians who brutalize gay people, break up families, and incite genocide swear that they are protecting families and spreading the love of Christ. Jewish and Muslim extremists who assault women for dressing “immodestly” claim that they are preserving the dignity of women. And good luck on you if you try to persuade any of them of the obvious fact that they’re doing something horrible.

  • Love it!!

  • Wonderful. Thank you (have been eager to hear alternative ways to interpret that verse for some time).

  • Katie Edmunds Monk via Facebook

    ^^very well said.

  • Q.E.D. – buzz, you have just given an example of the point that John is making about the danger of exclusivity. Within your belief system — which I am assuming from your comments includes exclusivity — you naturally see other possible belief systems as analogous to poison. Add the human nature problem of ego and selfishness pointed out a few comments later, and whatever good is intended/birthed/inherent in the exclusive belief system easily becomes a weapon against others. Intended love can turn to hate.

    Yes, hate is a strong word. But as the recipient of condemnation and rejection and shunning — from friends who were sincerely trying to live according to their Christian theology (there are Bible passages that support all of those behaviors towards someone who does not hold the “right” theology about being gay) — I do not think it is too strong.

  • I have witnessed countless such claims communicated by self-professed Christians to other self-professed Christians. It’s like cannibalism. It’s awful. Where is God, where is Love, in such rejection and judgment? I sure don’t see it.

  • Seems like a healthy approach. I’m curious though — does your way include being open to the possibility of being wrong?

  • Christina Fidanza via Facebook

    Excellent piece – Last week I wrote a paper on plurality for a seminary class and I absolutely would have referenced this.

  • Mindy Miller via Facebook

    Thank you, John. Another helpful and refreshing (if tragic) post.

    @Aliyah – I almost daren’t hope that such persuasion and change is possible… but I will tell you that I know people who have been so persuaded and who have changed. It’s been excrutiatingly painful for them, but it has happened. It’s very hard for me to remember that when faced with someone who is still fiercely and adamantly protecting his/her righteous beliefs, but it’s there.

  • This is what I’ve been saying since I was 18….. If it divides people and makes others your enemy, how can it be a good thing???? I agree w you John.

  • Joe Lang

    This question was addressed in Luke 6:44 ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits.’

    Given that religious conversion is no guarantor of moral behavior, there is only one method by which a person’s religious conviction can be measured, in their actions.

    It is here that religious and humanistic thought overlap.

    John Stuart Mills stated in ‘On Liberty’ that man is by right the author of his own freedom and determiner of what fulfills him, with the one caveat that his freedoms ends where injury to another begins. This means that for a democracy to work correctly, we must safeguard each other’s freedoms, that our own are not trampled. Another way of putting this is, ‘do unto others as you would have done unto yourself’.

    Any religious conviction seeking to authorize harm to another makes it doubtful that the person has a true religious connection, giving the appearance of the adoption of a world view that is simply used to support their own prejudices and hatreds, for this is the dark underside of religious experience, that it can be used to give the imprimatur of God to a persons destructive tendencies. This is also why the practice of freedom is so difficult for some… it demands that we not only guard our freedoms from outside aggressors, but also against our own petty hatreds and prejudices, that we examine ourselves for fitness to live in a free society. If you believe in what the Constitution states, then there can be no argument against, for instance, marriage equality. It damages another not one whit and if we would enjoy the fruits of liberty ourselves, we must uphold the liberty of others.

    As for Jesus being the only way to the Father, if you believe in such things, (I am an atheist), it is often said that Jesus is love. He also said that one of the greatest commandments was to treat others as you would be treated. Therefore, I think that any tree the exhibits that fruit, whether it goes by the label ‘Jesus’, ‘Mohammed’, ‘Mormon’, or ‘Zoroaster’ is fulfilling this obligation. Whether you say Jesus or not is immaterial. As always, what matters is what you do. ‘For even as you have done this to the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it to me.’

  • Kathy Carrasco via Facebook

    @Aliyah – May I quote your entire post, please? I want to share it with pastor friends. It’ll be properly attributed. Thanks.

  • Donald Rappe via Facebook

    @Aliyah I think the blindness is related to the idolatry. eyes that don’t see, ears that don’t hear. Once willfully in denial, there is no end to it.

  • Gary

    Sadly, I have too. And yet it is still shocking to me every time.

  • Stu

    Thanks John for your blog (all of it and this bit!!) – and thanks for your words Joe, exactly what I believe and worded so well 🙂

    Always good not to feel alone 🙂

  • Definitely.

    It’s just – I think it’s in human nature to “want to be right” if not about one thing, than another. And we’ve all met at least one person who *has* to be right about everything, correct? Therefore, I think that if a person just can’t let go of “being right” the next best thing is walking away and “letting idiots be idiots.”

    – The attitude of “You’re wrong about this but it’s no reason to kill you” is better than nothing… for the person who just can’t consider that they’re wrong…. right?

  • Chris Constant

    John, I am testing how to unsubscribe from comments here.

  • vj

    Also, taking Matthew 25:31-46 into consideration (Jesus teaching that He will come again to separate the sheep from the goats), He is very clear that it is those who actually DO what He has said (i.e. follow the WAY He showed us) who will be welcomed by the Father, not those who SAY they ‘believe’.

  • Although I didn’t entirely agree with the article, I have seen how both Christians and other faiths have (erroneously) gone well down the path described by it. Good food for thought!

  • Kristi

    I think that exclusivity is as described in John’s post here is certainly a huge problem and it extends far beyond religions. I hope this isn’t taking things off on another tangent, but I strongly recommend that everyone read “The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer. It can be found here in a free .pdf version: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

  • Kristi

    Right spot on.

  • Kristi

    Where’s the like button? 🙂

  • The question basically devolves to this: How dare you not be me? And that is the most exclusive thing of all, since there’s absolutely no room for God in that question.

  • Yes, I suppose that is better than nothing. I know I’m extra sensitive by all the “love the sinner hate the sin” that’s been directed my way, and “you’re wrong but it’s no reason to kill you” feels similar to me, but I recognize that’s probably because of my own wounds.

    You’re approach reminds me of “would you rather be right or would you rather be happy,” a saying I like a lot (but still am imperfectly practicing). 🙂

  • Here’s something I’ve never quite understood: Don’t most forms of monotheism insist there’s only one God, and not a plethora (or pantheon) of them? If, therefore, you’re insisting that someone else’s worshipping “another” God, rather than just God by another name, aren’t you by definition admitting, if not actively subscribing to, polytheism? Then again, I suppose that admitting we’re all worshipping the same deity, some in different ways than others — and with that, the admission that this deity loves us precisely because of our differences and not despite them — is just a bit more than some people can wrap their minds, hearts, or souls around.

  • Geri Lee Nelson via Facebook

    I love how you think! And write.

  • Lymis

    Not really. Or, not always.

    Yes, a lot of people interpret that the Christian God, the Jewish God, the Muslim Allah, the Native American Great Spirit, and so on are all different revelations interpreted by different people of “the same” Divinity.

    It’s a bit tougher, but still relatively straightforward, even with religions that have pantheons – that there is Something/Someone beyond the ability of the human mind to fully grasp that reveals Itself in a variety of ways that can seem mutually exclusive but could be reconciled if we had a sufficiently large perspective, like the old story of the blind men who all touched the same elephant and came away with completely different descriptions (“It’s like a wall!” “No, it’s like a rope!” “No, it’s like a tree!”, and so on.)

    The other view is more like arguing who’s really the President or the Pope. There can only be one, so anyone claiming to be another one must be a pretender, a fake, a fantasy, or some other form of fraud. Under that theory, God is God, and other “gods” are either just made up stories or some entity like Satan masquerading as a god.

    It’s the difference between “There is only one God, what’s your name for Him?” and “There is only one God, so yours must be something else.”

  • Nicole

    What about Cthulu? Can they go by Cthulu? 😉

  • Sharla

    A former pastor of mine, who is a much better Greek scholar than I am, says another way of reading that “through me” is “by my initiative.” If that is the case, then (and this strikes me as completely in keeping with orthodoxy and the teachings of Paul regarding grace) there is nothing that can make it possible for us to come to God other than the actions of God and God-with-us (Jesus).

    Our intellectual assent to a set of doctrines is irrelevant. Our having said precisely the right words (e.g., the “sinner’s prayer”) is irrelevant. What IS relevant is what God has done in Jesus Christ–and that is for the entire world. And that is not something over which we in our hubris and certainty have any control whatsoever. Will God save non-Christians? Well, that’s up to God, not me. (And no less estimable a Christian than Billy Graham says the very same thing.)

  • Sharla

    “Good news for ALL men”… AND all women. I am no man, but it’s good news for me, too.

  • Gary

    Sorry Sharla, I was quoting the bible and thought the implication of “mankind” was understood.

  • LSS

    i liked the original (more dramatic) title first, but. … As was probably intended, the new title is clearer.

  • Sharla

    That’s a way that language has changed. The Bible I work with most often (NRSV, published originally in 1989) has that verse as “good news as great joy for all the people.” English is moving away from the generic “man” or “mankind” to refer to male and female alike, and many of us tend to feel sort of left out when the older understanding is used. I’m not a man, and I use “humanity” where the older understanding would have said “mankind.” It’s actually a different sort of exclusivity.

  • Your explanation makes sense (and thanks for it). The mentality John describes so well… well, not so much.

  • Robb Johnston

    I for one believe that monotheism is a gift from the gods . . .

  • Good article. I have always thought along those same lines and that is why I believe the most important virtue in working towards peace is tolerance. However, not a tolerance that is smug in nature and says “You’re belief is wrong, but I tolerate you”. Rather, true tolerance implies a respect of others’ beliefs, as well as your own.

  • Coffee. All over my keyboard.

  • Indeed. Well played, sir.

  • The logic of this arguement seems quite reasonable. However, since the premise for this arguemeent is false, the whole thing should be just a meaningless exercise in Logic 101. Unfortunately, too many people buy into that first premise.

  • And that’s what absolutely blows my mind, Aliyah, how people can be blind to how completely evil their actions are so long as they are doing them in the name of God.

  • Brian W

    I agree with much of what you said, except your post equates that essentially any and all fundamentalists are as you say and they’re not only the fundie extremists are, not the vast majority. I know some that are exactly as you state here, but most are not.

  • Gary

    I assure you no “exclusivity” was intended in my quote of scripture.

  • Gary

    I hope you are right Brian…but having been raised in fundamental churches and spending more than 40 years in them, I can tell you that my anecdotal experience is that the majority of them are.

  • Gary

    Care to elaborate? Which premise is false, the one John is illustrating or John’s premise itself?

  • Gary

    Intelligent humor may be the highest form of philosophical evaluation…and this was as funny as hell!!

  • Diana A.

    “This question was addressed in Luke 6:44 ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits.’

    Given that religious conversion is no guarantor of moral behavior, there is only one method by which a person’s religious conviction can be measured, in their actions.”

  • Diana A.

    Good point!

  • Diana A.

    My version of “would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?” is “Would you rather be right or would you rather be effective?” A lot of people want to be right because they think being right is the same as being effective. “I’m right. Therefore, you have to do what I say.” The truth is, nobody has to do anything just on another person’s say-so. So if one’s goal is to get someone to do a particular thing or refrain from doing it, one needs to focus on being effective, not on being right.

    It’s been said of someone I know and love deeply that “we (the members of the group he leads) would follow him off a cliff.” In other words, he may not always be right, but he sure is effective. To his credit, he understands how powerful his leadership is and works hard to be both responsible and down-to-earth in his exercise of that leadership. Which is probably part of why he is so effective.

  • Aliyah Aldridge via Facebook

    @kathy, sure.

  • Michael

    I think this fails to get at a core issue, one which is a huge problem in the united states at least: sola fide. sola fide or salvation by faith alone, ( a purely protestant concept) means that only christians go to heaven. I think that that is the fundamental source of most antinonchristian arguments that ive heard. wheras catholics believe good people go to heaven no matter what they believe and orthodox believe everyone goes to heaven. just my thoughts…

  • Diana A.

    True. Which just goes to show that even “non-religious” folks have religion, they just don’t call it that.

  • dianne mcmanus

    Thank you so much for this and all the comments here. I have always felt that way but never seem to be able to put it into words. It is hard to let go of a doctrine that you have been taught all your life and hear preached every single Sunday; that if people do not believe exactly like a Southern Baptist, they are pretty much doomed for hell and that is the end of it. My precious mother who did not have the luxury of of completing school always taught me, “don’t believe everything you hear, there is no one perfect answer. Listen with your heart and read the bible for yourself, the spirit will teach you what you need to know of the truth.” When you grow up in a small community, it is easy to buy into whatever emotion they provide at the church service you attend. You don’t know anything else. When you leave and meet other people from other cultures you begin to realize, we can’t all be right or all be wrong. The God I trust and believe would not just save “those lucky enough to be Baptist”. But that is what is preached, “our way or the highway, the highway straight to hell.” Deep down you know it doesn’t make sense, but you don’t say anything lest you be considered possessed of the devil. I have seen many lives destroyed in my small home town because people could not live up to the “perfect Christian”. I lost a dear friend who shot herself in the head rather than face the criticism and condemnation she faced when she revealed she was gay. As children, we knew she was gay before we ever knew there was such a thing. She was a wonderful person who could have led a remarkable and productive life, but shame drove her to drink and use drugs and eventually take her life. I know this is off subject a bit, but it does touch on what holds many of us back from being who and what we should be. It is hard for me to criticize religion but I still say “Give me that old time religion, its good enough for me” because I only retain what my mother taught me from that same old song…”Makes you love everybody.” If it doesn’t do that, you need to kiss it goodbye

  • Diana A.


  • Diana A.

    That helps. Thank you!

  • Diana A.

    Perfect. Thank you!

  • Ken

    Mind you, while this might nicely covers things like the Pope Urban II’s plan for reinvigorating Europe (Your people call it “the Crusades”, my people call it the first example of “urban renewal”), it doesn’t really explain the whole Catholic vs Protestant, Evangelical vs Mormon thing, nor the violence and persecutions between Christians it did incite or the hatred and prejudice it still incites.

    I mean all sides believe in “One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;… etc, etc, etc.” And yet it still devolves down to the “I will draw your blood, and the blood of your children. I will be deaf to your screams” thing.

    (Sorry, but I think a lot of people just like being cruel and religion is just one handy-dandy excuse for having a wee bit’o’fun for these folks. We are a FLAWED creation.)

  • Valerie


  • DR

    That’s interesting, I always understood sola fide to be something that was in reaction to the more traditional Catholic theology of faith + works. Not a statement about the exclusivity of Jesus but that makes sense that it would be applied this way.

  • DR

    That is a fantastic, very helpful explanation.

  • I think you’re confusing my points re “denominationalism” vs genuine religion.

    Let me illustrate again using mathematics.

    That something we humans call “mathematics” exist is indisputable, but the nature of its existence continues to remain open to debate.

    It can be argued that mathematics has no actual physical reality, that it is purely in the realm of the abstract. We can’t pour ourselves a gallon of algebra, we can’t cut off a slice of Bell’s Theorem & pickle it for the winter, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

    Yet beyond dispute is that this weird, arcana discipline / science / school of thought has real world ramifications, that geometry can be used to reliably plot out land usage, that calculus can predict the fail rates of certain metals under certain conditions, etc., etc., and of course, etc., yet again.

    Nonetheless, in a field somewhere sits an apple, and right next to it sits another apple, but without a human observer present there is no way to define their “twoness” (much less their “appleness”) yet they are, indeed, two apples.

    That’s the point I’m trying to get across.

    There is such a thing as mathematics.

    It has several side disciplines: Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Topology, Trigonometry, Calculus, and so on and so forth, some being more useful for certain tasks than others.

    It has any number of theorems and questions and hypothesis as well. Some can be proven right or wrong, some can never be proven one way or the other, some may be the right question asked in the wrong manner.

    To attack and persecute a person because they don’t believe a certain theorem you believe is valid is wrong. One can state one’s opposition to the theorem based on one’s interpretation of the evidence at hand, but it’s not merely pointless but counterproductive to generate animosity over it.

    One may say another person is wrong in their particulars while acknowledging their basic assumptions are correct.

    But to deny the existence of mathematics, to say pi is equal to exactly 3.17, to say that all odd numbers are prime numbers simply because 1-3-5-7 are, that is clearly false.

    And it does no one any good to pretend it isn’t.

  • Brian W


    Perhaps you’re right and I’M blind……

  • LSS

    We could say “belief system” instead of religion and it would make the idea even more universal.

  • LSS

    Big nostrils? Fly on the wall? I’m not getting the reference here. (sorry, i just went with my first visual and first figurative impressions of your phrase)

  • Nathaniel

    I disagree with your interpretations on a few points. First of all Catholics do believe in Faith and Works. Not only do you have to do good things for the church you have to eat the right crackers and drink the right wine. I went through RCIA a couple times and I kept getting in arguments about a few points (How come Judas gets to take communion but I don’t? Fine! I don’t want to be in your club anyway) Catholics aren’t alone in that Eastern Orthodox and many fundementalist Protestant churches have the same beliefs. Most of the non-Fundementalist Protestants actually have the docterine of Saved by Grace Alone rather than sola fide. This means that our salvation comes from the fact that Jesus loves US (and not the other way around.) Paul talks a lot about it in his letters. I’m a huge fan of “If you find justification under the Law then Jesus died for nothing!” What this all means is that our salvation is bought and paid for. Look at the old sacrificial system. The price of sin is death. If you sin you die OR you find something to die in your place in accordance to the severity of the sin. Did you work on the Shabbat? You have to kill a dove. Were you knocking boots with your neighbors favorite wife? Well that means some poor cow is going to get bleed and burned up. Now we have this perfect sacrifice of the Perfect Man who is actually God in the flesh. Well that covers all sin of all time. We all covered (even the sin of not believing) So we’re all saved (Yay Grace!), but through Christianity we get a participation prize of a maximized feeling of peace, love, unity.

  • I agree with your answer here, John; religious exclusivity is dangerous. The huge problem for Christianity is that many of our core theological doctrines are inherently exclusive. The doctrine of the Trinity elevates Jesus to divine status and therefore claims that Jesus, and anyone who believes in him, is closer to God than anyone else. Until Christians are willing to give up these beliefs, Christianity will always be inherently exclusive. And that is a big problem. Other religions have exclusive theological elements, too. More broadly, then, until each religion is willing to take a serious look at some of its core doctrines, its most closely held, cherished beliefs, and it’s truth claims, little progress will be made on this.

  • LAV

    It’s tribal. Religion is but one tribe to cling to and “belong”. I think we are genetically disposed to belonging to groups and organizations that we will cling to and , at times, violently protect. Religious beliefs have always been an important part of the “tribe”. It is that thing which helps us understand things greater than ourselves. Fear of some “other” point of view always leads to violence unless there is conscious compassion and open acceptance of another way of thinking. That implies that the previous way of thinking has a flaw. That doesn’t go over so well when things like creation and eternal existence are at stake. Just sayin. These entrenched ways of carving out a belief system are getting old and in my opinion impede real progressive enlightenment. Ancient texts and narrow minded interpretation need to cease. Real compassion/embracing one and all needs to begin.

  • Heidi

    I think you’ve made a valid point here Michael. The whole “all you have to do is claim Jesus as your personal savior and you get a free pass into heaven” stuff. I live in the Bible belt where Catholics are scarce and I hear this nonsense everyday. It actually comes from St. Paul and not Jesus himself. Jesus said that we are to help everyone. Let me repeat that. We are to help EVERYONE. I think all organized religions have lost the spirit of their religions. (I don’t count Buddhists among these because Buddhism is not a religion per se, as there is no God involved). In my view, it’s faith and works. And no, works does not simply mean “eating the right crackers and drinking the right wine”. It means realizing that we’re all in this together. It means taking care of and looking out for each other. Walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” By that it is meant that this life of caring for others is not an easy one. Whether you call it God, Allah, Vishnu, or the invisible spaghetti monster, we are all here, we’re all in this together. Saying you don’t get to go to heaven because you don’t go to my church is found nowhere in the Bible. At least not the one I’ve read. Exclusivity IS the problem.

  • Trina

    Well put, Aliyah. Unfortunately too many people hate in the name of God. They spend more time tearing others down than they do in building a relationship with God. Too many people can’t shed the ego.

    Religious extremists judge without looking in the mirror. Everyone who has life has a part of God within them. That said, everyone should be treated as a child of God. No one is better than or less than you. You can hate the act but not the person. Leave judgement to God.

  • Heidi

    Sadly, I think you’re right about that.

  • Agree! I think Rob Bell tackled this pretty good in ”Love Wins.” The idea that there is only one way to God is the root of much religious violence, hatred & divisions amongst people.

  • Kat

    John – for me – this post could not have come at a more timely time. Really. It hurts me so much when I see how Christianity is projected to the world. I am as guilty as anyone I know of misrepresenting my faith. And, as in any situation, the bullies who use Christianity as a weapon for their own agenda deserve to be called out.

    Not to mention – show me a church that DOESN’T claim to be the one true church… the majority unfortunately do. We should all judge less and love more. Feel free to sing Kumbaya now, people

  • ChasRip

    I like your explanation. In fact, it is interesting to ask whether the only difference among the hundreds (thousands?) of religions is primarily one of ritual and myth, which I believe to be man-made systems for revering and honoring God (whatever his name). The problem IMHO is that some people believe that their religion’s rituals or myths are actually mandated by God–for example, those who believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, rather than the disciples’ interpretations. I think that’s where the line gets crossed–where people believe that their way of worshipping is the only God-approved way. That’s how we end up with Catholics and Protestants and Orthodox Christians–all of whom supposedly believe in the same God and the same Bible, yet they have murdered each other in the name of that God for centuries. Their disputes, however, are not about God but about rituals for worship. This is also true of Jews and Muslims, who also revere the same God but have disagreements about who are the true prophets and disciples and the text of the Holy Book–all man-made concepts. The belief in God is essentially the same among all these religions.

    I believe that the Founding Fathers actually understood the difference between belief in a higher power (Deism) and following the often corruptible tenants of one religious system or another. That’s why the Constitution never mentions God. It only talks about religion–the external expression of belief. The Founders weren’t opposed to belief; they were believers themselves (except maybe for Ben Franklin, who probably was an atheist if such a concept could have been openly discussed in the 18th Century). Their concern was not whether people believe in God or not, but that they don’t try to force any one belief system on others by using the force of the government.

  • Susan

    You know, I have a nephew who was a missionary to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was well received because he tried to understand the beliefs of those he lived among. He was there to help build water filtration plants for purer water. He worked hard at this job and sustained a nearly life-threatening injury. God used THAT situation more than any other thing to show His mercy and grace. But that’s just the thing: my nephew exhibited the mercy and grace of God; not the “my God is the right one, yours is not” attitude. He told me later that when “American Christians” came on their “mission trips”, the native peoples only looked for the gifts and candy the Americans brought but had no respect for them because these “Christains” never tried to learn anything about them but acted superior because “our way is the right way”. He told me that “real” missionaries dreaded these mission trips because it always caused set-backs!

  • Stephen McBride

    Not really, Buzz. The Troubles would be assumed to refer to the period between 1968-1998.


    I know what you mean, but even then, I’d disagree. I’d say the antipathy between Protestant and Catholics in Ireland start with Eilizabeth I’s Plantation of Ulster, where she’s aggresively installing Scots and English landlords on confiscated Gaelic Earl territory.

    Ireland, arguably is reasonably quiet between Strongbow’s invasion of 1170 and Elizabeth’s actions.

    But that’s the joy of history! That we can debate and differently. If only many of my countrymen coud, even now adopt such an approach!!

  • Once again I’m just in awe of the quality of the conversations happening here. I’ve lately not had nearly the time I’d like to properly engage with so much of the great stuff being written here—but I’m reading all of it, and wanted to take a moment to at least express my appreciation for what so many of you are doing here. It’s so awesome for me, to paint in the pretty broad strokes I sort of have to in this form, and to know that once I have, YOU guys will come in and really explore the whole thing, and properly open it up. It’s such an enriching pleasure for me, the way you guys do that. Thank you.

  • Driftwood2K11

    In what key would you like it? 😉

  • vj

    Someone else made a distinction between ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’, which has had me thinking a lot…. ‘respect’ carries with it a sense of understanding and appreciating the dignity we are to accord to all persons as being made in the image of God, while ‘tolerance’ is more of ‘I have judged you to be wrong but I don’t really care enough about you to try and understand you, but apparently I’m supposed to just let you carry on being you’. ‘Respect’ sees the person and embodies LOVE, ‘tolerance’ is about us condescending to others and feeling superior…

  • vj

    Probably the bit about ‘I know God’. But, even if one decides that the idea of ‘God’ is false, one could substitute ‘ideology’ and the rest holds true. Deciding that ‘my’ Big Idea of how society should be is the Only True Way is prone to the dangers of exclusivity (‘you must all live the way I tell you to – or else’), whether or not that Big Idea includes ‘God’.

  • vj

    “it doesn’t really explain the whole Catholic vs Protestant, Evangelical vs Mormon thing, nor the violence and persecutions between Christians it did incite or the hatred and prejudice it still incites.”

    Actually, I think it explains it pretty well: when people take it upon themselves to decide that the way *they* do things is the right way, and everyone who is not part of us is doing things the wrong way, and so it’s up to us to *make* them do things *our* way – all in order to make God PLEASED WITH US. In this mindset, it’s not enough that we all believe in the same God, we all have to serve Him in exactly the same way….

  • Brenda

    Thank you for this wonderful article and all the people who’ve taken the time to discuss. I know we are all frequently confronted with the question “if there really is a God, why is there war, disease, famine, disaster, etc.” Often I stumble around and end up saying some thing trite like, God doesn’t cause wars; arrogant, self-righteous people cause wars, and religion is their excuse. This seems like a lame response, because I so badly want that person to understand that God loves all his children, even when they behave poorly. And there are so many things we are confronted with daily; “Christians” who are really nice, moral people, yet are so quick to condemn Jews, Muslims, gays, even other denominations. Does anyone else feel angry and want to shake them until they remember Christ taught us to love everyone?

  • Diana A.

    When I hear the word “tolerance” I get the impression of somebody holding his/her nose with one hand while holding something that stinks mightily as far away from his/herself as possible. While the word “respect” makes me think of someone genuinely listening and caring for someone else. I like the idea of respect better than tolerance.

  • The story of your nephew and the other missionaries reminds me of the novel The Poisonwood Bible. The missionary in the novel was a classic example of someone who clearly didn’t get the concept of learning the ways of one’s neighbors to better understand and relate to them, rather like many missions where evangelism is the prime motivation. Your nephew is an example of how to do it right, which is enhanced by his success in the built friendships with the local residents.

  • The key of A would be nice.

  • Sharla

    My understanding, from my admittedly limited study of Irish history and folklore, is that tensions between Ulster and the rest of Ireland go back into ancient times, well before Elizabeth I. It certainly goes back before there were Protestants and perhaps even before there were Christians at all.

  • Driftwood2K11

    That sounds good to me!

  • Yargs

    If you start at the “My God is good” line and replace all of the occurrences of “God” with “nation,” you’ll have a pretty good representation of nationalist/patriotic thinking–the other great source of large-scale anti-humanitarian behavior in the world.

  • Robin

    I have a couple of axioms when it comes to God and religion. The first is “God is so big, no one person, society, nation, religion, or species has a complete understanding of God.” The second is “God is not an asshole. If, in your efforts to understand God, you find yourself ascribing asshole behavior, beliefs, or requirements to God, you have made an error. Crumple up your paper, throw it in the trash can, and start over.”

  • Diana A.

    I love this, especially #2! In some ways, God is the original inkblot, in that when we talk about God we’re usually saying far more about ourselves than we are about him/her.

    BTW: I’m quoting you on my FB page. Just thought I’d share.

  • Saylin Gurl

    I am so filled with happiness at this moment reading all the responses to this article and others. I live in a very RED and very unforgiving Christian filled state. I see the un-Christian behavior and have called people out on it… Jesus LOVES…God never said “I’m too busy to judge, why don’t ya’ll do it for me”. Show Christ’s love through kindness, understanding and caring. Listen to others, walk a mile in their shoes. That’s what Christ did, right? Thanks, my brothers and sisters. I need your uplifting.

  • Karisa H

    You know, I did not realize that until I read your comment. This explains the logic of extreme Christian Nationlists who go on this whole “America is God’s Country and thus everything else is wrong”. Because if the US was anything less than God’s ideal country then that would mean you are settling for more than God’s perfection. You’ve given me a lot to think and talk about.

  • I read this a couple of nights ago after a discussion with someone over whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God – I said they did. She was adamant that they don’t, that HER GOD would never treat women the way that Muslims treat women. I suggested she read a book that I love, “the Faith Club”, but never got a response on that one. She then attacked my denomination as preaching falsehoods! She says that she reads the Bible for herself and goes to a strickly Bible church (no surprise there!) and I am a main stream Presbyterian – all my life! I was surpirsed how her attack on Presbyterians hurt me. She said she was truely sorry a couple of times, but I decided to end the “conversation” there. To me, this is what is wrong with our country and our world, and this article spoke directly to me in that respect. There is too much “ownership” of God and not enough acceptance of each other for who and what we are.


    I only know the religion I believe in which could be considered Christianity. I don’t attend a church although I might if I knew of one where the people lived up to the things that Christ taught such as loving one another, not judging others, praying for our those who misuse us, forgiving those who harm or take advantage of us, give to the poor and not valuing the things of this world more than the people in it. In my search for God I looked into many ways of trying to find him including other religions. When I discovered Christ or maybe some would say when he was revealed to me, the simplicity of what he taught was the answer I had been looking for. All you have to do is love others and treat them like you would like to be treated. If we can do that regardless of their religion, nationality, color of their skin, sexual differences, social or financial standing (yes we have to love the rich too) or whatever way they vary from us then we are living the life of Christ and we know that we are God’s children. If other religions are pathways to God then they would have to teach something similar and if they do, bless them. Whatever others believe I know that God knows their intent and we should leave judgement up to our creator who loves us all.

  • The issue with the religious is most of them are believers, not mystics, not seekers of knowledge. They are content with the surface stories in ancient texts. They are more caught up in the mythology rather than the message. Humans are a competitive species, especially with ourselves. We are almost programmed to see one set of myths as true and others as false. Too few see that the stories teach the same lessons if you’ll look.

  • Robert

    You know I’ve spent the last few years believing that, but the potency of ‘mysticism’ and deep devotion can be such a nightmare that it makes the fundamentalist Christian hoodlums like saints precisely because they’re not pulling the sunk-costs maneuver to the same extent of ‘mystic’ cult leaders.

  • Donald Rappe

    I’ve never heard this said better.

  • Donald Rappe

    I like the part where you say “I am as guilty as anyone …”. Now, listen for the words “Feed my sheep.”

  • Donald Rappe

    Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya.

  • Donald Rappe

    I’ve heard that there are many ways, but only one Way.

  • Donald Rappe

    Jesus said: “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not,for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” This seems to me to exclude the possibility of creedal beliefs being necessary. What is necessary? Love justice, do mercy and walk humbly. Children can do these things.

  • Donald Rappe

    Dear Rev. Siri,

    A commenter Robin makes these points: “God is so big, no one person, society, nation, religion, or species has a complete understanding of God.” The second is “God is not an asshole. If, in your efforts to understand God, you find yourself ascribing asshole behavior, beliefs, or requirements to God, you have made an error. Crumple up your paper, throw it in the trash can, and start over.”

    I believe these form a fine critique for any theology. In what you have written above, I can agree with everything except what follows your word “therefore”. I suggest that the purpose of theology is to safeguard essential truths (kerygma) and to make them understandable in the real world as God has revealed it to us (apologia). It has no purpose to provide us with divisive “tests”. That means I could not fully accept the Athanasian Creed as Lutheran clergy do. (I am fully behind its claim that God is Uncreate, rather than existant.) Its curses do not pass the Robin test.

    I believe we can evaluate our creedal formulations by comparing them to earlier ones, e.g. “Jesus is Christ (Messiah)” and “Jesus is Lord (Kyrios)”. Whatever doesn’t line up with these can safely be shitcanned. These guard the divine figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” we should be hearing the universal or cosmic Christ speaking. To hear less, seems to me, to be denying the teaching of the Trinity. I believe Christ comes not to separate into religions or sects or cults or denominations, but to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let whoever will elevate chaff to the level of wheat be warned!

  • vj

    I LOVE this!

  • Colleen

    You know the old saying “Many rivers all lead to the same ocean….”

  • denny

    Most of the statements made in the authors “Played out section” is absolutely true. Now i don’t believe we should allow the truth to play out and become evil but the truth is the truth. It has become clear to me why Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mar 10:15) and “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3) Adults allow what they think they know about life to influence what they think they know about scripture. Children on the other hand take things at face value. You know What I mean? If the scripture say’s, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jhn 14:6) Children believe just that, Jesus is the only way to get to heaven. While I do believe we should receive everyone with Love and treat them as Jesus did with compassion we in no way should except their false beliefs and allow them to think we are unsure of what is right or that there is possibly other ways to get to Heaven (God). The enemy (devil, god of this age), “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2Cr 4:4), has blinded the people and we are responsible for shinning the light.

  • denny

    At the beginning I meant to put “Most of the statements made in the authors “Played out section” are absolutely true until it starts sounding like the the Muslims way of believing.” Sorry

  • LSS

    I have found that pretty much everything that annoys me in other religions also exists in my own (>_<)

  • I have always been baffled by the sense of monopoly that self-proclaimed Christians seek to hold over the divine. “This is my God, and he is the absolute best and you suck if you don’t have him, and if you’re reeeaalll nice, I’ll let you enjoy him.” This is an all knowing, all loving being we’re talking about here, not your shiny new Christmas toy.

    I don’t know if I’m the only Pagan here, but I’m going to share some Pagan attitudes (insofar as they represent myself and the other Pagans I personally know). When we talk to others about our faith, it usually goes something along the lines of “I’m excited and filled with wonder and happiness about my God/Goddess/Deity. I’d like to share that with you. Oh, and that’s your Deity? Cool, let’s have a drink.” Even within Paganism, people worship different Deities and follow different paths, and the emphasis is always on “what are you doing for your community?” rather than “are you worshiping the RIGHT God?”

    A couple of the people that I consider my family are Christians, and I often forget that they are because they don’t terrify or shame or judge me, they simply are, and they let me be who I will. I was raised in a horribly fundamental, conservative, hate and fear mongering environment. There’s something wrong when I forget someone’s a Christian because they’re not condemning me.

  • Oh, I almost forgot. This is the first time I’ve commented here, but I’ve been reading for weeks, and I really love the posts and discussions. I thank everyone here for being so honest and engaging in much needed discourse.

  • excellent, Heather. very well done. welcome.

  • Inacat

    Heather, I suspect you’re not – Mr. Shore is balm on many ears who are working to separate ‘walk with Christ’ from ‘follow the Church’ – growing up with Jesus being a cousin whose wisdom was subverted by the power-hungry, it’s sometimes hard for me to reconcile the bright with the dark.

  • denny

    If you are following the true path it will not annoy you 🙂

  • denny

    Hey Heather I am glad your Christian family members don’t condemn you for it is not our place as Christians to judge another persons heart, but I am concerned that you are able to forget that they are Christians. The Bible tells us in Mat 7:20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” So you should ever be able to forget if a person is truly walking the walk.

  • LSS

    you’re right… i should have used a stronger verb. if i were really paying attention, i should be outraged.

  • denny


  • LSS

    aleykum salaam

  • I will come to be able to integrate that truth eventually. In a nutshell, I can’t reconcile 20 straight years of abuse in the past four good years I’ve had. It will take time, and I am very optimistic that I will come to know more true Christians.

  • denny

    I will pray that God place true Christians in your path that you will be able to experience His true nature mean while may God Bless you and keep you safe from the enemy’s plans.

  • Thank you for the kind words. I wish you health and happiness as well.

  • Michael WBL

    i strongly feel that this sentiment is a result of sola fide, the protestant belief in salvation’through faith alone’ which means that christians and only christians can go to heaven. this devolves rapidly into ostracism and quickly becomes an excuse for hatred, persecution and discrimination. Ultimately though, I suppose the tendency towards those things are natural human flaws more than protestant or christian characteristics.

  • Exactly, Michael.

  • Denny

    Anyone can go to Heaven. Sola Fide (salvation through faith alone) just means that you (anyone) has to believe in Christ in order to go, for He is the only way.