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1 hour ago, Burn-E said:

Alden, we get it, you think there are many reasons why people do not believe in God.  But your over reactive effort is starting to become comical as you keep bending further backward in order to ensure that everyone understands that atheism isn't a religion.  Here's the thing, religion does not just mean someone believes in God.  It also can mean something they pursue with great enthusiasm and to which they place significant importance in their life.  

Like Volvos. :wink: 

Just as there is a group of highly enthusiastic, even even evangelical Christians, there is equally a group of highly evangelical atheists.  Some have even made a name and following from their efforts.  Think Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens. The so-called Four Horsemen of New Atheism.

So tell me, what's the difference between Joel Osteen and Sam Harris?

To be fair, I think the only reason the topic came back up was my failed attempt at preventing it from being revisited. And several of you keep saying it's a religion and you're wrong :tongue: Someone can be religious in a descriptive way, but does not mean they are a member of any religion. Olsteen and Harris are the same in their professional roles. But one is working on behalf of a religion, while the other is working to defend the absence of. Olsteen operates in the name of god, Harris operates in the name of the individual.

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Nice attempt at a dodge there Alden but you have to recognize that both are evangelists for a movement.  Both are advocating for a particular lifestyle and impacts on society.  Osteen might have a regular location where he presents his message but Harris is no less of an evangelist with a following, a virtual following through his website, books, interviews, news articles, and social media, and he clearly is advocating for change.

In fact Harris probably has more influence because he is regularly cited, almost like there's an Atheist's Bible, by several atheists I converse with on other social media / websites.

We're not wrong you just refuse to acknowledge that there is an obvious loosely aligned organization that could be recognized as a virtual church.  The fact that you or even most atheists don't belong to it just means you're unaffiliated atheists.

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3 minutes ago, Burn-E said:

Nice attempt at a dodge there Alden but you have to recognize that both are evangelists for a movement.  Both are advocating for a particular lifestyle and impacts on society.  Osteen might have a regular location where he presents his message but Harris is no less of an evangelist with a following, a virtual following through his website, books, interviews, news articles, and social media, and he clearly is advocating for change.

I'm not sure what I tried to dodge. I did say earlier I could see the term movement used. And if advocating a lifestyle with societal impacts, then whoever champions the Atkins diet on a 3am infomercial is running a carb-free religion.

I think we may have reached an agree to disagree point.

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Given that the topic is basically religion, I'll share what religion is to me, as well as how I became "religious"...

I came from a fairly worldly (not religious) family, my dad was raised Catholic and my mom was basically agnostic. We would go to church on Christmas, but I'm not sure why because neither of them believed any of it, they actually weren't fans at all of organized religion (they assumed religious people were all a bunch of hypocrites after money and power).

I had a fairly rough up bringing, my dad was an alcoholic and my mom was an alcoholic's wife. My dad also had a raging temper aside from drinking. When I was in about 5th grade, a family moved in across the street from us and the guy took me to church for what they called Awana with them a few times, he's also the one that got me into skateboarding. I think I was in about 5th grade when one of the church people asked me if I "knew Jesus as my Lord and Savior"... I told him I didn't. Now, up to that point I was afraid of demon possession, and I did believe in God, but I knew nothing about the bible and Jesus. He told me if "I accepted Jesus", I wouldn't have anything to worry about, so of course I did; I read the "Roman's road to salvation" and he told me I was saved. That was my first real dealing with religion.

My dad quit drinking when I was in about 6th grade, now he's a major AA fan and hasn't drank since. But, he kept the same temper and by the time I was in 6th grade the damage from childhood was pretty much sealed in. I was always in trouble at school and with the law, and I basically went through life with my middle finger in the air, aimed at anyone in my way.

Fast forward to when I was 20 years old... At this point in my life I was burning a lot, and drinking quite a bit, basically non-stop partying. I was basically living out of the trunk of my Datsun, staying with whoever wanted to party at the time. One night, 20 years ago last Oct, I started wondering what or who God was, and what He thought about the world today, then I started wondering what He thought of me. I got a tad nervous because even though I had never read the bible, I knew I wasn't living right (drugs, drinking, girls, fights, lies, etc). So that night, before I went to bed I prayed for the first time in my life... "Dear God, please purify my soul". I woke up the next morning, which was ironically Halloween, and went to work with the mindset that I would try to be a better person, quit lying / cheating / stealing, quit being so mean, etc. Well, I had no driver's license and my buddy called me and said "It's Halloween, we're picking you up".... and so much for trying to be a better person.

I was sitting in the back seat of my friend's car that night, when all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with a fear of God that I can't explain short of saying I've never faced a fear that strong in my life before or after. I told my friend I wasn't feeling good and asked if he'd drop me off at home. That night, I hit my knees and cried out to God, confessing everything I could think of and telling God I wanted to live for Him. He started working in my life in ways I couldn't describe here.

The short version is that I trusted Jesus for the forgiveness of the sins I had committed, and still trust Him (unlike the contrived prayer I prayed at Awana those years before), and I seek God everyday. About a year later I met the absolutely incredible woman who is now my wife of 17 years, and we have 4 kids together. And the best part is... I have peace with God and thank Him for life, rather than running from Him. I need nothing, I'm not saying I don't have wants or desires, but I trust God for all my tomorrows.

That's the abbreviated version of what religion means to me.

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Thanks for sharing Matt.  It's always fascinating to hear how others found God and what that means in their life. Just curious, do you have a congregation that you worship with? How does that fit into your lived experience?

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A curiosity, but if God is eternal, and your religion is the way to eternal life after death - where did Mormon souls go before Joseph Smith had his first vision? Do they have to be saved from Christian heaven so they can go to Mormon heaven?

Digging a bit deeper ... 

If all humans have souls, and homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years, why did God only send prophets when we began to save our written words?  Why is it that God and the prophets only appear when written words were preserved?  That's ~ 198,000 years of us being around before God and prophets appeared without written communication*

*These are "scientific" thoughts, based on physical, geologic, and evidence based anthropology**

Mayans excluded, since they had mathematics and complex astronomy thousands of years before Christ**

 

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On May 31, 2016 at 8:32 AM, Burn-E said:

So Erik I've offered a deep set of answers on how faith works so I'm going to flip the coin ask a few questions to clarify where you stand.

Do you believe there is a supreme being or creator? Do you hedge on it or doubt it while some nagging belief remains that you can't or do not want to entirely shake off? I'm not interested in titles or movements (like agnosticism or atheism) but how you describe your worldview on the question?

I understand you have an issue with most religions. Other than Buddhism is there any faith that appeals or speaks to you?

From what we've discussed it seems your issues are with how religion has been leveraged by men to gain prestige, power, money and influence rather than applying the principles it purports to teach of asceticism and charity to the point that it nears the point of personal deprivation.  

Many turn to Eastern philosophies and religions out of frustration with the strictures of organized religion as experienced in modern Judeo-Christian / Islamic faiths. The ability to focus on the individual, of turning away from the excesses of life and finding harmony with the Earth and all living things has an appeal for finding oneself and harmony with others. Again, my observation and conjecture is that your personal sense of justice drives you to evaluate religion in stark terms of what is promised and what is delivered. I suspect given how Evangelicals in Texas have such a strong influence and are so outspoken on matters like creationism and prayer in schools that this further detracts rather than enhances your perception of faith.

Is that a fair evaluation?

I'll answer your question after you answer mine.

And additionally are you sincerely interested in the answer or just digging for potential "gotcha" questions.  Because I can point you to an apologist site where every single one of these questions have been answered ad finitum.

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2 hours ago, ErikS said:

A curiosity, but if God is eternal, and your religion is the way to eternal life after death - where did Mormon souls go before Joseph Smith had his first vision? Do they have to be saved from Christian heaven so they can go to Mormon heaven?

Isn't the answer that if you believe in mormonism, then they have been going to mormon afterlife all along?

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Almost Alden.  It is that simple in principle but there's a slightly more sophisticated structure.  And there's only one heaven no matter what faith describes it.  Just other faiths tend to have more simplistic interpretations of what the scriptures explain. This is where modern prophecy, additional ancient records and ongoing revelation offers clarity.

I'll explain more after Erik answers my questions.

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2 hours ago, Burn-E said:

Thanks for sharing Matt.  It's always fascinating to hear how others found God and what that means in their life. Just curious, do you have a congregation that you worship with? How does that fit into your lived experience?

We actually just switched from a small Baptist church, over to a huge non-denomenational church. My church history is... when I first put my faith in God, I started going to the Baptist church where I went to Awana when I was a kid for about the first 5 months of my journey. From there I started going to a big church called Calvary, which was also non-denomenational. I got to know one of the pastors there, Rob Bell, fairly well. We did bible studies together and I loved his real world approach to preaching, he actually married my wife and I. He went on to start Mars Hill, and we followed him there. He started saying some things that seemed kinda dicey to me, not really blatant heresy at that point, but things that I really questioned being in alignment with God's Word. So my wife and I started going back to Calvary for a few months again, then we started going back to the Baptist church that I first went to, and we were there for about 8 years.

I actually got to know the pastor at the Baptist church very well too, he's still a really good friend of mine. And I didn't leave for any dramatic reason, I just felt like I wasn't moving anywhere where I was. So... that's the kinda long version about where and why my family and I go to church.

I seek God everyday, and definitely not perfectly, it's more like a roller coaster ride of faith if that makes sense, I have highs and lows and still have plenty of struggles. And ironically, if you asked me if I was a Christian before I surrendered to God when I was 20, I would've said yes simply because I believed in God and I believed that Jesus was Lord (even though short of a "get out jail free" card, I had no clue what any of that meant). But today, since I surrendered to God, IMO a Christian isn't someone that simply believes in God, so I was definitely delusional if I said I was a Christian back then. Satan and his angels obviously believe in God and Jesus, so that begs the question... what makes me different than them?

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41 minutes ago, Burn-E said:

I'll answer your question after you answer mine.

The universe we live in does not need an outside creator, so no I do not believe in a human conception of "God." Did something we will never understand create the universe?  Maybe.  Do I need to define it and label it?  No.

There is so much to be learned, and humanity has only barely broken the surface of knowledge.  To have one or another religion claim to have an answer to life, death, and a supposed life after death seems arrogant given how small our little planet is. We are not the center of anything.  

I said if I could have been born something else, a Buddhist on a mountain top would be a pretty simple life, or an earthworm, maybe an African eagle, or a Californian Redwood.

Life is life, I got to be a conscientious observer. Lucky me.  I got to make another one somewhat like me, and hopefully my half-baked daughter gets to arrive one day, see the universe, and carry on and add to the wonder.

One of the unfortunate but likely theories I hope is untrue is that advanced life like us fails to unite and self-extincts before we can collectively free ourselves from the rock that circles our star. 

Religion ain't going to get us off this rock, that I know for certain.

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16 hours ago, ErikS said:

A curiosity, but if God is eternal, and your religion is the way to eternal life after death - where did Mormon souls go before Joseph Smith had his first vision? Do they have to be saved from Christian heaven so they can go to Mormon heaven?

All right let's parse this.  I've already answered this but heaven is heaven.  No matter who is talking about it.  Recall the full name of my faith: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Meaning, the same organization that Jesus started when He came to Earth 2000+ years ago but reinstated because after all the Apostles (Peter, James, Andrew, Thomas, etc) died the Branches of the Church in Jerusalem, Rome and elsewhere fell into apostasy. You see this already happening in Paul's epistles to the Branches (Corinthians, Thessalonians, Romans) as he tries to keep them on track. The authority to lead, to preach, but most importantly to provide the necessary ordinances of salvation (baptism, the gift of the holy spirit, etc) was lost. In the 17th through early 19th century many spiritually minded leaders foresaw a return of that authority.  Joseph had a visitation of God the Father and Jesus Christ in response to his seeking to understand where he should go to gain salvation.  He received visits from many angels in the years that followed and received that authority directly from John the Baptist and Peter, James and John. That is the basis for your original question. Mormons are Christian as we worship and recognize Jesus as our Messiah and leader.  Some other Christian faiths feel differently because we believe in continuing revelation, see the Trinity slightly differently and accept other books of scripture beyond the Bible. The reason why we were nicknamed Mormons is because we accept the Book of Mormon as a record of scripture similar to the Bible.  So there really isn't a distinction called Mormon heaven.

What becomes of a soul when the body final releases it as a result of physical death?  They go to the Spirit World to await the day of judgment which has not yet come and will not come until  the day of Jesus' return to Earth.  Some enter into Paradise others wait in Spirit Prison to learn, to be taught and to accept the Gospel if they did not receive it in life on Earth. The question of accountability though comes into play here.  If an infant or an individual who lacks the mental capacity dies then there is no accountability and they are saved by the grace of Jesus' sacrifice. Ultimately we will all be resurrected at the day of final judgment when body and spirit are reunited in immortal and perfected form.  Depending on how we've led our lives and our willingness to accept and follow Jesus' teachings by making covenants with God we may gain access to the highest degree of glory, the Celestial Kingdom where God, our father, lives.  (It's not just for Mormons).  Outer Darkness is left for Lucifer and those spirits who followed him in certainty before we came to Earth.  Few if any of those who lived here on Earth are destined for that realm. Any of the three kingdoms is of a glory beyond what we experience in this life, the main difference is our access to our Father and our ability to progress.

34591_000_000_01-planOfSalvation.gif

So what happened before Joseph?  Nothing different from what is happening now only the practice of providing ordinances for those who have passed on without them is now available and the work is performed in LDS temples.  This is not something new as that too was done as referenced by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:29. But our basis is not on that verse alone rather a broader understanding that has been revealed.

16 hours ago, ErikS said:

Digging a bit deeper ... 

If all humans have souls, and homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years, why did God only send prophets when we began to save our written words?  Why is it that God and the prophets only appear when written words were preserved?  That's ~ 198,000 years of us being around before God and prophets appeared without written communication*

Your second question is a strange one.  Much of what we have in the Bible, especially the earliest books of the Old Testament originated as oral narrative that eventually was written down. God certainly did not just appear when written words could be preserved.  It's a strange notion that seems attached to the idea that books are necessary for God to exist. The written word is a useful mechanism for disseminating the word of God more readily to the broad world and that is why men like Luther and Tyndale translated the books from Greek and Hebrew into the common language so that the people were no longer dependent on a priest to tell them what the Bible said. It democratized the connection to God's word and was necessary to release the people from the grip of churches that were being corrupted by men who sought to use their exclusive knowledge as a form of power. This was part of the apostasy I referenced earlier. 

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13 hours ago, ErikS said:

Religion ain't going to get us off this rock, that I know for certain.

Probably not in a rocket ship but then the laws that govern energy and physics are still poorly understood by us as humans. I'm less concerned about getting off this rock than serving those who live on it around me.

Then again, if you believe Elon Musk, we're all just in a big video game. Like the Matrix, waiting for the One.

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35 minutes ago, Burn-E said:

 

Then again, if you believe Elon Musk, we're all just in a big video game. Like the Matrix, waiting for the One.

Of the possibilities, this experience is more likely to be a simulation than there be the existence of "god".  Either are possible, I suppose.  Guess I just brain to hard, and thus I'm on a fence.  

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