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Otto
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Rejected is a strong word. Maybe it's not personal, maybe the nones have simply renounced the habit (pun not even intended :)
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Bill, I'm glad you wrote about this, it's really great. While I concede that there are lots of books by contemporary authors, pop psychs, etc. that probably follow the logic you describe, many of the better books among the masses of books I think are more nuanced and deeper in their meaning. From having read a few books myself, some along these lines, the message I have discovered is that I AM perfect, not in the material sense that I'm physically beautiful or flawless in my personality. I'm far from that, I would say I'm a pain in the ass, sometimes a jerk, and lack the social facility and smoothness that most people posses. But when I talk about perfection, I'm not talking about some perfection that exists in the realm of measurement. Take any work of art in a museum, if you looked at each one objectively, with a measuring eye, you could find lots of flaws. If a totally rational person with no soul were to look at a painting by Picasso, they wouldn't even recognize it as beautiful. Someone might even say "this is horrible, it's totally out of proportion, the people are disfigured, and all the lines are rough and careless". But yet all these paintings are in a museum because we do recognize them as as beautiful and perfect. Well, I think human beings are the same way, they are each a "work of art", a perfect creation in God, and each one is unique. So I think the deeper purpose of many of these books (even though many may be, or seem, superficial) is to help people recognize themselves as the perfect work of God that they are, not necessarily to give them a false sense of goodness/self-esteem/invincibility When you say "What do they do with someone who is genuinely untalented, physically ugly (by their own societies standards), not especially talented at anything, generally unkind to everyone around them, and effectively lacking in anything we generally consider lovable?" I feel you are missing the point. Well you said it yourself: "by their own societal standards". Any psychologist or motivational author that I could read and take seriously would recognize that societal standards are bullcrap (it's a technical term). Any child KNOWS that they are lovable, it's who they are, they don't need some set of societal standards to tell them that. And children also love unconditionally, they don't measure someone against their talent, physical standards, or any other material form of value, and decide based on that whether they are loveable. This is why Jesus tells us we have to be like children. And this is also how God loves us. When you say "But I don't think that happiness or, even more importantly, Joy has to be built on high self-esteem. I think that the more honest, more real, more true our self-image is, the stronger a foundation it will be for Joy, and even for happiness. When I can look at myself as myself and see first that I am infinitely valuable simply because I exist (a quality I share with everything and everyone else) and then that I am nonetheless weak, twisted, often evil and ugly - when i can see all of that and know that I am loved, then how could anything shake my joy?" That's the truth. Again, any author that I could read and take seriously would completely agree with this. So if you've been reading contemporary, pop psych books who seem too pollyanna or pie-in-the-sky, don't assume that they're all like that. But like everything in life, you have to dig a little, skip the McDonalds and KFC junk food reading and seek out the authentic cooking. I still have more to write about this... I think a lot of what you are saying has to do with the problem of duality, specifically that for our human survival we tend to think in terms of "good" and "bad", "valuable" and "useless", "loveable" and "unloveable"... but anyway, maybe I could write more as a guest post because this comment is getting too long and I'm out of time.
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Definitely motivating. I do feel the new testament are about human thriving (in a supernatural way) rather than getting our inner act together, and it would be cool to read a book that puts it into historical context.
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Thank you. Powerful post. "being honest is better than having the truth" - Yes!
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As usual I'm late and I now I come to realize there's a new post already, please see my comment on the last post! :) And by the way, to suggest something concrete, how about a call for posts to anyone who has a story about leaving faith, or coming to faith from a secular background?
Toggle Commented Aug 31, 2011 on Thanks! at Not The Religious Type
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As other commenters mentioned, social media is definitely having an impact on blogs, things are moving towards a decentralized approach. Also, with Google+ posts are no longer limited to 140 characters. I'm curious what will happen when Google+ reinvents the concept of Groups.
Toggle Commented Aug 31, 2011 on Any Feedback? at Not The Religious Type
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What I've liked most of this blog is hearing people's personal stories about faith, and less so the very intellectual discussions (even though a lot of my comments have been along the lines of the latter). For example I've enjoyed Amy's stories, and also some by Peter and Vince, and I particularly remember one by a young guy who grew up with faith, then felt he needed to get away from church but never really left his faith completely. Anyway, these stories are the ones that spoke to me most. When people talk about their own experience I think there's something of special value in that. Ironically, the one story I'm not so much interested in is the story of the Bible, and particularly the interpretation of it. I usually feel annoyed by religious people because they feel they not only have to tell everyone about the Bible, but also push their particular interpretation of it. I think that's why I find myself attracted to Buddhism (and Zen) because while most religions are about rehashing and adding more to the story, Buddhism seems to be about taking away from the story and living in the present moment. That's at least what I find helpful in listening to Eckhart Tolle. Also, what I don't quite get is that the target audience of the NTRT book was secularists, agnostics, atheists, etc. At the beginning I had it that this was also the audience of the blog, and I was confused. Then it became clear that the actual audience was mostly pastors who were interested in this approach to faith. Are there many secular-types on the blog? I know Amy is, and Dave is because he's used to be an atheist, and that guy I mentioned above who left his faith for a while whose name I don't remember. If there are others (and I'm sure there are) I would love to actually hear their stories. Even if it's Christians who really identify with secular culture. Good luck to you all and your Blue Ocean Initiative!
Toggle Commented Aug 31, 2011 on Any Feedback? at Not The Religious Type
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I have a meta-question regarding meta-narratives... Humans are wired to understand and relate to stories as opposed to just facts or abstractions. So I see the appeal of narratives. But I think narratives, when taken too seriously, can be counterproductive. Take any person with their life drama, and there's some narrative, some story behind it. Now look at the drama of humanity, and there's lots of narratives behind it. Each nation has their own narrative. Of course, having a redemptive, positive overarching narrative, what I think you all are advocating, is certainly better than having a destructive narratives. But I wonder if a meta-narrrative is really necessary and if it's all that helpful for our human endeavor. There's always the danger that if we take the meta-narrative too seriously, then anything that doesn't seem to fit into the meta-narrative (arabs in Israel?.. or whatever people interpret from the Bible) will be seen as being against God's will. Could we just read the Bible and just say "how fascinating" and leave it at that? No theologies, no future heaven or hell, just the present moment. Imagine...
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Great conversation! I really like to think about intuition and insight, and how people can know things they shouldn't be able to know (based on current scientific understanding). I wonder whether the mind/consciousness is really localized in the brain, and whether there are other forms of energy/waves/etc that we don't understand yet, which is the basis of spiritual communication. After all if someone a few hundred years ago talked about radio waves, or x-rays, or nuclear energy, you'd have thought they were crazy.
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I didn't have time to read this full conversation but just want to say... why can't Christians fully embrace masculinity as well as femininity. To me what Mark Driscoll writes is the kind of either-or conversation that drives me nuts... I love both-and conversations. I think it's perfectly valid for guys to have a soft/femenine side, and for women to have a tough/masculine side. Whatever we hate/judge in ourselves we will hate/judge in others, and vice-versa.
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Vince, glad my comment made someone smile! I guess it is what it is... religion! But it annoys me sometimes, and other times it makes me laugh.
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I share your skepticism of when people say things like "God led me" or "the holy spirit led me", especially when it sounds like someone is justifying some decision they made. Maybe we'd be better cutting these phrases out of our vocabulary and instead take responsibility for our choices? Of course, it's fine to share that if you feel that's the case, but maybe best to limit this to close friends? As far as how to tell if we are really communicating with God... personally, I don't think one needs the Bible to discern God's voice. There's only one God, one creator. We all have the same Father, and we all were born connected to God. So listening to God is just a matter of remembering our connection to our father. No matter how far we were mis-led since our childhood, we all have an inner compass that will lead us back to God, if we only seek him, if we seek only the good.
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What you described is one of the reasons why I feel all religion is bs, it will ultimately end up in division and intellectual argument. For example, I find it quite interesting and funny that the Great Schism between the east and west church was about an argument of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, or from the Father and the Son. Really? This all has to do with the human ego, the insanity of the human mind, and has nothing to do with God, but people still delude themselves that if they study and analyze the Bible enough they will figure out the right theology, orthodox doctrine, or whatever. Religious Unity? I think that's an oxymoron. But if we really only listen to God, if we only listen to the good, then we won't feel the need to argue our point of view, and then we can actually listen to other people and live in harmony.
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Amy, really love this, I somehow didn't get around to reading this post back in June, but I would definitely be interested in reading this book!
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That's a fun way to think about prayer and how God wants to engage us in conversation with him. Thanks for writing this Vince, I like your insights!
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There's the added issue with the internet (and TV) that it makes us even more likely to become undisciplined news addicts, because there's an infinite amount of information out there. At least if you're reading the NYT you spend a limited time per day (maybe 15 minutes), and the information you are reading is curated, and it's relatively high quality... i.e. written by people who presumably have some journalistic integrity and standards. But not so on the internet, or on TV for that matter (fox news, etc.) I think the advertising industry can be sort of sinister, and even though I'm sure it's not a conscious goal, the more anxious and confused people feel watching the news the more likely they will make bad decisions and buy more crap advertised on TV.
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Ok, there's definitely a place for abstraction, in philosophy, physics and math, etc. I just don't have much interest in it myself, especially when it comes to religion, as the spirituality that most resonates with me is direct experience. And sorry if I come off as always disagreeing, but... I don't feel that talking about relationships (or rather talking in relationships) is abstract. I feel relational reality is a fundamental reality (I think Dave advocates this point too). To have a conversation in a relationship the best way is to just talk from your heart. It's very simple... it's not always easy...since first you have to get in touch with truth in your heart. But I don't feel there's anything complex or abstract about it. It's just foreign to the mind, it's the language of the heart. And I have to say I often get stuck in my head, and then communication in relationships becomes very difficult. But the times that I communicate from my heart, it's very simple. So "abstraction is the name of the game in life"... sorry I don't see that at all. The best of life I've experienced is in removing abstractions and getting in touch with the truth in my heart.
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Ok, I take it back. I think good discussion is great, if it's orderly, polite, and productive. If the people having the discussion are really interested in having an actual discussion, seeing each others' viewpoints, and learning something new. I just don't see that much nowadays. Maybe that's my bias, but it seems like most discussions turn into passionate arguments where nobody really listens. Everyone is just jockeying for a position, not really interested in learning anything new. I don't like reading most newspapers, but I like reading the Christian Science Monitor, because the kind of discussions I read there seem thoughtful and open my mind rather than filling it with junk. And yes, I believe you actually can do something about the criminal justice system. I believe that by virtue of being on this earth you have a say in everything that happens here. I believe people like Jesus, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi showed us that (not saying doing something about it is easy).
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Thanks for that link Dave :)
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Just a quick reply to your comment. Yes, it's true that me saying that there is no true worldview is itself a worldview. Human beliefs and judgments are like fish to the water, you just can't escape them. I respect your desire to have a comprehensive and wise worldview. I'm sure if you strive for it you will indeed get closer to the truth, but as for me, I don't think getting closer to the objective truth is always helpful. It just gives me a false feeling of certainty about things I can't be certain about. And I find I can be more forgiving and merciful towards others the less I am certain about what is right and what is wrong. Interesting Jesus quote: "You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me." So I think he says that humans are unfit to judge. He doesn't say that his judgments are true because they are in accordance with the scriptures, but rather that he stands with the Father. I suppose you can have a very wise, complete worldview without judging others, but it's tough to not judge others according to your beliefs, when they are acting in ways that you perceive as wrong or bad.
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I'm not interested in talking ethics or politics, but I think there's a place for telling people the truth, if it's something in your heart. But only if it is to inspire them to change themselves. If it's just to have an abstract discussion, then there's no point. So that's why I think these issues are best addressed as conversations with individuals who have a stake in it, because if you take it to the media, it is bound to stir up a lot of passions in the crowds, in the stands, cheering for one side or another, but not really interested in doing anything about it.
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No problem! What I meant is more along the lines that any individual belief may be true or not, but collectively, my beliefs are not true. My worldview is not true. There's different kinds of beliefs too, I can say "I believe the world is round". There's almost universal agreement that the world is round and revolves around the sun. We have pictures from space, so we have evidence. Then there's beliefs that are much more based on interpretation. Like if I say, "I believe the blood of Jesus paid for our sins". This is based on interpretation of not only the gospels, but of the whole big picture story/metanarrative of the Bible, so in this case there is a lot of interpretation. Religious beliefs tend to be more than discrete beliefs, they tend to be interlocking puzzle pieces that forms a worldview, like Jeff pointed out. So when I said "my beliefs are not true" I was talking more about the big-picture puzzle beliefs. Does that make sense? Can you buy into what I'm saying? And on the other hand, I would say the most "true" beliefs are the ones based on direct experience. Like if I say to myself "my friend Bill is great", or if I believe in my heart that God is good, these are beliefs based on my own experience... whether it's true or not objectively, it's true in my heart. So either way, is there ever a point in defending my beliefs? All the beliefs I have are either self-evident (I would never argue with someone about the world being round), or not true (i.e not real).
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Hi again, you might remember from the last post where I just posted about 20 comments (ok, and some of them were too long, and others obnoxious). It's very true that there are religion and ethnicity colors our worldview. I totally sympathize with beliefs and worldviews that are deep, deep in the psyche. I know my background has colored my worldview and that will always be a part of me. However, there's one big issue I have. One thing that I have indeed changed in me despite my background: I would gladly acknowledge that my viewpoints, and my beliefs are no more real than the dream I had last night. The issue I take with Christians (and atheists for that matter) is their strong conviction that their viewpoints, their beliefs, are real. So ok, hear me out, I found a way to cut through all the religion BS in the world. People can argue for hours or millennia about which religion is true, which beliefs are right, and so on. My answer is: none of it is true. They are all interpretations based on something. Christianity is interpretations based on the Bible (particularly the New Testament, which was in turn partially based on interpretation of the Old Testament). Islam, an interpretation of the Quran, which in turn was partially based on interpretation of the Bible. I'm not saying the Bible is not true. What I'm saying is Christianity is not true. I'm saying your beliefs about the Bible are not true. How do I know they're not true? Because they're your beliefs! And I'm not saying the Bible is not helpful. I think it's very helpful for many people, including myself. But beliefs floating out in space or in your head are seldom helpful. They are only helpful if they are put into action, into good deeds. And beliefs that are expounded upon and preached to people are seldom helpful. Only when we do good deeds unto others, and inspire them to take action themselves, then the good word will start to take root on earth. So if there's anything I want to contribute to this blog, it's this interesting and kind of radical realization that MY BELIEFS ARE NOT TRUE. And neither are yours.
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The distinction I would make with regards to wounds is that there are two types of suffering. I'd call them real vs self-protected suffering. So with any hurt, there will be some real suffering, but quite often there is a great deal of suffering tied up in judgments and interpretations. This is the ego or false self protecting itself from a perceived threat. Seeing yourself as already healed is realizing you are not your ego or small-self. It's dis-identifying yourself from your self-image, and seeing yourself in the image of God, as a new creation. But trust me, none of this would make it any easier for someone who cheats on his wife. Because regardless of how spiritually enlightened you or your wife are, if you cheat on her there will be a lot to deal with!
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Ok, fine. But if we're going to mince words... :) I have to take issue with one of your words: "...who we are becoming". There is no becoming in the realm of being. I'm curious if Paul ever talks about "becoming", I doubt it. It's sort of like Yoda says, "do or do not, there is no try". And when you say to "turn our heart to Jesus", this honestly still sounds weird to me. I understand what you mean by it, and I feel I have God, Christ, Jesus (whatever you prefer to call it) in my heart, which is my inner guide. But honestly in our culture I think it sounds weird, like "turn our heart to Jesus?... is that code for something?", and it sounds exclusionary, like it's only for special members of the club, those who have "Jesus" (especially with all those billboards that advertise "Jesus" as if it's some product you can buy)
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