Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. On Faith

 

I have been a skeptic for as long as I remember. In junior high, I was the child who asked the assistant minister those difficult questions. I wasn’t trying to be a smart aleck. I was trying to get my head around those unfathomable questions, the whys of faith, trying to true up a teenager’s reality with teachings that seemed to be both the result of selective historical memory and of exaggeration, if not outright fiction. My questions never received proper answers. It came down to faith; that is acceptance of the implausible. When I asked why I should accept these things on faith alone, I was told that faith was not a matter of should, but must.

That answer, the must, seemed to me to be a reflection of the old, jealous, vindictive, and unpredictable God of the Old Testament. That did not seem to square with the teachings of the New Testament, with its stories of good Samaritans and charity toward all. The New Testament God, the God of infinite grace, would never condemn the souls of the kind and innocent but un-indoctrinated masses. This demand for Faith seemed to me to be superfluous and even coercive, a demand for alliance and support. I rejected it. I would not be coerced.

But that was not all. There was also the issue of obedience. Much as the clergy might try to convince me that their concern in this transaction was the future of my immortal soul, I could not help but believe that it was not my soul they were ultimately concerned with. Others might call it arrogance, vanity or hard-headedness, but I couldn’t seem to subrogate the moral superiority of affirmed mystics over my own perceptions, even if those demanding my allegiance were truly excellent and decent human beings.

I decided that I could accept the wisdom and morality informed by the New Testament while remaining highly skeptical of the more implausible parts. The story of Jesus itself then became a parable of love and sacrifice; I had no need for explanation of its inconsistencies or when it strayed from reality. I could acknowledge that the Gospel accounts were selected among many similar writings; they were subject to translation and retranslation and they may well have been exaggerated. Moreover, if I accepted the idea of human frailty, my own inherent flaws, and tried to live a decent and moral life, the question of my mortal soul became irrelevant. Living a good, decent and moral life was enough. The idea of immortality was rendered irrelevant and unnecessary; Faith itself was irrelevant and unnecessary.

Am I then, a Christian? Christ’s teachings and story inform and guide my life yet I remain a skeptic, a person who believes that if Faith is something that someone must have to be a Christian, then I have failed that test. I do not reject religion, so I am not an atheist. I sympathize with William James’ inability to rationalize the existence of God, yet I am not an agnostic. And yes, I pray sometimes, for wisdom, patience, clarity and for others, while I also acknowledge that this practice may also be irrelevant and unnecessary. But somehow it helps me and I still think it is good.

There are 303 comments.

  1. Nanda Panjandrum Coolidge

    Bookmarking this, DK…gonna go pray, but I’ll be back… :-)

    Update: Bravely-said and shared, DK…Thank you for trusting us! As I read your thoughts, I was reminded of a couple of the Intercessions for Good Friday. I share them here as a token of friendship and esteem!

    Almighty ever-living God,
    grant to those who do not confess Christ
    that, by walking before you with a sincere heart,
    they may find the truth
    and that we ourselves, being constant in mutual love
    and striving to understand more fully the mystery of your life,
    may be made more perfect witnesses to your love in the world.

    And:

    Almighty ever-living God,
    who created all people
    to seek you always by desiring you
    and, by finding you, come to rest,
    grant, we pray,
    that, despite every harmful obstacle,
    all may recognize the signs of your fatherly love
    and the witness of the good works
    done by those who believe in you,
    and so in gladness confess you,
    the one true God and Father of our human race.

    • #1
    • May 3, 2017, at 10:27 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    Doug Kimball: Am I then, a Christian?

    How important is the answer to you? Does it matter to you, so long as you are living the life of a good man?

    • #2
    • May 3, 2017, at 10:30 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Doug Kimball:

    Doug Kimball:When I asked why I should accept these things on faith alone, I was told that faith was not a matter of should, but must.

    That answer, the must, seemed to me to be a reflection of the old, jealous, vindictive and unpredictable God of the Old Testament.

    I know that’s how you used to see the OT; I hope by now, Doug, that you’ve realized that this is a superficial and limited way to view the Old Testament.

    • #3
    • May 3, 2017, at 10:39 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball: Am I then, a Christian?

    How important is the answer to you? Does it matter to you, so long as you are living the life of a good man?

    Let me put my answer this way, if I am not a Christian, then many who claim to be are not Christian either. However, the point of the entire essay is the acknowledgement that it doesn’t really matter. That reminds me of the joke about a man at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter is there welcoming the man to heaven. Just past the gates is yet another walled community with a huge door. The man looks back at St Peter and asks, “Aren’t you going to open the other gate?” St. Peter replies, “Just go around. That wall is there for the Baptists. We let them think they have the place all to themselves.”

    • #4
    • May 3, 2017, at 10:41 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  5. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball:

    Doug Kimball:When I asked why I should accept these things on faith alone, I was told that faith was not a matter of should, but must.

    That answer, the must, seemed to me to be a reflection of the old, jealous, vindictive and unpredictable God of the Old Testament.

    I know that’s how you used to see the OT; I hope by now, Doug, that you’ve realized that this is a superficial and limited way to view the Old Testament.

    You are correct, something I’ve learned from my many Jewish friends. There is much to be said for the humility and practical teachings of atonement and charity as taught in the Torah.

    • #5
    • May 3, 2017, at 10:45 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    You are correct, something I’ve learned from my many Jewish friends. There is much to be said for the humility and practical teachings of atonement and charity as taught in the Torah.

    Good man! ;-)

    • #6
    • May 3, 2017, at 10:46 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. Arahant Member

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Let me put my answer this way, if I am not a Christian, then many who claim to be are not Christian either.

    Yeah, I’ve been kicked out of the club by many. ;)

    • #7
    • May 3, 2017, at 10:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Nanda Panjandrum Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Let me put my answer this way, if I am not a Christian, then many who claim to be are not Christian either.

    Yeah, I’ve been kicked out of the club by many. ?

    Followers may have done this, sirs; not sure the Master has…Just sayin’. :-)

    • #8
    • May 3, 2017, at 11:07 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  9. Arahant Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Let me put my answer this way, if I am not a Christian, then many who claim to be are not Christian either.

    Yeah, I’ve been kicked out of the club by many. ?

    Followers may have done this, sirs; not sure the Master has…Just sayin’. ?

    Oh, understood. God doesn’t care about the distinctions without a difference. Neither do I.

    • #9
    • May 3, 2017, at 11:15 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. KC Mulville Inactive

    Doug Kimball: Am I then, a Christian?

    You may be a good man (and I strongly suspect you are) but I’d say you were not a Christian.

    This is a Catholic point of view, of course, but many denominations hold the same. The definition of a Christian is not just someone who’s a loving person, but also someone who believes that Jesus was God. If Jesus is not God then he isn’t a savior (anymore than any other moral teacher, at least). We tend to reserve the title of Christian to people who not only do what Jesus taught, but who also believe that Jesus is our savior.

    It does matter, from that point of view.

    • #10
    • May 3, 2017, at 11:30 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  11. A-Squared Inactive

    Doug Kimball:I decided that I could accept the wisdom and morality informed by the New Testament while remaining highly skeptical of the more implausible parts…if I accepted the idea of human frailty, my own inherent flaws, and tried to live a decent and moral life, the question of my mortal soul became irrelevant. Living a good, decent and moral life was enough. The idea of immortality was rendered irrelevant and unnecessary; Faith itself was irrelevant and unnecessary.

    This mirrors my own views pretty well. I take wisdom where I can find it (and I’ve also found great wisdom in the Fourfold Noble Truth of Buddhism). I believe the authors of the bible were using parables to convey universal truths, not words to convey literal truths. I’m more interested in whether the teachings are useful as a guide to living than whether they are literally true.

    I don’t know if there is an afterlife, but I’m fairly convinced that if there is one, whatever pass/fail test exists in the afterlife will be based on the totality of my actions, not my membership in a specific organization.

    • #11
    • May 3, 2017, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. kylez Member
    kylez Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Funnily enough, I’m about to go see The Case for Christ.

    • #12
    • May 3, 2017, at 11:56 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Scott Wilmot Member

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    However, the point of the entire essay is the acknowledgement that it doesn’t really matter.

    Faith does matter and faith in Jesus Christ is the first step towards salvation.

    Jesus warned of the lukewarmness of indifferentism in the book of Revelation.

    In the Goapel of John He tells us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. According to Christ, the work of God is to believe in him whom he has sent.

    Indifferentism is a great fallacy, held by many Christians and many of my fellow Catholics. It’s the feel-good I’m OK your OK relativism of the day. I used to be a member of that club and hit rock-bottom and prayed for faith and thanks be to God had my prayers answered. I’m now a member of that sinner’s hospital known as the Church and strive to work out my salvation daily.

    Be not afraid to believe.

    Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

    • #13
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:02 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    KC Mulville (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball: Am I then, a Christian?

    You may be a good man (and I strongly suspect you are) but I’d say you were not a Christian.

    This is a Catholic point of view, of course, but many denominations hold the same. The definition of a Christian is not just someone who’s a loving person, but also someone who believes that Jesus was God. If Jesus is not God then he isn’t a savior (anymore than any other moral teacher, at least). We tend to reserve the title of Christian to people who not only do what Jesus taught, but who also believe that Jesus is our savior.

    It does matter, from that point of view.

    I understand completely. Faith is the acceptance of that belief, which presupposes the need for a savior, through whom the belief further proposes, the faithful may obtain everlasting life. Everlasting life? Or Hell? I have no conscious memory of my life before I became self aware. I’m OK with an end to conscious memory when I am no longer self aware. Life is a difficult journey where only a few are provided a dignified departure. The end, even if it is final, may well be welcome. Still, I find it hard to believe that the sum of one’s life is a test; that does not mean that it is not worth evaluating.

    • #14
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    However, the point of the entire essay is the acknowledgement that it doesn’t really matter.

    Faith does matter and faith in Jesus Christ is the first step towards salvation.

    Jesus warned of the lukewarmness of indifferentism in the book of Revelation.

    In the Goapel of John He tells us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. According to Christ, the work of God is to believe in him whom he has sent.

    Indifferentism is a great fallacy, held by many Christians and many of my fellow Catholics. It’s the feel-good I’m OK your OK relativism of the day. I used to be a member of that club and hit rock-bottom and prayed for faith and thanks be to God had my prayers answered. I’m now a member of that sinner’s hospital known as the Church and strive to work out my salvation daily.

    Be not afraid to believe.

    Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

    I’m glad you found your faith. I hope it gives you great comfort. As for me, I remain a skeptic. If it turns out I’m way off base, please put a good word in for me.

    • #15
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:29 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  16. MarciN Member

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball: Am I then, a Christian?

    How important is the answer to you? Does it matter to you, so long as you are living the life of a good man?

    Let me put my answer this way, if I am not a Christian, then many who claim to be are not Christian either. However, the point of the entire essay is the acknowledgement that it doesn’t really matter. That reminds me of the joke about a man at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter is there welcoming the man to heaven. Just past the gates is yet another walled community with a huge door. The man looks back at St Peter and asks, “Aren’t you going to open the other gate?” St. Peter replies, “Just go around. That wall is there for the Baptists. We let them think they have the place all to themselves.”

    Love this. :)

    • #16
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Nanda Panjandrum Coolidge

    KC, what if the gospel hasn’t been presented in its fullness, or in a comprehensible way, by those charged with doing so? And, in an impish moment, I can’t forego mentioning Rahner’s ‘anonymous Christian’ concept, from a Catholic point of view. :-)

    • #17
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. GrannyDude Member

    Doug,

    I found that the question “am I a Christian?” could be answered (yes) and then I could figure out what I meant by that. So far, it appears to be a lifetime’s work!

    I answered the question affirmatively for essentially practical reasons. What else am I? What holidays do I celebrate? What sort of culture did I grow up in? Most importantly, does Jesus continue to be the go-to guy and the Bible the go-to book for moral authority? If the answer to all of these questions was yes, it seemed silly to keep insisting that I was something other than Christian. I might be a cruddy Christian, or a faulty, lapsed, inconsistent or incoherent Christian… but once I’d accepted that “Christian” was what I was, then I could set about being a better one.

    And not because I worried about hell. Like you, I really don’t have much emotional stake in the afterlife. This surprises people, and I am in turn surprised that so many seem so concerned with the disposition of their immortal souls. I am content to have death mean that I cease to exist (other than in memory) and content to trust God with any future existence I might have as I trust God with the present one.

    I don’t claim to be any more or less rational on that issue than anyone else. It’s an emotional thing—I don’t think about it, don’t fret about it, and so don’t use Christian soteriology to buttress my faith, though I realize that others genuinely do.

    A chaplain friend of mine says that he’s come to believe that Jesus wasn’t trying to start a new religion. (He already had a religion). Instead, he was trying to demonstrate a way of life, a way of being. This strikes me as a very chaplain-ish attitude—doubtless why I like it—and for all I know, other Ricochetti will have much to say about it, and about my disinterest in heaven and hell. Which is the point: answering the question “Am I A Christian” whether you answer yay or nay won’t answer THE question.

    But not to worry. You’re working on the answer. Keep going.

    • #18
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:43 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  19. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Bookmarking this, DK…gonna go pray, but I’ll be back… ?

    Update: Bravely-said and shared, DK…Thank you for trusting us! As I read your thoughts, I was reminded of a couple of the Intercessions for Good Friday. I share them here as a token of friendship and esteem!

    Almighty ever-living God,
    grant to those who do not confess Christ
    that, by walking before you with a sincere heart,
    they may find the truth
    and that we ourselves, being constant in mutual love
    and striving to understand more fully the mystery of your life,
    may be made more perfect witnesses to your love in the world.

    And:

    Almighty ever-living God,
    who created all people
    to seek you always by desiring you
    and, by finding you, come to rest,
    grant, we pray,
    that, despite every harmful obstacle,
    all may recognize the signs of your fatherly love
    and the witness of the good works
    done by those who believe in you,
    and so in gladness confess you,
    the one true God and Father of our human race.

    Very nice. It’s good to see that you are pulling for me.

    BTW, I’ve witnessed many good works, many secular, but that is a quibble. Catholics (my wife is Catholic) often fail to remember that others are quite capable of being good.

    • #19
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:44 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. Arahant Member

    Heh, heh. This is the afterlife.

    • #20
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:55 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    Doug,

    I found that the question “am I a Christian?” could be answered (yes) and then I could figure out what I meant by that. So far, it appears to be a lifetime’s work!

    I answered the question affirmatively for essentially practical reasons. What else am I? What holidays do I celebrate? What sort of culture did I grow up in? Most importantly, does Jesus continue to be the go-to guy and the Bible the go-to book for moral authority? If the answer to all of these questions was yes, it seemed silly to keep insisting that I was something other than Christian. I might be a cruddy Christian, or a faulty, lapsed, inconsistent or incoherent Christian… but once I’d accepted that “Christian” was what I was, then I could set about being a better one.

    And not because I worried about hell. Like you, I really don’t have much emotional stake in the afterlife. This surprises people, and I am in turn surprised that so many seem so concerned with the disposition of their immortal souls. I am content to have death mean that I cease to exist (other than in memory) and content to trust God with any future existence I might have as I trust God with the present one.

    I don’t claim to be any more or less rational on that issue than anyone else. It’s an emotional thing—I don’t think about it, don’t fret about it, and so don’t use Christian soteriology to buttress my faith, though I realize that others genuinely do.

    A chaplain friend of mine says that he’s come to believe that Jesus wasn’t trying to start a new religion. (He already had a religion). Instead, he was trying to demonstrate a way of life, a way of being. This strikes me as a very chaplain-ish attitude—doubtless why I like it—and for all I know, other Ricochetti will have much to say about it, and about my disinterest in heaven and hell. Which is the point: answering the question “Am I A Christian” whether you answer yay or nay won’t answer THE question.

    But not to worry. You’re working on the answer. Keep going.

    Well, well. Everyone should read this! I very much like your chaplain friend’s take. You and I are both probably from a long line of Calvinists, far removed from The Church and prone to a more personal, fatalistic view. At one time I considered becoming Catholic. I figured that if WFB could internalize the dogma, I could. But I found I could not do it. It was a one way conversion which I had to accept or be rejected. There was no room for discussion or question. Stubborn as I am, I quit. This is how I want to be converted. Too bad it’s fiction.

    • #21
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:56 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. KC Mulville Inactive

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    KC, what if the gospel hasn’t been presented in its fullness, or in a comprehensible way, by those charged with doing so? And, in an impish moment, I can’t forego mentioning Rahner’s ‘anonymous Christian’ concept, from a Catholic point of view. ?

    Rahner got a lot of grief for that; in fact, it got him silenced for a while. So I’m going to step gingerly.

    My own belief is that the teaching of the gospel has to be partnered with the living of the gospel. The gospel itself isn’t really that complicated. After all, it’s filled with parables, and was grasped and enthusiastically believed by fishermen, shepherds, and Irishmen :-> so how complicated does it need to be? The presentation doesn’t have to be that deep.

    On the other hand, when the gospel is presented by people who don’t live it, it’s nearly impossible to persuade anyone — and mitigates against it. I’d argue that the failure of our evangelism isn’t because we didn’t explain it properly, but that listeners judged the evangelist more than the gospel. Having said that, I also think the normal believer gets a bad rap. Yes, we’re still sinners, and hypocrites, and weak. So when a critic (or a secular culture) refuses to accept the gospel because the evangelists aren’t perfect saints … I think we all need to relax a little about perfection.

    And more often than not, in the last thousand years, the gospel was spread through an enormous institution (i.e., church) which is prone to mindless bureaucracy. Individuals get lost. I still think faith has to be spread individually, face to face.

    The gospel’s easy. It’s practicing what we preach that gets us in trouble.

    • #22
    • May 3, 2017, at 12:59 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    and for all I know, other Ricochetti will have much to say about it, and about my disinterest in heaven and hell.

    Jews don’t discuss hell much. For me, I focus on this life because I am committed to being a good person and Judaism has fortified and enriched my ability to do so. Jews are called to be good, compassionate, and creative in this life; I figure if I do my best, enjoy it and celebrate it, I won’t worry about the rest.

    • #23
    • May 3, 2017, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. A-Squared Inactive

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jews don’t discuss hell much. For me…

    I was under the impression that the Jewish religion doesn’t believe in Hell? I was corrected by a friend of mine when I referred to the “Judeo-Christian concept of hell” in a conversation with him.

    • #24
    • May 3, 2017, at 1:06 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    KC Mulville (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    KC, what if the gospel hasn’t been presented in its fullness, or in a comprehensible way, by those charged with doing so? And, in an impish moment, I can’t forego mentioning Rahner’s ‘anonymous Christian’ concept, from a Catholic point of view. ?

    Rahner got a lot of grief for that; in fact, it got him silenced for a while. So I’m going to step gingerly.

    My own belief is that the teaching of the gospel has to be partnered with the living of the gospel. The gospel itself isn’t really that complicated. After all, it’s filled with parables, and was grasped and enthusiastically believed by fishermen, shepherds, and Irishmen :-> so how complicated does it need to be? The presentation doesn’t have to be that deep.

    On the other hand, when the gospel is presented by people who don’t live it, it’s nearly impossible to persuade anyone — and mitigates against it. I’d argue that the failure of our evangelism isn’t because we didn’t explain it properly, but that listeners judged the evangelist more than the gospel. Having said that, I also think the normal believer gets a bad rap. Yes, we’re still sinners, and hypocrites, and weak. So when a critic (or a secular culture) refuses to accept the gospel because the evangelists aren’t perfect saints … I think we all need to relax a little about perfection.

    And more often than not, in the last thousand years, the gospel was spread through an enormous institution (i.e., church) which is prone to mindless bureaucracy. Individuals get lost. I still think faith has to be spread individually, face to face.

    The gospel’s easy. It’s practicing what we preach that gets us in trouble.

    If it’s any consolation, I think the teaching of the Gospel is a wonderful thing. My main quibble with The Church is not hypocrisy, it is the Church’s confluence of a state’s responsibility for preserving liberty with the vague idea of collective charity. What happened to “render unto Caesar..?” If corrupt governments are used to advance the interests of a few, the answer is not to use those same governments to redistribute the spoils of corrupt commerce. That approach has given us nothing but failure.

    • #25
    • May 3, 2017, at 1:15 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    KC, what if the gospel hasn’t been presented in its fullness, or in a comprehensible way, by those charged with doing so?

    Imagine that your own loving father is an all-powerful judge. Because he loves you, he wants to get you off the hook or at least minimize the penalties you must pay before rejoining him at home. But because he is a good judge, he cannot be entirely blind to your crimes and will imprison you if necessary for more serious transgressions.

    Now suppose that you were largely ignorant of some of the crimes you committed. I was not so ignorant, but I didn’t try to correct you because “I’m not the judge”. Your father, the judge, would justifiably be angry with me for withholding knowledge of the law. And he would be disappointed in you for not educating yourself.

    The popular refrain “Who am I to judge?” hints at a significant truth but is easily taken too far. It is for the judge to mete and dole punishments and rewards. But as fellow “citizens” — especially as adopted siblings in Christ’s family — we have a responsibility to seek the truth and correct each other… to help each other meet the judge well-prepared.

    • #26
    • May 3, 2017, at 1:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    My main quibble with The Church is not hypocrisy, it is the Church’s confluence of a state’s responsibility for preserving liberty with the vague idea of collective charity. What happened to “render unto Caesar..?”

    It is easy to mistake what works and can be justified at a local level with proper action at a national level. In many cases, I think it is this blindness to the differences of scale that misleads people into tyranny. I can understand and negotiate with my immediate neighbors. But I can’t share much of anything voluntarily with millions of strangers hundreds of miles away.

    The Church has a lot more to say about morals than ethics (application of moral principles to specific circumstances), though there are exceptions. The off-the-cuff rhetoric of bishops doesn’t always comport with official teachings about such concepts as subsidiarity (that challenges should generally be handled at the most local level possible).

    • #27
    • May 3, 2017, at 1:25 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor

    A-Squared (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jews don’t discuss hell much. For me…

    I was under the impression that the Jewish religion doesn’t believe in Hell? I was corrected by a friend of mine when I referred to the “Judeo-Christian concept of hell” in a conversation with him.

    I’m not clear if you now think there is no Jewish hell or there is one. But here is part of an article from Chabad. (You might enjoy reading the whole thing— )

    We do believe in a type of Hell, but not the one found in cartoons and joke books. Hell is not a punishment in the conventional sense; it is, in fact, the expression of a great kindness.

    The Jewish mystics described a spiritual place called “Gehinnom.” This is usually translated as “Hell,” but a better translation would be “the Supernal Washing Machine.” Because that’s exactly how it works. The way our soul is cleansed in Gehinnom is similar to the way our clothes are cleansed in a washing machine.

    • #28
    • May 3, 2017, at 1:29 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  29. A-Squared Inactive

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I’m not clear if you now think there is no Jewish hell or there is one.

    Apologies for careless language. A Jewish friend of mine corrected me by telling me that Jews don’t believe in hell. Later, I read the book “God, a Biography” and he includes quotes from the Old Testament about how God rewards and punishes your descendants rather than you in an afterlife.

    • #29
    • May 3, 2017, at 1:37 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ll make one more point about Christianity as religion rather than an ethical guide. Christianity describes an ongoing personal relationship. It’s about a who, not a what.

    When you were a child, did you love your father merely by obeying his rules and doing your chores? If you never enjoyed his company, ate with him, spoke with him, tried to know him, thanked him, laughed or cried with him, then would he feel loved? He’s your father, not some robot issuing orders to a slave. He doesn’t want just the affection and company of just any boy, either. He loves you particularly as his unique and irreplaceable child, even if you had a dozen siblings.

    God offers more than sustenance and asks for more than obedience. He gives love. He asks for love in return. It matters very much that you do not mistake that relationship for a rulebook or lifestyle.

    He will introduce Himself in time. All I can ask, Doug, is that you remain open to that experience.

    God moves through people as wind moves through leaves. You don’t actually see the wind itself, but by the leaves you see its presence. In the miraculous love of your neighbors, God is present. Like a dad whispering in his daughter’s ear to give her mother a hug, the love expressed in that hug is not the daughter’s alone.

    • #30
    • May 3, 2017, at 1:43 PM PDT
    • 15 likes