I said in my introduction to this blog that I have respect for those who have faith and believe in God. I am not now sure that respect is exactly the right word but I do have admiration that people can be so sure of God and of their faith, and I am amazed that so many in the world do. I do not believe that anyone in this world has been or ever will be faultless though, and equally I think this life is about the here and now, there is no ‘after’.
My Bible is going the minute I publish this last post, I do not expect that I will want to read it again but if that is the case later in life then I doubt it will be difficult for me to get hold of a copy, and if for any reason I need to reference it there is always the internet. If I personally need a faith at all, it is certainly not one that is based upon the Bible and that may need more research. But this all leaves me with more than a few dilemmas:
My country’s national anthem has references to God. I am not nationalistic either however when it comes to sport I do support my country’s competitors. The last event I was at I did stand for the national anthem (as I would for almost all countries) but did not sing. Where should my ‘loyalties’ be lying? At least I will never have the dilemma of being the one up on the podium while the anthem is played.
I am a godparent. I do not know if this is typical but at the time I was not shown the words of the promises I made before I actually made them. Even reading them out loud I was a little hesitant because I was not sure how much that which I was actually saying was true but there was no option to pull out, or it would have been very embarrassing for the parents of the children if I had. This does not mean that I am any less concerned with regard to the welfare of these children, just that God does not come into it for me.
And then there is Christmas and Easter which are our built into our calendar, not to mention other numerous aspects of our day to day lives in the country in which I live which have basis in the Bible. Members of my family are Christians and do have faith, attend church regularly and even preach. Do I upset them more by disregarding the religious holidays (which I would probably find very hard to do given how much they have been an important factor in my life to now), or by joining in as much as my conscience will allow without meaning to disrespect them?
Just because I have reached the conclusion of my quest to read the Bible from start to finish, I do not think my quest for meaning in this life will ever end until my life does.
‘Happy is the one who reads this book’: well not necessarily although I am happy that I have come to the end (and have endured to the end). This book is certainly not the revelation I was expecting and I know that I have not full understood all the symbolism used. However, I do know that you cannot force people into believing or acting in a certain way by bullying them or harming them in any way. They are more likely to back away and turn even more strongly against it, or if they do appear to change it is only on the surface from fear of what will happen to them if they do not and not really from the heart. This has been seen time and time again over history and it seems that no-one learns anything from the mistakes of the past whether they act in the name of religion or not.
Goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance and love are qualities everyone would do well to exhibit all the time, and not necessarily with godliness. It is evident that everyone displays differing levels of all these qualities but what makes us more or less able than others?
Take self-control, and for example in relation to food. At my workplace we have a table on which members of the team will periodically place treats. Some people seem unable to walk past this table without taking something from it or seem to have to exhibit high levels of self-control not to take something. And yet, I will rarely take something and usually only directly after my lunch if I do at all and do not feel I am exhibiting any self-control at all to enable me to do this.
And endurance. Sticking to something is something we can all find challenging, and especially so when we are tackling something we are not completely committed to in the first place it seems to me, and any excuse or discouragement can put us off. It is hard to justify or defend something if your heart is not in it. So if you really want to be doing something are you really showing endurance if you keep going no matter what obstacles you come across? Although equally if you stick at something for a length of time that surely demonstrates endurance regardless.
Faith and actions. ‘To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.’ So whether religious or not, surely everyone has some kind of faith. And if not, what kind of life would someone without any faith have? ‘It will be fine’ was a phrase I heard a former work colleague utter many a time, and this was them just demonstrating a faith of a kind.
However without taking action does faith actually exist? Having blind faith in something is no guarantee that it will come to fruition. We cannot be inert and do nothing and expect everything to just come to us. To make things happen we have to be prepared to do something about it ourselves, and I have always maintained that if you really want to do something you will find a way to do it. Is that not showing some faith, even if it is in yourself, and that surely cannot be bad if it is to the benefit of others and indeed your own wellbeing.
The remainder of Paul’s letters which are pretty much of a muchness and so I have posted them together. I really can not take to Paul at all. I find him arrogant and a hypocrite. He preaches not to boast but the letters all seem to be saying look at how much I am persecuted but how well I endure my suffering, and are full of his ego about how well he has done in turning his life around. He writes that people should be kind to all but then tells that he has punished people. He tells how all are one in Christ and with the Lord and then forms his opinion of people according to a hierarchy, and his treatment of women is so disdainful that I am wondering if he was just plain misogynistic.
I also refute the notion that people who are godless or who have no religion are necessarily evil. I am sure there are plenty of people in the world who have no religion who are kind, generous, humble, do not tell intentionally tell lies, and are not murderers, kidnappers or sexual perverts. You do not need to have a religion to have a conscience and know what is wrong and right and how you should treat others.
I am also coming to the conclusion that it is no wonder there are so many different Christian faiths and denominations out there who have chosen to concentrate on the certain parts of the Bible that are palatable to them, ignoring the parts they cannot align themselves with.
And who or what is the Wicked One?
This one will be short – at least Paul says he sounds like a madman even if it is not meant in the same way I have been thinking.
My other point comes back to the notion that you can force or coerce people into believing something. Paul says ‘we are not trying to dictate to you what you must believe’ but that seems to me exactly what he is trying to do. How do we come to the beliefs we have? I might very well say that you cannot force someone what to believe but actually you probably can, even those with the most questioning of minds who are not easily led by others. Even someone who is very strong-willed and determined believes in something, or that something is fact, which cannot be proven by physical evidence put in front of them. So it is therefore not impossible to make them believe something that is in fact a fallacy. In any case, in would be wrong to try.
If a book was going to put me off the Bible and it’s supposed teachings it is this one. Paul’s diatribe just makes me want to say what a ‘load of tosh’, and unfortunately I’m likely to be in for much more of the same with all his various letters to follow. How did he come to have such dominance for inclusion in the Bible? Thankfully times have changed in the majority of the world and it should be taken in context but I still do not understand how any self-respecting woman can be a Christian after reading this, in particular chapter 11. Unfortunately some poor woman gave birth to Paul.
If I believe that when you die, you die; that there is no spiritual afterlife, then does that preclude me from ever believing in God as he is portrayed in the Bible? Additionally, if I do not believe that the way to God is through Jesus Christ, does this mean there is any faith out there for me? And to come down to it, do I even believe in a God? And how come so many people do say they believe in God who do not describe themselves as religious?
A little aside is the names you come across that are biblical. Surprised by the appearance of Chloe here – I’ve always thought of it as a modern name but clearly not.
The writing here seems at times incoherent as if Paul is just rambling on, and I disagree strongly on a couple of points although I do have to say that surely if we all adhered by the statement ‘Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody’ (12:18) then surely all the ills of the world would be cured and we would all be living in a better place – we can only dream (back to ‘Imagine’ again).
Maybe I can be proved wrong but I do not believe there is a person in the world that does not have a conscience, whether they believe in God or not, and whether they choose to listen to that conscience or not. So the notion that human nature is fundamentally to commit sin and that only faith in God can save someone from following their human nature does not ring true with me.
I also do not believe that we only know desires because we are told not to desire what belongs to someone else. I guess as a child if you are told you cannot have something that is what you generally want at that moment, but not always if it was something you never wanted or were not interested in the first place. I do not think I am unique in that in growing older these desires have lessened and when they do occur they are brief as my brain takes over and I realise that I do not actually want whatever it is so much anyway – it is just not that important in the scheme of things. You learn that it is not really a disappointment and possession does not really mean that much. As Paul says love is much more important.
I will have to admit that I have not found this part of Acts a particularly enjoyable or inspirational read. It seems to be just a litany of Paul’s travels and those who opposed him with very little to augment it. And then we have the jumps in narrative to suddenly being ‘we’ when mostly it is ‘they’.
Other than the recognition of ‘Christians’, and it appears there have always been different factions taking different meanings from the same scriptures, the only other thing that really strikes me is that if God created all races of mankind why is there still so much hatred which is perpetrated in the world by those who profess to believe in God? I have obviously touched on this before although from a slightly different angle. It is something I don’t think I will ever understand.
Another thought on which I have not yet reached any conclusion: can you have faith in God but not be prepared to worship a man, namely Jesus? Is this not just idol worship to worship in the name of Jesus Christ?
Dangerous words in that anyone who does not obey the prophet sent by the Lord will be destroyed. We have plenty of evidence that this is not the case: I can only take it that something has been lost in translation here. A theoretical question not uncommonly asked is if you could have a superpower what would it be?
Many may choose the ability to fly; be invisible; or X-ray vision. My choice – to be able to understand and speak any language. I am not saying that the whole of the human race would agree with each other if they could understand and converse in a common language but it would certainly help minimise misunderstandings and fear, and maybe help us see that we are all citizens of the world. I do not think we all need to have belief in a common God to achieve this; just a little willingness and empathy in the absence of ‘superpowers’ or indeed being filled with the ‘Holy Spirit’.