Monday, July 27, 2009

How to approach the "right religion" question

I was listening to a certain talk show where he was rerunning a segment where callers described their experience at converting from their original religion, to a different faith, and then back to their original faith, or yet another conversion. Like my blog post earlier today about whether God is strong enough to defeat evil, I detected an urgent underlying assumption about not only this question of finding the "right religion," but also the hidden error in even looking for the "right religion." That may sound strange but here we go with my explanation, because this is also a problem of what sounds logical is actually disguising huge potential errors and very wrong paths to finding God.

Here is an analogy to understand the problem, and huge pitfall, of having a "seeking the right religion" orientation. Suppose that you are an infant during World War II and due to the Holocaust you have been separated from your father. You grow up without having memories of him and all that you know is his name; you have no idea what has become of him. The years go by and you grow up, perhaps with the family who sheltered you, and they may even have adopted you. You still do not know what had happened to your father, if he died, or if he lived, where he is now. You become educated and grown up, and now have enough income, maturity and will power to seek your father.

Now that you have imagined this situation, and put yourself in this person's shoes, let me ask you a question. Are you seeking your father to 1) find out who he is and where he is because he is your father, or 2) because you hope that he has some money stashed away that if you present yourself to him, you can have it?

Wow, doesn't reason number two sound crass and totally wrong? Obviously the child, now a young man or woman, wants to find his or her real father, for love, for kinship, for a real relationship or, if he has indeed died, closure and honoring of his memory. So clearly reason number one is why the child now grown seeks his or her father, torn from him or her in war and in the horror of the Holocaust.

Without being mean, and I really am not being mean at ALL, let us look at the consequences of reason number one or reason number two. The person who seeks for reason number one is overcome with joy when he or she finds out what has happened to his or her father, even if the news is not good, for at last he or she knows the truth.

The person who seeks for reason number two is also happy when he or she finds who he or she THINKS is his or her father, especially if he or she is now endowed with possessions or money given to him or her by the living father, or inherited by him or her if the father is deceased. He or she is glad that he or she found the right dad.

What might go wrong with reason number two? What if the father has no treasure, no assets, to share at all with the seeking son or daughter. Is the joy in the reunion, or the closure, diminished? Obviously yes, if that was the driving motivation. A second problem is being certain that this is the actual father and not mistaken identity. Might the presumed son or daughter be tempted to believe that the prospective actual father who has assets is indeed the father, even if further research shows mistaken identity? And might the actual prospective father be dismissed as not being the actual father if the prospective son or daughter is looking through a certain set of expectations, thinking their actual father MUST surely have money to share?

=== When the objective of the search for the "right one" is established upon receipt of reward, rather than determining the truth, great error is likely to be introduced.

This is the problem with those who seek the "right religion" rather than those who seek "the truth." People seek the "right religion" for reasons that sound valid, but if you take a closer look, you find they have great potential for error:

o They want the "right religion" so that they have the best outcome (presumed rewards for faithfulness in both life and after death). If you are a Christian that might mean you want the "right religion" to be "saved;" if you believe in reincarnation you want the "right religion" in order to try to manipulate a "better rebirth" in a "future life;" and if you are a New Age pagan or whatever you might be hoping to find the "right religion" so you can be combating the "correct alien menace." :-(

o They want the "right religion" because it is the one that "feels right" and "comfortable," and is "harmonious with their lifestyle."

o They want the "right religion" because it is the one that "answers their questions" and "gives them gifts, charisms, special powers and abilities, and knowledge that 'others are not privy to."

You can now see that those reasons all sound logical, but are huge temptations to accept as being the "right religion" whichever "faith" scratches the itch and presumably grants the reward you seek. Thus the Holocaust surviving son or daughter might genuinely think the guy with the most money really is their father and dismiss poorer guys ("he doesn't look like me anyway") and not bother with a paternity test.

===When one seeks the truth rather than the "right religion," one never finds the "wrong religion" because the truth is a built-in paternity test.

Suddenly, when one seeks the truth first, one becomes much more analytical and logical, even in a spiritual quest. You recognize that the correct father might not make you feel "comfortable" like you are hanging out with a pal. You recognize that the correct father may not have been salting away lots of money just to give to you as a reward for "finding him." When you seek the truth, you seek the truth, and you will find the truth.

I'll let you contemplate this, for you can fill in the blanks of what I would write here, of the different ways that the "right religion" can "feel right" or "sound right," but if you have an agenda other than the truth, it is a religion that is compatible with your wishes and not, instead, the truth. Here is scripture for further reading. NOW you can understand these passages in the Bible.

[Jesus said about God] Sanctify them in the truth. Thy word is truth. John 17:17

[Jesus said about his followers] And for them I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:19

By way of definition and better understanding, the term to be "sanctified" means that a person is set aside for God's work. Anyone who with determination and honesty sets him or her self aside to do God's work is sanctified. Sanctification is not removal from secular life. People who truly follow God as he actually is, and who always put God first, striving (even when they fall some) to do God's work are sanctified.

Jesus is thus giving through these assertions some logical development that his listeners and future generations can hear and believe the truth. There is even some Greek deductive reasoning in what Jesus says ;-) Jesus is saying:

A. A person is sanctified (follows God) when he or she seeks the truth. "Sanctify them in the truth."

B. All that God says and reveals is the truth. "Thy word is truth."

C. Jesus has sanctified himself, as he is dedicated to following God, who is the truth. "And for them I sanctify myself..."

Therefore, in conclusion, logically, so that since God is the truth, Jesus has sanctified himself to God, those who believe all that Jesus says and does are now also sanctified to God in the truth. "...that they also may be sanctified in truth."

Just as an aside, even though Jesus as he lived was preaching to Jews, obviously many who listened to him were not Jewish and many of those were educated in Greek philosophy and logic. All who heard this would have had their socks knocked off, as Jesus was also "speaking their language" by using deductive reasoning based on clear assertions and classic Greek logic.

All you who read and love the scriptures, after understanding this you can read John 17 and it will speak to you, in Jesus' words, as it has never spoken to you before, as you will see the threads of how Jesus brings the fabric of truth together as the basis and foundation for faith. Jesus explained that faith comes from truth first. Jesus explains that the miracles and the works, and the explanations of his fulfillment of all the scriptures of prophesy from the very beginning are given by God as truth first, and then secondly the foundation of faith.

That is the profound difference between those who seek the truth first, and those who seek an image of what they consider and assume to be "the right religion."

Let me now ask one further question. Many argue that all religions lead to God. Really? You mean if the Holocaust son or daughter just tags along with any potential male of the right age that he will serve as their "actual father?" Really? No, untruthful roads do not lead to God. That does not mean that God does not forgive those who grew up in untruthful circumstances, for only God knows how he judges those who are raised without knowing Him as he truthfully is. However, God will of course be stern to those who do not attempt to discern the truth first. The Qur'an, by the way, is also, using different style of wording, focused on truthfulness first, and faith as the natural outflow second.

Surah 10:32-33 This then is Allah, your true Lord, and what is there after the truth but error; how are you then turned back?
Thus does the word of your Lord prove true against those who transgress that they do not believe.

This passage from the Qur'an echoes very much the flow of logic that Jesus uses. Here the logic flow is:

The true God is the true God.
If one rejects truth in any matter, the alternative to truth is therefore error.
How does one return to believing the truth if one believes in error?
One does so by observing the results of the proof of truth, compared to the lack of results among those who believe in error.

There is the famous saying "The truth shall make you free."

Jesus therefore said to the Jews who had come to believe in him, "If you abide in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-33.

Again, Jesus uses the logic whereby if one abides (lives within) the words of Jesus (who has sanctified himself to no other purpose than to serve God, who is the Truth), then one becomes disciples of Jesus, and thus likewise know the truth about God also. Furthermore, the truth is liberation from slavery, the slavery of error and of sin. Jesus explains why truth liberates those who are enslaved (and don't even know it) in John 8:34-38, and this becomes an extended debate with those who don't understand that they are enslaved because they don't recognize the truth when it is speaking to them, either from God himself or Jesus.

So here is the error in logic of believing that "all faiths" "lead to God." "All faiths" do not contain equal amounts, if any, of truth, anymore than all men of a certain age and region are therefore the prospective son's or daughter's actual lost father. People are confusing good behavior with truth! Perhaps "all faiths" assert certain consistent moral codes and behaviors. That does not mean that all of them are the "right faiths" and it certainly does not mean that they are equally "the truth." The prospective son or daughter may have a happy life with the "any man will do" father, until years later they discover that while they had their happy life their actual father was unrecognized by them. Oops.

Trust the truth. Anyone who is the least bit mature wants to know the truth of things, not error, misunderstandings, lies and false leads. The truth is the truth (anything that is not the truth is false and an error). The actual truthful matter leads one to the actual God of truth. Believing in error or falsehood leads to an erroneous path to an erroneous world view, containing an incorrect and incomplete understanding of the truth about God and the truth of God.

To explain a bit more about the temptation to follow what "feels" like "nice" beliefs since they are "moral" consider this. Suppose the seeking son or daughter asks a resident if their lost father lives in a certain village. Suppose the villager thinks, "Hmm, I know a really nice guy who is a lonely man. I'll tell this seeking child that I know for sure that man is their actual father, even though he isn't. In fact, I am doing a good deed!" Again, the seeking child may have a great life with the wrong father, but what happens to the actual father who never sees his child again?

THAT is the risk of not seeking the truth first.

I hope this has been and will be helpful to you and yours.