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gc





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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:29 pm    Post subject: If you really belive... Reply with quote

There is one thing that I have never understood about religion, and I was hoping someone could shed some light on it for me.

If you really, truly believe that good people are rewarded in heaven and that bad people are punished in hell, wouldn't you do absolutely everything in your power to be a good person? I mean not just a decent person, but the kindest and most generous person that ever lived, even if that means making sacrifices? For example, selling all of your possessions and giving the money to the poor? Isn't it worth at most 100 years or so of hard work for an eternity of bliss? I'm just saying that if I was certain that heaven and hell exist, that's what I'd do. I think I would be a cross somewhere between Ned Flanders and Mother Teresa. Of course there are rare people out there like Mother Teresa who do make these kinds of personal sacrifices, but why don't more people do it? Why don't you sell all of your possessions and give the money to the poor? Wouldn't it be worth the reward in heaven?
Craig
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:52 pm    Post subject: Re: If you really belive... Reply with quote

gc wrote:
For example, selling all of your possessions and giving the money to the poor? Isn't it worth at most 100 years or so of hard work for an eternity of bliss?


I'm no expert but I think the Bible advocates caring for the poor not making yourself one.

The Bible also says that the poor will inherit the earth. So I could argue that selling all of my possessions is a selfish act.

The strongest Christians typically do devote themselves as you describe through missionary work. Most Christians are not strong Christians - which is precisely why Islam is winning.

I also don't think that the Bible considers living comfortably to be a sin.

Quote:
Of course there are rare people out there like Mother Teresa who do make these kinds of personal sacrifices, but why don't more people do it?


If we all acted like Mother Teresa it would be considered normal and you would be asking the question as to why we ONLY give as much as Mother Teresa. It is all relative...

Quote:
Why don't you sell all of your possessions and give the money to the poor? Wouldn't it be worth the reward in heaven?


Maybe you can point me to the passages in the Bible where it says that by eating well (not as a glutton but well) and living in a nice house means I will be condemned to hell.
Forward





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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:14 pm    Post subject: Re: If you really belive... Reply with quote

gc wrote:
There is one thing that I have never understood about religion, and I was hoping someone could shed some light on it for me.

.......... Wouldn't it be worth the reward in heaven?


These are good questions and thanks for ASKING. (Not simply pulling the usual snotty, hysterical atheist garbage of name calling & such). Right polite of you. :)

I asked similar questions to one of the leaders of our church. (Actuallly my wife is the good Christian in our family --- I simply can't get the hang of the whole "turn-the-other-cheek" thing).

Anyhow the aswer (in an EXTREMELY shortened version) is that "people are human beings and it's unreasonable to expect them to live perfect lives.

Let's face it. You couldn't go through a day WITHOUT SINNING even if you were promised a million dollars at sundown for doing so. You're only human. The idea is to know the rules. Try to be a self disciplined as you can and do the best you can. Also since you know the rules you should be honest with yourself when you've broken them.

If you've thought about swiping something from Wal-Mart then you've sinned even if you didn't do it. But if you're honest in your mind & say "Yes, I shouldn't have even considered it" I think how it works is that God takes the repentance into account.

If you brush off the sin & justify it instead of being honest about it then you are still on the shit list.
Habsrwfan





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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gc - Those are excellent questions, and I want to thank you for presenting them in a civil way. You rarely see such civility on internet Religion boards these days, so I thank you for it.

Let me reply as a person of Christian faith.

What Mother Teresa did was quite wonderful, but it would probably not be practical for every Christian to do as she did. If all Christians did as she did... and went to help out the poorest people in some of the poorest places in the world... who would be left here to attend to the financial, physical, and spiritual needs of other people living in our own countries?

And since we already have our own apartments, homes, and houses to work out of as is, there's a certain practicality in keeping them and working directly out of them to help others.

Now, that being said, there are some little things I do to try to help others within my own limited means, and due to my Christian faith.

One thing I do is tip generously when eating out at restaurants by myself, or with family members. Restaurant workers are frequently amongst the lowest paid of workers; some could even be called the working poor; so here's a quick and easy way to help out the poor directly, I think.

Whenever somebody I know personally is in financial straits, and I'm in a position to help that person, I try to make a point to do so.


Right now in my life, I'm between jobs, so my means are currently limited, but when I'm in a better financial position, I might consider greater generosity on my part.


So, I hear what you're saying loud and clear.
I only feel comfortable answering for myself here.
potan





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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just doing "good" is not a ticket to heaven. None of us are good, even our most good deeds can be self-serving. I believe that humans are innately sinful, that is what our flesh is most comfortable with.
The problem is that good works alone provide no measure of "good enough". How many good works should you do to be a good person? If "good" is defined relatively then there would be the possibility of evil existing in heaven since a relative measurement wouldn't result in anyone being perfectly good. Therefore, there is only one who has the right to define "good" and that is God. For anyone to be good would be for them to be like God, because only he is perfectly good. That is why the central message of Christianity is that we can't earn our way to heaven.
Thus, the real question is not about who is good enough to get in to heaven. The real question is how God makes it possible for anyone to get in at all. My belief is that we get into heaven if we have faith in what Christ did at the cross and receive forgiveness for our sins thanks to God's grace. I am not good enough to get to heaven, I know that for sure. There is a reason why Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” - Luke 5:31-32. This is what I believe.
Forward





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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as the good works & charity idea. Let's face it. In the 85 or so years you might have n the planet you are not going to be able to work your way into heaven. Let's suppose you started tomorrow morning bright & early.

1st you empty your bank account & give it all away.

Then what?

You remortgage the house & give that all away.

Then what?

You work at a minimum wage job so your higher paying job can go to someone else.

Then what?

You live on the street allowing homeless people to live in your over-mortgaged house.

Then what?

You live on one meal a day giving your other food to hungry street people.

Then what?

You give all your clothes to others & dress in rags.

Then what?

Ok, you get the idea by now. At some point you shave your head and start trying to remove one of your own kidneys & corneas with a steak knife because you can live with one each.

Some people follow a call from God to do certain things like Mother Theresa but that doesn't mean you can WORK your way into heaven.
potan





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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forward wrote:
As far as the good works & charity idea. Let's face it. In the 85 or so years you might have n the planet you are not going to be able to work your way into heaven. Let's suppose you started tomorrow morning bright & early.

1st you empty your bank account & give it all away.

Then what?

You remortgage the house & give that all away.

Then what?

You work at a minimum wage job so your higher paying job can go to someone else.

Then what?

You live on the street allowing homeless people to live in your over-mortgaged house.

Then what?

You live on one meal a day giving your other food to hungry street people.

Then what?

You give all your clothes to others & dress in rags.

Then what?

Ok, you get the idea by now. At some point you shave your head and start trying to remove one of your own kidneys & corneas with a steak knife because you can live with one each.

Some people follow a call from God to do certain things like Mother Theresa but that doesn't mean you can WORK your way into heaven.


Of course. I have nothing against good works either. I think we should all do as much good as we can in this world. I should note that Christians in particular are commanded to help the poor, clothe the widow etc etc. in the Bible but it also says that is not enough.
don muntean





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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:12 pm    Post subject: Re: If you really belive... Reply with quote

gc wrote:
There is one thing that I have never understood about religion, and I was hoping someone could shed some light on it for me.

If you really, truly believe that good people are rewarded in heaven and that bad people are punished in hell, wouldn't you do absolutely everything in your power to be a good person? I mean not just a decent person, but the kindest and most generous person that ever lived, even if that means making sacrifices? For example, selling all of your possessions and giving the money to the poor? Isn't it worth at most 100 years or so of hard work for an eternity of bliss? I'm just saying that if I was certain that heaven and hell exist, that's what I'd do. I think I would be a cross somewhere between Ned Flanders and Mother Teresa. Of course there are rare people out there like Mother Teresa who do make these kinds of personal sacrifices, but why don't more people do it? Why don't you sell all of your possessions and give the money to the poor? Wouldn't it be worth the reward in heaven?


In Judaism, yetzer hara (Hebrew: יצר הרע‎ for "evil inclination") refers to the inclination to do evil, by violating the will of God. The yetzer hara is not a demonic force, but rather man's mis-use of things the physical body needs to survive. So the need for food becomes gluttony due to our yetzer hara. The need for procreation becomes sexual abuse. . .and so on. Judaism teaches that humans are born with a yetzer hara (physical needs that can become "evil"), but that we don't acquire a yetzer tov ("good" inclination) until an age of maturity -- 12 for girls and 13 for boys.

Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, also known by the Hebrew acronym RaMCHaL, wrote in Derech Hashem (The Way of God) "Man is the creature created for the purpose of being drawn close to G-d. He is placed between perfection and deficiency, with the power to earn perfection. Man must earn this perfection, however, through his own free will.…Man's inclinations are therefore balanced between good (Yetzer HaTov) and evil (Yetzer HaRa), and he is not compelled toward either of them. He has the power of choice and is able to choose either side knowingly and willingly…"


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yetzer_hara

As adults we all have two innate tendencies or inclinations - one is the negative inclination and one is the positive inclination.

Now to your questions...if people were really sure of the hereafter they would live their lives much differently - knowing the surety of rewards and punishments.

Of course in Judaism and Christianity one is called to be a good and kind soul not for a reward but because that is what God wants of us - reward or not.

Your question runs deeper in that if we really 'believe in God' then we will be more willing to try to do His will - even if it means that we must deny ourselves to some extent to do it.

To some measure that is what is happening in our lives - we're learning to trust that God really is real and not just that He merely exists but that He has some personal interest in His created beings.

We can observe that He is drawing everyone of us toward Him and some of us are far away and some are close by. God is never far away from us but we can be far away from Him!

In this life we are in a constant struggle with this duality of positive vs. negative and - there are times that doubts enter in the hearts of people as a result of that struggle.

Of course we need to do our part to strengthen our positive inclination through study of scriptures and application of the things therein to our lives as far as possible.

Most importantly we need to form a 'friendship' with our creator. We need to be talking to Him wherever we find ourselves in life - we cannot let our link to Him become disconnected. God has to become primary in our thoughts as often as possible - to move past a mechanical 'knowing' that He IS ever present in our lives.

Your question takes one to the logic of the point of asking - if we only have this short life followed by reward and punishment - wouldn't it be better to apply everything to helping others and living a life of personal austerity?

The answer was also touched on in you post!

You mention the examples of exceptional individuals who were able to give themselves wholly to such a sentiment but - these people are rare and to imitate that position is not a good idea. We can emulate it - but not imitate it.

We are to have a balance in life in terms of our spiritual and physical needs. If we try to give up more and sacrifice more than we are actually capable of after some time we will become resentful and desist and maybe even lose faith in God.

In our haphazard experience of life through the duality of the positive and the negative tendencies we can become doubtful of God and the afterlife and thus end up resentful of our self sacrifice.

The fact is the afterlife remains a life long mystery to us and we cannot have any experience of it in the 'here and now' - to confirm what it is or isn't.

However the same cannot be said of our experience of God Himself!

If one is open to it God will indeed reciprocate with everyone and through this reciprocation we can over time and through life experiences come to a point where we know deep in our being that God in fact exists.

It's interesting that the very first commandment at Sinai was to 'know that God exists' - not merely to believe in Him!

So can one find some simplicity in all this? The details of a program to please God really only come down to this...

It hath been told thee, O man, what is good, and what the LORD doth require of thee: only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. [Micah 6.8]

This is a good and deep subject and I would like to come back to it another time as one could discuss this much further!

:)


Last edited by don muntean on Sat Nov 21, 2009 11:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
Habsrwfan





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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

potan wrote:


Of course. I have nothing against good works either. I think we should all do as much good as we can in this world. I should note that Christians in particular are commanded to help the poor, clothe the widow etc etc. in the Bible but it also says that is not enough.


Agreed.

I think that a true faith will tend to lead to good works (i.e. "by their fruits you will know them"), but that faith comes first, and good works should arise from that.

Basically, faith and good works ideally go hand in hand... but nobody is perfect. Well, except one particular Person. ;)
gc





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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, I'm impressed by all of the great responses. Thanks everyone, this is great. I'll do my best to respond to all the main points, but if I don't have time to respond to everyone then my apologies.
gc





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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:58 am    Post subject: Re: If you really belive... Reply with quote

Craig wrote:
I'm no expert but I think the Bible advocates caring for the poor not making yourself one.

If you are looking for bible quotes, here is a good one:
"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"

I'm sure you can find many more on this site or similar ones.

Quote:
The Bible also says that the poor will inherit the earth. So I could argue that selling all of my possessions is a selfish act.

Are you saying that people like Mother Teresa are selfish?

Quote:
I also don't think that the Bible considers living comfortably to be a sin.

I guess it depends on what you consider to be confortable/rich. The teachings of Jesus are 2,000 years old. Even the middle class today, with a nice house, car, computers, access to modern medicine etc. would be considered fabulously wealthy 2,000 years ago. Anyways, while the bible doesn't say exactly how much is too much, it makes it pretty clear that being rich is bad and being poor is good. Don't you want to be as good as possible?

Quote:
If we all acted like Mother Teresa it would be considered normal and you would be asking the question as to why we ONLY give as much as Mother Teresa. It is all relative...

It's true that no one can be perfect, but everyone can do their best. Was Mother Teresa perfect? Of course not, but she can probably honestly say to herself that she did everything in her power to help the poor. Can other Christians say the same?

Quote:
Maybe you can point me to the passages in the Bible where it says that by eating well (not as a glutton but well) and living in a nice house means I will be condemned to hell.
See above.
gc





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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:02 pm    Post subject: Re: If you really belive... Reply with quote

Forward wrote:
Anyhow the aswer (in an EXTREMELY shortened version) is that "people are human beings and it's unreasonable to expect them to live perfect lives.

Let's face it. You couldn't go through a day WITHOUT SINNING even if you were promised a million dollars at sundown for doing so. You're only human. The idea is to know the rules. Try to be a self disciplined as you can and do the best you can. Also since you know the rules you should be honest with yourself when you've broken them.

If you've thought about swiping something from Wal-Mart then you've sinned even if you didn't do it. But if you're honest in your mind & say "Yes, I shouldn't have even considered it" I think how it works is that God takes the repentance into account.

If you brush off the sin & justify it instead of being honest about it then you are still on the shit list.

That's very true, I couldn't do the impossible no matter how much I was rewarded for it. But I could give it my absolute best effort. For example, if someone said they would pay me a million dollars to run 100 metres in under 10 seconds, I wouldn't be able to do it. It's just not possible for me. But if someone said that they would give me money based on how fast I ran, with more money for the faster I ran, you can bet I would run as fast as I possibly can. Likewise, I'm not suggesting that all Christians should be perfect, but are all Christians doing everything they can to help people?
gc





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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Habsrwfan wrote:
What Mother Teresa did was quite wonderful, but it would probably not be practical for every Christian to do as she did. If all Christians did as she did... and went to help out the poorest people in some of the poorest places in the world... who would be left here to attend to the financial, physical, and spiritual needs of other people living in our own countries?

That's not a bad point, but it would only apply if everyone did these things. I'm sure there are plenty of atheists/agnostics/other-religions/Christian-with-less-than-100%-faith to fill these jobs. The question is, if there was one less [insert your job title here] and one more Mother Teresa, would the world be better or worse off?

Quote:
And since we already have our own apartments, homes, and houses to work out of as is, there's a certain practicality in keeping them and working directly out of them to help others.

Now, that being said, there are some little things I do to try to help others within my own limited means, and due to my Christian faith.

One thing I do is tip generously when eating out at restaurants by myself, or with family members. Restaurant workers are frequently amongst the lowest paid of workers; some could even be called the working poor; so here's a quick and easy way to help out the poor directly, I think.

Whenever somebody I know personally is in financial straits, and I'm in a position to help that person, I try to make a point to do so.

Right now in my life, I'm between jobs, so my means are currently limited, but when I'm in a better financial position, I might consider greater generosity on my part.

So, I hear what you're saying loud and clear.
I only feel comfortable answering for myself here.

I think it's great that you are doing things to help. As for the part about waiting until you are in a better financial position, I'll just leave you with this quote from the bible (Mark 12:41-44):

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."
gc





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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forward wrote:
As far as the good works & charity idea. Let's face it. In the 85 or so years you might have n the planet you are not going to be able to work your way into heaven. Let's suppose you started tomorrow morning bright & early.

See my post above, as I think it applies here too. Again, no one can be perfect, but anyone can do their best to do as much good as possible. There are clearly some people who could be doing more. There are plenty of Christian millionaires, many of them leaders in the Chrstian community. In fact, that's how a lot of them made their money.
gc





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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:25 pm    Post subject: Re: If you really belive... Reply with quote

Don,
Great post. I apologize for picking apart this post, but I don't have time to respond to every point right now.

Quote:
Of course in Judaism and Christianity one is called to be a good and kind soul not for a reward but because that is what God wants of us - reward or not.

That is a good point, but then shouldn't we still strive to be as good as humanly possible because that is what God wants of us?

Quote:
We are to have a balance in life in terms of our spiritual and physical needs. If we try to give up more and sacrifice more than we are actually capable of after some time we will become resentful and desist and maybe even lose faith in God.

I think it's possible to make self sacrifices and keep your faith in God. After all, it is your faith in God that is causing you to make those self sacrifices.

Quote:
The fact is the afterlife remains a life long mystery to us and we cannot have any experience of it in the 'here and now' - to confirm what it is or isn't.

If you believe in the literal truth of the bible, then you must at least believe that heaven is a great place where people are rewarded and hell is a terrible place where people are punished.
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