I have a friend who I found last September after nearly 9 years of no contact. We initially had no idea that we would become close again. After all, we had been brought up in different countries. But the bond lasts and grows with every email we write. Our favourite (hence recurrent) topic seems to be God/Religion. In one of the early emails, she told me that she was a student of Philosophy. Here is where the dialogue begins-
So, have you come up with your own philosophy? Look up J. Krishnamurthi. He was found by the Theosophical Society….they thought he was the next world leader/teacher, but he walked out on them saying he was no such thing. But people were so amazed with the things he said, that they asked him to talk and recorded his speeches in books and tapes. And they, despite his reluctance about it, set up a Krishnamurthi Foundation in India, UK and America. Mainly for education the way he saw it.
The school I did my high school in is under that foundation. We were given a lot of space to question everything- preconceived notions, the way society is, religion, any kind of leadership, competition and a whole lot of other stuff. It wasn’t part of our curriculum or anything- it came through the atmosphere …like a family of thinking individuals. So I made the best of it, used to space to find out who I am (its a process that is never complete) and even now years after I passed out from school, I feel a certain familial love for it-the trees, teachers, the memories.
But that’s more personal-what it did to me. I think his philosophy was revolutionary because he was against the whole concept of teaching people spirituality or the ‘right path’ to truth etc. One of his famous quotes:’Truth is a pathless land’. Any library should have some of his books. I can give it to u in writing…it will blow your mind!:) Ask a lot of disconcerting questions and make you think instead of giving you any answers at all. So check him out.
Well I am a Christian so everything I believe lines up very much with the Bible. I became a Christian about two and a half years ago. If you’d like to know why and how, I’d love to tell you. Just let me know.
Do tell me why u are Christian…what were you before? Religion never really mattered to me. But I don’t know actually. Hinduism, which is what I was born into, works in a funny way. It’s not really a religion in that it originally doesn’t have a conversion mechanism and that’s not the point of the religion (to spread) unlike many others.
It does have the Vedas but not many so called Hindus even know what they say because they’re in Sanskrit and people just don’t bother reading up on them till they’re old and trying to grow some wisdom.
But there are traditions and the culture is pretty diverse and rich- lots of flowers, incense and chants. The actual philosophy isn’t about the idols-in fact there are so many philosophies that I can’t really tell you one and be done with it. People believe different things, follow different customs but they’re all Hindu. It’s kind of funny actually. So you can say there’s no god, or there is one (your favourite…u get to pick from hundreds of gods or a few main ones) or that you like all of – and you’re still Hindu. You can say philosophically that you yourself are god, that you’ll never be god and the two will always be separate, or say that right now I’m not god but I can be or reach that state if I do this and that…and all of them are existent philosophies in Hinduism.
In a book called Ka by Roberto Calasso, there are so many versions of how the universe began and they are all accepted. I’ll tell you why – because…Indians weren’t exposed to Aristotle´s/Plato’s philosophy of Non contradiction. Plato says that if you see a contradiction, check your premise, there really isn’t one. Its a very Absolutist philosophy (absorbed deeply by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged)…
In Hinduism , you can have so many theories, beliefs and philosophies all coexisting without feeling the need to prove one wrong and assert your own (not to say that Hindus follow it…because people do fight about it but that’s not the intension of the philosophy) So actually, the space allows for Islam and Christianity(in India) so as a Hindu I could say “Ok, one more god with a story and philosophies. Cool with me. Even if I follow those gods I’m still Hindu.
So you see why it’s not really a religion!:)
I like the freedom it gives. No rules, no external discipline telling me what to do- just my own mind and conscience to live by and its not like I don’t believe in god. I talk to him. I don’t worship or pray often and most of the time he forgives me more easily than I do myself. So I’m guessing Hinduism became a religion only when other religions came to India and started telling people to “Believe in just one god or else you’ll go to hell”. It had to define itself with respect to other religions- a central book, a conversion system, propaganda about pathways to reach god etc.
Anyway, I’d love to know why you became a Christian:)
I guess it starts with my family background. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My Dad was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness but I think he is now an atheist. He didn’t want my family to be involved with religion (not that I consider Christianity to be a religion, just as you don’t consider Hinduism to be one – but I’ll try to explain that later).
So anyway, my sister and I didn’t go to church or Sunday School when we were younger. My Mum’s parents are Greek Orthodox, but Mum didn’t go to church very much at a young age, except for special occasions. I was christened in the Greek Orthodox church when I was a baby, but I think it was more about tradition than anything else.
So I was raised with very little knowledge of Jesus Christ. I think I have always believed in a God and I even used to pray occasionally (mostly about stuff I wanted or for family members), but I didn’t know what it meant to be a Christian. If someone asked me I would tell them I was a “Christian,” but, in reality, it was only a title (it fit well with the culture I suppose). I was familiar with the idea of Jesus, the Son of God, who came to earth in human form, died on a cross, and was resurrected three days later. But I didn’t understand why Jesus had to die, or recognise that I was a sinner, someone who rebels against God, and that I needed his forgiveness. I thought I was a good person; that it was okay to tell lies to get out of trouble, or disobey my parents if they were being unfair, etc.
Actually, a passage from God’s word which comes to mind at this point is Romans 3:10-12 which talks about my rebellion: “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away.” Everyone has sinned against God, even me, but I couldn’t comprehend this. I lived the way I wanted to live because, basically, I didn’t care to think about what God thought of me.
I started going to a Catholic Church with a friend and her family when I was 15. It was there that I began to learn more about Jesus, but I hadn’t yet made the decision to follow Him. I never really doubted what Jesus had done on the cross, but I know now that I wasn’t living the way He would want me to live. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him and I hadn’t acknowledged Him as my Saviour and Lord. I realise now that the Catholic Church has many teachings which contradict the word of God in the Bible (but that is another story which I’ll only go into if you’re interested).
Now (as I’m sure you can tell) religion was a very confusing thing for me growing up, having had so many different influences. But that was nothing compared to what happened next. On my 18th birthday in 2005, a group of my friends were having a conversation about religion, God, the meaning of life, etc. By this stage I was no longer going to the Catholic Church because my friend had moved away to the northern part of our city. My other friend introduced me to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormonism, as you probably would know it as. She gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, which I read, and I started going to her church. Not knowing very much about Jesus at the time, I believed that the Book of Mormon, in addition to the Bible, was Scripture.
In February 2006, I moved away from home to study in a smaller town. It wasn’t long before I joined the Mormon Church there. Considering myself to be a Christian at that time, I decided to check out Unichurch, a Christian ministry on campus. I made lots of new friends at UniChurch, who taught me about what Jesus had done not only for me, but for the entire world. A few of my Christian friends (two in particular), pointed out the contradictions that exist in the Mormon Church, but I didn’t want to believe that what they were saying could be true. I was convicted that the Mormon Church was the only true church and way to be saved.
However, it wasn’t until about April 2006 that I began to question the validity of their claims. I did many hours of investigating various religions, especially the differences between Christianity and Mormonism, but also JWs, Scientology, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, etc. I looked into things like the historical evidence for Jesus, as well as the claims he made during his ministry on earth. If you’re interested in learning more about it, then www.carm.org is a great site to visit, or you can ask me any questions. One of those two really encouraged me to think about why I believed what I did, and eventually, knowing with certainty that I had been led in the wrong direction, I made the decision to leave the Mormon Church and devote my life to the Jesus of the Bible. It was a very difficult thing for me to do, especially since I had made so many friendships within the church.
Since then I’ve grown in my knowledge of Jesus, especially the love and plan He has for each and every one of us. I have continued going to church each week, have joined a Bible study and the Christian Fellowship group on campus, and I read my Bible and other theology books every day. I have changed so much throughout my Christian walk, even though it has so far only been a very short one. I can see that God has worked through me in so many ways, especially in the way I relate to people, my aspirations for the future, and how I devote my time.
But life has definitely been far from easy for me since becoming a Christian. I have had to face many challenges and a great deal of persecution since I made the choice to follow Jesus, the most significant being the fact that no one in my family is Christian. It definitely makes it very difficult for me, especially since they don’t hold the same beliefs and values that I do. Even my husband didn’t become a Christian until about a year after I did (and I am so thankful to God for that blessing).
As for why I don’t believe that Christianity is a “religion” as such, well I think that religions are things human beings invent (often to avoid God). God is not religious (and in the New Testament, it’s clear that He doesn’t want us to be religious). God is interested in relationship, not religion. While religions are about ceremonies, traditions and duties, biblical Christianity is not. It is about our relationship with God and with others. Certain actions may be involved, like being loving towards others and going to church, but they are not “duties” in the religious sense – they spring from the underlying relationship.
I would have to say that one of my favourite verses from God’s word is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I think it’s obvious in this verse that the gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is not a ‘religion’. It doesn’t require us to do anything except have faith in what Jesus has already done. In Ephesians 2:8-9 it says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.
Now, something I picked up on in a couple of your emails (and please correct me if I’m wrong), is that you are a relativist. Am I right to think this? Being a philosopher, it would be interesting to talk with you about your ideas on concepts like truth.
Reading your mail was interesting:) but I have lots of questions. What do u mean by a relativist?
And please don’t take it personally if I ask some things that may sound blasphemous to Christianity…
Define a sin…how has everyone sinned? Why do we need to be saved? From what?
I know a bit about Jesus. I would love to know more because he was revolutionary for his times and he believed in compassion, sacrifice and loving unconditionally. I agree with these values but I would also ask- what has it done for the world?
Is every Christian or fan of Jesus (like me) as nice as he was? I’d like to be and I’d live to be but is it practical?
I’m attaching something I wrote about an incident that happened to me (in response to an article about compassion in the paper called The Hindu-not religious)…one among many that have made me question and rethink my ‘sacrificing’ values and unconditional compassion. It was a friendship which gave me an experience violent enough to shake my most fundamental value of compassion. It broke me, and even now I can’t say the wounds have healed completely.
To put it simply-Jesus gave his life to save us from our sins…but do we stop sinning? Are we purged once and for all by his self sacrifice or don’t we need to live like him? How much can we expect someone else to sacrifice for us? I think its up to each of us to live like him in whatever way we see best i.e. according to circumstances (a lot is different now culturally and in terms of lifestyle) [I believe that traditions need to evolve with the times but that’s a different discussion altogether]
There have been others like Jesus say-Buddha, but what have these messiahs done for the world? Some people may keep striving to be good but the majority remain cruel -wars, violence, dishonesty, hatred, jealousy, disrespect to their fellow living things and even of themselves (say, by hurting themselves wit habits like smoking , excessive drinking, etc) That’s why the Earth’s environmental and social state is like this! So chaotic! That’s why, as individuals we have conflicts in our minds.
Nothing that messiahs bring lasts much after their death. If any change can happen at all, each one of us have to feel the same way, inherently not induced artificially, about the values of life. So I believe in the power of the individual’s mind to decide for him/herself what is right and wrong- not listen to any institution whatsoever- or ‘teachers’ and ‘priests’ who claim to have godly experiences. The only thing I can trust to take me to god is myself. And I’m sure everyone is capable.
But I see we agree on the fundamentals-how religion is not about god most of the time. It’s so hard sometimes when people you talk to don’t understand the differences between god and religion, religion and spirituality etc.
But I have to admit, I haven’t been too spiritually oriented since the incident in the attachment. I think I need time to heal and let the process continue back in my direction. Another thing we would agree on is relationship with god. We only differ in our ways of keeping this relationship.
So do tell me what a relativist is…I’m curious 🙂
And I would love to read about Wordsworth. He’s a good poet- can’t say my favourite (my favourite is Pablo Neruda especially sonnet 17) but I’ve found some of his ideas about growing up and losing the original innocence of a child, growing far from nature etc. very interesting and pertinent.
I’m also into literature and do my reading whenever I get the time 🙂
I’m sending my Ka essay…though I haven’t polished it since I wrote it in May…I’ll send what I write after my second reading if u want (for the term paper)…(which I should’ve started by now but haven’t)
These mails are fun:) I hope you see my questions without offence. (I say this again because in general I get the feeling that most religions don’t like being questioned. They accept unquestioning faith but I would expect you to have your rational reasons and answers about your faith, which is why I’ve asked you these questions that always bother me about Christianity)
I hope to have lots more healthy exchanges, disagreements and discussions about anything -religion, truth. I like the challenge that happens in our minds when ideas are sliced and analysed and thrown at each other with mind-blowing speed 🙂 Its like a sport of the mind 🙂
To Be Continued… (Note: If you are interested in reading the essays or attachments mentioned in these conversations, feel free to ask for them with your contact details.)