Yes, but I would not really consider myself religious and I make for a pretty poor Christian.
I was raised in a strict evangelist Nazarene church. Everything was a sin: dancing, loud music, women's makeup, etc. Around the age of 13 my cousin and I got caught goofing off at church. The lay minister went crazy. We were marched to the front of the church and to chorus of Amens he screamed at us about how we were going to hell. I suppose his purpose was to shame us into compliance but the opposite actually happened. We both stopped going to church. I knew in my heart that he was wrong. God would not send us to hell over such a trivial matter. By that time I had read about 70% of the bible. I never finished it. I became an atheist, or agnostic, and actually made it my mission in life to argue with every self-righteous, born-again Christian I ran into.
I married a Catholic who was religious. We had kids. She taught Sunday school and called me her heathen. I went with her to church occasionally and years passed. I noticed that no one was ripping their hair out and talking in tongues. That the message was more of faith, hope and forgiveness not of hell and damnation. Drinking a beer, music and women wearing make-up were not sins. While it is totally misunderstood by the other Christian denominations I realized it was a religion I could live. To the great relief of my wife I was baptized and became Catholic. I still don't go to church very often and since I do not wish to be excommunicated I do not argue against doctrine I disagree with. I have mellowed with old age.
While I believe in God (whether it be a sentient being or a natural force) I also realize that religions are created by man to explain the unexplainable. I was discussing a similar topic with a priest a long time ago and he said there is God's law and church law. What an eye opening comment. Unlike the Nazarene lay minister who thought his word was God's, the priest knew the difference.
There is an old saying, "Small minds talk about people, medium minds talk about objects, great minds talk about ideas." The problem is how do you explain great ideas to people with small minds. You have to make it small ideas and as concrete as possible. Jesus taught using parables. Ideas that people could understand at the time. This that they could relate to. This is also why many people think that God is a giant man who sits on a golden throne in heaven. It is something tangible enough to understand.
God exists outside of time and space. We do not. The same priest told me the Bible contains religious truths not literal truths. An example is the genealogy of Jesus. Biblical scholars know that the authors wanted symmetry between Abraham and David, David and Jesus so they left out a couple of generations. Yet some evangelist adds up the number of generations then multiplies that times a fictitious average age to determine that the earth is only 6000 years old. While totally discredited people believe this nonsense. Worse yet non-Christians think all Christians believe it.
In my mind I think it is pretty amazing that a traveling band of illiterate nomadic sheep herders could come up with a creation theory that actually parallels evolution in Genesis. The earth coalescing, atmosphere and oceans forming, plant life forming, animal life forming in the oceans and moving to land, the emergence of mammals, and then man. Man evolving from Australopithecus to homo sapiens gaining self-awareness and knowledge. It's all there.
You could nit-pic the inaccuracies but coming from a bunch of illiterate sheep herders its not bad. In the fifth grade I was scolded by a teacher because I thought South America and Africa fit together. We didn't know about tectonic plate activity and the mid-Atlantic rift back then. When discussing things that happen in history it is important to put them in their proper context.
Do I believe in heaven? I don't know. I'm fairly sure that it is not a land of milk and honey with streets paved in gold. At the urging of Constantine, the Christian Bible was assembled 400 years after the death of Jesus. Of the many gospels floating around four were chosen to be included. None written during Jesus’ lifetime. It is a matter of discussion as to whether any of the authors had even met Jesus. Some of the gospels not chosen talked Jesus arising from the dead in spirit not in body. I doubt that that could be sold to small minds.
There is a parable about a woman marrying several brothers in sequence after they died (a custom at the time). The question poised to Jesus was whose wife will she be in heaven. His reply was none. In heaven people will not be married. They will be like the Angels in heaven. Christian teaching is that Jesus is both the son of man and the son of God. I take this to mean that his physical body is the son of man and his spirit was the son of God. If heaven exists it will be a place where our spirits join together.
Just a few thought and I can prove none of it. Oh, by the way I still dislike evangelist fundamentalist Christians who believe that they have a personal relationship with God and can literally see God's word in the Bible. Some are OK but others are some of the most opinionated, intolerant and ignorant people I have ever met
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