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Is There an Interfaith God?

The world’s faiths are paths to the same God. It’s a beautiful idea with one problem – says scholar Stephen Prothero – it’s wrong.

Religious leaders at the Elijah Interfaith Convention in Haifa, Israel, 2009. Attending were about 50 leaders representing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. (AP)

We’ve heard the mantra so often that it can seem like obvious truth: all religious paths lead, ultimately, to one God — to one great universal. 

Since the 1960s — and even before that — it’s been the great message and hope of open-minded believers seeking peace and unity. 

But my guest today says “no.” God, says scholar of religion Stephen Prothero, is not one. All paths do not lead to the same “cosmic mountaintop.”

And if we pretend otherwise, Prothero says, we may be stuck with the opposite of peace and understanding. 

So, who’s right? 

This Hour, On Point: the scholar who says God is not one.

Guests:

Stephen Prothero, professor of religion at Boston University and author of “God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter.” You can read an exerpt. His other books include “Religious Literacy” and “American Jesus.”

Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, where she served as president from 1998-2008.  She’s also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. She writes a weekly column for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section. She has written or edited 13 books, and translated two editions of the Bible.

More:

In case you missed it, Tom moderated a panel this month with Rabbi David Wolpe and atheist/writer Christopher Hitchens. It was billed as “The Great God Debate.” Check it out…

Source: forum-network.org

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  • cory

    The religions of the world have a lot in commom. Fellowship, love, charity, afterlife, soul or spirit. We spend a lot of time focusing on the differences though.

    I have a feeling that this topic could take a few different negative angles, either anti muslim or anti jewish. Hope not.

  • Gary

    I worship The Great Squirrel… who spat the universe out of his cheeks when He had gathered one too many.

    Debating personal mythology’s…. How can I get everyone to believe in The Great Squirrel, or kill all those who don’t. HA!

  • dmf

    thank you for covering this topic, karen armstrong (repackaging huston smith) has been getting away with badly misreprsenting the histories of various religious movements to promote her own new-age version of the human-potential movement and this is a welcome correction.

  • John

    They are all equally false.

  • Michael

    “I worship The Great Squirrel… who spat the universe out of his cheeks when He had gathered one too many.

    Debating personal mythology’s…. How can I get everyone to believe in The Great Squirrel, or kill all those who don’t. HA!”

    How dare you heresy i say , The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is the one true way,The spaghetti Monsters allow for interfaith marriages cause he’s cool like that, and hooks you up (if your good) with some spaghetti and meatballs :)

    I hope the show isn’t anti Spaghetti Monster today

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

  • amp

    How many segments did you devote to Blackwater? How about covering something relevant and newsworthy like the 16,000 I.R.S. agents that will be hired to enforce Obamacare. In other words, try to be relevant.

  • Gary

    @Michael How dare you deny The Great Blue Squirrel or abbreviated BS! I will start an inquisition or Jihad, or…or.. something that will kill and torture your followers until they die or believe in the love and caring of BS! This means The Great BS, will through His believers smite you and all of you followers of a false god. I will eat spaghetti today.

    In a similar vein we must bring some baseline logic into the discussion (George Carlin on religion) CAUTION this is uncensored George Carlin sensitive believers may be offended: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPOfurmrjxo

  • Ellen Dibble

    My computer wouldn’t let me access the excerpt. I like to think I can respect religions, especially their recognition of God, the Unknowable, and respect and revere our varous conceptualizations of shared helplessness in the long run.
    I have thought one Unknowable was hard enough to stand up for, but apparently not. There are many.

  • Michelle

    I do believe that all religions do come down to one and the same God. Unfortunately too few people think to explore different religions to see this, and too many people read The Book of their faith blindly without understanding it. The principles in all world religions are the same. The difference is in details. Unfortunately, those details have caused feelings of superiority in each religion, which in turn have caused too much hatred and wars.

  • Wadell T. Muhammad

    Man in his risen state is God. God in his fallen state is man. The Adam story is very much an ATOM story. Over the years (eons) we have struggled to communicate a conceptualization of the Deity and neglected to conceptualize ourselves. All of the Messianic descriptions in religion are a part of fallen man’s journey back to his risen self. A … See Moreconnection to the Life Force that created us all, who are really on a pilgrimage towards perfection. The Jesus story isn’t just simply a historical narrative with and upcoming sequel. It’s a story about the rise and fall of humanity and it’s eventual resurrection. This is the hidden/secret wisdom of the ages, which is known by the wickedly wise. So…why we debate which path leads to Him, Satan gets busy building new paths to keep us confused and divided.

    I look forward to listening to the program. My hope is that it is not another effort to continue dividing human beings in the name of religion by another who just doesn’t understand our eventual destiny. As Salaam Alaikum.

  • Wadell T. Muhammad

    Sorry about the first post…

    Man in his risen state is God. God in his fallen state is man. The Adam story is very much an ATOM story. Over the years (eons) we have struggled to communicate a conceptualization of the Deity and neglected to conceptualize ourselves. All of the Messianic descriptions in religion are a part of fallen man’s journey back to his risen self.

    A connection to the Life Force that created us all, who are really on a pilgrimage towards perfection. The Jesus story isn’t just simply a historical narrative with and upcoming sequel. It’s a story about the rise and fall of humanity and it’s eventual resurrection. This is the hidden/secret wisdom of the ages, which is known by the wickedly wise. So…while we debate which path leads to Him, Satan gets busy building new paths to keep us confused and divided.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy
    When there is universal consensus on the part of all people everywhere on Earth as to the exact nature of God, then there’s a God. Until then, there isn’t one.

  • John

    I read Prothero’s book, Religious Literacy, a while ago so my memory might be off slightly but I remember him arguing that if people stop believing in religion then the culture is less rich as a result of losing this literature as an influence. Few people still believe in the Olympian gods, and yet their stories survive (and in my opinion offer more insight into humanity than those of the three main monotheistic faiths). I think he also claimed that atheists set up a false debate by going after the worst parts of the bible as judged by today’s moral standards (Lott offering his daughters to be raped, etc) and that they don’t refute the more sophisticated nuanced view of god rather than the man in the sky view. However, I think a majority of religious people believe in this sort of god. Certainly the ones flying planes into buildings did.

  • http://www.robinreardon.com Robin

    I read Stephen Prothero’s Boston Globe article on Sunday, and although I agree with his eventual conclusion (we can’t afford to ignore religious differences), I disagree with the rationale I think he leaned on the most, which was his position that religious goals are nearly as different as their tactics.

    He used a sports analogy and made the same mistake. The goal of baseball is not getting runs; getting runs is the unique tactic baseball follows to win. If you’re not playing sports to win, then you’re just knocking a ball (or whatever) around for fun and nothing else. The objective of baseball is winning.

    In religion, he highlighted the salvation goal of Christianity to make his (IMHO, incorrect) point. Salvation is not the objective of Christianity. It is a tactic (something you do to achieve your objective). If he had asked *why* it is that Christians want salvation, he would have got to the true objective: God. Salvation itself would mean nothing if it didn’t mean eternal life with eternal God. Judaism? Islam? Same thing, really, though of course the tactics and the approaches differ. Buddhism and other non-theist religions wouldn’t call their objective God, but if Prothero tries just a little harder (by asking the question Why until answers don’t bring any more clarity), I think a man as smart as he is could define both Nirvana (the state of no-self) and the Heaven (the state of no suffering) so that they’re essentially the same state. And tikkun olam, the objective of spiritual Jews, looks an awful lot like the Hindu moksha, without using the tactic of reincarnation to get there.

    A religion is a system of applying faith. The systems, which consist of tactics, are different, true; and these differences are critical. They can be applied so that they compel one or another “righteous” group to slaughter “infidels.” We can’t ignore this, and I believe we can’t condone or even allow it. Which means we have to address the religions diferently, and Prothero is dead-on there. But these are tactical differences, not objective differences.

  • yar

    I believe separation of the Institutional church from belief is necessary to have a valid discussion. The leaders of an institution may or may not believe in the tenants they profess, while marketing those ideas as critical to belief. Remember, it is the institutional church that killed many prophets. The institution has a checkered history, so please separate belief in institution from belief in deity. I have trouble with belief where ones belief gives one permission to exploit or eliminate others of our species. We are all related by genetics, so either we are all children of God or none of us are. Why do believers treat their brother so poorly, if they believe they will be judged by their creator on the treatment of their brother. My logic says many who profess to believe don’t.

  • Trent

    Islam is the religion of the haters.

    They behead those who do not believe as they do and they cut off the hands of those who disagree with them. They stone and hang women and they hate life.

    In the middle Ages they killed those few among them that dared reach out for scientific explanations.

    How is such a faith compatible with civilization?

  • Corinth

    “My logic says many who profess to believe don’t. by yar,

    And my grammar tells me you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • Rick Evans

    There’s no interface god for those religions that put themselves above god.

  • Corn Walker

    The idea of an interfaith god is incompatible with the truth claims made by the religions who would worship that god. As such, the plurality of religion is an argument for atheism more so than an argument for ecumenism. It’s high time we commit our current gods to the dustheap containing the thousands of false gods that have come before them.

  • Tatiana

    How can there be agreement between religions when each church’s core doctrines say in one way or another that its followers must go forth and “spread the truth”? Doesn’t that necessarily mean each religious person has a duty to “convert” the others to their own beliefs? And isn’t that, in its very core, an unsurmountable obstacle to an interfaith god?

    Modern, moderate religious believers try to take a compassionate view and say that their holy books don’t really condemn the other faiths but that is simply not true. If you believe the Bible literally (as all creationists must) you have to take ALL parts of it as the true word of God. And the Bible clearly puts forth the idea of convert or exterminate. “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.” (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)

  • Gemli

    Religions are collections of myths, allegories, analogies, and metaphors. These are poetical or rhetorical devices that try to explain what religion is “like” while avoiding the uncomfortable fact that there is no direct evidence for religion at all.

    The call for evidence is considered bad taste when discussing religion. Believers have conviction without evidence, which in circular fashion obviates the need for evidence. So there is just rhetoric based on belief in the impossible. What good can come from parsing the same nonsense over and over?

  • Ellen Dibble

    A bit of history would help. Once upon a time, people saw they were helpless and tried to appease the forces that seemed in charge. The thunder (Zeus) etc. Eventually, the gods were seen as BEING the government, and the Chief, was the All-Powerful personified, and wielded the powers that are unknowable. One worshipped the king. Christianity introduced the idea that the true king of one’s heart is God, not vice versa. But religions come at that spiritual dimension in their own ways.

  • yar

    @Corinth Sorry about that,
    My logic says: Many who profess to believe, don’t.

    Eats shoots and leaves.
    Yes, I am challenged by grammar and by many other things as well. I am happy to have my thoughts cleaned up to make them understandable.

    Our religious texts were handed down orally for generations, then written in a language without using vowels. Then some will argue the literal meaning of a translation.
    Do egg whites have flavor or not?

    Looking forward to the discussion.

  • Ellen Dibble

    “Spreading the truth” is imperialism under another name. Crusading. We always have known that faith is not knowledge. We say we “believe,” not we “know.”

  • Ellen Dibble

    I like to say religion is the lens we use to view, but that what we view is necessarily the same thing.

  • Leif Hope

    Faith is less like some perfect golden orb, some unlimate truth that only the chosen arrive at, than it is like the wild variety of plant life we see in the world around us. Each with it’s special niche, all reaching for the sun (that perfect golden orb), and all equally distant from it.

  • John

    I agree with Prothero that all religions are not various paths to the same truth. If one religion is not universally correct (and the rest are all therefore wrong), what is the point of believing in it (assuming you picked or were incubated into following the correct one)? If one of them is not universally true, then it must follow that they are all separate methods of channeling the values and aspirations unique to each culture and doesn’t that make them man made?

  • Ellen Dibble

    One of these one-mountaintop churches comes to this: We are too much like ourselves; we self-selected to be like this. But look, how similar we are. This is wrong. We need to welcome diversity, of all sorts, cultural, etc., etc. What can we do?
    Answer: Don’t have the church as the totally-absorbing center of your social experience.
    But a church “wants” to absorb as much of your energy as possible — or the church doesn’t survive.

  • Michael Khampa

    I really cannot believe my ears that you would have someone espousing such an incredibly simplistic rendition of Buddhism. This is nonsense.

    My 88 year old mother, a devout Catholic, was taught that anyone involved in an act of compassion is connected to the ‘mystical body of Christ.’

    Of course, it’s critical to the various church hierarchies that we reject any similarity among religions.

  • Martin Ostro

    Obiviously there has to be onnly one Supreme Being and man has evolved many ways of trying to worship and emulate the Supreme Being.
    Every major religious and spiritual phiilosophy (Christians, Jews, Muslms, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucists, Zoarastrians, etc) have a version of the “Golden Rule” (paraphrased as treat others as you would want to be treated), which is the essential tenet of all religions with respect to how we are supposed to conduc our human affairs, the rest is “ust commentary.”
    The problem rests not with the religions themselves, but how humans pevert reliegious teaching, as they pervert business ethics, political ethics, etc. in order to gain power.
    If we all adhered to the true ethical tenets of our own reliegion and stopped worrying about the other peoples religions (other reliegions threaten our security and power), the wolrd would be a muc beter place.

  • Gary

    Would God change His creation, if He could?

  • M. Taney

    Once again, we have to listen to yet another misinformed religious scholar(?) spout a ridiculously simplistic version of Buddhism.

  • Daniel

    Religion is a finger pointing at the moon.

    Your guest is spending too much time staring at the finger.

    Most religions are geared towards improving the human condition. Call it “battling sin” or “reaching Nirvana,” the goals are strikingly similar.
    Monks and priests and Lamas have a common language. It’s the disciples that tend to argue the most vehemently.

  • Amanda

    I am a Baha’i and it is a central belief of the Baha’i Faith that there is one God. The points that Stephen Prothero makes (so far) exclude the essential needs that each of the major religiion have addressed in the time they came into being. The religions offer spiritual wisdom that speak to the same concepts (like the Golden Rule), but couched in different language. And then, there are practices within each faith that are unique because of the time and place they were revealed in and the needs of the people they were revealed to. Glad to see this topic discussed.

  • Greg Farrell

    When stated in terms of the problems religions set out to solve, they sound very different. Is it obvious that religions actually solve only the problems they set out to solve? Might they end up converging to provide similar solutions of a common set of problems?

  • John

    Why was Scientology excluded?

  • yar

    How much of religion is promoted to protect economics systems? Pay your debts, honor your contracts, contribute to civil society. Economic systems need stability and religion is often exploited as a means to provide this stability. It is used because it works. As economic systems becomes unstable it effects the religious order and vice-versa.

  • Karin

    Question: What’s your guest’s take on each religion’s view of outsiders, those who don’t share their faith? I’d like to hear the various takes on that.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Who exactly is saying religions are not different? I am baffled. It is ignorance to say Shiia and Sunni Islam are not different. It’s not a point of view; it’s just not noticing. There is a difference between every group, this Baptist church and the one down the street. We do notice. Who doesn’t?

  • M. Taney

    Now the man is writing off the Dalai Lama and Gandhi as crazy mystics.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Say I want to acknowledge Islam; do I go on a hajj to Mecca? No, not allowed. Say I want to share Christmas with Jewish friends. That is allowed. We don’t pretend it is their holiday. You respect the differences and learn them if people trust you to honor them. The religions I have encountered welcome respect from outsiders. They don’t kill or convert. They are grateful.

  • Daniel

    It’s all a matter of scope. Under the microscope ALL Christians practice different Christianity. But from afar, Christians look pretty similar.

    This discussion is mostly an exercise in semantics, clouded by faith.

  • Kate

    If you dismiss, as your guest does, the mystical aspects of religion, then yes, the “everyday” aspects of all of these religions differ as greatly as the geographies, cultures, and people who practice them. But if the heart of each religion is faith in something unprovable, namely one or more deity, dismissal of mysticism seems a bit unfair.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Beware of false prophets, the Assemblies of God person is saying.
    I heard yesterday, in regard to far right politics, that beware of intelligent people, they are most susceptible to ideologies.
    Hmm.

  • maria

    Stephen Prothero is some what right, I would suggest that the universe itself is the primary referent of God, not man made religions. the Three principals of the universe are differentiation, subjectivity and communion. If those principals were considered then the more diversity the healthier the system. instead of trying to make everything fit neatly into One, we should honor diversity. To my way of thinking the more diversity held in communion, the healthier everything becomes, so if you believe something different then me, then instead of being wrong it is wonderfully right!

  • S Johnson

    Religions are created by men, not gods; created to explain the unexplainable and/or to control segments of the population by giving them a set of rules they have to live by. The fact that there are differences only proves that religions have been created at different times, by different men, for different reasons; it neither proves or disproves the notion of one god.

  • Mari McAvenia

    Yes. Look within. See? There all the time!

  • Charley Harvey

    This all points to the failing of any and all religions.
    Religion is culturally based, not truth based.
    Once upon a time shellfish and pork was dangerous…

  • Linda Kazalski

    It is my belief that Diety is in all things and that Diety is too vast for us poor humans to understand in its entirety. Therefore, I consider the gods to each be facets of Diety: reflecting that face of Diety that one needs. God (or Diety) is ONE, yes, but also infinite.

    Namaste.

  • http://www.hlrecord.org Matthew Hutchins

    If we are all human, we all inhabit the same world, and we are all seeking the ultimate source of truth and majesty, then it seems self-evident to me that all our religions are contemplating the same subject.

    While it is true that we have many religions that have complex differences between them, the distinctions are more about the method of worship than the object.

    We all seek unity with our own conceptualization of that transcendent greatness, but because our own methods of worship define our understanding of the highest expression of universal unity, we must move beyond language in order to appreciate our common bonds of faith.

  • Steve

    One MAJOR flaw in this discussion is that you are talking out both sides of your mouth. Religion, by it’s very nature, IS a human construct. God is not a human construct. One can not discuss God in any other than a human voice. One can not imagine God with any other than a human mind.

    Gos is unknowable. Religion is a human expression of a belief in God.
    You guest needs to stop talking and learn the difference.

    Steve in Nashville

  • Josef

    Religion and spirituality are allways confused, religion hides old tribalistic practices who hijaked spiritual leaders and is the real hiden power over men since the beginning of time it is to steal individuality of poeple and gives them a road to folow in stead finding their own happiness.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Prothero hypothesizes that one religion is actually right and real in a way that “belief” doesn’t quite encapsulate. Under the microscope, as someone posted, my compilation of experience and self that is my religion is indeed unique, and whether it serves me well when I am only ash will remain a mystery. I can only be myself. Sorry. Thanks UCC minister now speaking.

  • Scott T.

    If one accepts the laws of logic, it is obvious that the major religions of the world contradict themselves (except on basic moral laws where there is some consistency), and therefore cannot all be true or equally valid ways to god. It follows that there are only two possibilities:

    1) All the world’s religions are false (naturalism).
    2) There is one true religion.

    I look forward to the program.

  • Stacy

    What about astrology? Its not necessarily a religion or perfect science. However, many traditions and cultural aspects have historically developed through our interaction with the cosmos and research. It’s become universal through time and interpretive alongside many religions.

  • Arielle

    Jesus, Krishna, Mohammed, Buddha etc are not Gods… they are all prophets of the ONE universal father God/Mother nature that DOES exist. They all bring their own unique piece to the puzzle that is the infinite.
    In this context interfaith does make sense.

  • Michael T.

    Prothero seems to be an authority on the Cliff Notes version of world religions. Tom — who vetted this guy?

  • Daniel

    You run into this problem when you place too many limitations on “God.” If you over-define God, then it does look very different.

  • Kathy Simmons

    As an Athiest I find these discussions fascinating! Religious people twist themselves in knots over fairy tales.
    And this is OK because it shows is that no one agrees.
    What matters is how one lives their life-not what they personally believe.
    My only issue with religious people is when a group with a particular belief attemmpt to make that belief a civil law.

  • Jon

    My influence comes from the writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell; the “oneness” of God stems from the idea that God is a metaphor for the experience of the eternal, an experience outside of the field of time that is common to all humans–past, present, and future.

    The problem with religions occurs when each social/ethnic group takes this metaphor literally and applies its own culturally specific moires to it. This leads to in-group/out-group dynamics which is the bed for conflict.

    The reason why we see so much similarity in the religions is that they all COME FROM THE SAME PLACE. This place is the experience that all human beings have, the stages of man. The tree that Jesus hangs from is the same as the one the Buddha sits underneath. The “God” experience is common to all men; religions are but variations on the same metaphorical, mythological theme.

  • M Collins

    Ask them about Brian McLaren’s new theology or the emergent theology.

  • Charlie Mc

    Thanks for another great dialogue. Re: “God is One”; I think our troubles began (and begin)with the need of man to “concretize” God, and enflesh the experience of God. Man needs and seeks security from his religion yet genuine spiritual guides point to the desert experience, solitude, emptiness, suffering and absence of God from us. Even Jesus warned us to avoid seeking or demanding a sign of God, which St. Thomas Aquinas reiterated by ceasing to write any more as it was “all straw” in his own words.
    Most church evolutions have been to serve that concrete but unfulfillable need of man. In the earliest of the written gospels, (Mark 1:16), Jesus is presented as teaching the “good news” that the Kingdom of God is within. Subsequent Christology and Ecclesiologies have preached about Jesus and his “church” to which we have been taught to clutch for security.
    Let us begin to listen to men/women of prayer instead of to professional church leadership whose jobs are on the line.

  • Chris

    Simple question: If you are a Christian, do you believe Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists will get to heaven or go to hell? If they go to hell then there isn’t one god or one religion…

  • Charley Harvey

    Tom. Perhaps we would all be better served if we understood that WE ARE ALL ONE.
    God has made from one blood all nations.

  • Joe

    An atheist’s perspective: God is an imaginary human construct, so doesn’t that make this whole discussion kind of pointless? It sure helps explain why every religion sees something different in the concept of “God”.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Speaking of mountaintops, I heard this morning on All Things Considered while half-asleep that Al-Kaida has folded, and attempted to explain why.
    Tell me why.

  • John

    The law of conservation of energy says that energy can not be created or destroyed. We are all made of energy like everything else in the universes. Based on this, is it unreasonable to believe that god is also made of this energy and therefore we are all struck from the same stone? If everyone and everything is energy at it’s core doesn’t this mean we are all one on some level?

  • David

    To continue the metaphor: one may argue that each “mountain” is different, and that the paths are different, but there is an underlying assumption in the speaker’s argument that there exists a proverbial “mountain”. The recognition of the mountain is the recognition that the universe is a process and that we humans are a part of that process. What our roles or importance in that process are is where the majority of argument takes place (i.e. where the “mountains” and “paths” diverge).

  • Wait one minute…

    I don’t know why Stephen Prothero is so angry at liberal interfaithers keeping people out of the conversation. As far as I am concerned, it IS EXACTLY the non-liberal religious folks who need to get together and find tolerance. You don’t need to hold an AA meeting for sober people.

  • John

    Are alchemy and chemistry both equally valid paths to the truth?

  • Petr

    All problems are not one. But we are not lead to God by our problems, nor by the solutions to our problems. In the end, perhaps our problems aren’t as problematic…

    Insofar as religions are for more than thinking about our problems, each and every religion is concerned with ‘right living’… living in relationship to a conception of ‘good’ or ‘righteous’. Sin is just shorthand for missing the mark of right living…. The Buddhists consider straying from the path in the same way. But at the core of the ‘God is one’ lies an essential compassion: an unwillingness to think, even for a second, that in this wide world, God plays favorites.

    Nor do certain religions even conceive in the same way. Some Buddhists have no conception of God… this is not the same as denial of God. Only atheists deny God. Myself, I see little difference between Catholics, with their pantheon of angels, demons and saints, and Hindus with their similar pantheon of demi-gods and spiritual entities.

    The paradox of thinking of God as one is to expand to the universe, much bigger than our problems, rather than to reduce to the singular. God is one… rethink your vision of ‘one’… and don’t worry too much about God… He can take care of himself.

  • Richard Byerly

    MY RELIGION PARALLELS DARWIN and has no supreme being. My religion is one of 30 million agnostics: there is no higher being and the solution to everything is within yourself. It parallels Darwinism in that the deepest core of my religion is that everything is CAUSE AND EFFECT. If you look at your life (and the existence of all things) from the perspective of CAUSE AND EFFECT you can’t find anything in existence which ‘lives’ outside the LAW OF CAUSE AND EFFECT. The KEY is becoming one with the cause and effect of your own life and taking charge by making the causes in your life today which are targeted at the effect that will make you happy. You can do this in an instant and continue for the rest of your life. There is no supreme being; there is the law of cause and effect.

  • paul

    God is God- He doesn’t need representation
    The kingdom of God
    Is within.

  • Steve

    Jesus and what we believe his identity to be will allways be the stumbling block.

    John 14:6

    “No one comes to the Father except through Me”

    So there will always be questions on who Jesus is…
    -a rabbinical teacher who was executed by the
    Roman State
    What he really said…
    -the Jesus Seminar that voted based on
    eliminating any miracles or involvment by God
    in history.
    The Christian Bible or Torah are unreliable due to tranlation errors…
    -Dead Sea Scrolls pushed OT scholarship
    back 1000 years.

  • marion

    I am a devout agnostic: If God is really ineffable, what right do *I* have to say that s/he exists, much less to define It? We all see the top of the mountain differently… in fact, some people see no mountain… but they may still feel or believe certain similar things that other “religious” people feel or believe.

    The Jewish viewpoint is a lot more complicated than Mr. Prothero’s description… I think the best story is the Rabbi who says to one man, “You’re right” – and to his opponent, “You’re right” – and when someone complains, “Rabbi, they can’t *both* be right!”, replies “You know what? – you’re right, too!”

    I personally think that if various religions could pay more attention to lines like the Christian “In my father’s house are many mansions”, or the Jewish idea of treating strangers as brothers (because we were strangers in Egypt), or the Hindu idea that you can’t *become* a Hindu because you are born into the life you belong in, we can enjoy The Eneffable in whatever manner suits us.

  • Petr

    People compete. And religions are made up of people. Religions can be corrupt and competitive. The hand, pointing to the moon, does not reflect upon that which it points to… it only points.

  • P.M. DILL

    Please explain the human condition that man cannot seem to admit that man created all religions or distinquish between faith and fact.

    In discussions people will say “I believe” and then follow with “because it is a fact.” which leaves out the benefit of FAITH.

    I was indoctrinated into Catholicism but still understand the fundamental structure of belief systems. I know noone with this objectivity.

    Am I crazy?

  • Roberta Jackson

    What do we do about those who are not interested in coming to the table–who are more interested in being right and getting rid of–even destroying all others–all wrong religions?

  • Penny

    What I believe is that there is ONE creator who chooses to reveal its self in a way that a person or a culture can accepts its message—it could be in Hinduism, Muslim, Christianity, Native American spirituality or an ancient religion such as the Ancient Egyptians practiced.

  • Wait one minute…

    Maybe the “rival religions” should start a sporting league.

  • Daniel

    It’s very easy to see that religions are different.
    It is much more difficult to recognize how similar they are.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Wait one Minute, AA meetings for sober people, ha-ha-ha.
    I think of interfaith encounters are like expeditions to the moon for some not exposed to such “otherness.” If it takes liberals to go to the moon first, so be it. Bring back pictures.

  • Vicki

    I agree completely with Stephen Prothero that you cannot couple religions together and say they all lead to the same place. I disagree Susan that because the other side of the mountain is death, then it doesn’t matter and it’s futile to argue between the religions. Just as Stephen’s book points out, there are many differences between religions that are hugely important and cannot be ignored or told they don’t matter. And with that, one major point in Christianity is that Christians are COMMANDED to go out and make “disciples of all the nations”. It is the Christian’s duty to try and convert people to Christianity. Therefore, I believe there will always be conflict and it will be impossible for religions to ‘tolerate’ each other or respect one another for what they are and live in harmony because of the duty and command for conversion. I speak about Christianity because it’s what I know, it could be the same for Muslim or other religions. The duty to go out and convert people to Christ is done meant to be done out of selflessness not selfishness. And that is another reason why I don’t believe religions can coexist without some conflict.

  • David McGown

    The Dalai Lama encourages people to seek spiritual enlightenment through the religion they were born into, which takes into account the cultural makeup of the individual. What we believe has more to do with who we are as individuals than who God may or may not be thought of “objectively”. In essence, you are discussing a dog chasing its tail.

  • Marc

    I am an atheist who derives inspiration from Jewish beliefs. “The lord is one” is central. To me this means there is one reality. This itself an expression of faith. Our responsibility is to seek out that reality using the best tools available to us, eg, science.

  • Sarah

    Religions may be different. But God is One. Religions are the expression of the mystical experiences humans have. The religions are different because humans experience the world based on how they view the world. Their world view is reflected and based in the verbal metaphors they have at any given time. Therefore 2 people in differnt places can have the same mystical experience but describe it to themselves and their communities using the metaphores and world view they have at that time. Each time a new group of human received the old testament, we got a new major religion. Buddhism is really a beautiful and useful mind exercise program that allows the human to quite the mind enough to hear God. The indigenous practices are really sciences or magic, if you will, that are based on an extremely long (up to 100,000 years) observation of the natural world “The Mother Earth”. These observations and teachings are remembered and handed down through ritual, dance, song, story telling. That’s it. We are all expressing this DIVINE. Love the Goddess. Love God. Love anyone who seeks the truth.

  • http://Twitter.com/RealEstateCafe RealEstateCafe

    Glad to learn about the Interfaith Young Corps http://www.ifyc.org in Chicago, and their success achieving UNITY while recognizing diversity of belief. If other listeners wish to learn more about or even experience a “Spiritual of Unity,” the Focolare movement provides another powerful witness — one that has spread to 182 countries over 60 years:
    http://bit.ly/AboutFocolare

  • MikeLikesWBUR

    Tom is really holding Stephen Prothero’s feet to the fire here, and pushing him to clarify himself by defending his point of view. Why isn’t he as tenacious in other interviews with more influential guests? Like those who represented the Tea Party Movement recently? Is he afraid to challenge them because their points of view are controversial? If he pushed any of them half as hard to define their beliefs we would learn a lot more.

    Sadly, this is one of the few interviews when Tom is not pandering to his guest, and when he does become more engaging in this it only show us what we are missing in the majority of his other interviews.

  • Joanne

    Thank you for this topic today. It is as I believe, one of the MOST important topics of our time. Religions are schedules for belief: they supposedly aid their subsribers to attain some kind of salvation through following steps or dogma. Be that as it may, i don’t believe that I have to subscribe to a certain religion to attain salvation or to be a good person. I truly believe that with knowledge, one can glean information and important points from many teachings to become a better person, here, now, on earth..There are SO many valuable and important religions in our world. I am trying to teach my kids that to gain an understanding of the world as it now exists, they must gain a knowledge of world religions. I have told them that they MUST take 2 courses in college in order for me to support and pay for their way through it: WORLD RELIGIONS & ART HISTORY. Understanding = knowledge of history..
    I grew up Catholic and after learning the History of the Church, decided for myself that this was not a religion I wanted to be a part of, Christianity aside.
    Thank you!

  • Charles Scott

    I am an atheist and from my point of view ALL religions are the result of evolutionary development which was driven by the lack of early scientific knowlege of the big questions of life. There is no god so all discussion on the subject is of little use.

    Further, people who derive their livelyhood from religion have an inherent conflict of interest in the debate: If people come to believe that there is no god, as I do, those who claim to represent god are out of a job and a living.

  • Chuck

    I believe that God is so transcendent that no religion or mystic can know God. However, it is possible that an individual or religion can be oriented toward or closer to God than others.
    We can all be moving toward a single God but get stuck on the wrong mountain.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think Christian crusading, to go forth and save, must be seen from where it began historically, and where it continued historically, right to now where religion needs members to keep it afloat. Here in New England, in my town, actually, five Catholic churches are being turned into one Catholic church. It has something to do with the number of members, not with the number of beautiful church buildings.
    I don’t encounter really any scorn hereabouts one religion to another. I think churches try to embrace anyone who wants to join, without prejudging, which is quite different from other clubs, or organizations.
    It is embracing and tolerant in that way.

  • John

    Where is the proof that all religions value tolerance? The evidence has been to the contrary.

  • http://www.brahmadas.com Brahma

    God is Krishna who dances with the Gopies..
    God is Allah who is all merciful
    God is the father of Jesus Christ
    God is noexistant for the Atheists
    God reciprocates and appears according to our desire to relate to Him/Her/Whomever
    God is loving to a lover of God
    God is fearful for a fear-monger.

    God is One … but that “One” has billions of sides and mountian peaks..
    Who are we to limit God to our version of “Oneness”!!!

  • Tyler

    The idea that all religions are all means to the same end views all religions as cultural beliefs, not actual mystical entities. As an atheist I view religions in this way, but I do not understand how someone who genuinely believes in a religion can adopt this perspective.

  • http://www.bahai.us Carol

    From the Baha’i Faith: “The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven of God’s holy Will is to establish unity and concord amongst the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife. The religion of God and His divine law are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for the dawning of the light of unity amongst men.” The oneness of religion isn’t an ideal, it’s a reality. http://www.bahai.us

  • Greg

    Religion as we know it today will be obsolete when we discover extraterrestrial life. The Vatican is already preparing Catholics for this, stating that alien life would not contradict the Bible. (And neither does the Big Bang!)

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/believing_in_aliens_not_opposed_to_christianity_vaticans_top_astronomer_says/

    The Church would like to retrofit its doctrine and maintain its power, despite a changing world that seems to be outgrowing its dogmas. But you can’t help it; the Bible immediately feels parochial when viewed from an intergalactic perspective.

    It hasn’t happened yet but I believe we’ll eventually find that life is like a weed. Then we will have to reinvent religion for the next age.

  • Petr

    Prothero sayeth: “We shouldn’t go to this idea that all religions are basically the same.”

    I agree. All religions are NOT basically the same… they are intricately the same… and intrinsically the same… and complexly the same… But they are not basic. They are complex and interdependent and independent. But to reduce to some form of ‘basics’ or ‘fundamentals’ ignores both human history and reduces God to some form of talking point. Religions are not ‘basically’ the same. Wrong adjective to use.

  • Shoba Annavarjula

    Hi,

    I cannot listen on my office computer, but I caught the start of the show on the car radio. So please pardon if this point has already been discussed.

    The topic is always fascinating to me. I appreciate the perspective of problem-solution as described by Dr. Prothero. That makes me wonder, though, that religion is entirely man-made, and unique to the circumstances that existed just prior to the point of its inception. Religion evolves from within the society, and provides human beings a way to interpret or understand what cannot be explained using the experiences and language that we currently possess.

  • Carl Charlson

    Tom,
    Great show. Why not talk to Jonathan Haight at the U. of Va, a biologist who studies universal values hard wired through evolution.
    Carl

  • Jack Versai

    Journalism should be a search for truth in the objective sense. Unfortunately it fails miserably whenever the subject of religion comes up and this conversation was no exception.

    There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of a conscious creator or creators. Yet this is rarely acknowledged in public discourse.

    These kinds of conversations are akin to gathering the foremost religious “thinkers” to discuss how and when the souls of lost children enter limbo.

    Please. Enough.

    To paraphrase Sam Harris, we need to learn to discuss religion in ways that aren’t flagrantly irrational. It seems that we have a long way to go.

  • http://sawyerhg.wordpress.com sawyer

    I am a student of Ti and Do, known in the global media in 1975 as the UFO Two (witnesses from rev 11 and 12, etc.) and by even more global media in 1997 as the Heaven’s Gate Cult. I was with them physically and mentally for 19 years and have contact with them through dreams to date.

    Religions are not Paths to God. However Stephen Palthro is correct in that there are both good and evil things in religions as there are in all humans potentially.

    The term God is a misnoma as the Kingdom of God is a many membered Kingdom with physical beings, of which a small crew work on a garden project at any given cycle of soul development.

    When a rep comes, a Krishna, a Buddha, a Christ, they always come to those who they want to come to, to those they have prepped to be their students.

    Humans are simply plants with an invisible but real root system. We wouldn’t ever have any awareness of anything outside our fish bowl if it wasn’t presented to us, often via examples in nature but in the biggest way when a rep from that higher evolved kingdom incarnates (undercover) to appear as us. However, those human vehicles prepped for the reps appearance recognize the rep as they have the same implanted (natural) interface. Those without that interface at best could believe in the rep but it would be rare for one to take it wholeheartedly.

    But religious practice is NOT a path to God. At best there are certain techniques that can help someone attempt to stay away from the many traps of our energies.

    This is a huge talk that you can take up with me if you like on my blog: sawyerhg.wordpress.com or on my youtube video presentations channel name: 3spm and/or on my blogtalkradio.com/sawyer internet radio broadcasts most wednesdays 10pm-12am EST and/or email me at: sawyerhg@yahoo.com.

    If you really want to learn a great deal, you’d have me on as a guest but the realitlies I’ve been given access to will challenge all of us as they continue to do to me.

    This is NOT about condoning suicide but in this one particular case I know it was voluntary and was connected with those that created all of what we consider nature. For them it was not suicide. For us it would be.

    The fact is that for a short amount of time people still have the opportunity to decide what they want to serve – the real non religious, non-spiritual (spirit is simply a communications medium of thought, but also had other meanings translated as one word, which bastardizes the realities the word originally represented by the user), creator crew from the Kingdom of God, who of late used the names Ti (Father) and Do (Son/aka Jesus) OR to serve what Jesus called Mammon which is humanism, mammalianism and the trappings that define our self worth: wealth, fame, prosperity, ego, family, materialism, intelligence, affiliations, religions, careers, etc.

    This is not meant to knock humanism. It’s a natural stage. It’s simply not the final stage of the human condition.

  • Andy

    This discussion is only valuable if it helps us move away from more violent forms of belief since there is no credible evidence to justify any specifically religious claim. In other words can we take the horrible and inhumane parts of holy books and abstract them to the point that they do not provide grounds for bloodshed?

  • pplr

    I don’t know if all religions are due to one being or not. I think he had a point about not using false similarities to build on but a good counterpoint was to ask if there were similarities that were not false.

    I wonder how many of the atheists who are posting here admit that atheism is a “belief”. There may be arguments to support this belief but those arguments are often based on ideas or assumptions that may or may not pan out. Thus their accuracy is a guess or belief.

    As the devout agnostic pointed out earlier, he or she doesn’t know if God exists. Claiming that God doesn’t or extremely unlikely to is a belief just as claiming God does or is extremely likely to exist is a belief.

  • Gemli

    This discussion has raised some questions in my mind.

    How can people talk with such specificity about something that cannot even be shown to exist? Is it a wonder that there is so much disagreement?

    If you don’t demand any sort of evidence, then how to do you determine if the stories you were told about your religion are real or not? Since you don’t ask for evidence, you don’t care if it’s true. The only conclusion is that if you found out that your religion was not true, you would still believe it.

    If it were shown that God truly did not exist, would the religious discussion among most believers change one whit?

    Just wondering.

  • Aaron

    An interesting conversation, but, as per usual, Dr. Prothero (great name) misrepresents the general position of non-believers. The emphasis made by the media-named “New Atheists” (the positions of which are exactly the same as Bertrand Russell, Spinoza, and so forth) such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris on the “bad” of religion is not simply a moral indictment, it’s to challenge the major Judeo-Christian religions to explain the problem of evil in the face of their supposedly personal god. The logical contortions theologians and believers force themselves into (god is “unknowable”, “infinite”, “mysterious”) constitute not reasoned debate but excuses and rationalizations. Compounding this cognitive dissonance are fuzzy systems of faith that place good acts as paths to a greater reward, namely, the afterlife.

    We non-believers are (mostly) of the opinion that this is our ONLY life, and that any distractions from the realization of this fundamental truth cheapen our existence and lessen the opportunities to build greater understanding, tolerance, and exploration. Atheism is not a belief system, but, rather, beleif in the naturally developed sense of altruism and social cooperation as being the major realization of the human condition to move us out of the morass of medieval superstition repackaged as conservative fundamentalism or liberal relativism.

  • Andy

    pplr,

    Atheism is a ‘belief’ in the same sense that not believing in unicorns, alchemy, astrology, dragons, and hobbits is a belief.

  • Christopher

    I have only this understanding at this point in time. Nothing more. …and nothing presumed.

    The simplest analogy I have is a fractal. We are all on our own branch exploring in all directions this fractal expanse.

    This fractal is fluid and merging. We are part of other fractal branches. Those are also fluid and merging.

    Some of these branches, for simplicity’s sake, can be named by religion, faith, and the sum of the individual’s perspective.

    Sometimes it may be hard to see another fractal branch from the one that I am on at the time, but I know the others are there. Sometimes it may be hard to see the entire branch I am on, but I know there is more. Sometimes I may not be able to see all the intricacy or scope of the branch I am on, but I know it too is there.

    What I also know is that even though I don’t know how my branch meets up with some of the others, I know it does, because we are all on the same fractal. We have to be, period. We are. We exist. No matter what relative perspective is taken, we are all part of everything. Aren’t we all on the same planet? In the same solar system? In the same plane? On some level, in some way we are all on the same fractal branch.

    The conclusion I come to with this is that we could all be correct, and we can all find truth. The amazing thing is that the truth I find may not be the truth my neighbor finds. They might actually seem to be directly opposed, but that’s just because of our relative perspective of the fractal at that time. When we learn more about the whole scope of our fractal branch, I think we may be surprised to find that it is capable of holding far more opposing views than we ever thought possible.

    …and this is Good.

  • John

    A defense of religion by a surving member of the Heaven’s Gate cult? I couldn’t have made that up if I tried!

  • Andy

    Christopher,

    “The conclusion I come to with this is that we could all be correct, and we can all find truth.”

    The problem with this kind of reasoning is that we have religions positing mutually exclusive claims: Jesus is God, Jesus is not God. Lots of folks are willing to die for this nonsense and take the rest of us with them. It’s time to put the fantasies aside and grow up.

  • David Jennings

    Unless I’m mistaken, the existence of ANY God has yet to be proven. So how can Stephen Prothero prove that there are multiple distinct gods? The answer is he can’t. Mr. Prothero is simply using semantics to make it seem like he’s got an original idea. All he’s really stating is that there are very different religious practices in the world. But it’s clear that stating the obvious would not be interesting enough to be published… or to be a guest on On Point. What a waste of an hour….

  • Gary

    The inability to accept and comprehend complexity, will mandate the creation of a God.

  • Denise Lassaw

    It would be nice if all religious people could put aside the “problem” of God, one , two or many. Religion or lack of religion should not be an issue. We (all human beings) are united because we share a basic humanbeingness. What we require for life support, for health and safety, for happiness, is the same. (Shelter, nutritious food, safety, community and a healthy environment that is self-renewing)

    After this basic situation is met we can indulge in the joys of mysteries and storytelling.

    Religion is man-made. The Mystery is our awareness of the great beauty and interconnectedness that we experience first hand and then cloth in cultural forms.

    Regarding the writers quick overview of Buddhism, in which he mentions only some vague idea of “Nirvana”. I would like to offer a clearer picture.

    The basic teaching in Buddhism is the CAUSE of suffering, which is ultimately our misunderstanding of who we are. Thinking that we are independent and unconnected to other beings and our environment. Buddha was a historical person and what he figured out and then taught was a method or practice to breakthrough this illusion of an independent self.
    Although there are many forms of Buddhism and within these culturally influenced forms different aspects of practice are emphasized, the very basic teaching is the we each have the responsibility for our actions and the result of our actions, therefor if we learn to be mindful of how we relate to others and sincerely try not to cause any harm, our lives will be happier. The heart of Buddhist practice is a strong moral commitment to do no harm to oneself or others. “Nirvana” is not some kind of heaven in the sky- it is your own mind at peace.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    If you study the history of all religions (not the history your particular religion) you will find that religion is based on ancient mans lack of understanding of the world around them, so they created god stories and gods, then later religions were started to support said god beliefs. It’s much healthier to understand that god stories are all mythical, superstitious beliefs. I like to say that when people say they believe in a god, what they are really saying is they believe in good. You can be and have good in the world without religion or god beliefs. For humankind to have unity, we must all have a similar belief in to our existence.

    I believe Humanism is the next step from religion. Do a google search on Humanism. If you must have a belief, besides religion, to be good, then Humanism is in my opinion the common denominator for all religious and non-religious minded people that are seeking good for humnanity. It’s time to put religious belief where it belongs, in the past. May we all find peace and harmony with one another in this life, the only life that we know for sure to have.

  • Gary

    @Steve I think you are referring to Zeitgeist [Religion] The Greatest Story Ever Sold: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNf-P_5u_Hw&NR=1

  • http://bruceguindon.com bruce guindon

    what an interesting thought, do you think God cares what is thought about what form God might take or what dogma is used in the explanation and direction of good and evil, seems to me that it’s Mans dilemma to figure it out
    God is simply beyond our simple grasp, sorta like the way a dog understands a human

  • joshua

    Tom–in this debate at the forum, you ask what offers morals outside of religion and you say there is nothing, not in schools, etc.

    essentially, you are saying, that non-religious people hve no morals and do not teach morals or ethics rather, to their children, nor would they go out and teach ethics in greater world. That is non-sense. The whole idea of humanism rests on it. Or even utilitarianism. Universal goodness. Humanity.

    There are many many teachers in schools, in universities reaching out to fellow human beings, guiing them, expresing love an dempathy to fellow human beings, sacrificing hours in their lives to make th eworld the world a better place, or to simply give another human being a moment of reprieve–and RELIGION or faith–has nothing to do with it.

    In contrast most religious people have ulterior motives when they go out into the world–most will tell you it because god demands it–so they do it out of obedience, not necessarily kindness. I don’t need to be religious or faithful to be kind and loving, or sympathetic of my fellow human beings. Most religious people do not express the same level of kindness–for many–it is self-love–to be right in the eyes of their dictator, but I have witnessed so many of these missionaries who don’t even like the people they are proselytizing too, and avoid their culture and their presence unless to preach. Not all but many, even most. Most missionaries or charities go forth because they are part of an organization that demands conformity, the need to belong–not unlike a cult–with notions of cultural and racial superiority similar to Imperialism. Most are brought up in such families, conditioned–brainwashed from infancy. Even separated from other people. And all religions, all religious people are exclusive–not open or tolerant. Faith-based people do not love you for who you are–they cant love you until you look more like them in heart and mind, and often body. Most of it is really shallow, and they cling to it, like patriotism and materialism, and Americanism out of fear.

    God is fear. religion is fear. American fascism is fear. patriotism is fear.

    There are plenty of people not religious reaching out to humankind and the earth. how many religious people love the earth? Almost none. Humanism is kindness and empathy

    Kindness and generosity is a human quality–not a divine one. One can claim they are kind because they are Christian or whatnot, but that one would fail to see that they are simply kind whatever they want to call it. Too many religious people think one cannot be a good person if they are not religious–i think that is cruel and mean and small.

    There are many non-religious organizations and people in the world with a will to good. Teachers, scientists–I recommend you check out TED and see how many, mostly, non-religious scientists, artists, and humanists exist out there doing good, and organizing moral endeavors.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Hi Gary,

    Your correct! Thanks for the great YouTube video link. Highly recommended to any believer in religious gods. Here it is again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNf-P_5u_Hw&NR=1

  • Gerald Fnord

    To the person who claimed that “the” (as if they were all alike) mediæval Muslims killed their scientists and rationalist: this is not true, and even if it were, it would be an indication of the fact that they _had_ some, as opposed to mediæval Europe.

    One benefit of education in an older religion is that you get a better sense of time, so you can, for example, notice that all religions go through periods of toleration and of imposition of orthodoxies; that Christianity has engendered in many places the longest such is more about the number of people who’ve used the opportunity to wrest control of society from orthodox Christians, as any Dominionist will tell you through rage-gritted teeth. Toleration in Christian countries is a very recent phenomenon, at most two hundred and fifty years, no time at all, really.

  • Carl

    Sorry, but it is stupid to take up an hour in radio with “god said this and god said that”. It has the entertainment value of walking in deep mud while some paint dries somewhere. Only in America. Question instead how come that churches do not have to declare their incomes (which is fishy) and why their priests cannot keep their fingers off children.
    .
    That you have somebody who is a professor in some religious stuff does not make the program relevant. How the heck can you be professor in superstition? Get real!

  • pplr

    Hmm…. 2 responses, I’m sorry I left the site for as long as I did.

    To the bit about unicorns and so on. I don’t have any problem saying don’t believe in unicorns or someone else saying the same. The problem where one tries to relate the 2 is that the understanding of God is God may exist and yet we may no see him/her/it directly through our entire physical lives. Not so for a unicorn-quite physical and if it exists then capable of being photographed.

    Also there is much larger tradition among some of the religious that states at some point in time someone did make a connection or contact with a divine being. By most accounts the people involved in those traditions-which try to pass what they see as recordings of the account though time-seem to be sincere. If their effort means anything then there is a greater likelihood there is a divine being-this is not proof but it may changes the odds in likelihood (compared to a unicorn which most people sincerely believe do not exist and state so).

    About atheism increasing tolerance. No, many of the atheists around today are open, friendly, and respectable people. But many atheists today and forms of atheism are not. If you speak with them on the topic of religion you will be told how bad religion is (Inquisition, 9/11, and on) but never any good aspects or events. This is already unbalanced reporting.

    Moreover some types of atheism today insist that it is impossible for anyone to do anything harmful on behalf of atheism. This is utterly false and can be prove as such today (by going to places where mentioning you are religious to atheists will bring a insults your direction-this is intolerance) and modern history. For example, things done to religious believers by Russian Communism are provable and agreed to have happened by most historians. And it was the point that they were religious believers that made certain people a target for discrimination and much worse, had the same victims been atheist instead many wouldn’t have been targeted.

    Atheists can discriminate and carry out violence against other people for having different beliefs as can members of any major religion. That doesn’t make it any more or less wrong when it happens but it has.

    Calling for everyone to become one group-be it Atheist, Christian, Muslim and so on-in order to encourage “tolerance” actually isn’t doing that because it is saying we will get along with you so long as you agree with us. Tolerance is about being able to get along with other people in spite of the fact that they may not agree with you on something (or look like you, have the same orientation as you, and so on).

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    Thank you, On Point, for showing the world how those in theo-centric societies go about “educating” the rest of us. They become professors in places like the Chicago Theological Seminary — impressive words designed specifically to take away our individual right to reason.

    It is not education … it is brainwashing. It is deliberate misinformation … a deliberate attempt to turn the thinking of others in a way that would mirror the ignorance of those who are doing the teaching. Unfortunately, falsification is protected by our 1st Amendment, but one day the species will learn that there are consequences.

    Your dear professor may as well be yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. For us to turn away from rationality and logic is to welcome premature failure and the extinction of our race as humans.

  • John

    Most atheists have no problem acknowledging the contributions that religious traditions have made (art, moral teachings, architecture, literature, music, trappist ales . . . ). That doesn’t mean that the god or gods that inspired them or the religions that sponsored them are real or that their followers are not wrong.

  • pplr

    John

    Unless you have access to knowledge that many other people do not the question of if the divine exists or not is unproven.

    Also I very much am not saying all atheists are intolerant or cannot appreciate things related to religion. Many can and do the with the latter.

    Just as intolerant religious groups or people do not make up all religious groups or people the same is true for atheists. Just that we should be aware there is tolerant and intolerant of each.

  • Gail Rush

    The differences between religions are like the differences in chocolate chip cookie recipes…they are all good, whether you like them with nuts, or without, they all taste good and satisfy the soul. We all end up in the same place, it’s up to you to decide how you get there, whatever “recipe” you choose. As for what’s there when you arrive at the door, well, no one’s ever been there and come back to tell, so all the arguments about what to expect are all just opinion, no matter how forcefully expressed…and for those who don’t like cookies…you don’t have to eat any.

  • John

    A burning bush told me that there is no god. I wrote up the event on some golden plates in reformed Egyptian but I misplaced them. You will just have to trust me.

  • John

    Religion as junk food is an interesting metaphor.

  • Brett

    “Would God change His creation, if He could?” -Gary

    One would hope! ;-)

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Gail wrote: “The differences between religions are like the differences in chocolate chip cookie recipes…they are all good, whether you like them with nuts, or without, they all taste good and satisfy the soul. We all end up in the same place, it’s up to you to decide how you get there”

    I hope decide wisely, as two of the mythical religions say your doomed to their Hell if you choose incorrectly. I’ll stick with what is proven, they are all made up stories. No choice in religion is a good choice.

  • http://www.esvstudybible.org/search?q=John+14 Henry Chung

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    John 14:7 (ESV)

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Henry Chung, and Jesus also suppposedly said this regarding answered prayer “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven.” -Matthew 18:19-20

    Do you believe this too? I know of many people that prayed as a group in agreement for a cancer cure, while the person died of the illness. So much for taking Jesus at his word.

  • John

    Some cookies have more nuts than others.

  • http://onpoint.org lucille magnus

    It saddens me to think he is teaching religion at a major university.

    Perhaps he should (and maybe Tom as well) try to learn something true about buddhism before spouting off nonsense.

    Cliff Notes….that was my take.
    Lucille Magnus

  • pplr

    John, look at the other 3 people who posted.

    F. William Bracy accuses religious schools of purposefully lying to their students (this ignores the possibilities they could be right, partly right, or that they could be sincere but totally wrong). He also implies rationality only agrees with him (no room for rational people to disagree). And does this when making predictions society will suffer and that freedom of religion is a bad thing (such freedom includes to the right believe there is or is not a God).

    That is the most extreme comment and and has a strong bias against religion and perhaps a bias for his kind of atheism (not all kinds of atheism would view his comment as true or rational).

    Gail says pick whatever, religion is good, and uncertainty there.
    Bias for religion. But no bias against atheists. Supportive of people being able to choose their beliefs (including to believe God exists or not).

    Steve Ross focuses on the teachings of the religion but misses those of the 2 major ones I suspect he is referring to that actually disagree. Says he will stick to what is “proven” despite the open question of the divine’s existence many of us face. Subtle bias against some religion (focused on what may disturb people) and perhaps for atheism if you assume he mistyped his last sentence (which, if read literally, could be taken as a opposition to freedom of religion).

    I am uncertain about Ross (because I don’t know if he meant the last sentence as it was typed) but the most extreme comment following my longer post, ignoring the 2 of us, and available at the time I started typing this comment seems to come from an atheist. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t extreme religious people out there but please think over what I said about the intolerant or tolerant each group.

  • http://WBUR Steve Camera

    Stephen Prothero is wrong.The reason there are different takes to our Supreme God is that each group wants to control people’s hearts, to have them contribute money to the group. Money is power; power is the ability to collect money. This is the point. Let’s start with the difference between Sunni and Shia: Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet’s companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. This is what was done, and the Prophet Muhammad’s close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation. The word “Sunni” in Arabic comes from a word meaning “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.” On the other hand, the Shia Muslims believe that following the Prophet Muhammad’s death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God Himself. So here we have the crux of the matter: authority (read political/economic control = power)

    Prothero tries at every corner of the debate, to confuse the issue. Let’s take another example in Christianity: the Catholics vs Protestants in England. Wow, what a power battle. Why the fuss? Well, the control of an empire (British) was at stake. And Britania was a major power at that time. Lots of wealth at stake. Who would control this wealth. So religion is used as a wedge, a catalyst, to bring one group to power and to topple another group.

    Let us remember that the Catholic Church, headed by the Pope, is a very wealthy entity and has played a significant role in world politics over the centuries. Yes, we sometimes forget that what seems like a strictly religious organization (The Catholic Church) was a supreme powerful political and economic force in Europe at one time, and still has considerable power today. This does not revolve around theological arguments. This is a struggle for power and weath.

    All religions of the world, including all those that Prothero mentions in his argument are entities one might call political/economic catalysts which bring certain groups to power and topple other groups. This occurs in Chinese and Indian history quite like it happens in European History.

    Even in American History, religion is a wedge which makes or breaks national leaders. Note, John F. Kennedy was scrutinized harshly because he was Catholic. People actually thought he might let the Pope influence his political decisions. Luckily he had other things going for him like his charisma and good looks to swing the voters in a very close election. Before Kennedy, White Protestants ruled the country. Now things are different. In the USA the demography changes: Latinos become majority in many political regions, and enhance the influence of the Catholic Church.

    The Jewish “Religion” in America is an interesting case. There are basically three sub-divisions: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Each has it’s own history, yet all profess to worshop the same God. The point is, that within each community there is a power base: rabbis, teachers and other religious officials from each group control a certain wealth; and be sure there is a competition for this wealth among these three groups. There are surely differences in philosophy and religious practice among the groups, but, bottom line, members of all three subdivisions consider themselves Jews.

    In reviewing the details of human history, from the beginning of religion on this earth to date, we can be sure that a religion’s ability for organizing groups of humans (religion as catalyst) is its strength. We are dealing with a struggle for power, wealth and fame. Among the leaders of the world, from chiefs, kings, emperiors, (dictators of all kinds) and presidents, each leader uses the institution of religion to keep his/her power and the adversaries of this leader who which to take down this leader and replace him/her, use their religion to fight for control for the hearts and minds of the population. Indeed, the institution of religion embodies and embraces the energy of human emotion as well as the charm of intellectual investigation, to persuade the people in that part of the world, in that realm, to join forces, indeed, and often, to offer their very lives as martyrs, to further the political/economic cause of these leaders who have captured their minds and hearts, through religious means.

    This is the nature of religion. And, to be sure, this point of view does not contradict the notion that, in theory, in an ideal world, void of politics and the struggle for wealth, all religions seek the same goals of peace on earth and good will to all. We strive to find and to understand the same ineffable Supreme Being.

  • pplr

    “about the intolerant or tolerant of each group”

    Sorry about the typo.

  • John

    People should be free to believe whatever nonsense they want. It doesn’t make any of it true. And how many people would believe these supernatural claims if they hadn’t been indoctrinated as children?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mmskXXetcg

  • pplr

    It isn’t necessarily “nonsense” as I already pointed out the question of the divine’s existence was unanswered on this show or, as far as I can tell, by the comments posted here.

    And while some may not believe (indoctrination is an excessive word for at least a few believers) there are some who do. There was a woman (on different radio show) who asked parents not to push religion on their children and opted to become Catholic when she was 27 and hadn’t been when she was younger.

  • http://theQ Raven B.

    “The religions of the world have a lot in commom. Fellowship, love, charity, afterlife, soul or spirit.” I agree with cory what difference does it make if all GODS don’t lead to one. As long as there is one that believes of Fellowship, love, and charity thats all i care about because it gives meaning and purpose.

  • Gerald Fnord

    Oddly enough, there are no cultural or religious disagreements about the existence or basic nature of gravity as it works on Earth (sicut in cœlo).

    I’m sure there could be disagreements as to the ‘meaning’ of things’ falling downward, but this says more about the problems inherent in the term ‘meaning’ than about gravity.

    Someone once defined: “Mystic, n.: a person who claims to have incommunicable insights about which he refuses to shut up.”

    I am also very partial to Terry Pratchett’s dialogue in which a character says of a religious person (I am paraphrasing throughout) ‘Perhaps what he says is true…but in a different way,’, to which the response is, ‘You mean it’s false.’

    An old Yiddish proverb said, “If Heaven and Hell were in the market square, there would be no need for Faith.” I think this says more about the problems associated with ‘Faith’ than about the reason for the absence of evidence supporting these constructs.

  • Brett

    Asking all religions to view their respective beliefs as ultimately leading toward the same goal with the same god, in order to get along, is a bit like saying people can only appreciate diversity by continually procreating interracially. There is probably a mathematician somewhere with a pretty good calculation about when that will be achieved, and probably the latter approach in addressing the need to embrace racial diversity has a better chance of succeeding sooner than religious egalitarianism. True respect for religions, as well as spirituality and non-religions will be achieved when there is considerable admission and concession that religion/spiritual belief is an individual opinion that can not be supported beyond providing food for some human need to have a sense of something beyond ourselves.

    The embrace of racial diversity can only really be achieved when concepts like exceptionalism, nationalism and racial supremacy are absent. True religious diversity can only be achieved when there is acceptance that while religion may represent something more abstract and unknowable, it is merely a human construct of that desire to know or understand something beyond our realm of understanding. No one type of theism, deism, or any heightened system of spiritual wisdom can be superior to another for there to be interfaith harmony. It seems there is a great paradox here: how can one have “faith” in one’s belief and juxtapose that with the disparate “it is only an opinion”? I like to subscribe to the idea that truth is holding two ostensibly disparate thoughts in balance with each other at the same time.

    I live in an area where there is a large Unitarian Universalist community. Many of them are my friends, and I can’t seem to go to my local morning coffee shop without some kind of UU mention going on. As much as most discussions with them about religion seem insipid and Pollyannaish, and they don’t really promote what they say they promote (a celebration of all religions), they do at least promote tolerance, as well as that aforementioned concept of abandoning any need for one religion or view to be superior to another. Though, in a sense, they are not honoring all religions but denying any of them. They also do not celebrate all religions; if they did, they would have a Jewish ceremony one week, an Islamic one the next, a Roman Catholic one the next, and so on…

    Anyway, I’m sure I’ve resolved this problem to everyone’s satisfaction, and we can all now live in complete harmony, except for that Ti and Do devotee! All of your better enlightened cults these days prefer the harmonic tones of Re, Mi, Fa, So and La, anybody knows that…jeesh…it is those middle tones of the octave that are Divine, my friend, not the false prophets of the first and last tones! Besides, Ti (that which we drink with jam and bread) is simply a note that brings us back to Do. They are only a half-tone apart and promote disharmony (dissonance) if played together; no wonder everybody committed suicide!!!

  • Steve

    Henry Chung, and Jesus also suppposedly said this regarding answered prayer “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven.” -Matthew 18:19-20

    Do you believe this too? I know of many people that prayed as a group in agreement for a cancer cure, while the person died of the illness. So much for taking Jesus at his word.

    A very bright teacher once shared the following homily…

    “text without context is pretext”

    Mr. Ross, quote the entire verse and apply it to the context in which it was given rather than cherry picking to suit your purposes, and I will try to do the same.

    The verse you cite is for the sinning brother and is prayed “in My (Jesus) Name”.

    It is my understanding that christians pray that the will of God be done and that his purposes be established in the name of Jesus.

    How, when, and in what time frame is left to a good and gracious God.

    He will also allow freedom to all (anabaptist tradition)in His creation.

    As to suffering and why God would allow it…this is another question. But I think it is a mistake to assume that God does not exist because I do not get what I want.

  • sad

    Much easier to sell a book that flies in the face of conventional academic and spiritual wisdom. I’m much more comfortable with the convention, all these religions are asking the same thing from all of us: chill out and take care of one another. If that makes me condescending so be it.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Hi Steve, tell me how these verses are taken out of context:

    1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”.

    1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is not jealous.”

    Exodus 34:14 (KJV), Deuteronomy 4:24 (KJV), Deuteronomy 5:9 (KJV), Deuteronomy 6:15 (KJV) “I am a jealous God”.

    Also, Steve, do you believe in good? Are you against evil?

  • Peter Kafer

    I listened to this broadcast and feel that Mr Prothero has ignored a very simple fact, easily observed by anyone with a minimum understanding of the Universe. I think that religion is wrong to set itself against science and that most people tend to do just that. However, it is commonly understood that the Universe is expanding, that at one place in time/space, it was either infinitesimally small or it was somehow created. Obviously you can’t get something from nothing. If there is one Universe (that is redundancy that affirms that indeed there is but one cosmos) and if it was created, it must have been created by a single creator since more than one creator could not be responsible. Since there could only be one creator, all those who worship, revere, submit to and otherwise recognize him must variously acknowledge the same creator. Mr Prothero is right that different people have different approaches to this creator. Ms Thistlewaite is correct when she characterizes God as infinite and therefore perceived by man in infinite ways. This is not such a strange idea. Traditional Christianity asserts that its god has three different faces. It is not such a stretch to think that different cultures perceive the face of god that answers to their spiritual problems.

  • http://bruceguindon.com bruce guindon

    Wow,God sure gets a lot of air time, for something that does not exist, fools before swine

  • Pro-lifer

    I have been studying the Holy Bible for years, and the simple fact is that I haven’t been able to find allah or muhammad mentioned once in my Holy Bible.

  • John

    I have been studying the Holy Bible for years, and the simple fact is that I haven’t been able to find allah or muhammad mentioned once in my Holy Bible. – Posted by Pro-lifer — Were you just looking at the pictures?

  • Sreekumar.K

    “if there were no religion’word from a song by john lenon,wish it were true..We humans are doomed to harm and kill each other simply because of the different regelious beliefs.

  • justanother

    Religion is culture clashes, basically.

    Religion is superstition, basically!

    Religion is cult organizations, basically!

    Religion are man made, basically!

    All religious people should excuse my non belief just as I have excused yours.

  • justanother

    I don’t care who created me. I might be created out of “curiosity”, “accidents” or some will call “love”. My way of looking at it is, I won’t even have to exist to “worship” some “god” if “god” didn’t “create” me. So god created me just to so that we can be enslaved to worship? To me the god portrayed in the Bible, sounds like some kind of trick or treat story, quite naughty and arrogant. Talk about real free mind, observe elements around us, adapt, and cherish give and take.

  • pplr

    People have killed others because they belonged to different religions.

    People have killed to get rid of religions.

    People have killed because others were of a different skin color, ethnic group, and/or tribe.

    People have killed each other for political goals.

    People have killed to get their hands on less than 10 dollars in someone’s wallet.

    People have killed because they were in a bad mood.

    We may be doomed to see killing never stop but that doesn’t mean we cannot try to end it and in so doing contain it.

    Be well, or at least try to.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    pplr says “if you assume he mistyped his last sentence (which, if read literally, could be taken as a opposition to freedom of religion).” regarding my sentence stating: “No choice in religion is a good choice.”

    Your taking that sentence waayyyy out of context. I’m all for freedom of one’s right of religion or no religion. My statement is in reference to my opinion that I feel if given a choice to choose a religion, one is better off chosing no religion. That doesn’t mean I’m against anyone worshipping in the comfort of your home or church, I’m basicly stating that I believe strongly that all religions are based on myth and superstition and that man would be better off choosing a more rational organized structure if they need something to cling to, such as Humanism.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    pplr says, “We may be doomed to see killing never stop but that doesn’t mean we cannot try to end it and in so doing contain it.”

    And I’m all for the killings to stop, as is every atheist that I personally know. But again, what is the biggest threat to humanity in our current era? Religions that base their beliefs on having the “only true god.”

    Again, it’s time to move away from mythical god stories that can be traced back to ancient mans false beliefs in gods that control the weather, sickness, good and evil. The fact is, there are going to be good people and bad people in this world, with or without religion, and our common laws are what give us some protection from the bad, not some god in the sky that is pulling strings daily.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Steve also states: “It is my understanding that christians pray that the will of God be done and that his purposes be established in the name of Jesus.

    How, when, and in what time frame is left to a good and gracious God.

    Exactly!! So pray at all? It’s clear that the god of the bible is all knowing (past, present and future) and that everything is “his will,” not ours. My point: if god already knows the future, you cannot change it by praying, as it the future is already set in stone. Your prayers will not change the outcome, your future is already established. To say it isn’t contradicts your god’s reference to everything being “his will.” Likewise, since everything is “his will,” you again will not and cannot change the outcome or else it would be “your will” and not his.

    If you really want to test your faith in your god, the next time your hospitalized, try prayer instead of medicine.

  • BAS

    Yogi Berra quote:

    “……. OUR SIMILARITIES ARE DIFFERENT”

  • david

    All questions will be answered at the moment you die.

  • Tom Hering

    Thank you, Stephen Prothero, for the clear statements about the problem/solution differences among the major religions.

  • Ellen

    The structure of all religions are very different. They all take different paths but they are ultimately all going in the same direction!

    Each of us follows the path that best fits the lessons we need to learn in this life. We follow the path that will best bring us closer to that “peace” that we all find at the moutain top.

    Respect your own path and respect the path of others

  • Andy

    pplr

    You’re missing the point. How is belief in God like belief in unicorns? They are both completely unjustified. Anyone who makes a positive claim about anything bears the burden of proof. If I tell you that there is gold buried under your living room, it is my job to offer evidence. You are under no obligation to provide evidence for your lack of belief. It’s the same with God. Nobody should believe in God until some credible evidence can be produced. God could do this at any point but chooses not to. Why? Should we concoct some crazy story for why God must remain hidden or choose the more sensible route–he doesn’t exist.

    You also say religion is not all bad and atheism is not all good. That is beside the point. There is no evidence for God. Atheism is simply lack of faith in God. It’s not the same thing as, say, dogmatic marxism. Stalin’s murders were motivated by unjustified beliefs–the same as the Inquisition or any other nasty thing religious people have done.

  • Jack Pine

    You might as well have a discussion on the types of aliens that people have had encounters with. The problem being is that their is no proof for aliens. In the same vein, talking about one god or multiple gods is fruitless in the light that there is no proof for a god(s).

  • Michael

    If there is a god than clearly they must be a devil, if god grants his followers what they wish than would not the devil? If god tells you that another faith is the devil is it not your obligation not to destroy it? What if god and the devil is one in the same? (bible stats he did some pretty nasty things that some would think only the devil would do). What if he pits one faith against the other to see how loves him more? Maybe he does not want peace since we all know that in hard times people turn to god.

    What if there a god for each universe? does that mean he harvesting souls against the others? Since there can be only would you would have to assume for War.

    If this was a just and loving god, how could he allow one race to enslave another? Rape? Ethnic cleansing, Race Superiority in his name? Why must god will be forced on others if he gave man free will to resist? If you do go to the heaven(or planet in some cases) what do you do the whole time? can you have sex?(One person in charge of all your actions seems a bit authoritarian to me) what age will you be to your grandparents, or Kids, how about the people who murdered in his name or even murdered a love one? Say you don’t get in and go to hell or Hades, why would the devil mistreat you if you can be used for a tool? Unless god has dominion over hell to enforce it, if so than god would pretty much be ruler of heave and hell and really didn’t give human free will since that would require giving up control and god knows the bible, Koren, tells us what we must do.

    If one says its okay to murder in his name than anyone that believe there doing it in his name and will go to heaven, If one says it’s never okay to murder in Gods Name then there a boat load of U.S. troops going to hell since many innocents have been killed in fact most of the world is going to hell. If one can be forgiven after they commit a sin than why following anything a faith tells you till the end of your life?

    What i do notice is the ones who follow there faith more liberally seem not to be the one cutting heads, denying other races equal rights, and tend to be the one’s (if there was a heaven to get in) I also notice the ones who follow there faith more conservatively seem to be the ones who are intolerant, hateful, and dangerous, who see no problem taking away the rights of others. be it Jew, Christian, or Muslim.

  • http://whilewestillhavetime.blogspot.com/ John Hamilton

    I just heard this guy say “we” didn’t know there were Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Actually, Dr. Know-it-all, it has been common knowledge among the literate among us since the “Iranian” revolution in 1979 that there is such a thing as Shiism.

    As to the argument, it’s a pretty silly one. Religions don’t lead anywhere. It is the individual person that moves along a spiritual path, of which religion is only a part, a context and framework for practice.

    Like religious “experts” everywhere, the guest assumes knowledge of what or where religions lead. Actually, this assumption is imagination, mistaken for experience. Since it is not the religion that leads us anywhere, but our own practice, and the guest has no experience of what or where the supposed leading leads one to, he is basically following his own path of the ass with a load of books, sometimes known as a philosopher.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Andy, well said!

    david says “All questions will be answered at the moment you die.”

    How do you know for sure? In your opinion, who is going to answer the questions?

  • Andy

    Michael,

    You are an awesome example of why we need to get rid of religion. Am I being rhetorical?

  • http://WBUR Dr. Samuel Solomon

    Listening to On Point, this morning on WBUR, I was moved to reflect on and respond to Stephen Prothero’s thoughts that the multitude of religions we see on this earth respond, each to their own supreme being. Professor Prothero would say: each religion has its own “god.” Or at least this is what I am understanding. And each religion has its good and evil, its positives and negatives. These ideas purport to travel on a vast intellectual journey, perhaps too large to encompass either Prothero’s remarks or the time it took to play out On Point. I will just propose my own take on the matter of the “unity and indivisibility of the human supreme deity.” There is much research on the human brain, its structure and function and how it bursts forth with the blueprint of human social organization and a sketch of history. Throughout human’s sojourn on Earth, we see evidence of an awe-inspiring reaction of humankind to the wonders of the universe, from the beautiful night sky with its billions of twinkling stars, its full moon; its sunrises its sunsets; the glory of the sun’s rays (as well as its dangers); throughout human artistic expression, we see depictions of this wonder both in form and color. It is my thought that there is something that has evolved, through human evolution and natural selection, that compels humans to be religious. Rituals and customs, prayers and incantations are performed to ward off evil spirits, bring us good luck, serve as a catharsis, purging worry and doubt from our fragile minds and conscious ruminations. Human life is complex, with life and death issues looming at every turn, in every dark corner. To reach out to and up to a supreme deity, some power considered all-powerful and all-knowing and every-present is what I would say is a “natural” reaction against the constant anxiety which life brings. Life is a crap-shoot, random, dangerous. Religions developed over the millennia preach against thinking “random.” Believe in God, put your faith in God, and you are free from the evil thoughts of life as random and purposeless. I think all creatures which are Human not only have the capacity and inclination, to a greater or lesser degree, to develop ideas about a supreme being but actually have a compulsion to do so. For to walk in the shadow of doubt is harrowing; to live in the clutches of uncertainty is debilitating. So all humans, regardless of where on Earth we walk or where were our origins: whatever our collective socio-cultural tradition down through the ages, which defines and distinguishes our religion, in its details, from “other” religions, are striving for the same comfort of mind, the same security of heart, the same generating of purpose and meaning in living. We reach out, as children, as we were taught, to embrace “our” God; or reject Him. But surely to consider him. Before monotheism, peoples of the world worshiped the sun, the moon, trees, the oceans, the mountains, the sky . . . and these entities are still part of our rituals of religious expression today. There are still people on our good Earth who continue to worship many gods. Other expressions of religious behavior, as discussed in Dr. Prothero’s thesis, strive to reach farther outward and inward, somewhat more abstract, perhaps, to the awesome God, the singular deity, who is all powerful and all controlling, as exemplified by the one-God religions of the Jews, Muslims and Christians. Religions of the east, from India and China may have different configurations in the quest for resolution of human anxiety caused by the uncertainties of life, but they too serve to lift the human mind to a level of thought which is pure and predictable. Yes, it is the wiring, structure and process of the human brain, interacting with our socio-natural environment, through refinement over millions of years of evolutionary history, which lights up human intellect, inspires genius and soothes the heart. Regardless who we are or what religion we embrace or have membership in, we as humans, are animals who are programmed to seek out God, the almighty, the all controlling, the all loving, and embrace Him. Yes, throughout history, each religion has its ups and downs, its glory and its failures. Good and evil is the duality of all human existence. Yet the singular God rises way above all defects and imperfections of biological humans. Our God is pure and without error. It is humans to err. God is flawless and forgiving of human errors, like a loving father and mother. So we see, through the biology of the brain, that religion in all its actions, in all its different formats and rituals, strives for the same unity of perfection to believe in and to take shelter from the many storms and dangers of natural life on Earth. So those who believe that all religions worship the same God are correct, by definition. The variety of religious expressions only serves to enrich human life. To believe in God is a human trait. We all are believing in the “same” god, even though each religion, in its dogma, thinks “its” god is the only God. No matter, God is God. God cannot be cut in half, or atomized in any way. God is indivisible. God is the embodiment of human hope and faith, serving as a bridge over the gaps of real-time continuity. In each religion, there is a striving to embrace and be protected by the same God of Justice and Mercy.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Ok, this was a question directed to Steve, and Michael has hit on it as well: Where does evil come from? Look no further than the Christian book of all knowledge, the book from the infallible word of god.

    But before we go to the Bible for the answer, I want to ask every religious person this simple question: Why are you fighting so hard to defend your belief? Is it because your against evil and you want good to prevail? That is what I’m for as well as an atheist. You would agree that something that creates evil is not worthy of worship, right? Sure, that only makes sense. So where does evil come from:

    Isaiah 45:7 (KJV)

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”

    Why follow something that deems itself as the source of all evil?

    Folks, be glad that the god stories are all mythical. Rejoice that your fellow man will not have to endure such immoral and inhumane torture from a cruel god.

  • http://www.iamwhatisee.com Patrick Rogers

    While I think understand the guest’s meaning, I think, I have always thought of
    religion as language. Different tongues/beliefs that attempt to
    understand concepts that are mostly un-understandable. The languages
    and the beliefs only impede our attempts at understanding greater
    concepts and the divine…

    They serve at keeping us ultimately disconnected, focusing on the
    meaning of this word or that tradition instead of bringing us to a
    meaning beyond words, beyond faiths. An understanding of the energy
    and connectedness we have in us and THROUGH us. this is not something
    that can be explained, it MUST be experienced. I do not claim to have
    experienced fully this energy, but I know of very specific times in my
    life that I have had a small taste of it, and I tend not to relate
    these moments to anyone because putting words to them automatically
    detracts from the experience. These words also become divisive.

  • jeffrey erwin

    When “Professor” Prothero has himself made the journey to the “cosmic mountain top” only then he may presume to lecture us about it……………..

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Dr. Samuel says: “In each religion, there is a striving to embrace and be protected by the same God of Justice and and Mercy.”

    Is it Just and Merciful to punish all of humankind for the sins of 2 people? In our common law, if a person commits a crime, is it Just to punish others that had nothing to do with the crime?

  • Larry Kyrala

    One of your callers likened any higher “unity” among religions to race relations — she stated that we made a mistake in acting like everyone was the same, rather we should respect people’s differences, capabilities. Then she trailed off her analogy and simply jumped back to religion.

    This bothers me. It bothers me because as Steven Jay Gould pointed out in the “Mismeasure of Man” there is more genetic diversity among individuals of a given “race” than there is in individuals across races. The term “race” is biologicallly irrelevant — it has no scientific basis, precisely because it is so vague — and yet her statement presumes that because of “percieved” differences, we should classify and prejudge what capabilities someone has because they are labeled with a given “race”. For this reason, she assumes that we should classify and prejudge what capabilities someone has because they are labeled with a given religion or spiritual tradition.

    I find that reasoning as offensive whether it is applied to so-called “race-relations” or “interfaith-relations”. It’s precisely what leads to violence, because at the root of it, respect means that you don’t prejudge and limit someone simply based on a label.

  • BAS

    I come away with the sense that this is a conversation about words and intellectual curiosity, an aim to pin things down and fix them (via a book) – as distinct from the courage to ‘not know’ and share the ‘ not knowing’ of diverse others (in present time) who have in common a magnetic call to ‘inquire’ about where we overlap, what is the commonality that ‘we are’ beyond words?

    Even if we find meaning in different contexts, traditions and rituals and (though I reckon there is no meaning without context without getting goofy) the impulse is a shared imulse to sense internal truths versus habitual conditioning and the impulse to obey, or please those who have charge of us, and a need to succeed. Don’t we learn to ‘see’ – over and over and over again depending on where we are and what we’ve experienced and been taught to date whilst also just sensing what is?

    Surely we all operate on so many different levels at different moments – a conversation like this can sound a bit ‘cliff-notes- like’ (a pithy reference by another commenter).

    Aren’t our journeys and the questions the sand and grit that rub the pearls?
    What’s real and true depends on where we sit and wonder or give thanks. But isn’t that wondering and gratitude a shared faculty that recognizes itself in others no matter what you call it.

    It doesn’t mean we don’t see ourselves in all of the life and process we live within and are a part of. Call it God or a felt sense that can only be identified and universally recognized by allegory or glimpsed out of the corner of our eyes, not weighed and ‘pinned down’. Then again why am I struggling with this yak yak myself?…

  • http://none Chris

    I am a Christian. By my understanding, the Bible teaches that Christ is the only way to God and paradise. And no other faith, way of life, or person will lead you to God and paradise. And the other gods spoken of are much different than mine. One may say look outside the Bible or at nature or through some other lens to find God or understand him but my faith teaches that the Bible is my final authority or ultimate source for truth. What some people are asking me to do is accept their understanding of truth and/or the Bible instead of my own. They are trying to convert me to their “all faiths lead to one God” point of view just as much as I am trying to convert them to my “one truth faith/one true God” point of view. While it is possible that they may be right and I may be wrong, I remain unconvinced.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Chris says: “the Bible teaches that Christ is the only way to God and paradise.”

    And every cult under the sun uses the same terminology to address why they have the true god. Shouldn’t evidence be the hallmark of belief?

    You also state: “I am trying to convert them to my “one truth faith/one true God” point of view. While it is possible that they may be right and I may be wrong, I remain unconvinced.”

    Your book of “all truth” is full of myth, Chris. I was a Christian for 36 years and believed the Bible to be unfallible as well, until I finally opened my eyes. Do you believe people actually lived to be hundreds of years old, that a donkey talked, that the mustard seed is the smallest seed, that man and animals were made on the same day, that the earth was made before the sun, that there was an actual worldwide flood etc.? If you do, you have a serious problem with the true facts. Also, the central character of the Bible (Jesus) is totally unproven, there is no proof of Jesus. You can keep believing the myths if you want, but I don’t see any reason to.

  • Jeff

    One common belief is that God created man to worship him. Another is that God gave us free will. My belief is that God gave us free will by giving us the choice to believe in Him. If God created us but gave us no options, would we really have free will on our belief?

    For instance, whether the dinosaurs ever walked the Earth millions of years ago or if the Earth is only a few thousand years old doesn’t matter. Either way the fossils are there and it gives up options in what to believe. We can choose to believe that God created the Earth and all things on it, or that it was the Big Bang. Not having the options means no free will. No chance to choose to believe.

  • Andy

    Notice how hard it is to defend faith versus how easy it is to dismiss it? It’s the same with unicorns, alchemy, astrology, dragons, and hobbits.

    Nice work, Steve.

  • http://WFAE.org Marysia Walpole

    I feel very sad for Stephen Prothero. I think that something must have happened in his upbringing to make him believe that religions are right or wrong and mutually exclusive. It seems he has a need to place each religion in a separate box, pointing out all the differences as deal breakers worthy of conflict. Perhaps he was brought up by parents or in a community where differences were not tolerated. If so, that was a great disservice to him and the community at large.

    Personally, I feel that most religions are basically trying to worship the same “Creator” and/or establish social morality that make a community function effectively. But because each culture has its own morays and we as humans are flawed, we have developed a diverse set of principle and beliefs we call “religion”. While this has historically been problematic, such as Americans sticking out their right hands in a traditionally expected greeting, Iraqis take this as a serious offense because in their culture without toilet paper, that hand is saved for washing their behinds and considered a serious insult to extend to another person.

    This doesn’t mean that we are doomed to disagree and squabble. It means that as adults we must tru to learn the other person’s cultural /religious morays and treat that person with culturally and religiously appropriate respect. For example, while I eat beef regularly, I would never serve a Buddhist beef or eat beef in front of them, out of respect for their customs. However, I would still feel honored to host a dinner for Buddhists. I would be gratified to have the opportunity to discuss their beliefs and see if any of there customs would be meaningful for me to observe, just as Halloween evolved from Druid’s Day of the Dead.

    Even if I chose not to adopt another cultures’ religious beliefs, I would not actively insult them or consider our differences as automatic grounds for conflict. I’m not Amish, but I would never consider conflict with one because they don’t believe in as much automation as I do. I would respect them and even perhaps try to learn how they accomplish their dayly lives with so few modern conveniences.

    Perhaps this is because I believe that no living human can ever truly know what happens after death or “what God wants of us”. I believe we are all only doing the best we know how and that each of us may have a piece of the truth but no one has it all.

  • Adam Redwine

    I am a theoretical physicist and an atheist. Nonetheless, I have a tremendous respect for religion generally and have considered converting to a religion in order to benefit from the psycho-social aspects.

    In my pursuit for a religious home, I spent a great deal of time last year discussing religion with my evangelical Christian family and people of many other faiths. The conclusion I have reached is that the vast majority of people are not, in fact, interested in the truth of the physical world; most people just want to belong to a community even if they won’t admit it.

  • Andy

    Marysia,

    It’s not so hard as all that. Either there is a God or there isn’t. No good evidence has been produced in favor, so let’s chuck all religions.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Jeff, with all due respect, your arguments are not sound. For example, you state: “My belief is that God gave us free will by giving us the choice to believe in Him.”

    Ok, so your the Bible god gave you the “free will” to believe in him. But what if the evidence is so overwhelming that he is a myth, that you choose not to believe because it seems obvious it’s made up? He sends you to Hell, right? Right! Now, I ask you, if your own child chose to not love you, or believe in you as a father, would you want that child to burn for their choice? Does that sound loving to you? Then how could a moral person believe in such a horrible god that would send his creation to an everlasting burning in Hell?

    Plus, we do not have “free will” (Of course we do, but not according to the Bible, or does it contradict itself here, surely not the utlimate word of the true god.) The Bible god makes it clear that everything is “his will” and that he already knows our future, which means the future is definite, it is set in stone or he wouldn’t be able to know the future.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    @Chris:

    The Bible is not a text book — it’s a story book. The Bible doesn’t teach, because only truth is taught formally, or something as close to the truth as it is possible to know through exhaustive research, study and testing. This is the whole point of the Scientific Method. That which cannot be proved with the existing technology through exhaustive testing must remain in place as either speculation or conjecture, and we don’t teach conjecture!

    Stated another way, and I realize that this is bitter medicine to swallow, religious education is a contradiction in terms — a non-sequitor … an oxymoron.

    Don’t confuse this with the usual Internet drivel. Someone else on this forum has said (para) “Christ died on the Cross and ascended into Heaven.” To the minds of many people, this is irrefutable truth.

    Well, it is not necessary to either deny or confirm that Christ was crucified. The Romans crucified as many as 500 people per day, giving it pretty good odds of being plausible, at least. This by itself is not the “proof” one would point to as verification for the Christian story. Most people, including myself, concede the fact that Christ lived.

    Ascending into Heaven, however, is an altogether different proposition. What is the basis for this part of the story? … the fact that when a stone was rolled back from the tomb, it was found empty? If the stone was rolled into place, it can certainly be rolled back. You need to study the burial traditions in place in the Middle East back in the First Century.

    There were certainly people who had a vested interest in attempting to prove that Jesus was special … that of the thousands of tombs where corpses lay to decompose for the first year after death, He would merit a “miracle.” So the story says that when the women entered Christ’s tomb they found it empty. Well I say, so what? It only takes a couple of strong men to roll a stone.

    No one doubts that this is plausible, but where are the eyewitnesses to an altogether otherworldly event — a human ascension into the ether, unaided by balloons, airships or wings?

    There are none. The facts on the ground may be altogether factual, but it’s the rest of the story that departs from any known fact and enters the realm of fancy.

  • Jeff

    Steve,

    First off, I am not a theologist. Not in the least. I was simply bringing up the idea of free will and options as something to think about.

    Is it impossible to think that perhaps “his will” is more for us to be happy and to have something to believe in? Choosing to be Christian, Buddhist, Islamic or any other, could in fact all be “his will” and all be a path to him. Following a belief, regardless of the religion, brings people of the same faith together and provides a path to happiness.

    Also, when it’s stated that he already knows our future, does it state that he knows every single choice of every singe decision we will face? Perhaps a broader sense of the meaning is needed, that he knows what is in store for humanity. That we will blow ourselves up, grow beyond the ability for the Earth to sustain us, or maybe a second coming.

    Once again I’m not a theologist, nor am I God or one of the gods. So I can’t say what is correct or wrong. Neither can anyone else who isn’t God or one of the gods. My brain fails to picture with intricate detail what 1 thousand marbles are like on the floor, let alone billions of humans across thousands of miles. Just saying…

  • Andy

    Jeff,

    Fortunately, you don’t have to be a theologist (or even a theologian) to dismiss God. Do you believe that hyper-intelligent dolphins gave us free will? No? Why not? Because there is no evidence to suggest that they did. It’s the same with God. And it’s sooo easy to do.

  • justanother

    ****All questions will be answered at the moment you die.***

    And no one ever come back to tell the truth!

    If god knows how god is portrayed in all religions, god should be very upset about the most ridiculous scared tactic craps like “judgment day”, “Heaven & Hell”.

    Believing “one god” is so elementary. And who created “god”? If you can answer that!

    Believe me, we don’t need religions to reach high moral standard. Lots of teaching in all religions are “common sense”.

  • Jeff

    Ok Andy,

    So there is no evidence to suggest or prove there is a God out there… is there proof that there is no God? Can you prove where the Earth came from? Beyond a doubt? No? Then we can all dismiss the Earth came from anywhere. That it is as old as the Universe, has always been here. Although that doesn’t really fit with science does it? Hmm…

  • justanother

    ****Believe me, we don’t need religions to reach high moral standard. Lots of teaching in all religions are “common sense”.****

    And common sense are complicated by religions telling stories like soap operas.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Hi Jeff, I understand what your stating, but for me, here is the problem. You said: “Following a belief, regardless of the religion, brings people of the same faith together and provides a path to happiness.” and “he knows what is in store for humanity. That we will blow ourselves up, grow beyond the ability for the Earth to sustain us, or maybe a second coming.

    All three of these beliefs is the reason that belief in religion is dangerous to humanity. You see, people with a religious belief in a god, all have the same theory, that their god will come back to defeat evil. What is deemed evil, anyone that doesn’t believe in said god. All religions that have a god do not believe in the same god, which makes each religion in competition with one another (I have the true god.) To think that believing in a religion is the source for true happiness is ludicrous. Since I have converted to atheism, I’ve had everyone (except my wife) turn against me, or see me as if the devil was in me. This is the dangers of believing myths and superstitions like religion.

    You also state: “Also, when it’s stated that he already knows our future, does it state that he knows every single choice of every singe decision we will face?”

    No, it doesn’t have to say that, it’s clear what is meant by, I know the past, present and future. It means he knows all. That is not even arguable.

    Jeff, if you were god, would you play games with your creation to see if they would believe in you? And then if they don’t, send them to a torture chamber? Sounds like something Hitler did, a mortal. Shouldn’t god’s thinking be higher than man’s? Yet we are to believe that he was pleased with sacrifices made to himself. These sacrifices were animals, children, women and his own son. Does that sound moral and humane to you? Why would something have to be killed to make things clean and right again? You don’t have to be a Theologian to use common sense in answering these questions. Just ask yourself, does this sound like something a loving god would do? It’s not complicated, it’s either right or not.

  • Andy

    Jeff,

    You don’t need evidence to support lack of belief in God. You need evidence to support belief in God. There is none. If God created the universe, he should’ve left a great big sign saying so and then he could come on CNN every so often and say he did it. That would put all controversy to rest. No evidence–no reason to believe in God.

  • justanother

    ***So there is no evidence to suggest or prove there is a God out there… is there proof that there is no God? Can you prove where the Earth came from? Beyond a doubt? No? Then we can all dismiss the Earth came from anywhere. That it is as old as the Universe, has always been here. Although that doesn’t really fit with science does it? Hmm…***

    But don’t believing god

    – doesn’t require writing a BIG book about it,

    – doesn’t require church, mosque and temple

    – doesn’t require recruiting missionary

    – doesn’t require hierarchy rankings who are not voted by democratic process.

    – doesn’t require imposing their disbelief

    – doesn’t require to prove non-existence of god, because non believers have nothing to “sell”.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    Animals exhibit free will. There is nothing about free will that is unique to humans.

    Consider this: A Cheetah sees prey in his or her rival’s territory. Basic animal behavioral studies have shown that the “poacher” makes a calculated decision … he can go after the prey with full knowledge of the fact that he may be in for a fight if the rival is hanging around OR, he can consider the consequences and decide he’s not hungry enough to risk it.

    Anthropologists have seen this behavior and, without speculating, conclude that the big cat is exercising free will … choosing, in effect, whether or not it is ready to risk death.

    The free will argument in religion, i.e., the “Fall of Man” as the line item in question, is a myth. “Man cast into sin forever” as a result of free will? Sorry. Free will saves lives by allowing all living creatures to understand that actions have consequences. It just comes with the territory. Without it, evolution would have ditched us eons ago.

  • justanother

    Correction to my last post —

    “But don’t believing god” should be

    “But not believe in god –”

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    “If God created the universe, he should’ve left a great big sign saying so”

    Well, the Bible god claims that he did create the Heavens and the Earth, but unfortunately he got it all wrong. For example:

    -He claims he made the Heavens (Galaxy) and Earth before he made the Sun. We know this to be false, the Sun came before the Earth.

    -Plants were made before the Sun.

    -The Moon is a source of light. Oops, the moon is not a source of light, it reflects light from the Sun.

    -Man and Animals made on the same day.

    -The earth is flat and circular, not spherical. Oops again!

    -He formed the mountains. Actaully caused by plate techtonics.

    -Man created out of dirt. Oops again! Man evolved from lower life forms.

    -The sun orbits the earth. Wrong!

    -The earth stands still. Wrong again!

    -There was a worldwide flood. Sure there was (eye roll.)

    I’m sure I could think of more, but I’m getting tired.

  • justanother

    The most arrogant statement in some religions is–

    Animals don’t have soul.

    Now I have serious problem with that statement. How can religious people walk around without seriously examine their religious teaching??

    I heard lots of religious people said, well all human make mistakes, like the child molested priests and other rankings done highly immoral things, but that doesn’t shake their faith in god. Well, my suggestion for them is “leave” your cult, that has nothing to do with your faith in god.

  • david

    ” For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
    For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

  • mohamed kanji

    It is pathetic how frequently there are anti-Islamic comments(completely off topic). It shows the ignorance of the public. How easily one forgets that there has been more killing by the judeo christian countries in this century than by anyone else. One can start with wwi, ww2, including Hitler and add Stalin and Milosevic, all devils who were fostered by the western countries. Add the 2 million vietnamese kill and who knows. how many Iraqis since the US government conveniently hides the numbers. I have not even started on south american atrocities and the colonial imperialism in Africa and Asia where atrocities were committed regularly (ie South Africa). I think it is time the western world look in the mirror to realise who has committed the most atrocities often in the name of religion. Let us also not forget who has been destroying the environment. It is also very clear that todays hot spots ie. Israel/Palestine etc. are a consequence of the Judeochristian bloc that has been causing these conflicts. What a sad day for our beloved Jesus who preached love.
    Religions are all similar, it is man that contaminates the truth.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    “Religions are all similar, it is man that contaminates the truth.”

    And what is the truth, mohamed?

  • justanother

    Lot of symbols and teachings in Christianity are not original. They are adapted from other Greek gods and so called “pagan” “SUN” worship. Christianity is a repackaged religion.

    “SON of god” is “SUN of god”

    Human history books and records were falsely written so many times, depended on who wrote them at the time. How can anyone not scrutinize his/her religious teaching material?

  • justanother

    These days, Christianity believe Jesus is god. :-(

  • The Intellectual Advocate

    “So who’s right?” They are all wrong. There is no God nor any reason to believe in the existence of a God.

    It is truly amazing that humanity has advanced technologically but barely advanced philosophically in thousands of years. This primitive mystic notion that a God exists is part of and a reflection of the world’s problems. We have computers and rocketry side-by-side with starvation and warfare.

    Humans are intelligent creatures that lack wisdom, and that lack of wisdom may prove to be our undoing. If an alien race ever discovers humanity and studies us, they will be fascinated by this contradiction. Why would intelligent, sentient creatures abandon reason as their means of knowledge for faith and emotion? It is a question that frustrates the rational and intelligent people amongst the masses of sheeple.

  • Richard

    In order to counter a simplistic and naive view that all religions are one, Prothero is offering an equally simplistic, if less naive, argument that all religions are different.

    What was most lacking in his argument was a three-dimensional view of the role of religion on the lives of actual believers. He portrays a religion as a set of points that you can write down on a piece of paper and say, “this is what I believe,” or that you can enumerate at an academic tea. There is far more to any belief system than the official statements of belief. In daily life, there are many differences between Christians, even of the same denomination, and many similarities between people of different religions.

    It has been said that the measure of a philosopher is the ability to encompass the unity and diversity of being within a single body of thought. Concentrating on the diversity is just as deficient as concentrating on the unity.

  • John

    I found this to be one of the most exasperating interviews I’ve heard heard. I don’t have any issue with Mr. Prothero’s conclusions, but the premises upon which he bases his conclusion just don’t make sense.

    To say that the Sunni-Shia schism undermines the idea of a universal deity is profoundly simplistic; as is the clash between India and Pakistan and other examples he uses.

    The concepts that exist about the nature of God are countless. How does one conclude that there is not one God simply because there are so many varied ideas about God?

  • Gary

    A little logic would reveal the following:

    All of these Gods are considered omnipotent and omniscient…so why do they require worship? …why do they need helpers? …why do they need acolytes to spread knowledge of their existence?

    By definition a God needs NOTHING, and would be offended by even a modicum of help, because to help a God, you are declaring that GOD is weak and imperfect…and indeed, by doing so you are not only elevating yourself equal to your God, but putting yourself before your God.

    So…by definition all that can be worshiped is the creation, not the creator.

    All that blathering and no dividing line between faith and religion?

    IMO – Religion is a tax free corporation with local outlets in every community like Walmart, and is created by humans for the profit and control of humans.

    Faith in some unseen powers that are good and evil are also creations of man, but require no buildings, helpers, cash, or tax free regulations. Faith is you helping your fellow man and the world around you.

    To keep the world at peace, keep your faith silent and secret. Use that faith to worship and help the creation and to destroy religion.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    “Religion is a tax free corporation with local outlets in every community like Walmart, and is created by humans for the profit and control of humans.”

    Yes, your exactly right! I like to say that religion is a business. The products they are pushing are the greatest selling tools in sales, fear (Hell) and hope (Heaven.) What is the tithe really for and who came up with the idea of paying into the system? The preachers. Who benefits from the tithe (your hard earned money)? The preacher and the association that the church belongs to. It payes for salaries. It’s nothing more than a very high paying job. Because they are getting paid, you can’t put total trust that what they are saying is absolute truth. When your getting paid to push a thought, your going to be biased.

    Here is something to think about: If the pastor didn’t really believe what he was preaching, do you honestly think he would rat himself out of a job? No! Where would he go, to a factory and work hard labor for little money? I don’t think so. He would probably end up at the local used car lot selling more lies to his gullible clients.

  • Brett

    At the end of the show, when Rev. Thistlewaite was beginning to wonder how she would engage the trucker who was an Assembly of God worshipper, when she was about to say what she would say to him to bring him into an interfaith discussion, time ran out. It is a shame, because it is the practical that is of most value.

    After reading through all of the comments on this forum, it is clear that, generally, people have a natural inclination to view their own belief as the one true belief. Of the rest, language, at best, gets in the way. A few commenters sounded like they wanted to see a universality, but there seemed not enough room for individuality. Some were invested in seeing the different religions as separate, distinct, and unique, but didn’t seem to want to balance that with universality (such as Prof. Prothero).

    There are a lot of Assembly of God people in my community, and I’ve never been able to engage them in a reasonable discussion about religion beyond hearing their soapbox, dogmatic amateur preaches. One, a person where I work, kept asking me what religion I am for months. (I don’t like to talk about my own spirituality at work for a number of reasons, but suffice it to say I live in a conservative southern town.) The coworker caught me in a weak moment one day, and I told her that I am not part of any organized religion but am a spiritual person. She responded by asking, “you’re not Christian?” I said that I couldn’t call myself a Christian because, while I believe Jesus was a great man, I don’t believe that he is my Saviour, that he is the Son of God, that he died for my sins, and that he was Resurrected from the dead and will return some day. She looked at me like I was Satan, then walked away.

    Later people told me she went around saying I didn’t believe in God, am an atheist, don’t believe in Jesus, etc. I then had to explain myself to other Christians at work who can grasp more nuance than she was able to, just to feel I was properly represented. So now everyone knows my basic beliefs. I haven’t been tied to a stake, yet, but some have asked if I would like to attend their church, read recommended books, etc.; some have noticeably shied away from me, and some clearly have a problem. The atheists at work are marginally better. They obviously don’t think I either need saving or should be ostracized lest I cause them eternal damnation, but they speak of any form of spirituality as childish and something akin to believing in unicorns. I suppose they don’t believe in metaphors, either. Some coworkers have the same abstract views that I do, and we get along without any undercurrent of tension when spiritual matters arise.

    It is clear, though, that what I experience at work is a microcosm of what happens out there in the big old cruel world.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    John asked: “How does one conclude that there is not one God simply because there are so many varied ideas about God?”

    Simply. All one has to do is study where religions started and you have your answer. Here I’ll give you the short story:

    Ancient man (much further back then 10,000 years ago) had finally evolved the prefrontal cortex in our brains (evolution has proven that it was a slow gradual evolution in man) which allowed us to reason.

    Because of this man started asking questions to himself: Why are my crops not receiving rain, why do people and animals freeze to death, why does my family die of sickness and disease? These questions developled into the idea that there must be a rain god, a sun god, a god of sickness etc. Now, if there is a rain god, he must be punishing us for something we have done wrong. So they started trying to please these gods in different ways. If the idea seemed to allow rain, that must be what is pleasing the god for the mistakes they had made.

    These rituals would carry over into almost every religion (the Bible too), one of them being blood sacrifices. As time went on, more thoughtful gods were created and religions were invented as mass amounts of people (people in that particular culture or area) would all worship the same type of god. Some religions would fail as mans thought and story telling became more advanced. This is what we are left with now.

    We have more knowledge of where we came from and a greater understanding of the world around us via science. Unfortunately, religions have tried to fight these truths and mass numbers of gullible people still cling to these superstitious myths (gods) taught by religions in hope that they will be saved from a tortured afterlife, that was created by mans own imagination. Religion is really a tragic story for humanity. It’s time to put it where it belongs, in the past. Humanity has to move forward to escape the destruction that religion brings to our society. It’s my hope that man will seek real truth via evidence instead of holding to faith, which basicly means believing something without evidence.

    Let me ask any believer this question: Why do you think all other religions are wrong, yet you have the correct religion? Do you have any proof that your god is the real god? The other religions don’t either and you discount them as being false. Think about that for a minute.

    You see, religion is nothing more than a cultural belief. If you were brought up in the Middle East, you would be defending the god Allah, and would no doubt see Christianity as a mythical story. If you were brought up in India, you would be defending Hinduism (which is older than the Bible religion.) You believe only because that is what you were brought up to believe, and nothing more. It’s time as an adult to think rational instead of gullible.

  • pplr

    Hmm….

    Steve

    Reading through some of the posts since I stopped commenting last night.

    Steve, that really bad and is intolerant. To have your friends stop being your friends just because you changed your mind about something.

    That is something I put on intolerance. And while it happened to you for becoming an atheist there are people who have been disowned by atheist family members for opting to be religious. A notable example is Madalyn Murray O’Hair (Athiest) and a son of her’s (Baptist I believe).

    The similar thread between the 2 is the mentality that you aren’t allowed to be someone I care about if you disagree with me.

    Either way it makes claims of caring and/or friendship empty when it happens.

  • Pankaj

    when there was nothing, then God existed; if nothing existed, then God would exist
    being drowned me; if I did not exist, then what would exist?
    - Mirza Ghalib, 1797 – 1869

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    “when there was nothing, then God existed; if nothing existed, then God would exist”

    Prove it.

  • justanother

    I’m not atheist, I may say I’m a agnostic.

    I’m not arrogant enough to say there’s a god or there isn’t a god. I just don’t buy into the god portrayed in all religions.

  • justanother

    ****“when there was nothing, then God existed; if nothing existed, then God would exist****

    This kind of statement is exactly the top down religion, believing there’s always something more superior than something else. Arrogant….

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    justanother, I agree with you, although I consider myself an atheist more so than agnostic. I will also say that there could be a god, but it is definitely not the god of any religion. Since that god has not made himself known, I don’t see any reason to worship one. The god of religions are easily proven to be myth.

    The reason I take the stance as an atheist is this: if there is a god that created all of this, then he is most certainly not a moral, humane and just god. If I believed in a god, I would most likely believe in the god the Founding Fathers believed in (the were Deist) and that is that a god created everthing, but he is not in control of his creation and has nothing to do with it’s daily events. In this case, again, I would not see a reason to worship said god, as he is not interested in his creation.

  • msreason

    I must say I’m astounded by the number of comments and the passion of some of them.

    I can understand why WBUR and other talk shows continue to address this topic. It obviously touches a nerve in most of us, believers and unbelievers alike.

    The passion so many of us have for this topic, however, almost inevitably blinds us from reason, which makes arguing about it pretty much a useless endeavor. We’re never going to change anyone’s mind.

    A fun exercise, though.

  • Todd

    Pearls before swine.

  • DamnedYankee

    I am agnostic, but it seems to me Jesus said we are to love each other as we love ourselves. I think the allusion of separateness is the evil that causes things like war, when we love each other we feel good, and when a ‘ prophet ‘ advocate, that we love each other, comes along, we humans kill them.

  • gemli

    God is the essence of our ignorance, of what we don’t know, or can’t comprehend. God is a simile. God is love, or God is vengeance, God always “is,” never “might be.” People are certain about God in that special way that they are certain about things they can’t possibly know.

    God made us. We are his children. He is on our side, and helps us win our battles. God is happy when we fight and kill His other children who don’t think like we do. God is happy when we obey the rules. The rules are different everywhere, but follow them we must. If we do, God will reward us with eternal bliss, because God is kind. Those who break even one rule will burn in unspeakable agony for all eternity. Even if my mother, or my father, or my wife, or my child is burning in Hell, I will be blissful and happy in Heaven. I will not spare them a thought. They broke the rules.

    It is rude to ask for “proof” that God exists, for there can be no proof. God hides himself perfectly. You can only see Him when you are not looking. He is like a floater in your eye. That He is so perfectly hidden is proof enough that He is there.

    God works in mysterious ways. He can do all things, at the same time. He will save a kitten, and He will let a plane crash. Mysterious. No one could believe that God would do some of the things He does. That is why faith is important. He will answer your prayers, and he will not answer your prayers. God is randomness.

    God made us weak but wants us to be strong. God made us doubt but wants us to be certain. God made us gay but wants us to be straight. God made us in His image, so He wants us to do opposite things at the same time, just like He does.

    But mostly God wants money. We give money to help each other do Good Works. We pay for medicines to protect us from the diseases that God made. We pay to help victims of the wars that people fight in the name of God. We pay for the wars, too. We pay for towering churches of stone with altars of gold, so that the priests will have someplace to kneel when they pray for the poor.

    What would this world be like if there were no God? I hope I never know.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    gemli, WOW! That has to be the best summary of god that I have ever read. Excellent job!!

    Todd says, “Pearls before swine.”

    And man before animals? Earth and plants before the sun? Evil before creation? Other religions before your religion?

  • Andy

    Gemli,

    The problem with your definition is that it’s compatible with any fantasy. Vampires exist because they hide so well no evidence of their existence can be produced.

    You know what’s really rude? Killing and maiming in the name of a fantasy.

  • justanother

    ***Posted by gemli, on April 27th, 2010 at 12:36 PM***

    Gemli, your description of god sounds just like us! So we are our own god. :D

  • John

    “Those who break even one rule will burn in unspeakable agony for all eternity. Even if my mother, or my father, or my wife, or my child is burning in Hell, I will be blissful and happy in Heaven. I will not spare them a thought. They broke the rules.” Posted by gemli — How is this moral by even human standards?

  • Gary

    “But mostly God wants money.”

    LOL

  • justanother

    Human love to “worship”. We worship just about everything, celebrities, musicians, sports icons….. on and on………., but we expect those people who we worship to be “perfect” in our expectation. And why do you worship your god when every corner you turn are plenty of bad performances, stop giving your god excuses.

    I think any human can play god with bad science gone wrong, and do they keeping getting funds and excuses? NO, they will be thrown out of their lab. Next…….

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Did I miss something? I took gemli’s comments as being sarcastic about god, except for this part “What would this world be like if there were no God? I hope I never know.”

    And to that I would have to say, you living in it. The chaos that all living creatures live in goes against a loving god that created everything.

  • justanother

    I can’t quite catch Gemli’s comment, whether being sarcastic or not.

  • gemli

    @Steve,

    I always rail against religion, but it gets me nowhere. This show made me think about the real issue, exemplified by two guests trying to explain not only how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, but what dance they were doing.

    To hear two obviously intelligent people speaking with such authority and detail on what they could not possibly know just discombobulates my brain. It made me realize that God was what we encounter when we don’t know anything. One path, two paths, twenty-seven paths to God, it just doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are guests who could speak with eloquence and authority on any number of paths.

    The fact that the paths almost certainly lead nowhere is not even the issue. I think the path is a circle, and as Yogi Berra might say, we’re all walking it in opposite directions. Lots of friction, lots of heat, but no light.

    So I’m not sure if my bit was sarcastic. It was certainly a pile of contradictions that added up to nothing, and that pretty much expresses how I feel about the issue.

    Peace.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    What’s striking to me about this debate about whether there is or isn’t a god is this: The non-believers clearly seem to be standing for morals and the believers seem to be defending what they are against, evil and injustice.

    What do I mean? Religious people here are trying to defend a god that is clearly immoral, inhumane and unjust, as well as unproven. This baffles my logic. Whereas, the non-believers are clearly standing for good, and speaking out against a god that is more Unjust and immoral than Hitler or Stalin.

    Why would someone continue to defend such an evil character as one of the religious gods?

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Thank you, gemli, for explaining to us all what your thoughts were behind your statement. I ask myself the same question that you do, “why do I bother trying to help people see the real truth (that religions and gods are all made up.)” I just see to much hate and judgement with people claiming they have the real god that I have to make a stand for what is right and good for humanity. I’m probably not making any difference, but I have to try.

    Best Wishes to You, gemli!

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    To all the freethinkers that have spent their time blogging what they know to be truth and for trying to make this world a better place for all, thank you!

    Each one makes a difference for good. I stand proudly with you all! May real truth prevail, but peacefully and with respect.

  • Brett

    gemli,

    Didn’t Yogi Berra say, “we’re all walking in opposite directions to get to the same picnic basket”? No…wait that was Yogi Bear. Sorry…Anyway, I enjoyed your comment from today @3:12 pm. I particularly liked the “how many angels dancing on the head of a pin…” and “what dance they are doing” part. It feels a bit like listening to Tweedledum and Tweedledee sometimes listening to people debating religious doctrine.

    Rituals are interesting and can be beautiful (if interpreted symbolically, maybe, or if a daily ritual becomes sublime, like a woman breast-feeding a child), and we all participate in rituals in our lives; some are entwined in ceremonies, some are not. I would say, as human beings, we seem to need rituals. To the really devout, in any religion, it can border on obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD carries a kind of superstition feeling in its essence, i.e., something bad will happen if one doesn’t check 15x that the toaster is unplugged; or, the world will be off-kilter if one doesn’t wash one’s hands 10x, etc.

    And, If someone performs a helpful, charitable, or compassionate act for someone else, isn’t even fleetingly considering heaven, or Jesus, or God, etc., or any remote sense of a beneficial, spiritual reward beyond the moment of the act of kindness, a bit selfish? More selfish than doing it because it feels good? It’s sort of like taking oneself from the role of amateur into being a professional: “I don’t just do this for the love of it, I do this because I’m gonna get paid in some way!” I suppose in religious practice the devout tell themselves they are honoring something, or find beauty in it, or a meditation, etc., but if they didn’t believe in heaven, or Jesus, or God, would they still have the impetus to participate?

  • Brett

    “why do I bother trying to help people see the real truth” -Steve Ross

    Let’s not get too full of ourselves, there! ;-)

  • Craig Wallace

    Did all of the gods get together and agree upon the nature of the big bang? Was it a democratic meeting? How many gods were present? Which ones chose not to attend? Did gods even exist before the creation of space and time? Did one or more gods come into existence as the universe evolved? If so, which one came first and does being first indicate supremacy?

    Until speakers and writers are willing to deal with the really big questions, I will continue to look at such conversations with amusement.

  • Sam E.

    Brilliant hour. I think it’s more to realize that what the answer is relative to the question. It amazes me when I read the wall street journal and new york times that there’s not so much disagreement as much as there is different views as to what the problems are.

  • justanother

    Buddhism wasn’t meant to be a religion, but look at how people have turned that into a worship rituals with temples and big statues built. Buddhism is a philosophy of life, which I’m deeply enlightened by, respecting not only human but all life on earth, which are tightly interconnected. We are talking about 2500 years ago, this type of thinking is way ahead of its time, it’s like modern ecologist, biologist have just used science to prove this factual thinking. Although I don’t think I can ever become a Buddha in terms of killing animals and eat meat, while I still consume humanely raised meat, and I believe if we eat meat, we should raise and kill animals humanely.

    “While you are worrying about after life, you are suffering” — The Buddha.

    Why can’t we just live our life on earth in full content, accept what’s taken and given, reach our fullest potential of humanity and being humane by “free thinking”, take care of our HOME. Those goals are the compass of our moral values. Only when we believe there’s only one life to live, we will accept and cherish everything here on earth. Take faith in our own hand, good things or bad things, some we can control, some we can’t, we can only try our best, and the rest will take their own course, and let them be!

    Peace

  • mohamed kanji

    Steve,

    Having read your comments, I think that you are looking for God, Allah, Nirvana or whatever in the usual logical, rational search as often is the case in the western hemisphere. However I humbly submit that TRUTH is beyond our intellectual capacities and the search should not just be at an intellectual level but also the intuitive and mystical level. It’s a long and winding road, good luck!

  • justanother

    Steve, thank you for your kind words!

  • justanother

    Yes, we can all be spiritual without any religion.

  • John

    If truth is beyond our intellectual capacities then it is worthless.

  • justanother

    ****If truth is beyond our intellectual capacities then it is worthless.****

    So true.

  • Bob Milnov

    Every religion is certain that all the others are false.
    And each is correct. — Chamfort

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    mohammed, No, I’m not searching for god or any type of super being. I simply decided to stop fighting (36 years as a Christian) the lack of evidence that the Holy Bible is divinely inspired, as well as all other religions that have a supposed god. I’ve let the evidence lead me to real truth instead of taking a close-minded approach as before, and the evidence clearly lines up on one side, no belief in any of the mentioned gods or a loving, merciful and Just creator.

    I’m not sure where, after reading my statements, that you get the idea I’m in search of god, for that search ended 3 years ago. I have a much better outlook and compassion for life, the people around me, the environment, all living creatures than all of those years as a Christian.

    Maybe it is youself, mohammed, that is doubting your faith? If so, I applaud you on your search for real truth. That truth being, religions are all man-made from ancient man that did not understand the world around them, so they made up gods. It’s clear that the god religions are not divinely inspired by an all-knowing man in the sky.

    Once a person opens their heart to the information available about where we came from, and where religions started, then and only then can we totally respect this life, the only life that we know to have.

    We look forward to having you as a another freethinker in the pursuit for real truth, not one that continues to support irrational thought, to make this life better for all. In your search for truth, the most rational question that you can ask yourself is this:

    “If I were god, would I do what the god of my Holy book claims that he did?” and “As a caring human being, does this sound moral, humane and Just when I read my Holy text?” Also, ask yourself this: “Why over time does my Holy book not stand up to the facts that we now know.” If it doesn’t and your god claims to have done it, then you’ve found your answer to the age old question, “is this the real god.”

    I think you already know that answer, but you will have to take that step away from what you have been brought up to believe and text the waters of doubt. It is scary at first, but you’ll find that there was no one there the whole time, it was always you reasoning to yourself.

  • justanother

    *** Every religion is certain that all the others are false.
    And each is correct. ***

    This kind of rhetoric sounds good, but so good.

  • justanother

    correction —

    This kind of rhetoric sounds good, but “not” so good.

  • Alexander

    Some thoughts…

    To speak about “God” as an omnipotent, omniprescient, infinite, universal and sole/total deity with any assumption of authority on the subject matter is arrogant folly. Assuming that this being even exists, for mankind to presume to know the will, motives, or modus operandi of such a being, a being of essentially unknowable quality, is utter hubris. At times it is hard to fathom that such a being would be interested in human affairs at all.

    As human beings, we are limited in our perception of reality by five natural senses augmented by technological devices. There are events and processes occurring on infinite levels of complexity/reality that we have no ability to even conceptualize, let alone understand, due to our physical and mental limitations.

    Religious texts were written by human beings: inspired human beings trying to do the best that they could to express their opinions and observations about the nature of reality and humans place in it. Much of the wisdom found in these religious texts seems universal and useful for the advancement of cooperation, civility and tolerance, but these texts are also dated and internally contradictory – a common results of human endeavor. There is great wisdom to be gained from the didactics offered in religious texts and great danger in taking the allegories too literally or engaging in logomachy. Many of the ideas in these texts are from times long gone and rub raw the modern sensibilities and attitudes of civilized humanity. This is not a proof of the fallibility of the particular religion, but rather proof of the idiocy of the entire idea that a book or words is an adequate vessel for describing (or even worse, dictating) the will of “God”. There is no intermediary required to hear the voice of “God” – we all have the voice within that allows us to know right from wrong when we take the time to listen (barring the off chance that you are a sociopath or otherwise psychologically unstable… )

    To assume that all religions are basically the same is certainly overly simplistic. But in my opinion they do all serve the same basic human needs. Religion and its accompanying texts are social artifacts of human development – cultural inventions that assuage the fear of death and the loss of loved ones, seek to explain natural phenomena using the knowledge available at the time, and give structure, civility and meaning to a chaotic world. The operational tenants of proselytizing and “conversion or death” are the results of the leadership of these religions trying to increase and protect their power structure: if we are being honest with ourselves, these are issues of politics, not faith. Spirituality is transcendental, healing and beautiful, organized religion is often divisive political Sturm und Drang.

    Like any other social structure or hypothetical construct, the survival chances over time for that structure as well as the ideas espoused is greatly increased by its willingness to CHANGE WITH THE TIMES. Religions that fail to accept adaptation that is useful in modern life are doomed to irrelevancy and potential relegation to barbarism. I can only hope that this is the fate of dogmatic, orthodox, conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist ways of thinking. I say we do away with spiritual elitism. These ideas tear people apart and incite violence, they don’t bring people together. Religion should serve humanity, and not vice-versa.

  • Tom

    I don’t practice religion (anymore), however I do believe in a God (and evolution). I personally feel at peace with the thought that there must be one God (logic)- But Prothero seemed to have an agenda based on some “one God” movement that I wasn’t aware existed – he also seemed to have some sort of political agenda, often referring to liberals and conservatives in his characterizations. But his arguments were mostly defensive and tangential or circular. If there is some movement in place to dilute all religions into one, I’m against that, but is that really happening?. By my own logic, if I believe in a God as the creator, then there is probably only one, but that’s what I believe and I don’t care to force that opinion on anyone. If anyone believes in a God who is *not* the creator, or doesn’t believe in a God but is religious or is not religious, I have no problem with that either. What’s the point? It really sounded to me like Prothero had some sort of political agenda – that’s what I kept picking up on and it became irritating every time he spoke. Just my observation. Peace

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Well said, Alexander, well said!

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Tom, if all religious people had the frame of mind that you have, “I believe in a god, but I don’t feel the need to force that opinion on anyone,” I think the world would be a much better place. Thank you for your comment.

  • http://onpointradio.org Eric

    I have not read most of the preceding comments, so if I am repeating what someone else has already said, I apologize.

    Assuming that polytheists and atheists are both wrong, there is only one God and his/her/its nature is singular and unchanging. If he/she/it has any expectations of human beings, then those expectations are what they are. It is only human beings’ IDEAS about the expectations of God that are multiple, diverse, and often in conflict. And that multiplicity, diversity, and confliction is determined almost exclusively by the accident of which religion they are born and indoctrinated into.

    To reduce human conflict, the first order of business is to stop indoctrinating children into religion(s). Give them educations strong in math, science, literature, and ethics. If children at some point want to delve into religion or other forms of supernaturalism on their own or study it formally, let them do so. That should be entirely up to them.

  • mohamed kanji

    Totally agree with Alexander. Therefore the search for Truth must go on. It certainly doesn’t have to be in the context of organized religion. However, believe it or not, there are organized religions that are open minded, dynamic, not stuck in the words of The Book and evolving with the time. We are limited by our senses as mentioned by Alexander, therefore seek on a higher plane.

  • Alexander

    Thank you, Steve and Mohamed, for your kind and thoughtful words.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    mohammed stated: “However, believe it or not, there are organized religions that are open minded, dynamic, not stuck in the words of The Book and evolving with the time.”

    I agree with you, and I’m in favor of this type of religion over the dogmatic religions that dominate our society today.

    Eric states: “To reduce human conflict, the first order of business is to stop indoctrinating children into religion(s). Give them educations strong in math, science, literature, and ethics. If children at some point want to delve into religion or other forms of supernaturalism on their own or study it formally, let them do so. That should be entirely up to them.”

    Excellent points, Eric! I’m in total agreement with you.

  • Todd

    “Todd says, “Pearls before swine.”

    And man before animals? Earth and plants before the sun? Evil before creation? Other religions before your religion?”
    Posted by Steve Ross

    @ Steve Ross:
    Ignorance before oinking?

  • justanother

    “To reduce human conflict, the first order of business is to stop indoctrinating children into religion(s). Give them educations strong in math, science, literature, and ethics. If children at some point want to delve into religion or other forms of supernaturalism on their own or study it formally, let them do so. That should be entirely up to them.”

    I’m also in total agreement on this thinking. But the problem is, most religious people believe it is “the only” path to morality and ethic through their religions. They feel so scared & lost if without their religious guidance, this is why they continue passing down their belief, as being part of their moral compass to their next generations. Very powerful and scary mind control tool.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    justanother stated: “They feel so scared & lost if without their religious guidance, this is why they continue passing down their belief, as being part of their moral compass to their next generations. Very powerful and scary mind control tool.”

    Case in point, Todd’s last comment:

    “Todd says, “Pearls before swine.”

    And man before animals? Earth and plants before the sun? Evil before creation? Other religions before your religion?”
    Posted by Steve Ross

    @ Steve Ross:
    Ignorance before oinking?

  • John

    John, thinking is clearly far beyond your intellectual capacities. – Posted by kung pao — How can thinking be beyond one’s intellectual capacity?

  • http://amazingfacts.org Rod

    I have to say this: not all religions worship the same God. For example, Most Christians believe that Jesus is God while Muslims and Buddhists believe that he was a prophet, good man, teacher or one equal to other wise men in other cultures and religions.

    Jesus himself affirmed the following:
    John 14:6
    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

    John 6:40
    “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

    John 17:3
    “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

    Here is something else that differs from other religions.
    Jesus allowed himself to be worshiped.

    Matthew 14:33
    And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

    Matthew 28:9
    And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

    You may like or not like the texts, assertions or actions that Jesus did, but this are just a few examples of why all religions don’t worship the same God.

    Also, when you put statistics and prophesies fulfilled by Jesus and other bible events you can solidify your faith. God has given us the bible not just to have it as a philosophical book but to prove thru nature and history how He is in control and why He is Lord and why He died for you.

    Try this website on youtube. It’s 8 parts.
    Amazing Facts: Most Amazing Prophecies – The Messiah Mystery

    Also try Walter Veith’s testimony. An Ex-evolutionist.
    Walter J Veith – testimony 1 of 9

    You don’t have to accept it, but at least it will make you think.

    BTW, the website is not mine, but you are invited to search if you like or if at least you are curious.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Rod says: “You may like or not like the texts, assertions or actions that Jesus did”

    That Jesus did? What makes you think he said or did any of these things?

    You also state: “Also, when you put statistics and prophesies fulfilled by Jesus and other bible events you can solidify your faith.”

    I don’t think so! I was a christian for 36 years and it was only when I really researched Jesus and the writings in the Bible that I came to real truth, that being Jesus is totally unproven. There may have been a man named Jesus from that time, but none of the stories about Jesus are proven historically. Sorry.

    You also say: “God has given us the bible not just to have it as a philosophical book but to prove thru nature and history”

    Why wasn’t the Bible religion the first religion? Wouldn’t the real god have started his creation with his ultimate word of knowledge from the start? To not do so would be immoral and unjust.

    The God of the Bible proves himself thru nature and history? How old is earth, Rob? Did god create the world in 6, 24 hour periods or millions of years apart?

  • justanother

    Why does god has to be a “supreme” one with a “supreme” purpose?

    There are certain forces & energy in our world and universe, but why do they have to come from one ultimate source?

    If I believe in god, I don’t need any religion, because everything is god!

  • justanother

    Everything corner I turn, I found those words in the bible are so authoritarian.

  • Carlos Cruz

    I have questions about my current faith. But not doubts. We question what we do not fully understand, and I feel a clear understanding will result a resolution to these things.

    I am glad we have spiritual diversity. I do not hate religions or opinions that conflict with mine. I feel that the journey to the mountain top, or the battles religions choose to fight “can” be similar. My thoughts on the “problem and solution” segment are that sin will cause suffering; and that’s how I feel Buddhism and Christianity are connected (in a sense). When we sin, we knowingly do something wrong, correct? Think of sin as going against your design, the one God formed. When you alter your way of function you will suffer; and that is because we were not designed to do so. I strongly feel that no matter who you are, or where you’re from you know when your actions are wrong; and that something telling you they are IS divine, from God.

    It seems when I write on faith or religion the word “feel” or “feeling” is repeated. That is because it is something we can feel inside of us, and sometimes when we are touched by him it’s in hard to describe. The feeling of divine intervention or something of that nature will be hard to express, and even more obtuse to the person trying to understand it if they have not witnessed or “felt” it. That’s why I “feel” if someone who doubts these “feelings” should witness it first hand; and when the do they will understand.

  • http://WKYU Steve Ross

    Carlos says: “When we sin, we knowingly do something wrong, correct? Think of sin as going against your design, the one God formed.”

    When you say “sin” you are referring to right and wrong. Our common laws (what society deams right and wrong) are not based on religion.

    Let me ask a question, Carlos: In your opinion, why is there sin?

  • http://www.youtube.com/area163 pat donovan

    from my notes on religion

    teleological, abstract, gamer =(man)

    dread, pain, shame, guilt =
    -Kurrenguard, Buddha, Confucius, Christian

    typically negative social sanctions.

    sacrifice loyalty skills = form of religion !!!!!!!!!!!
    (elder, mid and new gods. ie: no gods but me feudal rationalization)

    mixed with admin, manage and develop from political/social exsistence.

    if it helps any….
    packrat

  • Ishmael

    Jesus was probably a member of the Essene sect, a minimalist group of ascetics, and Jesus was also (I was taught, anyhow) an ordained Jewish Rabbi. If he walked the earth he was a male human although some of the Christians would say he was/is a divinity in addition to being human.
    Religion was invented by humans; people often forget that.

  • peter nelson

    The fact that virtually every human culture has had something like a religion – be it polytheistic, monotheistic, animistic, spiritualistic, etc, etc, Et Cetera does not argue for some core, base-class god-being.

    Instead, it provides insight into something about they way our brains are wired up.

    Virtually all religions today are dealing with the “god of the gaps” problem. As science is able to explain more and more, religions are left with only the gaps in scientific knowledge and those gaps get smaller. What religions are most afraid of is that religiosity itself – the religious experience shared by most of the world’s cultures, regardless of belief or doctrine, will be explained by neurophysiology. The “one common god” may turn out to be some pattern of neural activity in the neocortex.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter “Mystic Viewpoints” in my e-book at http://www.suprarational.org on comparative mysticism:

    Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

    Conflicts in Conventional Religion. “What’s in a Word?” outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

    Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.

  • tolerance72

    The exclusionary gods articulated by other faiths are by definition exclusionary and not an Interfaith god.  The judeo-christian God is exclusionary by alleged divine commandment. The belief in an interfaith god is in fact its own faith. 

ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

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Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

 
Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Five Midterm 2014 Races To Watch
Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014

The five most interesting races of the 2014 midterm election cycle, per our panel of expert national political correspondents.

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Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

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Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

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