Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

from NewsWithViews:

It seems everyone’s practicing yoga meditation these days. Physicians recommend it to their patients which means it’s beneficial…right? Meditation is said to relieve stress, anxiety, hypertension, acne and post-nasal drip, so go for it! Just tighten those abdominal muscles, inhale deeply and chant Maaaaaaaaa all in one breath and your concerns will drift away like a feather floating on the wind…

But what if you’re a Christian? Should you practice the same sorts of things as Buddhist, Hindu’s and New Agers?

Listen to what the Bible says:

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate thereon day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh.1:8).

Firstly, meditating day and night does not mean to stay awake for 24 hours a day. Secondly, Christian meditation is very different from Eastern meditation. Followers of Jesus Christ are not to sit in the lotus pose in an altered state of consciousness seeking the “God within” like pagans do. The Bible teaches that when Christians meditate our minds are to be fully engaged. We are never to go into a trance-state.

What does meditation involve? “The word ‘meditation’ in Hebrew means basically to speak or to mutter. When this is done in the heart it is called musing or meditation. So meditating on the Word of God day and night means to speak to yourself the Word of God day and night and to speak to yourself about it.”

Before you dive into God’s Word take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind and to reveal truth to you. As you read, stop to ponder what God has spoken through the words on the page. Always, always, always consider the context. In Charles Spurgeon’s sermon “Pray Without Ceasing,” he says there are four important questions to be asked:

“What do these words imply? Secondly, What do they actually mean? Thirdly, How shall we obey them? And, fourthly, Why should WE especially obey them?”

Sometimes you need to read a passage over and over…reflect on it…analyze it…and listen while the Holy Spirit speaks truth to you. A word of warning: Listening to God does not require that you “empty” your mind. This meditative practice, called Lectio divina a.k.a. spiritual formation…the silence…best known as contemplative (centering) prayer (CP) is a growing trend in evangelical churches despite the fact that this sort of prayer ritual comes from teaching associated with Catholic mystics such as Meister Eckhart, Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila. CP was reintroduced by Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Henri Nouwen, William Meninger, Basil Pennington and other mystics.

Many in the Emergent Church movement (ECM) are advancing Roman Catholic mysticism as well. Yet they insist on being seen as mainline evangelicals. ECM has not only introduced aberrant teaching into our churches, it undermines the authority of Scripture. Gary Gilley laments that there has been a shift from infallible scriptures to “psychological and sociological experts, opinions of the masses, trends of the moment and the philosophy of pragmatism. This shift has been subtle, which has made it all the more dangerous. Few have bothered to deny the Bible itself, they just misquote it, abuse its meaning, force their opinion on it, and if necessary mistranslate it to give the appearance that the Scriptures are backing their claims. The affect of all of this scriptural manipulation is to both erode the authority of God’s Word and to give the appearance that what Scripture has to say isn’t really important. It is only a short step from here to a Christian community that no longer has much use for the Bible.” (This is eerily similar to the way liberals/progressives treat the U.S. Constitution.)

The Body of Christ needs to know who these apostates are. Rick Warren for one. Warren has been promoting CP in his books for years. Other important figures are Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball and Shane Claiborne. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Listen to why it can be dangerous:

“It has the potential to become, and often does become, a pursuit of mystical experience where the goal is to empty and free the mind and empower oneself. The Christian… uses the Scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God, wisdom, and holiness through the objective meaning of the text with the aim of transforming the mind according to truth. God said His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not for lack of mystical, personal encounters with Him.”

One should also consider that emptying or freeing the mind can put a person in contact with demons:

“[T]he dangers inherent in opening our minds and listening for voices should be obvious. The contemplative pray-ers are so eager to hear something—anything—that they can lose the objectivity needed to discern between God’s voice, their own thoughts, and the infiltration of demons into their minds.”

Contemplative prayer is almost identical to how the Zen Buddhists meditate. Following is part of the meditation process, “Just be still and know”:

“Sit in the lotus pose (cross legged) keeping your spine straight… put your hands on each other in your lap… Now look at your left hand…just look. Aware of the left part of your body… look at the left hand in an empty manner. Just look. Don’t let any thought pop up in your mind…look blankly on your left hand and try to feel the left portion of your body…feel the left part…feel…This very process will activate your right brain. When the right brain activates, it results in disappearance of thoughts. Your thought will start disappearing…[ Slowly after a few sessions of practicing this meditation, you will be able to instantly achieve this state of disappearance of thoughts]”

In Buddhism repeating a single word is known as a mantra. Many Buddhists simply murmur ommmm repeatedly. When Christians practice CP a word or phrase from the Bible is repeated. Many believers, especially young people, have been conned into believing that saying “I love Jesus” over and over will get them in contact with God. The fact of the matter is this approach to drawing close to God is unbiblical. Thus it should be eliminated from the serious Christian’s approach to and understanding of meditation and prayer.

With these practices and beliefs comes a “virtual encyclopedia of theological error,” says Gary Gilley. Many change agents in the Church are “Progressive Christians” now morphing into “social justice Christians” (SJC). Social justice is doublespeak for socialism. Spreading the social justice gospel is not the good news the Bible speaks of. SJCs want to mold America into a socialist saturated nanny state. Their aim is to redistribute the wealth. Before you buy into the SJC hype, check your history books. In every country socialism has been tried it has failed. Socialism takes away people’s freedoms and ultimately leads to tyranny. So why on earth does America want to copy it? . . . .

read the full article here.

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from Got Questions?

The existence of so many religions and the claim that all religions lead to God without question confuses many who are earnestly seeking the truth about God, with the end result sometimes being that some despair of ever reaching the absolute truth on the subject. Or they end up embracing the universalist claim that all religions lead to God. Of course, skeptics also point to the existence of so many religions as proof that either you cannot know God or that God simply does not exist.

Romans 1:19-21 contains the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”

Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.

The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God’s existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity’s rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Do all religions lead to God? Actually they do. All but one leads to His judgment. Only one—Christianity—leads to His forgiveness and eternal life. No matter what religion one embraces, everyone will meet God after death (Hebrews 9:27). All religions lead to God, but only one religion will result in God’s acceptance, because only through His salvation through faith in Jesus Christ can anyone approach Him with confidence. The decision to embrace the truth about God is important for a simple reason: eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong. This is why right thinking about God is so critical.

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The author in the linked articles below tried to put forward the argument that a Christian could “practice the Buddhist “Eight Fold Path” while not compromising their faith.

The Buddhist Eight Fold Path is defined as:

Right view
Right Intention
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration

He tried to assert that it did not matter what you believed as the eight “rights” in the Buddhist Eight Fold Path could apply to any belief system.

But when I challenged him on this he literally started chasing his tail. At first he tried to hold to the position that it did not matter what you believed, that you could be a Good Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever and still follow the practice of the “Eight Fold Path”.

Then after I showed him that the “eight rights” in the Buddhist Eight fold path divorced from any single universal firm belief system were actually just arbitrary terms, and depending upon your individual belief system the definition of what each of the eight “rights” mean could change very drastically.

As we have seen in Islam, where the meaning of “the freedom to choose to believe in Allah or not” has a very odd meaning indeed! And the eight rights above would have very different meanings within Islam as well that would be diametrically opposed to the meanings within Christianity.

So then he changed his story, in the comment threads of his second post he then said that the “rights” in the eight fold path actually are grounded in a firm belief system  in Buddhism known as the  “Four Noble Truths” And that by accepting the “Four Noble Truths” then you would have “The Right View” which would put the rest of the Eight Fold Path” “Rights” into their correct contextual meaning.

So then I showed him how the Buddhist Belief system of the “Four Noble Truths” clearly contradicted God’s word especially in regards to  the origins of existence, the reasons for existence, the origins and causes of suffering, and how to end suffering. He then just let loose with ad hominem attacks on me and then he finally showed clear contempt for the Biblical teaching of Salvation and Eternal life!

Folks this is what is slithering into the Christian Church. People who call themselves Christians accepting the words of adherents of false religions such as this, and it’s because these people who call themselves Christians do not either care to read God’s Word, understand it and follow it. Or who have accepted the post modern lie that God through The Bible is not clear in his revelation of truth and salvation to man, hence the meanings of words in the Bible are arbitrary and can change depending on how you choose to apply them! (subjective and relative truth)

Therefore it is alright to pick and choose elements of any and all religions because you are the one that places the meanings on those practices that suits your own desires.

For these people no one has the right to place fixed meanings on words, passages, chapters or books in the Bible. And if you do so you are an extremist and have a very narrow view of Christianity.

I encourage everyone to read the two linked articles below and then the comment threads after each article. You will see the subtle tactics that Satan uses to introduce what seem to be innocent practices into Christian teachings. But if you know God’s Word and use it as a mighty sword you bring to light the real agenda behind such efforts, and Satan in the end shows his true colors: Contempt for God!

Can you practice Buddhism and Christianity?

Christianity + Buddhism Part 2: Belief v. Practice

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Videos of Pastor Tan preaching the Truth of God’s Word:

Matthew 10:34-39:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’;  and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

1 Peter 2:7,8:

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,and 

      “ The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,”

      “ A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

from The Malaysian Insider:

At 9am yesterday, just as Singaporeans digested the news of Lighthouse Evangelism’s founder and Senior Pastor Rony Tan publicly apologising for his “offensive” and “insensitive” comments about Buddhists and Taoists, the pastor turned up at the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.

Arriving alone, he wanted to extend, in person, his “sincere” apologies to representatives from the Buddhist and Taoist faiths.

Tan, who was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and trousers, met Singapore Buddhist Federation president Venerable Kwang Sheng and Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye at the monastery, also known as Bright Hill Temple.

“He (Pastor Tan) initiated the apology,” Venerable Kwang Sheng recounted. “When he first came in, he said he wished to apologise to us … He realised that it was a mistake … he realised it was a serious issue … that he had done a great deal of harm to the Buddhists and Taoists and he wished to apologise to the Buddhists and Taoists. We accepted his apology but we also hope these things will not happen in the future.”

The Buddhist leader said that during yesterday’s one-hour meeting, Tan was “very apologetic” and he had given the Buddhist and Taoist leaders assurances that this incident would not be repeated, adding that he would “try to clean up all the things he had spoken in the past”.

“We exchanged name cards, and perhaps in future we may be able to meet and talk about our religion and his religion and if there are any misunderstandings in future, we can communicate,” said the Buddhist leader.

The Singapore Buddhist Federation began receiving complaints about the video clips early last week. The three video clips originally posted on the website of Lighthouse Evengalism church, showed Pastor Tan questioning Buddhist and Taoist beliefs.

They were subsequently posted on YouTube and various online forums. In two of the videos, Tan spoke to church member Joseph Wee about the time he was a Buddhist in the 1980s, including a short stint as a monk.

This upset Buddhists as they do not consider Wee to be a monk, and were of the view he had instead put “up a show”.

Two days ago, Tan was called up by the Internal Security Department (ISD). He issued a public apology on his church’s website later that night.

Replying to media queries, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng noted that what Tan had said and done was “clearly offensive to Buddhists and Taoists” and, in fact, “has angered even Singaporeans who are not Buddhists and Taoists”.

Wong, who is also the Home Affairs Minister, said he was glad to note that Tan had “met up with the Buddhist and Taoist leaders today to personally apologise for his actions” adding that this was “the right thing to do”. Just as it was the right thing for the Buddhist and Taoist leaders although “understandably upset with the incident” to accept Tan’s apology and urge their religious communities to show “restraint”.

Wong also reminded Singaporeans that mutual respect, tolerance and restraint are critical to maintaining communal peace and harmony in the Republic’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. “Religious leaders, especially, must lead and set the right example in this regard,” he said. While everyone is free to propagate his religious beliefs, Wong reiterated, “it must never be by way of insulting or denigrating the religious beliefs of others”. “This is a fundamental OB marker that we must steer by in Singapore,” he added.

Yesterday, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) welcomed Tan’s “public apology” and his promise that “such insensitivity will never happen again”. The council said it has in place a guide on inter-religious relations which advised Christians not to denounce other religions and to always be respectful of the beliefs of others when carrying out evangelism. “The council is committed to continuing its efforts in promoting religious understanding and respect while we go about practising and sharing our Christian faith,” president John Chew said.

“We trust that Christian groups that are not our members will also share our values.” Lighthouse Evangelism is not a member of the NCCS. — Today

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for more on Maitreya you can go here.

Matthew 24:5

For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many

Luke 21:8

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.

Mark 13:6; 21-22

Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect–if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

From The New York Times:

Raj Patel’s desk sits in a dusty, cement-floored nook in his garage, just beyond a parked gray Prius, near the washer and dryer. They are humble surroundings for a god.

“It is absurd to be put in this position, when I’m just some bloke,” Mr. Patel said.

A native of London now living on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Mr. Patel suddenly finds himself an unlikely object of worship, proclaimed the messiah Maitreya by followers of the New Age religious sect Share International.

He was raised as a Hindu and had never heard of the group. He has no desire for deification. But he may not have a choice.

Mr. Patel’s journey from ordinary person to unwilling lord is a case of having the wrong résumé at the wrong moment in history. For this is a time when human yearning to find a magical cure for the world’s woes can be harnessed to the digital age’s instant access to a vast treasure-trove of personal information.

I have known Mr. Patel for four years — he keeps an office down the hall from mine. He is charming, and as a graduate of Oxford, Cornell University and the London School of Economics, he is considered brilliant, although he is self-effacing. He readily admits to being imperfectly human.

People began to believe otherwise on Jan. 14 in London when Benjamin Creme, the leader of Share International, who is also known as the Master, proclaimed the arrival of Maitreya. The name of the deity has Buddhist roots, but in 1972, Mr. Creme prophesied the coming Maitreya as a messiah for all faiths called the World Teacher.

Mr. Creme did not name the messiah, but he revealed clues that led his devotees to fire up their search engines on a digital scavenger hunt that would lead them to The One.

About this time Mr. Patel was publicizing his new economics book, “The Value of Nothing.” With blogging, biographies and talk show appearances, the details of his life and views permeated the Internet ether. Crowds packed his readings, his book debuted on the New York Times best-seller list, and he appeared on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central.

The Maitreya clues — his age (supposed to be born in 1972; Mr. Patel was), life experiences (supposed to have traveled from India to London in 1977; Mr. Patel was taken on a vacation there with his parents that year) race (supposed to be dark-skinned; Mr. Patel is Indian) and philosophies — all pointed to him. Some believe Maitreya will have a stutter. When Mr. Patel tripped over a few words when talking with Mr. Colbert, it was the final sign.

“It became a flood,” said Mr. Patel, referring to a torrent of e-mail messages that asked: “Are you The One?” He removed the contact information from his Web site, but dozens of pages, discussion groups and videos have emerged online proclaiming his holiness.

Mr. Patel has emphatically and publicly denied being Maitreya. Bad move. According to the predictions, “Maitreya will neither confirm, or will fail to confirm, he is Maitreya,” said Cher Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Share International.

Ms. Gilmore said Mr. Creme would not say if he believed Mr. Patel was the messiah.

Ben Shoucair, 24, a college student from Detroit, does not need more convincing. He said he saw Mr. Patel in a dream, and then was stunned to find a YouTube video and discover his vision was real. Last week, Mr. Shoucair and his father spent $990 on last-minute tickets to fly to San Francisco to be in Mr. Patel’s presence at a book promotion.

Reached by phone this week, Mr. Shoucair said meeting Mr. Patel had made him “happy.” He said the Maitreya evidence was irrefutable. “It puts it all on Raj Patel at this time in history.”

Mr. Shoucair seemed amazed when told that Mr. Patel did not believe he was the messiah and had never heard of Mr. Creme. “See how deep the spiritual world is,” Mr. Shoucair said.

Mr. Patel said of their pilgrimage: “It broke my heart. They’d flown all the way from Detroit.”

Share International’s beliefs are rooted in the Theosophical movement popular in Britain in the late-19th century; it later evolved into New Age beliefs, said Ted F. Peters of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Messiahs have been declared before, only to disappoint.

“It’s incredibly flattering, just for an instant,” Mr. Patel said of his unwanted status. “And then you realize what it means. People are looking for better times. Almost anything now will qualify as a portent of different times.”

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from USAF Academy:

The Air Force Academy chapel will add a worship area for followers of Earth-centered religions during a dedication ceremony, which is tentatively scheduled to be held at the circle March 10.

The circle, located atop the hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and Visitor Center, will be the latest addition to a collection of worship areas that includes Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist sacred spaces.

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, NCO in charge of the Academy’s Astronautics laboratories, worked with the chapel to create the official worship area for both cadets and other servicemembers in the Colorado Springs area who practice Earth-centered spirituality.

“Feel free to check the site out, but treat it as you would any other religious structure,” he said.

The stones that now form the inner and outer rings of the circle once sat near the Visitor Center, where the chance of erosion made the rocks a safety hazard. The 10th Civil Engineer Squadron moved the rocks to the top of the hill in spring and early summer. Once finished, the circle will also include materials from a smaller circle that Sergeant Longcrier briefly set up in Jacks Valley.

“We used the (Jacks Valley) circle during Basic Cadet Training, and it was great,” he said. However, the new circle offers significant advantages.

“The circle that we secured in December is much bigger, better and closer to the cadet area,” he explained. “This will allow cadets to use the circle anytime they feel the need.”

The Academy’s chaplains have supported Sergeant Longcrier’s efforts every step of the way, the NCO said.

“There really haven’t been any obstacles for the new circle,” he said. “The chaplain’s office has been 100-percent supportive.”

“Every servicemember is charged with defending freedom for all Americans, and that includes freedom to practice our religion of choice or, for that matter, not to practice any faith at all,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William Ziegler, Cadet Wing chaplain. “Being in the military isn’t just a job — it’s a calling. We all take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and that means we’ve all sworn to protect one another’s religious liberties. We all put on our uniforms the same way; we’re all Airmen first.”

The presence of diverse worship areas reflects a sea change from five years ago, when reports surfaced alleging religious intolerance at the Academy. Sergeant Longcrier became Pagan shortly after arriving at the Academy in 2006 and said he believes the climate has improved dramatically.

“When I first arrived here, Earth-centered cadets didn’t have anywhere to call home,” he said. “Now, they meet every Monday night, they get to go on retreats, and they have a stone circle. … We have representation on the Cadet Interfaith Council, and I even meet with the Chaplains at Peterson Air Force Base once a year to discuss religious climate.”

Earth-centered spirituality includes traditions such as Wicca, Druidism and several other religious paths that, while relatively new, trace their roots to pre-Christian Europe, Sergeant Longcrier said. Gerald Gardner founded the first Wiccan tradition in England in 1952, with neo-Druidism following in the early 1960s.

Some Earth-centered traditions involve the worship of gods and goddesses, whereas others may involve only one deity or none at all. Reincarnation is a popular concept, as is rebirth and celebrating the cycle of the seasons.

Famous outdoor worship circles include Stonehenge and Avebury in England and Native American sites such as the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming and Cahokia Henge in Missouri. A worship circle at Fort Hood, Texas, became a flashpoint for discussions about Paganism in the U.S. military after it was established by the Sacred Well Congregation in 1999.

The Fort Hood Open Circle was vandalized on four separate occasions from 1999 to 2000, including an incident Oct. 27, 2000, in which the half-ton limestone altar was destroyed outright. In response, a member of the Sacred Well Congregation wrote, “If we speak together, we are a chorus to be heard. If we whisper alone, we are but a sigh in the dead of night.”

“We want to create that chorus,” Chaplain Ziegler said. “We want to invite the Academy leadership, the Cadet Interfaith Council, the news media and people from every religious background for the dedication ceremony. We want this dedication service to be another example of celebrating the freedom we enjoy as well as the freedom we, as Airmen, have pledged to defend.”

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from Independent Conservative:

I mean, you know I’ve already told you the deal, but I’m just amazed at how politicians continue to DUPE CHRISTIANS. Because I’m SURE in November 2012 I’ll again be hearing how much of a “Christian” Obama is. So put this into your time capsule and open it in 2012. I don’t know how long that picture will remain online, but it’s a photo of our President Obama in the White House lighting a Diwali candle with Hindu priest Narayanachar Digalakote. You don’t know what Diwali is? Well it’s an Eastern Pagan celebration of the “light” within “you”. You can read about it at this web site and be sure to see this page.

If I’m a Christian who knows Jesus is the Light and I am totally in darkness without Him, why would I light candles in a celebration that claims light via another source? 2 Corinthians 6 teaches Christians not to be bound with unbelievers and I know the “light” Paul wrote about was not Diwali.

But hey, for you who still feel Bush did everything better, you might want to read this and see who started the practice of Diwali celebrations at the White House. Bush started it and although he didn’t participate in lighting a candle, he left members of his administration to “grace the occasion”. Bush started and Obama has carried the ball even more yards.

I’m learning the term “Christian President” is an oxymoron.

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very sad and mostk likely very true!

from USA Today:

Tiger Woods may meditate in the style of Buddhism, shown here by writer Woody Hochswender, or pray like a Christian: Studies show most Americans mix and match beliefs.

Just how Buddhist is Tiger Woods? Kinda, sorta, according to the Associated Press. This, of course, makes him already about as Christian as many U.S. Christians. 

Follow me here a minute. The AP writes that Woods told Sports Illustrated in 1996: 

I believe in Buddhism. Not every aspect, but most of it. So I take bits and pieces. I don’t believe that human beings can achieve ultimate enlightenment, because humans have flaws.” 

It’s that “bits and piece” phrase that puts Woods square in the mainstream of American believers. Unlike Fox News commentator Brit Hume, who has found new life as a televangelist since retiring as an anchor, most Americans ignore — or don’t know — religious doctrinal distinctions. We think all good people go to heaven, by and large. 

Just before Christmas (and Winter Solstice and the smash opening of ode-to-pantheism Avatar) the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found: 

Elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been widely adopted by 65% of U.S. adults, including many who call themselves Protestants and Catholics… Syncretism — mashing up contradictory beliefs like Catholic rocker Madonna’s devotion to a Kabbalah-light version of Jewish mysticism –appears on the rise. And, according to the survey’s other major finding, devotion to one clear faith is fading. 

Many folks have no problem mixing and matching the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama — the Buddha — and those of Jesus, even if their mash-up might make a pastor’s head spin. 

Still, no matter where you find your avatar (outside the movie house) most folks would put adultery in the sin category. It’s what happens next that varies. Remember, most Americans also believe in hell — they just don’t think they personally are headed that way.

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from The Washington Times:

When it comes to religion, many Americans like the mix-and-match, build-your-own approach.

Large numbers attend services of traditions other than their own and blend Christianity with Eastern and New Age beliefs, a survey finds.

The report, released Wednesday from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, also shows tremendous growth over the past three decades in the number of Americans who say they have had a religious or mystical experience.

Though the United States is an overwhelmingly Christian country, significant minorities say they hold beliefs of the sort found at Buddhist temples or New Age bookstores. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed overall and 22 percent of Christians say they believe in reincarnation, the idea that people will be reborn in this world again and again.

As for the significant numbers who visit more than one place of worship, it’s not just an occasional visit while on vacation or for special events such as weddings and funerals.

One-third of Americans say they regularly or occasionally attend religious services at more than one place. One-quarter say they sometimes attend services of a faith different from their own.

“It is as much now the norm as it is the exception for Americans to blend multiple religious beliefs and practices,” said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

Among the report’s other findings:

c About one in four Americans believe in Eastern or New Age ideas, including reincarnation, which is part of Buddhism and Hinduism; yoga as a spiritual practice; spiritual energy in things such as mountains, trees and crystals; and astrology.

c About 16 percent of Americans believe in the “evil eye” – that certain people can cast curses or spells. More than one in 10 white evangelicals who attend church weekly and three in 10 black Protestants believe in the phenomenon, which can be found in Islam, Judaism and traditional African beliefs.

c About three in 10 Americans, up from 18 percent in 1996, say they have felt in touch with someone who has died. The belief is most common among black Protestants and Catholics. Nearly one in five Americans say they have been in the presence of a ghost.

c Three in 10 Protestants say they attend multiple types of religious services, including services at Protestant denominations different from their own. Almost one in five Protestants indicate they also attend non-Protestant services. About one in five Catholics say they also attend non-Catholic services.

c Nearly half of Americans say they have had a religious or mystical experience, or a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening,” the survey found. That represents a doubling since Gallup asked in 1962.

White evangelicals and black Protestants are most likely to say they have had a religious or mystical experience. Yet even those unaffiliated with any religion show a strong spiritual bent. Three in 10 reported having such an experience.

D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion, said the results illustrate what he calls the “playlist effect” in contemporary American religious practice.

“The way we personalize our iPhones, we also personalize our religious lives,” he said.

That so many Christians believe in astrology and reincarnation will trouble Christian leaders already concerned about professed believers who take what they need from the faith and leave the rest.

The build-your-own-religion findings show that “culture and pop culture and the Internet are probably more powerful teachers than Sunday school teachers,” said Scott Thumma, a sociologist at the Hartford Institute of Religion Research.

The survey of more than 4,000 adults was conducted by phone in August; the total sample size has margin of error of two percentage points.

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