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Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

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? No. All people—religious or otherwise—will stand before God some day (Hebrews 9:27), but religious affiliation is not what determines your eternal destiny. Only faith in Jesus Christ will save. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). It’s as simple as that. Only Christianity—faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—leads to God’s forgiveness and eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). It does make a difference what you believe. The decision to embrace the truth about Jesus Christ is important. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

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from CCC Discover:

As a pastor, I’m often asked by friends outside the church whether there’s any difference between the major world religions. After all—the thinking goes—aren’t they all communicating the importance of love? Don’t they share a common basis in morality?

With all the religious tension in the world, it’d be great to simply conclude that all religions are, at their core, essentially the same. If that’s the case, it’s pointless to argue about dogma, and the thought of going to war over differences becomes incomprehensible. Despite what may be good intentions in emphasizing the similarities across religions, there are real problems with assuming that “all religions just teach love.”

While it’s true that many of the great world religions share common moral teachings, the idea that this means “all religions are basically the same” assumes that morality is the essence of religion, and that the distinct aspects of each religion are peripheral to their primary message of moral uprightness. In truth, the religions of the world, while sharing some similarities, also contain irreconcilable teachings.

As a Christian pastor, I teach that Jesus Christ died on a cross for the sin of the world and that he rose again from the dead after three days. According to the earliest followers of Jesus, that message was the cardinal truth of Christianity. In fact, to dismiss it would be to destroy the Christian faith altogether. Here’s how one of Jesus’ earliest followers put it,

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Cor. 15:13-15)

This man, the apostle Paul, taught that if the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t true, then the Christian faith was in vain. What’s more, if the resurrection didn’t happen, then the moral teaching didn’t matter. He continued, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Cor. 15:32). In other words, if the resurrection is a hoax, we’re wasting our time with all of this “religion stuff.” Paul wasn’t the only one who realized the importance of the resurrection. Jesus repeatedly talked to his disciples about the bodily resurrection (Jn. 5:25-29Mk. 8:319:31Mt. 16:21).

When a person concludes that all religions are basically the same, they’re defining the various religions of the world on their own terms instead of letting the terms define themselves. If religion is primarily about being a good person, then sure, many of the religions out there can assist someone in modifying their behavior, but religions like Christianity aren’t essentially about being “good people.” The Christian religion is all about the God who lovingly pursued people who weren’t very good at all, in fact. That’s why the message of Christ’s death and resurrection is one of the vital organs of Christianity.

How do we get to heaven in Christianity? Not by being good people, but by believing in God’s descent to us. God pursued us by coming to earth, and then he stood in the place of sinners, taking the death our sins had earned so that he might give us the life we didn’t merit. Many religions out there teach love, but none of them have a message of love quite like this. In Christianity, it’s God’s love toward broken people that comes first. That’s what makes Christianity different. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16)

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Hat tip to Apostasy Watch:

This is also apostasy, because these religions can’t all be true considering the fact they all contradict each other…

This is the one world religion the Bible speaks of in Revelation, the end is growing near.

1 Thessalonians 5:3:

 “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

The World’s Most Prominent Religious Leaders Call On Everyone To Make Friends Across Religions

Welcome to The Elijah Interfaith Institute. On June 14, 2017 many of the world’s most prominent religious leaders made a joint statement encouraging people everywhere to make friends across religions. Friendship and getting to know one another are the antidotes to negativity and divisions in society, enhancing understanding and unity. We invite you to download our toolkits for friendship and study. We pray that the message and example of unity, shown by these leaders, will contribute to bridging divisions by inspiring you and your friends to start new conversations with people of different faiths. Follow the example, spread the message.

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“Chick managed to offend Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims and Freemasons, who found their beliefs discounted, ridiculed or condemned as false — or worse.”

Galatians 5:11:

“Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised–as some say I do–why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended.”

“The cross is an offense because it says to the world, “You’re a sinner.” The cross said to the thief who was dying on the other cross, “You’re a sinner. You’d better repent.” And the thief did repent. He confessed his sins. And he said, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus turned to him and said, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Christ forgave him right there. But, first, the cross condemned his sins and made him confess and acknowledge that he was a sinner (Luke 23:39-43).”

All False religions demand  “works” to merit entry into a Heaven! Even Roman Catholicism an apostate and works based mutilation of Biblical Christianity puts emphasis on “works”

Biblical Christianity on the other hand says that we can do nothing to merit entry into Heaven. We can only be saved through grace! And that grace comes through belief in Jesus Christ, who he was, and what he did at the Cross!

from The Los Angeles Times:

Jack T. Chick, whose cartoon tracts preached fundamentalist Christianity while vilifying secular society, evolution, homosexuality and the beliefs of Catholics and Muslims, has died. He was 92.

Chick died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday evening, according to a Facebook postingMonday by Chick Publications, based in Rancho Cucamonga. It did not provide other details, and a call for comment left after hours was not immediately returned.

The posting promised that the company would continue Chick’s method, vision and purpose.

Chick’s pulpy, lurid cartoons combined traditional evangelism with frankly conspiracy-minded attacks. He and later other illustrators produced several hundred tracts over the decades. Latching onto the issues of the day, the tracts took aim at abortion, occultism, ecumenism and other perceived evils.

They portrayed everything from rock music to Dungeons & Dragons and Harry Potter as literal traps of the Devil.

One tract, “The Walking Dead,” tapped into the hit zombie TV show but argued: “We’re all like zombies. The spirits inside our souls are dead.”

As with underground comics of the 1960s and 1970s, Chick’s work opposed “the system.” But instead of the military-industrial complex or “The Man,” it was a secular society viewed as debased, demon-inspired and virulently anti-Christian.

One anti-evolution booklet, “Big Daddy?” has a college student exclaiming: “Then we didn’t evolve! The system has been feeding us The Big Lie! We really do have a soul!”

Chick managed to offend Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims and Freemasons, who found their beliefs discounted, ridiculed or condemned as false — or worse.

“Learn how the papacy helped start Islam, only to have this new daughter rebel against her. You’ll understand the Arab’s place in Bible prophecy. Muslims have been saved by reading this book,” says the blurb for one pamphlet on the Chick Publications order website.

The tracts were criticized for using debunked or one-sided arguments and stereotypical portrayals of blacks, homosexuals, Arabs and others. But they also attracted collectors and fans who cherished them as quirky works of art.

Chick was born in Los Angeles on April 13, 1924. A biography on the company website says he was converted to Christianity by listening to a radio revival program on his honeymoon.

Unable to find a publisher, Chick published his first cartoon revival book in 1961 using $800 he borrowed from a credit union. He founded Chick Publications in 1970.

The tracts were intended to be handed out in bulk and were available cheaply. Chick’s company claimed it had sold about 750 million of them, translated into more than 100 languages.

“His burden has always been to get the Gospel into the hands of millions of lost people around the world,” according to the website.

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from Faith Actually:

I’ve often been taken off guard when Christian friends or acquaintances have spoken highly of New Age books such as Eckard Tolle’s widely acclaimed The Power of Now or Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling The Secret. Oprah Winfrey-dubbed “spiritual gurus” such as these promote an insidious form of false teaching under the guise of a benign self-help ethos. Although these teachings mask a treacherous departure from the gospel of Jesus Christ and claim to hold the key to a new spiritual awakening, they are appealing to some Christians who are evidently sucked in by the self-esteemism, widespread popularity, and aggressive marketing of such books. Indeed, Tolle has sold more books than almost any other spiritual author. His #1 New York Times bestseller, The Power of Now, (translated into 33 languages) and his vastly popular follow-up, A New Earth, are frequently touted as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time.

The widespread influence of New Age teaching poses a very real, albeit inconspicuous, threat that the church should take seriously. Despite popular belief to the contrary, the multifaceted movement is still going strong, but less overtly now that many of its concepts have become more subtly ingrained into our collective consciousness. The movement is not relegated to a trippy-hippy, tie-dye clad fringe group, but has been embraced by mainstream culture thanks in large part to the army of celebrities that promote its teachings.

For example, there’s been growing respect for, and adoption of, the practices and philosophies of Eastern religions among Christians. One example is Hatha Yoga, which involves poses and hand positions many of which are depictions of Hindu deities. The hand positions are traditionally called mudras and are thought to help manipulate and channel prana, a supposed divine force or breath of the universe.[1] The purpose of Hatha yoga is traditionally a spiritual practice designed to foster the realization that the true self, the Atman, is divine.[2] Many Christians who practice yoga, however, do not buy into the spiritual side of it, using it for the physical benefits of exercise, flexibility, and muscle-strengthening alone. But some argue that by dabbling in such practices, Christians are opening the door to ungodly spiritual influences. The meditation and relaxation practices in yoga that encourage the emptying of one’s mind, for example, is unbiblical in that contradicts our God-given ability to exercise reason and sound judgement. It also conflicts with Jesus’ command to love God with all of our minds—which necessities a conscious mental state (Matt. 22:37; Luke 10:27). Furthermore, some hold that mindfulness and mind-emptying meditation hold the potential to open us up to demonic persuasion. Due to the popularity of yoga among a significant number of Christians, however, this is a touchy subject. The question becomes, can (or perhaps should) Christians safely practice yoga without compromising themselves spiritually? I will default to former New Ager turned Bible-believing Christian, Marcia Montenegro, in her article on this one.

While the strains of New Age thought that have seeped into our churches may not be immediately evident to us all, those who have been saved out of the New Age movement into Christianity are all too aware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that lurk around us. Two former New Agers who were miraculously saved into the Christian faith, sister bloggers Christine Pack and Cathy Mathews, have expressed their “concern over false teachings that we realized were coming into today’s Church. Having both been saved OUT of the New Age and occultism, we were alarmed when we began to see some of the same things we did in the New Age creeping into the church…only now, these practices have been cleverly repackaged with Christian terminology, rendering them all the more deceptive.”[3]

In his book, O God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality, Josh McDowell demonstrates how Oprah uses words that might sound like they are based in Christianity, but her real message is radically different from the Christian faith. Likewise, many of Tolle’s ideas are derived from pre-existing, often ancient beliefs with Christian influences. As Montenegro further explains, “The New Age is always a blend of beliefs; intermingling strands from Eastern accepted wisdom, New Thought, Gnosticism, the occult, and even Christianity.”[4] Yet New Agers believe they are rescuing the enlightened parts of Christianity from centuries of male-imposed dogma and have rediscovered its truth through mystical interpretations of the Bible. And for the undiscerning Christian, their use of Christian terminology can be dangerously misleading.

And where is Jesus in all this? Unfortunately, right up front; the name of Jesus is misused frequently within New Age teaching. Many psychics, astrologers, etc. display crosses or pictures of Jesus on their walls. But the New Age Jesus is aCounterfeit Christ who represents an unapologetic departure from the “constraints” of biblical teaching. New Agers unabashedly claim to have freed Jesus from the shackles of religious dogma (i.e. biblical truth) and consequently, on closer inspection, he bears very little relation to the Son of God we know as Christians.

Indeed, the New Age Jesus is devoid of any salvific purpose, being presented an imparter of wisdom, rather than a savior from sins, despite the fact that Scripture clearly claim His purpose on Earth was to do just that (Matt 1:21; Luke 2:11; Luke 19:10; John 4:42; Acts 13:23; 1 Tim 1:15; 1 Tim 4:10; Titus 2:13; 1 John 4:14).

In fact, the New Age Jesus is generally believed to be a mere man who achieved a high level of spiritual enlightenment, which afforded him godlike attributes. He is esteemed as one of the “Masters,” along with Buddha, Krishna, and others, all of whom illuminate the path for humanity to spiritual enlightenment.

The New Age Jesus is disturbingly more Jedi than he is biblical. A widespread New Age belief is that Jesus is actually a separate being from a divine entity, which is often referred to as “the Christ.” Many prominent New Agers, like Tolle and Byrne, perceive “the Christ” as being impersonal, cosmic, and abstract in nature—in essence, a “Christ-force” or “Christ-consciousness.” New Agers claim that this Christ-force took possession of the body of the man, Jesus, in order to guide humanity towards a process of spiritual evolution. “The Christ” is said to lie dormant within each person, waiting to be fully realized so that humanity as a whole may experience spiritual awakening.[5] As Andrew Harvey puts it in his virtual seminar, The Christ Path, “By seeing Jesus’s life with fresh eyes, we take him off the pedestal as an untouchable Savior and begin to see him as a way-shower for all of us to embody more of our innate divinity as we co-create a more just and compassionate world.”[7] 

The Christ-force theory finds its origins in the Gnostic movement that begun in the second century AD, as a heretical sect of early Christianity. Basic Gnostic beliefs hold that humans are emanated from a Supreme Being and are divine spirits trapped inside physical bodies. In Gnosticism, salvation of the soul from the material world is achieved through the realization of gnōsis[8]—esoteric or intuitive knowledge of the truth—rather than the atoning death of a Christ figure. Some Gnostics identify Jesus as an embodiment of the Supreme Being who became incarnate in order to bring gnōsis to the earth. Others, like contemporary Gnostic Reverend Todd Ferrier, founder of The Order of the Cross, suggest that the word “Jesus” was merely a codeword assumed by a historical being. Most Gnostics believe that there has been more than one authentic Messiah, and that “the modern Christian claim that Jesus was the only Christ (or Messiah) is simply not tenable.”[9]

While the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus are central to the Christian faith, in Gnostic tradition the crucifixion is deemphasized (along with the Trinity and other inconvenient truths about Jesus). The Institute for Gnostic Studies states: 
For the Gnostic, pain and suffering are part of the fallen world’s condition…certainly Jesus suffered perhaps inasmuch that he had to take a fallen physical vessel as in the indignities of his crucifixion. However, there is no grace in suffering. The aim is to transcend matter, not wallow in its more painful aspects. The suffering and death of Jesus illustrated the reaction of the ignorant to the Gnosis, while his resurrection illustrated how death and matter could be overcome. It is irrelevant whether Jesus physically came back from the dead or not, since the Gnostics and Jesus have such contempt for matter, it seems highly unlikely that the resurrection had much to do with a re-enlivened corpse. It was an awakening to light, a Transfiguration rather than some ghastly re-animation.[10 emphasis added]In Gnosticism, Jesus’ role is not to die on the cross as ransom for our sins. Instead, “Jesus comes as a revealer, a bringer of Gnosis, an opener of doors, he works to shatter the prison that locks the true Self into the body and awaken the light which is hidden within the heart of man.”[11] The New Age Jesus paves the pathway for humanity to spiritual enlightenment. 

Another manifestation of the New Age Jesus is the astrological Jesus, aka the Piscean Avatar. Former astrologer, Montenegro, explains how in astrology, Christ has become the living symbol of the Piscean Age that spans from His birth to 2,000 years later. Montenegro states: “Since Jesus is considered a higher spiritual being, an Avatar, by many astrologers, he embodies the highest aspects of Pisces: universal love, compassion, sacrifice, intuition, servanthood, martyrdom, and spirituality.” Like the biblical Jesus, the astrological Jesus possesses character traits that set him apart from most men—yet thisCounterfeit Christ is not unique in his deity. In keeping with New Ageism, “The astrological Jesus is still a New Age Jesus, or, in more contemporary terms, the Jesus of the new spirituality. Jesus is the man who realized Christ-consciousness, the innate divinity in all men.”[12]

And therein lies the rub. It’s that old Satanic lie that we can attain personal godhood—the same lie that’s been repeated over and over throughout history in Gnosticism, the Religion of Reason, Marxism, Mormonism, secular humanism, selfism, and the New Age movement—to name just a few—which all hinge on the belief in human perfectibility/deification though human effort. These false religions, spiritual awakenings, and philosophies each distract from—or attempt to completely negate—the human need for a supernatural Savior. (For more on this refer to our previous post on “A Brief History of Bad Ideas“).

And so there is, in fact, nothing “new” about the New Age Jesus at all…He’s been slithering around since the original fall of man in Genesis 3 when Satan tempted Adam and Eve with the lie that if they accessed secret knowledge or wisdom (Gnosticism), their eyes would be opened (enlightenment), and they wouldn’t need to submit to the sovereign God anymore, for they themselves would be as God is. (Gen. 3:1-5). Satan knows exactly how to appeal to our innate desire for self-deification now—just as he did then.

Rather than flatly rejecting Jesus altogether based on the biblical claims about Him, then, New Agers have incorporated the figure of Christ into their occultist beliefs. And by using Christian vocabulary and loosely reappropriating Christian concepts, they have pulled the wool over the eyes of an alarming number of Christians. This strategy of deception is an age-old ploy of Satan: high-jacking God’s truth by using partial truths to lure people in and ultimately to dupe them altogether. Remember that Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light” and “his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:3, 14-15). In the same way, the New Age Jesus masquerades as one who will lead us to our own inner light. 

For this reason, it is important for us as Christians to be aware of the erroneous ideas about Jesus that are propagated by the New Age movement—along with its books, its proponents, its self-esteem gurus, its practices and teachings—so we may escape its ungodly influence, and cling instead to God’s Word on the authentic Son of God, who is the only way, the truth, and the life.

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It’s called being a follower of Universalism

from the End of the American Dream:

Why do our politicians have to be so weird?  You can tell a lot about a person by the jewelry that they wear and by the things that they carry around in their pockets, and Barack Obama’s “lucky charms” include a Hindu god, a Masonic emblem and a “wedding ring” that has the phrase “there is no god except Allah” inscribed on it.  So what do these things tell us about Barack Obama?  That is a very good question.  Perhaps someone should ask him about these items.  If he is indeed a Prince Hall Freemason (as has been publicly reported), then he should just come out and admit it.  If he feels a connection to Hinduism or Islam, then he should just come out and admit it.  One of the biggest things that annoys so many people about Obama is the secrecy that he has about his past.  There are vast stretches of his history that nobody is even supposed to talk about.  We are all just supposed to accept that he is a “Christian” man that is not into any freaky stuff even when there is a tremendous amount of evidence to the contrary.

Personally, I would love to see a reporter ask him about the little Hindu god that Obama carries around in his pocket.  The following is a photo that has been circulating around the Internet of Obama displaying this Hindu idol along with a bunch of other “lucky charms” that he carries around.  It has been reported that Obama carries these lucky charms with him wherever he goes….

The U.S. press pretty much missed this story, but it was talked about extensively in the international media.  For example, the following is from an article in the Economic Times….

A recent photo posted on Time’s White House Photo of the Day collection shows the first ever Black-American nominee of a major US party for the Presidential elections carries with him a bracelet belonging to an American soldier deployed in Iraq, a gambler’s lucky chit, a tiny monkey god and tiny Madonna and child.

That “tiny monkey god,” of course, appears to be a statue of the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman, says the posting but editors and the photographer has not identified it as such.

Obama, whose father was a Kenyan and mother a white woman from Kansas, spent initial days of his life in Indonesia where Hinduism is a popular religion.

So exactly who is Hanuman and how does this god fit into Hinduism?

The following is how Wikipedia describes this Hindu god….

Hanuman (IPA: hʌnʊˈmɑn) is a Hindu deity, who was an ardent devotee of Rama according to the Hindu legends. He is a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana, and also finds mentions in several other texts, including Mahabharata, the various Puranas and some Jain texts. A vanara (ape-like humanoid), Hanuman participated in Rama’s war against the demon king Ravana. Several texts also present him as an incarnation of the Lord Shiva.

Some Hindus in India got so excited about this that they decided to give a two foot tall gold-plated idol of Hanuman to Obama.

And as an article in the Times of India back in 2008 described, this special gift was actually presented to one of Obama’s representatives….

Obama’s representative Carolyn Sauvage-Mar on Tuesday received a gold-plated two-feet-high idol which she will pass it on to the Obama after it is sanctified.

The idol is being presented to Obama as he is reported to be a Lord Hanuman devotee and carries with him a locket of the monkey god along with other good luck charms.

An hour-long prayer meeting to sanctify the idol was earlier organised at Sankat Mochan Dham and by Congress leader Brijmohan Bhama, Balmiki Samaj and the temple’s priests.

“Obama has deep faith in Lord Hanuman and that is why we are presenting an idol of Hanuman to him,” said Bhama.

read the full article here.

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James 4:4

You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

And a thousand masses in reparation is not going to change that!

from Capital FM News:

Pope Benedict XVI has invited 300 religious leaders to a meeting in Assisi in Italy to repudiate “violence in the name of God” amid growing tensions fuelled by fundamentalists across the world.

The day of interreligious council, which will be held on Thursday in St. Francis of Assisi’s birthplace, is intended to be a “journey of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world,” the Vatican said.

Over 50 Islamic representatives are expected to attend the talks from several countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran.

They will be joined by Rabbis, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, a Zoroastrian, a Bahai and representatives of Taoism and Confucianism as well as of other traditional religions from Africa and America.

For the first time, four atheists will also attend the meeting, which is traditionally organised so as not to coincide with the Muslim day of prayer on Friday, the Jewish one on Saturday or the Christian one on Sunday.

However, the Imam from the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, a heavyweight authority on Sunnism, will not be coming, having fallen out with the pope after he urged Egypt to protect Christians from attacks by radical Islamists.

The meeting is being criticised by Catholic fundamentalists who are strongly against the idea of dialogue with other religions. French fundamentalist Regis de Cacqueray said 1,000 masses would be needed to be said in reparation.

The event marks the 25th anniversary of the first interreligious meeting in Assisi, organised by John Paul II in 1986 as a “day of prayer” inspired by the United Nation’s proclamation of an International Year of the Peace.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, chose not to attend because of concerns shared by traditionalists that it risked mixing religions into a vague common belief.

While guests attending this year’s encounter — the third in Assisi — will in principle follow a “common course”, those who wish to pray will do so separately, according to their beliefs, the Holy See has said.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who helped organise the first Assisi day in 1986, said John Paul II had been careful to avoid mixing beliefs, and Benedict XVI was no different.

“Interreligious dialogue has spread” over the last 25 years, and the pope sees it “as a common, irrevocable heritage of Christian sensibility,” he said.

The pope’s main aim is for participants to agree to “a common commitment to reject the instrumentalism of religion and the use of violence in the name of God,” said a Vatican insider.

Number two of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Pier Luigi Celata, said the problems that particularly concern religions are immigration, cultural diversity, religious liberty and the defence of the family.

“These issues oblige faithful people from different religions to look for common solutions,” he said.

At the end of the day of talks, the main participants will renew their commitment to peace in the square in front of St. Francis’ Basilica.

A burning torch will be symbolically presented to the delegations in the hope that they will take the message back with them to their communities.

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from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Jews conversed with Muslims. Hindus laughed with Sikhs. They did this in the spirit of creating something positive from the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

On Sunday, before an interfaith ceremony  at the Decatur Hotel and Conference Center, hundreds of people stood in clusters of conversation in the lobby, bridging differences.

“There are so many things in common — the food, the culture,” Ebrahim Esmail, a Muslim living in Snellville,  told Dr. Bhagirath Majmudar, a Hindu living in Chamblee.

The interfaith service drew 500 people to the conference center ballroom, making it one of the largest of the metro Atlanta events marking the 10th anniversary of the terror bombings.

Looking out at the people of different faiths, many dressed in religious clothing, Shelley Rose of the Southeast chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, told the group: “I wish you all could stand up and see what you look like. This is an amazing group of people.”

Event organizers said the events of 9/11 ignited a profound change among metro Atlanta’s community of faith, spurring more efforts to reach across religious boundaries.

“We realized we were part of the problem,” said Jan Swanson, 69, a founding member of the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta who wore a peace sign necklace. “We changed.”

People said they hoped events like this would close the divisions that opened after the attacks.

Rev. Tessie Mandeville of Decatur said she carried a deep sadness for those who perished on 9/11 and their loved ones.  She also felt sorrow over the prejudice that grew from those events.

“No act of love is ever wasted,” said Mandeville, attired in her white clerical collar. “That’s why I’m here today.”

Beyond honoring the deceased, people said they wanted to unify the different faiths.  They felt events like this could help educate people about their common hopes.

“Learning about your neighbors is right,” said Gulbarg Singh Basi, 69, who wore a turban. “We are all creatures of the same creator. The boundaries are man-made.”

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from The Denver Post:

Some say it was fanatical faith that led to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.

Denver’s religious leaders said on the 10th anniversary that the best hope for peace begins with the world’s faith traditions coming together.

In service of that ideal, representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Islam and Christianity — gathered at St. John’s Cathedral Sunday to have “Conversations That Matter” and “A Multifaith Service of Remembrance Healing and Hope.”

“I don’t know that any of this accomplishes anything,” said participant Ann Kelly, “but it makes me feel better. More understanding can’t be a bad thing.”

In forums held all afternoon, people talked about difficult subjects, including what bothers them about their own religions.

They talked about their greatest fears about other religions. They learned some of what each faith’s sacred texts says about the other. They discussed ways for different groups to conduct respectful dialogue with each other.

To wrap up the forums, Jonny 5 of the Flobots, a Christian rapper brought up in a tiny Presbyterian congregation, hosted a final special event called “an interactive, interfaith performance/workshop.”

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from Got Questions:

There is no doubt that the number of different religions in the world makes it a challenge to know which one is correct. First, let’s consider some thoughts on the overall subject and then look at how one might approach the topic in a manner that can actually get to a right conclusion about God. The challenge of different answers to a particular issue is not unique to the topic of religion. For example, you can sit 100 math students down, give them a complex problem to solve, and it is likely that many will get the answer wrong. But does this mean that a correct answer does not exist? Not at all. Those who get the answer wrong simply need to be shown their error and know the techniques necessary to arrive at the correct answer.

How do we arrive at the truth about God? We use a systematic methodology that is designed to separate truth from error by using various tests for truth, with the end result being a set of right conclusions. Can you imagine the end results a scientist would arrive at if he went into the lab and just started mixing things together with no rhyme or reason? Or if a physician just started treating a patient with random medicines in the hope of making him well? Neither the scientist nor the physician takes this approach; instead, they use systematic methods that are methodical, logical, evidential, and proven to yield the right end result.

This being the case, why think theology—the study of God—should be any different? Why believe it can be approached in a haphazard and undisciplined way and still yield right conclusions? Unfortunately, this is the approach many take, and this is one of the reasons why so many religions exist. That said, we now return to the question of how to reach truthful conclusions about God. What systematic approach should be used? First, we need to establish a framework for testing various truth claims, and then we need a roadmap to follow to reach a right conclusion. Here is a good framework to use:

1. Logical consistency—the claims of a belief system must logically cohere to each other and not contradict in any way. As an example, the end goal of Buddhism is to rid oneself of all desires. Yet, one must have a desire to rid oneself of all desires, which is a contradictory and illogical principle.

2. Empirical adequacy—is there evidence to support the belief system (whether the evidence is rational, externally evidential, etc.)? Naturally, it is only right to want proof for important claims being made so the assertions can be verified. For example, Mormons teach that Jesus lived in North America. Yet there is absolutely no proof, archaeological or otherwise, to support such a claim.

3. Existential relevancy—the belief system must conform to reality as we know it, and it must make a meaningful difference in the life of the adherent. Deism, for example, claims that God just threw the spinning world into the universe and does not interact with those who live on it. How does such a belief impact someone in a day-to-day manner? In short, it does not.

The above framework, when applied to the topic of religion, will help lead one to a right view of God and will answer the four big questions of life:

1. Origin – where did we come from?
2. Ethics – how should we live?
3. Meaning – what is the purpose for life?
4. Destiny – where is mankind heading?

But how does one go about applying this framework in the pursuit of God? A step-by-step question/answer approach is one of the best tactics to employ. Narrowing the list of possible questions down produces the following:

1. Does absolute truth exist?
2. Do reason and religion mix?
3. Does God exist?
4. Can God be known?
5. Is Jesus God?
6. Does God care about me?

First we need to know if absolute truth exists. If it does not, then we really cannot be sure of anything (spiritual or not), and we end up either an agnostic, unsure if we can really know anything, or a pluralist, accepting every position because we are not sure which, if any, is right.

Absolute truth is defined as that which matches reality, that which corresponds to its object, telling it like it is. Some say there is no such thing as absolute truth, but taking such a position becomes self-defeating. For example, the relativist says, “All truth is relative,” yet one must ask: is that statement absolutely true? If so, then absolute truth exists; if not, then why consider it? Postmodernism affirms no truth, yet it affirms at least one absolute truth: postmodernism is true. In the end, absolute truth becomes undeniable.

Further, absolute truth is naturally narrow and excludes its opposite. Two plus two equals four, with no other answer being possible. This point becomes critical as different belief systems and worldviews are compared. If one belief system has components that are proven true, then any competing belief system with contrary claims must be false. Also, we must keep in mind that absolute truth is not impacted by sincerity and desire. No matter how sincerely someone embraces a lie, it is still a lie. And no desire in the world can make something true that is false.

The answer of question one is that absolute truth exists. This being the case, agnosticism, postmodernism, relativism, and skepticism are all false positions.

This leads us to the next question of whether reason/logic can be used in matters of religion. Some say this is not possible, but—why not? The truth is, logic is vital when examining spiritual claims because it helps us understand why some claims should be excluded and others embraced. Logic is absolutely critical in dismantling pluralism (which says that all truth claims, even those that oppose each other, are equal and valid).

For example, Islam and Judaism claim that Jesus is not God, whereas Christianity claims He is. One of the core laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction, which says something cannot be both “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same sense. Applying this law to the claims Judaism, Islam, and Christianity means that one is right and the other two are wrong. Jesus cannot be both God and not God. Used properly, logic is a potent weapon against pluralism because it clearly demonstrates that contrary truth claims cannot both be true. This understanding topples the whole “true for you but not for me” mindset.

Logic also dispels the whole “all roads lead to the top of the mountain” analogy that pluralists use. Logic shows that each belief system has its own set of signs that point to radically different locations in the end. Logic shows that the proper illustration of a search for spiritual truth is more like a maze—one path makes it through to truth, while all others arrive at dead ends. All faiths may have some surface similarities, but they differ in major ways in their core doctrines.

The conclusion is that you can use reason and logic in matters of religion. That being the case, pluralism (the belief that all truth claims are equally true and valid) is ruled out because it is illogical and contradictory to believe that diametrically opposing truth claims can both be right.

Next comes the big question: does God exist? Atheists and naturalists (who do not accept anything beyond this physical world and universe) say “no.” While volumes have been written and debates have raged throughout history on this question, it is actually not difficult to answer. To give it proper attention, you must first ask this question: Why do we have something rather than nothing at all? In other words, how did you and everything around you get here? The argument for God can be presented very simply:

Something exists.
You do not get something from nothing.
Therefore, a necessary and eternal Being exists.

You cannot deny you exist because you have to exist in order to deny your own existence (which is self-defeating), so the first premise above is true. No one believes you can get something from nothing (i.e., that ”nothing” produced the universe), so the second premise is true. Therefore, the third premise must be true—an eternal Being responsible for everything must exist.

This is a position no thinking atheist denies; they just claim that the universe is that eternal being. However, the problem with that stance is that all scientific evidence points to the fact that the universe had a beginning (the ‘big bang’). And everything that has a beginning must have a cause; therefore, the universe had a cause and is not eternal. Because the only two sources of eternality are an eternal universe (proven to be untrue) or an eternal Creator, the only logical conclusion is that God exists. Answering the question of God’s existence in the affirmative rules out atheism as a valid belief system.

Now, this conclusion says nothing about what kind of God exists, but amazingly enough, it does do one sweeping thing—it rules out all pantheistic religions. All pantheistic worldviews say that the universe is God and is eternal. And this assertion is false. So, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and all other pantheistic religions are ruled out as valid belief systems.

Further, we learn some interesting things about this God who created the universe. He is:

• Supernatural in nature (as He exists outside of His creation)
• Incredibly powerful (to have created all that is known)
• Eternal (self-existent, as He exists outside of time and space)
• Omnipresent (He created space and is not limited by it)
• Timeless and changeless (He created time)
• Immaterial (because He transcends space)
• Personal (the impersonal can’t create personality)
• Necessary (as everything else depends on Him)
• Infinite and singular (as you cannot have two infinites)
• Diverse yet has unity (as nature exhibits diversity)
• Intelligent (supremely, to create everything)
• Purposeful (as He deliberately created everything)
• Moral (no moral law can exist without a lawgiver)
• Caring (or no moral laws would have been given)

This Being exhibits characteristics very similar to the God of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, which interestingly enough, are the only core faiths left standing after atheism and pantheism have been eliminated. Note also that one of the big questions in life (origins) is now answered: we know where we came from.

This leads to the next question: can we know God? At this point, the need for religion is replaced by something more important—the need for revelation. If mankind is to know this God well, it is up to God to reveal Himself to His creation. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all claim to have a book that is God’s revelation to man, but the question is which (if any) is actually true? Pushing aside minor differences, the two core areas of dispute are 1) the New Testament of the Bible 2) the person of Jesus Christ. Islam and Judaism both claim the New Testament of the Bible is untrue in what it claims, and both deny that Jesus is God incarnate, while Christianity affirms both to be true.

There is no faith on the planet that can match the mountains of evidence that exist for Christianity. From the voluminous number of ancient manuscripts, to the very early dating of the documents written during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses (some only 15 years after Christ’s death), to the multiplicity of the accounts (nine authors in 27 books of the New Testament), to the archaeological evidence—none of which has ever contradicted a single claim the New Testament makes—to the fact that the apostles went to their deaths claiming they had seen Jesus in action and that He had come back from the dead, Christianity sets the bar in terms of providing the proof to back up its claims. The New Testament’s historical authenticity—that it conveys a truthful account of the actual events as they occurred—is the only right conclusion to reach once all the evidence has been examined.

When it comes to Jesus, one finds a very curious thing about Him—He claimed to be God in the flesh. Jesus own words (e.g., “Before Abraham was born I AM”), His actions (e.g., forgiving sins, accepting worship), His sinless and miraculous life (which He used to prove His truth claims over opposing claims), and His resurrection all support His claims to be God. The New Testament writers affirm this fact over and over again in their writings.

Now, if Jesus is God, then what He says must be true. And if Jesus said that the Bible is inerrant and true in everything it says (which He did), this must mean that the Bible is true in what it proclaims. As we have already learned, two competing truth claims cannot both be right. So anything in the Islamic Koran or writings of Judaism that contradict the Bible cannot be true. In fact, both Islam and Judaism fail since they both say that Jesus is not God incarnate, while the evidence says otherwise. And because we can indeed know God (because He has revealed Himself in His written Word and in Christ), all forms of agnosticism are refuted. Lastly, another big question of life is answered—that of ethics—as the Bible contains clear instructions on how mankind ought to live.

This same Bible proclaims that God cares deeply for mankind and wishes all to know Him intimately. In fact, He cares so much that He became a man to show His creation exactly what He is like. There are many men who have sought to be God, but only one God who sought to be man so He could save those He deeply loves from an eternity separated from Him. This fact demonstrates the existential relevancy of Christianity and also answers that last two big questions of life—meaning and destiny. Each person has been designed by God for a purpose, and each has a destiny that awaits him—one of eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him. This deduction (and the point of God’s becoming a man in Christ) also refutes Deism, which says God is not interested in the affairs of mankind.

In the end, we see that ultimate truth about God can be found and the worldview maze successfully navigated by testing various truth claims and systematically pushing aside falsehoods so that only the truth remains. Using the tests of logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and existential relevancy, coupled with asking the right questions, yields truthful and reasonable conclusions about religion and God. Everyone should agree that the only reason to believe something is that it is true—nothing more. Sadly, true belief is a matter of the will, and no matter how much logical evidence is presented, some will still choose to deny the God who is there and miss the one true path to harmony with Him.

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