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Conversion is a two way street

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posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 10:12 PM
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I was just reading another thread and this forum and was about to post this there, however realised it was too off-topic and here I am. I got to thinking about how people who were not religious often initially, speak of having a significant event which prompts them to learn more through reading the Bible, and through this they gain a new understanding of faith and convert. It seems to me that this can also work the opposite way. People that are religious initially, can have a profound experience which causes them to learn more through reading the Bible, and as a result it weakens their faith rather than strengthening it, and they convert away.

Perhaps it's far less common to happen the opposite way, but it is definitely what happened to me. I remember needing guidance one day on a particular issue that was troubling me, and decided to turn to the Bible for the answer. Upon doing this, I uncovered more questions rather than answers which acted as a catalyst toward converting me away from religion. I resisted at first, constantly reassessing my belief structure to eliminate the contradictions, but eventually the snowball engulfed my religious nature.

Just to be clear, I'm not looking to be converted back, or guidance, I am at peace with my current spiritual state, I am just interested in hearing if anyone else has come across this type of experience?




posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 12:22 AM
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Yes, a somewhat similar experience.

A situation arose in my life and I sought guidance from my church that I was in at the time. I went to the leader of my singles bible study group and asked for advice and he sent me to the lay pastor. The lay pastor sent me to the main pastor of the church. The main pastor told me that I had "lost my faith" and that all I could do was pray about it. He quickly showed me the door.

I was in the military during that time and I moved to another duty station a thousand miles away and I sought out a church there. After finding a church, I sought advice again. I received the same advice again.

I really questioned what I knew about religion at that point and ended up walking away from organized religion.

Is that similar to what you are asking?

JDub



posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 07:02 AM
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mytym,

in my experience, it all depends on the spiritual guiding.. when you are in doubt about your faith, there's a big chance those doubts are not coming from yourself, but from demons trying to mess with your ... when you read the bible with satan breathing down your neck, so to speak, you'll read something totally different than with guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is where most of the confusion about the bible comes from. With the Holy Spirit talking to you even Charley and the Chocolatefactory can become the word of God, litterally.

When in doubt, first pray, make sure the Spirit helps you to find the answers and not some other force.



posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 08:29 AM
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A very interesting thread! Thank you for bringing this aspect to light.

I was raised in a very religious home and was at one time, very religious indeed. I was 'born again', baptised and I witnessed to other people. I can't say there was a single event though, or one specific thing that happened that 'caused' me to convert, I'm just a very curious person and I began to ask questions for which there didn't seem to be answers.

At first, I experimented. I quit praying to see how I'd feel. Then I took bigger and bigger steps away from religion and the bibleGod and I eventually came to the conclusion that it's all a big story told to give people some kind of peace about where we come from and where we're going. And to keep us controlled in the meantime.

I have now come to the realization that we CANNOT know where we came from or why and we CANNOT know where we're going. And I realize that that is the most trying or difficult belief to have. Not knowing and being truly comfortable with that is the most difficult mindset to acccept. But over the years, I have pretty completely done that.

I now believe that the only 'force' in the universe is love and we are either drawing from and replenishing that or we're far away from that, in fear.

Another important thing I learned is that my beliefs apply only to me. In what I've said here, it might seem that I think conventionally religious people have it all wrong, but I don't think that. I think every person comes to their own beliefs and I have no place judging anyone else's beliefs. So the Christian next door is just as right in their beliefs as I am in mine. In other words, there isn't one TRUTH for us all. We each decide what's right for us and no one else.

That's why I can support someone in their belief without compromising mine. I can talk to a Christian about God and prayer in a positive way and support them in their faith without considering my beliefs. I don't have to try to make them see what I see. They already have theirs, which may last forever or may change somewhere down the line. I'm not the world's teacher and I don't feel the need to convince anyone that my beliefs are right and theirs are wrong. That's the height of arrogance, in my opinion.

I'm a very spiritual person now, but it has nothing to do with religion and very little if anything to do with something called God.



posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 03:37 PM
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Exactly! You hit the nail on the . there. Everyone's belief is their truth. What someone else believes isn't wrong just because it differs from my own, nor is what I believe wrong because it differs from someone else.

In regards to what I was after with this thread, there are no right or wrong answers. All thoughts and experiences are welcome. I personally find it a little ironic that the very same method responsible for converting many people to religion, is also responsible from converting many away from religion.

Perhaps a greater understanding of the Bible has the power to change a person's religious polarity, rather than strengthen or weaken their faith exclusively?



posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 10:27 PM
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This is an interesting thread. religion does a lot of differnet thing for a lot of differnet people. I know this one guy who was like never getting out of jail. He never was a violent man, he just had an incredible knack for escaping. And anyway he would always get caught and beat down really good by the cops and they'd take him back and give him another ten years sort of like cool hand luke. I wonder if he ever saw that movie? Well one day he was was hiding from the law in some lady's closet that didn't even know he was in her house at the time just trying to get something to eat was the reason he was in there to start with. And the law had tracked him down but just hadn't quite located him yet. He knew then if they caught him they'd beat him down again, take him back and give him permission to stay a little longer. Right then and there he started praying , he was tired of the life that he'd created for himself and he wanted out. That night he got religion in that closet just before turning himself in. Shortly after that the law gained enough confidence in him to turn him loose. And he's been preaching the gospel ever since. The Lord sure do work in mysterious ways don't he.



posted on Apr, 18 2006 @ 11:53 AM
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This is a very interesting thread.

Doctrinaire, ours-is-the-only-way religions, in my opinion, do people a great disservice not only in the obvious ways, but also in subtle ones. I note several posts above in which people found that their faith did not hold the answers they needed, or demanded things they could not accept, and so they found themseves turning "away from religion" or away from spirituality. This is a consequence of ours-is-the-only-way: when "our way" is questioned, that becomes tantamount to questioning the very idea of a way.

And in fact, the idea of a human-crafted religion holding all the answers in a form that anybody can understand is also poisonous, not only to those who accept it, but also to those who, thinking in terms of it, reject it. Because there can be no such religion, and if that is what one expects a religion to be, one will end up turning away from the entire spiritual side of human experience in disappointment.

I have had two pieces of good fortune in escaping from that fate. First, I was brought up in an agnostic houshold. My upbringing was in freethinking, reason, and science. That is the approach that, by nature and inclination, I take to everything -- including religion.

Second, upon entering spiritual awareness at the age of 12, I found myself in the grip of spiritual experiences so compelling that they could not be denied or doubted. These experiences, and others that have followed, have been part of the raw data with which my freethinking approach had to deal ever since. So that, no matter what else I find myself doubting, I cannot doubt the reality of the spiritual dimension of life. I can doubt the existence of the God of any particular theology and usually do, but I can never doubt the existence of the Reality for which that God is a metaphor.

At age 12, I became a born-again Christian because that was the only framework I had for what I was going through. But I always had problems with some of the teachings. A God who would sentence the majority of humanity to eternal torture? For that matter, a God who would sentence ANYONE to eternal torture? And what's with these sexual mores the Christians insist upon? Sex is sinful unless you've got a piece of paper from the state saying you're married? Sexual desires are themselves wicked? And then when you get down to some of the claims in the Bible where they touch upon science . . . well, maybe that should be symbolically interpreted, I thought . . . but found myself stretching the interpretation further and further to try to find something there in which I could believe.

Eventually, it became too much, and I said, "No, this is something I cannot accept." But because my spiritual experiences had been so real and so compelling, I did not, as some posters here apparently did, toss the baby with the bathwater. The experience of the Holy, the fire in the soul, that came from God (or from the Reality underlying the God metaphor); the errors I was having problems with, those came from the dim perceptions, sloppy thinking, or power-lust of men. The two can be separated, and should be.

I found myself over the years since exploring other paths, other religions, learning what I could from each one. And what I have found is this: all religions expand outward from the Truth in a maze of expressions that, at best, point the way toward the Truth and at worst disguise it. But in none of those expressions can the Truth actually be told. Because the Truth is something that cannot be told. No human language has a word for it, because words can only state what everyone experiences.

I can say, for example, "my coffee cup is glazed white ceramic with a green stripe around the bottom about 1/2 inch wide," and everyone will have a more-or-less accurate picture from that description of what my coffee cup looks like. But that is only because everyone has experienced the pieces of that picture: we all know what a coffee cup is, what ceramic is, how it is glazed, what color green and white are, and how wide a half inch is. That is what language is good for.

But when it comes to God (or the reality of which God is a metaphor), words cease to have that kind of straightforward utility. This is a reality not everyone shares, and even when it is experienced and known, the compelling experiences of everyday life draw us to forget it. Someone standing in the blaze of that fire may express it in words that seem true, but when they reach the ears of others, the truth that inspired them will not be conveyed, because the hearers will have no, or at best only a dim, referent to what the speaker is talking about. It will be, as the saying goes, like describing color to a blind man. Such sayings are inevitably -- always -- misinterpreted.

I know what Jesus was talking about in some of his parables, and it is NOT what many Christians think he was!

The other problem is the universal power/submission dynamic among human beings. Religion is a powerful tool of control. So it has been used since the dawn of civlization. The experience of the Holy, however, works against control, and sets a person free. Spirituality and organized religion are often at cross-purposes precisely for that reason. We all have that desire to unite with the Source of our being, to become one with the Whole of which we are a part. It sleeps soundly in many people, but it is always there. Yet it is easily misled, because so seldom do we have an understanding of what it is we seek. And organized religion has always made use both of that longing and of that confusion, to say, "In these words, in these practices, in this Church or Temple or whatever, is the Holy." Idols are not always shaped from wood and stone. More often, they are shaped from words and ideas.

In short, some of the confusion is inadvertent and inevitable. But some of it is deliberate.



posted on Apr, 18 2006 @ 04:16 PM
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Two Steps, you have a lovely way with words and I want to hear more from you. This statement intrigued me:


Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
I know what Jesus was talking about in some of his parables, and it is NOT what many Christians think he was!


What are some examples, please?



posted on Apr, 18 2006 @ 05:19 PM
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Originally posted by Archerette
Two Steps, you have a lovely way with words and I want to hear more from you. This statement intrigued me:


Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
I know what Jesus was talking about in some of his parables, and it is NOT what many Christians think he was!


What are some examples, please?


Thank you so much, Archerette.

Oh, there are so many examples! Start with the frequent references Jesus is said to have made to himself as "Son of Man." "The Son of Man is master of the Sabbath," "The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins," and so on. And the twists and turns that Christian theologians go through to try and claim this as a title of the Messiah, or some reference to Jesus' special status, are just amazing. It was nothing of the sort. It means exactly what it says: a son of man, i.e., a man. He was saying, not just that HE was master of the Sabbath, or had authority to forgive sins, but that WE are and do.

Then there's this:



Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come


(Matthew 12:32)

The word "forgiven" here is somewhat misleading; Jesus was speaking Aramaic, which has no word for "forgiven" in a theological context. What he was saying was more like "joined with God" or "at one." Aramaic doesn't translate all that well into Greek, and this causes frequent problems. But at any rate, you'll find all sorts of ridiculous speculation as to what the "sin against the Holy Spirit" or "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" might be. But it's quite simple: the Holy Spirit refers to the experienced presence of the Holy. And to speak against the Spirit is to reject it, to shut out, for whatever reason, the presence of God in the heart. That is the offense which does not allow joining or being at one, because it is only that Presence which creates it. Reject the "son of man," i.e., any man or invention of men (though he speaks elsewhere to the contrary -- that's the problem with parables; they create confusion when you try to take them simply) and you can still be joined with God; reject the Holy Spirit, i.e. the presence of the Sacred, and by your own choice, you cannot.

One implication for this is that a rejection of Christianity, of Christian doctrine, of Jesus as a divine image or a "personal savior," is no barrier. All of that is part of the "son of man." And the Holy Spirit is ineffable, and may come in any form. Another implication is that when religious doctrine or dogma act to shut a person away from the Holy Spirit, which all too often they do, then a rejection of that doctrine or dogma is not only acceptable but actually a prerequisite to the union.

Then there's the parable of the sower. This is particularly interesting because Jesus actually explains some of what he means -- and yet even his explanation is misunderstood.



A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear. . . .

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.


Matthew 47:3-9 and 18-23.

The mistake often made by Christians here is to treat Jesus' words as something that can be understood and followed in the ordinary course of life -- a call to behave morally, perhaps, or to make certain prayers or follow certain rituals. But no. They are a call to join with the Holy, to remember that each of us is an expression of the All -- of God -- and only by doing that can we follow what he was saying. And all of the things he mentions as killing the seed -- the "evil one" (actually the concept is one of delusion or deception) preventing the seeds from sprouting, a shallow commitment that does not allow full understanding, troubles and cares of the world, a desire for wealth -- are attachments (to cross religious frameworks and use a Buddhist term) that prevent the full awareness of the Holy Spirit. And the bumper crop when the seed falls on the good soil? Too often, you will find Christians interpreting this as one convert converting many others. Nonsense. The seed isn't belief in some doctrine, it is the transforming presence of God. (Jesus uses similar metaphors in the parables of the yeast and of the mustard seed, incidentally.) And that presence, when it actually takes hold and is not blocked by anything that can block it, yields a harvest of joy and peace far greater than the small thing it seems to be.

Then there are the equivalent parables of the treasure hidden in the field and of the pearl of great price. In both cases, Jesus refers to a man who discovers these treasures selling everything he owns so that he can acquire them, because the treasures are of much greater value than all of his wealth. The "Kingdom of Heaven," he says, is like that. In an ordinary Christian context, neither of these parables makes any sense; one certainly does not need to sacrifice everything one owns in order to be a Christian, nor do Christians typically believe that the sacrifice of all one's wealth is necessary to "enter the Kingdom of Heaven," not that most Christians have a clue what THAT means, either. But if we correctly understand the "Kingdom of Heaven" to be the union with God that the presence of the Holy Spirit brings about, then indeed it is necessary to sacrifice all attachments to everything one owns -- to say nothing of everything one is -- in order to get there.

Over and over and over, if one simply understands that what Jesus is always talking about is a mystical union with the Holy, of exactly the same type as the Buddha talks about using far different language, or the Sufi masters likewise, then the parables of Jesus make perfect sense. The error that Christians too often make is to keep their spiritual interactions on a less lofty plane, to see them not in mystical terms but in fantasy-land make-believe terms of a reward or punishment after death, and/or an end-of-the-world final judgment scenario. And also to place far too much significance on intellectual acceptance of Christian doctrine and/or personal acceptance of the authority of the Church (depending on denomination). Make those mistakes, and Jesus' parables will be misunderstood, and in many cases remain quite baffling.

If I had to express in one phrase the mistake Christians most commonly make, it would be: delusions of Christianity's own importance. It is not Christianity that is important. It is God.



posted on Apr, 23 2006 @ 10:15 PM
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In my opinion it is the uncompromising rigidity present in the teachings of many religions that contributes to turning people such as myself away. The "our way or the highway" ethos doesn't sit well with me. Perhaps this same aspect is what draws others to a particular religion, in a similar fashion to the relationship between discipline and military service. The rules are laid out, saving you the effort of making decisions for yourself?



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