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[COMMENT: This below is my response (slightly amended) to an email
challenge regarding whether we can rightly say that someone's religion is bad or
XXX, let's take your last sentence below [in the original email, not here]: "I should hope that I never am convinced that another's religion is the pathway to Satan."
You might be saying two different things by that, (1) that you hope that you consider all religions a pathway to God, and would not want to accuse any religion of leading to Satan; or (2) you hope that you never come across a case where someone is on the path to Satan, even though such a case just could come up. I assume that you mean #1.
If so, you express a hope... which is based on what? Is it based on the impossibility that a religion could be destructive? Why would that be impossible? And how would we test to find out?
Here is a test which I would apply to help distinguish between good and bad religions:
Does the religion in question support the unfettered search for truth? i.e., support science... i.e., does it put seeking truth ahead even of belief in its divinity? Does it put belief/faith on the basis of having done honest truth-seeking?
The Bible does -- even though many Christians do not. (See The Authority of the Bible in a Scientific Age.) Why does God want us to put truth-seeking ahead of Himself? Why does the Bible tell us to "test the spirits to see if they are of God"?
Because only if you do that testing does truth-seeking become the Royal Road to the real God - whatever that may be. See also Elijah on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:17-29), & Paul in I Corinthians 15:12-15). If you do not be a truth-seeker before anything else, then you have cut yourself off from discerning between the real God and any pretenders or false gods or no god at all.
That would be a good idea???
Is there no such thing as a false god? No such thing as a religion which promotes such a false god? No such problems to be wary of? And should we drop our guard because someone's feelings might be hurt? Does not growing up mean, among other things, being able to stand up in an honest discussion, even if someone thinks we are wrong?
If truth causes pain, then we had better get used to pain. Truth-seeking and truth-speaking MUST come before anything else can be stabilized. If truth causes me pain, that is my problem, not the speaker's problem. Learning to handle that pain of being corrected is part of growing up. Which suggests that our Western society has degenerated into a bunch of intellectual, moral, and spiritual wimps.
We should all be mature enough to say, "If I am wrong, I want to know," and stop our culturally immature and manipulative nonsense about hurt feelings. Sure, it hurts to find out I am wrong. So what?
Tell your hurt to the Christians and pagans in Nigeria and Sudan where bands of marauding Muslims have killed thousands of persons, burning their towns, leaving them destitute even in the middle of a desert. And who is helping them?
As I have noted before, the Pope some while back criticized Islam for believing in a deity who does not hold himself accountable to either truth or morality. Some Muslims reacted, only proving his point, by murdering a few Roman Catholic nuns. Good job, guys! Only such a deity would command some of the things which are commanded in the Koran, used by some Muslims to justify the murder of innocent people.
To attribute criminal activity and intent to God is blasphemy, and Muslims should be told so. Christians should stop moping in the background and take the offensive. Yes, that will cause pain. Probably lots of it. But truth is worth whatever price we have to pay for it. Prison literature is full of those who were willing to pay that price, tell the truth at any cost to themselves. We live on the price the have paid. Why have we lost our courage???
Canaanite religions of Old Testament times routinely sacrificed their children to their gods and goddesses, tossed them, rolled them into burning fires. That is not a bad religion? Would you feel guilty for saying it was a bad religion because it might hurt someone's feelings? Do good feelings trump truth? And, is not secularism today sacrificing unborn children to their new god, personal convenience and pleasure?
It just now, as I am writing, occurred to me why people are so pathologically and addictively hooked on their feelings. When truth becomes relative (and therefore leaving nothing objective and stable enough to be relied upon), then subjective feeling- good is all you have left to stabilize yourself. So you cling to good feelings like mad. It would feel like suicide to give them up because in such a world, there is no objective truth out there upon which to stand. As the hymn says, "...all other ground (but Jesus) is sinking sand..."
So, there are perfectly respectable ways of helping to distinguish good from bad religions. It is the task of all of us to promote truth-seeking and truth-speaking -- to find out who indeed is right. Science again. The biggest issue for science to deal with is.... religion.
And, by the way, everybody has a religion. Secularism is another religion, it is not non-religious. It has a worldview of its own, a value system of its own, and practices which it thinks people ought to engage in to support their view. The first Humanist Manifesto honestly states all that with extraordinary clarity. Go to http://www.theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/21PbAr/Apl/HumMan1.htm
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