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Be frank and honest about your religious beliefs!

When it comes to religion, we must be frank and clear about what we believe. Religions often lump many different teachings together and expect their members to subscribe to all of these beliefs. We do not have to go along with this. We can be Christians, for example, without subscribing to every word in the Bible. This indicates a healthy degree of inquiry, rather than blind faith. Not only is this important for our own spiritual development, it also gives us more credibility, and that may attract others to our religion.

So it is fine to disagree with aspects of a religion or religious text, and it is important to be open and clear about this. For example, the English translation of the Bible makes several references to homosexuality, all of them negative. Clearly we can be Christians without being against homosexuality, but we must state openly that we disagree with this portion of the Bible. Failure to do so is insulting and harmful to homosexuals, and also to the reputation of Christianity.

Similarly, we may believe that Genesis is just a metaphor, rather than a literal contradiction of evolution. There is nothing wrong with thinking this, but we must be clear about that view too. If we say that God created man on the sixth day, but privately believe in evolution, then we are liars. We undermine our own integrity, as well as the integrity of our religion. So simply say that this part of the Bible is a metaphor, or a poor translation, or whatever! It will not undermine Christianity – if anything, it will give it more credibility. There may be people out there who cannot accept Christianity solely because they believe in evolution. Do not alienate these people by refusing to admit to the contradiction!

If we do not think that Mary was a virgin, we can say this too. That will not make us bad people, or even bad Christians. We can still follow the teachings in the Bible without believing in the virgin birth. It is better to state disagreements openly than to ignore them and keep them quiet. By being open, we uphold our own integrity, and also encourage an environment of open-minded inquiry. This may help a religion to move forward, or may help us and others to realize that a religion is not satisfactory and must be abandoned. In either case, we are moving closer to the Truth.

I think that many people keep their disagreements quiet because of the close-minded attitudes present in some religions. When a religion claims to know the full Truth, then it is difficult to disagree with some aspect and still remain in that religion. Yet it is better to speak out, even if we risk alienation by doing so, than to keep quiet about our skepticism. After all, it is impractical to think that any religion is completely correct. Religious texts have changed after years of translation anyway. We must not be afraid to have disagreements, and we must speak out. This is the only way to be honest pioneers on the path of spiritual inquiry.

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Religions of the future

Religion provides much value to society. It offers a community for discussion, friendship, sharing and love. It also offers helpful teachings that benefit both ourselves and society in everyday life. However, the central tenet of a religion such as Christianity is the belief in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Resurrection. What if somebody wants to participate in the religious community without necessarily believing in all of these things?

We live in an age where a plethora of religious ideas are accessible and many different religions are practised. Unfortunately, most of the so-called Western religions are presented as package deals. To be a member, you must accept all. It is hard to be a Christian without believing in the Resurrection of Christ. You can believe in God, love thy neighbour, practise forgiveness, and believe the Teachings of Jesus, but if you are even a little skeptical about the Resurrection, you are not a Christian. Thus we have the problem of a package deal. What if we want to believe some things, but not others?

Despite their common ideas, religions have irreconcilable differences. It is impossible to conclude that all religions are 100% correct. We could either conclude that one religion is right and the others wrong, or we could conclude that they all contain some aspect of Truth. The former viewpoint is foolish and arrogant. No matter how convinced you are that you are right, there are at least a billion others who are convinced that you are wrong, and thus we should stay open-minded. This means abandoning the idea of a package deal. We should not have to choose one religion and blindly accept all of its aspects. We should be able to participate in a religion, believing what rings true for us, but reserving our right to skepticism. The focus must be towards inquiry.

This inquiry can come about through existing religions becoming more open-minded, or through new spiritual groups forming. Both of these things are already happening. The future of religion lies in groups that discuss and affirm their commitment to follow their ideals, but that do not require any fixed beliefs as part of their membership. Just as close-mindedness is so despised in science (albeit still common), the same must also become true of religion. No-one has a monopoly on Truth. We must be open to new ideas, aspire to become better people, and inquire about spirituality together.

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