Friday, September 7, 2007

Conversation, not conversion

Nothing has greater power to divide us, as centuries of war and persecution testify.

Nothing has greater power to draw us together in love and service.
And so it is not an easy thing to speak of faith, especially with people who do not see God as we do.

Call me crazy, but that’s exactly what I want us to do in this blog. I hope that, no matter how solid our own convictions, we can open a space – a sacred space – inside ourselves to listen to one another with respect.

There have been times in my life when I’ve been sure that I knew who God was and what God wanted of me. These days my one certainty about God is that whatever I know is less than God is. There is always more to discover, and not only from those who share my convictions.

So my aim is not to convert but to converse. To stir the pot. To talk together about the beliefs that inspire us, confuse us and give our lives meaning.

Can we explore the questions together without using our answers as weapons? Can we can discuss spirituality without dragging one another into a religious war? Is it even possible, given religion’s unique mix of personal and institutional power?

Let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

It is possible. God is to me my salvation, strength for the day (however it may be), supplier- Doors of opportunity have opened for me to make a living and enjoy it! God to me is my friend-I tell him everything! Many people I know speak of God, we may perceive who he is differently-however I believe God can be all. I believe that as long as it is good we can unite!

Anonymous said...

This is great! I have a hard time expressing my "Liberal" views to one side of my family. I come from a family where one side is very liberal and the other very conservative. I myself do not believe that just because a person is of another faith than Christianity that they will not go to heaven, or that there isn’t anything else in store for them, but hell, when they die. We are all human, and we were all put here on earth by God. We are saved by his grace, not religion!

rod said...

Looking forward to reading more, Jane. I believe that God unites, and religions divide when they try to stuff God into their own tiny little self-defined boxes. As a conservative Christian, I look forward to having my ideas challenged and my understandings stretched in a wide-open dialog.

Melissa said...

Jane, this is fabulous! I'm excited about a forum like this in Charlotte. I'm eager to participate in dialogue that has real meaning.

Gaggy said...

This will be a great space, if we all remember we are ALL children of a Loving Father, (God), Supreme being, whatever he means to us. I guess some will comment even a no gender being. I for one depend on his mercy, for I know every breath I take is a blessing from him. I repent daily for things I have done or said that is not in harmony with what he wants me to be. I Look forward to the comments of other beliefs, for as a christian I believe that Jesus died to give me the right to choose how to worship him.

Anonymous said...

gaggy, you said we should remember that we are ALL children of God. Where should we remember that from? If a Christian looks to the bible (I know, that's a bad word) for their source of truth (another bad word), they'll learn that it says just the opposite. See John 1:12, Romans 8:16, Galatians 3:26, 1 John 3:1; 3:10; 5:19

“The turning point of our lives is when we stop seeking the God we want - and start seeking the God who is.”

Tess said...

Thank you for starting this forum. I hope and pray that dialog is possible. Why do so many people use religion as a platform for attack and condemnation rather than love and reconciliation? Why do we concentrate on the one percent of beliefs that divide us rather than the ninety-nine percent we share in common?

Anonymous said...

I join the others in saying WOO! HOO!
I think it is the progress of maturity (term used LOOSELY) to realize that the closer you come to God the less you know. I have to say that your headline caught me - I wish more people would understand that they in themselves cannot convert, we can begin the conversation and plant the seed, but GOD is the converter. I'm excited to read more!!!

Steve said...

I agree with the last anonymous.
One of my favorite sayings is: "There are 2 things for sure. There is a God and I'm not Him!".

Let's get this thing started!

FriendlyNeighborhoodAtheist said...

Are just theists welcome or can I join in on this debate as an atheist? If so, prepare to defend yourselves.

en guard
your friendly neighborhood atheist

Anonymous said...

Religion has always seemed like one very large question for me. I'll be interested to read about everyone's different views and hope to see some open dialogue without judgements.

pornstudent said...

Jesus commands Bible believing Christians to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). It is part of their religion to convert nonbelievers.

Ol' Barn said...

Discussion without rancor?

Great concept. I'm not sure about the reality of that.

A lot of people have a lot of very deep seated, ingrained ideas about their faith, or the lack of it, that's been their mainstay for years. It'll be interesting to see how long the "warm fuzzy" feeling lasts. I guess we shall see.

TheFriendlyNeighborhoodAtheist said...

1. atheists are moral people
2. i would vote for an atheist for president
3. religion has no place in the public

-if you answer "no" to any of these statements please explain why.


Ol Barn said...

1 Atheists are moral people.
Don't know that I know any so I can't answer that one.

2 I would vote for an atheist for president.
Nope I wouldn't. Why? To me that's a fundamental belief that says a lot about a person. And I feel that person and I would be entirely too far apart in our thoughts, etc. for me to support them.

3 Religion has no place in the public.
Couldn't disagree more. Why again?? Religion is a defining thing about a person. To subject it to a back burner in any kind of circumstance would be to deny who and what you are.

Now I know someone must be waiting to respond???

Anonymous said...

1 Atheists are moral people.

Someone's religious beliefs doesn't make them moral or immoral. I know some Christians who are extremely immoral and some atheists that you would swear were saints.

2 I would vote for an atheist for president.

Presidential Canidacy, as much as I would tend to agree with more "Christian" sides of issues, there are many more important factors when determining a presidential canidate. Just because someone is openly a certain religion doesn't mean that they can make accurate decisions when running a country. As much as I would like to say a Christian canidate would hear from God, sometimes this is highly misinterpretted. An atheist canidate should have an equal opportunity to be considered as president

3 Religion has no place in the public.

I don't know what I feel about this. To be in your face about religion is absolutely wrong. Forcefulness is not what religion is about. But by completely removing it from the public eye it also becomes harder for people to seek it out. I think a casual balance would be a good option. There is a place for it in the public but it should be monitored.


Overall, just because someone is Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, or anything else gives no person the right to predetermine and juge the moral character of anyone. If we don't like to be forced into stereotypes than why do we force others into stereotypes?

Bill Van Fleet said...

Our species has had thousands of religions. Picture them as roads going up a mountain representing improvement. We no longer sacrifice virgins to the Volcano God or stone people to death. Religions are focussing more on global human rights, and moving away from belief as an act of obedience.

All religions have perhaps had some good and some bad, and might well work toward self-improvement and growth. Religious professionals especially should help us with this.

Our religions have been our best efforts to help us decide how to live our lives. Many of the religions have also had an explanatory worldview, but far less useful than the one developing through science. Science helps us attain accurate existential beliefs (about the way the world is, was, or will be), and therefore what will happen when we do things. Religion helps us attain effective ethical beliefs (about what we should do), including about how to use the increasing capabilities acquired through science. Science without religion is dangerous as is religion without science.

I think our species is just beginning to develop a more useful ethics than that which comes naturally, and that it could grow exponentially, till we could metaphorically call ourselves “Homo rationalis.” Our lives will be drastically different globally from anything we have seen so far. I have been advocating for years that we study this possibility. These ideas are freely available to everyone at

The_Weaver said...

FNA, I agree that atheists are moral people. I think that human nature dictates morality not written codes. That being said, I would vote for an atheist as President, as an atheist would be far more likely to uphold the Constitution. Having said that, yes, I believe that religion should be kept out of the public sphere. Though, I am a woman of a spiritual path, as I said in a former post, I have a BA in Religious Studies. I'm repeating this to further establish the point that I know religion when mixed with social mechanisms brings violence (especially mixed with politics).

Me, I'm of no particular religion, though by default I am a Neo Pagan, archaic to some, terrifying to others, especially when I point out that I do practice Witchcraft. (Does not imply devil worship or communion of evil spirits no matter how many times people would like to tell themselves. The most evil human being to my mind, Hitler, once said, paraphrased, that if you tell a lie often enough people will believe it. So, the lies about us have been told for 2000 yrs, and now people believe them).

The foundation of my spirituality is henotheism. It's almost a contrary version of monotheism. I believe in all gods, however they come from the Mother Goddess. I am a Priestess of the Mother Goddess who is Nature, extending into the universe. I respect all life; all life is sacred.

I believe that all religions are sacred, and I believe in reincarnation. We chose our paths in life. This is mine.

New Age? I don't think so. These beliefs are an amalgam of human understandings dating back to 5,000 BCE (That would be the date of the Aryan people of the Indus valley and the very first emergence of the proto- Celtic culture in Europe, though not in what is today Ireland and the UK).

In my life I've been accosted, experienced discrimination, open hostility, and alienation from my family. I guess I'm sort of eager to find out the justification through open and honest conversation that hopefully will not turn out to be a war.