Jan 3, 2007

What is a Religion?

Here is a Straits Times article about the government encouraging interfaith dialogue.
    ST Jan 3, 2007
    'Interaction among faiths crucial'
    DPM Wong says increased religious fervour should not hinder open dialogue
    By Zakir Hussain

    SINGAPOREANS are becoming more religious but should continue to engage in frank and open dialogue about their faiths, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng has said.

    The message of tolerance, understanding and respect that comes through in such exchanges must also reach out to the grassroots, he said yesterday .

    Mr Wong, who is Home Affairs Minister, was speaking at a forum at the National University of Singapore, organised by the University Scholars Programme, Ba'alwie Mosque and the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO).

    The forum on religions and peaceful co-existence saw three experts - Buddhist leader Chin Kung, Jesuit priest Thomas Michel and Muslim academic Ibrahim Abu Rabi - speak to 450 participants about common values that faiths share and the role religious leaders can play.

    Underlining the value of dialogue among the various faiths at the forum's opening, Mr Wong said Singapore recognised that maintaining religious harmony required constant communication and contact.

    He noted that increased religious fervour - a trend noted by studies and media reports - may hamper interaction on the part of some people here.

    'While spirituality is important, as Singaporeans become religious, they must continue to engage in frank and open inter-faith discussion. They should not perceive interaction with other religions as a compromise of their beliefs,' he said.

    And, despite examples of tension among followers of different religions abroad, he reminded his audience that world religions in fact 'share many common grounds that have, regrettably, not been given enough emphasis and attention'.

    'Religious leaders should underline these shared values,' he said, citing compassion, charity, peace and respect for humanity as examples.
This is all very good and well. However, it may be pertinent to note that in Singapore, a religion is not a religion unless the government thinks it is.

Once upon a time in Singapore, a particular group of people were involved in preaching, evangelistic and publishing activities. Their central theme was God's rule over the Earth, with Jesus Christ as king. They believed that this rule began with the Second Coming of Christ, which occurred invisibly either in 1874 or 1914.

These people also refrained from becoming involved in social, religious, or political conflicts. They were very conservative - among other things, they frowned on homosexuality, premarital sex, abortion and gambling (and they certainly wouldn't approved of the Sentosa casinos).

There are 6.5 million
Jehovah's Witnesses in the world today. But in 1972, the Singapore government decided to stop thinking of them as a religion. So they ceased to be a religion in Singapore. They are no longer allowed to register themselves as a society, nor to publish any materials for public dissemination, nor to hold any public meetings etc.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't the Johova Witnesses similar to the 7th Day Advantists fundamentally, though not the same in mehtods and ways?

boon said...

Would the Jehovah's Witnesses have been banned if they didn't refuse to serve NS?

devil's advocate said...

Mr Wang,

Should Rastafarians in Singapore be permitted to smoke cannabis?

Mr Wang Says So said...

I tend to agree with Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman's view - that there is a strong case for legalising cannabis.

After all, it is much less harmful than alcohol or nicotine. In fact, alcohol and nicotine are more dangerous than cannabis, Ectasy and LSD.

But then we digress.

Anonymous said...

Jeez. This devil's guy is just here to stir up nonsense. Who or what is is the Rastafarians? Why don't you ask whether it's OK for some obscure jungle tribes from jungles of the Amazon(or any part of the world) to head hunt in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind about which religion, as long as they allow me to have as many wives and mistresses as I can afford to.

I couldn't care a damn about what they preach, only important thing is that killing someone you don't like for the sake of pleasing the Supreme One will be encouraged.

Charles said...

One the one hand promoting interaction among faith and on the other hand no discussion about religion is possible.
Religious fervour is born out of blind faith, at the cost of any understanding of religion(s). Thank the PAP for that.

Charles
PS: comment on comment: rather than caricature Islam, you could discuss values and rites, whether 5 wives or killing infidels still is relevant to Islam today; one could also discuss whether Hell exists, or why the new Pope decided to say mass in Latin.

~[z][x]~ said...

Boon...

it's not just NS. JWs refuse to take the pledge as well, or any 'secular' oaths for that matter. Any practice that connotes nationalism (or 'false religion') is strictly to be avoided according to their religious doctrine. But really Mr Wang, unless the Gahmen scraps compulsory NS, how else could they treat the JWs and yet remain fair to those in NSlavement?

zHuAz said...

I emphatise with the JWs. It is individual choice in religion and way of life, BUT, no, they should not preach. I am against preaching in all instances. Those who wish to seek information have all the temples and churches and even internet to find their faith.

Preaching or over-zealous religious fervour in negating other faiths can and do cause social tensions in multi-polar (religious) Singapore. I still want my peaceful country. Thank you.

As for the JWs, it is just sad that Singapore needs to be armed, and for national interests, their fundamentals cannot be allowed under our circumstances.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Singapore is hardly the only country in the world which has conscription & JWs too.

Switzerland provides a relatively simple example of how they could be handled. Instead of doing military NS for x years, the JWs will simply do social work, for 2x years.

Anonymous said...

Er... Since welfare is a dirty word here, I don't think we need so much social workers lah. Thus we cannot follow Switzerland where welfare for citizen is an entirement, not something dirty.

Anonymous said...

sigghhh.

playing dumb or really stupid.

Social work is just but one of the many many possibilities in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, just a hypothetical question - would you consider a movement that condones inhuman acts, say sacrificing young children at a altar, to please one's god a religion?

This is with no reference to any religion whatsoever, but I think if we could answer that question, we might just be able to better differentiate religion from cults.

Please also note that I used the word condone, not accept. And it child sacrifice is just an example.

To me, religion at the very least should lead to the edification of man, not deprivation or destruction.

~[z][x]~ said...

but that's a rhetorical question. do you really think that differentiates a religion from a cult? every single "religion" that we know of today has in one way or another "condone" the killing of innocents (or unbelievers) in the course of their history.

In my opinion, it is the accessibility to mainstream political power in the early stages of the growing of a faith that makes it a "religion", and the inability to do so that makes it a "cult".

Anonymous said...

~[z][x]~
That brings us to the purpose of religion. If we argue that a movement should be accorded the place of a religion by virtue of whether it is widely accepted as such in the world, which seems to be what Mr Wang is advocating (correct me if I am wrong), then popular culture, for instance, may well be a religion.

Agnostic said...

In the late 80's to 90's and occasionally in 2000's, I encountered overzealous born-again Christian strangers who stop me in the street and/or go door-to-door to "spread the gospel". Frankly I found some of these folks laughable in their superficial understanding of their own faith beyond their "sales pitch" (forget about even expecting them to understand other faiths). But what ultimately turns me off is their combo of blind faith and lack of basic social grace in mutual respect.

From the late 90's, the trend has taken a twist and these days one may meet a zealous born-again Taoist/Buddhist similarly spreading their faith.

It is all well and fine that the leaders of various religons express the need for mutual respect at IRO gatherings. Question is: have these values of tolerance and mutual respect been emphasized to their "preachers" and evangelists? What are the "sales pitch" techniques that are actually being suggested/taught?

Anonymous said...

Many misunderstand religions for what they seem to be because they have focused on the actions of the believers rather than go right to the basics and examine the teachings instead.

Very often, the teachings have been misinterpreted, distorted, exploited etc. to achieve selfish goals, even political ones.

So wars, strife etc. are more likely products of human acts rather than of true religions.

A Buddhist said...

~[z][x]~ said...
"every single "religion" that we know of today has in one way or another "condone" the killing of innocents (or unbelievers) in the course of their history".

To the best of my knowledge, No killing and no war has ever been waged in the NAME of Buddhism.

That's not to say that people who called themselves "Buddhists" have not killed. They have. But they did so without using the name/ quotation/ teachings of the Buddha - eg, lay Buddhist soldiers kill their enemies under the authority of their kings, not under that of Buddhism! They couldn't invoke Buddhism because Buddhism does not condone killing of anyone, anywhere in its scriptures.

Then again, one can claim that religion = God, and so Buddhism is not a religion. But I would define religion = a set of beliefs on how to achieve bliss in the afterlife. And in this sense, Taoism and Buddhism are religions.

~[z][x]~ said...

Anon 10:35...

Yes actually it depends on how you define and play with the word "Religion". But quite obviously, "Religion" as used here refers to "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. ", as defined by dictionary.com. If we can agree on this, then JW is certainly a religion, and popular culture, I'm sorry, is not.

I suppose your argument is somewhat in the mold of..."Some beliefs/faiths are obviously harmful, thus not every belief/faith should be a 'Religion'". No one is going to argue with you on this. Definitely, any "religion" that promotes child sacrifice must be outlawed. The fundamental point here, though, is that these "religions" are outlawed because its teachings inflict direct and tangible harm on innocent people who are not or cannot be (e.g. children) associated with the religion, and not rather, because "they are theologically mistaken" or "they are of a deviant sect" or "they do not swear loyalty to the state", which are the reasons (actually excuses) offered to outlaw JW.

JWs do not inflict direct and tangible harm on innocent people. I do agree that they can be an annonying bunch with their door to door proselytising (but I actually enjoy debating with them) but what has that got to do with them being a "religion" or a "cult"? The issue here is politics.

~[z][x]~ said...

To Buddhist...

Agreed. King Ashoka and the Dalai Lama came to my mind but you have touched on that. However, my original point was simply that Religion has, in one way or another, been invoked to justify violence or injustice, and thus to use that as a yardstick on what is a religion or a cult is unfair and misleading.

seeker said...

~[z][x]

I agree that merely judging based on acts that distort religious scriptures is unfair and misleading. That is why it is important to separate/scrutinise human acts and intent from/against a religion's teachings.

As for your point about JW and the government's reasons for outlawing them, I am not taking sides, but perhaps we could scrutinise its teachings and hopefully arrive at some understanding as to why it is outlawed, be it religious distortion or political in nature.

Here is a link I have googled that might throw light on the JW's doctrines and beliefs. It would be great if those who are conversant with JW's doctrines and practices can debunk/ confirm some of the allegations.

http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Cults/jw.htm

~[z][x]~ said...

Hi Seeker, thanks for the link. Don't have the time to cross-reference it with other sources but I think the authors have tried to sound as objective as possible. Nevertheless, it is still ambiguous and smells of religious bigotry.

This sentence more or less sums up how they view the JWs:

"Most cults are founded upon false prophecies, which, if pointed out, offer an effective way to open blind eyes and rescue cultists.

But how can such a biased view ever help? Obviously it depends on who and how one interprets these "prophecies". If this is indeed the yardstick, then aren't, say, Muslims equally as "cultish" as JWs are to Christians? And then why the different treatment? Indeed, any staunch believer in Judaism would say the same of Christianity, a "cult" of course by this obscure definition.

One might infer from this link that JWs are a bunch of miserable, unscientific and anti-social group. Assuming these allegations are true, the fact is that the JWs have not caused any tangible and direct harm to others, and thus it is intellectually and morally wrong to deny that it is A RELIGION, and then to ban it in a free (supposingly) and secular society by labelling it as a "cult" on religious/theological grounds.

Arguably, the Gahmen hasn't done that. Which is why I said it's all about politics.

Mr Wang Says So said...

JWs are banned in Singapore for no other reason, really, than the refusal to serve NS.

It is a big thing for them - many German JWs were prepared to die, and indeed were executed by the Nazis, for refusing to serve in the army during WW2.

seeker said...

~[z][x]

All human beings have the tendency to be biased - believers, non-believers, agnostics, free-thinkers alike. It is strange that often, only believers are accused of being biased. Agnostics or free-thinkers, for instance may also be biased for asserting their own sets of (un)beliefs blindly too by dismissing others' beliefs without in-depth understanding, sometimes even out of spite or anger.

The only way to reduce the influence of bias on our thinking, is to gain deeper insight into an issue before passing any judgement or labelling something as religious bigotry just by quoting one sentence without examining the context.

It is easy to conclude that something holds no ground because there are 1001 definitions of religions, cults or even prophesies. But isn't that blind judgement?

If definitions are all there is, I could argue that JW has done harm because they practise shunning and disfellowshipping because harm is not confined only to the physical.

I am a little confused because you wrote in your earlier post that the government has outlawed JW:

"...because "they are theologically mistaken" or "they are of a deviant sect" or "they do not swear loyalty to the state", which are the reasons (actually excuses) offered to outlaw JW."

and then in the latest wrote that it did not:

"...and then to ban it in a free (supposingly) and secular society by labelling it as a "cult" on religious/theological grounds. Arguably, the Gahmen hasn't done that."

Anyway, we need to put aside our prejudices (not beliefs) and attempt to clarify before we could arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to whether JW is a cult or religion. Only then could we go on to determine whether or not there is a political agenda in outlawing it.

Lastly, secular and religious realms can co-exist, just like work and family. So, we can have a secular society where there is are also religious beliefs.

~[z][x]~ said...

Seeker...

On the link you have provided, I have already given it credit by expressing that it has tried to provide objective information on the JWs as much as possible. All I did was to identify the sentence, which summarized the argument in that link, on why the JW is a cult and not a religion. Which was what you wanted, isn't it? That through this link we might "arrive at some understanding as to why it is outlawed"? I wasn't quoting the sentence out of context. I was just stating why this sentence, and thus the whole argument that the JWs SHOULD BE a cult because "it has failed to fulfill prophecies", cannot hold under closer scrutiny.

Perhaps coincidentally, you have totally ignored the challenges/questions I posed to the "it has failed to fulfill prophecies thus it must be a cult" argument. I hope you might seriously consider them one day.

I have never said that there are 1001 definitions of religions, cults or prophecies. I have maintained one definition for each throughout. Religion=what I have quoted earlier from dictionary.com; Cult=A religion that could not get access to mainstream political power in its early stages; Prophecies=Predictions of the future. Presumably, my definition of a "cult" is controversial, and I stand ready to be corrected, if you could show me an alternative, objective and distinct line between "religions" and "cults", and not just from a Christian/biblical perspective. Which is really inadequate, would you not agree, in our multi-religious society?

The line which you have attempted to draw "...JW has done harm because they practise shunning and disfellowshipping because harm is not confined only to the physical."
On your "little confusion"
is neither objective nor distinct. Surely you must know that shunning and disfellowshipping are both mentioned in the bible and the koran as well; and are practised by Christians and Muslims worldwide. Maybe not to such extremes as the JWs, but where is the line drawn?

On your "little confusion", it's you who decided that the reasons I highlighted much earlier as unacceptable are all from the Gahmen. I didn't even say that. I selected the 3 most frequently offered reasons by the PUBLIC (and not the Gahmen) that are used to justify the denial of JW as a "religion" and expressed that they are unacceptable. And later on, I qualified that, although it is still a great injustice towards the JWs, I am comforted by the fact that the Gahmen has outlawed JW because "JWs refuse to serve NS" (political reason) rather than "The JW doctrine contradicts that of Christianity" (theological reason). I hope this helps.

"Lastly, secular and religious realms can co-exist, just like work and family. So, we can have a secular society where there is are also religious beliefs."

--> Amen! But can we progress one more step ahead, and be gracious and allow others their peaceful, religious beliefs while maintaining ours?

YCK said...

Has anyone heard of Licinius and Constantine's Edict of Milan? The government's attempts at maintaining religious harmony reminds me of it.

But by leaving out sects/cults like JW, there is the problem of justifying how the scope of these attempts should be restrained. The last thing the secular government should do is to get itself more deeply involved in matters of defining orthodoxy.

I don't think secularism could escape unscathed if the government overreaches at the multi-religious equivalant to the Nicene Creed if the Constantinian chronology of events is followed. Its clout is far more limited compared to that of the Roman Empire. If this is understood, it may be obvious why the freedom of religion should not be curtailed capriciously or the government should be less directly involved dialogues promoting religious harmony.

Having civil organizations to do so would also lend more legitimacy to the dialogues so that people on the ground would really participate, leading to real understanding. They may actually listen! Otherwise, whatever official consensus that arising from these dialogues are going to be ignored as piece diplomatic euphemism if not propaganda. We may be at the fringe of the power of social engineering.

YCK said...

A bit of clarification for my earlier comment. I am unable to ascertain if the government's stand on JW is motivated by practical consideration surrounding NS, theology or a mixture of both.

Only in the later two cases would my comment in full apply. Otherwise, the government should still allow people to sort out matters of dialogues between religions themselves to ensure a more robust harmony, not something enforced top-down.

seeker said...

~[z][x]~

Thanks for taking time to clarify your stand. I am all for leaving others alone to believe or not, so yes, I agree we should live and let live. That means non-believers should also respect and allows believers to express views and act from their perspectives instead of calling them names.

The reason why I emphasize in-depth understanding and scrutiny is because, like your latest post has again proven, misunderstandings and unhappiness almost always stems from insufficient knowledge of background and context of another person's actions.

The problem is that we tend to perceive issues from our own perspectives only. For instance, your point about prophecies. To you, when prophecies do not materialize, it does not mean JW's are a cult. Ihat is your view and I respect that.

But think of it this way. If someone claims to be a prophet who is supposed to be reliable, trustworthy, able to foretell the future. And then he tells you something is sure to happen but doesn't. Not only once, but many times. Don't you doubt if he is a prophet? Isn't there a chance he might be a fake, trying to exploit the innocent or naive in the name of religion?

Also, shunning and disfellowshipping is not what you think it is in the biblical context. Believers are called to be in the world but not of the world. That does not mean they have to severe ties with family, friends or never to associate with non-believers which is what JWs practice. It is an abstract concept that requires a study of the christian faith to fully understand. It would take pages to explain which I do not think is appropriate here. The point is, you have a mistaken believe that christians 'shun' others the way JWs advocate, because you do not have in-depth undertstanding of christianity.

Lastly, leaving each other to live out their beliefs or life philosophies also include letting them practice what they believe. For instance, I know many are pissed by over-zealous christians who never seem to leave them alone. But if you understand the great commission, you will understand why they do it. Perhaps some may have gone overboard, but I am sure others are doing it out of genuine concern. So, in that respect, it is disheartening when people respond to goodwill with contempt and labels of bigotry.

Likewise, 'fundamentalists' may also view the current obsession with money, sex etc. with unease and feel compelled to label persons concerned as depraved. I guess, the trick is for all to know the limits and not impose their viewpoints on others.

That is why I agree there is a case for religious tolerance and mutual understanding. Whether it is politically motivated, and to what degree, I do not know. Fundamentally, I support it as something good for Singapore.

seeker said...

~[z][x]~

In response to your question about cults, and your own definition, you may wish to find some time to explore the following link and determine for yourself whether it is fair to consider JW a cult, and whether the government was reasonable in outlawing them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult

As far as I know, it is an unbiased source and more authoritative than personal versions of definitions from people like us.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

I followed your link for Jehovah Witnesses in the last paragraph. I touches on the meaning of Jehovah only, which is not 'unique' to Jehovah Witnesses.

If I may recommend, below is an alternative link about JWs, which I found helpful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehovah's_Witnesses

Mr Wang Says So said...

Thanks. I actually meant to link to that page on Wikipedia. I don't know how I managed to link to "Jehovah" instead!

Jehovah is just the name of God, used especially often in the Old Testament.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Ok, I revised the link.

~[z][x]~ said...

Dear Seeker,

I appreciate your insightful comments. I understand your frustation and would like to apologize if I've sounded offensive on unnecessary occasions. By the way, I was brought up in a Christian family and have been serving in a Methodist Church so your suggestion that I have insufficient background of Christianity might not be that appropriate. Lately though, I have inclined towards Liberal/Progressive Christianity and its values. It is through this, I would say, "intellectual conversion", that I have begun to slowly notice the bigotry and ugliness of traditional Christians, the Church and many of the doctrines/practices they embrace. Thus my apparent negativity to many of your views. I'd love to share more with you but I do not think this is a proper forum. In any case, here is my email address (zhixuan_86@hotmail.com) if you are interested to know more. Back to the issue at hand.

On prophecies, read this:

http://judaism.about.com/library/3_askrabbi_o/bl_simmons_messiah3.htm

Probably the Rabbi does not have such an "in-depth understanding of Christianity" as err, you. But in any case, I hope you get the point. Christians explain away Jesus' failure of fulfilling these prophecies by claiming that it will be done in the 2nd Coming. JWs explain away their seemingly-failed prophecies of the 2nd Coming by claiming "Oh it's an Invisible Kingdom mah". So who is more "cult-ish" (by your definition) than who? Don't you think it's solely dependant on the beholder? And if the JWs do not go around forcing children to have sex with them (Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints in Texas) or buy arms and fight with FBI (Branch Davidians) or attack innocent people with poison gas (Aum Shinrikyo), why should we outlaw them??

Once again, I never said that "Christians shun 'others' as the JWs advocate". I have intentionally qualified that they do not do so to such extremes, meaning, in general, (sigh) Christians are more loving, kind, sociable etc etc. to 'others' than JWs are. However, shunning still exists. Bible-presbytarians for example, are 'not encouraged' to worship together with Christians of other denominations. The more fundamentalist ones even hold that Evangelicals who speak-in-tongue are possessed by Satan. I am not even making a value judgment here on whether these forms of shunning are good or bad because I do not even think that necessary. The act of shunning from people of contradicting beliefs/practices is a very natural human (and animal) reaction. "Tribalism" has existed since time immemorial and whether that is explicitly written in the religious scripts of a certain religion or implicitly practised by 'sinners of the Church, and thus are in need of God' is secondary IMHO. The question is whether this is enough justification to outlaw a certain belief and my answer to that is no. Why? Because I would never want the day to come when the Gahmen can come and say 'Aha! Why are you shunning the rest and having your own church service? I'm going to tear down your church!'. Therefore I oppose such thinking right from the very beginning, even if it means lending support to a religious group that I do not agree with.

I assume that your defence on Evangelism is not meant for me since I never once mentioned that I was against the open sharing of one's faith. In fact, I crave for Buddhists and Muslims to share with me their faith but most always go "Don't want la", "Sensitive la, such 'stuff'". It is thus why I believe we are actually experiencing religious ignorance, and not tolerance, in our society. But I agree with you, that there must be reasonable limits, and it is by this qualification that I feel alarmed by the increase of "Street Evangelism" (SE) in Singapore. The worst aspect of SE is that many of the 'evangelists' are secondary school children who are, I'm sorry for being so blunt, absolutely ignorant and incredibly irritating to the adults along the streets. Basically, I asked myself if I would like to step out of my house one day and be stopped several times on the streets by Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist and Satanic children each trying to promote their Faith to me "out of genuine concern", as you so claimed. I thought, uhh...well...maybe...no? I'm a busy person, I appreciate your concern but I have a life to live. I don't think I will like that. That's why I oppose SE, even though it is done in the name of my God. Sorry for digressing, but I thought this was an important point on how one should think and act in a secular society without compromising one's religious beliefs. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", sayth the Lord, didn't He?

On the "CULT" word puzzle, thank you for offering me Wikipedia's 1001 definitions of the word. As you must have read, the meaning of this word is still being disputed worldwide and I do not see why our views are less authoratative or more 'personal' than those offered by wikipedia. But I particularly enjoyed this..

According to professor Timothy Miller from the University of Kansas, in his 2003 Religious Movements in the United States, during the controversies over the new religious movements in the 1960s, the term "cult" came to mean something sinister, generally used to describe a movement that was at least potentially destructive to its members or to society, or that took advantage of its members and engaged in unethical practices. But he argues that no one yet has been able to define "cult" in a way that enables the term to identify only problematic groups. Miller asserts that the attributes of so-called cults (see cult checklist), as defined by cult opponents, can be found in groups that few would consider cultic, such as Catholic religious orders or many evangelical Protestant churches.

seeker said...

~[z][x]~

I am glad we can agree to disagree. Yes, not all my comments refer to you. And don't worry, I was not offended. Just thought it might be good to offer a counterpoint to what I felt was a skewed tendency in discussions.

I also understand why you have "intellectually" moved away from what you used to believe due to what you see in the lives of Christians and the Church. I was raised under Buddhist and Taoist influences but became a Christian and found meaning in life. I have no regrets and extremely glad I did.

Like you, I have many times been disillusioned by what I have observed. But I have realized through the ups and especially downs of life, that Christianity is not about man and what they do to each other per se but it is a personal relationship with God. That is why I do not allow what I see overwhelm what I know through the bible and my personal experiences with God and His promises.

That is also why I emphasized the need to go right into the teachings of a religion instead of judging based on human acts. Because they can be misleading.

I do have reservations about the more liberal views but I will not try to convince you or anyone because Christianity (or religion) is not (to me) a purely intellectual exercise. There has to be a balance between faith and reason. Hebrews 11.

I do not agree with the government that all religions are basically the same. The main message of Christianity is love and it has to do with the heart. I guess that is why John 3:16 is so widely quoted. Religious tolerance and understanding does not mean acceptance.

It is also not about relationships between man and man but man and God. As such, it cannot be forced. We have to find our own way to God. I believe in sharing my faith but it is up to the individual to accept Jesus along with the consequences of his decision.

Sorry, I disgressed.

Anyway, you are right in pointing out that there is yet a concrete definition for Jehovah Witnesses but I would rather see it this way:

Ice cream is one of my favorite desserts. There are many brands, some with trans fat, some without. Although they are basically ice cream, I will keep away from those with trans fat because I do not want to take the risk of getting a disease.

Thanks, I will surely email you when there is a need to and the time is right.

Cheers.

seeker said...

~[z][x]~

Regarding prophesies, your link, like my first, is a biased source. We could look at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophesy

Just one point. JW's prophesies that something would come to pass at a definite date and time, which did not happen many times, are different from the prophesies that Jesus told regarding the second coming. In fact, no one will know when it is going to be. He did not give any date or time and changed them/His stand. It has yet to happen.

When He prophesized about His death and how He would be betrayed, it happened. And He didn't run away even though He knew it beforehand.

Anonymous said...

Ai ya, what the hack, we can say and talk all we want until the cows goes home but at the end of the day, it boils down to one thing, ie "ITS BETWEEN YOU AND HIM", there is no hiding and that one day will come naturally, sooner or later. Be happy in whatever you do, life is short!!!

~[z][x]~ said...

Seeker...

Thanks for understanding. Some of my views on a few of your comments...

"But I have realized through the ups and especially downs of life, that Christianity is not about man and what they do to each other per se but it is a personal relationship with God."

--> But if this 'personal relationship with God' leads one to ostracize the very people whom we ought to love and serve (homosexuals, 'cultists' etc), and be blinded to their plight, is this relationship still healthy?


There has to be a balance between faith and reason.

--> Biased source definitely. But nevertheless, food for thought:

"The only angels we need invoke are those of our better nature: reason, honesty, and love. The only demons we must fear are those that lurk inside every human mind: ignorance, hatred, greed, and faith, which is surely the devil's masterpiece."

--Sam Harris, The End of Faith


Religious tolerance and understanding does not mean acceptance.

--> Well neither is permitting one to practise his personal beliefs an act of acceptance either! I mean, do you mean you "accept" the practices of Buddhists, Muslims etc? But you have learnt to live with it in a secular society! If you can do so for Buddhism/Islam, why not for JWs too? We're still back to square one. What, indeed, is so "cultish" and "unworthy of acceptance" of JW as compared to Islam to a Christian that he can live among practising Muslims but not practising JWs??


Ice cream is one of my favorite desserts. There are many brands, some with trans fat, some without. Although they are basically ice cream, I will keep away from those with trans fat because I do not want to take the risk of getting a disease.

--> Absolutely agree with you. The only difference is that I will not stop others from eating ice cream with trans fat because I have no right to.


JW's prophesies that something would come to pass at a definite date and time, which did not happen many times, are different from the prophesies that Jesus told regarding the second coming...

--> Sorry but I think you have missed the point(or the subject) here. I was comparing JW's 'failed prophecies' (from a Christian perspective) with the 'failed realisation of the prophecies' the Christ should have accomplished (from a Jew's perspective). Or to put it differently, we reject JWs because nothing cataclysmic happened in 1914 as much as the Jews reject Jesus because He did not bring about the political restoration of the state of Israel. You would most probably counter, "But why should it be political? What the prophets meant was the spiritual restoration of Man and God!" and provide evidence to justify your beliefs. Well the same goes for the JWs! They too, have their own explanations for their seemingly "failed prophecies". You might disagree with them, as I do, but what right do we have to outlaw them based on this difference?

Since we're on prophecies, I remember having a debate with a Muslim friend on Deut 18:18. Who is this prophet whom Moses prophesized about? Is it Jesus, as the Christians claim? Or Muhammad, as the Muslims claim? For every 100 websites you read which claim that it must be Jesus, you'll be able to find another 100 stating the opposite. That's the problem with "prophecies". They are simply too subjective and obscure. If you want to judge a religion (or 'cult') based on how well its prophecies are being fulfilled, you might as well judge it based on how good your mood is today.

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