moJoe: Well, since you asked...we could of course extend this discussion to all the other religions that believe in a Deity, but let's stick closer to home since that's where this began.

"If you sin, you go to hell...What the hell is the spiritual value of that crap?"

Christians who say that sort of thing do so not because they think it has pragmatic value, but because they believe it to be an objective statement about the way the universe works. It sounds like an awful and heartless way to run Reality, I know, but please remember that it exists in the context of a much larger story that centers on forgiveness and grace.

"Be nice to save your own hide."

Face it: everything in this world has a carrot and a stick attached. Pretty much anything you do provides you with something you desire and prevents something else that you don't desire. (A famous paradox re: free will - can we ever truly act against our own interests?)

"Religious history is static, does one need to learn it over and over to be a good person?"

Well no, but if you don't care about religious history, don't take a religion class! I personally find it a fascinating subject but that's just me.

"Better yet, how about sitting in a church..."

Church can be a good thing, for several reasons. It provides a sacred space where you can focus on spiritual matters. It's a place where you can be around people who believe in the same things you do and support what you're doing (important in any endeavor, whether it's faith, art, coding, etc.). The sermons can provide information, inspiration, guidance, or simply a needed reminder about why we're here and how we're supposed to treat one another. Believe me, it's easy to forget those things in the course of daily life. Finally, it's the place where they hold Communion.
This is not to say that there aren't dysfunctional churches out there, or good churches with a few dysfunctional people in the mix. But we're all human, and most of those people are genuinely trying to do the right thing even if they don't always succeed.

"...with 200 bored, rich, white, old people..."

Are you suggesting that we should avoid people based on their finances, skin color, or age? :-) Keep in mind that you will be old yourself someday - and the fact that you are on the Web at all indicates that you are insanely rich compared to the majority of people on Earth.

"...people who spend the entire sermon thinking about what sort of doughnuts they are going to have at the reception."

What other people are thinking, during church or at any other time, is not your concern or your responsibility.

"I mean, the two young men I was speaking of in the beginning went on later to disect some Psalm while one of them calmy tried to justify pre-marital sex. I belive in pre-marital sex, but really..."

I think this confusion stems from the fact that you, as an agnostic, probably focus on the second part of the commandment you mentioned - the part about loving your neighbor as yourself. The first part instructs you to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. If you ever find yourself seriously giving that a try, you'll find out just how difficult that can be. If you love God, you'll naturally want to take the things he wants to heart, right? But what the Bible says he wants is not always clear to us. Because doing God's will is so very important to those two young men, and because life is full of all kinds of complex situations one never expects, they're hashing these issues out over coffee. Nu?

"I just find it sad that spiritual education lacks the spiritual so very badly and compensates by making it cerebral.

The map is not the territory. Learning about religion has its place, but it isn't the same as doing it.

So that's my take on the things you asked about. Hope it helps to clear the admittedly murky waters we tread.

Addnedum, after reading your response:
Jeepers. I'm really sorry to hear you say that I took what you said out of context, because I hate that too and I made a serious effort not to do so. Apparently I didn't succeed. Likewise, my goal wasn't to twist what you said in order to further my own agenda -- if I misrepresented your arguments in any way, it was the result of a misunderstanding of your argument rather than malicious intent. I can also see from your reply that one of our stumbling blocks is that you're coming from a dogmatic Roman Catholic background where what the Church says, goes, whereas I'm approaching the issues from a liturgical Episcopalian viewpoint where (I feel) there's much more leeway for personal belief.

So...yeah, maybe we should call it a day. It's been fun, though. Cheers.

I loathe having people take what I say out of context, so I find it necessary to correct you on a few points which you very conveniently misconstrued and twisted. Its can't be helped I suppose, that's what an argument is.

MY life has no carrot. I am good because, in direct opposition of Christian faith, I believe I am intrinsically good. You die and you believe you get a cookie if you are good. I honestly believe firmly that "I have no clue what is going to happen".
Life isn't fair; sometimes the bad guys don't pay in the end.

Now here in one place you say that being around all these people is important, then two paragraphs later you say that its none of my concern OR my responsibility what they are thinking about. Well I should hope it's my concern. If I am sitting in a room full of bored people thinking about not being where they are, how is that conducive to the over all "vibe"?
Here is what John Irving had to say about it:

"...I prefer these weekday services to Sunday worship; there are fewer distractions when I have Grace Church on-the-Hill almost to myself..."

"The other thing preferable about the weekday services is that no one is there against his will. That's another distraction on Sundays. Who hasn't suffered the experience of having an entire family seated in the pew in front of you, the children at war with each other and sandwiched between the mother and the father who are forcing them to go to church? An aura of stale arguments almost visibly clings to the hasty clothing of the children..."

"The stern looking father who occupies the aisle has his attention interrupted by fits of vacancy--an expression so perfectly empty accompanies his sternness and his concentration that I think I glimpse an underlying truth to the mans churchgoing: That he is doing it only for the children."

Then he goes into a nice long description of the family fighting silently in the pew.

"Should you move the hymnal before she is through praying and sits on it? Should you pick up the hymnal and bash the boy with it? But the father is the one you'd like to hit; and you'd like to pinch the mother's thigh, exactly as she pinched her son. How can you pray?"

This is what I am talking about. How can you expect a person to grow up around a bunch of people who don't want to be where they are but damn sure expect you to not only be there but like it to? It seems like a taboo version of Santa Claus for adults; no one wants to say they don't believe, but everyone in the room is going to pretend if it kills them. That's the vibe I get. It is most certainly not all encompassing, but it's prevalent enough to be noticeable.

Now define "sacred place"...
Christians tend to place a lot of faith in things
I don't see how things and places have anything to do with any ones spirituality. I have seen many "neat-o" churches that look pretty expensive but I don't see how this is crucial. I have been privy to attending St. Andrews Baptist church and watch them joyously celebrate their beliefs with dancing, singing and clapping. I have also had the misfortune to sit in many a stuffy middle class church where they sure talk about "joyous celebration", that part always used to make me giggle.

Don't get me started on communion...

Yes, I firmly believe that old white people should not be allowed to attend church.

Dogmatic law takes care of all that silly thinking for all the Catholics! Why debate something that is not moot (moot actually means "subject to debate"). You in your own mind could decide that pre-marital sex is okay, does that change the fact that the church says its wrong? I don't know about everyone else, but I know that what the Pope says goes. End of argument. Just take the letter of church law to heart and you don't need to think about anything.

I am going to stop talking about this now... This is when I get to the point where I want to start dragging it more twards the "I find Christianity creepy" and "The ritualistic cannibalization of ones own savior is weird" arguments. Which can never be arguments simply because they have no basis in logic and are in fact rude and unpopular opinions that get everyone in a knot.

moJoe: 0
Quizro: 0

I suppose you don't have proof and I have no faith, so we have now turned a rant about arguing religious semantics into an argument about religious semantics...ironic Nu? :P
Circles within circles. At least I am now ignorant, lazy and hypocritical; I can't help myself, I have never been able to pass up a good argument. :P
hmm... Well, I was planning to exercise some self-restraint here and not get into this argument, but hey, self-restraint was never one of my strong points.

moJoe, I just want to make sure you know to what extent you are distorting the value of Canon law to Catholics. Canon law doesn't take away the necessity of thinking - on the contrary, it gives you something to think about with regard to how you live your life. It's all guidelines, my friend. The Vatican II conference clarified this point by stating that everyone must find his own path to salvation. The Church simply cannot do it for you - you have to make your own peace with God. All the teachings of the Church are there to show you one way to get there. You think you've got a better way to God? Go for it! Don't think there's a God at all? That's your business. But please don't spend your time trying to tell other people what they should and should not believe. That's insulting.

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