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Subject: Diversity of belief within any given religion rss

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Moshe Callen
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One of RSP's regulars with whom I tend not to get along (so that I'm not sure I should name the user or not) remarked in the thread comparing religion to LARP'ing something I agree with, indeed something I'd even term insightful. The remark was that while atheists are highly diverse in their beliefs because they simply have a lack of belief in common, the same is true of religious people. I would go so far indeed to assert that the claim is effectively (albeit perhaps not absolutely) true of adherents to the same religion, even with the bounds of orthodoxy.

Every religion in principle has certain key things all adherents of that religion agree on. Where debate on that occurs is where sectarianism arises, but not all sects need be regarded even by their adherents as distinct religions. Additionally, things apart from those core tenets are generally up for grabs. If the tenets of a religion are represented by a finite set of precepts, then everything outside those precepts-- presumably an infinite set of possible beliefs-- is by definition outside the scope of the religion.

EDIT:
Please note I'm heading off to a scientific conference tomorrow afternoon and probably won't be able to reply after that until motzei shabbat.
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But wouldn't you say that within a single religion, there is more likely to be a coherence of thought on a particular issue if the religion has an official stance or tenets guiding the adherents?
 
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You have as many different beliefs within a given group as you have people within in a given group.

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whac3 wrote:
One of RSP's regulars with whom I tend not to get along (so that I'm not sure I should name the user or not) remarked in the thread comparing religion to LARP'ing something I agree with, indeed something I'd even term insightful. The remark was that while atheists are highly diverse in their beliefs because they simply have a lack of belief in common, the same is true of religious people. I would go so far indeed to assert that the claim is effectively (albeit perhaps not absolutely) true of adherents to the same religion, even with the bounds of orthodoxy.

Every religion in principle has certain key things all adherents of that religion agree on. Where debate on that occurs is where sectarianism arises, but not all sects need be regarded even by their adherents as distinct religions. Additionally, things apart from those core tenets are generally up for grabs. If the tenets of a religion are represented by a finite set of precepts, then everything outside those precepts-- presumably an infinite set of possible beliefs-- is by definition outside the scope of the religion.

EDIT:
Please note I'm heading off to a scientific conference tomorrow afternoon and probably won't be able to reply after that until motzei shabbat.


In the greater sense, every religion is a religion of one person. The weight they place on particular verses that resonate with them. The parts of the dogma which they are ignorant of. The way they were taught by their parents and religious teachers. The situations in real life which have lead them to consider the implications certain parts more deeply than others. The parts they consider allegorical vs literal.

And I agree with She2. If a particular congregation preaches a particular point, writes it down, studies it, and especially if it tosses out members who disagree with certain tenets, then the religious beliefs of that group will have more similarities. They may even march in unison on certain elements of dogma.

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she2 wrote:
But wouldn't you say that within a single religion, there is more likely to be a coherence of thought on a particular issue if the religion has an official stance or tenets guiding the adherents?

Absolutely but adherent will has vary how much importance they give to that stance and how they interpret it.
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she2 wrote:
But wouldn't you say that within a single religion, there is more likely to be a coherence of thought on a particular issue if the religion has an official stance or tenets guiding the adherents?


To some degree, naturally. But religions are big buckets, and followers generally try to associate with people with similar interpretations of their beliefs.

For example, take gays. For Christians, the traditional interpretation is pretty clear. The Church has been against it for a very long time.

That said, the PCUSA, one of the biggest sects in the US, recently had a vote to allow gay pastors. This is not a particularly liberal church either.

That said, some churches splintered off and went their own way. Some stayed, not liking the decision but deciding to stay associated but really don't like that particular decision.

UU's, Quakers, Mormons, and Catholics couldn't be more different on a huge list of issues, but they're all still considered part of the same overarching faith.

~~~

The way I'd feel you're right though is that individual members tend to join an individual church/temple/congregation that most closely matches their personal beliefs. It just that as the scale goes up, the similarity slips (or at least gets more vague on specifics).
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galad2003 wrote:
windsagio wrote:


For example, take gays. For Christians, the traditional interpretation is pretty clear. The Church has been against it for a very long time.



Huh? Which church? Baptists? Catholics? Mormons? Methodists? Quakers? Unitarians? There is no one Christian church and many denominations have different opinions on gays. Within each church individuals will have different viewpoints also.

My church is very welcoming and understanding of homosexuals.

Quote:
Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church dedicate itself to a ministry of Christ-like hospitality and compassion to persons of all sexual orientations, and to a vision of unity through openness to the spiritual gifts of all those who have been baptized into the Body of Jesus Christ. Such ministry and openness may include: welcoming sexual minorities, their friends, and families into our churches and demonstrating our faith in a loving God; a willingness to listen and open our hearts to their stories and struggles in our churches, districts, annual conferences, and General Conference; encouraging study and dialogue around issues of sexuality; and praying for all those who are in pain and discord over our Christian response to this controversial issue.


http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-the-denominations...


You have an odd definition of "welcoming and understanding".
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lfisher wrote:
galad2003 wrote:
windsagio wrote:


For example, take gays. For Christians, the traditional interpretation is pretty clear. The Church has been against it for a very long time.



Huh? Which church? Baptists? Catholics? Mormons? Methodists? Quakers? Unitarians? There is no one Christian church and many denominations have different opinions on gays. Within each church individuals will have different viewpoints also.

My church is very welcoming and understanding of homosexuals.

Quote:
Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church dedicate itself to a ministry of Christ-like hospitality and compassion to persons of all sexual orientations, and to a vision of unity through openness to the spiritual gifts of all those who have been baptized into the Body of Jesus Christ. Such ministry and openness may include: welcoming sexual minorities, their friends, and families into our churches and demonstrating our faith in a loving God; a willingness to listen and open our hearts to their stories and struggles in our churches, districts, annual conferences, and General Conference; encouraging study and dialogue around issues of sexuality; and praying for all those who are in pain and discord over our Christian response to this controversial issue.


http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-the-denominations...


You have an odd definition of "welcoming and understanding".


Lol, no kidding. It's pretty much the antithesis of welcome.
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Also, it's kind of ignoring history.
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windsagio wrote:
Also, it's kind of ignoring history.


What's that statement based on? Are you rolling religion into a monolith now? I don't think Moshe was doing that. Sure, differences of opinion are why Christianity fractured into its many shards today. I'm sure those differences were more distinct back then. But of course, to an outsider, today, they aren't that different from each other. And people within each sect of Christianity are even less different. It's basically pointless to point to a time when Christianity was more of a monolith than today. The fragmentation itself has led to greater adherence within smaller pockets.

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whac3 wrote:
If the tenets of a religion are represented by a finite set of precepts, then everything outside those precepts-- presumably an infinite set of possible beliefs-- is by definition outside the scope of the religion.


This is not the right comparison. From any finite set of precepts, an infinite number of conclusions can be derived. So the commitments of any religion (or of atheism) are infinite. The simple finite vs. infinite comparison is inadequate. If that were not true, then all finite belief systems would have necessarily equally unified adherents--this seems to be your conclusion, but it seems obviously wrong to me. Some religions with finite specified precepts are much more conformist than others. Does anyone dispute this?

All of that said, I still think a lot of atheists fail to recognize any diversity of opinion among the religious, and that's crap. So I feel sort of bad about disagreeing with your formulation, since it seems to me like one way of addressing a genuine problem.

I also wonder whether you might make progress by poking a little more at which beliefs count. You might restrict the beliefs which matter to those which are actively entertained by individuals. Then I'd fear that you were ignoring the role of religion in shaping one's worldview and the set of beliefs one considers, but at least you could forestall the infinite regression of consequences of finite precepts. I'm not tremendously optimistic about this line, but it's where I'd consider starting if I were trying to save some of your point.
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she2 wrote:
windsagio wrote:
Also, it's kind of ignoring history.


What's that statement based on? Are you rolling religion into a monolith now? I don't think Moshe was doing that. Sure, differences of opinion are why Christianity fractured into its many shards today. I'm sure those differences were more distinct back then. But of course, to an outsider, today, they aren't that different from each other. And people within each sect of Christianity are even less different. It's basically pointless to point to a time when Christianity was more of a monolith than today. The fragmentation itself has led to greater adherence within smaller pockets.



No, in the context of my discussion and whasis response what I'm talking about should be clear;

The Christian Church has historically been down on homosexuality, especially as an organized theology.

Have all Christians? Of course not.

For a long time, Christianity was split into a fairly small number of major groups, and they all held the same position.

(With some exceptions, I've read somewhere that in some places it was considered ok for Monks, can't remember where I read it now so I don't trust my memory)

~~

To the point of 'greater adherence within smaller pockets', I'd agree - except for one major point. As I noted above, people are picking the pockets that fit their beliefs already. The difference from pocket to pocket are greater though, especially compared to pre-reformation where your theology was largely defined by where you lived (and there was a stronger heirarchy controlling things)
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windsagio wrote:
she2 wrote:
But wouldn't you say that within a single religion, there is more likely to be a coherence of thought on a particular issue if the religion has an official stance or tenets guiding the adherents?


To some degree, naturally. But religions are big buckets, and followers generally try to associate with people with similar interpretations of their beliefs.

For example, take gays. For Christians, the traditional interpretation is pretty clear. The Church has been against it for a very long time.

That said, the PCUSA, one of the biggest sects in the US, recently had a vote to allow gay pastors. This is not a particularly liberal church either.

That said, some churches splintered off and went their own way. Some stayed, not liking the decision but deciding to stay associated but really don't like that particular decision.

UU's, Quakers, Mormons, and Catholics couldn't be more different on a huge list of issues, but they're all still considered part of the same overarching faith.

~~~

The way I'd feel you're right though is that individual members tend to join an individual church/temple/congregation that most closely matches their personal beliefs. It just that as the scale goes up, the similarity slips (or at least gets more vague on specifics).


Maybe for gays... but on many other issues the traditional interpretation is pretty clear changes constantly and for every generation. Today's gays are two generation's agos miscegenation and 7 generation's agos children of ham. Or premarital sex. Or birth control. Or enjoying sex outside of reproduction.
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she2 wrote:
lfisher wrote:
galad2003 wrote:
windsagio wrote:


For example, take gays. For Christians, the traditional interpretation is pretty clear. The Church has been against it for a very long time.



Huh? Which church? Baptists? Catholics? Mormons? Methodists? Quakers? Unitarians? There is no one Christian church and many denominations have different opinions on gays. Within each church individuals will have different viewpoints also.

My church is very welcoming and understanding of homosexuals.

Quote:
Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church dedicate itself to a ministry of Christ-like hospitality and compassion to persons of all sexual orientations, and to a vision of unity through openness to the spiritual gifts of all those who have been baptized into the Body of Jesus Christ. Such ministry and openness may include: welcoming sexual minorities, their friends, and families into our churches and demonstrating our faith in a loving God; a willingness to listen and open our hearts to their stories and struggles in our churches, districts, annual conferences, and General Conference; encouraging study and dialogue around issues of sexuality; and praying for all those who are in pain and discord over our Christian response to this controversial issue.


http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-the-denominations...


You have an odd definition of "welcoming and understanding".


Lol, no kidding. It's pretty much the antithesis of welcome.


I get your point and my sister was commenting about the same thing.

That said, my church (which is not Methodist) has many 'sexual minorities' openly worshipping in it.
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rinelk wrote:
whac3 wrote:
If the tenets of a religion are represented by a finite set of precepts, then everything outside those precepts-- presumably an infinite set of possible beliefs-- is by definition outside the scope of the religion.


This is not the right comparison. From any finite set of precepts, an infinite number of conclusions can be derived. So the commitments of any religion (or of atheism) are infinite. The simple finite vs. infinite comparison is inadequate. If that were not true, then all finite belief systems would have necessarily equally unified adherents--this seems to be your conclusion, but it seems obviously wrong to me. Some religions with finite specified precepts are much more conformist than others. Does anyone dispute this?

My point was that no religion's precepts can deal with everything. Judaism comes close but for example doesn't tell you how to vote or which brand of soap to use.
Quote:
All of that said, I still think a lot of atheists fail to recognize any diversity of opinion among the religious, and that's crap. So I feel sort of bad about disagreeing with your formulation, since it seems to me like one way of addressing a genuine problem.

Entirely possible I've posed the problem badly.
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I also wonder whether you might make progress by poking a little more at which beliefs count. You might restrict the beliefs which matter to those which are actively entertained by individuals. Then I'd fear that you were ignoring the role of religion in shaping one's worldview and the set of beliefs one considers, but at least you could forestall the infinite regression of consequences of finite precepts. I'm not tremendously optimistic about this line, but it's where I'd consider starting if I were trying to save some of your point.

I think which beliefs count is inherently subjective. For example, Judaism mostly says that non-legal beliefs are not binding on Jews and so Jews can other than the practical halakha belief largely what they want. (Yes, G-d and monotheism are poses as legal precepts.) Various people however have tried to formulate a list of standard Jewish non-legal beliefs. The most popular is the Rambam's 13 Principles. Yet even those not everyone agrees on.
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she2 wrote:
lfisher wrote:
galad2003 wrote:
windsagio wrote:


For example, take gays. For Christians, the traditional interpretation is pretty clear. The Church has been against it for a very long time.



Huh? Which church? Baptists? Catholics? Mormons? Methodists? Quakers? Unitarians? There is no one Christian church and many denominations have different opinions on gays. Within each church individuals will have different viewpoints also.

My church is very welcoming and understanding of homosexuals.

Quote:
Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church dedicate itself to a ministry of Christ-like hospitality and compassion to persons of all sexual orientations, and to a vision of unity through openness to the spiritual gifts of all those who have been baptized into the Body of Jesus Christ. Such ministry and openness may include: welcoming sexual minorities, their friends, and families into our churches and demonstrating our faith in a loving God; a willingness to listen and open our hearts to their stories and struggles in our churches, districts, annual conferences, and General Conference; encouraging study and dialogue around issues of sexuality; and praying for all those who are in pain and discord over our Christian response to this controversial issue.


http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-the-denominations...


You have an odd definition of "welcoming and understanding".


Lol, no kidding. It's pretty much the antithesis of welcome.


Crucially, it does nothing to say that not-heterosexual is not wrong. Is there more to this statement?

Quote:
¶ 304.3 Qualifications for Ordination

While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.2
1. "Self-avowed practicing homosexual" is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984, 1020
2. See Judicial Council Decisions 984, 985, 1027, 1028

¶ 613 Responsibilities [of the conference council on finance]

The [conference council on finance and administration] shall have authority and responsibility to perform the following functions:
19. To ensure that no annual conference board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or violate the expressed commitment of The UMC "not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends" (¶ 161F). The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures. This restriction shall not limit the Church's ministry in response to the HIV epidemic, nor shall it preclude funding for dialogs or educational events where the Church's official position is fairly and equally represented.

¶ 806.9 Fiscal Responsibilities [of the General Council on Finance and Administration]

[The General Council on Finance and Administration] shall be responsible for ensuring that no board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or violate the expressed commitment of The United Methodist Church "not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends" (¶ 161F). The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures.18 It shall not limit the Church's ministry in response to the HIV epidemic.


And

Quote:
Human Sexuality

We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.

Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children. All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults.

We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.1


Yeah, very welcoming and understanding. Still declared wrong and against god. I wonder if "the HIV epidemic" would rate the exemption above if it was still just "the gay disease".

It isn't acceptable, but we won't condemn it. Oh. Isn't declaring something unacceptable a condemnation?

Puts quite an odd light on their statement of "Opposition to Homophobia and Heterosexism".

But hey, maybe that was the point, that while the church says this, the actual members say something else. Gotta wonder why there's such a difference then.
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This is actually an aspect of religion that totally makes it impossible for me to be a believer. I just can't get passed the idea that a supreme being would leave anything to interpretation. Everything seems like it should be ironclad and absolute in every way. If a supreme being does exist, it wouldn't have to be this way. This is just one of those things that breaks it for me.
 
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edgerunner76 wrote:
This is actually an aspect of religion that totally makes it impossible for me to be a believer. I just can't get passed the idea that a supreme being would leave anything to interpretation. Everything seems like it should be ironclad and absolute in every way. If a supreme being does exist, it wouldn't have to be this way. This is just one of those things that breaks it for me.


Well certain people want being homosexual to be wrong, so they cherry pick stuff out of the Bible and claim its wrong. But there is much interpretation in the claims. The best way to fight this last bastion of homophobia is to debunk those weak religious claims.

Sorry Moshe for the derail of your thread. I agreed with your point.
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edgerunner76 wrote:
This is actually an aspect of religion that totally makes it impossible for me to be a believer. I just can't get passed the idea that a supreme being would leave anything to interpretation. Everything seems like it should be ironclad and absolute in every way. If a supreme being does exist, it wouldn't have to be this way. This is just one of those things that breaks it for me.


You wildly underestimate humanity's penchant for breaking things.
 
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GameCrossing wrote:
edgerunner76 wrote:
This is actually an aspect of religion that totally makes it impossible for me to be a believer. I just can't get passed the idea that a supreme being would leave anything to interpretation. Everything seems like it should be ironclad and absolute in every way. If a supreme being does exist, it wouldn't have to be this way. This is just one of those things that breaks it for me.


You wildly underestimate humanity's penchant for breaking things.


This, to me, immediately reinforces my case. How does God make something that is breakable. I know this starts into the free will/automaton debate, but I just don't buy it.
 
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edgerunner76 wrote:
GameCrossing wrote:
edgerunner76 wrote:
This is actually an aspect of religion that totally makes it impossible for me to be a believer. I just can't get passed the idea that a supreme being would leave anything to interpretation. Everything seems like it should be ironclad and absolute in every way. If a supreme being does exist, it wouldn't have to be this way. This is just one of those things that breaks it for me.


You wildly underestimate humanity's penchant for breaking things.


This, to me, immediately reinforces my case. How does God make something that is breakable. I know this starts into the free will/automaton debate, but I just don't buy it.


Maybe a better way to put it is a quote that my aunt always said:

Aunt Louise wrote:
If we put as much effort into living the commandments as we put into finding loopholes in them or ways around them, life would be a lot better.
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GameCrossing wrote:
edgerunner76 wrote:
GameCrossing wrote:
edgerunner76 wrote:
This is actually an aspect of religion that totally makes it impossible for me to be a believer. I just can't get passed the idea that a supreme being would leave anything to interpretation. Everything seems like it should be ironclad and absolute in every way. If a supreme being does exist, it wouldn't have to be this way. This is just one of those things that breaks it for me.


You wildly underestimate humanity's penchant for breaking things.


This, to me, immediately reinforces my case. How does God make something that is breakable. I know this starts into the free will/automaton debate, but I just don't buy it.


Maybe a better way to put it is a quote that my aunt always said:

Aunt Louise wrote:
If we put as much effort into living the commandments as we put into finding loopholes in them or ways around them, life would be a lot better.


This doesn't make a lot of sense. If I find a loophole in two of the commandments, no one is likely to by it and I'm in jail or worse. If I find a loophole in three others, I'm likely to be a shitty person. I'd say that the last five can't have loopholes. They are thought control and likely written by people long ago and placed in the mouth of a fictional character. Which again makes me think that we are not dealing with a supreme being here.
 
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I can't believe there is even a debate on this subject. Every major religion (Buddhism, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim) has divergent views and divergent beliefs. As Moshe said, there are some core tenets, primarily those that deal with the mystical -- in Christianity, it is the nature of Christ (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit) and a reliance on the Bible as the bedrock of faith. How believers are supposed to interpret the Bible, however, is where the ridiculous amount of divergence appears in Christianity.

I can't speak to the other four religions, except as an observer, and there seems to be a lot of differing viewpoints in all of those as well.

And Jeebus, Moshe, you want a religion to tell you what kind of soap to buy???? Want that book to tell you whether or not to get fries with that burger?

Sorry, I'm an old deist who loves playing devil's advocate to everyone. No insult intended.
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Moshe Callen
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Jerusalem
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edgerunner76 wrote:
This is actually an aspect of religion that totally makes it impossible for me to be a believer. I just can't get passed the idea that a supreme being would leave anything to interpretation. Everything seems like it should be ironclad and absolute in every way. If a supreme being does exist, it wouldn't have to be this way. This is just one of those things that breaks it for me.

I think it's only a problem for religion if you think G-d wants everyone to be the same. If He had, why not just make everyone the same to begin with? By all evidence, G-d wants diversity.
 
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