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      10-22-2019, 10:41 AM   #1
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Christians of OT

Seeking some advice from you. To start, I am an agnostic, married to a deeply Christian woman whose parents are elders at a church. Naturally, my wife is concerned with my salvation and sometimes the belief in God is a point of contention, but we make it work. I have accompanied my wife to church over the past ten years, read the Bible front to back, prayed (to the best of my ability), listened to Christian broadcasts and programs like focus on the family and done other things to try to seek God, but invariably I always return to where I started. The primary personal roadblock I’ve not been able to overcome is the requirement of faith as a fundamental component of any religion.

1. [Higher Power] is real because [Religious Text] says [Higher Power] is real and the [Religious Text] is the word of [Higher Power]. Without faith, on its face, this statement is very challenging to accept unless I suspend what logically makes sense.

2. Assuming 1 is true, there are so many religions to choose from, how do I know that Christianity or Islam or Judaism, etc. is the correct religion to follow? Again, if I base my beliefs on some kind of objective figures (e.g. number of followers, degree of adherence to the texts, whether right or wrong), I’d assume Islam is the correct religion. Here again, faith is required to believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior.

Faith is where I’m stuck. In church and in discussions with Christians, I hear many stories of how God reveals himself to people, which ultimately either reinforces their beliefs or converts them into followers of Christ. In some extreme cases, people even meet God when they see the light and come back to tell about it. The same is true in other religions as well. Despite my attempts to seek God, God has never revealed Himself to me.

My wife tells me that my heart isn’t open or receptive enough, but I genuinely feel that it is or was. Regrettably the more time passes, the more skeptical I become. I wonder whether faith in lifelong Christians is really faith or a byproduct of being raised in a Christian home, which has created such a strong desire to believe, to reach salvation, that it’s the only natural outcome.

Then I think about some of the bad practitioners of the Christianity to whom God has revealed himself and why the same doesn’t happen for me. I don’t want to get into relativism or compare the way I lead my life because I know that accepting Jesus as Lord, and not a person’s acts are what matters.

At what point does God meet me half way? I think at this point in my life I am about as far away from faith and from accepting the Christian doctrine as destiny as I have been.
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      10-22-2019, 11:05 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by e90335e36m3 View Post
Seeking some advice from you. To start, I am an agnostic, married to a deeply Christian woman whose parents are elders at a church. Naturally, my wife is concerned with my salvation and sometimes the belief in God is a point of contention, but we make it work. I have accompanied my wife to church over the past ten years, read the Bible front to back, prayed (to the best of my ability), listened to Christian broadcasts and programs like focus on the family and done other things to try to seek God, but invariably I always return to where I started. The primary personal roadblock Iíve not been able to overcome is the requirement of faith as a fundamental component of any religion.

1. [Higher Power] is real because [Religious Text] says [Higher Power] is real and the [Religious Text] is the word of [Higher Power]. Without faith, on its face, this statement is very challenging to accept unless I suspend what logically makes sense.

2. Assuming 1 is true, there are so many religions to choose from, how do I know that Christianity or Islam or Judaism, etc. is the correct religion to follow? Again, if I base my beliefs on some kind of objective figures (e.g. number of followers, degree of adherence to the texts, whether right or wrong), Iíd assume Islam is the correct religion. Here again, faith is required to believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior.

Faith is where Iím stuck. In church and in discussions with Christians, I hear many stories of how God reveals himself to people, which ultimately either reinforces their beliefs or converts them into followers of Christ. In some extreme cases, people even meet God when they see the light and come back to tell about it. The same is true in other religions as well. Despite my attempts to seek God, God has never revealed Himself to me.

My wife tells me that my heart isnít open or receptive enough, but I genuinely feel that it is or was. Regrettably the more time passes, the more skeptical I become. I wonder whether faith in lifelong Christians is really faith or a byproduct of being raised in a Christian home, which has created such a strong desire to believe, to reach salvation, that itís the only natural outcome.

Then I think about some of the bad practitioners of the Christianity to whom God has revealed himself and why the same doesnít happen for me. I donít want to get into relativism or compare the way I lead my life because I know that accepting Jesus as Lord, and not a personís acts are what matters.

At what point does God meet me half way? I think at this point in my life I am about as far away from faith and from accepting the Christian doctrine as destiny as I have been.
I don't envy you and the dilemma you're in. These are deep-rooted issues and can be really divisive.

I've always felt that you're either drawn to religion - or not drawn - on a really innate level. I feel little affinity or kinship with deeply religious people. Even the ones in my own family, and there are a few hard-core Bible-bangers. Part of it, no doubt, is that I'm envious. Having a set of predetermined guidelines and pat answers would make life so much simpler.

Not much help, sorry. Godspeed.
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      10-22-2019, 11:11 AM   #3
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Oof....kudos to you and your wife for bridging that divide.

I like this statement of yours...

"...byproduct of being raised in a Christian home, which has created such a strong desire to believe, to reach salvation, that it’s the only natural outcome."

...as I believe this is very true for a majority of the religious. If one is born in a Muslim family in India, and surrounded by Muslims most of their lives they are likely going to be Muslim and think that is the one true religion. If one is born in a Christian family in Indiana, and surrounded by Christians most of their lives they are likely going to be Christian and think that is the one true religion. This doesn't presuppose or rule out the idea of a greater being (because how do we know, really?) but to think that one specific religion is THE religion is a bit presumptuous and borderline naive in my opinion.
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      10-22-2019, 11:17 AM   #4
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Read some Kierkegaard. Leap of Faith is the key phrase; some things cannot be known, requiring a leap of faith.
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      10-22-2019, 11:18 AM   #5
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I was raised Catholic, and you have read more of the bible than I have.

Like you said, it's really about being drawn to it or not. There are a lot of different religions in the world, and a lot of different people. It's very hard to force someone to just start believing in something. This is why we have so many wars.

There are many reasons people follow certain religions, some of them need religion because they use it as a purpose to live, others believe it makes them a better person.

I know some very religious people who I would say are not very ethical human beings, and some non-religious people who I would say are the fruit of the earth and if heaven exists will be going there regardless of if they believe or not. I think the most important part is to accept people for who they are (provided they are not wishing us or others harm) and not judge them.
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      10-22-2019, 11:54 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by e90335e36m3 View Post
Seeking some advice from you. To start, I am an agnostic, married to a deeply Christian woman whose parents are elders at a church. Naturally, my wife is concerned with my salvation and sometimes the belief in God is a point of contention, but we make it work. I have accompanied my wife to church over the past ten years, read the Bible front to back, prayed (to the best of my ability), listened to Christian broadcasts and programs like focus on the family and done other things to try to seek God, but invariably I always return to where I started. The primary personal roadblock Iíve not been able to overcome is the requirement of faith as a fundamental component of any religion.

1. [Higher Power] is real because [Religious Text] says [Higher Power] is real and the [Religious Text] is the word of [Higher Power]. Without faith, on its face, this statement is very challenging to accept unless I suspend what logically makes sense.

2. Assuming 1 is true, there are so many religions to choose from, how do I know that Christianity or Islam or Judaism, etc. is the correct religion to follow? Again, if I base my beliefs on some kind of objective figures (e.g. number of followers, degree of adherence to the texts, whether right or wrong), Iíd assume Islam is the correct religion. Here again, faith is required to believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior.

Faith is where Iím stuck. In church and in discussions with Christians, I hear many stories of how God reveals himself to people, which ultimately either reinforces their beliefs or converts them into followers of Christ. In some extreme cases, people even meet God when they see the light and come back to tell about it. The same is true in other religions as well. Despite my attempts to seek God, God has never revealed Himself to me.

My wife tells me that my heart isnít open or receptive enough, but I genuinely feel that it is or was. Regrettably the more time passes, the more skeptical I become. I wonder whether faith in lifelong Christians is really faith or a byproduct of being raised in a Christian home, which has created such a strong desire to believe, to reach salvation, that itís the only natural outcome.

Then I think about some of the bad practitioners of the Christianity to whom God has revealed himself and why the same doesnít happen for me. I donít want to get into relativism or compare the way I lead my life because I know that accepting Jesus as Lord, and not a personís acts are what matters.

At what point does God meet me half way? I think at this point in my life I am about as far away from faith and from accepting the Christian doctrine as destiny as I have been.
There are about 600M more Christians in the world than Muslims, so I'm not sure what other metric you're using re: the bolded portion.

As an atheist, I'm not going to be much help on the other fronts, I'm afraid. Most of my family are practicing Christians, however (not my wife, she's a recovering Jehova's Witness). I would say the "right" one for you is whatever religion/church "speaks to you" the most.

If you're after a bit more of the "spiritual" versus a specific religion, maybe check out a Unitarian Universalist church near you? My wife and I attended a few UU services when we were still living in Charlotte, it's about as all-encompassing-God-belief as you're going to find, IMO.
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      10-22-2019, 11:55 AM   #7
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Pascal's Wager.

Coming from where I think you are with a logical mind, I suggest you read the writings of prominent scientists who are also Christians. It may provide guidance for you. Unsurprisingly when you think about it, some scientists are very religious. When I was young and discussing this with my father (a former science and statistics teacher) he explained it through the simple concept of consistency and mathematical laws that express themselves in seemingly random but when examined consistent ways.

I'd start there, if I were you.

Best of fortune in your search.

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      10-22-2019, 11:56 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by CTinline-six View Post
...I think the most important part is to accept people for who they are (provided they are not wishing us or others harm) and not judge them.
Agree 100%. My respect and admiration for a person, or lack thereof, have nothing to do with their religious inclinations and everything to do with how they conduct themselves.
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      10-22-2019, 12:21 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MKSixer View Post
Pascal's Wager.

Coming from where I think you are with a logical mind, I suggest you read the writings of prominent scientists who are also Christians. It may provide guidance for you. Unsurprisingly when you think about it, some scientists are very religious. When I was young and discussing this with my father (a former science and statistics teacher) he explained it through the simple concept of consistency and mathematical laws that express themselves in seemingly random but when examined consistent ways.

I'd start there, if I were you.

Best of fortune in your search.

Kindest Regards,
MK
Great thoughts and suggestion. Your father's explanation lines up with the "deist" philosophical movement that gained prominence during The Enlightenment.
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      10-22-2019, 12:25 PM   #10
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My wife is very Christian. I was baptized and I go to church. I do it to accommodate her. We have been married for 50 years. She knows or rather suspects I have really not taken Jesus into my heart which is required to go to heaven. But she doesn't really "push" me to accept Jesus.

I have read extensively on Quantum Mechanics, Cosmology and the "Story of Earth" by Hazen and other books on the subject. I am well read in history which shows how different religions (Christianity) started. Many Popes were more crooked than Hiliary.

So for me there is no question that there is no God. But our relationship has worked and will continue to work. If your wife does not stuff it down your throat, I don't see a problem. If she does..all bets are off.
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      10-22-2019, 12:33 PM   #11
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It may comfort you to keep in mind the fact that even the most devout worshiper of any particular supreme being is simultaneously atheistic, or at least agnostic, towards all the other supreme beings. So you're only a small percentage more agnostic than your wife.
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      10-22-2019, 01:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by e90335e36m3 View Post
Seeking some advice from you. To start, I am an agnostic, married to a deeply Christian woman whose parents are elders at a church. Naturally, my wife is concerned with my salvation and sometimes the belief in God is a point of contention, but we make it work. I have accompanied my wife to church over the past ten years, read the Bible front to back, prayed (to the best of my ability), listened to Christian broadcasts and programs like focus on the family and done other things to try to seek God, but invariably I always return to where I started. The primary personal roadblock Iíve not been able to overcome is the requirement of faith as a fundamental component of any religion.

1. [Higher Power] is real because [Religious Text] says [Higher Power] is real and the [Religious Text] is the word of [Higher Power]. Without faith, on its face, this statement is very challenging to accept unless I suspend what logically makes sense.

2. Assuming 1 is true, there are so many religions to choose from, how do I know that Christianity or Islam or Judaism, etc. is the correct religion to follow? Again, if I base my beliefs on some kind of objective figures (e.g. number of followers, degree of adherence to the texts, whether right or wrong), Iíd assume Islam is the correct religion. Here again, faith is required to believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior.

Faith is where Iím stuck. In church and in discussions with Christians, I hear many stories of how God reveals himself to people, which ultimately either reinforces their beliefs or converts them into followers of Christ. In some extreme cases, people even meet God when they see the light and come back to tell about it. The same is true in other religions as well. Despite my attempts to seek God, God has never revealed Himself to me.

My wife tells me that my heart isnít open or receptive enough, but I genuinely feel that it is or was. Regrettably the more time passes, the more skeptical I become. I wonder whether faith in lifelong Christians is really faith or a byproduct of being raised in a Christian home, which has created such a strong desire to believe, to reach salvation, that itís the only natural outcome.

Then I think about some of the bad practitioners of the Christianity to whom God has revealed himself and why the same doesnít happen for me. I donít want to get into relativism or compare the way I lead my life because I know that accepting Jesus as Lord, and not a personís acts are what matters.

At what point does God meet me half way? I think at this point in my life I am about as far away from faith and from accepting the Christian doctrine as destiny as I have been.

Well I guess I'll chime in - I'm a Christian. Be happy to discuss via PM as well if you prefer, but I'll put a few thoughts here and happy to respond via either medium.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). As an agnostic, I can see how this is troubling as you neither believe there is a God, nor that there isn't, just that there is no evidence either way. At least that is my understanding of agnostics (in a nutshell). And so when Scripture says that faith is that evidence...I understand your concern. Even though I myself have this faith.

I'd like to ask two questions though:

1. How do you think this world and everything in it came to be? Are you an evolutionist / big bang / creationist / something else? It would help to understand your perspective.

2. What do you see your purpose on this earth to be?

I ask this, because I suspect your responses may give me additional insight to respond regarding faith.


Few other responses to certain things you said:

- None of what you've done will save you (broadcasts, going to church, etc). I know you know that, you said that already - you know already that it is the acknowledgement that there is a God, that you are a sinner in need of a Saviour, and accepting Jesus as your Saviour that will save you. So while I applaud and commend your effort, if you haven't repented and trusted God as your Saviour, doing all of what you've done will never mean anything. There is no relationship. So I'm sure it feels empty. And you already know what you need to do to have that relationship. But...there is that matter of faith.

- This relationship has to come from an open heart. Unfortunately, due to our sinful nature, I don't believe that we, of our own accord, will ever choose to seek God. God has to open our hearts. So I'm not sure I agree with your wife's point 100% about having an open enough heart. Yes, you do need to have an open heart, but only God can initially open your heart and soften it to seek him. So perhaps she could pray that God would work in your heart, as I'm sure she already is. When we place our trust in God and accept Jesus as our Saviour, God gives us a new heart...not physically, but spiritually. We have a heart for him and others. Reading books about God suddenly becomes interesting - because there is a connection. We see everything in the world through this new lens - Christianity. I am continually taken aback by what I see (in a good way) - I know sometimes I'll be sitting on the back porch having a cigar and staring into the woods and it just strikes me.. the beauty of the trees, creation itself. And it elates me and from my heart I praise God because I see his power everywhere. Other times, it may be the sky at sunset or sunrise, or just during the day. It is an awesome thing. But I can't describe it well, you have to experience it. And I truly hope one day you will.

On the above point - I do wonder (it just occurred to me)...has God been calling you already though? Has he been reaching out to you? Look at what he has placed in your life. A Christian wife. Christian in-laws. A church you have been to...presumably where the word of God is preached and not just given lip service to. You were born into a country where not only you can freely worship, but you have easy access to the bible and in your language. A lot of others in different countries don't have that. I don't know of course, but it was a thought that just occurred to me.

Have you read CS Lewis - Mere Christianity? He's a fallen creature to be sure, but I really liked that book. How about listening to some of Ravi Zacharias - I haven't listened to much of him, but the little I've heard I've liked, and I've been intending to start looking at more of his stuff.

I truly do wish to see you saved, there is nothing I can do of myself to effect that, but I'm happy to answer the best I can any questions, keeping in mind I'm a fallen creature too and I won't be right probably most of the time, but I try to be as Christ like as I can.
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      10-22-2019, 02:18 PM   #13
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I was saved on 10/12/82. I know beyond a show of a doubt I'm going to Heaven when I die. I can't explain it, I can't prove it, but I know it. There is nothing I can do to show what happened to me except to show the difference in my life since that day. The external evidence that God is in my life shows in ways that are not explicit evidence of God's existence. There is no physical change, no halo, no glowing clothes, no ability to float in mid-air. Nope, nothing like that. I can't rip my chest open and show you the little piece of God that is attached to my soul. If I could, if I could somehow show you absolute proof of God's existence - wouldn't that make faith as a requirement for Salvation invalid?
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      10-22-2019, 02:26 PM   #14
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When an interfaith partnership gets most difficult is when children come along. A couple who I'm really close with are interfaith, Jewish and Catholic. It's been a strain, for sure. How do you instill in the children a cohesive religious identity? How do you explain why the two of you have different faiths? Which holidays do we celebrate...both? Neither? A mix? These issues and many others have been challenged them.

Their saving grace is that they value their connection and the family they've created more than they value a building or a book or the approval of a guy wearing a gaudy robe. I hope the OP and his beloved can reach that place too.
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      10-22-2019, 02:32 PM   #15
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From an analytical perspective - these might be of some assistance. Bottom line, though, is that if you don't want to believe, it isn't going to happen. Hence....faith.

There are many things one must take on faith that they exist or are real. I mean - something as simple as a black hole. I assume you agree they exist. Have you ever seen one yourself? How do you know they exist? Because you have faith in the data that has been provided to you through science and other avenues.

It's the same thing. See below from some worthwhile reading that can be done in small snippets.

https://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...hysicist-says/

https://biologos.org/common-question...dence-for-god/
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      10-22-2019, 02:38 PM   #16
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I might suggest some of Richard Rohr's books, as well. He's a Franciscan Monk with a very progressive view of Christianity. IMO, whether you're a Christian or not, there is a lot of value in the things Rohr advocates.
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      10-22-2019, 02:38 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pennsiveguy View Post
When an interfaith partnership gets most difficult is when children come along. A couple who I'm really close with are interfaith, Jewish and Catholic. It's been a strain, for sure. How do you instill in the children a cohesive religious identity? How do you explain why the two of you have different faiths? Which holidays do we celebrate...both? Neither? A mix? These issues and many others have been challenged them.

Their saving grace is that they value their connection and the family they've created more than they value a building or a book or the approval of a guy wearing a gaudy robe. I hope the OP and his beloved can reach that place too.
The beauty of God's saving Grace is that it has nothing to do with buildings or men in gaudy robes. God's Grace is about your faith and your acceptance of the salvation that was bought by Jesus on the cross. He paid the price for you so that you could have an eternal relationship with God through eternal life obtained through the resurrection.
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      10-22-2019, 02:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SakhirM4 View Post
The beauty of God's saving Grace is that it has nothing to do with buildings or men in gaudy robes. God's Grace is about your faith and your acceptance of the salvation that was bought by Jesus on the cross. He paid the price for you so that you could have an eternal relationship with God through eternal life obtained through the resurrection.
That's the bottom line, isn't it?

The prayer below - which was taught to me by my mother 40 years ago - sums Christianity as a whole up in one simple stanza.

"I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God who died on the cross for my sins. Jesus, forgive my sins, come into my life, and make it pleasing to you."

If you have faith in that statement, you are pretty much good to go.
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      10-22-2019, 02:45 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by SakhirM4 View Post
The beauty of God's saving Grace is that it has nothing to do with buildings or men in gaudy robes...
Yes, and in fact such things are shunned as false idolatry by many sects.
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      10-23-2019, 01:18 PM   #20
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I'm pretty sure Jesus is my friend, so he'll let me into his Father's house at the appropriate time.

That being said, God is the embodiment of LOVE. He has entered your life through your wife. He's working on you, and some day your heart will open to that. You have a heavy cross to bear, but he won't give you more than you can bear.

On other religions, this is where I vary from many who share a SIMILAR faith to mine. I am of the opinion that there are many paths to finding the LOVE of GOD. Because love is what it comes down to, and being able to reciprocate that with God. For me, it's thru Jesus. Others may find a different path, but I don't see it any less valid than mine.

And why is my humble opinion valid? Because I am made in HIS image. So at some point throughout the eons (which matter nothing to Him) he was exactly like me. And exactly like you. So I don't feel the need to be all pretty/shaved/dressed up when I attend Mass. He looked just like that somewhere along the line. And he was stubborn in rejecting that faith, just like you.

Walk your path to LOVE!!
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      10-23-2019, 06:52 PM   #21
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The things we do for love.

I agree with ADC on this one. Treat it as a cultural thing and go with the motions. Maybe some day you will feel what others that are into this feel, maybe not.

Unless it is trying to control your life and way of thinking it seems harmless.
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      10-24-2019, 08:41 AM   #22
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Growing up, my family did not go to church and my parents marriage ended badly. Years later, my friends started talking to me about Christianity and I was in the same mindset as the OP. Unfortunately, Christians can be their own worst enemies because of those seen on television trying to sell salvation or those fighting wars in the name of religion.

Luckily, I had a three day period that changed everything and I will say that faith sometimes feels like a small boat in the sea. Sometimes, you are focused and sometimes you feel lost. Your faith is very personal and you have to work it out yourself through prayer, reading and close friends that will not judge you. The Apostle Paul describes it as “undeserved grace”, you may need to find a way to accept it and simply acknowledge that you didn’t earn it.
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