It is true that we read the Gospels in part to influence our set of beliefs, but we also read it to learn from Jesus how to be compassionate people. Much is lost, I think, if we forget the second part. For example, Matthew’s Gospel quotes Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (5:3) while Luke’s Gospel quotes Jesus saying, “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God,” (6:20). If we as a people become focused on what Jesus actually said and feel as though one Gospel must be right and the other must be wrong, we loose sight of the importance of Jesus’ message in this rich passage.
One way to think about religion to focus on belief, rules and accuracy. There is a feeling by some that worshipping Jesus and loving God come with a certain set of beliefs that everyone in that religion musts share. One must ascribe to these beliefs in order to “be in the club.” This religious mindset, if taken too far, can tend to be black and white and absolute, valuing clarity. Some beliefs are right and others are wrong. If religion focuses on a group of people sharing the same beliefs as its most important criteria, then people in other religions, who have a different set of beliefs, are wrong and we are right. In extreme cases, this can lead to religious violence, religious warfare, and hurtful breaks in religious communities.
My faith does come with a set of beliefs. Yet, I tend to like to think of religion, also, as…
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