ok, Stefan, if you say so. Oh, and by the way, I have a bridge in Florida that you can have for only 20 dolla.
At 03:55 PM 7/26/02 -0400, you wrote:
I came across you website completely by accident (an expired link to another site took me to yours). I am a practicing Roman Catholic, but have no quams about discussing the merits of religion with those who do not share my beliefs. As such, I won't tell you that you're wrong, or stupid, or misguided, or anything of the like. But I will tell you that some of the information that you have posted on your site is incorrect, and can therefore give an incorrect representation of the "truth" about catholicism to someone who didn't know better. I find that people who don't believe in religion are also quite often misinformed about it, and are therefore the wrong people to be telling others whether they should, or should not, believe. It is the classic case of "the blind leading the blind". Therefore, please allow me to set straight some of the errors on your page. I'm sure that this won't change your beliefs (or lack thereof), but perhaps you will consider amending your page to reflect reality. After all, if you wish to "educate" people, then you may as well do it will the correct information.
Catholicism has at its centre the belief in the Holy Trinity. This states that God is basically 3-in-1: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The three elements of God have always exisited as such (one did not create the other, or the third). God the Father sent God the Son (Jesus) to earth in a human form. But God the Father is not made of flesh and bone - Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. So your question about why God hasn't created any other sons has a very simple answer... because God didn't create Jesus either - they have always coexisted together as two parts of the Holy Trinity. God created all people, but only Jesus is His son from the perspective that no other person is also God. The expression "...as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be..." means that there in only the one God - the Holy Trinity - and it has always been this way, and can only ever be this way. Therefore no more gods can be created, even by God. The Holy Trinity is a difficult concept to understand, and so you may wish to research it further on your own.
Jesus did not die on the cross to forgive us "for the sins that had been committed so far". This is a very incorrect statement. In fact, the Church teaches us that forgiveness is possible for anyone who wishes it, and is truly sorry for the sins that they have committed. All you have to do is ask God for forgiveness, and it will be granted. So why did Jesus die on the cross? The answer is that in dying on the cross, but then rising from the dead three days later, he made death meaningless to those who believe in Him. By His resurection, Jesus negated the power that death holds over us. From that point forward, followers of God have been given the promise of eternal life - not for our physical bodies, but for our souls - the one thing that separates us from all other creatures (it is the presence of a soul that is refered to when the Bible says that we were created in God's own image - not that we look like God, since He has no physical body). This was God's gift to his faithful followers, and it was the ultimate sacrifice that he could make. He let his only son die to save everyone else. This is a central message of the Catholic Church - that by following God's will, you too can have eternal life.
You say that religion is used to intimidate its believers, but you could not be further from the truth. It's easy for the uneducated (in religion) to think this, because all you see is a set of rules. It is true that most religions appear to have an extensive set of rules, but Jesus told us that God really only has one rule for His people: "Love one another as I have loved you". This sounds pretty simple, but it is quite a powerful statement. God loves His people will a pure and unconditional love. He loves His people so much that He sent His only son to die for us. If we were able to emulate His love, then there would be no murder, theft, betrayal, etc. All the fundamentals of morality can come back to this simple principal of loving your neighbour. Religion is therefore basically a model by which we should strive to live our lives. And in reward for trying to live by this model, God promises us joy and freedom. It is easy to question this concept when we see so much hate and despair in the world, but the point is that if you believe in God, then physical torments have no meaning. It is truly amazing to see how the faithful can overcome seemingly insurmountable griefs through their belief in God, and His promise of ultimate salvation. So religion is not about intimidation... it's about emancipation. Religion is about freedom - a freedom that eclipses the earthly bonds that most people find themselves held by.
Anyway, I said earlier that I would likely not change your opinion, and there is a good reason for this. Religion - the belief in something greater than ourselves - relies on one very important thing, and that is Faith. Faith is the ability to believe in something that we cannot see, prove or completely understand. Belief in God requires faith. It is not something that is easy (or even possible) for all people, but it is the way of religion. The Bible says: happy are those who have not seen and yet still believe. Catholics do not shun sinners... Catholics ARE sinners. Catholics do not shun non-believers either... we pray for them. We pray that more people will come to know the joys of the promises of Christ. Our Faith tells us that despite our sinfulness and imperfection, that we too can be saved through the belief in God. This is what you too should know. You can choose for yourself whether you wish to believe in God or not, but you cannot state that God does not exist. This is something that you have no way of proving, just as I have no way of proving to you that God does exist. All that we have is our respective beliefs, and we must be content with that.
I welcome any comments that you wish to share with me.