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3 Pressing Questions on Religious Debate
Last night while on Facebook, I posted a status update, and over time it turned into a pretty heated religious debate between tw people with different faiths. To protect the image of the respective people's churches, I won't reveal what church they belong to, but what I can tell you is that they're both Christian. And as I read over the debate that was unfolding, I came up with the following questions: What exactly is religion, or the concept thereof? How do you define this practice of religious debate correctly? And above all, why does religious debate often end in hostilities?
To answer these questions, the conflicts of each must be outlined, deconstructed, then solved to come with an acceptable and appropriate answer.
To start, I'll take the first question, perhaps the most complex. What is religion? My personal belief is that religion, or church, is the way that mortals can return to our Heavenly Father, or God. Yet as I understand that lots of people out there don't share that belief, I'll go to a more philosophical view. And even though I'm no philosopher, from a strictly philosophical standpoint, I'd define the concept of religion as the belief or hope in a life after death, or with a more immediate definition, a way of defining and living this life we live now. Many religions contain commandments, or guidelines, or "rules" from which to abide by. And oftentimes these rules, when followed, shape the way one views not only himself but those around him.
The next question: How is the practice of Religious Debate defined correctly? Put simply in my own words, Religious Debate should be defined as a healthy practice in which two parties, however different, compare and contrast their beliefs. In the instance where one member disagrees with the other's belief, he should ask about it rather than immediately disregard it as untrue.
Once the definitions of Religion and the debate of it have been outlined, we arrive at the final question: Why does Religious Debate often end in hostilities? Why does the above-mentioned Debate transform into a war over who's saved and who's damned? The definition clearly doesn’t include anything like that. So why the fighting? To answer it, there’s really only one way to do so. Put yourself in the middle of a debate. The person you’re debating with questions, or maybe even challenges one of your beliefs. Your initial, natural instinct is to defend it. Some people defend it in different ways than others. But even the slightest tinge of hostility can corrupt the debate and send it into a vicious attack on each others’ faiths. Now hostility, along with defensiveness, is also a natural reaction for many. If it weren’t, there’d be no wars. So the simple answer to the questions is simply because of a chain of events set in motion by natural instincts.
A more complex answer requires much deeper thinking, however. The natural instincts arise because the two parties obviously care enough about religion to defend it at all costs. But why does it matter that one party’s belief is identical to another’s? The answer is much deeper than the previous, and depends on what beliefs the religions practice. Many Christian faiths believe in converting others not for the purpose of simply converting them but they view it as doing them a favor and giving them eternal salvation. Conversion is one way to answer the more complex question, but another way is simply for the sake of debate. There are people out there who argue every point, ever single detail of every single thought to prove its credibility and legitimacy. The enlightenment of the 18th century is a perfect example of this – using reason to find truth. It’s possible that in the context of religious debate this practice could trigger the above-mentioned chain of events that transform a calm debate into a hostile one. It’s a natural human thing to become frustrated when what’s important to them is repeatedly questioned and in some cases attacked. The natural response is to attack back. And then this escalates until the previously calm debate turns to a hostile one.
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"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
--C. S. Lewis
Just as with this, because we do not have exact certainty on who God is or whether He is really there, does not mean that we will never have an answer and we should not ask. In fact, I do assure you, once you have died, you will surely find out whether or not there is a God, and if there is One, who He is. And you may well be dismayed to find out that He really had revealed Himself to us on earth, but you had been to spiteful to believe.
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That which does not kill us makes us stronger. - Nietzsche