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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:11 pm 
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Bummer, indeed. :)

As I've said before, it's all one to me. I can't take the first step, which is to "believe" in a god.

All the rest of it, doctrine of Original Sin or the Immaculate Conception or the Resurrection, is exactly the same to me as the arguments that were once supposedly held over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

It's interesting in a way, but it has nothing to do with me.

So I guess it's probably time I bowed out as well.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:26 am 
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It doesn't seem strange to me that people disagree in fundamental ways about the nature of God. I can see how...mysteries like that lend themselves to all sorts of viewpoints and interpretations. Like the blind men trying to describe the elephant.


But it always shocks me when people have fundamentally different views of humanity. I'm not sure why that should surprise me. We're mysteries too ;). But...well, we know each other! We're supposed to know what it means to be human, because we're human. And yet....


I don't suppose I expect everyone to throw around words like evil and sin and mean the same thing by them. Or for everyone to immediately recognize an idea like concupiscence. I mean...anything abstract is always fair game. But...but....there's one level that is just so blindingly obvious to me, I have to assume that other people see it, too, but just in another way? Maybe?

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For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:14-25


Yeah, I know St. Paul isn't everyone's favorite. But surely...people have a common experience of deciding what course of action would be the right thing to do....but then doing something altogether different. Not because the new decision was a better one, or someone's advice swayed you, but because you are lazy. Or doing the right thing was more difficult. Or it just worked out better for you personally and you're selfish. Or tired and cranky. Or whatever.

Very few people cast themselves as the villains. We want to be the good guys. But...that doesn't mean we are. Sure, sometimes it's because we're trapped in a very complicated moral dilemma and it's difficult to see the forest for the trees. But other times? We knew dang well what we ought to do, and deliberately chose not to. Because, as much as we wanted to be the good guys, we didn't want to do that.

That's concupiscence. That is what the Catholic Church claims is the inheritance of original sin. If we had perfect control of our wills, and always did what we chose to do, as the right thing, sure...we'd be free of the inheritance of Adam. Get back to me when you meet someone like that....I'd love to know how they pulled that off!

Or, well, maybe my own faults are just glaringly obvious to me because I am not such a shining example of humanity. Maybe not everyone else struggles with this so much. Maybe normal people have more self control than I do. Maybe. It just...seems so unlikely. I feel this is a case of 'human nature being what it is....'


All of history, all we know of human nature...is human nature after the Fall. I realize the story of the Fall may not be terribly...popular. But it also means that what we know from daily experience isn't all there is. Human nature also includes Original Innocence - the state of Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. What would it be like to have body and soul in perfect harmony? To have perfect union with God? For our relationship with nature to be...what it is *supposed* to be? Even the story of the Fall contains incredible amounts of hope (if viewed through the correct lens).


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:43 am 
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Paul certainly despised his own nature. From a biological, evolutionary point of view, early humans survived to this day by having life-preserving lusts, greeds, selfishness, and even occasional sloth. At some point, we had to suppress those tendencies, and call them "bad", in order to fit into the compromise of a larger society. I see myself as complex and wondrous, and sometimes conflicted and obtuse, but not deeply flawed and imperfect. Despite my Catholic upbringing.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 12:20 pm 
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Humans are awesome. I'm a big fan of them. :sunny:

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:40 pm 
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What would it be like to have body and soul in perfect harmony? To have perfect union with God?


Perfection has never sounded very appealing to me, frankly. I prefer striving. If reaching perfect union with God means no longer having anything to work towards, I want no part of it. If achieving it means I would change so that I would no longer feel that way, it's even worse.

God needs better marketing if he wants people like me to be interested in what he's selling.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:57 pm 
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Human nature also includes Original Innocence - the state of Adam and Eve prior to the Fall.


Innocence? Or ignorance? Human beings are DESIGNED to defy, to explore, to question, to push the boundaries. Otherwise, we'd still be hanging out in the Garden, naked, doing nothing. There weren't even any children before "the Fall." Heck, I don't think there was even any sex. :(

Who would want to exist like that...basically in some kind of stasis, with no growth, no movement, no learning, no discovery? That's not living. And that's not what it means to be human.

We ARE what we're "supposed" to be. Seekers, learners, mistake-makers, risk-takers. That is how we were designed.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:24 pm 
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Heck, I don't think there was even any sex.


Milton disagrees. :D Surprised the heck out of me the first time I read Paradise Lost.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:31 pm 
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We ARE what we're "supposed" to be. Seekers, learners, mistake-makers, risk-takers. That is how we were designed.


We are also apparently supposed to wallow in guilt and worry about things we can't change. :P

We are "designed" to be part of a pack, and that carries all kinds of baggage with it.... including worrying about if you are doing the "right" thing or not. As defined by your pack.

People are a lot like dogs. That's why dogs and humans get along so well. They have similiar social needs, and you can easily see how much a dog worries when he or she has broken the rules of the human/dog pack.

That is sin. Breaking the established rules of the social order that you live in. Not petty traffic laws... but really basic stuff like not mating with close relatives. Or not killing other humans without a really good reason.

Where it gets tricky is defining sin between different groups who all have their own pet peeves about what people should and shouldn't do. How much hair to show or shave. What parts of the body can be displayed. What kind of foods are OK to eat under what condtions.

It's just too freaking complicated to ever work out.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:34 pm 
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Indeed. Milton goes so far as to suggest that abstinence from sex is a product of Satan:

Quote:
"Our maker bids increase, who bids abstain
But our destroyer, foe to God and Man?
Hail wedded love, mysterious law, true source
Of human offspring, sole propriety,
In Paradise of all things common else" (4.748-52)


And, of course, that one result of the Fall of the conversion of true loving sex into lustful desire:

Quote:
"Carnal desire inflaming. He on Eve
Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him
As wantonly repaid: in lust they burn
Till Adam thus gan Eve to dalliance move" (9.1013-16)

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:53 pm 
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axordil wrote:
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Heck, I don't think there was even any sex.


Milton disagrees. :D Surprised the heck out of me the first time I read Paradise Lost.


As does Pope John Paul II. Mystery of Man's Original Innocence
Quote:
In this wide context the reasons are all the more visible for discovering in Genesis 2:25 a particular trace of the mystery of original innocence and a particular factor of its radiation in the human subject. This innocence belongs to the dimension of grace contained in the mystery of creation, that is, to that mysterious gift made to the inner man—to the human heart—which enables both of them, man and woman, to exist from the beginning in the mutual relationship of the disinterested gift of oneself.

In that is contained the revelation and at the same time the discovery of the "nuptial" meaning of the body in its masculinity and femininity. It can be understood why we speak, in this case, of revelation and at the same time of discovery. From the point of view of our analysis, it is essential that the discovery of the nuptial meaning of the body, which we read in the testimony of Genesis, takes place through original innocence. In fact, this discovery reveals and highlights the latter.


There are some theologians who would argue that sex begins after the Fall, but that is not a universally-held view. Lust, on the other hand, is held to be a product of the Fall. As is shame.

Original innocence is about living in love and openness, without the barriers we must perforce erect to protect ourselves from being used by others. I think that is a beautiful idea...but not one that can be achieved with any degree of perfection in this life. Though the idea does show up everywhere - even in Disney princesses' rapport with woodland critters. ;)



I honestly don't think St. Paul hated his body or his human nature, but was simply always striving to be better. He was obviously a very passionate person who didn't mince words ;). But the passage I quoted from him above is hardly limited to a Christian view of humanity; Ovid says practically the same thing in Metamorphoses:

Quote:
Video meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor.
Translation: I see the better way and approve it, but I follow the worse way.


I think this does speak to the reality of human nature, and whether we attribute that to survival instincts, dog pack mentality, or original sin...we are acknowledging that we're not as 'in control' of our lives and actions as we would sometimes like to think we are.



ax wrote:
Perfection has never sounded very appealing to me, frankly. I prefer striving. If reaching perfect union with God means no longer having anything to work towards, I want no part of it. If achieving it means I would change so that I would no longer feel that way, it's even worse.

God needs better marketing if he wants people like me to be interested in what he's selling.


Oh, no worries of ever achieving perfection in this life. You may strive away to your hearts content. And still never quite get there. Christianity is so encouraging and cheery, isn't it? ;)


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:07 pm 
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Great post MithLuin

The following captures my conception of sin, or rather the human condition:

Mith wrote:
Oh, no worries of ever achieving perfection in this life. You may strive away to your hearts content. And still never quite get there.


...in so far as being in a perpetual state of imperfection, and therefore separate from God, is understood as sin. I'm not worried so much about triffling acts of disobedience among children since, as Vison would surely agree, making mistakes is one of the ways in which we learn.

Christ tells us to come to him as children *(as opposed to when we are children) with all that being in that stage of life implies, apart from age, heh.

Attaining a state of holiness, the Sabbath rest, or Heaven (through salvation) is likened to exchanging the corruptible with the incorruptible. I do not think that is something that happens in natural life, saved or not.

Some Hindus practice Yoga to reach Samadhi aka the "Seedless State." The idea is to achieve, through meditation, a state of conscious nothingness. Attaining this state is based on the idea that the moment anything at all is held in one's mind, awareness of self and one's carnal nature prevents them from experiencing the Divine.

Some Muslims believe that humans are not even worthy to hold a thought of Allah in their mind.

I'm not pointing to other traditions to highlight similarities or for authority here... just saying that the idea that humanity is fundamentally flawed, even without intending to be, is not a new, nor very startling revelation. (Though mileage may vary.)

Which brings me to this:

Mith wrote:
Christianity is so encouraging and cheery, isn't it?


and then back to the passage from Matthew 10 that Lord M posted some pages ago.

As it turns out there are several, if not many several, discourses available online dealing with the "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword..." sayings. Of the ones I have read they all emphasised that the sayings of Jesus there were intended for his disciples. However the teaching does extend to anyone who believes they are called to leave it all (I mean all) behind and follow Him. He was pointing out what disciples of his day could expect if they chose to preach the gospels: not that they should bring a sword instead of peace (ie cause war and strife) just that they would be persecuted and hated as he was by some.

This teaching does extend beyond their day, as can be noted throughout history, but also at present by casting an eye to what is happening to Coptic Christians in Egypt. For that matter, one need look no further than this thread to see the potential -- though we have overcome it for the most part -- for ire to be raised just talking about this stuff.

So, Lord M, my understanding is this: there should be nothing, and no one, a would be disciple loves more than God. Living that way, understandably, can be far from peaceful on an interpersonal level. Stories of family strife and collapse are legion in the lives of people where one becomes a follower of Christ but others do not. Whole families can become followers but at that point they cease to be a family unto each other but become members of the greater family of believers.

Not everyone is called to leave it all (and everyone) behind. For the great multitude of believers the sayings at the end of the next chapter (Matthew 11:28-30) speak of the peace Christ offers:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

It is in these sayings that I find encouragement in the face of the others about persecution, but also the many challenges that life holds -- owing or not to my tendency to make stupid decisions ;)


Just a few general notes:

I do not think "my religion is better than yours" is an appropriate approach to Judaism from the perspective of Christianity. From what I have read so far the former informs, and indeed is wrapt up in, the latter; and

The idea that we should love God more than anything or anyone does not derive from Jesus, but from Abraham. That was the point of the story Vison alluded to a few times. There was obedience, yes, but also it was intended to demonstrate that Abraham loved no one before God. Of course, as we know, God did not intend for Abraham to harm his son and stopped him before he did so. (That's my take on it anyway.)

The idea is also wrapt up in the many stories about idolatry in the OT. Interestingly one's religion can also be an idol. It seems to me that a substantial part of the objections to belief in God stem from cases where people, or a group of people, in the name of religion, do things that are reprehensible. What I have found in going to the Bible for an explanation in such cases is that the person or people (and sometimes an entire congregation or church body) acted in a way that was not supported by scripture. At least not other than the most rudimentary, often twisted and meanest reading of such.

I think too that we can all agree that many people have difficulty separating the idea of God from the idea of religion. One of my favourite bits of dialogue from Kingdom of Heaven (set during the Crusades) captures this nicely:

Quote:
Hospitaller: I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What god desires is here
[points to head]
Hospitaller: and here
[points to heart]
Hospitaller: and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man - or not.


ETA: Ah yes, almost forgot, none of us has been spared the humiliation of inadvertently ruffling the feathers of someone else. Though I note, thinking here of Anth but also of others, that I have not measured an ounce of vindictiveness nor spite since joining this thread. It is wonderful that we can gently correct each other and take correction in these often perilous waters.

edit: at asterisk changed "not when" to "as opposed to when" and added "that" before "being" in same line.


Last edited by SirDennis on Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:24 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:39 pm 
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Excellent post, Sir D. That's a great quote from Kingdom of Heaven.

I hope though, that you did not mean -- or that others infer you are saying -- that Judaism in its current form is "wrapped up in" Christianity. Both religions started from a common base, but both have grown and changed in the last two millennia. My rabbi friend says it is more accurate to see us as siblings than that one gave birth to the other. One mistake we Christians tend to make is to assume we know what Judaism is because we've read the Old Testament.

The religion of Jesus was Temple-based Judaism, and scholarship to discover what that meant is worthwhile. But Judaism changed drastically after the destruction of the Temple and the end of animal sacrifice.

We are closely related, but Christianity is neither a replacement for Judaism nor a container for it.

At least that is my understanding.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:09 am 
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WampusCat wrote:
Excellent post, Sir D. That's a great quote from Kingdom of Heaven.

I hope though, that you did not mean -- or that others infer you are saying -- that Judaism in its current form is "wrapped up in" Christianity. Both religions started from a common base, but both have grown and changed in the last two millennia. My rabbi friend says it is more accurate to see us as siblings than that one gave birth to the other. One mistake we Chriatians make is to assume we know what Judaism is because we've read the Old Testament.

The religion of Jesus was Temple-based Judaism, and scholarship to discover what that meant is worthwhile. But that religion changed drastically after the destruction of the Temple and the end of animal sacrifice.

We are closely related, but Christianity is neither a replacement for Judaism nor a container for it.

At least that is my understanding.

Yes, I agree. "Wrapt up" to the extent that the gospels do quote or refer to stories and ideas from the Old Testament that do form part of Judaism. Admittedly my sense of what Judaism became after the destruction of the Temple is limited at best. (What "Temple" the two traditions are speaking of is a point of difference in itself!) Though occasionally I hear broadcasts featuring people professing Messianic Judaism, which is something altogether different again.

Short answer: no I did not mean to imply that Christianity is a replacement for Judaism. Thank you for the chance to (re)affirm that. :)

Curious side note, I was weighing what Frelga said about Judaism not being exactly what we see in the OT just this morning while reading in Ezekiel.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 5:18 am 
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we are acknowledging that we're not as 'in control' of our lives and actions as we would sometimes like to think we are.


Absolutely. The only issue is where one seeks causation for the phenomenon.

As for me, I am only made whole through the weight of my sins.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:01 am 
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Wampus, I would go much further than that. There is a tendency to assume that Jewish religious thought was confined to the Torah until Jesus introduced radical new ideas. In reality, Judaism developed over the centuries, both through "internal" events and in response to its encounters with Zoroastrism and later with Greek philosophy introduced when Alexander conquered Judea.

Many ideas expressed by Jesus are both consistent and in debate with the Jewish thought of the time. I'm no expert, but I spotted at least two references to Hillel, most notably the Golden Rule. Wiki claims there are more, and some to Shammai, Hillel's chief opponent. Christian Gospels also contain more millenial ideas, that arose around the same time but which ultimately did not take root in the mainstream Judaism.

It is true that in two thousand years since the fall of the Temple, the two religions grew apart in their handling of existential questions. But that's another post.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:21 am 
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Thanks, Frelga, for the extra information. It is true that much of what Jesus taught was quite in line with other Jewish teachers of the day, such as Hillel.

And I am not at all surprised to hear that Judaism changed with its exposure to Zoroastrian and Greek thought. That sort of growth and change is typical of its resilience.

I once had a priest who said he really wished his Christian congregation was more Jewish (that shocked a few good Episcopalians!) because Jews have a tradition of going deeper, challenging scripture, questioning the conventional interpretations, daring to look straight on at the worst that life can bring and not just enduring but thriving ... and as a result, letting their religion grow and change over the centuries even while keeping their roots strong.

I don't mean to imply that all Jews (or even all branches of Judaism) are like this or that no one of other faiths has these qualities, of course.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:47 pm 
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WampusCat wrote:
I once had a priest who said he really wished his Christian congregation was more Jewish (that shocked a few good Episcopalians!) because Jews have a tradition of going deeper, challenging scripture, questioning the conventional interpretations, daring to look straight on at the worst that life can bring and not just enduring but thriving ...


In that case, I'd say we could all use to be "more Jewish". :)

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yovargas wrote:
WampusCat wrote:
I once had a priest who said he really wished his Christian congregation was more Jewish (that shocked a few good Episcopalians!) because Jews have a tradition of going deeper, challenging scripture, questioning the conventional interpretations, daring to look straight on at the worst that life can bring and not just enduring but thriving ...


In that case, I'd say we could all use to be "more Jewish". :)

These are good sayings.

I believe Christians are called to approach scripture in this way. I have been fortunate to encounter several pastors who encourage this sort of thing.

Certainly it is the example Jesus set for us when he taught in the temples of his day. It is also what I was angling at when I said this in the "Sin and Forgiveness" thread:

Quote:
I appreciate the Jewish approach to the scriptures, or at least what I believe to be the Jewish relationship to them: that they are searched (studied) and then debated as scholars would do.


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axordil wrote:
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we are acknowledging that we're not as 'in control' of our lives and actions as we would sometimes like to think we are.


As for me, I am only made whole through the weight of my sins.


Ax, not meaning to pry or assign labels, but is that a Taoist idea, Zen Buddhist, or is it a tenant of Humanism? The idea is familiar but I don't know its origins.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:52 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
WampusCat wrote:
I once had a priest who said he really wished his Christian congregation was more Jewish (that shocked a few good Episcopalians!) because Jews have a tradition of going deeper, challenging scripture, questioning the conventional interpretations, daring to look straight on at the worst that life can bring and not just enduring but thriving ...


In that case, I'd say we could all use to be "more Jewish". :)


Including many Jews. ;)

Speaking strictly of the approach the text of the Scripture rather than any special human qualities, I do find that part of Judaism very appealing. I think that's another common misconception - that religion exists as adoration of its holy texts.

Going back to Abraham, who tried to negotiate God out of destruction of Sodom, Jews always called God out if they thought Gid was wrong. I mentioned the law about mamzers, illegitimate children, where the sages said, "Clearly God is telling us what terrible crimes adultery and incest are, but just as clearly it's unfair that an innocent person should suffer for it." So they came up with rules around this that made it pretty much impossible to declare a child of a married woman a bastard.

I do recall Catholic posters discussing a more "head-on" and less literalistic approach to the Scripture. So this is really the case of me talking of what I know, rather than drawing a comparison between mine and other faiths.

SirD, I really appreciate your contribution to the thread.

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‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
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