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March 15, 2009

What Faith Are You?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A fun quiz from BeliefNet.

I came up 100% Mahayana Buddhist and 90% Hindu. I don't have much in common with 7th Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses; I'd have thought I have more kinship with Eastern Orthodoxy than I seem to have.

Hmm, have I linked to this quiz before? Anyway: Curious to hear how others score.



posted by Michael at March 15, 2009


Well that was strange ... I had a 100% match for "Neo Pagan" of all things, followed by Baha'i at 97% and (surprisingly) Reform Judaism at 95%.

Like you, my lowest matches were for Seventh-Day Adventist and Jehovah's Witness, though I didn't note the percentages.

Posted by: Peter on March 15, 2009 11:07 AM

I started to take the test and stopped because the quiz was much too simplistic, particularly in its portrayal of Christian beliefs.

I don't know how this myth started that Christianity is the religion of simplistic goons.

My first exposure to a foreign language (i.e., Latin) was obtained through my indoctrination in the Catholic Church. Priests were the first people to rigorously challenge my belief in the orthodoxy of Catechism. My first exposure to serious literature was at the behest of my elders in the church. In short, the Catholic Church insisted that I develop my critical intellectual facilities.

So, I've got to say that the quiz is kind of offensive. As a life long resident of leftist communities, I've long observed that American leftists tend to gravitate toward foreign religions (those other than Christianity) because they are accentuating the few differences and ignoring the vast similarities. For instance, the reality of Hindu and Buddhist countries is that the peoples of those societies are overwhelmingly family oriented and conservative in their outlooks. They believe in a sexual morality that is damned close to that advocated by Seventh Day Adventists. The fact that they manifest their beliefs in multiple gods does not contradict this reality.

Leftists are often looking for what they think is a system that allows for greater sexual freedom and openness in Eastern societies. Those societies are not wide open paradises of free sex. Leftists are just cherry picking.

Almost all the beliefs of Eastern mysticism have their corollaries in Chistianity. The Christian belief, for example, in the resurrection of Christ can be interpreted as very similar to the Hindu belief in reincarnation.

The transition in the west to a one God system produced incredible results... like scientific and technical triumph over the rest of the world, increased respect for women and superior governmental traditions. I still, as a student of literature, respect and often harken to the Roman and Greek mythological system. You can trace the development of the human psyche through those systems.

I'm inclined to go with tradition and with what works. Intellectualizing this process seems, to me, to be nonsense.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 15, 2009 11:23 AM

Humph. Reform Judaism 100% with Sikhism next at 90%. Roman Catholicism (which I am/was) is only a 27% match. At least I don't have to go pamphlet-peddling door-to-door.

Posted by: susan on March 15, 2009 11:26 AM

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (93%)
3. Nontheist (79%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (79%)
5. Liberal Quakers (71%)

I was raised by a father who was passionately interested in the neoorthodox Protestant theologians (Tillich, Niehuhr, Barth, etc). They (and my dad) considered themselves believers but treated literal belief in Christian mythology as absurd and irrelevant. Instead, the mythology was a kind of platform for important storytelling. However, they seemed to feel it was important to assert belief.

Whether there is a god or telos may be unknowable and is anyway unknown to me; my gut says its a godless universe, but how reliable is an earthly hominid's gut, really?

It would be nice to find a community of ultimate concern, but I have never succeeded. UU, my first churchly affinity according to the test, has never appealed culturally. They seem so bloodless. For example, they don't believe in original sin.

Neither do I - after all, I'm an atheist, right? - but I don't trust a church that throws out original sin. It's just too productive a metaphor for groping monkeys like us, born into limitation and darkness, yet perhaps redeemable.

Posted by: robert61 on March 15, 2009 11:50 AM

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (93%)
3. Mahayana Buddhism (93%)
4. Neo-Pagan (90%)

Hmmm, interesting.

Posted by: Chris White on March 15, 2009 11:55 AM

Highest scores for Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Lowest for Taoism, which surprises me: I've just been reading Stanley Lombardo's superb version of the Tao Te Ching and find much that is congenial.

Posted by: Thursday on March 15, 2009 12:23 PM

100% Unitarian Universalism. Booooring. Sidney.

Posted by: JV on March 15, 2009 12:56 PM

robert61, I agree about the UU thing, which is why I was a bit disappointed in my score. I've been to a few and it's so devoid of anything visceral and human. Nice people, though.

ST, I knew you'd respond to this like you did. Ha. It's a silly little test. Christ, you're a barrel of laughs.

Posted by: JV on March 15, 2009 1:07 PM

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Nontheist (87%)

Well, that didn't come as a big surprise (agnostic here)! ;-)

26. Roman Catholic (0%)

I thought that was pretty funny seeing as I was raised a RC. Also, 0% match to Seventh Day Adventism.

Got a 12% match to Scientology. How on earth (or should I say Coltice) can that be?!

Posted by: Jun on March 15, 2009 1:09 PM

Jesus Christ, JV... it's Sunday!

I just came back from Mass.

If this were Saturday, my attitude might be different.

In any event, I'm glad I made you laugh.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 15, 2009 1:35 PM

I'm inclined to agree with ST -- the questions aren't very good. Roughly speaking, I'm agnostic, but sympathetic to the more traditional Judeo-Christian POV as yoked to aspects of early Protestantism (if you can imagine such a mix).

The "survey" has me 100% Islam and Orthodox Judaism, followed closely (94%) Sikh. At the bottom are Secular Humanism (26%) and Taoism (25%) -- probably more reasonable a "finding."

The reason for my results is in all likelihood my response to the various social or political questions and had nothing at all to do with theology in the accepted, narrow sense.

Basically the thing was a way to waste a little time, aside from providing interesting comments fodder. (And we Blowhards love comments fodder, so who am I to complain.)

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 15, 2009 2:02 PM

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (92%)
3. Liberal Quakers (83%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (81%)

So much for my Roman Catholic upbringing.

Posted by: GFS3 on March 15, 2009 2:29 PM

1. Sikhism (100%)
2. Orthodox Judaism (95%)
3. Reform Judaism (94%)
4. Islam (83%)
5. Baha'i Faith (81%)

How those are reconciled, I don't know. I'm sorta like Donald -- I'd describe myself as agnostic yet very sympathetic to Judaism.

Posted by: Bryan on March 15, 2009 4:19 PM

1. Eastern Orthodox (100%)
2. Roman Catholic (100%)
3. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (84%)

Bloody hell! My ancestors are from the former Yugoslavia. I feel an internal civil war coming on.

Posted by: slumlord on March 15, 2009 4:41 PM

The quiz is poorly phrased in several places. Where I did not like the definition, I picked the closest one to a correct statement and put medium weight on the answer.

It still got the correct result for me: 100% Roman Catholic.

Posted by: Lexington Green on March 15, 2009 5:57 PM

"I count religion but a childish toy, and hold there is no sin but ignorance."

With that qualification out of the way:

1. Neo-Pagan (100%)
2. Theravada Buddhism (97%)
3. Nontheist (91%)
4. Unitarian Universalism (89%)
5. Secular Humanism (85%)
6. Liberal Quakers (83%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (78%)
8. New Age (77%)
9. New Thought (74%)
10. Mahayana Buddhism (72%)

I sound like a damn hippy!

For a self-dramatizing pessimist like me to find happiness in this blank and gloomy universe sure ain't easy, but John Cowper Powys recommends what he calls the ichthian act - ichthian as in fish - which is "a desperate leap by our soul, out of the gloom that we have merged into a single heavy mass, which allows us, however briefly, to look down and realise that it is not impossible to escape from the dark surface". More on Powys and his ichthianism here. My man O-Dub riffs on a similar theme here.

Posted by: Brian on March 15, 2009 9:00 PM

As I see it, the important distinction is between "totalizing" religions and all others. A totalizing religion is one which basically is your entire identity, one which makes your everyday life different from other people. When people think about you, even in nonreligious contexts, they think of you primarily in terms of your religion ("Yes, I work with Charlie. He is a ____".) In other words, totalizing religions lead to an us-vs.-them identity.

Among Christianity, the totalizing groups are the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Amish, and at least some of the fundamentalist Protestant denominations. Southern Baptists are a borderline group. Outside Christianity, Islam is totalizing, as is Orthodox and Hasidic Judaism. Sikhism may qualify too.

Posted by: Peter on March 15, 2009 9:06 PM

Well, that was mildly amusing. I got listed as Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (100%), which especially puzzled me since I saw much, much further down in my list, Mainline to Liberal Christian/Protestant (I don't remember the percentage), but I've always understood 'mainline Protestant' and 'liberal Protestant' to be the same thing. (For the record, I was raised mainline / liberal Protestant, but am now a traditionalist Calvinist.) So this use of 'mainline' is nonsensical. However, for the sake of argument, if one posits the existence of a supposed 'mainline' that is something between liberal Protestant and conservative Protestant, and if I were, as here, placed on the spectrum somewhere between this supposed mainline, and conservative Protestant, that would be a fairly accurate guesstimate - yet I found the questions not giving enough choices for the complexity of the subject matter, in several cases. Ah well; what can one expect from an Internet quiz?

Posted by: Will S. on March 15, 2009 10:09 PM

100% Hinduism, baby. With Islam as a distant second (87%). No hippie stuff here.

Posted by: Nick on March 15, 2009 11:05 PM

It comes as a great relief to me to know that those pesky Jehovah's Witnesses will never get to first base with me. Otherwise, I appear to be susceptible to a broad range of other wacko organizations. I'd best watch my step in future.

1. New Thought (100%)
2. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (93%)
3. Scientology (93%)
4. New Age (89%)
5. Unitarian Universalism (78%)
6. Neo-Pagan (78%)
7. Mahayana Buddhism (75%)
8. Hinduism (68%)
9. Taoism (68%)
10. Liberal Quakers (62%)
11. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (51%)
12. Theravada Buddhism (50%)
13. Baha'i Faith (41%)
14. Orthodox Judaism (41%)
15. Reform Judaism (41%)
16. Nontheist (33%)
17. Orthodox Quaker (30%)
18. Islam (29%)
19. Jainism (29%)
20. Secular Humanism (29%)
21. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (28%)
22. Seventh Day Adventist (17%)
23. Sikhism (13%)
24. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (8%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (8%)
26. Roman Catholic (8%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (0%)

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on March 15, 2009 11:38 PM

"1. Theravada Buddhism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (88%)
3. Secular Humanism (85%)
4. Nontheist (80%) "

Yikes! I answered everything according to my atheist, far-right beliefs, and they give me Buddhism, followed by Unitarianism. Bah humbug. Why don't they sell me a pouch of granola and Prius while they're at it.

Posted by: Lawful Neutral on March 16, 2009 12:41 AM

Seems more like a fun exercise rather than an actual reflection of ones beliefs.

Posted by: SpiritualBrother on March 16, 2009 6:15 AM

Came out right where I would have expected, at least the first 5:
1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (91%)
3. Liberal Quakers (77%)
4. Nontheist (72%)
5. Neo-Pagan (68%)
6. Theravada Buddhism (68%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (62%)
8. New Age (52%)
9. Taoism (46%)
10. Reform Judaism (44%)
11. Orthodox Quaker (42%)
12. Mahayana Buddhism (41%)

Posted by: Julie Brook on March 16, 2009 8:14 AM

Two reflections:

* I clearly need to learn more about Neo-Paganism.

* Interesting how ... dramatically the Catholics and ex-Catholics score, isn't it?

My wife likes to say that Catholicism is a real religion, one you have no choice but to have an intense relationship with, unlike all the hippie-dippie "spiritual" things I tend to embrace.

Let alone the Presbyterianism I was raised in, which made zero impact on me. It seemed like a nice excuse for a bunch of well-behaved nice people to get together every Sunday, and not much more. Nothing character-forming about it all, unless you include "encouraging relatively polite behavior" as character-forming, which I guess it is. But nothing dramatic about it, that's for sure.

I've wondered sometimes if the Buddhism and Hinduism I like these days isn't just smalltown Presbyterianism for arty ex-pot-heads -- a sexy/dreamy version of the bland sweetness I was raised in.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 16, 2009 9:33 AM

Lapsed Roman Catholic (no such thing as an "ex-Catholic", at least not if you were in the Church for long enough in your youth): only 37% on the RC. My top three?

1. Mahayana Buddhism (100%)
2. Hinduism (97%)
3. Neo-Pagan (96%)

Hmmmm. I like to think my Catholicism still comes through in my Mahayana and Hindu side. Even the Neo-Pagan probably just means that I found the angels, saints, heavenly choirs, and multiple hypostases/modes/dimensions, etc of God the most plausible parts of my RC upbringing. I do admit to really digging all those wild cosmic Buddhas in the Mahayana: Samantabadhra, Manjusri, and my personal favourite Vairochana.

Damn! I seem to be some kind of polytheist!

Michael: I've wondered sometimes if the Buddhism and Hinduism I like these days isn't just smalltown Presbyterianism for arty ex-pot-heads -- a sexy/dreamy version of the bland sweetness I was raised in.

If you have to be sweet, better to be sexily dreamily sweet than blandly so. Interesting speculation about Catholicism though. It really does get a grip on really is Catholic in its quasi-syncretic catholocity.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 16, 2009 11:30 AM

I'm 1)SecHum 2)Nontheist 3)UU 4)Thera. Bud and 5)Lib Quaker. I wonder if the fact that I left all the priorities at medium has an effect on my scores . . .

I was raised a Methodist and married a girl who was raised RC--we even were wed by an RC priest, mostly to keep the old folks happy. But the doubts I had in my teens became convictions by the time I was thirty, and for my part I claim and desire no religious affiliation. My wife is residually RC, but that's more a cultural identity I think than a religious one.

Posted by: Narr on March 16, 2009 12:41 PM

I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school for a few years, did the First Communion and got confirmed, and was married in a Catholic church. I had my kids baptized even though I'm a non-believer, only because you have to have a baptism certificate to be married in a Catholic church, so I figured I didn't want to deny my kids that if they so chose to be married there.

So yeah, Catholicism gets its hooks into you deep. It's a visceral, earthy, all-consuming religion. I still love the trappings of it, the incense, the stained glass, the cathedrals, the priests and their FABULOUS get ups, the Latin mass, the solemn music, the pageantry of it all. Say what you want about Catholicism, but nobody puts on as good a show. And deep down, I think I like the centralized institutional aspect of it. The "guardians of the truth" kind of thing. If you approach it right, it's a rigorous, intellectual religion, and I think that's due to the rigid structure it has. I've always been suspect of the fly-by-night churches associated with Presbyterianism or Baptists that pop up in strip malls, even though I suppose I should applaud the populist aspect of that. But where I live, we are surrounded by those kinds of churches, and from what I see, it's all a very simplistic type of religion being espoused there. Of course, if it works for you, more power to you.

All of that stuff is why I can't get with the Unitarians, even though I seem to line up with most of that worldview. No pageantry, nothing visceral and tangible to knock you out of your every day state of mind and get you into a reflective one. For me, anyway.

Happily, my #2 was Mahayana Buddhism. A lot I like there, and bonus: you don't have to believe a damn thing to get something out of it.

Posted by: JV on March 16, 2009 2:05 PM

Today I got:
1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Neo-Pagan (99%)
3. Liberal Quakers (92%)
4. New Age (91%)
5. Mahayana Buddhism (74%)

If I take it tomorrow it'll probably be different.
Maybe it should be 100% No Idea.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on March 16, 2009 2:46 PM

I've decided my real religion is Faustian egotism.

Is egotism a religion? It is the way I do it!

Posted by: Brian on March 16, 2009 3:35 PM

Catholicism is the rock star religion, isn't it?

I used to be catholic (catholic schools as a kid), but gave it up a few times, only to be drawn back, after seeing the nonsense of other religions. But I came to finally reject RC as I read the Bible and tried to understand the message.

One you do this, you realize that Roman Catholicism is an unbiblical religion. The sacraments are unbiblical (in fact, they mirror the old rituals of pagan religions), and the reliance on priests is unbiblical as well. Of course, this becomes clear as you understand the history of the Church. The Romans adopted Christianity as a mask for their old pagan religion, and used it as a social control system throughout their eastern and western empires.

So instead of taking tests, I simply believe in the Bible and read it regularly. Nothing better than that!

Posted by: Nano on March 16, 2009 3:46 PM

Nano, you just described the reasons I like Catholicism. It's aptly named in that it took from everywhere. And I LOVE the adaptability in its history, its ability to absorb other traditions. Great stuff.

Posted by: JV on March 16, 2009 4:55 PM

where's the hedonist option?
ah yes, here it is: nontheist. 100% baby.

Posted by: roissy on March 16, 2009 5:13 PM

No one seems to have gotten anything close to my results:

1. Baha'i Faith (100%)
2. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (99%)
3. Sikhism (97%)
4. Orthodox Judaism (94%)
12. Eastern Orthodox (75%)
13. Roman Catholic (75%)

A liberal protestant I was born, and I guess I remain, despite what I thought was a growing affinity with Roman Catholicism.

But Sikhism? Baha'i?

Posted by: intectual pariah on March 16, 2009 5:24 PM

Nano, the Romans empire didn't strictly speaking need to adopt Christianity as a form of "social control" over the provinces. Most of the nearest and most important provinces were already well on their way to embracing Christianity by the time Constantine decided to make it the state's official religion. That, indeed, was part of the reason he decided to do so; the incongruity between the beliefs of the last pagans of Rome, and the large and growing number of Christians, was a great problem. Meanwhile, he wasn't an especially pious man himself even after his conversion, and I don't doubt that his reasons were mainly practical rather than spiritual.

As for the priesthood and the sacraments being unbiblical, you are mistaken, but it would take way too long to explain why, so I won't attempt it here. There are others more knowledgeable than I am about these matters, in any case.


Posted by: aliasclio on March 16, 2009 9:07 PM

No surprise here:

1. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (100%)
2. Orthodox Quaker (91%)
3. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (79%)
4. Liberal Quakers (78%)
5. Eastern Orthodox (77%)
6. Roman Catholic (77%)
7. Reform Judaism (70%)
8. Seventh Day Adventist (70%)
9. Unitarian Universalism (67%)
10. Islam (61%)
11. Orthodox Judaism (61%)
12. Baha'i Faith (55%)
13. Sikhism (43%)
14. Secular Humanism (40%)
15. Neo-Pagan (39%)
16. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (37%)
17. New Age (36%)
18. Hinduism (34%)
19. Taoism (31%)
20. New Thought (30%)
21. Mahayana Buddhism (29%)
22. Scientology (29%)
23. Jainism (28%)
24. Theravada Buddhism (28%)
25. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (27%)
26. Nontheist (26%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (24%)

Posted by: Yahmdallah on March 17, 2009 12:19 AM

1. Theravada Buddhism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (81%)
3. Secular Humanism (77%)
4. Neo-Pagan (75%)
5. Nontheist (73%)
6. Mahayana Buddhism (67%)
7. Liberal Quakers (62%)
8. Jainism (60%)
9. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (54%)
10. Orthodox Judaism (54%)
11. New Age (53%)
12. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (52%)
13. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (51%)
14. Eastern Orthodox (51%)
15. Hinduism (51%)
16. Islam (51%)
17. Roman Catholic (51%)
18. Sikhism (51%)
19. Reform Judaism (46%)
20. Baha'i Faith (43%)
21. Orthodox Quaker (43%)
22. Taoism (39%)
23. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (38%)
24. New Thought (38%)
25. Scientology (38%)
26. Jehovah's Witness (34%)
27. Seventh Day Adventist (30%)

I consider myself something of a Secular anti-Humanist. Not sure how that got me 100% for Theravada Buddhism.

Posted by: B.B. on March 17, 2009 3:28 AM

The major problem with the quiz, of course, is that it focuses on beliefs. Faith is much more than belief, and can be present even in the absence of belief.

For example, I practice more Catholicism than I believe (regularly attend Mass, am about to go to confession, etc). Someone has told me that this is actually far more compatible with being a good Catholic than I might think. Still having some difficulty getting my mind around that, but hey, those Catholics, eh? As JV said, they're so catholic!

In any case, the outfit putting on the quiz is called, so there you go with the methodology.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 17, 2009 10:32 AM

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (90%)
3. Nontheist (88%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (73%)
5. Liberal Quakers (64%)

The fact that they have me as 90% with the Unitarians, when I'm a thoroughgoing agnostic, perhaps says more about the Unitarians than it does about me. . .

Posted by: Derek Lowe on March 17, 2009 2:42 PM

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Theravada Buddhism (90%)

...aaaand, to prove MB's point, this recovering Catholic scored lowest on Catholicism--I closed that tab in the browser, but it was less than 10%.

My favorite comment on the thread, though, is Shouting Thomas's:

Jesus Christ, JV... it's Sunday!

More of that please, sir.

Posted by: the communicatrix on March 17, 2009 8:19 PM

Scanning the results, I am not surprised to note Universalism and secularism highest on the many lists. For those respondents , do you consider UU a "religion"?

Yahmdallah and I have identical lists, so may see each other in church some time.

Posted by: jz on March 17, 2009 9:35 PM

Well, Clio, did you bother taking the quiz? :)

Posted by: Will S. on March 18, 2009 1:54 AM

jz asks if those of us who with high UU and secular humanism scores consider UU a religion. I certainly do. I don't consider secular humanism a religion, though many (mostly non-secular humanists I guess) do.

Posted by: Narr on March 18, 2009 9:13 AM


Someone has told me that this is actually far more compatible with being a good Catholic

The "someone" is Paul from his letters to "James". His "faith without works is dead" lines in chapter 2. 20: that faith apart from works is barren". Works authenticate faith.

Now, this is in contrast to many other messages from Paul in Romans, that we are "justified by grace."

Posted by: jz on March 18, 2009 10:04 AM

Yes, Will S., I took the quiz. Is anyone really in any doubt about how I scored - I mean, among those who take an interest in the comments I post? I was 100% Catholic and Eastern Orthodox (I wonder if I'm a little shaky on some points of doctrine, as there are doctrinal differences between the two).

jz, you write:
The "someone" is Paul from his letters to "James". His "faith without works is dead" lines in chapter 2. 20: that faith apart from works is barren". Works authenticate faith.

Now, this is in contrast to many other messages from Paul in Romans, that we are "justified by grace."

Paul can be a little confusing on the subject of grace vs works (or we wouldn't have had that little episode known as the Reformation), but that's not the same as the issue of whether one who is not really a believer, or who is only a notional believer, or who does not *feel* like a believer, should nevertheless act as if he believes.

Feelings and intellectual uncertainties were of little interest to pre-modern theologians. They were more concerned with commitment to faith, and its results. A modern parallel is the saying "Fake it till you make it".

Another parallel to this attitude that most people can understand is with the role of feelings in marriage and family life. There are of course times when people are furious with their spouses or children; they may feel no love and may feel (only momentarily, one hopes) active hatred for the love object. But these feelings are not grounds for separation or divorce or abandonment of the children, and it isn't by his/her feelings that we judge a spouse or a parent. It's by their behaviour - and if their behaviour continues to show good will and commitment to the good of those they love, most of us would agree that they are on the right path. The same is true of faith: your feelings or intellectual beliefs may be shaky, but if you are committed to living your faith, you are not likely to go too far wrong.

Posted by: alias clio on March 18, 2009 11:30 AM


Actually, works do not justify anyone before God.

If you actually read and study the Bible, rather than commentaries on it, you find out that no man is justified before God, only Christ. None of your good works will buy you salvation, because if they could, the sending of Christ would have been unnecessary.

Christ died and was judged as being clean by God. And Christ was sent to offer to take your sins away if you only believed in Him. Your sins were put on Him, and He was forgiven. Now you are clean. This covers all sins before your conversion and those after. Nobody here, even after they are saved, is perfect.

Actually, the idea that you are responsible for your good works is fallacious anyway--it is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, that inspires the works, done through you--the one unforgiveable sin. What you have, even the inclination to do good, comes from God alone.

James (Christ's brother--yet another refutation of the Roman Catholic Virgin Mary nonsense) was saying that faith which shows no works is a false faith, because Christ said that if you believed in Him, He would baptize you in the Holy Spirit, and this would manifest itself in works of the Spirit through you. That's the way to understand it. But you are not justified by works. If that were so, then virtuous heathen could be saved, and they are not.

The Roman Catholic Church is a religion of salvation through the performance of sacraments--it is a religion of works. It is a false religion then. When you beleive in Christ alone, the anxieties and rituals stop--the yoke is easy and the burden light.

Please read the Scriptures. In the early part of the gospels, before He reveals Himself, Christ is convicting the workers of the Old Law of being sinful, even though they follow the letter. This causes some confusion, as it is interpreted as works-justification, but it is not. Its also why the thief on the cross was granted salvation--he believed, and that belief saved him, not his works.

Nothing is more important than this question.

Posted by: Nano on March 18, 2009 2:21 PM

PS Clio,

There is great website that discusses this, put together by former Catholics who became Bible readers (ever wonder why they don't teach the Bible or do Bible study at Catholic schools and churches?) As a former Roman Catholic, I recommend it highly:

Seek and ye shall find, Miss Clio. You're a good kid! If you weren't, you wouldn't care.

Posted by: Nano on March 18, 2009 2:27 PM

Nano, how can I tell you're not just this scripture-bot pretending to be a person? I doubt you'd pass the Turing Test, based on that last comment.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 18, 2009 3:03 PM

Ugh, Unitarianism.

I'm a Unitarian, you're a Unitarian, we're all Unitarians, and it is fucking depressing, because Unitarians are utterly bland and juiceless.

It's the plain rice cake of religions. Utterly inoffensive, easily digestible, and totally unpalatable.

Posted by: omw on March 19, 2009 5:39 PM


1. If scripture upholds the Catholic faith, then why doesn't the RC church teach scripture in its schools and churches? Why did they burn at the stake the people who translated the Bible into the vernacular languages? They don't want you to read it because scripture undermines the false Catholic religion.

2. If scripture is full of fables, then how does it support the RC church or any church for that matter? Why would the great RC church base its faith on a book of fairy tales?

Its either scripture, or not--take your pick. But if scripture is false, there's no reason to be Christian at all. If its true, you better read it, and stop letting somebody else tell you what's in it. My point is not that hard to understand.

Posted by: Nano on March 19, 2009 9:27 PM

"If scripture is full of fables, then how does it support the RC church or any church for that matter? Why would the great RC church base its faith on a book of fairy tales?"

Excellent question. Do you know the answer?

Posted by: JV on March 19, 2009 11:08 PM

Nano, you are arguing against a position I do not actually hold. I never said that *works* justify anyone. In certain situations faith in Christ is the only essential - like for the theif on the cross, who after all wasn't capable at that moment of any further works on this side of the grave. But ordinarily a faith that does not lead to *any* transformation of behaviour isn't much of a faith, and it is very possible that God would question its sincerity. Thus the Catholic teaching is that both works and faith are essential to salvation - but not sufficient. The only sufficiency is Christ himself and his death on the cross.

The Catholic Church used to hold that the uneducated would misunderstand and misread the Bible. Luther, when he saw what ordinary people made of their bible-reading, began to suspect that the Church had been right after all (though he never actually changed his mind) - check his letters for this. The modern Church does not discourage Bible-reading. BTW, strict Calvinists hold rather different views about faith vs works, and they've always encouraged Bible-reading.

Posted by: aliasclio on March 20, 2009 1:58 PM

Nano, I don't know where the heck you get the idea that works-righteousness doctrine is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; re-read that passage where Christ talks about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and you'll see it's in reference to the accusation levelled at Him that He could drive out demons because the Devil gave Him that power; thus falsely insinuating that Christ, and by extension also the Holy Spirit, are evil. *That* is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Just because we who are Protestant don't view the relationship between faith and works the same way as Roman Catholics, doesn't make them guilty of *that*!

I think you ought to read your Bible yourself, before you start inveighing against others not doing so, and otherwise shooting off your mouth; and moreover, make sure you understand what you read, and know what you believe, and get clarification from your elder, your pastor, the confessions, before taking on others' doctrines, hmmm? In order to carry out a proper Scriptural exegesis, you have to employ the right hermeneutic; that's why we have confessions, doctrinal standards, catechisms, and elders, to orient us properly, so we don't misunderstand what we read - and don't get accused of so doing.

(I'm assuming you're Reformed; if you're not, and you're a "No creed but Christ", fundy-Baptist or other conservative evangelical type, well, much if not all of what I've just said will have gone over your head, and I can't help you any further.)

Posted by: Will S. on March 21, 2009 11:47 PM

Peter: re: your totalizing comment: you group JWs and LDS (Mormon) as Christian, but you should know, that traditionalist, confessing members of the three main Christian traditions (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox), who are all Trinitarian and have similar understandings of the afterlife, will, regardless of how they view each other, all consider JWs and LDS as complete heresies, beyond the pale, due to their anti-Trinitarian natures and strange views about the afterlife, and more.

(As for the SDA, they're borderline, as they officially hold the writings of their founder, Ellen White, on the same level as Scripture, but they don't emphasize this, in practice, at least not publicly.)

Anyway, just a quibble.

Your 'totalizing' distinction is an interesting one. But I don't think it's a question of the tradition per se, but rather, the particular degree to which a member of a given tradition takes or doesn't take, their doctrine and associated practices, to heart. A Muslim woman who doesn't wear a hijab to work isn't going to have people as readily identify her with her faith, as one who does. The same is true with a Roman Catholic who puts ashes on his/her face on Ash Wednesday, versus one who doesn't; the one who does will much more readily be identified by outsiders with his/her Catholicism, than the one who doesn't, and blends in more. And one who voices opinions contrary to those held by the majority, who prefaces his/her remarks with, "As a ___, I believe that...", will be classified by coworkers according to his/her faith, much more than one of the same tradition who simply chooses to remain silent, and not get drawn into discussions, arguments, etc.

There are some whose entire weekday life revolves around events happening throughout weekday evenings at their local house of worship, and they will end up identified in terms of their tradition. "Oh, he's always busy with his church - he's a ____ doncha know." But there may be others with equally strong convictions in the same faith community, who only attend the weekly services, maybe one other thing each week, if that, and their colleagues won't draw the same distinction.

I think an interesting topic for consideration, might be, which faith traditions are more likely to induce 'totalizing' in their members? Conservative Protestants, whether evangelical or confessional (Lutheran, Reformed), are certainly highly likely to; as are predominantly ethnic-minority traditions, such as the various Eastern Orthodox churches (esp. if they get continually refreshed with more immigrants from the home countries); and yes, heretical and quasi-heretical groups such as JWs, LDS, and SDA, will, too, because of their dietary practices, and other oddities.

Posted by: Will S. on March 22, 2009 12:25 PM

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