Seeing this linked on Twitter this morning prompted me to get my rant on. Okay, maybe not a rant but a segue-way into expressing my opinion.
Pope Promises Twitter Followers Reduced Sentence in Afterlife
Here's my take on religion/spirituality: Whether or not you believe in God, or what your concept of God might be, is between you and the Creator. Like every other relationship in life, it's between the two people involved and nobody else should interfere.
I know people like to quote so-called scripture to propound their position on anything. But taken out of context you can derive pretty limitless meanings from things in the Bible, especially good ol' King James' version. And the real secret? Nobody else gets to speak for God, no matter what their credentials.
I got no beef with Jesus. He and I were very tight for the first half of my life. It's those who follow him that muddied the waters, especially that guy named Saul who changed his name to Paul because of heat stroke he suffered on his way to Damascus that blinded him temporarily. He had been a Jewish scholar and argues like a Talmudic rabbi in some of his writings. Okay, so he was literate and wrote lots of letters that happened to survive millenia. But he NEVER MET JESUS WHILE HE WAS ON THIS EARTH!
Put another way, closer to home, even Moses was punished by God for presuming to speak for Him without His approval. Remember how Moses got to see the Holy Land but wasn't allowed to enter? Yup. Bad boy, no cookie.
God gave the Jews, through Moses, His law. That's why we Jews are sometimes referred to as The People of the Book. In every other religion, including Christianity, Islam, etc., human beings presume to speak on behalf of the Almighty. We have the actual, tangible laws He wrote down for us. Everything else is human opinion. What worked for Saint Augustine, Saul of Tarsus or Jerry Falwell may not work for you or for me in terms of having a relationship with God. Because we have to get to know God individually. But we do have concrete rules for behavior that He gave us, the greatest gift He bestowed on humanity after giving us life.
Yeah, I know Paul said Christians are freed from the Law by asking for forgiveness and repenting of their sins. Then Paul went on to write down all these NEW laws, even going on for chapters and verses about whether or not to circumcise. I also hear/read Christians saying the Bible isn't a smorgasbord, where you can pick and choose what to follow and what not to. Then they'll cite something about homosexuality and skip over the part about stoning someone to death for wearing clothing of combined linen and wool. Or chow down on pork ribs with a shrimp cocktail appetizer.
Even the great Hillel said: That which is abhorrent to you, do not do to others. The rest is commentary. (paraphrasing). The Golden Rule: yes, we Jews had it first. We also have Tikkun Olam which means heal the world. My take on that is to make the world a better place, not to beat other people into submission with your dogma and judge them based on the differences between the life they live and the life you choose to live.
And don't even get me started on Christians citing the Hebrew prophets as prognosticators of the coming of Jesus. Prophets, in the Jewish tradition, are preachers - hell-fire-and-brimstone, sometimes itinerant, preachers admonishing the people to return to their worship of God and stop being bad boys and girls. Not prophets in the Western tradition of foretelling the future.
But back to my original point. Any human, whether it be the Pope (see link above) or Saul of Tarsus or Moses can only write about or advise others from the point of view of their own opinion and, maybe, if they're genuinely concerned for other people, their own relationship with God. I don't presume to speak for God, and I don't trust anyone else who maintains that they have the right to speak on His behalf either.