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PERSONAL FAITH REMOVES RELIGIOUS PREJUDICES

Jesus opened the door to God's house and the gift of personal faith. The keys to the door of God's Kingdom of Heaven are our attitudes as described in the Beatitudes, www.beatitudes-101.info. Personal faith is not based on our religious system's rituals and liturgies. It is based on our "hungering and thirsting" to be remade in God's righteousness, and asking him to direct our minds and "hearts."

Each of the world's many religious systems claims its purpose is to lead people into a relationship with its described deity. Such a relationship is generally called a faith relationship. Since the relationship is between an individual and their God, it is personal. We may safely say the avowed purpose of each religious system is to develop and sustain personal faith.

That being the purpose, we rightfully ask for some evidence of improved personal faith. The measure of religion's success is subjective rather than objective. In the final analysis, religion is our one-to-one relationship with God, as we understand God. That being the case, only the individual can determine if their religious efforts produce satisfactory personal faith.

That fact precludes judging another's actual personal faith and individual relationship with their deity. All we can see is another person's expression of faith. We imagine we can know the quality of the person's faith and relationship with God because of their behavior.

Such judgments produce religious systems' prejudices. The diagnosis of shallow faith is always followed by a proposed cure. The proposed cure is, "Your way is wrong. You need to do it my way which is the only way to please God."

In fact, there is only one-way to God. That way is open to everyone. It is through prayer. Everyone can pray. One-to-one communication with God is a universal privilege. God's inviolate rule is that humans can neither permit nor prevent prayers. God, the creator of all people, hears and carefully listens to all - Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and pagans.

God's openness to our prayers, either verbal or only by thoughts, is a "done deal." God hears all prayers simply because God is omnipresent, always present. No one can escape God's reach or hearing. No one can escape from his eternal concern.

Some deny God's existence but those cannot prove no God exists. From the beginning of human life, mankind has acknowledged the existence of a higher and invisible spiritual power. Most continue that belief in our time and expect their prayers to reach and be accepted by their God. We can ignore God or deny God, as skeptics do, but we cannot escape God.

Humanity's great tragedy is the almost universal belief that what we do, rather than what we think, affects God and our stature before God. Said in another way, the most common religious idea is that God responds best to pious religious liturgies and rituals.

Additionally, in more recent times the emphasis on education implies our faithfulness and spirituality is improved by study. Our great failing is to imagine that knowing about God, and being able to describe God's attributes, is somehow the same as personally knowing God.

Adam and Eve are said to be the first to succumb to that error. They had known God personally, having visited with him daily. Yet Adam and Eve got the idea that knowing everything was somehow superior to knowing God. So they opted for knowing all things and "the rest is history."

Reality informs us that everyone can know God but none can know all there is to know about God or anything else. We can look to Job for confirmation of this statement (Job, chapters 38-41). So what profits any religious system to insist it knows more about God than all other religious systems? Claims of theological superiority put religious systems into conflict and continual competition. This competition puts people into conflict.

History's record, and current events, prove religious systems are divisive. This is true even within major religious systems where their denominations compete, criticize, and conflict with each other. These conflicts have caused, and still cause, people of the same religion to war with, and kill, each other in the name of God. Even when these divisions do not bring physical injury, they bring derision, division and shunning.

Human spiritual needs are alike. The evidence is clear. People joining together to seek God's grace and blessings have no need of a religious system. People of all religious opinions join to pray for the nation, offer thanksgiving prayers at banquets, meet at the flagpole to pray, ask others for prayers, remember the dead, and accept any Chaplain when in distress.

These are "we" events. We share our needs with each other. We pray with each other. In these times, we "love one another," and are members of God's family. Prejudices vanish, for the moment. Personal faith triumphs for the moment.

When day is done and the lights are out, the final prayer before sleep is to God and not to, by, or for a religious system. Intuitively we know faith is a do-it-yourself project. We are on our own. Our soul hungers for direct contact with God. We want to have God's presence, grace, and blessings. So we ask for that. We seek God in prayer and expect God's response.

In those times, we are truly little children relating to a spiritual Father. We tell God our needs and feelings. We want God to listen, comfort, and give us approval. We want to have the divine presence Adam and Eve traded away.

The Adam and Eve syndrome reappears at sunrise. Once again emphasis on what we think we know replaces dependency on who we know. Disputing about our doctrines and opinions again replaces the spiritual harmony. The cycle of religious disputes, disruptions, criticisms, anger and separation goes on. Why have this when shared faith brings such comfort?

Maybe C. S. Lewis' fictional Screwtape Letters are more fact than fiction. The evil forces Lewis described appear to be real, bringing constant conflict. Evil's goal is interference with peaceful relations - both with God and man. Praying for power to love God with all our faculties and our neighbor as our self is the antidote for evil. That prayer grows personal faith and replaces disputing. That prayer makes life easier for everyone.