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Summary: God uses ordinary even notorious people to do his work for the Kingdom of God. Paul the religious terrorist meets Grace and changes into the Preacher of grace and mercy.

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“Fly High” - Acts part 7

On the lighter side of life: Picture from Jennifer

Opening Illustration:

Religion has produced more terrorists than non-religion. Just take a look at the Middle East and also at The Crusades. Also take a look at this article

RELIGIOUS TERRORISM

Tragically, all major religions can justify violence, and religion has long been associated with terrorism. Ever since there was good and evil, religious people have pondered whether using evil to fight evil is good in the name of justice or self-defense. There may be some kind of connection between attachment to the idea of God and a proclivity toward violence. The most common resort to violence occurs when a religious group feels threatened and thinks of itself as a chosen people. Less common is the compulsion to slaughter others in the name of a deity, and even less common (although not insignificant) is the role of sexuality in the mindset of religious fundamentalists who kill. Religions also spawn sects, cults, and alternative religions, and religious terrorism (terrorism in the name of religion) likewise tends to spawn offshoots and factions. A sect is an offshoot of an established religion (Mormons, for example), and most either die off or expand into a major denomination like the Mormons did. A sect-based religious group is more likely to play the role of the victim, not the aggressor. A cult, on the other hand, is a more dangerous, spiritually innovative group (the Branch Davidians, for example) headed by a charismatic leader who usually has other aims than to become a major denomination. Many cults are harmless, but others are into mind control and some are into mass suicide. Still other cults have a doomsday orientation, and these tend to be ones which engage in religious terrorism (such as Aum Shinri Kyo). Any sect or cult can become involved in religious terrorism or it can just worship terrorism (a terrorism cult). The motives can be wide-ranging, from engaging in psychic warfare to expressive behaviors that are homicidal, suicidal, or both. Cults are usually more dangerous than sects (see the Watchman Fellowship’s List of Cults for a near-complete list or Perlmutter’s summary of occult religions).

There are four warning signs of a dangerous religious group: (1) apocalyptic thinking, or eschatology, that the world is coming to an end, and true believers will enjoy unique rewards at endtime; (2) charismatic leadership where the leader dominates the followers spiritually, emotionally, and sexually; (3) paranoia and demonization of outsiders, accompanied by intentional isolation within a cloistered community; and (4) preparations of a defensive nature, usually indicated by a buildup of guns, poisons, and/or weapons of mass destruction. Many terrorist experts (Lewy 1974; White 2002) regard apocalyptic thinking as the first and most important danger sign. Let’s briefly examine some of the major world religions:

CHRISTIANITY: The most popular religion in the world (33%) and the one with the most historical record of violence, much of it in-fighting. A person becomes Christian by being born again (Conservatives), baptized (Protestants and Catholics), reciting the Apostles’ creed (Catholics), or having a personal relationship with Jesus (Liberals). Eastern Orthodoxy rejects the Apostles’ creed. The strongest bond involves interpretation of the New Testament, although Fundamentalists (Extreme Conservatives) believe the Bible is inerrant and not subject to modern interpretation.

ISLAM: The world’s second largest (20%) and fastest growing religion. The word Islam is derived from the word "salam", meaning peace or submission. Allah is a word meaning one true God. Muslim is a word meaning a person who submits to the will of God. A person becomes Muslim by becoming a follower of Islam, attending a mosque (all are non-denominational), reading the Qur’an, holding six beliefs (involving God, angels, messengers, Satan, Day of Judgment, and Jesus was no son of God), and practicing five pillars (reciting a creed, praying 5 times a day, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage). Sikhism is a cross between Islam and Hinduism that rejects elitism and cherishes ceremonial weapons.

HINDUISM: The world’s third largest (13%) religion and the oldest organized one. The word Hindu comes from the Persian, from the Indian name for the river Indus - Sindhu. The Persians commonly replaced the S sounds with H sounds, and Hindus to them were people who inhabited the areas bounded by the Sindhu river. It is a religion without a founder, and a person becomes Hindu by reading the sacred texts, recognizing the holy trinity (Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer), and practicing various hymns, incantations, and Yoga to commune your soul with the unity of all reality. Most Hindus (80%) regard Vishnu as the ultimate deity, although there are many sects. Hindus believe in transmigration of the soul, or reincarnation, in judgment for good and bad acts.

BUDDHISM: The world’s fourth largest (6%) religion, founded by Buddha in 535 BC. Buddha is a term meaning one who is enlightened or has awakened. In Buddhism, there is no God, savior, heaven or hell, only a state of Nirvana achieved by meditation and avoiding extremes of mortification and hedonism. Southeast Asia practices Southern Buddhism which emphasizes karma. China, Japan and Korea practice Eastern Buddhism, which celebrates festivals and is mostly a ruling class religion. Tibet, Mongolia, and Russia practice Northern Buddhism (the Dalai Lama being the ruler) which emphasizes pilgrimages to sites in Sri Lanka and India. There are a variety of traditions mixed with local culture. Most Japanese (85%), for example, also follow Shinto, an ancient nature worship religion, and Shintoists almost always follow Confucianism (love of family) or Taoism (the force that flows thru life).

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