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Ask Pastor Paul: Does Religion Cause War?; Does God Like One Sports Team More?

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Ask Pastor Paul: Spiritual Advice for the Real World.

Have a spiritual question, ethical dilemma or religious curiosity? Don't be shy! People of all backgrounds, ages and creeds are encouraged to submit questions to askpastorpaul@huffingtonpost.com.

Dear Pastor Paul,

Why should anyone be religious when so many of the wars and prejudice have been based on religion?

Dear Friend,

Of course I am biased, but I believe that religion is a good thing. Religion can be used to create and fuel prejudice and division. but then, so can race and nationality. Like race and nationality, our religion is one of the things that make us who we are. Wars and prejudice are started because of fear, greed and ignorance. They can be fought over resources and land, and inspired by the will to dominate another. Those are the real problems, not religion itself.

You don't need to shed your religion to stand up against war and prejudice. In fact, religion can help you to stand up against war and prejudice as many religious people have found that it is their faith that leads them to non-violent efforts to change the world to end war, oppression and prejudice - take Martin Luther King, Jr and Mahatma Gandhi for examples.

Part of the problem can lie in scripture that was written at a certain time and place and can contain passages that point to other religions in a negative way. We have to recognize that all religion's have essential message of compassion and redemption which must trump any hostility that may have been recorded in ancient texts.

My suggestion is for all of us try to meet someone who practices a faith different from our own, including those who have no faith, and get to know them as people and friends and to learn about their beliefs. When we know someone of another faith personally, we are less likely view any one religion as "bad" or the "enemy."

The 21st century requires that all people -- no matter what they believe -- learn to share resources and show generosity towards one another, we are all in this together.

Every religion has some version of the golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated and I suggest we use that as our common ground to start the conversation.

See slideshow of Golden Rule below

Dear Pastor Paul

I am a sports fanatic and watch ESPN all the time. These days I see a lot of teams praying before a game and it makes me uncomfortable. I mean, does a team win because God wants them to? And if both teams pray, does God hear one team's prayers more than the other's?

Dear Friend,

Prayer does not make me uncomfortable and I do believe that one part of prayer can be petitioning God to answer our individual concerns.

However, it would be wrong if a team prayed to God as a trump card to win a match. Prayer should witness to the world that even though these athletes are at the top of their game, they still know that the ultimate power is in God's hands.

I'm pretty sure God does not care which team wins, as long as both teams exhibit good sportsmanship and play to the best of their God given abilities.

Of course, if athletes are praying to show the world how pious they are, then that is explicitly frowned upon in my Christian tradition. Jesus directly tells people not to showoff their prayer in public but rather to go into a private place and pray there, and then God will reward them.

Whether Tebow passes this test is between him and God.

Have a spiritual question, ethical dilemma or religious curiosity? Don't be shy! People of all backgrounds, ages and creeds are encouraged to submit questions to askpastorpaul@huffingtonpost.com.

If you are in spiritual or emotional distress, please contact a clergy person or mental health professional who can help you. If you are in crisis, please contact the crisis hotline.

These answers have been adapted from Teen Spirit: One World, Many Paths by Paul B. Raushenbush

The Golden Rule
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