This is the sort of thing i normally keep private, but something appeared on my google plus stream today that warranted a small rant.
The post in question was primarily the following jpg:
The person who posted this had a comment stream that included him agreeing with a sentiment that “the world would be a much better place without religion” and that he felt like it could happen in the next couple of hundred years.
Before i proceed, i should provide a bit of personal background.Â I was raised as a baptist christian.Â My religious upbringing was split into two parts that fuzz together in my brain.Â One was a chinese church group that shared its space with a non-ethnic church and went back and forth between having its own congregation vs having combined ones where the sermon would be done in two languages side by side (if the american pastor was leading it, he’d speak a line, then it would get translated in chinese and vice versa).Â The other was being a part of a youth group of a different church, not really always a part of the congregation but being immersed in the social aspects of that group.
Christianity was not something that i really latched on to as a literal concept.Â I remember thinking that there was a great hypocrisy not necessarily in the teachings themselves but in how that teaching translated to the actions of the people in my peer group at the time.Â The chinese pastor was one of those “you are all going to hell” harsh types that would seem to have no impact on the kids my age who would do things that i felt were contrary to our teachings.Â Nothing serious, your normal sort of kid stuff, but it struck me as odd that the principles, even if the delivery and method were sometimes misguided, would leave so little impact on how my peer group would then decide to act.
In the summer of 1993 I marched my first drum corps and that ended up taking away all of my weekends in the summer months prior to going to college, and i never went back to a church service after that.Â I found myself in a space where i believed in some sort of higher power, but not agreeing that Christianity was the right interpretation.Â Later this evolved into the belief that i hold now, which is that no one on earth has any particular authority on the subject.Â I don’t know if there’s a higher power of any religion or not, i don’t pretend to know, and i don’t think anyone else does either.
That said, the above jpg and the attitude that comes with it as an attack on Christianity and the concept that “the world would be so much better without religion” really irks me.
My parents are still practicing Christians.Â Their belief in Christianity and the words of the Christian bible has served them very well their entire life.Â They’ve been a part of congregations that don’t support more liberal ideologies such as acceptance of homosexuals and as opposed to rejecting the religion outright because of it, they’ve searched for a group that can see eye to eye with their philosophies and beliefs enough that they can find solace and peace in how they practice their faith, and you know what?Â It wasn’t that hard to find.Â My parents are damned good people and damned good parents for both me and my brother, and i’d venture to say that their spirituality is part of the reason why.Â Their version of Christianity teaches tolerance and acceptance and inclusion of all of God’s children and generally trying to be good humble people.Â Without that, i think that the story of my brother coming out to my parents over the phone almost 20 years ago would have been met with a much different response than, “…yeah, we thought so.”
But of course you don’t hear their version of Christianity pop up in the mainstream.Â The idea that there could be an outspoken group of Christians that supports homosexuality and equal marriage would likely annoy homosexual advocates who want to have Christianity to fight against.
As far as i’m concerned, there are many religious faiths that serve as positive conduits for people.Â Religion is not right for me, but i don’t pretend that it’s not right for people like my parents, or people like one of my friends Rachel who was able to bring her life into sharper focus when it was previously directionless and troublesome because of her conversion and resultant deep devotion to Christian faith.Â Most of the Christians that i know are good people and try to be good people because of what the Bible tells them.
Of course you have extremists, the ones that believe quite literally that it is their duty to convert those who are doomed to their version of faith, the ones who use their religion as a means to feel so smug that they’re in the “in” crowd and therefore have some sort of authority to speak about things that they have no business pretending that they know better than anyone else, but it’s not like you don’t have atheists that do the same thing.Â That’s part of what faith is about – granting someone a sense of self and courage that they would otherwise not have.Â That some people can draw from that some misguided conceptions is something i feel is more the fault of the individual than the group that they may be trying to represent.
I have my issues with the sort of Christians that try to push their beliefs on to other people or feel so proud of their faith for whatever reason that they feel the need to broadcast it to the world, and i have issues with some of the ideology that conservative Christians tout in relation to politics and what have you.Â But that slice of Christianity is just that – a slice – and in my mind it’s not fair to that religion or any religion (or, if you want to get into it, really anything) to characterize that slice as representing the whole and therefore that whole should be condemned.Â And that’s where this Steve Anderson guy comes in.Â Because to think that just because this guy is a pastor and therefore he is a more authoritative representative voice of the majority of Christianity doesn’t sound much less absurd to me than saying, “only homosexuals have AIDS,” and to take from his appalling perspective about homosexuality that i should have such indignation within me that i should feel that the world would be better off without religion feels about as ridiculous as racism.
Extremists come in all stripes, that’s assured.
What should be troubling to you and anyone of sound mind is that those kinds of views are becoming prevalent in public policy and those who would craft them. The fact that we even have any media coverage of what religion a candidate has. The fact that we have politicians saying things like children of rape are gift from god is a serious problem. And lastly the fact that moderate people aren’t totally disgusted by that is also a huge problem.
I personally disagree with religions of all stripes. I don’t go around telling people they’re wrong; they’re allowed to think what they want, but I have a serious problem when it invades rational thinking and policy. Unfortunately it seems like there’s a lot of even liberal christians who stand by and don’t condemn zealots like Anderson because of the faith.
yeah, i have a lot of issues with how those sorts of personal beliefs start to bleed into public policy too. The “children of rape are a gift from God” thing is incredibly disturbing, and it’s unfortunate that the more rational representatives of Christianity don’t speak out more (or maybe they do, they just get shushed by the media).
The world would be a much better place with diversity and tolerance.
It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you stake your claim on the religion v. science debate in the secular and non-scientific arena. We are fallible. This is one of the few points that religion and science both readily concede. If one moves the argument to a laboratory or a sanctuary there is an inherent correct answer to which system one uses to arrive at the truth.
I have a preference. You, reader, have yours. The world is much more than sanctuary or laboratory.
“But of course you donâ€™t hear their version of Christianity pop up in the mainstream”
In the US, christianity IS the mainstream, and that’s what you hear when most Americans speak. Perhaps it’s only the extremists who claim that their extremist beliefs are those of their religions, while normal people state their beliefs as their own.
(Of course, atheism is also mainstream. Pretty much everyone is an atheist for some god…)