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05/07/2009

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Amen. :-)

Ever since they gave me electro-shock therapy I make sure I talk to my Imaginary Friend, Norman, where no one can see me. I considered calling him God so I could talk to him in a pretty building downtown but Norman said that would be unethical.
I worry that almost all of our elected officials in Washington profess belief in an imaginary Jewish super-being and partake of symbolic cannibalistic feasts. It happens, I'm not making this stuff up.

I really loved this post. Well done, you.

So Wally, I'm just wondering. Aside from making yourself feel good, what is the advantage of sneering at the deeply held beliefs of other people?

I was wondering THE EXACT SAME THING. Type...erase...Type...erase...

Tom,
Religion is something that affects us all. Proponents of a particularly virulent strain of fundamentalist Christianity were able to make their agenda part and parcel of the Bush Administration's last eight years. Fundamentalist Islamic groups would like to obliterate the US. Hindus kill those same Moslems at the behest of multi-limbed, animal-visaged deities. In untracked mountains and dense forests people venerate distant peaks and sacred springs. I think you will agree that at least one of these groups must be placing their faith in what the Bible calls "false gods".
I read fiction. Often, fiction reveals insights into human nature better than the non-linear unfolding of events in the real world. The tenets of religions include basic truths and guides to living that are worthy and valuable. The tenets of religions also include things that we know as patently false. A modern moderate like yourself has already filtered the Bible, accepting some things and "realizing" that other writings were the result of a primitive world view. In essence, you already read the Bible as a valuable work of fiction. Fundamentalists read it as the 100% unerring word of God.
I used to have a "whatever gets you through the day" attitude toward religion, Since the Reagan Administration, however, religious groups have been able to insert their agendas into the lives of Americans. Evangelism has, for me, begot an anti-evangelism. I know the transcendent feeling that communion with your God brings. That state of grace that comes to a person when the minister is giving the benediction is one of the great releases from the sorrows of this life that can happen. But my admittedly vicious comment is meant to be a reminder that the purity of the experience and the intensity of your feeling does not make the experience "real". We have a name for the dogged adherence to a "belief in things unseen". It is called psychosis and when it is applied to any belief other than a recognized religion we treat it as an illness. All religions can deliver up that transcendent gift of grace as can drugs, fasting, meditation and mental illness. I am, indeed, asking you to re-examine your faith. Read my second paragraph as an anthropologist hearing about a secluded forest culture that has just been discovered. And re-read the Bible or the Book of Mormon as a work of literature.

"what is the advantage of sneering at the deeply held beliefs of other people?"

I know that this is not an argument in my favor but I would like to point out that nearly every day you sneer at the deeply held beliefs of Conservatives and Republicans who have a deep love for the US. The only difference is this time I'm pointing out your foibles.
I do apologize that I used snark instead of a more reasoned approach but the subject of religion, as Billy Jack said, just make me want to go berserk.

You seem to be forgetting that at the same time as political Christians have done things of which you disapprove, faith has moved people to do wonderful things of which you almost certainly approve. For example, the Catholic diocese of Louisville has adopted, brought to the United States, and helped get started on new lives hundreds of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. It is a marvelous thing done entirely as an act of faith. You seem to forget that Martin Luther King's actions were as informed by his faith as Jerry Fallwell's.

Faith is, by definition, irrational, just like love. Yet I'm sure you would never deny the existence or power of love.

Finally, your comparison of my sneering at political beliefs to your sneering at religious faith is invalid. Political beliefs are inherently public; politics is the public process of converting competing ideas into action. Faith -- true faith, according to the Sermon on the Mount -- is inherently private. We carve out a special, protected place for faith so that people will be able to deal with matters of conscience with complete, spiritual honesty.

Freedom of religion, as well as freedom from religion, is dependent on that tolerance. There are certainly intolerant Christians in the United States, just as there are intolerant atheists. In the last 20 years, intolerant Christians have amassed political power to an alarming degree -- alarming not because of their faith, which is private, but of their intolerance, which is public.

It is, I think, that intolerance that you rightly scorn. But your response is to match intolerance with intolerance of your own, in turn ridiculing and insulting people who have done nothing to harm or insult you.

Your equation of all faith equally worthy of scorn is the same as a racist's belief that all members of a given racial group are the same. As some on the right made jokes about President Obama eating watermelon -- being unable to detect the subtle difference between a Columbia and Princeton educated attorney and an ignorant, 19th Century field hand -- you feel smugly justified in your anti-evangelism equating all Christians with those you consider base.

Dress it up with all the pseudo logic you want -- just as bigots justify racism with statistics about crime and unwed mothers -- but until you're able to discern people as individuals, your erudite scorn is nothing but common bigotry.

Tom,
1) Your first paragraph is without relevance, as we both know that there have been acts of good and ill perpetrated both with and without the benefit of religious motivation. Religion has inspired good works- good works have been done, as well, without religious inspiration.
2) I don't deny the existence of faith. I question the existence of the being that faith presupposes.
3)I have always avoided the "oh yeah! well you do it too" argument but you are the one who posted a diatribe about the "inherently private" subject of religion. I just clicked the comment link. I assume that button is available to those who disagree with you.
4)Despite indoctrination from an early age in a culture of belief in an invisible being, for most people, faith is a choice. They knowingly choose an irrational belief. The fact that it is a generally harmless (and often inspiring)delusion does nothing to reduce its irrationality. To equate an accurate assessment of people choosing to engage in irrational behavior with racial bigotry is ill-reasoneded. Race is not a matter of choice and being born of a certain race is not irrational behavior.
Again, I ask you to examine religion from the viewpoint of one without prior indoctrination. On any other subject but God, a belief in an entirely unprovable, supposedly benevolent phenomena whose benign intent is daily contraindicated by the random events designated "acts of god" would be regarded as psychotic. If such behavior were harmless, it would be tolerated with a wink and a spin of the index finger at the temple. If such a belief led to violent behavior it would be dealt with harshly. So, Mr Un-Bigoted Religious Thinker, where do you draw the line? Joseph Smith's magic spectacles? Tom Cruise's Church of Scientology? The spring at the foot of the hill that holds the Spirit of The People? At some point we reach a belief that you think is crazy. Hinduism? Islam? Christianity? Buddhist reincarnation? Are those all on the "approved" list?
By calling my points pseudo logic are you inferring that the natural, logical progression of an inquiry into the existence of a creator leads inexorably to a weak tea Christianity? One that is heavy on the Sermon on the Mount and light on the idea of Jesus as a practicing Jew who endorsed the whole Old Testament when he pointed out that he was the one the Prophets had foretold.
Lastly, I'm not equating all Christians with Fundamentalist Christians. I am equating Christianity with all religious beliefs, peyote ceremony, high church, Tibetan monks, Lubavitchers, all of them.
I want to make clear I am not proposing Science as a replacement for religion. Science is a search for answers in the physical world, not a philosophy for living a good life. I am pretty happy with religions answers to how to live, I just can't see how thinking people accept that you have to believe religion's a priori assumptions to get to those answers.

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