So, you get a follow up to my post on religion as well.
To start with, Jay has put down a lot of the things that bother me about religion, Christianity in particular, in the USA. So let's talk about them...
note: italics indicates a quote from jaylake's entry linked above.
I take the pink unicorn argument myself — absent some material evidence it is no more incumbent upon me to consider the existence of God to be a provable assertion that it is incumbent upon me to consider the existence of pink unicorns to be a provable assertion. The difference is God has a posse. The existence of faith, and more particular Faith as a political and cultural artefact, is demonstrable and powerful.
I guess the pink unicorn argument is as good a metaphor as any other, and the fact that Christianity in America on the whole is a very privileged, political stance is undeniable. Some of the worst crimes committed here in my lifetime have been carried out by Christians or in the name of Christianity and God. And others in the name of Islam and God. All are wrong.
I stand outside the black box of religion by deliberate self selection. Her faith, or yours, is a private matter that has no effect on me, and is of interest to me only insofar as we are friends. What happens behind the door of your home, church, synagogue, mosque, temple or forest grove is between you, your temporal lobes and your vision of your spirituality.
I was confirmed after much discussion and doubt, but both my pastor and my teacher felt that doubt about some of the lessons in the bible didn't negate the idea of God and Jesus, so I should go ahead with the rest of my confirmation class. As I said to my dad yesterday, that probably shouldn't have happened, although it did give me an understanding of the bible, and the fact at least in that church not everything the bible teaches should be read as true facts.
And Dad made me cry yesterday too, when he said that he almost wasn't confirmed because he disagreed with the Reverend regarding Christianity being the only true religion. And he's right on that - in my opinion if there is a God he/she/it will embrace all good people regardless of religious beliefs.
I have no grounds or reason to criticize religion or faith from within the box. An it harm none, believe what you will. Not my concern.
This part gets a little more complicated. Christianity has harmed people, lots of them; from the Crusades, to the Holocaust, to the Catholic Church hiding pedophilia cases and moving the criminals to another location to resume their activity, to the really crazy Christian sects who helped convince the government of Uganda that killing homosexuals is acceptable. But so has Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. I've even seen Buddhist conflict that results in killing, and Buddhists seem to be the most peaceful religion currently practiced.
But you say all that stuff is behind us, or my Church/Temple/Mosque isn't like that; we don't really believe that gays should be stoned to death or that women are property or that eating shrimp is disobeying God. But we do still believe in God, and we want you to share our faith. And I can't. I've said it before and I will say it a thousand times: if there is a God, then he's a sick twisted God, and I want nothing to do with him. Things like the Salvation army refusing to assist those who won't convert or Catholic Charities threatening to pull out of DC if gay marriage is legalized don't help, and killing in the name of religion is unforgivable. If an omnipresent, all powerful God allows this, then he's not someone I'd voluntarily spend time with. But that doesn't mean that all religious people are bad, many of them go out of their way to help others in times of crisis. But for me, any decent human should do that, God or not.
When your faith matters to me is when it spills out of the sacred space and influences the secular sphere. When children are allowed to die because a faith refuses medical intervention, for instance. That's murder, pure and simple. That's a cheap example, because it's easy to set up and difficult to defend.
But how different is that from the distorting effect of the Christian Right on medical research? Over the past decade we've ceded dominance in stem cell medicine to England, South Korea and other countries, simply because of a minority religious view. That directly undermines our medical and scientific systems.
So true. And the fact that in the USA we're once again debating evolution? That's Christianity, all of it. Allowing parents to say "our religion says the earth is 6,000 years old, so our children cannot be taught anything else" is wrong. Not only are you denying your children real world science education which means that there's a good chance they'll fail their college entrance exams, but you're also forcing textbooks to be re-written that non-Christian children will be taught from, forcing your incorrect beliefs onto them.
Christianity is intensely privileged in the political process — an assertion my Christian friends sometimes seem to find boggling, but how many avowed atheists serve in elective office? How many avowed churchgoers? 97.3% of the members of Congress avow a faith, 88.9% some form of Christianity.
The statistic and how it comes into practice is unconscionable to me. We are a nation founded on the principle that "All men are created equal" and that freedom of religion is everyone's right. But that freedom also includes the freedom to not practice any religion at all, and legislating things like prayer or not teaching evolution or that gays can't marry is wrong.
Keep your black box with my blessings. But for the love of God, just because you believe it doesn't mean it's true. Don't write it into our country's laws, our curricula, our healthcare guidelines and our court rulings. I'll try to keep my rantings out of your black box in return.
Really, we're not that different. I only believe in one less god than you do. Or perhaps one less pink unicorn.
And to end, this is the last two paragraphs from my email to Dad yesterday:
Some of the ideas in Christianity are good ones (don't kill, honor your parents, do unto others as you would be done by), others are crazy to me (it's ok to sell your daughter, slaves are fine, etc). But all religions have bits of good and bits of crazy in my opinion.
So I pick a lesson from here, and another from there, and try to live my life as a good person, the best one I can be. Because I think this world, this life is amazing, and it's also all that we get, and why not make it the best world possible, at least in the corner I can affect.