To avoid any doubt and to lessen the chance we get off on some avoidable tangent, let’s summarize my religious views as of 2014.
I believe in God, fully and completely. I pray all the time. I am less sure exactly what God is, but I am certain some greater power is at play. I don’t know that God micromanages the day-to-day operations of life (I tend to end up somewhere along the benevolent ant-farm line of thought), but that doesn’t affect what I want to talk about today.
I believe one’s relationship with God should be direct, and not via some person or organization who offers or demands to tell you what God thinks and what God wants you to do. In other words, the more human beings you put between you and God, the more messed up things get.
I believe that far too many of the human beings who would place themselves between you and God have agendas that aren’t always in the best interest of you or God. This is not to say that there is no place for organized religion. I simply approach so-called religious doctrine imposed by some human beings on other human beings as inherently suspect. God is love. Religious leaders often forget or ignore this foundational reality.
I believe that far too many people who claim to speak for religion and/or God are doing way more harm than good. I notice more of this with Christians, because I am one (more on that below), but it is the case with all or most religions.
I believe that far too many people who claim to speak for Christianity are conscripting religion to further their own purposes. If you doubt this, ask yourself the last time you heard a so-called Christian leader say “I’d really like to do X (marry my same-sex partner; drink a beer; you name it), but the Bible says I can’t.” It’s always “those people would like to do X, but the Bible tells me that they can’t.”
If Christians don’t get a handle on this soon, there is a risk that, by acting in ways inconsistent with right-thinking Christian beliefs (take love and tolerance, for example), we will allow Christianity to become marginalized. In other words, if you make good and just people choose between calling themselves Christians and acting in a good and just manner, they will choose the latter. If I’m hesitant to call myself a Christian because of all the idiots and haters spouting off nonsense on Facebook and in the media, that’s a small problem for me, but a huge problem for a religion that wants to matter in 10, 20, 100 years. I’m in my 50’s and I have a problem with the lack of love and tolerance exhibited by many Christians. Imagine how young people feel.
A big part of the problem is that people (usually old men trying to hold on to diminishing power or influence) start rattling on about what the Bible means, and how if you don’t do this and that- or if you tolerate this and that, you are acting against the word of God. The thing is, it’s not the word of God. It’s some other cat’s interpretation of the word of God. And more often that not, that cat has an agenda.
The Bible is a work of love, not a weapon of control.
If I came face to face with God and could ask him just one question, it would be: “Do you think the Bible is the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to Christianity?” I think it’s an open question, not because of the Bible itself, but because of the way it’s used by some to influence and control others. The two stupidest things I regularly hear are:
1. Global warming isn’t happening.
2. The Bible is the literal word of God and must be literally complied with.
The problem with number 1 is that it is clearly disprovable, by facts. I suppose one can debate the cause of climate change, but its existence is no more debatable than the existence of atoms and molecules.
The problem with number 2 is that proponents of this theology pick and choose which parts are literal, while ignoring both the parts that don’t fit their objectives, as well as all the crazy stuff. And there is a lot of straight-up crazy stuff in there. By picking and choosing which parts matter and which don’t, the Biblical literalists disprove the foundation on which they seek to stand.
Which leads me to the list. I am tired of debating people on a one-off basis every time someone posts some allegedly Biblical-based reason as to why we shouldn’t let some people marry, why we shouldn’t watch the Super Bowl (the topic of probably the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read), why this group is bad and the other group good, etc., etc. So if you want to claim the Bible is the literal word of God and that word means we have to act in an intolerant or unjust manner, be prepared to explain the following. I’ll add to the list over time.
Or we can stop fighting over the unimportant stuff and get back to love and tolerance.
Hout and Fischer conclude that a big part of the decrease in religiosity can be attributed to “liberals and moderates declaring no religious preference as a way of rejecting the growing connection between churches and conservative politics, especially conservative cultural politics on topics such as the family, women and sex. [They] were saying, in effect, if that is what religion means, count me out.”
Again, I love God. I just don’t like a lot of the things human beings say about God. It’s time for right-thinking people of all religions to take back their religion from those who would misuse it for their own purposes.
God is love. Peace.