Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Bathwater or the Baby?

Eskimo always has some interesting views, and this week is no exception. He wrote a post in response to John Pike's views on religion in the Middle East. If you read any of John's previous posts on religion (here are two examples: 1, 2) I agree with John as far as I believe that we do not need religion to have morals. I believe morality is a logical conclusion - we have to have some code of right and wrong in order to live our lives happily. However, I also believe that the need for religious belief is innate in all of us. Some may follow the path of atheism, but overwhelmingly, the past and the present show us that most people are religious in some form or another. You can argue all you want that religion is not innate or not needed, but the patterns still present today will blow that argument out of the water. We desire to believe that there is something more than ourselves, greater than ourselves, out there somewhere. No amount of science is ever going to change that. So that is where I disagree with John. I disagree with Eskimo in that I do believe one of the reasons that Islam is a threat to us is not just the basic tenets of "kill the infedels" that is purported to be part of the Koran (I have never read it, but that is the general consensus). It is also because we are so divided by religion. Christianity is the worst culprit. If you're Catholic, you're "one of those," and if you're Baptist, you're "a fundamentalist." Lutherans are a bunch of wimpy Catholics, Methodists had a boring method, Nazarene are freak shows, and we don't even need to go into Mormons. NO, I don't really think that. But that is to give you the general idea of the divisions that we have made for ourselves. The denomination I follow is clearly the best, and the rest of you are just paddling around in the kiddie pool. If the Christian followers would come to the realization, collectively, that we all need different things in our faith, and that is perfectly okay, and we would unite based on the common belief in God and Christ, there is nothing Islam could do to hurt us. Oh, they might irritate the hell out of us, but we would all be united for the same cause - that everyone has the right to practice their faith as long as you are not killing or harming people - and Islam would be crushed. Instead, you have people going around railing against Islam, which ticks off those who don't believe in Islam, but don't want to speak against it either, which breeds contempt and a cause. Some people look for a perceived underdog to fight for, and if Islam is the underdog of the day, so be it.
Now are there a lot of fundamentalist Christians? Sure there are and they are true believers impatiently waiting for the Rapture but most aren't looking to accelerate the process by slaughtering all non-believers so they get to go to the head of the line when Jesus starts the roll call.
Besides being incredibly amusing, Eskimo is right to say there is not the slaughter going on right now in the Christian world, but in some ways, I think the division is just as damaging (in effect, not in the loss of human lives). The more divided the Christian world is, the less effect it has. It is hard to take a group seriously when they are too busy slinging feces at each other to make a coherent statement. So, to round up this meandering post, I think we need religious belief, for our mental and social health, though we can have morality outside of it. If humanity is as good as it gets, we might all be on suicide watch. And I also think Christianity is its own worse enemy. For a teaching that preaches about forgiveness, humility and kindness, it is rarely forgiving without some form of "I forgive you because I am better than you," and the kindness usually has to be pointed out so all can see how kind we are. Not to mention the attitude that "everyone else is going to hell, so I can feel all superior and pious." Of course, those are just my thoughts.