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Proposition 8 & the Sickness of Christianity

Posted by RickH · November 17th, 2008 · 2 Comments

This post grows out of an email exchange with a good friend.  Although he and I differ dramatically in our views relating to religion, he’s still a good friend.  (Heck, my two closest friends both hold rather dramatically different views from those I hold!  One is night to my day on religion; the other is night to my day on politics.  And, yes, I made myself “day” and them “night” on purpose.  I hold different views, but I’m still human enough to think I’m the one who’s right! ;))

The email exchange began when I sent my friend a link to this article about a priest who urges those who voted for Obama to repent and do penance.  In a sense, I was baiting my friend.  The subject line of my email was “Sick people” and the text I wrote said, “There are indeed sick people in the world.  And folks wonder why some of us don’t like religion.”

Note that my original email did not actually say anything like “all Christians are sick.”  My friend read it that way, though.  He wrote a long and interesting explanation for why this wasn’t true.  (And, he is correct.)  Since he believed that I was saying “all Christians are sick,” he ended of his note by admonishing me: “Don’t fall for the bait.”  I responded to that by asking, “Why not?  You did. ;)”  I went on to say,

I have my personal views about religion, but they have very little to do with that priest’s comments and more to do with my own particular beliefs about human psychology and evolution.

Unfortunately, my comment lead my friend to think he’d “done all that writing for nothing.”

But you see, I enjoy a good debate over religion every now and then.  I knew my friend would be drawn in by the original email.  And I do not think his response to me was “for nothing.”

Although to the extent that I might have implied that every Christian (or even every Roman Catholic) is a sicko, that was tongue-in-cheek, and although I understand and agree with much of what my friend said, the fact of the matter is that religion is overall a destructive force in our society. Whatever good it does — and with some people it does motivate them to good — is overshadowed by the bad that results from its practices. (It’s worth noting, again, that I did not actually even say that every Christian, or even every Roman Catholic, is sick.  I just happen to believe the world would be a better place without those belief systems.  I could be wrong.)

That priest’s views are extreme and not everyone, including perhaps most of the people in his own congregation, holds them. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of people like him voted in this last election to deny rights to an entire group of people. And their Jesus would not have voted the way they did. He routinely left “choice” to individuals. In fact, a thorough reading of the so-called “New” Testament shows that it’s all about choice.

Jesus may not have approved the choices of those who would marry others of the same gender. (Although, in all fairness, he never says that. To get to that point, you have to assume that his “I did not come to destroy the law” statement means he endorses proscriptions against homosexuality set forth in the “Old” Testament. But then you get into the whole “why not endorse ALL the law?” problem. Why not kill gays as Levicitus 20:13 says? Why not put people to death for working on the Sabbath? Why not pass laws about haircuts so no one violates Leviticus 19:27?)

And, of course, in the end — if the views of Christianity were real — the Christian god would be better described as egotistical, selfish, vengeful and more likely evil than benevolent: after all, while he permits (even requires) people to make their own choices, he’ll destroy those who don’t make “the right choice” by worshipping him and ignoring the fact that he created them a particular way, with particular biological drives that make “obedience” to his supposed Will impossible. (But those are just reasons to recognize the internal inconsistency of the belief system.) However, it remains true that in every story about Jesus, he stood against the priests who would take away the choice of others.

In every story about Jesus, he was forever sending people on their way to make their own choices when they came in direct contact with him. “Go and sin no more,” he would say. He did not rustle up a mob to vote in new legal systems to enforce any particular way of life. Even when Paul came along and changed Christianity into something new and different from what Jesus, Peter and the others allegedly created, Paul did not suggest that his churches should transform local political and legal systems to force non-believers to live according to Christian codes.

The fact is that the majority of Christians are not really good people — if by “good” we mean they are the silent light shining on a hill so people can see their works and glorify their god, rather than noisily clamoring to take away the god-given right to choose. A sizable minority of Christians are good people. An even smaller minority are exemplary people.

Non-christians aren’t all that different, for the most part, because what I’m talking about above is a part of the human condition. It’s just that religion has been a more efficient organizing principle for lording it over others than any other belief system.  And Christianity has been one of the more successful of the religions in that regard.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say my friend’s writing was for nothing. It just that I already know the things about which he wrote and agree with what he said. (A re-reading of his note just now shows that his major point seems to be that you can’t judge every religious person by the actions of that one priest. I agree, even though I suspect that priest represents a much larger number of religious people than my friend would believe.) And to that extent, when I said “there are sick people in the world,” I meant that. But my message — although, again, I didn’t actually say this — could also unfairly imply that I meant “and that means everyone who practices religion.”

Believing in things that aren’t true doesn’t make one sick. If that were the criteria, then we’re all sick (me included), because we all believe in some things that are not true. I happen to think any belief in some supernatural god is an unfortunate mistake that causes more harm than good most of the time and for most of the people.

But I promise not to work to pass laws requiring you to adopt my lifestyle if you’ll make me the same promise.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jay coop // Nov 19, 2008 at 10:15 am

    I truely do understand about what your saying about religion. I to do not believe in God or a God, and to some extent, some religious people are crazy. I was born in a religious family of Christians on my fathers side and Jahovahs whitness on my moms side. My mom became a athiest when i was young and when i was older, I to became a non believer of God. I have no problem with religion exept for the fact that they try to convert people into their cult and tell everyone about sin when they do it more than others, but thats ok because they can go to church and ask for forgivness. Religous people forget that more people have died in the name of God more than any other purpose on this earth. Now in California, religion has become law, and thats not right. Religion has no place in law making. I dont want someones lifestyle to become mine. I dont hate religious people, but i do hate religion. Only religion can make someone happy about being poor and uneducated becaues the fact is the most religious people around the world are poor and/or uneducated. Its really hard for me because Im a black man without God and my own people see me as an outcast. Anyway, I thought what you had to say was right on the money and I’m glad you have friends that exept you for who you are and not what God, if any God, you believe in. Those are true pals.

  • 2 Christina in OK // Nov 23, 2008 at 1:20 am

    I have to say people who are really religious freak me out. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever flavor you prefer. Any type of extremism is bad IMHO. All these folks who are lemmings and do just what their preacher (or whoever) says they should do because that’s what God says and cannot think for themselves just confuse me. I’m not all that ed-jum-a-cated (yet, I’m working on it) but I do like to have some independent thought. The bible has many wonderful ideas but all these people that base their entire life upon “the living word” scares me. Particularly as many times as that book as been translated and picked over.

    I’m not sure if I believe in God, I think I at least believe in the idea of Him/Her. It is comforting to think that there is something somewhere looking out or at least observing what is going on down here. However, as I don’t like religion, I live my live more along the lines of the Golden Rule.

    I don’t care what or who my neighbors are doing as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else and all participants are involved by choice. Whether it is 2 or 10 people of a variety of sexual orientation, whatever. If people have decided to share their lives and watch out for each other, they should have all the same legal rights as my husband and I have. I don’t think my marriage is in any danger from anyone else as their catch phrase indicates. All these “Christians” who are so vehemently opposed to gay marriage and adoption and all that are forgetting the whole “Judge not lest ye be judged” thing. Damn hypocrites.

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