Monday, December 20, 2004

Getting Religion

Time for a detour. I'm gonna try and waid into the swamp that is "religion in politics".

Or maybe it's "religion in society". In any event, I feel compelled to add yet another voice to this reemerging debate with the hope of trying to answer some basic questions that too often are ignored.

The three or so of you who have frequented this blog are probably aware of my distaste for the religious wrong. There is no love loss between myself and such outfits as Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, the 700 Club, The Family Research Council, and the Republican Party, just to name a few. They're authoritarian and nationalistic, with a little religion tossed in to dress things up a bit. But my basic opinion is that people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Dr. Laura, and Jerry Falwell, again just to name a few, are about as religious as my office wall. Now, there are some who would question my ability to lodge such accusations. After all, I don't know there hearts, etc. True. But I can see and hear their deeds, and since they are the ones questioning everyone else's attitudes and behaviors, I feel free to act as a "fruit inspector" and "test their spirits" as some religious individuals would understand it.

On top of that, I'm bothered by the popularization of Christianity, the condescending and simple minded bumper stickers, and the gratuitous comments by sports celebrities about how they owe everything to God but whose words and actions are all about themselves. I think much of what circulates within the evangelical community and out to the world seems contrived, staged as it were, for some sort of propagandistic purpose. Artificial. And many Christians that are quoted in the news or by exit polls and such come off intolerant and unloving.

So there's plenty not to like.

But, as it turns out, I was actually raised a Christian and I continue to participate in my church in various capacities. So I understand how other Christians and religious people look at the world, even though I differ from many of them as to an application of religious principles.

So why am I a Democrat? That's a good question. Or maybe the question should be What Kind of Christian am I? These are questions I intend to explore in the course of writing this blog.

I'll begin with some questions for my non-religous friends, although if you are religious and want to speak to these questions, you are most welcome.

Now, the recent election has served to bring a host of issues again to the fore, issues which act as fault lines in the body politic, issues which serve as identifying markers for adherents and opponents alike.

Among these issues are Evolution and the accuracy of, and applicability of, the Holy Bible for providing answers to life's questions.

Having been raised Christian, I went to church schools, and so didn't get to learn much about evolution. I took a biological-anthropology course as an undergraduate at a public university, but that was about it.

From what little I know of the Theory of Evolution and its supporters is that the notion of evolution itself does not attempt to explain the origins of matter, the cells that we're told formed the basis for an original lifeform, from which all of us, human and non-human today derive from.
We religous have done what many groups do in attacking their perceived enemies: we've created a straw man to knock down. The straw man of evolution Christians have held up is that of our relation to and descent from apes. Surely, you evolutionists don't think we came from apes do you, we Christians mock in feigned surprise?

But I won't hold that strawman up. I know things are more complicated than that. But I am honestly interested in knowing more. To the extent that you believe in evolution and or don't believe in God as a creative being, can you explain to me, in layman's terms, How Did We Get Here? What Happens When We Die? and What Is The Purpose of Life?

For my Christian friends, let me say you're not off the hook either. I have some questions for you, too. But for now, let me hear from those that can explain the basis of life to me, if that basis of life is understood as being separate from and perhaps in direct conflict with, the view put forward by the Bible.


American Dilettante said...

Like many noble concepts and movements, Christianity has been altered as it has been introduced to the masses.

A similar thing happened to Zen Buddhism in Japan. The Zen's decided that materialism including intellectualism were leading people to unhappiness through a cycle of wanting and suffering. Since the world was an illusion, they theorized that by paying attention to details and ignoring emotions and deep thought, they could reach enlightenment.

As this practice hit the mainstream, the public went through the motions, but forgot about the substance. They ignored emotion, paid attention to detail, but forgot that this was an anti-materialist movement. The Japanese ended up becoming cold hyper-obsessed materialists instead.

Christianity's point is to better mankind. No eye for eye, but instead tolerance bu turning the other cheek. No stoning of the sinner, but forgiveness for we are all sinners. No protection for just the chosen people, charity for all.

Unfortunately, these concepts were too much for the masses to take and a number of people starting thinking a few lines in Leviticus were more important than John 13:34.

The Rogue Progressive said...

Religion has now become part of the cultural civil war and therefore is getting brutalized along with everything else. I am heavily suspicious that long ago most major religions were "Disneyfied" in their narratives and moral codes and that Moses, Solomon, Jesus, and Mohammed would shit themselves in disgust if they heard what their followers were pushing in their name. Even still, until recently, religion would strive for social justice and give people a moral code. Now all the major religions seem to have been turned into an excuse for people to disguise their barbaric actions as religious virtues. What a twofer for them!

Evolution does not try to explain the origins of matter - that's physics and not biology - but very nicely explains the development of multicellular life. Consider that the eyeball, an incredibly complicated mechanism, developed independently in 40 isolated cases, for example. Evolution says that genetic mutation, shaped by responses to external situations, plus mutual cooperation and competition led to life forms developing into what we see now. The funny part is that it would fit very well in a theist worldview because it doesn't explain how life got started.

How did we (life) get here? I don't know: does it really matter? A better question is: why are we conscious and sentient and most of the rest of life apparently isn't? A really cool adaptation? Better neural pathways that link cause and effect?

What happens when we die? I think there's a lot less mystery here than people think. You're dead, you cease to exist. No soul, no afterlife. Kind of makes living a little more important from that perspective, don't it?

Better question: what happens to us before we are born? Is that any different than being dead? If not, what are we worried about death for? Seems like a bit of misdirection from the religious Powers that Be.

What is the purpose of life? It's whatever you want it to be and figuring it out is each person's greatest journey. Isn't that obvious from the infinite number of ways that people live their lives?

Better question: Is there one purpose to all life/human life? Ah, as a humanist I have to say yes and that purpose is so obvious and so good, when you think of all humanity it becomes self-evident.