December 23, 2015

"About That Old Time Religion..."

I'll start with the not-so-surprising fact that I consider myself agnostic.
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ag·nos·tic
aɡˈnästik/
noun
  1. 1.
    a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.


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I say this is a not-so-surprising fact in that my public postings here, on Facebook, and on Twitter, have all implied as much.

But I'm sharing it here, now, in absolute and direct terms.

I am agnostic. I believe that we can not know anything with certainty about the existence (or lack thereof) of any higher power.

Can god exist? Sure, that's possible. But "god" can just as likely be an alien from another galaxy who has created everything known to man as his own version of an Ant Farm.

Sound crazy? Not really. We have ZERO physical evidence of any god. He may be the god of the Bible, the god of the ancients, or the god of "just one of a billion intelligent creatures who have their own little Earth creations."

Sure, if pressed, I lean strongly towards atheism. But I can't prove the absence of a higher power any more than I can prove the existence of one, so I have to maintain integrity and admit that there is a possibility - tiny, remote, highly unlikely - that there is a god.

Now, all that said, I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about religion, spirituality, and the connectivity between beliefs and actions. And I have come to a few conclusions, which are interesting to me though not necessarily to anyone else. (Still, it's my blog, so here they are. Read, skim, or scroll as you desire.)

I realize that I have LONG ago moved away from religion. But the rational, empirical, fact-based response was not the reason I gave up religion. That approach came later.

The reason I gave up religion wasn't that I didn't believe. It was my disgust with all of the people who DO believe and yet lived their lives in such a way that their very faith seemed a lie.

What do I mean by that? I'll give a single example.

Preacher Joe is a self-professed man of faith. Yet he lives in a mansion, preaches hate and damnation, and ignores the plight of his fellow man living with poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

This man considers himself an example of the best religion can do, yet his actions show nothing but scorn for what the Bible calls God's greatest creation, the human being.

Nope. If that was religion, I knew early on that I wanted no part of it.

Fast forward to the last thirty years or so, where religion moved squarely into the political process. And more recently, fueled by the instantly accessible audience, the social media machine. Religion isn't about loving each other and caring for the weak amongst us. It's about attacking those who believe differently than you do. It's about creating and maintaining an Us vs. Them mindset. And it's about hypocrites and sinners proclaiming themselves above the judgement of others.

America, the great land built on religious freedom, is now a nation of hate and bigotry. Here's just one example:


We pretend we want "freedom of religion" in the public square, but we don't. We want "freedom of MY religion," and the Christian majority refuses to allow any encroachment on what they have long considered their domain. Here, an example of a Christian deciding that a non-Christian display in the same public space was unacceptable. Or here and here and here and here, multiple examples of minority religions being discriminated against.

And of course, there's the endless demand to allow religion in schools, but only when that religion is Christian. Native American cultures, minority religions, secularism... all are happily pushed aside because some believe that this country is a Christian Nation. We are not. The Constitution guarantees that.

There are countless other examples, but they all share a common trait. Christians do not respect the religious beliefs of others nor do they believe they deserve the same right to exist and be acknowledged in the public arena.

And this, for the few of you who held on through this long blog entry, is at the heart of where I believe Christianity in this nation has failed so miserably. You cannot require someone to share your beliefs. And in this nation, you cannot require them to pretend to do so to participate in the secular business of government.

Long before my scientific mind understood that ancient religion was merely story-telling, my heart understood that the people of this country were wielding religion like a weapon.

And then, as now, I want none of it.