Friday, May 18, 2007

So here's a bit of what's happened over the last several weeks that I haven't been posting. It isn't that I haven't been thinking about things -- far from it, my brain has been doing its nonstop hamster-wheel-churning as usual. It's just that I haven't sifted through it long enough to have formulated an opinion, which has felt like I have nothing to say. Or at least nothing worth the bandwidth required to say it. But here's a start.

Several months ago, I first heard prominent atheist Richard Dawkins in an interview on NPR. It was fascinating, but he's so over the top (in my opinion) it was hard to take seriously. As I've said before, a part of my litmus test for any belief system -- as silly as it may seem, but at least I'm being honest-- is whether or not I'd be willing to be associated with the people who believe it. And there is no way I would want anyone to think I was rowing merrily out to sea in the same boat as Richard Dawkins. He's just irritating-- I've never met the man, of course, but he comes across as someone who is getting a little too much enjoyment out of his 15 minutes of fame. And I've never appreciated people who enjoy being controversial and stirring things up. It seems like such a waste of energy to argue with them since a big part of why they're doing it is just because they think it's fun.

But then I heard Sam Harris, and read a couple of articles by him (though I still haven't read his book, the End of Faith). And then I read an article by Christopher Hitchens and some thoughtful reviews of his new book, God is Not Great. So I started mapping out how I would respond as a person of faith, although no particular faith at the moment. I was trying to come up with an intellectual basis for being a person of faith (as opposed to an intellectual basis for faith-- a small but important difference). Part of my response was going to be making the case that they completely misunderstand what most "people of faith" are like.

So I went out on the web to do a little research to support my thesis. And honestly, after several hours of poking around some Christian websites (I ended up in the homeschooling world), the only response I have at the moment is a somewhat stunned, glazed look in my eye as I realize OHMYGOSH. THEY ARE RIGHT. The Christian Right has become ridiculous. No wonder Sam Harris, et. al. think the world would be a better place without religion. I honestly could not believe some of the utter nonsense that is out there with page after page of positive, supportive responses. People who believe that the founding fathers were 21st-century-style fundamentalist Christians and are willing to re-write history and publish their own history books to prove it. People objecting to math textbooks because the story problems have fairies and elves in them. People who are determined to see conservative Christians as a persecuted minority even though they are the most powerful demographic in the most powerful country on the planet.

This stuff is not even remotely connected to reality, and you know, it's not even really connected to the kind of conservative Christianity in which I was raised. Oddly enough, even though I don't believe it anymore, I find myself wanting to defend intelligent conservative Christianity, because there is such a thing, even if you'd never know it from these websites. I may have left it behind for other reasons (see previous posts on this topic), but it wasn't as nutty as these websites would have one believe.

But then, I'm not sure if the kind of conservative Christianity I was raised on even exists anymore. Have all conservatives migrated over to this far-right nonsense? how many people actually believe this stuff? and it makes me wonder about my dearly beloved family members who are still Evangelical Christians. Would they agree? I try to avoid discussing religion with them because it makes us all uncomfortable. And honestly, if my parents believe that Thomas Jefferson was really a closet Evangelical, I'm not sure I want to know. But just for the record: among the Christians I knew growing up, "loving your neighbor" was still more important than starting a letter-writing campaign over story problems in math textbooks. If you disagreed with what your children were being taught in school, it was an opportunity to teach them yourself about how Christians believe differently than "the world." The separation of church and state was seen as a logical corollary to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (the words of Jesus to Pharisees who ask him if they should pay taxes to the Roman government)-- not an evil doctrine of liberals determined to undermine the authority of Scripture.

Well, I could go on and on here but I guess I already have. but more will be forthcoming, the hamster is still busy.

Aunt BeaN

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